Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Austrian Empress and the Russian Grand Duchess

 

"The Grand Duchess was always terribly interested in everything that concerned the Austrian Empress. Perhaps, some envy played a part in this, since the Empress was famous for her beauty. So, for example, the Grand Duchess often asked: "Is my hair as beautiful as the Empress? Do you not find that I am like her?" I remember how she once interrogated someone who has newly returned from Vienna, where he was traveling with an order to Emperor Franz Joseph, Adjutant-General von Stühler: "Who is more beautiful, the Austrian empress or I?" General Stühler, slightly embarrassed, replied: "If the Austrian empress is the most beautiful woman on Earth, your Highness is undoubtedly the most beautiful princess! "The Grand Duchess was satisfied with this answer."

--From the "Memories of a Shipwrecked World" by Countess Kleinmichel.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The idol of Moscow



"As for Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, she was the idol of Moscow, the soul of every charitable enterprise and the ornament of every meeting. She was not shy, like her sister, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, she knew how to talk to anyone about anything. She was everywhere, she knew everyone, and if her help was needed, she would render it with both hands. She had a rare gift of sympathy and understanding, which enabled her to enter into the position of each person."
-From the memoirs of Princess Lydia Leonidovna Vasilchikova, 1886-1919

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Marie of Baden, Duchess of Brunswick

I have always found the daughters of Charles Louis, Hereditary Prince of Baden quite interesting. In the past, I wrote several articles about his daughters, Caroline, Louise, and Frederica, and now I'll be continuing with Marie, second to the youngest daughter in the family.

Marie was born in 1782, the fifth daughter in a family of 7 children. Marie's family had a rather modest lifestyle as opposed to other noble houses of Europe, so her parents had to made up with this by ensuring that their children receive an excellent education which will strengthen their marriage prospects. Both Charles Louis and Amalie were politically astute individuals who tried to make the most out of their circumstances. As a result, Marie’s eldest sister, Caroline, would eventually become Queen of Bavaria, while her other sisters, Louise and Frederika would become, Empress of Russia and Queen of Sweden, respectively. Her younger sister Wilhelmine would become Grand Duchess of Hesse. Another sister, Amalie, who was the identical twin of Caroline, remained unmarried and would settle permanently in Russia with their sister Louise. Their brother Charles would marry Napoleon's step-niece, Stephanie de Beauharnais.

With her sisters and brother made brilliant marriages, it was also imperative for Marie to have the same brilliant marriage. She was suggested as a prospective bride to one of the sons of Charles William, Duke of Brunswick, Prince Frederick William

Like Marie, Frederick William also came from a large family. As the fourth son and since his eldest brother was already married, much cannot be expected of him inheriting his father's title. However, with his eldest brother proved to be incapable of having an issue and his two elder brothers declared invalid and excluded from the succession, Frederick William was now seen as the hope of the House of Brunswick in continuing the family line. His father began to put pressure on him to marry. On his part, Frederick William felt that there was no need for him to marry right away.

At the same time, Marie was not fond of the idea of marriage to Frederick William, since he already had a reputation of leading a rather “fast” life. However, Frederick William's family continued to put pressure on him to marry and he finally agreed to woo the young princess. Fortunately, he and Marie became fond of each other and they were married in Karslruhe on 1 November 1802. Their eldest child, Karl, was born two years later and they had another son, William, in 1806.

Marie's quiet family life in Brunswick was interrupted by the war against Napoleonic France. As her husband was a major-general in the Prussian army, he actively participated in the war zone. When Frederick William's father died from a wound he sustained in the battlefield, Marie and her mother-in-law, Augusta, went to his deathbed despite the danger. They were not allowed to remain for a long time and they were advised to flee. Marie's husband was captured and with two very young children with her, she had no choice but to flee in Northern Europe. She and her children accepted the offer of her brother-in-law, King Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden to take up residence with the royal family in Malmo. 

Marie with her eldest son, Karl
While in Sweden, Marie was constantly worried about the whereabouts of her husband and the future of their duchy. They were finally allowed to return to Germany in 1807 and she was reunited with her husband. Since Brunswick was now under Napoleon's control, they were not able to go back there and they stayed with Marie's family in Karlsruhe. While in Karlsruhe, Marie became pregnant with her third child, However, when she gave birth, the baby was stillborn, and Marie succumbed to puerperal fever. She died four days later, on December 8, 1808 at the age of 25.

Marie's life was short, but she led an exemplary life dedicated to, to her husband, and to the preservation of her duchy. After her death, Frederick William became a freedom-fighter and formed a corps raised from volunteers. They wore black uniforms which earned them the name "the Black Brunswickers". Frederick William, the Black Duke of Brunswick, became a local hero and a living legend. Perhaps as a way to give tribute to the memory of his wife, several streets, places and churches in Brunswick were named after. 

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.
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