Monday, July 21, 2008

If Only...

On January 6, 1901, the Los Angeles Times published an article: "Czar's Children All Girls; Throne without an Heir." To be specific, the Russian throne did have an heir, Grand Duke Michael, who was Nicholas II's youngest brother. But in 1901, there was no direct male heir. It was not yet known that the Empress Alexandra was pregnant with her fourth child, a daughter, Anastasia, who was born in June. According to this article, which featured a new sketch of the three young Grand Duchesses, Nicholas apparently said when Olga was born "Had our baby been a boy, he would have belonged to the nation, but our little Olga belongs to us."

The writer makes a comment, now seen to be wistful, "Although the little Grand Duchesses can never hope to inherit the throne, they can be pretty sure of becoming queens if they grow up." If they grow up. How prescient. According to this article, Queen Victoria, "who is the greatest royal matchmaker in Europe," had earmarked one of the grand duchesses as a future spouse for six-year-old Prince Edward of York (the future Edward VIII.) At the time this article was published, Queen Victoria had only three weeks left to live.

The article also noted that the Czarina was a first cousin to Kaiser Wilhelm II, "whose boys will be looking for suitable princesses before long."

Although it is unlikely that Nicholas II would ever have considered changing the succession laws to primogeniture, U.S. and British newspapers speculated that the law would be changed to allow for Grand Duchess Olga to succeed her father "in the event of the death" of her younger brother. This was reported in 1903, as well, a year before Alexis' birth. This was reported in the LA Times in November 1908.

Women had the right to succeed, but only after all of the men in the family.

In 1911, there were reports that Olga was going to marry Prince Boris -- the future King Boris III -- of Bulgaria, and that the engagement would be announced on November 15th. The Washington Post's article, which was written by the Marquise de Castellane, noted that Olga's chief regret would be to leave her younger brother to whom she was devoted. The engagement was approved by Russia, "but Bulgaria's defiance of Russia has shattered it. The Grand Duchess is said to heartbroken."

A year later, the Los Angeles Times and other papers reported that Nicholas II was about to announce the date for the marriage between Olga and Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich. Dimitri was Nicholas' first cousin. "The wedding is to be a very brilliant affair, to be followed by a state ball at which the elite of Russian and foreign society will be present. It is in every respect a love match."

Pure fiction, perhaps. In 1914, it was reported that Dimitri was going to renounce his imperial rights in order to marry Miss Alice Durham, a young American woman, whom he met at a St. Petersburg ice rink.

A headline in the New York Times on November 9, 1914, stated "Marriage of Czar's Daughter and Roumania's Heir May Affect the War." The proposed marriage had been announced, according to the paper, the previous March, between Olga and Crown Prince Carol of Roumania. Earlier there also had been rumors that Carol was going to marry Olga's sister, Tatiana. In 1913, news reports linked Tatiana with the Prince of Wales: "Gossip has it that the heir to Great Britain's throne is very much in love with Princess (sic) Tatiana, second daughter of the Czar of Russia.

Another Romanov cousin, Grand Duke Boris, the son of Grand Wladimir Alexandrovitch and Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, pursued Olga. Alix wrote to Nicholas on January 28, 1916: "Oh could but our children be equally blessed in their married lives - the idea of Boris is too unsympathetic and the child would, I feel convinced, never agree to marry him and I should perfectly well understand her.

Tragically, the Grand Duchesses never got married. They were murdered with their parents, siblings and loyal servants in July 1917. It is unlikely that Tatiana and Carol would have had a happy marriage, but at least, she would have survived the Revolution. The same could be said if the stories about Olga and Boris or Olga and King Alexander of Serbia (who was said to be fond of her). As Queen of Bulgaria, she may have been able to do something to secure her family's release.

There were also stories of romances with soldiers. Tatiana had become close to Dimitri Malama, an officer in the Life Guards Regiment. In 1916, Alexandra wrote to her husband after seeing Malama for the first time in more than a year: "Looks flourishing more than a man now, and adorable boy still. I must say, a perfect son-in-law he wld. have been. Why are foreign Pces. not as nice!" However, much Alix liked Malama, he would not have been a suitable husband for a Grand Duchess. Nor would Olga be allowed to develop a relationship with another officer, Pavel Voronov.

The war changed their lives. Marital opportunities came and went. The family grew closer, became more inclusive. By 1917, it was too late to find husbands for the two oldest Grand Duchesses. Nicholas had lost his throne, the family was under arrest, and in the next year, they would all be dead.


Cancer said...

Such a tragic tragic family.

JayV said...

Marlene, glad that you have started this royal musings blog! I've read your comments for a good while on the Benelux Royals and British Royals message boards. Just spent a delightful time reading your earlier posts. Now, I want to get my hands on some of your books!
- Jay (from BRMB)

Marlene Koenig said...


I have QVD and QVD companion up for sale on ebay ... and amazon.

thanks for your kind comments.