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I am Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaievna
of Russia, but it is much simpler to
say that I am Maria, or Marie in English if you prefer. Please do not bother yourself with titles (it's embarrassing!).
I am the third daughter of Tsar Nicholas II (Nikolai Alexandrovich)
and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia. I was
born on 14 June, 1899 (26 June New Style) at 12:10 pm at Peterhof. I was a very good and smiling baby I'm told, and someone said I had "the face of one of Botticelli's angels."
I have brown hair with "golden lights" in it (my hair is darker than Olga's--a blonde!--and Anastasia's but lighter than Tatiana's); big, dark blue eyes ("Marie's saucers"); and a warm smile. Olga and I seem to take after Papa's side of the family, and Tatiana and Anastasia after Mama's--or so everyone says! My favorite scent is Coty's "Lilas" (lilac) and my favorite "pet" was a
mouse that lived in my bedroom wall! I'm rather tall and most people say I am quite pretty (although I am teased so often for being 'plump' that I don't necessary believe it). I take after my grandpapa, Tsar Alexander III and am strong--surprisingly so for a girl. I can lift my male tutors off the ground and carry my brother when he is sick. I have three sisters: big sisters Olga and Tatiana ("the Governess"), and little sister Anastasia (our imp, or "shvibzik"), who is also my roommate and best friend. The sisters 'OTMA' also have a dear little brother, Alexei--he's the youngest, so we call him Baby!
I am so well-behaved that my Aunt Ella called me "Maria the Good" and Papa jokes he is "always afraid of the wings growing!" I don't know that I'm really an angel--I can be quite stubborn and lazy--but I suppose in
comparison to my siblings (especially Shvibz!), it may be a
title well-earned! I am merry and affable, but I do have my grumpy,
sad moods, too. As the middle child and third girl (everyone wanted a boy) sometimes I feel unwanted, unloved, and ignored. Mama has reassured
me that I am "just as precious and dear as the other 4," but it still bothers me.
Most everyone calls me Mashka, although I'm
also known as Mandrifolie. Monsieur Gilliard adds that, "Her sisters took advantage somewhat of her good nature, and called her 'le bon gros tou-tou'. She certainly had the benevolent and somewhat gauche devotion of a dog." Yes, my sisters called me "big fat bow wow!" Rather mean of them, don't you think? When we were little, Olga and Tatiana could be quite cruel to me. Papa wrote about it in letters to our grandmother in 1900, how my sisters would push me over when I was just learning to walk! Things got better when Anastasia came along, and we are now all quite close. Oh!--and now when I fall over, it's quite my own fault. I am terribly clumsy!
In letters I am often just "M," I sign my paintings and drawings as "M.N." and I am called simply Maria Nikolaievna by our tutors and
servants. No grand titles at home, thank you! As for languages,
we girlies speak Russian with Papa and English with Mama.
We studied French with our 'Zhilik', Pierre Gilliard. I am the honorary colonel-in-chief of the 9th Kazansky Dragoon Regiment of Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaievna. Here's a picture of me in my uniform.
I've been called "humble" and "unaffected" and it is said my tastes are very simple. That is to say, I don't care much for formality and the fact that I am a grand duchess means little to me. I'm proud of my family and my country, of course, but I am in no way snobbish or haughty--I'm very down-to-earth and friendly. I love to talk to 'ordinary' people. We all get terribly embarrassed when we are addressed by our formal titles. Tatiana (who once kicked our friend Isa for calling her "Your Imperial Highness") could tell you about the time I went with her to a meeting, and everyone stood up and bowed to me. I was "so terrified" that Tanya said it looked as if I wanted to hide under the table.
I'm a fair
piano player and have considerable talent when it comes to drawing and painting. You can see some of my flower studies if you'd like. Another thing about me is that I love children: I tend to snatch
babies away from their mothers and smother the little dearies
with kisses! I cannot wait until I am married and have little
ones of my own! I am not overly interested in some grand marriage to a
prince--I'd be happier with a handsome
Russian soldier. People say I am rather flirtatious. I like very much to talk and
play billiards with officers, and I often develop crushes on these
dashing young men; I can't help it, honest! Everyone teases me because of my
'boyfriends.' That's not to say I haven't had my admirers, too. Prince Louis of Battenberg
(later Louis Mountbatten)
and Prince Carol of Romania both wanted to marry me.
War really changed everything. Mama, Olga, and Tatiana
studied and became Red Cross nurses. Mama also converted several
palaces into hospitals for our dear Russian soldiers. Anastasia
and I were too young to be nurses, but we visited the wounded and did little things.We talked with the soldiers, played games with them, and would help them write letters home to their families and sweethearts. My elder sisters and I had our little crushes and romances (I used to sign my letters to Papa "Yours, Mrs. Demenkov" after one fellow I particularly like!), but nothing came of any of it.
The Russian Revolution was a difficult and confusing time for all of us.
People say that the Revolution forced me to grow up over night.
I don't know about that, but there certainly
were a lot of frightening things that happened. I was the
first of us to learn of Papa's abdication (I was in the next room with Lili
when Mama found out) and my siblings were all sick with the measles. I was the last to catch it. As the only healthy one, I helped Mama run errands and things. When I finally did, I caught also pneumonia and came very close to dying--they needed to give me oxygen! 'Zhilik' remembers, "Her constitution was excellent, but she had all she could do to survive. She was also the victim of her own devotion. This girl of seventeen had spent herself without reflection during the revolution. She had been her mother's greatest comfort and stand-by. During the night of March 13th she had been rash enough to go out with her mother to speak to the soldiers, thus exposing herself to the cold." Because of the medicines, OTMA and Alexei were losing our hair at an alarming rate, so Mama
had our heads shaved. How funny we looked! We lived under
house-arrest at the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo until
Alyosha's birthday in August of 1917.
We had hoped to be sent to Livadia, in the Crimea, and there was
talk of us being sent to England. But we ended up in Tobolsk, Siberia. We lived
simply in Tobolsk, and even though it was dreadfully boring
(as I am sure Baby would tell you!), it wasn't all that bad. Kind of cozy,
That was, until we found out that Papa was to be taken from
Tobolsk in spring of 1918, apparently for a trial in Moscow. Mama decided to go with
Papa, and I was chosen to go with her because I was reliable and in
People often point to this as a demonstration of my bravery,
saying such things as "Maria was the bravest of the girls because
she left Tobolsk with her parents." I don't know how brave
I was--we all cried and were terribly frightened. I think it was
more about love than bravery. We seven were all so devoted to each
other. So Mama, Papa, some others and I left Tobolsk and ended up
not in Moscow, but in Ekaterinburg, in the Urals, after being
intercepted by the local Soviet (Papa remarked that he wished we
had ended up just about anywhere else. The newspapers said people
didn't like him much in the Urals). We took up residence in the
house that belonged to the Ipatiev family. It was awful--lots of "unpleasant
surprises"--but I wrote to my sisters and brother and I tried my
best to cheer them up:
to write about anything cheerful, because there's all too little
cheerfulness here. On the other hand, God doesn't abandon us.
The sun shines, the birds sing, and this morning we heard the
bells sounding matins.... Oh, my darlings, how I long to see you!"
We were all
so happy when Olga, Tanya, Nastas and Alexei finally
reached Ekaterinburg. Life in Ipatiev's house was downright
horrid, but we were finally all together again--that's all we
ever really wanted anyway. Tatiana, Anastasia and I tried to make the best of it
befriending some of the younger, nicer guards.
I turned 19 on June 14/27, 1918, and it was the last birthday we
celebrated. In the early morning hours of July 4/17, my whole
family was killed. I thank God that we were at least together on
that dreadful night! Because we bore our sufferings with
Christian piety, we are now saints in our dear Russian Orthodox
God Keep You! +
In the What If? storyline. . .
Hello again! It is now 1924 and much has changed since I last spoke with you. Firstly, we survived the dark days of 1917-1918, all seven of us, and came out of it only a bit different than before. Papa was reinstated as Emperor, but he has much less power now than he had. At first he and Mama were very distressed at this, but I think now Papa rather likes it, as he has more time to spend with his family and much less to worry about! Mama still is not very pleased with the turn of events, mostly for Alexei's sake, as she had her heart set on my brother one day ruling with all the power of Peter the Great. Secondly, I am now, at nearly 25, a happily married mother of three.
I first met my husband Ivashko Tarkhan, then a young lieutenant, in the summer of 1914, just before the War broke out. We wrote to one another all during the war, and became quite stubbornly determined to be together. I certainly didn't mind that he was a common military officer, but others in the family were very against it and still are. Thankfully, my darling Papa was not one of them and gave us permission to marry. Papa granted Ivashko the title of Count Tarkhan-Romanovsky (officially I am "HIH the Grand Duchess Maria, Countess Tarkhan-Romanovskaya," but I'd gladly be simply "Mrs. Tarkhan") and we were married on 8/21 June, 1918. We two are truly happy and very much in love. He is now a colonel and Papa relies on him for many things, and I am terribly proud of him.
We have three children: curly-haired Natalia, age 4.5; Nikolai, or Kolya, who just turned 3; and little Grigory, born April 16/29, 1923. Natalia was named for her birthday, Christmas 1919, Kolya was named after my dear, sweet Papa, and Grigory was named after Vashka's late father--not Rasputin as the stupid papers insist! My little darlings are my delight and I dote on them constantly. Natalia is quite the chatterbox but is shy with strangers; Kolya is a funny little person and not at all shy, always making funny little faces. I am rather afraid he will grow up and be like his Aunt Anastasia and Uncle Alexei-full of mischief!-but so far he has not caused any real trouble, tho he is small yet. He also has the "Romanov strength" and can lift up his big sister, which makes her squeal. The two are very close and I hope they will be accepting of little Grisha. As a third child myself, I know how hard it can be to fit in with the older ones!
My sisters' lives have changed very much as well. On 15 April, 1921 according to the new style, my eldest sister Olga was married to Edward, the Prince of Wales (known en famille as David). At first she was very unhappy to be away from all of us and to have to change her name and religion, but I think now she has settled more and they get along better. They had their first child, Princess Catherine of Wales, in January 1922.
Tatiana, too, is not pleased with her marriage, although her husband Christo is such a dear (and so funny!). By some miracle, they have two children: Sandra, who is my Natalia's dearest friend, and Michael, called "Misha" by his mother and "Mikhos" by . . . just about everyone else! They are getting along much better now that Christo accepted the throne of newly-independent Lithuania. I know he did not want the crown, but he did it to try and make my sister happy. I hope she appreciates it!
Anastasia, to all our great surprise, has married the (admittedly dashing) Crown Prince Leopold of Belgium. I do not think she is exactly 'in love' with him, but they enjoy one another's company and many a royal marriage has been founded on less than that. Leo will one day be King of the Belgians, and Anastasia will be his Queen. They have a little baby boy, Philippe. It is so strange to not have her around any longer. Tsarskoe Selo is just a little bit emptier now.
And Alexei, our darling Sunbeam, is set to marry Christo's niece, Princess Elizabeth of Greece, who is a sweetheart and a beauty and a great favorite with everyone. The only problem with the 'match' is that her grandmother is the dreaded Aunt Miechen, who plots and schemes against my poor parents at every turn and covets the throne for her own sons. If Alexei and Elizabeth marry one supposes both sides of the family will get what they want and perhaps things will be better, although I don't except Aunt Miechen to be any nicer to me�she is quite 'disgusted' with me marrying a commoner. Because of Alexei's illness, it is very important that he marries young and produces an heir. I am particularly keen on the idea of him marrying as soon as possible because, thanks to Papa changing the laws of succession, I am now in line after Alexei. Since I have no interest in ever becoming Tsaritsa, I pray that my little brother lives for many, many years and has many, many children!!
The Romanovs - One Last Dance
Pan Historia Junction
Zone : History
Zone : Contemporary
My Reference Books:
Behind the Iron Curtain
Irina Ekaterina Peterova
Ivashko Grigoriev Tarkhan
Christopher of Greece
Mikhail Alexandrovich Romanov
Tsar Nicholas II
Fr Nicholas Smirnovsky
Grand Duchess Olga
Alexei Nikolaevich Tsarevich
Irene of Prusssia
Esme P Cullen
Marina of Greece
Leah S Clearwater
Yelena Igorovna Gringkova
Ileana of Romania
Princess Irina Alexandrovna
Nicholas of Romania
Alexandrine of Greece
Tatiana of Lithuania
Olga of Russia
Astrid of Sweden
Marie Jose of Belgium
My Favorite Reads:
Amarna - Out of Print
The Romanovs - One Last Dance
Aug 12, 2016 11:32 amSuch a beautiful romantic post! Well done!
Jan 19, 2016 12:49 amlove this!
May 09, 2014 09:22 amWonderfully Written!
Jul 14, 2013 02:30 amA very well written post with an excellent content. Well done!
Aug 05, 2011 01:49 pm