Royal News: Saturday 28 July 2018

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Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia

by Susan Flantzer

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

The last Grand Duchess of Russia and the youngest of the six children of Alexander III, Emperor of All Russia and Dagmar of Denmark (Empress Maria Feodorovna), Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia was born at Peterhof Palace on June 13, 1882.

Olga’s mother was the daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark and among Olga’s maternal first cousins were King Constantine I of Greece, King George V of the United Kingdom, King Christian X of Denmark and King Haakon VII of Norway.

Olga had five older siblings:

The family of Alexander III – seated (left to right): Alexander III with Olga, George; standing (left to right): Michael, Maria Feodorovna, Nicholas, and Xenia; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

In 1881, the year before Olga was born, her paternal grandfather Alexander II, Emperor of All Russia was assassinated when a bomb was thrown at his carriage as he rode through St. Petersburg, and Olga’s father became Emperor. Concerned about the security of his family, Alexander III moved his family from the Anichkov Palace in St. Petersburg to Gatchina Palace located 28 miles (45 km) south of St. Petersburg. Gatchina Palace became the family’s prime residence.

Olga as a young girl, circa 1889; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Like her other siblings, Olga was raised in a relatively simple manner considering her status. She slept in a cot, woke up at 6:00 AM, took cold baths, ate simple, plain meals, and her rooms were furnished with simple furniture. The Imperial children had a large extended family and often visited the families of their British, Danish, and Greek cousins.

Emperor Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna believed that their children should spend their spare time in a useful manner and so they learned cooking, woodworking and how to make puppets for their puppet theater. Alexander III believed that his children should learn about the outdoors and so they were taught to ride, gardened, and kept animals that they had to look after themselves. Olga’s brother Michael, who was four years older, was her childhood companion and the two would always remain close. They were educated together and played together.

Michael and Olga; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

In 1894, Olga’s father Alexander III unexpectedly died at the age of 49 and her brother Nicholas became Emperor. After her father’s death, Olga’s mother moved back to Anichkov Palace in St. Petersburg with Michael and Olga. Olga’s debut into society was delayed due to the death of her brother George in 1899. After her debut, Olga was escorted to society events by Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg.

Olga with her first husband Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg, circa 1901; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg, a second cousin, was fourteen years older than Olga. He was the only child of Duke Alexander Petrovich of Oldenburg and Eugénie Maximilianovna of Leuchtenberg. Peter’s mother was a granddaughter of Nicholas I, Emperor of All Russia through Nicholas I’s daughter, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna, and his father was a great-grandson of Paul I, Emperor of All Russia through his paternal grandmother Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna.

It seems that Olga’s mother and Peter’s mother, who were good friends, had arranged a marriage between their two children so that Olga would not have to marry a foreign prince and could always be on call for her mother. As Olga told her official biographer, Ian Vorres, “I was just tricked into it.” Olga was brought into a room where Peter stammered through a proposal. Their engagement, announced in May 1901, was unexpected by family and friends, as Peter had shown no prior interest in women and it was assumed he was homosexual. The wedding quickly followed on August 9, 1901. Olga told Vorres, “I shared his roof for fifteen years and never once were we husband and wife.” Obviously, there were no children. Olga and Peter lived in a 200-room mansion in St. Petersburg and had bedrooms at opposite ends of the building. Peter was always kind and considerate towards her but Olga longed for love, a normal marriage, and children.

Olga and Peter; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

In April 1903, Olga attended a military review of the Blue Cuirassier Guards. Her brother Michael was one of the commanders. There she saw a tall, handsome man in the uniform of the Blue Cuirassier Guards and their eyes met. Olga said to Vorres, “It was fate. It was also a shock. I suppose I learned on that day that love at first sight does exist.” Michael arranged for Nikolai Alexandrovich Kulikovsky and Olga to meet. A few days later Olga asked Peter for a divorce. He refused, saying that he would reconsider his decision after seven years.

Nikolai was promoted to captain of the Blue Cuirassier Guards and sent far away to the provinces. Olga and Nikolai regularly corresponded. In 1906, Olga’s husband Peter appointed Nikolai as one of his aides-de-camp. Nikolai was told that his quarters would be in the Oldenburg mansion in St. Petersburg. The living arrangements at the mansion were a well-kept secret and continued until the start of World War I when Olga went to be a nurse at the front and Nikolai went to war with his regiment. Peter did not keep his promise to reconsider a divorce after seven years.

Over the years, Olga had continued to ask her brother Nicholas II for permission to marry Nikolai. Nicholas II always refused because he believed that marriage was for life and that the royalty should only marry royalty. In 1912, when Olga’s brother Michael married a commoner without permission, Nicholas banished him from Russia. Fearing for Nikolai’s safety in the war, Olga pleaded with her brother Nicholas II to transfer him to the relative safety of Kiev, where she was stationed at a hospital. In 1916, after visiting Olga in Kiev, Nicholas had a change of heart and he officially annulled her marriage to Peter. On November 16, 1916, Olga and Nikolai were married at the Kievo-Vasilievskaya Church in Kiev. Olga’s mother the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna, her sister’s husband Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich (Sandro), two fellow nurses from the hospital in Kiev and four officers of Nikolai’s regiment attended.

Olga and Nikolai Kulikovsky on their wedding day; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Olga and Nikolai had two sons:

  • Tikhon Nikolaevich Kulikovsky (1917 – 1993), married (1) Agnet Petersen, no children, divorced (2) Libya Sebastian, had one daughter, divorced (3) Olga Nikolaevna Pupynina, no children
  • Guri Nikolaevich Kulikovsky (1919 – 1984), married Ruth Schwartz, had three children, divorced (2) Aze Gagarin, no children

Guri, Olga, Tikhon and, Nikolai, circa 1920; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

The February Revolution was the first of two revolutions that took place in Russia in 1917. The February Revolution was caused by military defeats during World War I, economic issues, and scandals surrounding the monarchy. The immediate result was the abdication of Olga’s brother Nicholas II, the end of the Romanov dynasty, and the end of the Russian Empire. Later in 1917, the October Revolution occurred, paving the way for the establishment of the Soviet Union.

After Nicholas II abdicated, many members of the Romanov family, including Nicholas, his wife, and their children, were placed under house arrest. In search of safety, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich (Sandro), and Grand Duchess Olga traveled to the Crimea where they were joined by Olga’s sister (Sandro’s wife) Grand Duchess Xenia. They lived at Sandro’s estate, Ai-Todor, where they were placed under house arrest by the local Bolshevik forces. On August 12, 1917, Olga’s first child Tikhon Nikolaevich was born during their house arrest.

The Romanovs under house arrest at Ai-Todor in the Crimea in 1918. Standing: Colonel Nikolai Kulikovsky (Grand Duchess Olga’s husband), Mr. Fogel, Olga Konstantinovna Vasiljeva, Prince Andrei (Xenia’s son). Seated: Mr. Orbeliani, Prince Nikita (Xenia’s son), Grand Duchess Olga (Xenia’s sister), Grand Duchess Xenia, Empress Maria Feodorovna (Xenia’s mother), Grand Duke Alexander (Xenia’s husband). On the floor: Prince Vasili (Xenia’s son), Prince Rostislav (Xenia’s son), and Prince Dmitri (Xenia’s son); Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Other Romanovs also gathered at their palaces in the Crimea. There they witnessed the October Revolution later that year, and then in 1918 came the news of the murder of Nicholas II and his family and their servants. Olga’s younger brother Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich had been murdered along with his secretary the month before Nicholas’ murder. Being in the Crimea became precarious due to food shortages, visits to the home by the Bolshevik officials, and the threat of being murdered by the Bolsheviks. On April 11, 1919, Empress Maria Feodorovna, her daughter Xenia, Xenia’s five youngest sons along with Xenia’s daughter Irina and her husband Prince Felix Yusupov left Russia forever aboard the British battleship HMS Marlborough.

Olga and Nikolai refused to leave Russia. One of Empress Maria Feodorovna’s personal bodyguards, Timofei Ksenofontovich Yatchik took Olga, Nikolai, and their son Tikhon to his hometown Novominskaya where Olga gave birth to her second child Guri Nikolaevich in a rented farmhouse on April 23, 1919. As the White Army was pushed back and the Red Army approached, the family set out on what would be their last journey through Russia. Yatchik, the former bodyguard, accompanied Olga and her family as they traveled to Rostov-on-Don and then to Novorossiysk where the Danish consul Thomas Schytte gave them refuge in his home. Finally, they arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark on April 2, 1920, and Olga was reunited with her mother. Yatchik, the former imperial bodyguard, guarded Empress Maria Feodorovna until her death in 1928 and then lived the rest of his life in Denmark.

Timofei Ksenofontovich Yatchik who assisted Olga and her family in leaving Russia; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Olga and her family lived with her mother in Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen where her first cousin King Christian X of Denmark was quite inhospitable. Eventually, they moved to Hvidøre, the country house Empress Maria Feodorovna and her sister Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom had purchased together in 1906. Nikolai and Marie Feodorovna did not get along. He was resentful of Olga acting as her mother’s secretary and companion and Marie Feodorovna was distant toward him.

After Maria Feodorovna’s death, Hvidøre was sold and with Olga’s portion of the proceeds, Olga and Nikolai were able to purchase Knudsminde Farm, outside of Copenhagen. The farm became a center for the Russian monarchist and anti-Bolshevik community in Denmark. Olga lived a simple life working in the fields, doing household chores, and painting. She painted throughout her life and her usual subject was scenery and landscape, but she also painted portraits and still life.

Flowers by Olga Alexandrovna; Credit – Wikipedia

After World War II, the Soviet Union notified the Danish government that Olga was accused of conspiracy against the Soviet government. Because she was fearful of an assassination or kidnap attempt, Olga decided to move her family across the Atlantic to the relative safety of rural Canada. On June 2, 1948, Olga, Nikolai, Tikhon and his Danish-born wife Agnete, Guri and his Danish-born wife Ruth along with their two children and Olga’s devoted companion and former maid Emilia Tenso (Mimka) started their voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The family lived in Toronto, until they purchased a 200-acre farm in Halton County, Ontario, near Campbellville. By 1952, Olga and Nikolai’s sons had moved away and the farm became a burden so they sold it and moved to a five-room house at 2130 Camilla Road, Cooksville, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto.

Nikolai died on August 11, 1958, aged 76. After her husband’s death, Olga became increasingly infirm. Unable to care for herself, Olga stayed in the Toronto apartment of Russian émigré friends, Konstantin and Sinaida Martemianoff. Olga’s sister Xenia died in April 1960. On November 21, 1960, Olga slipped into a coma and the last Grand Duchess of Russia died November 24, 1960, at the age of 78. Olga was buried next to her husband Nikolai at York Cemetery in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Grave of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna and Nikolai Kulikovsky; Photo Credit – By Alex.ptv – Self-photographed, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38411347

Wikipedia: Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia

Works Cited

  • En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Peter_Alexandrovich_of_Oldenburg [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].
  • En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Duchess_Olga_Alexandrovna_of_Russia [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].
  • En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Nikolai Kulikovsky. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolai_Kulikovsky [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].
  • Ru.wikipedia.org. (2018). Куликовский, Николай Александрович. [online] Available at: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9A%D1%83%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B9,_%D0%9D%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B9_%D0%90%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B8%D1%87 [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].
  • Ru.wikipedia.org. (2018). Ольденбургский, Пётр Александрович. [online] Available at: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9E%D0%BB%D1%8C%D0%B4%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B1%D1%83%D1%80%D0%B3%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B9,_%D0%9F%D1%91%D1%82%D1%80_%D0%90%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B8%D1%87 [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].
  • Ru.wikipedia.org. (2018). Ольга Александровна. [online] Available at: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9E%D0%BB%D1%8C%D0%B3%D0%B0_%D0%90%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%B0 [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].
  • Vorres, I. (2018). The Last Grand Duchess. Toronto: Key Porter Books Limited.

Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg

by Susan Flantzer

Credit – Wikipedia

The first husband of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia, Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg (Peter Friedrich Georg) was born on November 21, 1868, at Oldenburg Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was the only child of Duke Alexander Petrovich of Oldenburg and Princess Eugenia Maximilianovna of Leuchtenberg.

Alexander Petrovich’s grandfather had married Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna, daughter of Paul I, Emperor of All Russia and their children and grandchildren were raised in Russia. Despite his German title, Alexander Petrovich, like his father, had grown up entirely in Russia, served in the Russian military, and was considered part of the Russian Imperial Family.

Peter’s mother Eugenia was the daughter of Maximilian de Beauharnais, 3rd Duke of Leuchtenberg and Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna of Russia, a daughter of Nicholas I, Emperor of All Russia. Although she was a member of the French House of Beauharnais, Eugenia was born and raised in Russia, her mother’s native country. She was a great-granddaughter of Joséphine Tascher de La Pagerie (Empress Joséphine, first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French) through Joséphine’s first marriage to Alexandre de Beauharnais.

Peter’s parents Duke Alexander Petrovich of Oldenburg and Princess Eugenia Maximilianovna of Leuchtenberg; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Eugenia had a long-standing friendship with Empress Maria Feodorovna (born Dagmar of Denmark), wife of Alexander III, Emperor of All Russia. The two helped arrange the marriage of Eugenia’s son to Maria Feodorovna’s youngest child Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna so that Olga would not have to marry a foreign prince and could always be on call for her mother. Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg, Olga’s second cousin, was fourteen years older than her. After Olga’s society debut in 1899, Peter escorted her to social events.

In the spring of 1901, Peter proposed to Olga. As Olga told her official biographer, Ian Vorres, “I was just tricked into it.” Olga was brought into a room where Peter stammered through a proposal. Their engagement, announced in May 1901, was unexpected by family and friends, as Peter had shown no prior interest in women and it was assumed he was homosexual. The wedding quickly followed on August 9, 1901. Olga told Vorres, “I shared his roof for fifteen years and never once were we husband and wife.” Obviously, there were no children. Olga and Peter lived in a 200-room mansion in St. Petersburg and had bedrooms at opposite ends of the building. Peter was always kind and considerate towards her but Olga longed for love, a normal marriage, and children.

Olga and Peter; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Two years after their marriage, Olga met Nikolai Kulikovsky, an army officer her own age. Olga said to Vorres, “It was fate. It was also a shock. I suppose I learned on that day that love at first sight does exist.” Olga asked Peter for a divorce, which he refused but said he might reconsider after seven years. Nikolai was promoted to captain of the Blue Cuirassier Guards and sent far away to the provinces. Olga and Nikolai regularly corresponded. In 1906, Peter appointed Nikolai as one of his aides-de-camp. Nikolai was told that his quarters would be in the Oldenburg mansion in St. Petersburg. The living arrangements at the mansion were a well-kept secret and continued until the start of World War I when Olga went to be a nurse at the front and Nikolai went to war with his regiment. Peter did not keep his promise to reconsider a divorce after seven years.

Over the years, Olga had continued to ask her brother Nicholas II, Emperor of All Russia for permission to marry Nikolai. Nicholas II always refused because he believed that marriage was for life and that the royalty should only marry royalty. In 1912, when Olga’s brother Michael married a commoner without permission, Nicholas banished him from Russia. Fearing for Nikolai’s safety in the war, Olga pleaded with her brother Nicholas II to transfer him to the relative safety of Kiev, where she was stationed at a hospital. In 1916, after visiting Olga in Kiev, Nicholas had a change of heart and he officially annulled her marriage to Peter. On November 16, 1916, Olga and Nikolai were married at the Kievo-Vasilievskaya Church in Kiev.

Since 1880, Peter had a career in the Russian Imperial Army and attained the rank of Major-General. At the time of the February Revolution in 1917, Peter resigned from the army and settled on his estate in the Voronezh province. After the October Revolution in 1917, Peter along with his father and mother emigrated to France, where he lived in Paris and on a farm near Bayonne, France. In 1922, Peter married Olga Vladimirovna Ratkova-Rognova. Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg died at the age of 55 on March 21, 1924, in Antibes, France and was buried in the crypt of St. Michael the Archangel Russian Orthodox Church in Cannes, France.  Both of Peter’s parents survived him.

Tomb of Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Wikipedia: Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg

Works Cited

  • En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Peter_Alexandrovich_of_Oldenburg [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].
  • En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Duchess_Olga_Alexandrovna_of_Russia [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].
  • Ru.wikipedia.org. (2018). Ольденбургский, Пётр Александрович. [online] Available at: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9E%D0%BB%D1%8C%D0%B4%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B1%D1%83%D1%80%D0%B3%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B9,_%D0%9F%D1%91%D1%82%D1%80_%D0%90%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B8%D1%87 [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].
  • Ru.wikipedia.org. (2018). Ольга Александровна. [online] Available at: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9E%D0%BB%D1%8C%D0%B3%D0%B0_%D0%90%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%B0 [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].
  • Vorres, I. (2018). The Last Grand Duchess. Toronto: Key Porter Books Limited.

Nikolai Alexandrovich Kulikovsky

by Susan Flantzer

Nikolai Kulikovsky and Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

The second husband of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia, Nikolai Alexandrovich Kulikovsky was born on November 5, 1881, in Evstratovka, Voronezh Province, Russian Empire. His parents were Alexander Nikanorovich Kulikovsky, a Major General in the Russian Imperial Army, and Evdokia Nikolaevna Kharina. The Kulikovsky family were minor nobility and owned a large estate and horse farm in Nikolai’s birthplace. Nikolai’s great-grandfather from his mother’s side, Kirill Ivanovich Gudovich, was a Major General in the Russian Imperial Army during the Napoleonic Wars.

Nikolai learned to ride at an early age and became an excellent horseman. From 1900 – 1902, he attended the Nikolaev Cavalry School, the top military school in the Russian Empire, which was established to train young noblemen who entered the Life Guards regiments from universities or private boarding schools and did not have military training. After graduation, Nikolai joined the Blue Cuirassier Guards where one of the commanders was Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, the younger brother of Nicholas II, Emperor of All Russia.

In April 1903, Grand Duke Michael’s sister, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, attended a military review of the Blue Cuirassier Guards. Grand Duchess Olga was in an unsuccessful marriage with Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg. At the military review, Olga saw a tall, handsome man in the uniform of the Blue Cuirassier Guards – Nikolai – and their eyes met. Olga said to her official biographer Ian Vorres, “It was fate. It was also a shock. I suppose I learned on that day that love at first sight does exist.” Michael arranged for Nikolai and his sister Olga to meet. A few days later Olga asked her husband for a divorce. Peter Alexandrovich refused, saying that he would reconsider his decision after seven years.

Nikolai was promoted to captain of the Blue Cuirassier Guards and sent far away to the provinces. Olga and Nikolai regularly corresponded. In 1906, Olga’s husband Peter appointed Nikolai as one of his aides-de-camp. Nikolai was told that his quarters would be in the Oldenburg mansion in St. Petersburg. The living arrangements at the mansion were a well-kept secret and continued until the start of World War I when Olga went to be a nurse at the front and Nikolai went to war with his regiment. Peter did not keep his promise to reconsider a divorce after seven years.

Over the years, Olga had continued to ask her brother Nicholas II for permission to marry Nikolai. Nicholas II always refused because he believed that marriage was for life and that the royalty should only marry royalty. In 1912, when Olga’s brother Michael married a commoner without permission, Nicholas banished him from Russia. Fearing for Nikolai’s safety in the war, Olga pleaded with her brother Nicholas II to transfer him to the relative safety of Kiev, where she was stationed at a hospital. In 1916, after visiting Olga in Kiev, Nicholas had a change of heart and he officially annulled her marriage to Peter. On November 16, 1916, Olga and Nikolai were married at the Kievo-Vasilievskaya Church in Kiev. Olga’s mother the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna, her sister’s husband Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich (Sandro), two fellow nurses from the hospital in Kiev and four officers of Nikolai’s regiment attended.

Olga and Nikolai on their wedding day; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Olga and Nikolai had two sons:

  • Tikhon Nikolaevich Kulikovsky (1917 – 1993), married (1) Agnet Petersen, no children, divorced (2) Libya Sebastian, had one daughter, divorced (3) Olga Nikolaevna Pupynina, no children
  • Guri Nikolaevich Kulikovsky (1919 – 1984), married Ruth Schwartz, had three children, divorced (2) Aze Gagarin, no children

Guri, Olga, Tikhon and, Nikolai, circa 1920; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

The February Revolution was the first of two revolutions that took place in Russia in 1917. The February Revolution was caused by military defeats during World War I, economic issues, and scandals surrounding the monarchy. The immediate result was the abdication of Olga’s brother Nicholas II, the end of the Romanov dynasty, and the end of the Russian Empire. Later in 1917, the October Revolution occurred, paving the way for the establishment of the Soviet Union.

After Nicholas II abdicated, many members of the Romanov family, including Nicholas, his wife, and their children, were placed under house arrest. In search of safety, Olga and Nikolai along with Olga’s mother Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, and Olga’s brother-in-law Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich (Sandro) traveled to the Crimea where they were joined by Olga’s sister (Sandro’s wife) Grand Duchess Xenia. They lived at Sandro’s estate, Ai-Todor, where they were placed under house arrest by the local Bolshevik forces. On August 12, 1917, Olga’s first child Tikhon Nikolaevich was born during their house arrest.

The Romanovs under house arrest at Ai-Todor in the Crimea in 1918. Standing: Colonel Nikolai Kulikovsky, Mr. Fogel, Olga Konstantinovna Vasiljeva, Prince Andrei (Xenia’s son). Seated: Mr. Orbeliani, Prince Nikita (Xenia’s son), Grand Duchess Olga (Xenia’s sister), Grand Duchess Xenia, Empress Maria Feodorovna (Xenia’s mother), Grand Duke Alexander (Xenia’s husband). On the floor: Prince Vasili (Xenia’s son), Prince Rostislav (Xenia’s son), and Prince Dmitri (Xenia’s son); Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Olga and Nikolai refused to leave Russia. One of Empress Maria Feodorovna’s personal bodyguards, Timofei Ksenofontovich Yatchik, took Olga, Nikolai, and their son Tikhon to his hometown Novominskaya where Olga gave birth to her second child Guri Nikolaevich in a rented farmhouse on April 23, 1919. As the White Army was pushed back and the Red Army approached, the family set out on what would be their last journey through Russia. Yatchik, the former bodyguard, accompanied Nikolai, Olga and their sons as they traveled to Rostov-on-Don and then to Novorossiysk where the Danish consul Thomas Schytte gave them refuge in his home. Finally, they arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark on April 2, 1920, and Olga was reunited with her mother. Yatchik, the former imperial bodyguard, guarded Empress Maria Feodorovna until her death in 1928 and then lived the rest of his life in Denmark.

Timofei Ksenofontovich Yatchik who assisted Nikolai, Olga and their sons in leaving Russia; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Nikolai, Olga, and their sons lived with her mother in Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen where Olga’s first cousin King Christian X of Denmark was quite inhospitable. Eventually, they all moved to Hvidøre, the country house Empress Maria Feodorovna and her sister Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom had purchased together in 1906. Nikolai and Marie Feodorovna did not get along. He was resentful of Olga acting as her mother’s secretary and companion and Marie Feodorovna was distant toward him.  After Maria Feodorovna’s death in 1928, Hvidøre was sold and with Olga’s portion of the proceeds, Olga and Nikolai were able to purchase Knudsminde Farm, outside of Copenhagen. The farm became a center for the Russian monarchist and anti-Bolshevik community in Denmark.

Olga and Nikolai; Photo Credit – http://www.theromanovfamily.com

After World War II, the Soviet Union notified the Danish government that Olga was accused of conspiracy against the Soviet government. Because she was fearful of an assassination or kidnap attempt, Nikolai and Olga decided to move their family across the Atlantic to the relative safety of rural Canada. On June 2, 1948, Olga, Nikolai, Tikhon and his Danish-born wife Agnete, Guri and his Danish-born wife Ruth along with their two children and Olga’s devoted companion and former maid Emilia Tenso (Mimka) started their voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The family lived in Toronto, until they purchased a 200-acre farm in Halton County, Ontario, near Campbellville.  Nikolai was relieved to move out of Toronto and escape media attention.

By 1952, Olga and Nikolai’s sons had moved away and the farm became a burden so they sold it and moved to a five-room house at 2130 Camilla Road, Cooksville, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto.  Nikolai’s health worsened and by 1958, he was virtually paralyzed and had difficulty sleeping. At the end of his life, he was sleeping on the sofa in the living room to avoid waking Olga. On August 11, 1958, Nikolai Kulikovsky died at his Cookvsille home at the age of 76.  He was buried at the  York Cemetery in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Olga survived him by a little more than two years, dying on November 24, 1960, at the age of 78. She was buried next to her husband Nikolai at York Cemetery in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Grave of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna and Nikolai Kulikovsky; Photo Credit – By Alex.ptv – Self-photographed, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38411347

Wikipedia: Nikolai Kulikovsky

Works Cited

  • En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Duchess_Olga_Alexandrovna_of_Russia [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].
  • En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Nikolai Kulikovsky. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolai_Kulikovsky [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].
  • Ru.wikipedia.org. (2018). Куликовский, Николай Александрович. [online] Available at: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9A%D1%83%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B9,_%D0%9D%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B9_%D0%90%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B8%D1%87 [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].
  • Ru.wikipedia.org. (2018). Ольга Александровна. [online] Available at: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9E%D0%BB%D1%8C%D0%B3%D0%B0_%D0%90%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%B0 [Accessed 18 Mar. 2018].
  • Vorres, I. (2018). The Last Grand Duchess. Toronto: Key Porter Books Limited.

July 28: Today in Royal History

King Frederik VIII of Denmark and Lovisa of Sweden; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

July 28, 1540 – Execution of Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to King Henry VIII of England, at Tower Hill in London, England
Wikipedia: Thomas Cromwell

July 28, 1540 – Wedding of King Henry VIII of England and Catherine Howard, his fifth wife, at Hampton Court Palace in Richmond, England
Catherine Howard was a first cousin of Anne Boleyn.
Unofficial Royalty: Catherine Howard, Queen of England
Unofficial Royalty: King Henry VIII of England

July 28, 1683 – Wedding of Queen Anne of the United Kingdom and Prince George of Denmark, son of King Frederik III of Denmark, at the Chapel Royal, St. James Palace in London, England
Unofficial Royalty: Prince George of Denmark
Unofficial Royalty: Queen Anne of the United Kingdom

July 28, 1684 – Death of Charlotte Jemima Henrietta Maria FitzRoy, illegitimate daughter of King Charles II of England and Elizabeth Killigrew; buried at Westminster Abbey
Wikipedia: Charlotte FitzRoy

July 28, 1844 – Death of Joseph-Napoléon Bonaparte, King of Naples and Sicily, King of Spain and the Indies, Comte de Survilliers in Florence, Italy; buried at Les Invalides in Paris, France
Wikipedia: Joseph Bonaparte

July 28, 1869 – Wedding of King Frederik VIII of Denmark and Lovisa of Sweden at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden
Unofficial Royalty: King Frederik VIII of Denmark
Unofficial Royalty: Lovisa of Sweden, Queen of Denmark

July 28, 1952 – Birth of King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand in the Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall of the Dusit Palace in Bangkok, Thailand
Unofficial Royalty: King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand

July 28, 1996 – Birth of Samuel Chatto, son of Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones and grandson of Princess Margaret of the United Kingdom
Full name: Samuel David Benedict
Wikipedia: Samuel Chatto

Royal News: Friday, 27 July 2018

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Denmark
Daily Mail: ‘Vincent and Josephine are not little anymore!’ Shocked fans comment on how fast Princess Mary’s children are growing up as they pose for photos during their summer holiday

Spain
Daily Mail: Daring in denim! Queen Letizia of Spain looks sharp in a £179 Hugo Boss dress as she attends a music lecture in Asturias
Getty Images: King Felipe of Spain Host an Official Dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron of France at the Royal Palace
Getty Images: Queen Letizia of Spain visits the International School of Music “Fundacion Princesa de Asturias” (Part 1)
Getty Images: Queen Letizia of Spain visits the International School of Music “Fundacion Princesa de Asturias” (Part 2)

UK
Daily Mail: Style snap! Meghan Markle and Wallis Simpson – two glamorous American divorcees who met their smitten princes when they were 34
Daily Mail: Hello Nacho! Prince Harry’s hunky Argentine polo player friend steals the show at the Sentebale Cup (and the pair go back for more than 10 years)
Daily Mail: Times have changed… but not THAT much! Meghan’s polo outfit looks VERY similar to one she wore before becoming royalty (but costs three times as much)
Daily Mail: A kiss for her prince! Proud wife Meghan rewards Harry with a smooch after his team WINS the Sentebale Polo Cup
Daily Mail: Meghan supports Harry at his charity Sentebale polo match
Daily Mail: We’ve seen that before! Meghan steals Pippa’s style with a trendy £88 straw clutch from US high street label J.Crew as she joins Harry at the polo
Daily Mail: EXCLUSIVE: I’m worried what Meghan will think, says her sister-in-law to-be after she was arrested for domestic violence ‘attack’ on the Duchess of Sussex’s brother
Daily Mail: Sarah Ferguson promises to help victims of Greek wildfires that claimed 82 lives and calls on Britons to visit the ‘beautiful’ country to help it recover
Daily Mail: Hot weather means baby Lena doesn´t need clothes, jokes Mike Tindall
Express: Could we see royal twin babies? Meghan Markle and Prince Harry could end up having twins
Express: Sarah Ferguson to re-enter Royal fold with key role in Princess Eugenie’s wedding
Getty Images: Sentabale Polo 2018 (Part 1)
Getty Images: Sentabale Polo 2018 (Part 2)

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Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia

by Susan Flantzer

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

The first of the eighteen Romanovs executed during the Russian Revolution, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia was born December 4, 1878, at the Anichkov Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. Michael was the fourth of the four sons and the fifth of the six children of Alexander III, Emperor of All Russia and Dagmar of Denmark (Empress Maria Feodorovna).

Michael’s mother was the daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark and among his maternal first cousins were King Constantine I of Greece, King George V of the United Kingdom, King Christian X of Denmark and King Haakon VII of Norway.

Michael had five siblings:

The family of Alexander III – seated (left to right): Alexander III with Olga, George; standing (left to right): Michael, Maria Feodorovna, Nicholas, and Xenia; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

In 1881, when Michael was three years old, his paternal grandfather Alexander II, Emperor of All Russia was assassinated when a bomb was thrown at his carriage as he rode through St. Petersburg, and Michael’s father became Emperor. Concerned about the security of his family, Alexander III moved his family to Gatchina Palace located 28 miles (45 km) south of St. Petersburg. Gatchina Palace became the family’s prime residence.

Like his other siblings, Michael was raised in a relatively simple manner considering his status. He slept in a cot, woke up at 6:00 AM, took cold baths, ate simple, plain meals, and his rooms were furnished with simple furniture. The Imperial children had a large extended family and often visited the families of their British, Danish, and Greek cousins.

Emperor Alexander III, Tsarevitch Nicholas, Grand Duke Michael and dog, Empress Marie Feodorovna, Grand Duke George and Grand Duchess Xenia at the Gatchina Palace, circa 1887; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

The children’s parents believed that their children should spend their spare time in a useful manner and so they learned cooking, woodworking and how to make puppets for their puppet theater. Alexander III believed that his children should learn about the outdoors and so they were taught to ride, gardened, and kept animals that they had to look after themselves.

Because of their ten-year age gap, Michael and his eldest brother, the future Nicholas II, Emperor of All Russia, would not share much of their childhood. Michael’s younger sister Olga was his childhood companion and the two would always remain close. They were educated together and played together.

Michael and Olga; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

In 1894, Michael’s father Alexander III unexpectedly died at the age of 49 and his brother Nicholas became Emperor. Since Nicholas did not yet have children, his next brother George was declared Tsesarevich of Russia, the heir to the throne. In 1899, George died of tuberculosis. At that time, Nicholas had only daughters who could not inherit the throne and so Michael was named the heir to the Russian throne. He remained the heir until the birth of Nicholas’ hemophiliac son Alexei in 1904. Michael was named to be co-regent for Alexei, along with Alexei’s mother Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, in the event of Nicholas II’s death.

After his father’s death, Michael’s mother moved back to Anichkov Palace in St. Petersburg with Michael and Olga. In St. Petersburg, Michael completed training at a gunnery school and joined the Horse Guards Artillery. In 1901, Michael represented his brother at the funeral of Queen Victoria and in 1902, he was made a Knight of the Garter in King Edward VII’s coronation honors. In June 1902, Michael transferred to the Blue Cuirassier Regiment and moved to Gatchina, where the regiment was based.

In 1902 during a summer holiday, Michael met Princess Beatrice of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg. Beatrice was the daughter of Queen Victoria’s second son Prince Alfred and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, the only daughter of Alexander II, Emperor of Russia. Michael and Beatrice fell in love. Michael’s father and Beatrice’s mother were siblings and that made Beatrice and Michael first cousins. It was not unusual for royal first cousins to marry. Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha were first cousins and Beatrice’s sister Victoria had married a first cousin, Ernst, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine. However, the Russian Orthodox Church prohibited the marriage of first cousins and Nicholas II refused to grant permission for the marriage.

Next, Michael fell in love with a commoner, Alexandra Vladimirovna Kossikovskaya, a lady-in-waiting to his sister Olga. In 1906, Michael asked Nicholas II for permission to marry Alexandra. Nicholas and his mother Empress Maria Feodorovna were appalled as they felt that royalty should marry only royalty. According to Romanov House Law, any children from a marriage between a royal and a commoner would not be in the line of succession to the Russian throne. Nicholas threatened to revoke Michael’s army commission and exile him from Russia if he married without his permission. Empress Maria Feodorovna dismissed Alexandra as Olga’s lady-in-waiting and took Michael to Denmark for two months.

Wulfert, Natasha, and Michael; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

In 1907, Michael first met Natalia Sergeyevna Wulfert (called Natasha), the wife of Vladimir Vladimirovich Wulfert, an officer in Michael’s regiment, the Blue Cuirassier Regiment. Born Natalia Sergeyevna Sheremetyevskaya, Natasha was the daughter of a Moscow lawyer, Sergei Alexandrovich Sheremetevsky, an untitled minor Russian noble. By August 1909, Michael and Natasha were lovers and by November 1909, Natasha was living in an apartment in Moscow paid for by Michael. Nicholas II had Michael transferred to the Chernigov Hussars 250 miles from Moscow in an attempt to stop the relationship. However, Michael traveled back to Moscow several times a month to see Natasha.

On August 6, 1910, Natasha gave birth to Michael’s son named George after Michael’s deceased brother. At the time of George’s birth, Natasha was still legally married to her husband and so George was legally his son. Michael and Natasha started divorce proceedings because they feared that Natasha’s husband would try to claim custody of their son. There is speculation that Wulfert allowed the divorce because he received a bribe of 200,000 rubles. The date of the divorce was back-dated which meant that George was recognized as Natasha’s illegitimate son and would inherit her status. Nicholas II issued a decree giving the George the surname Brasov after Michael’s estate at Brasovo. In May 1911, Nicholas II granted Natasha permission to use the surname Brasova and allowed her to live with Michael at his estate Brasovo. This all indicated Nicholas II’s tacit permission for his brother’s affair.

Natasha and Michael with their son George; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Michael was second in the line of succession after his nephew, Tsesarevich Alexei. However, since Alexei suffered from hemophilia, perhaps he would not live long enough to inherit the throne. Romanov House Law required that members of the Imperial Family obtain the permission of the Emperor before marrying. Michael knew that his brother would not grant permission to marry Natasha. In September 1912, Alexei suffered a life-threatening hemorrhage in the thigh and groin. Michael feared that Alexei would not survive and that he would become the heir which would make the possibility of his marriage to Natalia even more remote. By marrying Natasha before Alexei died, Michael would be removed from the line of succession early which would prevent him from losing Natasha. Therefore, while on holiday in Vienna, Austria, Michael and Natasha were married on October 16, 1912, in a Serbian Orthodox Church.

Natasha and Michael in 1912; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Nicholas II and the rest of the Imperial Family were horrifyingly shocked. They saw Michael’s actions as a betrayal of duty especially since Alexei was so close to death. (Alexei did survive the incident.) Nicholas stripped Michael of his military rank, froze all his assets in Russia, seized control of his estates, removed him from becoming regent, and banished him from Russia. Until September 1913, they stayed in grand hotels throughout Europe before settling in England. While in England, they were visited by Michael’s mother Empress Maria Feodorovna, Michael’s sister Grand Duchess Xenia, and Michael’s cousin Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich.

Upon the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Michael asked his brother Nicholas II for permission to return to Russia and return to the army. He further requested that Natasha and George accompany him. Nicholas agreed with the condition that Natasha not live in any of the imperial palaces. Michael, Natasha, and George lived in a villa on Nikolaevskaya Street in St. Petersburg. Michael was given command of the Caucasian Native Cavalry which was considered a demotion as it consisted of new Muslim recruits rather than the elite troops. Nevertheless, the Caucasian Native Cavalry was very effective and Michael received the military’s highest honor, the Order of St. George.

Grand Duke Michael (in the light-colored coat) with the Caucasian Native Cavalry; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

In 1915, Michael requested that Nicholas II legitimize his son George so that in the event of his death in the war, George would be provided for, and Nicholas agreed. George was legitimized and created Count Brasov but neither he nor his descendants could be in the line of succession. At the same time, Natasha was created Countess Brasova.

The February Revolution was the first of two revolutions that took place in Russia in 1917. The February Revolution was caused by military defeats during World War I, economic issues, and scandals surrounding the monarchy. The immediate result was the abdication of Nicholas II, the end of the Romanov dynasty, and the end of the Russian Empire. Later in 1917, the October Revolution occurred, paving the way for the establishment of the Soviet Union.

On March 15, 1917, when Nicholas II signed his abdication manifesto, he decided to abdicate in favor of his son Alexei but he changed his mind after conferring with doctors who said the hemophiliac Alexei would not survive without his parents, who would surely be exiled. Nicholas then decided to abdicate in favor of Michael. However, Michael declined to accept the throne unless the people were allowed to vote for the continuation of the monarchy or for a republic. Of course, that vote never happened.

After going through several periods of house arrests, Michael was arrested on March 7, 1918, along with his British secretary Nicholas Johnson, and imprisoned at the Bolshevik headquarters in St. Petersburg. Four days later, Michael and Johnson were sent to Perm, a thousand miles to the east. In Perm, the Bolshevik orders were that “Michael Romanov and Johnson are entitled to live in freedom under the surveillance of the local Soviet authorities.” Meanwhile, Natasha obtained a travel permit so she could join Michael in Perm. However, Michael and Natasha’s reunion did not last long. Because the Bolsheviks and the White Army were fighting in the area, Michael and Natasha feared that she could become trapped in Perm in a dangerous situation and so Natasha left on May 18, 1918, for Moscow. On May 21, 1918, Michael made the first of a number of required visits to the Perm office of the Cheka, the Soviet secret police.

Grand Duke Michael and Nicholas Johnson in Perm in 1918; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Fears that the White Army might move into Perm and an unsuccessful White Army raid in Ekaterinburg, where Michael’s brother Nicholas and his family were being held, made the Cheka leaders in Perm develop a plan to abduct and kill Michael. Gavril Ilyich Myasnikov, the leader of the Perm Cheka who had spent seven years in a Siberian labor camp after the Russian Revolution of 1905, gathered a team of four men who, like him, were all former prisoners of the Tsarist regime. The five men met on the evening of June 12, 1918. The plan was simple – Michael was to be abducted from his room, taken into the woods, and shot. To avoid complications, the official story would be that Michael attempted to escape and was therefore shot. The conspirators’ meeting ended at 9:30 PM and Michael’s abduction was set for midnight.

Gavril Ilyich Myasnikov, in the middle, with his four conspirators; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

With forged orders to evacuate Michael, the group made their way to Michael’s room. The guards there said they needed to telephone the Cheka to confirm the evacuation orders which the armed men would not allow them to do. Michael also refused to cooperate. Eventually, the armed men had enough. One of them grabbed Michael, ordered him to go outside and motioned Johnson to follow. The armed men, Michael and Johnson drove three miles in horse-drawn carriages to the execution site.

Michael had been told they were going to a railroad crossing where he would board a train. The carriages stopped and Michael was told that they would walk to the railroad crossing. After Michael and Johnson took only a few steps, two of the armed men simultaneously shot them. Johnson was wounded and the gun that was intended for Michael misfired. Michael, with his arms outstretched, ran to Johnson begging to say goodbye to him. Michael was shot and as he fell, he pulled Johnson down with him. Guns were then put to their temples and fired. It was approximately 2:00 AM on June 13, 1918. Michael was 39 and Johnson was 40.  Before the bodies were buried, they were stripped of all their clothes and possessions to prove that the executions had taken place. The remains of Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich and Nicholas Johnson have never been found.  In 1981, Grand Duke Michael and Nicholas Johnson were canonized as New-Martyrs of Russia by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.  In 1996, a local group in Perm erected a simple wooden cross in the woods where it is presumed Michael’s remains lie.

Michael’s wife and son, Natasha and George, escaped Russia. In 1931, George died in a car accident in Sens, France shortly before his 21st birthday. In 1952, Natalia died penniless in a charity hospital in Paris, France. Natalia and George were buried next to each in Passy Cemetery in Paris.

Memorial plaque in memory of Grand Duke Michael on the building in Perrm where he was detained; Photo Credit – Автор: Аноним Инкогнитович – Собственная работа, GFDL 1.2+, https://ru.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2069431

Wikipedia: Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia

Works Cited

  • Crawford, R. and Crawford, D. (2000). Michael and Natasha. New York: Post Road Press.
  • En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Duke_Michael_Alexandrovich_of_Russia [Accessed 4 Nov. 2017].
  • En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Natalia Brasova. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natalia_Brasova [Accessed 15 Mar. 2018].
  • Perry, J. and Pleshakov, K. (2008). The Flight of the Romanovs. New York: Basic Books.
  • Ru.wikipedia.org. (2018). Михаил Александрович (сын Александра III). [online] Available at: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9C%D0%B8%D1%85%D0%B0%D0%B8%D0%BB_%D0%90%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B8%D1%87_(%D1%81%D1%8B%D0%BD_%D0%90%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%B0_III) [Accessed 15 Mar. 2018].

Natalia Sergeyevna Sheremetyevskaya, Countess Brasova

by Susan Flantzer

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Natalia Sergeyevna Sheremetyevskaya was the morganatic wife of Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia, the son the Alexander III, Emperor of All Russia and the brother of Nicholas II, Emperor of All Russia. Called Natasha, she was born on June 27, 1880, at a rented summer dacha outside of Moscow to Sergei Alexandrovich Sheremetyevsky and Yulia Vyacheslavovna Sventsitskaya. Natasha’s father was a lawyer and an untitled Russian noble. Natasha grew up in Moscow with maids, a nurse for her and her two older sisters, Vera and Olga, and then a French governess when the three sisters were older. Natasha and her sisters were educated at a private day school.

In 1901, Natasha married Sergei Ivanovich Mamontov (1877 – 1938), a musician. Sergei was a pianist and conductor at the Mamontov Opera House, founded by his uncle, and then at the famous Bolshoi Theater.

Natasha and Sergei had one daughter:

  • Natalia Sergeevna Mamontova, known as Tata (1903 – 1969), married (1) Val Gielgud, writer, actor, editor and BBC producer, brother of actor Sir John Gielgud, no children, divorced (2) Cecil Gray, composer and music critic, had one daughter, divorced (3) Michael Majolier, naval officer, had one daughter

Natasha and her daughter Tata; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Through her husband’s connections, Natasha became friendly with a number of Russian musicians including pianist and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff and opera singer Feodor Chaliapin. Natasha was quite social, enjoyed entertaining and attending social events. Her husband Sergei was the opposite. He had a retiring nature and preferred to stay home. Natasha started going out on her own and met a childhood friend, cavalry officer Vladimir Vladimirovich Wulfert. Soon Natasha and Vladimir were in the midst of an affair and Natasha wanted a divorce so that she could marry Vladimir. Divorce was only possible in cases of adultery where the husband was the guilty party. Playing the gentleman, Sergei agreed to provide Natasha with the grounds for divorce and in 1905, Natasha and Vladimir were married.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Wulfert was an officer in Blue Cuirassier Regiment. The social life of an officer and his wife was just what Natasha desired and Vladimir enjoyed their social life as much as his wife did. The height of the regiment’s social season in 1907 was the winter ball and Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, the brother of Nicholas II, Emperor of All Russia and one of the commanders of the regiment, always attended the regiment balls. Natasha and Michael had met once before and Natasha wondered if he would remember her. Michael did remember her and over the course of the evening, he asked Natasha to dance and sat at her table.

Vladimir Wulfert, Natasha, and Grand Duke Michael; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

At first, Natasha was always accompanied by her husband when socializing with Michael. By August 1909, Michael and Natasha were lovers and by November 1909, Natasha was living in an apartment in Moscow paid for by Michael. Nicholas II had Michael transferred to the Chernigov Hussars 250 miles from Moscow in an attempt to stop the relationship. However, Michael traveled back to Moscow several times a month to see Natasha.

On August 6, 1910, Natasha gave birth to Michael’s son named George after Michael’s deceased brother. At the time of George’s birth, Natasha was still legally married to her husband and so George was legally his son. Michael and Natasha started divorce proceedings because they feared that Natasha’s husband would try to claim custody of their son. There is speculation that Vladimir Wulfert allowed the divorce because he received a bribe of 200,000 rubles. The date of the divorce was back-dated which meant that George was recognized as Natasha’s illegitimate son and would inherit her status. Nicholas II issued a decree giving the George the surname Brasov after Michael’s estate at Brasovo. In May 1911, Nicholas II granted Natasha permission to use the surname Brasova and allowed her to live with Michael at his estate Brasovo. This all indicated Nicholas II’s tacit permission for his brother’s affair.

Natasha and Michael with their son George; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Michael was second in the line of succession after his nephew, Tsesarevich Alexei. However, since Alexei suffered from hemophilia, it was thought that he would not live long enough to inherit the throne. Romanov House Law required that members of the Imperial Family obtain the permission of the Emperor before marrying. Michael knew that his brother would not grant permission to marry Natasha. In September 1912, Alexei suffered a life-threatening hemorrhage. Michael feared that Alexei would not survive and that he would become the heir which would make the possibility of his marriage to Natalia even more remote. By marrying Natasha before Alexei died, Michael would be removed from the line of succession early which would prevent him from losing Natasha. Therefore, while on holiday in Vienna, Austria, Michael and Natasha were married on October 16, 1912, in a Serbian Orthodox Church.

Nicholas II and the rest of the Imperial Family were horrifyingly shocked. They saw Michael’s actions as a betrayal of duty especially since Alexei was so close to death. (Alexei did survive the incident.) Nicholas stripped Michael of his military rank, froze all his assets in Russia, seized control of his estates, and banished him from Russia. Until September 1913, they stayed in grand hotels throughout Europe before settling in England.

Natasha and Michael, circa 1912; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Upon the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Michael asked his brother Nicholas II for permission to return to Russia and return to the army. He further requested that Natasha and George accompany him. Nicholas agreed with the condition that Natasha not live in any of the imperial palaces. Michael, Natasha, and George lived in a villa on Nikolaevskaya Street in St. Petersburg. Michael was given command of the Caucasian Native Cavalry. In 1915, Michael requested that Nicholas II legitimize his son George so that in the event of his death in the war, George would be provided for, and Nicholas agreed. George was legitimized and created Count Brasov but neither he nor his descendants could be in the line of succession. At the same time, Natasha was created Countess Brasova.

The February Revolution was the first of two revolutions that took place in Russia in 1917. The February Revolution was caused by military defeats during World War I, economic issues, and scandals surrounding the monarchy. The immediate result was the abdication of Nicholas II, the end of the Romanov dynasty, and the end of the Russian Empire. Later in 1917, the October Revolution occurred, paving the way for the establishment of the Soviet Union.

Natasha in 1917; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

After going through several periods of house arrests, Michael was arrested on March 7, 1918, along with his British secretary Nicholas Johnson, and imprisoned at the Bolshevik headquarters in St. Petersburg. Four days later, Michael and Johnson were sent to Perm, a thousand miles to the east. In Perm, the Bolshevik orders were that “Michael Romanov and Johnson are entitled to live in freedom under the surveillance of the local Soviet authorities.” Concerned for her son’s safety, Natasha smuggled George and his nanny out of Russia to Denmark with the help of the Danish Embassy.

Natasha obtained a travel permit so she could join Michael in Perm. However, Michael and Natasha’s reunion did not last long. Because the Bolsheviks and the White Army were fighting in the area, Michael and Natasha feared that she could become trapped in Perm in a dangerous situation and so Natasha left on May 18, 1918, for Moscow. On June 13, 1918, Michael and his secretary were taken to the woods near Perm and shot. Their bodies have never been found. See Unofficial Royalty: Execution of Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia.

Grand Duke Michael and his secretary Nicholas Johnson in Perm, April 1918; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Returning to Petrograd, which was the new name for St. Petersburg, Natasha immediately began to plan a second trip to be with Michael but she received a telegram from Perm about his “disappearance”. When she met with the Cheka, the Soviet secret police, Natasha accused them of killing Michael and she was put in prison. Ten weeks later she feigned illness and was transferred to a nursing home from which she managed to escape. The Germans believed the widespread rumors that Michael was still alive and decided to help Natasha escape Russia in an attempt to gain influence with Michael. Through the German-controlled Ukrainian consulate, Natasha and Tata, her 15-year-old daughter from her first marriage, were provided with false passports. They then traveled to Kiev which was under German occupation and on to Odessa where they boarded the British ship HMS Nereide which took them to Constantinople.

George, Count Brasov; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Natasha and her children settled in England. George attended a British boarding school and Tata attended a convent school in France. Natasha was able to use money in Michael’s bank accounts in Paris and Copenhagen, and also started selling her jewelry. In 1920, Tata was sent to Cheltenham Ladies’ College and George was enrolled at Harrow School. In England, Natasha had a courteous meeting with Michael’s mother Empress Maria Feodorovna (born Dagmar of Denmark) who had also escaped and would live out her life in her native Denmark. There were still conflicting rumors about Michael’s fate.

In 1924, Natasha had Michael declared legally dead. Michael’s first cousin Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, who also escaped, had declared himself Emperor and head of the Romanov family.  He gave Natasha the style and title Her Serene Highness Princess Romanovskaya-Brasova and made George a Prince. Natasha moved to Paris in 1927 because it was cheaper to live there and a large Russian émigré populationlived there. Tata, who had married, remained in England. George joined his mother in France and attended the Sorbonne University in Paris.

In 1928, Michael’s mother Empress Maria Feodorovna died in Denmark and the house that she owned jointly with her sister was sold. The proceeds were equally divided between the Empress’ two daughters and her grandson George who used some of the money to buy a new sports car. In July 1931, George had finished his university exams and went on a driving holiday in the south of France with a friend. Not too far from Paris, in Sens, France, George’s car skidded off the road and crashed into a tree. George’s friend, who had been driving, was instantly killed. George was taken to the hospital with two broken legs and severe internal injuries. Natasha reached George’s bedside before he died on July 21, 1931, without regaining consciousness. He would have celebrated his 21st birthday in two weeks. George was buried at the Passy Cemetery in Paris. Although George had no succession rights due to the morganatic marriage of his parents, he was the last male-line descendant of Alexander III, Emperor of All Russia.

Natasha continued to have financial difficulties. Recovering any Romanov assets in the Soviet Union, formerly Russia, was impossible. Natasha unsuccessfully attempted to recover some of Michael’s Polish assets. She did receive some funds from Michael’s German assets but inflation had made them almost worthless. To survive, Natasha sold her possessions. By the time World War II started, Natasha was nearly broke and living in a one-room attic apartment. Tata was living in London and the war made travel and communication with her mother in Paris impossible. In 1946, Tata’s daughter Pauline went to Paris to find her grandmother and was shocked by her grandmother’s living conditions. The Mamontov family, the family of Natasha’s first husband, did what they could for her. Sometimes other émigrés from Russia living in Paris gave her money and Pauline starting sending her grandmother money from her small salary. In 1951, Natasha found out she had cancer and her landlady evicted her. Natasha was taken to the Laënnec, a charity hospital, where she died on January 23, 1952, at the age of 71.

Natasha was buried in Passy Cemetery next to her son George. Their grave is marked by a Russian Orthodox cross and the inscription Fils et Epouse de S.A.I Grand Duc Michel de Russie – Son and Spouse of His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Michael of Russia.

Natasha and George’s grave; Photo Credit – By Thomon – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42995429

Wikipedia: Natalia Brasova

Works Cited

  • Crawford, R. and Crawford, D. (2000). Michael and Natasha. New York: Post Road Press.
  • En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Duke_Michael_Alexandrovich_of_Russia [Accessed 4 Nov. 2017].
  • En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Natalia Brasova. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natalia_Brasova [Accessed 15 Mar. 2018].
  • Perry, J. and Pleshakov, K. (2008). The Flight of the Romanovs. New York: Basic Books.
  • Ru.wikipedia.org. (2018). Михаил Александрович (сын Александра III). [online] Available at: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9C%D0%B8%D1%85%D0%B0%D0%B8%D0%BB_%D0%90%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B8%D1%87_(%D1%81%D1%8B%D0%BD_%D0%90%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%B0_III) [Accessed 15 Mar. 2018].
  • Ru.wikipedia.org. (2018). Шереметьевская, Наталья Сергеевна. [online] Available at: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A8%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%BC%D0%B5%D1%82%D1%8C%D0%B5%D0%B2%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B0%D1%8F,_%D0%9D%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%BB%D1%8C%D1%8F_%D0%A1%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B3%D0%B5%D0%B5%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%B0 [Accessed 16 Mar. 2018].

July 27: Today in Royal History

Louise, Princess Royal and her husband Alexander Duff, 1st Duke of Fife; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

July 27, 1365 – Wedding of Isabella of England, daughter of King Edward III of England, and Enguerrand VII de Courcy, Earl of Bedford, at Windsor Castle
Wikipedia: Isabella of England
Wikipedia: Enguerrand VII de Courcy

July 27, 1626 – Death of Ludwig V, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt
Wikipedia: Ludwig V, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt

July 27, 1889 – Wedding of Princess Louise, daughter of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, and Alexander Duff, 1st Duke of Fife, at the Private Chapel in Buckingham Palace
Unofficial Royalty: Louise, Princess Royal
Unofficial Royalty: Alexander Duff, 1st Duke of Fife

July 27, 1900 – Birth of Prince Knud of Denmark, later Hereditary Prince of Denmark, son of King Christian X of Denmark. at Sorgenfri Palace in Lyngby-Taarbæk, Denmark
Full name: Knud Christian Frederik Michael
Unofficial Royalty: Hereditary Prince Knud of Denmark

July 27, 1932 – Death of Archduchess Gisela of Austria, daughter of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, in Munich, Germany; buried at St. Michael’s Church in Munich, Germany
Wikipedia: Archduchess Gisela of Austria

July 27, 1980 – Death of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, last Shah of Iran, in Cairo, Egypt, buried at the Al Rifa’i Mosque in Cairo, Egypt
Wikipedia: Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran

Royal News: Thursday 26 July 2018

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