Vladimir was born on 22 April 1847, the third son and fourth child of Emperor Alexander II and his wife, Maria Alexandrovna (Maria of Hesse). Grand Duke Vladimir followed a military career and occupied important military positions during the reigns of the last three Russian Emperors. Interested in artistic and intellectual pursuits; he was appointed President of the Academy of Fine Arts. He was a patron of many artists and sponsor of the Imperial ballet.
In his youth Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich led a restless life of partying and drinking. A member of the European jet set of his time, he made frequent trips to Paris. His love for the good life let him to be portly at a young age, although later he slimmed down. He had a wide range of interest. He loved the arts; was a skillful painter himself and gathered an important book collection.
Not as tall as his brothers, he was handsome with an imposing personalty but could not stand public criticism. He was known for his thunderous voice; was a keen hunter, and a well known gourmet. He gathered a collection of menus copied after meals with adding notations with his impressions about the food.
Vladimir married Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (known as Maria Pavlovna the Elder) on 28 August 1874 at the Winter palace. Grand Duke Vladimir and his wife were both witty and ambitious. They enjoyed entertaining and their residence in St. Petersburg became the heart of the Imperial capital social life. Well suited to each other, they had a long and happy marriage. Vladimir and Maria had five children, only one died in infancy.
Grand Duke Vladimir occupied important military positions during three reigns. He experienced the battle fields in the Russo-Turkish War of (1877–1878) attending the war’s campaign with his father and brothers Alexander and Sergei. However his military career interested him less than art and literature. Grand Duke Vladimir was in the Imperial capital when his father was killed and was succeeded by Alexander III in 1881. It fell upon Vladimir, who regained his composure more quickly than his brother, to announce their father’s death to the public. Vladimir inherited his father’s personal library which the grand duke added to his large book collection that was arranged in three libraries at the Vladimir Palace.
Emperor Alexander III had three sons, which pushed Vladimir and his own three sons farther away from the succession to the Russian throne. Nevertheless, he was unexpectedly close to become Emperor in 1888 when Alexander III with his wife and all of their children were involved in a train accident at Borki. Vladimir and his wife were at the time in Paris and did not bother to come back to Russia. This annoyed Alexander III who commented that if he would have died with his children, Vladimir would have rushed to return to Russia to become Emperor.
At Alexander III’s death in 1894 there were unfounded rumors that the army intended to proclaim Grand Duke Vladimir emperor in place of his nephew Nicholas II, over which Vladimir tried to have an influence, particularly at the beginning of Nicholas II’s reign.
Grand Duke Vladimir died suddenly in 1909 after suffering a major cerebral hemorrhage. Vladimir’s widow and their four children survived the Russian Revolution of 1917. In 1924 in exile, Kirill proclaimed himself Emperor. Vladimir’s line has thus received the headship of the Imperial House. Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich’s great granddaughter, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, is the current claimant.
“The air,” recalled Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, “was heavy with incense, the Cathedral resplendent with the flash of golden vestments and the sparkling of precious stones.”
Metropolitan Palladi approached the emperor, bowed, and invited him to make his confession. Nicholas stood and confessed, after which he received absolution and recited the Nicene Creed. Assisted by his uncles Vladimir, Serge, and Paul Alexandrovich and his brother Michael Alexandrovich, Nicholas removed the small collar of the Order of St. Andrei from around his neck. The three metropolitans stepped forward, followed by general-adjutants holding the cushions on which rested the Imperial Regalia. They placed the Imperial Mantle of cloth-of-gold, lined and edged with ermine and embroidred with double-headed eagles, around Nicholas’s shoulders, fastening its diamond claspsover his collar and draping the Dimaond Chain of the Order of St. Andrei round his neck.
Nicholas then knelt before Metropolitan Palladi, who prayed for his health and for divine inspiration. His face, recalled Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich, “had an expression of piety and supplication; his whole countenance emanated majesty.”
Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (1898). François Flameng (French, 1856-1923). Oil on canvas.
Holding a book to suggest her education and intelligence, Maria Pavlovna poses wearing an 1890s evening dress adorned with an abundance of lace and sleeveless mantle. Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, known as “Miechen” or “Maria Pavlovna the Elder” married the third son of Alexander II of Russia, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich in 1874.
The three Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovnas. Throughout the Romanov dynasty there have been some repeated names, Maria Pavlovna being repeated with three different women. The first Maria Pavlovna (1786-1859) was the 5th child and 2nd daughter of Emperor Pavel I and Empress Maria Feodorovna the elder. She was an accomplished pianist and married Grand Duke Charles Frederick of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and had 4 children with him. The second Maria Pavlovna (1854-1920) is commonly known as “Maria Pavlovna the Elder” as well as by her nickname “Miechen”. This Maria was born Marie of Mecklenburg-Scherwin, and married Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich and took the name Maria Pavlovna. Maria and Vladimir had 4 sons and 1 daughter. While she had an Orthodox name, she did not convert to the Orthodox church until later in her marriage as to give her sons a better chance at the throne (her religion could have caused problems, especially considering how close her sons were to the throne). Maria is known mostly for her ambition and her place as a socialite, creating a court that rivaled that of the Emperor’s court. The third Maria Pavlovna (1890-1958) is also often known as “Maria Pavlovna the Younger” to distinguish her from her aunt who was also named Maria Pavlovna (see above). This Maria Pavlovna was the eldest child and only daughter of Grand Duke Pavel Alexandrovich and his first wife Alexandra Georgievna. Maria was raised by her uncle Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich and his wife Ella Feodorovna because her mother died after giving birth to her younger brother, and her father was exiled after falling in love with and marrying his second wife, Princess Olga Paley. Maria married twice, first to Prince Wilhelm of Sweden, later to Prince Sergei Putyatin. She had 2 children, Prince Lennart of Sweden who mostly lived with his father and his family after the divorce, and Prince Roman Putyatin, who died in infancy. After the revolution she created a fashion house and wrote 2 books about her life before the revolution.
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.
The three eldest son of Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna : Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich who would die at 21, Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich later Emperor Alexander III and Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich.
Queen Olga of the Hellenes nee Grand Duchess, Tsesarevich Nicholas later Nicholas II, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich,
Duke Alexander Petrovich of Oldenburg, Empress Maria Feodorovna, Emperor Alexander III, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich and Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich, 1892.
from the left to rigth: Princess Olga Paley, her eldest son Alexander Erikovich, Olga Erikovna,Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia,Princess Irina Paley,Princess Natalia Paley, Prince Vladimir Paley and Marianne Pistohlkors.