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".

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)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Elisabeth Ludovika of Bavaria, Queen of Prussia

Princess Elisabeth Ludovika of Bavaria,
Queen Consort of Prussia
by Joseph Stieler
My post for today is about another beloved Prussian queen, Elisabeth Ludovika, consort of Frederick William IV of Prussia. The Bavarian-born princess was one of the daughters of Maximilian I, King of Bavaria and his second wife, Caroline of Baden. Elisabeth, called "Elise" by her family, has an identical sister named Amalie who would become Queen of Saxony. By all accounts, Elisabeth's childhood was happy and carefree. She and her sisters were allowed to roam freely around the Nymphenburg Palace. Court atmosphere was tolerant and liberal, owing to their father's preference for a simple and bourgeois way of life. The Bavarian princesses were also taught in literature, history and geography by the philologist and theologian Friedrich Thierch. The Bavarian royal family spent their summers in Tegernsee, where the countryside greatly appealed to Elisabeth. Her visits to Tegernsee intensified her love for her homeland and she would always remain a Bavarian in heart and soul.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Royal Portrait: Augusta Amalie, Duchess of Leuchtenberg with Her Children

A beautiful portrait of Princess Augusta Amalie of Bavaria, Duchess of Leuchtenberg and Vicereine of Italy by Andrea Appiani. It was commissioned by the Princess herself as a wedding anniversary gift to her husband, Eugene de Beauharnais while he was in Eisenstadt. She was depicted here with her two eldest children, Josephine and Eugenie. Augusta was pointing with her daughter's finger on the Hungarian city of Raab where Eugene and Napoleon's troops defeated their Austrian opponents.

This portrait is courtesy of Neumeister Alte Kunst-Moderne.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Elisa Radziwill and Prince William of Prussia: A Love Found and Lost

Princess Elisa Radziwill as the Goddess Peri by
Wilhelm Hensel. She wore this costume on the
play "Lalla Rookh".
(Courtesy of Getty Images)
Long before Kaiser William I, became King of Prussia and German Emperor, he had been in love with a pretty Polish princess named Elisa Radziwill. Theirs was a touching but poignant story; due to their ranks and the political circumstances surrounding them, the call of duty eventually outweighed their love for each other. Love was not enough to conquer all. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

From Royal to Monastic: Grand Duchess Alexandra Petrovna of Russia

Alexandra of Oldenburg,
Grand Duchess Alexandra Petrovna of Russia
Another member of the Romanov family that I am writing about today is the Grand Duchess Alexandra Petrovna, wife of Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaievitch, third son of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. The Grand Duchess Alexandra was a scion of the German princely family of Oldenburg, who were descended from Tsar Paul I thru his daughter, Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna. The Grand Duchess Catherine married Duke George of Oldenburg and they had two sons. The youngest one, Peter, was Alexandra's father.

Prince Peter, despite his Oldenburg title, was born and raised in Russia. He married Princess Therese of Nassau-Weilburg in 1837 and together they had eight children; Alexandra was their eldest child.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Adelheid-Marie of Anhalt-Dessau, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg

Adelheid-Marie of Anhalt-Dessau,
Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
The first Grand Duchess of Luxembourg was Adelheid-Marie of Anhalt-Dessau. She was the second wife of Luxembourg's first Grand Duke, Adolf of Nassau. Adelheid-Marie was born on Christmas Day 1833 in Dessau, a small duchy in Central Germany, the eldest daughter of Friedrich-August Prince of Anhalt-Dessau and Landgravine Marie-Luise of Hesse-Kassel.

Adelheid-Marie had two younger sisters, Bathildis and Hilda. The children grew up in the Stadtschloss Dessau in Dessau and in the Rumpenheim Castle in Offenbach. It was in Rumpenheim that the 16-year-old Adelheid-Marie met for the first time the Duke Adolf of Nassau. Adolf was 34 years old and he was a widower since 1845. His first wife was the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna of Russia but the young grand duchess, who was suffering from tuberculosis, had died in childbirth, less than a year after their marriage. The baby had died as well. Adolf was deeply affected by this tragedy that he remained a widower for almost 5 years but he had to remarry to give his duchy an heir.

Adolf and Adelheid-Marie were married two years after their first meeting, in Dessau, on April 21, 1851. They spent their honeymoon in Oranienstein Castle, and Adelheid-Marie was so enchanted by the beautiful and elegant castle that it was chosen to be their summer residence. The couple set-up their court in Wiesbaden and their official residence was the Biebrich Palace, picturesquely located in the banks of the Rhine River. They had five children:Wilhelm, the future Grand Duke William IV, Friedrich, Mary, Franz, and Hilda, future Grand Duchess of Baden.

During the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Adolf sided with Austria and it proved to be a bad decision. Austria was defeated and Prussia henceforth annexed the Duchy of Nassau. Adolf and Adelheid-Marie lost their throne and lived in exile in Vienna and then Frankfurt. In 1870, Adolf bought Schloss Hohenburg in Bavaria and this became the family's new residence; in here, Adolf was able to pursue his passion for hunting while Adelheid-Marie, her love for painting. She painted numerous watercolors of landscapes and nature, and she even participated in the decoration of an Evangelical church built on a donated land; she painted the flowers on the church's pulpit and donated chandeliers for the church.

In 1879, Adolf succeeded in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and Adelheid-Marie became the first Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. After the death of Adolf in 1905, Adelheid-Marie, now the Dowager Grand Duchess, stayed most of her time in Königstein. Her son, now the Grand Duke William IV died in 1912, after being ill for many years, and he was succeeded by his eldest daughter, Marie-Anne. The six princesses of Luxembourg relied heavily on their grandmother, Adelheid-Marie, for support and advice. She was responsible for their education and gave them drawing lessons. She also received numerous visits from her daughter Hilda, Grand Duchess of Baden, who had apartments in Königstein; eventually, Königstein will pass to Hilda after her mother's death. Even in her old age, the plight of the needy was still in her mind and she did not hesitate in giving patronage to various charities. In 1905, her paintings were exhibited, and the proceeds from the exhibit will be given for the benefit of the poor.

The Dowager Grand Duchess Adelheid-Marie  died at the age of eighty-three years in Königstein on November 24, 1916. A funeral service was held in the village church in the middle of World War II, and among the present was the son of Emperor Wilhelm II. The people of Königstein sincerely mourned Adelheid-Marie's death and her memory is still alive today. After the funeral, her body was buried alongside her husband in the crypt of the Weilburg castle.

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