Princess Rhine
Princess Rhine
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia canonized as St. Elizabeth Romanova was a German princess of the House of Hesse, and the wife of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, fifth son of Emperor Alexander II of Russia and Princess Marie of Hesse and the Rhine. Grand daughter of Queen Victoria and an older sister of Alexandra, the last Russian Empress, Elizabeth became famous in Russian society for her beauty and charitable works among the poor.
Biography
Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine's personal information overview.
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Timeline
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    FIFTIES
  • 1918
    Age 53
    In 1918, Lenin ordered the Cheka to arrest Elisabeth.
    More Details Hide Details They then exiled her first to Perm, then to Yekaterinburg, where she spent a few days and was joined by others: the Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich Romanov; Princes Ioann Konstantinovich, Konstantin Konstantinovich, Igor Konstantinovich and Vladimir Pavlovich Paley; Grand Duke Sergei's secretary, Fyodor Remez; and Varvara Yakovleva, a sister from the Grand Duchess's convent. They were all taken to Alapayevsk on 20 May 1918, where they were housed in the Napolnaya School on the outskirts of the town. At noon on 17 July, Cheka officer Pyotr Startsev and a few Bolshevik workers came to the school. They took from the prisoners whatever money they had left and announced that they would be transferred that night to the Upper Siniachikhensky factory compound. The Red Army guards were told to leave and Cheka men replaced them. That night the prisoners were awakened and driven in carts on a road leading to the village of Siniachikha, some from Alapayevsk where there was an abandoned iron mine with a pit deep. Here they halted. The Cheka beat all the prisoners before throwing their victims into this pit, Elisabeth being the first. Hand grenades were then hurled down the shaft, but only one victim, Fyodor Remez, died as a result of the grenades.
    In 1918 she was arrested and ultimately executed by the Bolsheviks.
    More Details Hide Details In 1981 Elisabeth was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and in 1992 by the Moscow Patriarchate.
  • 1916
    Age 51
    In 1916, Elisabeth had what was to be her final meeting with sister Alexandra, the tsarina, at Tsarskoye Selo.
    More Details Hide Details While the meeting took place in private, the tutor to the tsar's children apparently recalled that the discussion included Elisabeth expressing her concerns over the influence that Grigori Rasputin had over Alexandra and the imperial court, and begging her to heed the warnings of both herself and other members of the imperial family. In 2010 an historian claimed that Elisabeth may have been aware that the murder of Rasputin was to take place and secondly, she knew who was going to commit that particular murder when she wrote a letter and sent it to the Tsar and two telegrams to Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich and Zinaida Yusupova, her friend. The telegrams, which were written the night of the murder, reveal that the Grand Duchess was aware of who the murderers were before that information had been released to the public, and she stated that she felt that the killing was a "patriotic act."
  • FORTIES
  • 1909
    Age 44
    After Sergei’s death, Elisabeth wore mourning clothes and became a vegetarian. In 1909, she sold off her magnificent collection of jewels and sold her other luxurious possessions; even her wedding ring was not spared.
    More Details Hide Details With the proceeds she opened the Convent of Saints Martha and Mary and became its abbess. She soon opened a hospital, a chapel, a pharmacy and an orphanage on its grounds. Elisabeth and her nuns worked tirelessly among the poor and the sick of Moscow. She often visited Moscow’s worst slums and did all she could to help alleviate the suffering of the poor. For many years, Elisabeth's institution helped the poor and the orphans in Moscow by fostering the prayer and charity of devout women. Here, there arose a vision of a renewed diaconate for women, one that combined intercession and action in the heart of a disordered world. Although the Orthodox Church rejected her idea of a female diaconate, it did bless and encourage Elisabeth's many charitable efforts.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1894
    Age 29
    When Nicholas did propose to Alix in 1894, and Alix rejected him on the basis of her refusal to convert to Orthodoxy, it was Elisabeth who spoke with Alix and encouraged her to convert. When Nicholas proposed to her again, a few days later, Alix then accepted. On 18 February 1905, Sergei was assassinated in the Kremlin by the Socialist-Revolutionary, Ivan Kalyayev.
    More Details Hide Details The event came as a terrible shock to Elisabeth, although it was as if her prophecy had come true that "God will punish us severely" which she made after the Grand Duke expelled 20,000 Jews from Moscow, by simply surrounding thousands of families houses with soldiers and expelling the Jews without any notice overnight out of their homes and the city, but she never lost her calm. Her niece Marie later recalled that her aunt’s face was “pale and stricken rigid” and she would never forget her expression of infinite sadness. In her rooms, said Marie, Elisabeth “let herself fall weakly into an armchair her eyes dry and with the same peculiar fixity of gaze, she looked straight into space, and said nothing.” As visitors came and went, she looked without ever seeming to see them. Throughout the day of her husband's murder, Elisabeth refused to cry. But Marie recalled how her aunt slowly abandoned her rigid self-control, finally breaking down into sobs. Many of her family and friends feared that she would suffer a nervous breakdown, but she quickly recovered her equanimity.
  • 1891
    Age 26
    Although Elisabeth was not legally required to convert to Russian Orthodoxy from her native Lutheran religion, she voluntarily chose to do so in 1891.
    More Details Hide Details Although some members of her family questioned her motives, her conversion appears to have been sincere. Elisabeth was somewhat instrumental in the marriage of her nephew-by-marriage, Tsar Nicholas II, to her youngest sister Alix. Much to the dismay of Queen Victoria, Elisabeth had been encouraging Nicholas, then tsarevich, in his pursuit of Alix.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1884
    Age 19
    Sergei and Elisabeth married on 15 (3) June 1884, at the Chapel of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.
    More Details Hide Details She became Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna. It was actually at the wedding that Sergei's 16-year-old nephew, Tsarevich Nicholas, first met his future wife, Elisabeth's youngest sister, Princess Alix. The new Grand Duchess made a good first impression on her husband’s family and the Russian people. “Everyone fell in love with her from the moment she came to Russia from her beloved Darmstadt”, wrote one of Sergei's cousins. The couple settled in the Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace in St. Petersburg; after Sergei was appointed Governor-General of Moscow by his elder brother, Tsar Alexander III, in 1892, they resided in one of the Kremlin palaces. During the summer, they stayed at Ilyinskoe, an estate outside Moscow that Sergei had inherited from his mother. The couple never had children of their own, but their Ilyinskoe estate was usually filled with parties that Elisabeth organized especially for children. They eventually became the foster parents of Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich and Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, Sergei’s niece and nephew.
  • 1878
    Age 13
    He proposed to Elisabeth in 1878.
    More Details Hide Details Besides William II, she had many other admirers, among them Lord Charles Montagu, the second son of the 7th Duke of Manchester, and Henry Wilson, later a distinguished soldier. Yet another of Elisabeth's suitors was the future Frederick II, Grand Duke of Baden, William's first cousin. Queen Victoria described him as "so good and steady", with "such a safe and happy position," that when Elisabeth declined to marry him the Queen "deeply regretted it". Frederick's grandmother, the Empress Augusta, was so furious at Elisabeth's rejection of Frederick that it took some time for her to forgive Elisabeth. Other admirers included: But it was a Russian Grand Duke who ultimately won Elisabeth's heart. Elisabeth's great-aunt, Empress Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, was a frequent visitor to Hesse. During these visits, she was usually accompanied by her youngest sons, Sergei and Paul. Elisabeth had known the boys since they were children, and she initially viewed them as haughty and reserved. Sergei, especially, was a very serious young man, intensely religious, and he found himself attracted to Elisabeth after seeing her as a young woman for the first time in several years.
    In the autumn of 1878, diphtheria swept through the Hesse household, killing Elisabeth's youngest sister, Marie on 16 November, as well as her mother Alice on 14 December.
    More Details Hide Details Elisabeth had been sent away to her paternal grandmother's home at the beginning of the outbreak and she was the only member of her family to remain unaffected. When she was finally allowed to return home, she described the meeting as "terribly sad" and said that everything was "like a horrible dream". Charming and with a very accommodating personality, Elisabeth was considered by many historians and contemporaries to be one of the most beautiful women in Europe at that time. As a young woman, she caught the eye of her elder cousin, the future German Emperor William II. He was a student then at Bonn University, and on weekends he often visited his Aunt Alice and his Hessian relatives. During these frequent visits, he fell in love with Elisabeth, writing numerous love poems and regularly sending them to her.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1864
    Born
    Elisabeth was born on 1 November 1864 as the second child of Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and British Princess Alice.
    More Details Hide Details Through her mother, she was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Princess Alice chose the name "Elisabeth" for her daughter after visiting the shrine of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, ancestress of the House of Hesse, in Marburg. Alice so admired St. Elisabeth that she decided to name her new daughter after her. Elisabeth was known as "Ella" within her family. Though she came from one of the oldest and noblest houses in Germany, Elisabeth and her family lived a rather modest life by royal standards. The children swept the floors and cleaned their own rooms, while their mother sewed dresses herself for the children. During the Austro-Prussian War, Princess Alice often took Elisabeth with her while visiting wounded soldiers in a nearby hospital. In this relatively happy and secure environment, Elisabeth grew up surrounded by English domestic habits, and English became her first language. Later in life, she would tell a friend that, within her family, she and her siblings spoke English to their mother and German to their father.
Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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