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Sometimes it's Too Late

The regret of kings.
Ivan the Terrible cradles his dying son, after striking him in the head.
Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16, 1581. Ilya Reptin. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

In November of 1581, the first Czar of Russia, Ivan Vasilyevich, a man who conquered, killed, and terrified, and ruled for 40 years, took offense at the skimpy clothes of his pregnant daughter-in-law, Elena, and beat her for it.

The czar’s 27-year-old son, Ivan Ivanovich, rushed in and confronted his father, who struck him violently with a pointed scepter. The blow punctured the prince’s skull, and he died 3 days later.

Elena soon miscarried the czar’s grandchild.

A single egoic injury, a slight loss of the great czar’s perceived control (his daughter-in-law’s impudent attire), caused Ivan to kill not just one future king, but possibly two.

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