Elisabeth of Saxe-Altenburg
Elizaveta Mavrikievna (Russian: Елизавета Маврикевна; born Princess Elisabeth Auguste Marie Agnes of Saxe-Altenburg, 25 January 1865 in Meiningen, Germany – 24 March 1927, Leipzig, Germany), was a Russian Grand Duchess by marriage. She was the wife of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich of Russia (1858–1915), whom she married in 1884 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Family and early life
Princess Elisabeth, as she was usually known, was the second child of Prince Moritz of Saxe-Altenburg (1829–1907) and his wife, Princess Augusta of Saxe-Meiningen (1843–1919). During her youth she made several trips around Europe visiting her relatives.
Marriage and issue
In 1882, when she was sixteen, she met her second cousin, Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich of Russia in Altenburg. His mother and her father were first cousins; in addition to that, they shared Emperor Pavel I as a common ancestor. There was immediately some talk of marriage. However, although she said she was ready to marry Konstantin, he hesitated, although he was by then 24 years old. When she left, he promised to often write, but he never did, as he was tremendously shy. Nevertheless, he did write several poems about her. In 1884, she visited Russia and the wedding was announced, although she manifested her wish to keep her Lutheran faith, which was a serious blow for her future husband, since he believed firmly in the Russian Orthodox Church. Even worse was the fact that she refused to kiss the cross held in Orthodox services.
On the wedding day, which took place on 27 April 1884, she wrote to him a reassuring letter, saying that "I promise you that I will never do anything to anger nor hurt you through our divided religions... I can only tell you again, how very much I love you.
The marriage was a success, although Grand Duke Konstantin secretly kept male lovers. Konstantin and Elizaveta had nine children:
- Prince Ioann (1886–1918)
- Prince Gavriil (1887–1955)
- Princess Tatiana (1890–1979)
- Prince Konstantin (1891–1918)
- Prince Oleg (1892–1914)
- Prince Igor (1894–1918)
- Prince Georgy (1903–1938)
- Princess Natalia (died at exactly two months, 1905)
- Princess Vera (1906–2001)
Grand Duchess Elizaveta Mavrikievna, or "Mavra" as she was known within the Romanov family, was a popular figure, and got on quite well with her nephew, Tsar Nicholas II.
She outlived most of her children. In 1905 her daughter Natalia died aged exactly two months. When World War I broke out, she found herself fighting on the opposite side of her native Germany. However, several of her sons, who were trained soldiers, joined the army and fought bravely. One, her son Oleg, was killed in 1914 in Lithuania, where Elizaveta quickly went to see her dying son.
The untimely death of their son led her husband to an early grave in 1915. That same year her son-in-law (Princess Tatiana's husband) was also killed in action. After the revolution, she managed to escape Russia, but several of her sons were caught by the Soviet forces. In fact, three (Ioann, Konstantin and Igor) were shot together by Bolsheviks in Alapaievsk, Siberia, in July 1918 along with several other members of the family. Her brother-in-law, Grand Duke Dmitry Konstantinovich was shot in Petrograd the following year.
K.R.'s wife, two youngest children, Prince George and Princess Vera, and two grandchildren (Ioann's children: Vsevolod and Catherine) remained at Pavlovsk throughout the war, the chaotic rule of the Provisional Government, and after the October Revolution. In the fall of 1918, they were permitted by the Bolsheviks to moved by boat called Ångermanland to Sweden (via Tallinn to Helsinki and via Mariehamnin to Stockholm), at the invitation of the Swedish queen. In Stockholm harbor they met prince Gustaf Adolf who took them to the royal palace. Later, Vsevolod and Catherine were able to reunite with their mother.
Elizaveta Mavrikievna and Vera and Georgi lived for the next two years in Sweden first in Stockholm then in Saltsjöbaden, but Sweden was too expensive a place to live so they moved to Belgium by invitation of Albert I of Belgium. Later they moved to Germany, settling in Altenburg where they lived 30 years except they lived couple of years in England. Elizaveta died of cancer on the 24th of March 1927 in Leipzig. Prince Georgi died in New York City in 1938. Princess Vera lived at Germany until Soviet forces occupied the east part of the country, she fled to Hamburg and in 1951 she moved to United States and died there in 2001, in New York City.
A scarab brooch given to the Princess by her husband in 1891 was auctioned by Sotheby's in 2012.
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