Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Grand Duchess Marie of Russia dead at 68

December 15, 1958

Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna of Russia "passed away quietly" in Constance on Saturday, according to a cablegram received today by her secretary, Mrs. Sidney Tobias, reports the New York Times.  The Grand Duchess was 68 years old.   She was the daughter of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia and Princess Alexandra of Greece.   Nicholas II was her first cousin.

She was two years old when her mother after giving her to her younger brother, Grand Duke Dimitri.  She suffered another tragedy when she was 12.  Her father, Grand Duke Paul, was exiled by Nicholas II after contracting a morganatic marriage with Olga Pistolkors.  Marie and her younger brother were raised by their uncle, Grand Duke Serge, Governor-General of Moscow, until he was assassinated in 1905, and "their austere aunt," Elisabeth, whose younger sister Alexandra was Nicholas II's wife.

It was Grand Duchess Elisabeth who arranged for Marie to become engaged, "on a few minutes acquaintance," to Prince Wilhelm of Sweden.  Although most of Marie's family were not in favor of the marriage, and Marie herself, disliked the young man, they were married in early 1908.    

The Times reports that the wedding ceremonies "were carried out with the traditional splendour and with the Grand Duchess so heavily weighted by her dress that she was unable to rise from her knees without help."

A year later, Marie gave birth to the couple's only child, Prince Lennart. But even motherhood could not relieve "the boredom of her life" in Sweden. She visited her family often, and even traveled for six months to the Far East, but nothing could save her marriage.  The marriage was dissolved by divorce in 1914.   She returned to her homeland to begin work as a nurse in a hospital. 

Her son remained in Sweden with his father.

Grand Duchess Marie became "more and more convinced of the coming collapse of the Imperial regime."   She herself felt the sting of revolution when in the spring of 1917, a "wounded soldier whose hand she had been bandaging jumped up and struck her hard on the chest."

She also fell in love for the first time.  She resumed a friendship with Prince Serge Poutiatin, whose father was the commander of the palaces at Tsarkoe-Selo.  They were married at Pavlovsk  on September 19, 1917.    Ten months later, Marie gave birth to a son, Roman, whose baptism on July 18 took place the same day that Marie's younger half brother, Prince Vladimir Paley, had been murdered by the Bolsheviks, along with Marie's former guardian, Grand Duchess Elisabeth. 

The increasing chaos and the growing strength of the Bolsheviks made it impossible for Marie and her family to remain in Russia.  Marie's younger brother, Grand Duke Dimitri, was "associated with Prince Yusupov," in whose house Rasputin was murdered.  Grand Duke Paul attended his grandson's baptism.  At the end of July, he was arrested.

In October 1918, Marie "fled across the border into Roumania," where she found sanctuary with her first cousin, Queen Marie.  Roman was left behind with his paternal grandparents.  Some months later, the Grand Duchess received word that the infant died from an intestinal order.   Her married to Prince Poutian ended in divorce in 1923.

Marie was "warmly welcomed" to the United States in 1926  largely due to her "her royal descent, her connections with the events that had shaken Russia in 1917-18."  She returned to America in the 1930s, where she "gained more prominence" with the publication of two volumes of memoirs, Education of a Princess and A Princess in Exile.

Marie's younger brother, Grand Duke Dimitri, was "associated with Prince Yusupov," in whose house Rasputin was murdered.

 In October 1918, Marie "fled across the border into Roumania," where she found sanctuary with her first cousin, Queen Marie.   She lived for some years in New York City, where she worked as the director of fashions at Bergdorf & Goodman.

She is survived by her son,  Count Lennart, who was with his mother during her final illness.  She will buried in the family vault at his estate on Mainau, in Germany.

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