Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia (Павел Александрович) ( 3 October 1860 N.S. – 30 January 1919 N.S.) was the sixth son and youngest child of Tsar Alexander II of Russia by his first wife Empress Maria Alexandrovna. His birth was commemorated by the naming of the city of Pavlodar in Kazakhstan. He entered the Russian Army and rose to the rank of General, but was known as a gentle person, religious and accessible to people.
On 17 June 1889, in St. Petersburg, he married his paternal first cousin once removed Princess Alexandra of Greece, who bore him two children:
- Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia (1890–1958)
- Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia (1891–1942)
Alexandra's mother Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia was a patrilineal-line granddaughter of Tsar Nicholas I and Princess Charlotte of Prussia, and therefore Paul Alexandrovich's paternal first cousin.
Alexandra died just six days after Dmitri's birth. She had carelessly stepped into a waiting boat, causing premature labour; Dmitri was born in the hours following the accident. Alexandra slipped into a coma and did not regain consciousness.
In 1893, the young widower became close to a commoner, Olga Valerianovna Karnovich, and years later requested Nicholas II's permission to marry her, but it was refused, and the couple settled in Paris. On 10 October 1902 they were married in an Orthodox church in Livorno, Italy. The Bavarian government granted Olga the title of Countess of Hohenfelsen in 1904, but the marriage caused a scandal in the Russian Court. Paul was dismissed of his military commissions, all his properties were seized, and his brother Grand Duke Sergei was appointed guardian of Maria and Dmitri.
For many years, he lived in exile in France with Olga and the three children they had: Vladimir, who became a remarkable poet, and two girls, Irina and Natalia. Eventually he was pardoned and settled with his family in Tsarskoe Selo. In 1915 the Tsar granted Olga and their children the title of Prince and Princesses Paley with the style of Serene Highness, and their children also became Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley and Princesses Irina Pavlovna and Natalia Pavlovna Paley.
World War I
During World War I he was placed in command of the First Corps of the Imperial Guard and later was moved to a new appointment at the Tsar's headquarters. In November 1916 he tried to convince the sovereign to grant a Constitution, but his efforts failed. However, he was one of the few members of the Imperial Family who remained quite close to Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna during the final days of the old régime.
Revolution and death
After the Bolsheviks seized power, he and his family faced a terrible ordeal. Their properties were confiscated, they lived under constant harassment, and in March 1918 his son Vladimir Paley was exiled to the Urals, where he was executed on 18 July 1918 in a mineshaft near Alapayevsk.
In August 1918, he was arrested and taken to prison in St. Petersburg. His health, already bad, declined sharply, and his wife did all she could to have him released. Her efforts were useless: on 29 January 1919, Paul was moved to St. Peter and St. Paul Fortress, and in the first hours of the following day he was shot there, along with his cousins Grand Dukes Dimitry Konstantinovich, Nikolay Mikhailovich and Georgy Mikhailovich.
They were buried in a mass grave in the Fortress, the Bolsheviks having refused the distraught Princess Paley the right to bury her husband. His body and those of his three cousins were found in 2011.
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