Friday, October 12, 2012

The first Grand Ducal wedding ...

It was certainly a cold winter's day on January 31, 1844. when Adolf, Duke of Nassau, married Grand Duchess Elizabeth Michailovna of Russia, in an Orthodox ceremony in St.  Petersburg.  Several weeks earlier, the young couple went through a betrothal ceremony at the Winter Palace on January 13.

Duke Adolf, 26, had succeeded his father, Wilhelm, as Duke of Nassau in August 1839.  He first met Elizabeth, known as Lili, in the fall of 1843, while he was visiting St. Petersburg.  Elizabeth's mother, Princess Charlotte of Württemberg, was the sister of Adolf's stepmother,  Pauline.   This was only one of several close family connections as Duke Adolf's mother, Luise of Saxe-Hildburghausen,'s sister, Charlotte, married Prince Paul of Württemberg, who were the parents of Grand Duchess Helen, mother of Grand Duchess Elizabeth.   Adolf and his wife were first cousins once removed.

It was said to be a love match.  Lili was only 17 when she married Adolf.  She was said to be the prettiest of Grand Duke Michael's daughters, and like her mother, Charlotte, who took the name Helen, when she converted to Orthodoxy, was well-educated.

The first few months of the marriage were spent in Russia, but when Lili became pregnant with the couple's first child, they returned to Wiesbaden, where the young Duchess endeared herself to her husband's citizens.

Tragically, for Adolf, his young bride died in childbirth at Wiesbaden on January 25, 1845, less than a week from the couple's first anniversary.  The child, a princess, was stillborn.

St. Elizabeth's church, a Russian Orthodox church, was built on the grief-stricken husband's orders, in Wiesbaden, to house the remains of the young bride and her daughter.

At the time of the wedding, there was no way to know that Adolf would lose his Nassau dukedom to Prussia, or that an even larger Grand Duchy was in his future.

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