emperor alexander ii


Wedding of Prince Alfred of the united Kingdom to Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia painted by Nicholas Chevalier, 1874. Also seen in the painting are the parents of the bride Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna, as well as Tsesarevna Maria Fyodorovna, the groom´s brother Prince of Wales and many other related royals. Since the bride was an Orthodox and the groom an Anglican, there were two marriage ceremonies performed on the same day.

Emperor Nicholas II of Russia with his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia and their children: Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Grand Duke Alexei, 1913.

anonymous asked:

Why did so many women at court aspire to become the king's mistress?

For one, being the king’s mistress could be rewarding on a personal level, as kings were known to lavish great wealth on their favorites. Alice Perrers, mistress to Edward III of England, was granted robes and jewels belonging to the dead Queen Philippa (the jewels were worth over six million pounds in today’s money), as well as over a dozen manors, by her royal lover. Barbara Palmer and Louise de Kerouaille, mistresses of the lascivious Charles II, were granted dukedoms in their own right, with their requisite lands and incomes, and Barbara was given Henry VIII’s Nonsuch Palace. Louis XIV was so entranced by Athenais, the Marquise de Montespan, that he granted her a suite of 20 rooms in Versailles (compared to the queen’s 10), and had built for her the Chateau de Clagny, spending millions of livres to do so. Leopold II of Belgium shocked and angered his subjects by the wealth the aging monarch lavished on his teenage mistress, Caroline Lacroix, including millions of francs (Caroline once bragged about spending three million in a single shopping spree) and estates in Belgium and France. Even foreign visitors would know to flatter the king’s favorite: when the future Gustav III of Sweden visited the court of Louis XV, he presented the king’s mistress, the notoriously luxury-loving Madame du Barry, a collar for her little spaniel, made of diamonds and with a ruby leash. 

Being the royal mistress could also be an avenue to power. Henry II of France was so devoted to his lifelong passion Diane de Poitiers that the two would often collaborate on government letters and documents, even signing the bottom “HenriDiane”. The Protestant (later Catholic) Henry IV of France relied on his beloved mistress Gabrielle d’Estrees to make peace with the noble Catholic families of the country, and it was under her influence that he created the Edict of Nantes, which gave significant rights to French Huguenots (indeed, so trusted was Gabrielle that Henry gave her a seat on his Council of National Policy). Too, as an intimate of the king, a royal mistress would be expected to have the king’s ear in private moments ordinary courtiers could never dream of sharing, and could be a useful intermediary between the king and his courtiers. Such was the power and influence of Madame de Pompadour on Louis XV that Empress Maria Theresa of Austria’s ambassador approached her for aid in the negotiations that would lead to the Treaty of Versailles and the Diplomatic Revolution that would bring Austria and France together in alliance. Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany and second son of George III, was not a king, but he was commander in chief of the army from 1795 - a position he was forced to resign in 1809, when his mistress, Mary Anne Clarke, was brought before the House of Commons and testified that she had, with the duke’s knowledge and assistance, been selling army commissions (even pinning the names of those desiring commissions to the curtains in the home they shared).

Nor should family ambition be discounted; having great influence over the king meant that a mistress could secure boons for her kin as well as herself. While sleeping with Mary Boleyn and thereafter pursuing sister Anne, Henry VIII granted a number of honors to the Boleyn family: Sir Thomas Boleyn (father to Mary and Anne) was made Viscount Rochford in 1525, Earl of Wiltshire in 1529, and Lord Privy Seal in 1530; their brother George was knighted and made a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber in 1529 (at which time he was also granted the courtesy title Viscount Rochford), held several key offices in Henry VIII’s court, and was made an ambassador to France, doubtless via his sister’s influence. The family of Anne, Duchess of Etampes, benefited greatly from her affair with Francis I of France, as her uncle, Antoine Sanguin, was made Bishop of Orleans and a cardinal and named Grand Almoner by Francis I when the post became vacant and two brothers also rose high in Church hierarchy. (However, when Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, suggested that his daughter Mary - widow of Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy - become the king’s mistress to wield similar influence she pointedly refused.)

And there was always the chance, however small (and however politically meaningless), that the king would make his mistress his wife. Indeed, Henry IV had come extremely close to marrying Gabrielle: in 1599, after writing to Pope Clement asking for an annulment from his marriage to Margaret of Valois, Henry gave Gabrielle his coronation ring and promised to wed her (unfortunately for Henry, she died on April 10 of that year, probably from eclampsia). Alexander II, Emperor of Russia, actually did marry his mistress, Catherine Dolgorukova, a little more than a month after his first wife, Marie of Hesse and by the Rhine, died, and gave Catherine the title Princess Yurievskaya and the status of “Serene Highness”; although the marriage was morganatic, there were fears, particularly within the imperial family, that Alexander would strive to put his children by Catherine in the succession (particularly as Catherine claimed Alexander had placed the imperial crown on her head in a private ceremony, and as Alexander had legitimized the children and made pointed comments about his son by Catherine, George Alexandrovich - commenting that George was a “real Russian” and introducing him to his heir, the future Alexander III, as George’s “eldest brother”). Louis XIV was far more secret about his marriage to Madame de Maintenon; although the marquise was never formally acknowledged as his wife, her presence at court was substantial, and for the roughly three decades their marriage lasted, Madame de Maintenon exerted far more influence over the Sun King than her predecessor, Maria Theresa, ever had.


The Signs as Queens : Leo - Maria Alexandrovna

Maria Alexandrovna (Marie of Hesse and by Rhine) was born in August 1824 and became Empress of Russia as the first wife of Emperor Alexander II. She gave birth to eight children and was also awarded the honor of Dame of the Order of Queen Maria Luisa in Spain. Maria Alexandrovna passed away in June 1880.


              // Queen Victoria & Emperor Alexander II //

It’s on his tour of Europe in 1839 that the young heir to the Russian throne met Queen Victoria. Beforehead he stopped at Darmastadt where he fall for the young Princess Marie of Hesse.  That night he wrote to his father,“I liked her terribly at first sight. If you permit it, dear father, I will come back to Darmstadt after England.”

It turned out that leaving England would be difficult. It was the fault of Queen Victoria. She was twenty years old and she, too, had gorgeous blue eyes. Soon Victoria wrote in her diary, “I like the Grand Duke extremely; he is so natural and gay and so easy to get on with.” The next day Victoria and the Russian heir were at the Royal theater in separate boxes. In the intermission Alexander entered the queen’s box and spent close to half hour alone with her behind the velvet curtains. Dispatches flew to St. Petersburg:“The queen is clearly enjoying the society of His Imperial Majesty. Everyone is saying they are an ideal couple. Were the Grand Duke to make a proposal to the queen, it would be accepted without hesitation.”

Victoria described the history of their brief romance in her diary Monday, 27th May 1839. Windsor. At ¼ to 8 we dined in St. George’s Hall, which looked beautiful. The Grand Duke led me in and I sat between him and Prince Henry of Holland. I really am quite in love with the Grand Duke; he is a dear, delightful young man… I danced Ist a quadrille with the Grand Duke, then followed a Valse, during which time I sat down, then another quadrille… This was followed again by a Valse (of course I and also the Grand Duke sitting down during the Valse)… After super at 12 they danced a Mazurka… The Grand Duke asked me to take a turn; the Grand Duke is so very strong, that in running round, you must follow quickly and after that you are whisked round like in a Valse, which is very pleasant… This concludes our little ball at near 2 o'clock. I never enjoyed myself more. We were all so merry; I got to be by a ¼ to 3, but could not sleep till 5.“ 

But it was vain. His father’s letter was delivered to him. His father’s orders were “Back to Darmstadt!” Russia needed an heir to the throne, not a pathetic husband of the English queen. “Don’t be a milksop!” The sight of the grand duke made everything clear to Victoria. After the last dance on May 28, “which was over at 20m to 3, I went to the little blue room next to my Dressing-room, where Lord Palmerston brought in the Grand-Duke to take leave. The Grand Duke took my hand and pressed it warmly; he looked pale and his voice faltered, as he said, “Les paroles me manquent pour exprimer tour ce que je sens” [I lack the words to express what I feel]; and he mentioned how deeply grateful he felt for all the kindness he met with, that he hoped to return again… He then pressed and kissed my hand, and I kissed his cheek; upon which he kissed mine (cheek) in a very warm affectionate manner, and we again warmly shook hands. I really felt more ad if I was taking leave of relation than of a stranger, I felt so sad to take leave of this dear amiable young man, whom I really think (talking jokingly) I was little in love with, and certainly attached to; he is so frank, so really young and merry, has such a nice open countenance with a sweet smile, and such a manly fine figure and appearance.“  

As a farewell gift, Alexander gave the queen his favorite dog, Kazbek. She kept it with her until it died. {Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky,Antonina Bouis}

Following the Crimean War Queen Victoria would bore anti-Russian sentiments. Nevertheless in 1874 her second son Prince Alfred married the daughter of Alexander II, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna. Few years later her granddaughter Princess Elizabeth married Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich, followed by Princess Alix, who married Nicholas II. Queen Victoria and Emperor Alexander II became the great grandparents of the last children of the Imperial Family : Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei.

St. Petersburg, Church of our Savior on the Spilled Blood. This marvelous Russian-style church was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881. On the walls is not a painting, but a mosaic! One of the largest in Europe. It took 12 years to create it. 12 years of work 40 mosaic artists from the sketches of 32 Russian artists, among whom were Viktor Vasnetsov and Mikhail Nesterov


Above: Children of Emperor Alexander II: Tsesarevich Nicholas, Grand Dukes Alexander, Vladimir, Alexei, Sergei and their only sister Grand Duchess Maria

Below: Few years later, the children had grown, Emperor himself joined the group to which little Grand Duke Pavel had been added, while the eldest son had died, leaving the whole family heart-broken

“Epistle to the Grand Duchess Alexandra Feodorovna on the Birth of Grand Duke Alexander Nikolaevich (1818)”

Vasily Andreevich Zhukovsky

Now, scarcely awakened with his soul,

Before his mother, as it were before Fate,

He plays in his cradle, free of care,

And the young Joys have flown in

To enliven his beautiful rest.

Quotidian cares are still far from her…

Guard the cradle, careful mother;

Your love is an all-seeing eye

And in your love is sacred grace.


Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich of Russia (7 June 1869 - 2 May 1870) was the infant son of Emperor Alexander III – the heir apparent, styled Tsesarevich, to the Russian throne as the eldest living son of Emperor Alexander II – and his consort, Marie Feodorovna of Russia. He was Alexander and Marie’s second child, second son, and the younger brother of the future Emperor Nicholas II.

Alexander tragically died of meningitis in 1870, one month before his first birthday. “The doctors maintain he did not suffer, but we suffered terribly to see and hear him,” the baby’s grieving mother wrote to her own mother, Queen Louise of Denmark.

His parents had him posthumously photographed and sketched to remember him, therefore it is likely that the photograph above, of Grand Duke Alexander in his coffin surrounded by flowers, is the only existing photograph. It appears that little Alexander had a great facial resemblance to his youngest brother, Michael, as a toddler.

Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia; canonized as Holy Martyr Yelizaveta Fyodorovna; 1 November 1864 – 18 July 1918) was a German princess of the House of Hesse-Darmstadt, and the wife of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, fifth son of Emperor Alexander II of Russia and Princess Marie of Hesse and the Rhine. 

She was also a maternal great-aunt of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the consort of Elizabeth II. Granddaughter of Queen Victoria and an older sister of Alexandra, the last Russian Empress, Elisabeth became famous in Russian society for her beauty and charitable works among the poor. 

After the Socialist Revolutionary Party’s Combat Organization murdered her husband with a dynamite bomb in 1905, Elisabeth publicly forgave Sergei’s murderer, Ivan Kalyayev, and campaigned without success for him to be pardoned. She then departed the Imperial Court and became a nun, founding the Marfo-Mariinsky Convent dedicated to helping the downtrodden of Moscow. In 1918 she was arrested and ultimately executed by the Bolsheviks. In 1981 Elisabeth was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and in 1992 by the Moscow Patriarchate.