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Section: PAPERS

The Nobles Rimsky-Korsakov: Jupiter’s Heraldic Heirs

Author: Michael Medvedev / Publication date: 2007-10-11

The Nobles Rimsky-Korsakov: Jupiter’s Heraldic HeirsThe Rimsky-Korsakov family was made particularly famous by the composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (+1908); but the lineage’s glory is rooted in the antiquity, legends, and immoderate imagination. One may be proud of descending from Freskin the Fleming or Vitek “of the Rose”, Rurik or Brian Boru, or, say, Hugh Capet. All this would seem too modest to the Rimsky-Korsakov noble family.

The family came to Moscow from Lithuania in the person of a nobleman Venceslas Korsak (of the arms Korsak) in 1390. This is history; to which the family legend added the ancient Lithuanian rulers and the Lords of Island of Corsica (whence the name – of the island, understood, not vice versa), their ancestor Hercules (yes, the very Hercules of the myths!) and his Olympic father.

The Arms of the Rimsky-Korsakov Family as shown in General Armorial (II, 52).

Actually, it was an anonymous family member who recorded this pedigree in a most curious genealogical treatise, written probably in 1670-ies or 1680-ies. To make this story compatible with Christianity, the author asserted that Jupiter was no god, but simply the wisest, mightiest and richest man of his time, so the contemporaries could not but believe in his divine nature.

Apart of the Olympic blood, the author claimed a series of coat-of-arms, namely: Korsak (this claim being justified), Bronic (just because it is graphically close to Korsak), Korczak (this time because the name is similar), Kolumny (of the House of Guedimin of Lithuania), Roza (sported by the Princes Guedroic and therefore attributed to their ancestors, the primitive Dukes of Lithuania), as well as three invented coats: with the thunderbolt-bearing eagle of Jupiter, the Hercules’ club (turned into an elegant mace), and a bear (to immortalize Hercules’ victory over the “Nemean she-bear” [?!]).

Rimsky-Korsakov's livery button (courtesy

Most likely the anonymous family member was Bishop Ignatius, known for his ascetic views. Did he betray in the book his real ego, full of the worldly vanity? Or was it a colossal parody, a cruel provoking mystification, aimed to reduce the fashionable family pride ad absurdum? In any case, the treatise was taken for serious, and the Rimsky-Korsakovs combined the eight claimed arms (mercilessly distorted) in their achievement. In the course of the 18th century the bizarre legend was forgotten but the arms survived, and were finally approved by Paul I.

© 2006 The.Heraldry.Ru / M. Medvedev