Friday, April 13, 2012

Grand Duchess Olga Feodorovna of Russia

Grand Duchess Olga Feodorovna,
born Princess Cecilie of Baden
Grand Duchess Olga Feodorovna of Russia was born as Princess Cecilie Auguste of Baden on September 20, 1839 in Karlsruhe, Baden. She was the youngest daughter of Leopold, Grand Duke of Baden, and Sophie Wilhelmine of Sweden.

Leopold was a strict father, and so Cecilie and her siblings were brought up in almost spartan conditions. Nevertheless, the girl received a good education. She developed a strong temperamental character, and a sharp tongue which later caused tensions between her and her husband's family. Although she rarely showed her emotions, Cecilie was a sympathetic person and always ready to help those who suffer.

When she was 18 years old, Cecilie married Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaievich of Russia, the youngest son of Tsar Nicholas I, and following her conversion to Orthodoxy, she was henceforth known as Olga Feodorovna, a name chosen by her husband, because he did not like the name 'Cecilie'. Johann Strauss composed the Olga-Polka on the occasion of her wedding (I had written an article about the composition).

Soon after their wedding, Mikhail and Olga settled at the Novo-Mikhailovsky Palace in St. Petersburg. Their first child, a son, the future historian Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich, was born two years later.

Family life for Mikhail and Olga was a happy one. Mikhail was a devoted husband and loved his wife deeply. Olga was also a devoted wife, but she was rather cold with her children. She was the leader in their marriage, the iron will of the family, and was a stern disciplinarian. But she was said to be witty, good-humored, clever, and lively. The imperial family had a very good opinion of Mikhail; they admired his charm and gentleness. However, Olga did not have a good relationship with his husband's family. They thought her sharp-tongued, tactless, and a gossip-monger.

Palace of the Viceroy of Caucasus in Golovin Street. This
is where Mikhail and Olga lived for almost 20 years.
In 1862, Mikhail was appointed as Viceroy of Caucasus by his brother Tsar Alexander II. He, Olga and their three children left St. Petersburg for Tblisi, Georgia, and settled at Golovin Street. As the Grand Dame of Caucasus, Olga devoted her time and money doing charity works, while at the same, caring for her family and raising children. Under Olga's auspices, a school of girls was formed, which was named in her honor - the Olginsky. For the next few years the number of students in this school has grown to thousands. Olga used the bulk of her money in the operation of the school. In the early 70s, an institution to train midwives was also formed, under Olga's patronage. Dozens of other schools as well as orphanages were opened through her effort.

In 1877, at the start of the Russo-Turkish War, Grand Duke Mikhail was appointed overall Commander of the Russian Caucasus Corps, and the Grand Duchess Olga became actively involved in war efforts by setting up hospitals and caring for the wounded soldiers. She became the patroness of the Red Cross Society in Caucasus.

Grand Duchess Olga 
by Winterhalter.
Olga lived in the Caucasus for almost 20 years; four of her seven children were born and raised in Tbilisi.

In 1881, the family returned to St. Petersburg. Olga left with a warm recollections of Caucasus and the years she spent in Tbilisi. She continued to do charity work, without ignoring any petition which were addressed to her.

In 1891, at the age of 51, Grand Duchess Olga Feodorovna died of a heart attack. She was buried at Peter Paul Fortress. She was survived by her husband for another 8 years.

The village of Olginskoe and the street of Olginskaya in Tbilisi were named in her honor.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful, Gem! I'm so glad to see you blogging again! :)


Maria said...

Great information! Thanks for posting :)

Best wishes,

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