Friday, February 1, 2013

A new exhibition on Grand Duchess Vera Konstaninova

The City Museum on Sachsenheim has an upcoming exhibit that will appeal to many of my readers, especially those who live in Germany.

On February 3, the exhibition "Leben-Wandel.  Wera Konstantinova. Grossfürstin von Russland. Herzogin von Württemberg  1854-1912."

(The title translates to Life-Changing.  Vera Konstantinova. Grand Duchess of Russia.  Duchess of Württemberg.)

This exhibit, which commemorates the life of Grand Duchess Vera, opens on Sunday February 3 and runs through May 12.

Grand Duchess Vera was the fourth child of Grand Duke Konstantin of Russia and his wife, Princess Alexandra of Saxe-Altenburg (known as Grand Duchess Alexandra Iosifovna). 

As a child, Vera suffered from a "nervous condition," which left to fits of anger and other behavioral issues.  Her parents were unable to control her or find good medical care to treat here.

The frustrated parents turned to Konstantin's sister, Olga, the Queen of Württemberg, who agreed to care for the nine-year-old Vera.

Olga and her husband, King Karl of Württemberg were unable to have children of their own.

Grand Duke Konstantin and Grand Duchess Alexandra were largely embarrassed by their daughter's illness, and sending her to Württemberg would mean they would not have to acknowledge her behavior to other family members.

Württemberg also offered opportunity of  better medical care and treatment for the young grand duchess.

Queen Olga and King Carl were loving foster parents, but caring for Vera required numerous challenges, as it took years for the behavorial issues to cease.  There were times when the exasperated king and queen were forced to lock the Grand Duchess in her room.

The King and Queen adopted Vera in 1871.  Three years later, they arranged for Vera to marry Duke Eugen of Württemberg.  The couple were married on May 4, 1874 at Stuttgart.  One of the guests at the wedding was Vera's uncle, Emperor Alexander II.  Not always the most tactful of people,  Alexander noted: "I confess that I do not envy the young husband."

Grand Duchess Alexandra wrote to a friend: "My problem child is now a happy bride, loving and beloved. I never dreamed that such happiness could exist. Eugen is already like a son to the King. I fold my hands and thank God day and night for such a blessing".

The couple's first child, Karl Eugen, was born in 1875, and lived for only seven months.  A year later, she gave birth to twin daughters, Elsa and Olga.

In January 1877, Duke Eugen died unexpectedly.  The young widow, left with her twin daughters, remained in Württemberg.  She had received a substantial financial gift from her father when she married, and she also inherited a considerable amount of money and a home, following the deaths of King Karl and Queen Olga.

Vera devoted her life to charitable works.  She never remarried.  Although Vera was baptised in the Russian Orthodox church, she was not raised in the faith, and she eventually joined the Lutheran church. 

She was a close friend of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, the wife of the Duke of Edinburgh and Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

The two mothers were eager for a marriage between their children, and in January 1895, Duchess Elsa became engaged to Hereditary Prince Alfred of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.   But when the bride-to-be and her mother learned about Alfred's dissipated lifestyle, the engagement was broken off.  In 1897,  Elsa married Prince Albrecht of Schaumburg-Lippe. 

A year later,  Duchess Olga was wed to Albrecht's younger brother, Maximilian.

In October 1911, Grand Duchess Vera suffered a stroke.  She died at Stuttgart on April 11, 1912.  She was 58-years-old.

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