Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna
Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia (17 January 1882 – 13 March 1957), sometimes known as Helen, Helena,Helene, Ellen, Yelena, Hélène, or Eleni, was a Russian grand duchess as the only daughter and youngest child of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia and Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
Her husband was Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark and paternal first cousin of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.
Elena and her three surviving older brothers, Kirill, Boris, and Andrei, had an English nanny and spoke English as their first language. The young Elena had a temper and was sometimes out of control. When she posed for an artist at age four, she grabbed a paper knife and threatened her nurse, who hid behind the artist. "The little lady then transferred her attentions to me, her black eyes ablaze with fury," recalled the artist. Elena, raised by a mother who was highly conscious of her social status, was also considered snobbish by some. "Poor little thing, I feel sorry for her," wrote her mother's social rival, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, "for she is really quite sweet, but vain and pretty grandiose."
She was initially engaged to Prince Max of Baden, but Max backed out of the engagement. Elena's mother was furious and society gossiped about Elena's difficulty in finding a husband. At one point in 1899, the seventeen-year-old Elena was reputedly engaged to Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, however this came to nothing as he fell in love with Countess Sophie Chotek. Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark, the third son of George I of Greece, first proposed in 1900, but Elena's mother was reluctant to allow her daughter to marry a younger son with no real fortune or prospects of inheriting a throne. She finally agreed to let Elena marry Nicholas, who was Elena's second cousin through his mother Olga Constantinovna of Russia and her father Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia, in 1902 after it became clear that no other offers were on the horizon. The couple were married on 29 August 1902 in Tsarskoye Selo, Russia. The Dowager Empress wrote that Elena "has a very brusque and arrogant tone that can shock people" and expected trouble in the marriage. Elena's "grand manner" did irritate some people at the court, but her marriage was a happy one.Prince and Princess Nicholas had three daughters:
- Princess Olga of Greece and Denmark (1903–1997); later Princess Olga of Yugoslavia
- Princess Elizabeth of Greece and Denmark (1904–1955); later Countess of Toerring-Jettenbach
- Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark (1906–1968); later Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent.
Life in exile
The family was later affected by the turmoil of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent turmoil in Greece, which became a republic and resulted in the family living in France for a time.
While living in France Grand Duchess Elena became deeply involved in charity work for Russian exiles, particularly children. Short of money due to their exile from Greece and the loss of their Russian income, Prince Nicholas and his family lived in reduced, but elegant, circumstances. Grand Duchess Elena's fabulous jewel collection, as well as Prince Nicholas' own artwork, were their sources of income.
Princess Olga of Greece married Prince Paul of Yugoslavia; Princess Elizabeth of Greece married Count Karl Theodor zu Toerring-Jettenbach, son of Duchess Sophie in Bavaria and scion of a rich Bavarian mediatized family; and Princess Marina of Greece married the Prince George, Duke of Kent in November 1934.
Grand Duchess Elena became a widow early in 1938, as Prince Nicholas suffered a heart attack and died suddenly. She remained in Greece throughout the Second World War, dying there in 1957. She bequeathed her personal library to the Anavryta School.
Titles and styles
- 17 January 1882 – 29 August 1902: Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia.
- 29 August 1902 - 13 March 1957: Her Imperial and Royal Highness Princess Nicholas of Greece and Denmark
- Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Catherine.
- Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Olga and Sophia.
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