Wednesday, June 3, 2020

"Adini and Sanny"

Grand Duchesses Alexandra Nikolaievna ('Adini')
and Alexandra Iosifovna ('Sanny')

Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaievna was the youngest daughter of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia. She died at the tender age of 19 in childbirth. 'Adini' had been suffering from tuberculosis even before her marriage to Prince Frederick William of Hesse-Kassel, but it was soon after her wedding that her health deteriorated rapidly. Her illness, her difficult pregnancy, and her tragic death was a dark episode to the otherwise happy and idyllic family life of the Russian emperor. 

Lively, talented, and mischievous, Adini was a favorite among her siblings, but she had a particular soft spot for her younger brother Konstantin who she called 'Kostya'. They bonded over shared love for music - she, a talented singer and he, a skillful player of musical instruments. Both were also artistically-inclined and voracious readers. ⁣When Adini died, Konstantin was on a sea voyage. He was then an officer of the Russian navy and when he received the news that his favorite sister died, he was profoundly affected. "...the sun's rays have faded forever in our family", he wrote in his journal. ⁣He often think about his sister, especially when he went on a campaign oversees, and he referred to her as his "guardian angel". 

3 years after the death of Adini, he fell in love with and married a German princess, Alexandra of Saxe-Altenburg. Curiously, his chosen bride not only bore the name of his dead sister, but she also looked a lot like her. 'Sanny' was a highly attractive and lively girl. Furthermore, she was also a music and an art lover. These qualities of Sanny greatly reminded him of Adini. When Sanny came to Russia and was introduced to Konstantin's mother for the first time, the Empress could not help but notice the physical resemblance and burst into tears. The sight of her future daughter-in-law undoubtedly brought back the happy and sad memories about Adini.

Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaievich ('Kostya')
Portrait by Franz Kruger
(State Hermitage Museum, Russia)

Monday, June 1, 2020

Grand Duchess Maria Georgievna about the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna

Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna
(Photo courtesy of

"Grand Duchess Elizaveta Fedorovna came to [St.] Petersburg the very first winter I spent there. Her husband was the Governor-General of Moscow, and they did not often visit the capital. A few days after my arrival, the Grand Duchess called and led me to walk along the promenade. I have been especially fond of her since I first met her in Athens during my sister's engagement. She was especially kind and sweet with me, and since then we have become friends. Grand Duchess Elizabeth, Ella, was one of the most beautiful women of her time. Her head was in perfect shape, like a statue, and beautiful features. Her complexion was like rose petals, and she never used make-up or powder. At the ball, she was simply dazzling, always dressed beautifully and wore her wonderful jewelry like no other. I was devoted to her, and throughout all the years that I knew her, she was always the same kind and dear friend. The stay with her in the beautiful country house of her husband, Ilinskoe, near Moscow, was amazing. She did everything so that everyone felt at home, and could always do what she wanted. She kept herself simple, took part in all the fun and did everything in her power so that the guests had a good time."
~ From the memoirs of Grand Duchess Maria Georgievna 

Grand Duchess Maria Georgievna of Russia

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Queen Caroline of Bavaria: A Royal Stepmother and Mother

Stepmothers are often portrayed as wicked and evil in fairy tales and other stories. They were almost always the antagonist in a story and hell-bent in making the protagonist's life miserable. Among royal families, there were also stories of stepmoms who were (although not exactly wicked and evil), downright difficult or were unable to endear themselves to their stepchildren. Or stepchildren hating their stepmothers because they were loyal to the memory of their beloved biological mother. Then there were also stories of intrigues and family disputes.

But there was a royal stepmother who was the complete opposite of the fairy tales' portrayal. Not only was she became a beloved member of the family but also a doting and devoted stepmother to her stepchildren. She was Princess Caroline of Baden, future Queen of Bavaria.

Princess Caroline of Baden, was the second daughter of Charles Louis, Hereditary Prince of Baden and Princess Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt. She came from a close-knit family, a characteristic that she would want for her own family someday. Her upbringing was more French than her native German, so it was quite ironic that several years later, she developed a deep hatred with anything French. This hatred was largely rooted to the execution of Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, at the instigation of Napoleon Bonaparte. Caroline was said to be very much in love with the Duke and that her family considered him a potential husband for her. But they eventually had to drop the matter because of their fear of French opposition.

Caroline of Baden, later Queen of Bavaria, 1820.
Portrait from Karolinen Gymnasium

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Love and Marriage Prospects of the Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna

Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna of Russia
Detail from a portrait by Christina Robertson
(State Hermitage Museum, Russia)
Beautiful, elegant, imposing and intelligent – these were just some of the words used to describe the Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, the second daughter of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna.

As a young grand duchess in the Russian court, she was the focus of admiration among courtiers and members of the nobility. Contemporaries described her as tall and slender, graceful, blonde, with long eyelashes and a “divine” gleam in her eyes. There was kindness and gentleness in her expression, but she was also proud and judicious.

Despite her beauty, virtues, and her status as the daughter of the Russian emperor, Olga was not lucky in love, unlike her sisters. She married a future king and became a queen, just as her parents hoped, but the relationship with her husband was far from ideal.

Olga’s older sister, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaievna, had married a prince of low rank, Maximilian of Leuchtenberg. Consequently, the Emperor and Empress hoped that their second daughter, would make a more brilliant match. They cherished the hope to someday see Olga marry a future king, however they did not want to force her to marry someone against her will.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

"A being in close contact with the ineffable and divine..."

Grand Duchess Elizabeth in her nun's habit
Photo courtesy of Klimblim

"Although she is approaching fifty, she has kept her slim figure and her old grace. Under her loose white woolen hood, she was as elegant and attractive as in the old days before her widowhood when she still inspired profane passions… Her face in the frame of her long white woolen veil was alive with spirituality. Her delicate features and white skin, the deep, far-away look in her eyes, the low, soft tone of her voice and the luminous glow round her brow all betrayed a being in close contact with the ineffable and divine."

- From the memoirs of Maurice Paleologue about the Grand Duchess Elizabeth as a nun.
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