Monday, April 6, 2015

The Daughters of Prince Ivan Baryatinsky

Prince Ivan Baryatinsky was one of the most influential nobles in Russia of the early 19th century. He was a wealthy landowner and the owner of several palaces throughout Russia and Europe. As the sole heir of his father, Prince Ivan inherited the vast fortune of his family. He first served in the Yekaterinoslav Hussars of the Russian Imperial Army as a young man, and he later distinguished himself as an astute diplomat and was made Russian ambassador first in London and then at the court of the King of Bavaria in Munich. While he was on a diplomatic service in London, he met and married an Englishwoman named Frances Mary Dutton, the daughter of Lord Sherborne. They had one daughter, Elizabeth, but Frances Mary died in 1807. Later that year, Prince Ivan was sent to Bavaria as the Russian ambassador and there he met and married a German countess, Maria Keller, with whom he had four sons and three daughters. It was a match made in heaven. Prince Ivan and the now Maria Feodorovna were a good-looking and generous couple, and enjoyed a successful marriage. Prince Ivan was especially interested in agronomics and applied the things he learned from his travels all over Europe in the development and management of his estates. Princess Maria Feodorovna, on the other hand, was a philanthropist. She was particularly involved in charity and other social causes. After their marriage, Prince Ivan built a magnificent palace complex in Kursk which he named "Marino" in honor of his first and second wives. In here, his children grew up and received an excellent education with special emphasis on Christian values. Thus, the Baryatinsky children will grow up to closely follow their parents' examples in philanthropy and social astuteness.

Princess Olga Ivanovna Baryatinsky,
Countess Orlova-Davydova 
Olga, born in 1814, was the eldest daughter of Prince Ivan and Maria Feodorovna Keller. She married Count Vladimir Petrovich Orlov-Davydov in 1832. Count Davydov was a scion of one of the most powerful noble families in Russia. He was a wealthy landowner and a philanthropist. He was educated in Britain and as a result, he acquired a great love for Britain and its culture. Olga and Davydov primarily lived in Orel and there Olga took interest in the welfare of the people. She was described to have possessed a wonderful character. Her simplicity and unassuming ways particularly in the way she treats peasants amazed courtiers and dignitaries. Like her mother, Olga had a developed social conscience. She and Davydov made it a point that charity must be a foremost importance in their life. They built schools, churches, hospitals and charitable institutions. The writer Aksarov who had the opportunity to see the couple's charitable work was surprised with their attitude towards ordinary people. He wrote that they "lead a living union with the Church, and not less than a living union with the Russian people", and that the "Russian village became a part of Olga's moral being". She was well-acquainted with peasant life and with the needs of the people both in general and in detailed. After her mother's death, Olga inherited the guardianship of the Community of the Sisters of Charity, which her mother founded. 

Princess Leonilla Ivanovna Baryatinsky, 
Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn
Born in 1816, Leonilla was the second daughter. The princess, like her brothers and sisters, was highly educated and cultured. When she was 16 years old, her mother brought her to St. Petersburg to be introduced to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. She immediately became famous at the court for her attractive looks. She was described to be tall like a 'Lebanese cedar, slender, somewhat restrained and very serious, but beautiful from head to toe'. Her 'velvet eyes and sable eyebrows' gave her an 'Italian look'. In the spring of 1834, she became a maid-of-honor to the Empress. However, less than year after her appointment, the beautiful and cultured Leonilla married the Tsar's aide-de-camp, Prince Ludwig of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg, who was also a widower. After their marriage, Leonilla and her husband left Russia and settled in their estate in Vilna, Lithuania. Prince Wittgenstein inherited a vast fortune from his first wife, which afforded him and Leonilla to lead a luxurious lifestyle. Following her mother's example, Leonilla was also interested in charity and founded several schools and hospitals for the poor. Although their marriage started happily, Leonilla and her husband soon drifted away from each other. She converted to Catholicism and fell into a sort of religious mania. She had an affair with a Frenchman while her husband settled in the wing of the castle with his German mistress. Before the the Prince's death in 1866, he and Leonilla were somewhat reconciled. "Thus ended", wrote the writer Smirnov, "this married life that started with feigned love, passed on for a short time in indifference, and then in friendship..." As a widower, she became a close friend of the Empress Augusta of Germany and tried to help her resolve a number of diplomatic issues to prevent the Franco-Prussian War. In the last 30 years of her life, Princess Leonilla lived in a villa at Ouchy, overlooking Lake Geneva. For many years, her homes has been a "bourne of crowned heads and imperial personages". One of her oldest friends is the Dowager Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, 94, who, until the outbreak of the war, would visit once a year. Until the last days of her long life, Leonilla, kept an excellent memory and a sober mind. She died in 1918 at the age of 102.

Princess Maria Ivanovna Baryatisnky,
Princess Kochubey
The youngest daughter of the family, Maria, was born in 1818 . Like her mother and her sisters, she was also a famous beauty at the Russian court. She also became a maid-of-honor to the Empress Alexandra and a close friend of the Empress's daughter, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna. The Grand Duchess fondly remembers Maria in her memoirs:
"After the start of the Lent was the end of all celebrations. Only a few were invited to gather in the evening with Mama in the Green Room, where for the most part we read aloud. Among these guests were Princess Baryatinsky and her daughter Maria. Her shyness and modesty endeared her to me and soon we became friends. She was serious and deeply religious. The friendship between us was truly what I've always dreamed of: she ennobled our nature. We both were full of ideals according to our age... We are especially protective of our desires, thoughts and ideas from prying eyes. Maria Baryatinsky was blond with black eyebrows, her eyes if she sympathized with anyone, were full of warmth, which I have not seen in anybody, except for the Empress Maria Alexandrovna (wife of Emperor Alexander II), perhaps because I truly loved them both.
Maria Baryatinsky's hair was the same as mine. When she unravels her hair, it covered her knees. She plaits it into a twine three times around the head and fastened it with gold pin. I remember one birthday celebration of Papa in Peterhof. Despite the fact that Baryatinsky lived nine miles from there, she came with fresh flowers on her hair. Most of the flowers were still in bud, and during a dance, they were dispersed. The portrait by the famous artist Robertson captured her in all her charms while she was about to play the piano. In 1841, she married Mikhail Kochubey, and eighteen months later she is gone. She died of a fever... How short this friendship was! But this remains an indelible trace in my soul. Her sister Leonilla, the future Princess Wittgenstein. was also very attractive, but her beauty was of the earth, while Maria was like an angel. In Maria, I found an echo of myself, and this four-year friendship was just beautiful. "
After Maria's early death, her mother founded a shelter for poor women as a dedication to her.

Portraits of Prince Ivan Baryatinsky and Princess Maria Feodorovna nee Keller


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