Written in 1988 by Heather Daveno. Continued on Part 2, including End Notes
As I was researching the wives of the Mongolian khans, I ran across a reference to a tribe called the Kerait¹ – a Christian tribe of Turko-Eurasian ethnicity who had been absorbed by the Mongolian Federation of Tribes under Chinghis Khan during the 12th century. The women of this tribe, with their auburn hair, fair skin and gray or green eyes, were so renowned for their beauty, that they are credited with saving their tribe from obliteration by serving as wives and concubines to the great Mongolian khans.
These women introduced two little known characteristics into the Mongolian ruling families — auburn hair and pale eyes into an occasional offspring, and an obscure form of Christianity.
Missionaries from a Christian sect known as Nestorianism converted the Keraits, along with the Naiman and Merkit tribes, early in the 11th century. These Asian Christians became very different theologically from their counterparts in the West, and were perceived by Westerners as a strange and mythical cult. From this perception grew the fantastical legend of Prester John.
Read more about this fascinating piece of history below.