30 Day Romanov Challenge || Favourite Grand Duchess or Princess [½]

Her Highness Princess Xenia Georgievna of Russia was born 22 August 1903 to Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia, grandson of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia, and Princess Maria Georgievna of Greece, daughter of King George I of Greece. Her elder sister was Princess Nina Georgievna. Though Xenia was “only” a princess of the imperial blood, she was closely tied by blood to the Imperial Family—her mother was a niece of Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia, making Xenia a first cousin of Princess Irina Alexandrovna—the last tsar’s only niece and wife of prince Felix Yusupov—and Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna the Younger, an intimate of Nicholas II and his family.

Xenia was born at the New Michael Palace in Saint Petersburg, but moved in 1905 to Harax, an English-style Palace in the Crimea that was a gift from George Mikhailovich to Maria Georgievna. She had brown hair, brown eyes and would eventually stand 5 feet, 5-½ inches tall, and was known for her temper tantrums. George and Maria spoke French to each other, and as it was the preferred language of society, so we can presume Xenia and Nina were raised with French as their primary language. In 1908, Geoge Mihkailovich gave his daughter Xenia a mohair bear for Christmas who she named Alfonzo. Her nanny made Xenia’s bear a Cossack outfit. Xenia and Alfonso were inseparable and inspired a story called ”The Alfonzo Story: The World’s Most Romanov Teddy Bear” by Ian Pout. Xenia and Nina threw dance parties when the Imperial Family was in residence at Livadia, and thus were the occassional playmates of Grand Duchesses Maria and Anastasia Nikolayevna. According to Xenia, Anastasia was “wild and rough” and  “cheated at games, kicked, scratched, pulled hair, and generally knew how to make herself obnoxious”. One of the last times Xenia and Anastasia played together was in the spring of 1914, when they played on  the Black Sea.

Maria and George were unhappy. In summer 1914, Xenia and Nina saw their father—and the imperial—for the last time. Maria Georgievna took Xenia and Nina to England on the pretext of their health; the truth was she wanted to escpae her marriage. Maria and her daughters spent the summer at Buckingham Palace. Because of the resulting WWI, Xenia and Nina were was unable to reunite with their father. They first stayed at Marlborough House in the wake of WWI but eventually lived in their own homes, in Chester Square London and Harrogate in Yorkshire. (cont reading below)

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Granddaughters of Alexander II of Russia:

  • Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia, born on 6th April 1875, was the elder daughter and fourth child of Alexander III of Russia (1845-1894), the second son of Alexander II, who wasn’t expected to be Emperor until his older brother died. She was also the sister of Nicholas II (1868-1918), the last Emperor of Russia. She married her cousin, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia; they had seven children. After the fall of the Russian monarchy in February 1917, she fled from Russia and eventually settling in United Kingdom. She died on 20th April 1960.
  • Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia, born on 13th June 1882, as the younger daughter of Alexander III of Russia, and sister of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II. She married twice, first to her cousin, Duke Peter of Oldenburg, who in private was believed by family and friends as homosexual henceforth their marriage remained unconsummated. Their marriage was annulled in 1916, and the following month after her annulment to her first husband, she married secondly to a cavalry officer, Nikolai Kulikovsky (whom she had fallen in love years before), with whom she had two sons. After the downfall of the monarchy in February 1917, she fled to Crimea, then later to Denmark with her husband and children, accompanying her mother, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928). Although in 1948, she and her family, migrated to Canada. Where she died, seven months after her sister, on 24th November 1960. After her death, she was widely recognised as the last Grand Duchess of Imperial Russia.
  • Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia, was born on 17th January 1882, as the youngest child and only daughter of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (1847-1909), the third son of Alexander II. She married her second cousin, Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark on 1902, with whom she had three daughters, including Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent. She and her family lived in France for a time, after the turmoil of the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the turmoil in Greece. Though eventually going back to Greece, where she died as a widow in Athens on 13th March 1957.
  • Princess Marie Alexandra Victoria of Edinburgh, Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, better known as Marie of Romania, born on 29th October 1875, as the second child and eldest daughter of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna (1853-1920), the only surviving daughter of Alexander II. She was also a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, through her father, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (later, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) (1844-1900), the second son of Victoria. On 1893, she married Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania, with whom she had six children, including Carol II of Romania. She later became the Queen consort of Romania in 1914, and was popular with the Romanian people. During the First World War, she like many of her female relatives including her cousin, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918), volunteered as Red Cross nurse, aiding the sick and the wounded. She died on 18th July 1938.
  • Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh, Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, born on 25th November 1876, as the second daughter of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna. Also a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She married twice, firstly to her first cousin through her father, Ernst Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse (who was the sister of her cousin through her father, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, in turn wife of Nicholas II of Russia, who was also her cousin through her mother), thus becoming Grand Duchess of Hesse. They had one daughter, who died at the age of eight in 1903, of typhoid fever. Their marriage was a failure, as they divorced on 1901. Victoria Melita later remarried, to her first cousin through her mother, Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich (brother of Elena Vladmirovna) on 1905. They had three children. Due to the shock of her second marriage, Tsar Nicholas stripped Grand Duke Cyril of his offices and honors, initially banishing him and Victoria from Russia - settling in Paris. Though in 1910, they eventually moved to Russia. After the downfall of the monarchy, Victoria and her family fled to Finland. Victoria died from suffering a stroke on 2nd March 1936.
  • Princess Alexandra Louise Olga Victoria of Edinburgh, Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, was born on 1st September 1878, as the fourth child and third daughter of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna. She was also a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She married Ernst II, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, despite of her father’s objection; they had five children. She lived in Germany for the rest of her life, and served as a Red Cross nurse (like her older sister, Marie of Romania). She died on 16th April 1942.
  • Princess Beatrice Leopoldine Victoria of Edinburgh, Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, born on 20th April 1884, the youngest child and fourth daughter of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna. She was also a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She married into the Spanish Royal Family, to Infante Alfonso, Duke of Galleria, thus becoming Duchess of Galleria; together, they had three children. She died on 16th July 1966.
  • Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia, also known as Maria Pavlovna the Younger (to distinguish her from her aunt-by-marriage, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, the Elder, the mother of Elena Vladimirovna). She was born on 18th April 1890, as the elder child and only daughter of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich (1860-1918), the youngest son of Alexander II, from his first marriage. Her mother died when she was not yet two from complications after giving birth to Maria’s younger brother, Grand Duke Dmitri. In result to her mother’s death, her father was so distraught and neglected his two children, leaving them in the care of their uncle and aunt-by-marriage, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, who had no children in their own. And was left to be raised by them, as their father was banished from Russia for marrying a commoner in 1902. Maria was married off to Prince Wilhelm of Sweden, Duke of Södermanland, thus she became Duchess of Södermanland. They had one son. Their marriage was unhappy and ended in divorce in 1914. She served as a nurse during World War I, until the fall of the monarchy in February 1917. She later remarried during the provisional government, to Prince Roman Mikhailovich Putyatin, whom she had one son with but died in infancy. The couple fled to Ukraine in 1918, eventually divorcing in 1923 whilst still in exile. She died on 13th December 1958.

In 1902, Grand Duke Pavel Alexandrovich, Nicholas’ uncle, married Olga Pistolkors, a commoner and divorceé and essentially abandoned his children Marie Pavlovna and Dmitri Pavlovich in Russia. They became wards of the Emperor and he appointed his Uncle Sergei as their guardian. During Sergei’s lifetime, his wife, Ella Feodorovna wanted nothing to do with the children and saw as little of them as possible. Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna recalled in her memoirs that her aunt was often cold and sometimes said hurtful things to her.

“I exclaimed: ‘Oh! Auntie, you look like the picture of a little page in a fairy story.’

She turned to my nurse without smiling and spoke in a dry, sharp tone: 'Fry, you really must teach her not to make personal remarks.’

She swept away.”

After Sergei’s death in 1905, the children stayed with Ella so that they would not have to endure further upheaval. Ella gained a reputation as a saintly, gentle woman but I’m really not quite sure what to think of her. It makes me wonder whether the rift between her and Alexandra was not only about Rasputin but about other things as well. I feel sure that if Nicholas and Alexandra had known that Marie and Dmitri were not being treated well they would have put a stop to it immediately. Perhaps her attitude toward the children changed after her husband’s death. She did give her famous emeralds (which she is wearing on the left) to her niece Marie Pavlovna when she became a nun (Marie Pavlovna is on the right wearing the jewels in 1914). She also did a great deal for charity as a nun and died a martyr’s death in 1918.

I will have to do some more research on Ella and come up with some more concrete conclusions…but for the time being, enjoy!

Source: A Lifelong Passion by Andrei Maylunas and Sergei Mironenko