Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Requiem for Adini


The Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna was the youngest daughter of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (born Princess Charlotte of Prussia). She was affectionately called "Adini" and her family loved her immensely. She was a favorite among her brothers and sisters because of her cheerful, spirited and mischievous nature. Her death at the age of 19 devastated the whole family and this left a lasting sorrow to the otherwise blissful family life of Nicholas I. This event also left a profound effect on each family member, particularly on Grand Duchess Olga, who was very close to her sister. On her memoirs, Olga wrote about her relationship with her sister, the courtship between Adini and Frederick William of Hesse-Kassel, Adini's marriage, sickness and subsequent death.

The following was an excerpt from the memoirs of the Grand Duchess Olga entitled "The Golden Dream of My Youth".

"... Those who lived in complete harmony with my beloved sister will understand what I went through before approaching our farewell to Adini. On January 16th the wedding was celebrated. On the last ball, after the closing of the festivities, there was a polonaise to marked the end of the celebration, we danced madly through the large halls, with Papa leading all of us. ...
Fritz and his young wife decided to stay with us until the spring, and took a large apartment in the northern wing of the palace which was very elegant, but uncomfortable. Adini had to go through five salons before she could get into the room to her husband. At Easter, they were supposed move to Copenhagen, where a palace was arranged for the young couple, as well as a house on the beach for their summer holidays. The Danish king lovingly cared for the both of them ...
Adini caught a cold upon returning from the ball... One of the windows was inadvertently left open by a lackey. It was ten degrees below zero. The next day she woke up with a fever. Nobody gave a serious thought about this matter, believing that she was of robust health. She appeared, as always, in the morning for breakfast and the evening for dinner, knowing that our parents were waiting because she would be leaving them soon. In the next day, I did not notice any change in her, while we are engaged in conversation... With alacrity, she told me of her plan in life together with Fritz. She wanted to develop Fritz morally and spiritually, and she wanted to read for him, especially Plutarch, about the example of noble men to help him. She suspected he had a tendency to search for entertainment within an unequal society than himself, however, she was convinced that soon he will completely change: "We're so like each other." 
We often talked about religion. The fact that many young girls converted to Catholicism made us unhappy. In most cases, they were the ones who were raised abroad, mainly in France. They grew up without any connection with the native Church. We were imbued with the teachings of our Orthodox faith. ...We loved our confessor - Father Bazhanov! Tolerant in his religiosity and completely impartial, he taught us the history of the Church. Thanks to him, we have learned to understand that the Russian character and Russian Church. When we became adults, Father Bazhanov would come, as before, every Monday, to see us, but instead of the giving us lessons, we had conversations, which were heartfelt and sincere. 
Adini's husband,
"Fritz" of Hesse-Kassel
At the end of the Lent in the same year, we have moved, as always, in the Anichkov to prepare for Communion. We returned to the Winter Palace after Easter without Adini. She stayed behind and was feeling very weak due to a strong cough. The doctors prescribed her to rest and was put to bed for three weeks. After this period, she moved to the Winter Palace and settled in her gloomy rooms... She was forbidden to even move around with a wheelchair and she spent the whole days lying on a couch without complaint. No one worried about her. Papa made a trip to England to meet with his young niece Victoria and her husband Albert. In the midst of the festivities in his honor, he learned the terrible news that Adini was suffering from consumption. Mandt [the court doctor] himself came to him to tell him about the terrible news. According to him, one lung had already been completely destroyed, and that there no more hopes for cure. Before leaving, Papa said Adini a farewell: "Good-bye in Copenhagen!" Mandt was at this time in Teplice to treat his injured leg, and the other two doctors turned all their attention to the pregnancy of Adini, attributing this to her health. When Mandt returned in May, he very carefully examined the patient twice. After that, not wasting any words, he immediately went to the Papa in London. Papa immediately cut short his visit and arrived in great haste to St. Petersburg. We have a few days to live in Tsarskoye Selo. 
Rural air revived Adini, she often sat in the garden and take a little walk with Fritz to show him their favorite places. When Papa told us about the Mandt's diagnosis, we just could not believe it. ... Hot milk and pure water to quench her thirst, was, in fact, all he ordered. ... When the days became warmer, Adini began to suffer fits of suffocation. Mother gave her her room with seven windows - even in the summer it was full of air and freshness. She arranged it as a bedroom for Adini. When Mandt told her that it would be better for her and Frtiz to live separately, she wept. Fritz was full of tenderness for his young wife, but Adini knew that he would not survive such long quiet life, and constantly urged him to do anything, afraid that he might miss something because of her... 
In mid-June, few days before her birthday, her condition worsened. She was just burning in the heat. Nausea prevented her from eating, and fits of coughing - up to forty times a night - prevented her from sleeping. I was instructed to offer her Communion. "I'm too weak to prepare for it" - she said to me. Father Bazhanov wrote to her: "Your long-term illness - this your best training." "If he thinks I'm worthy, I want to take communion tomorrow," - was her answer. The next day Adini would give birth. A chapel was hastily arranged in the Alexander Palace; from there we followed the priest who carried the Blessed Sacrament to the sick. We all knelt down in her bed, while the priest read a prayer. With a clear voice, she repeated the words of the prayer and taking Holy Communion, crossed her arms over her chest. In her eyes there was some special radiance. She held out a hand to all of us with a smile, which was no longer belonging to this world. Then she quietly asked us to leave; she needed a rest. When a few hours later she called me to her, her face still glowed with an unearthly light.
"Tonight I had a vision of ​​death, - she said, and immediately added: - "Oh my God, can I not really have this child until the end?" But then she added softly: "Let it be as pleasing to the Lord!"And then she added, with her usual, almost childlike voice: "You know, Olga, I think a lot of Papa, who is now in Tsarskoe Selo because of me, where he lives so reluctantly. I thought of something which will bring him pleasure. Look, here I drew something for him." And she showed me a sketch of a small pavilion, which she designed with a pond with black swans. This sketch she forwarded to Papa with the following lines: "Dear Papa, since I know that you have no greater joy than to make Mama happy, I am suggesting your next surprise for her." 
This pavilion was built after her death, and near it on the bank of a pond - a chapel with a statue of her with her child in her hands, made by Vitali 
Since that day she took Communion, it seemed as if the disease and its destructive effect stopped. We thought that this was a sign of improvement. Mama said that when she make a trip to Berlin, she would accompany Adini on her journey to Copenhagen, at least until Sttein, because the child was supposed to be born in Copenhagen. On June 30, the midwife confirmed the child's movements. Adini immediately wrote about this happy event to Mama. From this date, no complaints escaped from her lips. She thought only about the child... Lying near the window, she looked at the blue sky. So often she lay with folded hands as if in silent prayer. 
Once, when I brought her a bouquet of wildflowers, she said to me: "Oh, please, you do not need to; they just make me sad, because I can no longer collect them myself." And when Papa gave her an emerald cross: "You are all so good to me, your love crushes me immensely." 
The doctors wanted our parents to stay briefly in Peterhof, presuming that the patient would see this as a good sign; but in fact, they just wanted them to have a bit of distraction away from depressing worries. When I look at Pope....all of a sudden he became an old man. Mama often cried, however, she would not lose hope. 
The cool, rainy days of June, which brought relief to Adini, were replaced by July heat. Red spots on her cheeks heralded the return of the heat. Doctors prescribed inhalation of creosote; Adini all took this with great patience, but her weakness increased. At first she refused to walk in the garden, and then to the balcony, and could only walk a few steps from the bed to the couch, which was placed at an open window. Soon she even stopped reading, and Fritz, "her Fritz" becomes exhausted in taking care of her. Miss Hagg and Frau Ayana exchanged in taking care of her. She was so thin that her lips appeared to be closed to her teeth, and her shortness of breath made her mouth constantly open. But all these did not make her ugly. From the thinness of her finger, her wedding ring fell off; Papa gave her then a very small ring that she kept on. This ring I still wear to this day exactly forty years later. 
In mid-July she suddenly expressed a desire to get out into the garden and asked Papa and Fritz to assist her, so they carried her down the stairs. Supported on both sides, she only made a few steps back and asked to be returned to her room. Doctors saw this as the last of her vitality and hoped that she will survive the night. But she lived for another fifteen days. At the end of the month, she asked for our little brothers and Kostya [Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaievich], who had just returned from a trip to the White Sea. All three she gave them small gifts, and said: "Though it is not yet your birthdays, I still want to give you these small gifts today, because who knows where I'll be then!" 
The thought of her giving birth preoccupied her. She wanted to be at that time in the Anichkov Palace. But at the night of 28 July to 29, she went into severe pain; it was the first sign of labor. She did not say anything about it, but she knew this worried the nurses and began trembling nervously at the thought of a premature birth. "Fritz, Fritz", - she cried - this is the will of God!" And an indescribable look on her eyes raised upwards had me thinking that she was praying. Her pulse was getting weak, and they sent for a priest, and Father Bazhanov to give confession and communion to her. It was eight o'clock. Between nine and ten o'clock she gave birth to a boy. The child began to cry. It was her last joy on earth, a miracle, a blessing of Heaven. 
The child was only six months. At this moment, she called me in. "Olly", - she gasped, while I kissed her hand - "I - am mother!" Then she bowed her face, which was as white as her pillow, and immediately fell asleep. A Lutheran pastor baptized her little one with the name Fritz Wilhelm Nicholas. He lived until lunch. Adini slept peacefully, like a child. At four o'clock in the afternoon, she moved to a different life. 
In the evening she lay, drown in a sea of ​​flowers, with a child in her arms, in the chapel of the Alexander Palace. I sprinkled rose petals on her chest, which I brought her the day before from a bush that grew under her window. Priests and deacons who have served at the tomb, they could not sing and were stifled by their sobs. At night, she was moved to the Fortress; Fritz, Papa and all our brothers accompanied the coffin.  
I have no more strength to write about her and about the days that followed later. Anyone who has lost a loved one, know that these days are full of both love and pain. Mom would cry and this facilitated her grief. Papa, on the contrary, tried to escape from it and showed extraordinary energy. He avoided all the mourning ceremonies, and did not like tears. He did not return anymore in Tsarskoye Selo and ordered it to change the flower beds, the balcony and everything that reminded him of Adini's illness. The room in which she died, Mama's room, was divided in half; on the spot where she died, hung a large icon of St. Queen Alexandra with features that vaguely resembled  that of Adini."

The icon of St. Alexandra
with Adini's face
The Grand Duchess Olga was not the only one who shared recollections about her sister. Adini's younger and favorite brother, Grand Duke Konstantin, whom she called "Kostya", also fondly wrote about his sister on his diary. Every year, a memorial service was held for Adini which the whole family attended. In 1860, a few months before the death of their mother, the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, he perceived the image of Adini. "July 29, 1860. [...] We four brothers were in the Fortress for the memorial service for Adini. Somehow, her death suddenly and clearly came to my mind. And I wept much, and it is gratifying," he wrote on his diary.

In 1861, after the death of Alexandra Feodorovna, Emperor Alexander II bequeathed the albums belonging to their mother, to his brothers and sisters. Konstantin again noted in his diary: "I got my most favorite [...] Adini and her magazines... she was involved in a magazine that I so passionately love. I am very happy. "

The Emperor Alexander II also had three portraits of Adini that he kept on his room: one on his desk, one on the wall, and the other on the door. 


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Royal Portrait: The Grand Duchess Natalia Alexeievna of Russia


“I always get a pleasant feeling every time I see something that reminds me of her. Strangely, I love her immensely, although I have never known her, and not only because she was dear to you, but also because of all the things I heard about her; it was said that she was really a great woman: she was able to keep people’s deep affection for her.”

–Grand Duchess Elizabeth Alexeievna about her aunt, the Grand Duchess Natalia Alexeievna (nee Princess Wilhelmine of Hesse-Darmstadt), the first wife of Emperor Paul I of Russia, in a letter to her mother on July 1, 1797.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

"A charming effect that is impossible to describe"


"Those who were given the good fortune to see up close the Empress Elizabeth had the opportunity to judge the extreme sociability of her nature and her extraordinary judgment. Gifted with great tact and exquisite taste, having a mass of diverse and deep knowledge, she always tried to hide her talents, as opposed to that zeal and skill with which she showed to ordinary people. Her nature had the property of contemplation which allowed her to see the serious side of her surrounding; but at the same time her passion and imagination gave her a charm and grace of simplicity; combining all these qualities engendered a charming effect that is impossible to describe."

- From an essay about the spouse of Alexander I "Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna" by Sergei Semenovich Uvarov. Published in the journal "Russian Antiquity" in 1884.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tatiana Vasilievna Engelhardt, Princess Yusupova

Princess Tatiana Yusupova
by Elisabeth Louise Vigee Lebrun
Today my post is dedicated to the great-grandmother of the famous Russian belle and heiress, Princess Zinaida Yusupova
Zinaida's great-grandmother was Princess Tatiana. She was actually born as Tatiana Engelhardt into a family of an impoverished gentry in Smolenk, Russia named Vasily Engelhardt. Her mother was Martha Elena Alexandrovna Potemkin, sister of Grigory Potemkin, who would go down in history as a brilliant military leader, statesman and a lover of Catherine the Great. Tatiana's childhood coincided with that period when her uncle rose to power. As a result, she and her sisters made a brilliant match because of their uncle's influence at the Russian court. Possessing both beauty and a gentle nature, and not to mention her uncle's protection, she was destined to have a bright future.
Tatiana and her five sisters were orphaned at a very young age. They were left to the care of their grandmother and as a result, they received little education and their manners were unpolished. As their uncle Potemkin rose to power, he took the sisters under his protection and brought them to the Russian court, where the Empress Catherine treated them generously. They were treated almost as grand duchesses and soon they learned how to be sophisticated and act accordingly.

Tatiana, at the age of 12, was appointed as a maid-of-honor to the Empress Catherine. And although she came from a poor province, she attracted admiration and attention at the court not only for being the niece of Potemkin but also for being a witty and lively girl. When the Duchess of Kingston visited St. Petersburg and was invited at court, she became strongly attached to the then 15 year-old Tatiana, treating her like her own daughter. The Duchess even told Tatiana that she would make her the heiress of her vast fortune if she would agree to live with her in England. Tatiana, however, refused.
Instead, her uncle arranged her to be married to her uncle and mother's cousin who was 25 years her senior, Mikhail Potemkin. Her uncle gave her a large dowry which further made her an attractive bride. The couple had two daughters, with the Empress serving as their godmother. However, the marriage did not last long - Tatiana's husband died six years later. It was a blow for her and she retired from court life, occasionally appearing only at the request of the Empress herself. 
But soon enough, she met a dashing nobleman named Prince Nikolai Borisovich Yusupov, who had just returned to Russia from Italy where he was working at the embassy. He and Tatiana married in 1793 with Catherine's blessing and a year later, they had a son, Boris. Despite the promising start of their married life, Nikolai and Tatiana's marriage would be a failure and soon enough the couple started living separately. Nikolai stayed in Arkhangelskoye Grand Palace while Tatiana moved to Caprice Palace where she managed the Kupavinskaya textile plant, one of Prince Nikolai’s properties. Along with the management of her husband's estate, she also devoted her time in raising her son Boris.

Despite her wish for a more quiet and secluded life, this would prove to be almost impossible. Her intellectual pursuits and artistic inclinations attracted a group of likewise intellectual and artistic people who frequented her home including the Russian poet Gavrila Derzhavin who dedicated a poem for her entitled "To a mother who brings up her children herself", Vasily Zhukovsky and Alexander Pushkin.

Tatiana also proved to be skillful and highly competent in the management of their estates. Under her supervision, she was able to increase the already vast fortune of the Yusupovs (which is also due to her inheritance from Potemkin that amounted to 18 million rubles) and her practical ability and financial acumen made her acquired substantial properties. But people were surprised by her modest lifestyle and her disdain for flamboyance and ostentatious display of wealth and they sometimes mistook it for stinginess. However, she was spending large sums of money for charity which she donated anonymously.

Tatiana, with an eye for beauty, was fascinated with jewelry and she possessed some of the most dazzling jewelry collections. Among them was the world-famous Polar Star Diamond, the diamond earrings of Marie Antoinette, a sapphire statue of Venus, the pearl and diamond tiara of Caroline Murat and the Peregrina pearl.

Tatiana died in May 25, 1841 and the large fortune of the Yusupovs was inherited by her only son, Boris.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna in England

The Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna of Russia and her husband, Charles, Crown Prince of Wurttemberg visited England in August 5, 1853. They were warmly received by Queen Victoria at Osborne House a few days after their arrival. The young Queen wrote to his uncle Leopold, King of the Belgians about Olga:
"Olga is still very handsome as to features, figure, but she is a wraith which is a sad thing for one who was so beautiful and is so young. She is terribly thin and pale... Her manners are very dignified and pleasing."




(Photo courtesy of The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Quote courtesy of The Royal Collection)


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