Maria Nagaya

Maria Feodorovna Nagaya (Russian: Мария Фёдоровна Нагая) (died 1608) was a Russian tsaritsa and sixth (possibly eighth) uncanonical wife of Ivan the Terrible.

Maria Nagaya
Murder of Ljedmitry.jpeg
"Tsaritsa Maria exposes the False Dmitry". Coloured lithograph in a sketch by V. Babushkin, middle of the 19th century.
Tsaritsa of All Russia
Died1608 or 20 August 1612 (aged 54-59)
SpouseIvan IV of Russia
IssueTsarevich Dmitry Ivanovich
FatherFeodor Nagoy
ReligionEastern Orthodox


Maria married Ivan in 1581 and a year later, she gave birth to their son Dmitry. In 1582, the tsar suggested to queen Elizabeth of England that he would marry her relative Mary Hastings and divorce his wife Maria Nagaya, but these plans never came to fruition. Maria was not favored by her husband, and only the birth of her son spared her banishment from court.

After the Tsar's death in 1584, Nagaya was not granted any property in the will of the late tsar, but left to live on the income from the land of her son, who was granted Uglich, and both she and her son was placed under the guardianship of the boyars.[1] While the guardian regency of the new tsar, led by Boris Godunov, granted Maria an allowance, she was nevertheless forced to leave the court and the capital and depart with her son and her brothers to her son's city of Uglich.

In 1591, her son Dmitry died in Uglich of an epileptic seizure.[1] A commission was instigated by Godunov to investigate the death of her son, and Maria and her brothers supported the rumour that her son had died due to a political murder committed by Godunov, and supported a riot that attacked Pro-Godunov boyars' houses in Uglich.[1] They were however called to Moscow where Maria and her relatives were accused of "criminal negligence" and, as a result, her brothers were incarcerated, and she was made a nun in the Beloozero monastery.

In 1604, upon rumors that Maria had met the pretender the False Dmitry I, who posed as her son, she was called by Godunov, who questioned her, but she denied having met Dmitry and was sent back to the convent. In 1605, after the accession of False Dmitriy in Moscow, Nagaya famously legitimized him as pretender by identifying him as her son and returned to Moscow. All of her family members were freed, reinstated in their ranks, and given their confiscated property.

In 1606, the False Dimitry had the body of her son Dmitry exhumed in the hope to prove that it was the body of another. This act, however, offended Maria, who renounced the False Dmitry as her son with the support of the boyars, thus undermining his legitimacy as tsar. After the death of False Dmitry, Maria was allowed to remain to attend the reburial of her son before returning to the convent.


  • Зимин А. А. В канун грозных потрясений: Предпосылки первой Крестьянской войны в России. М., 1986
Russian royalty
Title last held by
Maria Dolgorukaya
Tsaritsa of Russia
Title next held by
Irina Godunova