Daniel was the son of Grand Prince Alexander Nevsky of Russia. Daniel himself never actually held the title of Grand Prince of Russia, but he is on many lists of Russian Rulers because he was the first Prince of Moscow from 1277 to 1304 and built up the territory and prestige of the relatively new city.

The House of Moscow, consisting of his descendants, fought with their cousins the House of Tver for the Grand Prince's throne and eventually two of Daniel's sons, Yuri III and Ivan I were to be Grand Prince. This started a dynasty of rulers in Moscow which would last so long that up until the reign of Peter the Great in the early 1700s, the country was called "Muscovy" rather than "Russia" in many European languages.