On 28 September 2006, Empress Maria Feodorovna, born Princess Dagmar of Denmark, was finally buried next to her beloved husband at the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia. While her husband, Emperor Alexander III of Russia, had died in 1894, Maria Feodorovna had lived through the Russian Revolution and had only begrudgingly fled Russia in 1919. By then, she had lost her son Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their five children, and her youngest son Grand Duke Michael to the revolution. However, she remained convinced that they were not dead.
After spending time in England, she decided to return to her native Denmark, where she settled in villa Hvidøre near Copenhagen. The death of her sister Queen Alexandra in November 1925 was an “irreparable blow”1 to her. Although she remained active in her final years, she was often ill and had difficulty walking. She celebrated her final birthday on 26 November 1927, but she saw almost no one.
In October 1928, she deteriorated quickly, and her remaining family was immediately summoned. She slipped into a coma as her daughters maintained a vigil by her bed. On 13 October 1928, at 7 o’clock in the evening, Empress Maria Feodorovna died without regaining consciousness. Her body lay in state in the Garden Room, surrounded by six guardsmen. The Danish King initially refused to give her a state funeral as she was “only an ex-Empress,” but he soon changed his mind.
On 16 October, her coffin was placed on the royal hearse, and she left Hvidøre for the very last time. The coffin was taken to Copenhagen’s Russian Church and was covered by the Russian Imperial flag and the Dannebrog. Over 5,000 people came to pay their respects. The funeral service took place on 19 October, and over 100,000 people lined the streets when the coffin was taken to the railway station. There, a special train waited to make the journey to Roskilde Cathedral, the traditional burial place of the Danish royal family. She was laid to rest there in Frederick V’s Chapel. In 1958, her coffin was moved from the chapel to the crypt.
The Empress had made her daughters Xenia and Olga promise that, when circumstances allowed it, they would return her body to Russia for burial. Following several years of negotiations between Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Vladimir Putin, the Empress finally made her way home.
After a memorial service at the Isaac Cathedral, the reburial ceremony took place at the Peter and Paul Cathedral. Queen Margrethe was represented by her son Crown Prince Frederik and his wife, Crown Princess Mary. Also present were many members of the Romanov family. Prince and Princess Michael of Kent represented the British royal family.
Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II, who led a mourning ceremony, said: “This will be another sign that Russia is overcoming the enmity and divisions brought by the revolution and civil war. Having fallen deeply in love with the Russian people, the empress devoted a great deal of effort for the benefit of the Russian fatherland. Her soul ached for Russia.”2
At last, her dying wish was fulfilled – 78 years after her death.
- Little Mother of Russia by Coryne Hall p.343
- BBC News