18 August 2018

The Last Romanov Ladies Part 4

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3

Launched by 16-year-old Michael Romanov in 1613, the Romanov Dynasty ruled Russia for just over 300 years. In the first half of this period, they struggled to produce enough heirs and after the reign of Peter the Great went through many decades where the tsarist line did not pass to a direct heir with various tsars succeeded by wives, grandchildren, nieces/nephews, daughters, etc. until the fateful day that German-born tsaritsa Catherine overthrew her husband Tsar Peter III and declared herself empress. Having cultivated a poor relationship with her son and heir Paul I, he showed his spite by declaring that no woman would ever again rule Russia.

Once Paul succeeded, however, the concern over succession became not too few heirs (even without including the women!) but too many. By the time of the Revolution, there were dozens and dozens of Romanov Grand Dukes and Princes descended from Paul. (As a side note, many people, including well-credited scholars are not convinced that Paul was actually a Romanov, but that he was the son of one of Catherine's lovers. But that is neither here nor there for our discussion.)

In the first three parts of this Romanov series, we looked at the ladies who were closer to more recent monarchs. Now, we complete the series with the collateral descendants of Paul's third son, Tsar Nicholas I.

In addition of Tsar Alexander I, Nicholas and his wife Charlotte of Prussia were the parents of three daughters and three more sons, Konstantin, Nicholas, and Michael. Each of them still had children and grandchildren alive during World War I and the Russian Revolution.

Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna with her fiancee, the future King
George I of Greece and her mother, surrounded by her brothers. All of the males
in this photo had tragic death lives.Nikolai (in back) was declared insane,
Konstantine (seated left) lost for of six sons in the war and revolution, Dmitri
(seated right) was murdered by the Bolsheviks, Vyacheslav (standing right) died
of brainhemorrhage at age 16, and George was assassinated.
via Wikimedia Commons
Konstantine Nikolaievich and his wife Alexandra of Saxe-Altenburg's daughters had married outside of Russia and their children were abroad during the conflagration. His oldest daughter Olga Konstaninovna, however, like her cousin was facing the tribulations of the Greek royal family with on and off exiles following the Balkan Wars and World War I. She had married King George I of Greece, who had been assassinated in 1913, and was the mother of five sons (including Philip Duke of Edinburgh's father Prince Andrew of Greece) and three daughters. One of her other sons, Prince Nicholas had unknowingly rescued Olga's cousin Elena Vladimirovna (see Part 3 for her story) from the Romanov fate when he married her in 1902. Olga's husband had died in 1913, but she died in exile in 1926.

Konstantin Nikolaievich's sons did not have the benefit of foreign residences. The eldest, Nikolai Konstantinovich, escaped the imperial fate by being naughty. An early affair with an unacceptable American led to him being banished to the southeastern corner of the country. There, he helped improve the area of Tashkent, married morganatically, and had children by both his wife and several mistresses. His oldest son by his wife Prince Artemi Nikolaievich Romanovsky-Iksandr died in the 1919 in the Russian Civil War, while their second son Alexander, his wife and two very young children managed to survive.

Elizabeth of Saxe-Altenburg
via Wikimedia Commons
Second son Konstantin Konstantinovich and his wife, the former Elizabeth of Saxe-Altenburg (a cousin of her mother-in-law Alexandra of Saxe-Altenburg), were actually in Germany when World War II started and were taken prisoner. When they were at last released, they returned to Russia making at least part of the journey on foot. Although only in his mid-50s, Konstantin's health never recovered and he died in 1915. Meanwhile, his widow suffered like other German-born Romanov wives to have her sons fighting against her German homeland. Five of their six sons served in the military. Prince Oleg Konstantinovich was killed fighting against Germany while Ivan, Gavriil, Konstantin and Igor were arrested by the Bolsheviks after the Revolution erupted. Gavriil was too ill to be moved with his brothers to Urals, where just a few months later, the three of them were among the many Romanovs executed along with Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, the Empress's sister. (See her story in Part 3.) Gavriil was later released and emigrated to Paris, having been saved by his illness.

Initially, Ivan's wife Helen of Serbia left their two children, Vsevolod Ivanovich and Catherine Ivanovna, with his mother Elisabeth and followed him to exile in Yekaterinburg. When he and his brothers were moved to Alapaevsk, Ivan convinced her at last to go. She tried to see the tsar and his family at Ipatiev house before leaving the region, but was refused. Her insistence on the matter caused her to be arrested and imprisoned at Perm. A month later all of the Romanovs at Ipatiev House and in Alapaevsk were killed. Helen was later transferred to the Kremlin before finally being released to Sweden.

Elisabeth of Saxe-Altenburg still had their youngest children, Prince George Konstantinovich and Princess Vera Konstantinovna, at home with her. She had stayed out of duty, believing that the Romanovs were responsible for saving Russia. The savage murder of her sons, however, convinced her to go. A few months later, she accepted an offer from Queen Victoria of Sweden and escaped on a Swedish ship with George and Vera as well as several of her grandchildren: Natalia Bagration-Mukhransky, Teymuraz Bagration-Mukhransky, Vsevolod Ivanovich and Catherine Ivanovna. Vsevolod and Catherine's mother was reunited with them there. The three of them later settled in France, where Helen died in 1962. Having already sold many of her jewels, Sweden soon became too expensive for Elisabeth and the rest of the family moved briefly to Belgium before finally settling near her ancestral home in Germany. After Elisabeth died of cancer in 1927, Vera moved to London where George had made a home for himself. When he later moved to the United States, she returned to Germany. During World War II, she worked at a prisoner of war camp but was fired for helping prisoners. That area of Germany was liberated by the Soviets, leading Vera to escape on foot, officially a stateless person. She moved to the United States were she spent the rest of her life working for various organizations to help Russians in need. She died in 2001.

Grand Duchess Tatiana Konstantinovna
with first husband, Prince Constantine
from National Parliamentary Library of Georgia
via Wikimedia Commons
Elisabeth's other daughter Tatiana Konstantinovna had married Prince Constantine Bagration-Mukhransky in 1911, but it was considered a morganatic marriage because he was not a dynastic prince. They had two children together, Natalia and Teymuraz (both of whom escaped with their grandmother). Constantine served in the Russia army in World War I and was killed in action in 1915. She later fell in love with her uncle Dmitri Nikolaievich's aide-de-camp, Alexander Korochenzov and controversially married him. Dmitri never married. He and his nephews Nikolai Mikhailovich and Georgy Mikhailovich and his cousin Pavel Alexandrovich (whose daughters Maria Pavlovna, Irina Paley and Natalia Paley are discussed in Part 3), were executed by the Bolsheviks in January 1919. After the February Revolution, Tatiana and Korochenzov managed to leave Russia for Romania. In 1921, she retrieved her children from her mother and the family moved to Lausanne. Alexander died soon thereafter. Once her children were grown, Tatiana became a nun and spent most of the rest of her life in Jerusalem.

Tsar Nicholas I's third son, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievich and his wife Alexandra of Oldenburg had both died around the turn of the century, but their daughters-in-law played a key role in the last days of the Romanov Dynasty. Nikolai's sons, another Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievich and Grand Duke Peter Nikolaievich had married sisters, Anastasia and Militsa of Montenegro. The Montenegrin princesses were greatly interested in the mystic side of the Orthodox religion and were early admirers of the Russian Orthodox starets Grigori Rasputin. When Empress Alexandra was seeking someone who could help her son Tsarevich Alexei during his attacks of hemophilia, the sisters recommended Rasputin, who quickly became indispensable to the Empress and her family.

The younger sister had married the younger brother first. Militsa and Peter married in 1889 and had three surviving children at the time of the Revolution. Oldest daughter Princess Marina Petrovna was still unmarried, but younger daughter Princess Nadia Petrovna, had married Prince Nicholas Orlov in 1917 after her first fiance, second cousin Prince Oleg Konstantinovich (above) was killed in action. Their infant daughter Princess Irina Orlova was just a year old when the entire family, including Militsa and Peter's only son Prince Roman Petrovich escaped on the British ship HMS Marlborough in March 1919. Nadia had one more daughter, named Xenia, in 1921. She has descendants in France. Marina gained a reputation as an artist. She married in her mid-30s but had no children. Peter died in France in 1931 and Militsa died 20 years later in Egypt.

Anastasia of Montenegro
via Wikimedia Commons
As for Anastasia of Montenegro, she did not marry Nikolai until she was 38. She had divorced her first husband, the 6th Duke of Leuchtenberg, to marry him. She had two children by Leuchtenberg but none by Nikolai. The family was in the Caucasus at the time of Tsar's abdication, but later moved into the safer area of the Crimea. Anastasia's daughter, Elena of Leuchtenberg, was married there on July 18, 1917, almost exactly a year before the Tsar and his family were massacred. Her husband, Count Stefan Tyszkiewicz, was a Polish noble who had gone to Russia with the International Red Cross but was conscripted into the Russian Army under Nikolai's command. While in Crimea, they were able to help many Poles escape Russia before joining other members of the family on the HMS Marlborough. Anastasia and Nikolai eventually settled in France, dying in 1935 and 1929 respectively.

The youngest son of Tsar Nicholas I, Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaievich, had passed away in 1909, 18 years after his wife, Cecily Auguste of Baden, but they left behind many descendants who had to endure the Revolution. Their sons, Nikolai Mikhailovich and Georgy Mikhailovich were murdered with their uncle Dmitri Mikhailovich were murdered along with their uncle Dmitri in January 1919 (see above). Nikolai had never married, but Georgy's wife Maria of Greece was safe in England, where she had been when World War I started. She had not wished to marry him and had taken their two daughters, Princess Nina Georgievna and Princess Xenia Georgievna, there earlier in 1914 and refused to return. The girls were 17 and 15 when their father died. Nina married Russian Prince Paul Chavchavadze and they moved to Massachusetts in the United States, where she was an artist and he was an author. Xenia also ended up in the United States, married to Christopher of Greece's stepson William B. Leeds Jr. and later to Herman Jud. Her great Romanov legacy evolved because she declared that Anna Anderson was the real Grand Duchess Anastasia, of whom she had been a childhood playmate. Anderson's claim was not accepted by most of the family, but Xenia never relented. She died in 1965 long before DNA tests proved that Anderson was an imposter. Georgy's widow married Greek Admiral Pericles Ioannides in 1922 and went with him to her homeland of Greece, where she died in 1940.

Mikhail Nikolaievich's two youngest sons never married. Alexei Mikhailovich had died at age 19 in 1895 while Sergei Mikhailovich served in the army. He managed to remain in Moscow following the Tsar's abdication but could not escape the Bolsheviks' rise to power. He was among the Romanovs killed with Grand Duchess Elizabeth the day after the tsar and his family were slaughtered.

The fourth son, Alexander Mikhailovich, had married Tsar Nicholas II's sister, Xenia Alexandrovna, whose story is told in Part 2.

Mikhail Nikolaievich's only daughter, Anastasia Mikhailovna, married unhappily to the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. She was already widowed by the time World War I broke out, and sought her own peace in Switzerland so that she didn't have to watch her adopted country battle against her motherland.

Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaievich with his children (from left)
Countess Nadejda de Torby, Count Michael de Torby and
Countess Anastasia de Torby
via Wikimedia Commons
Likewise, Mikhail Nikolaievich's second son, Mikhail Mikhailovich, was safely abroad. He had married morganatically to Sophie of Merenburg, who was a granddaughter of Alexander Pushkin. The Tsar at the time, Alexander III, banished him from Russia. So, he and Sophie were safely in England when the Revolution happened, although he lost his fortune as a result. Mikhail and Sophie's only son, Count Mikhail de Torby, never married. Their daughters, however, married famously. The oldest, Countess Anastasia de Torby, better known has Lady Zia, married British General Sir Harold Wernher at the height of the war. The family mixed well with the British aristocracy. In fact, her grandchildren today include the Duchess of Abercorn, the Duchess of Westminster and the Countess of Dalhousie. Second daughter Countess Nadejda de Torby married into a family that was to become incredibly important in Britain: the Mountbattens. The married Prince George of Battenberg shortly before the family and other extended relations of the British royals anglicized their Germanic names. At that time, she became the Countess of Medina, later rising to Marchioness of Milford Haven. She was therefore an aunt to the most famous Mountbatten, Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, the consort of Queen Elizabeth II.

Prince Philip has even stronger Romanov connections, too. His grandmother (Nadejda's mother-in-law) Victoria Marchioness of Milford Haven had been born Princess Victoria of Hesse, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria by her daughter Princess Alice. Among Alice's other daughters were Elizabeth, the future Grand Duchess who was killed at Alapaevsk (see Part 3), and little girl that Alice named for herself, Alix of Hesse, the last and most tragic Empress of Russia (see Part 1). Thus, Empress Alexandra was Philip's great-aunt and her children were his cousins in the female line, sharing the same mitochondrial DNA. When the bodies of the last Tsar and his family were finally found, Prince Philip was among the living relatives who donated his DNA to definitely prove their identities.

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3

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