The Year of the last Romanovs – Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia

By Bain News Service, publisher. - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ggbain.15044 - Public domain

Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia was born on 6 April [O.S. 25 March] 1875 as the daughter of Emperor Alexander III of Russia and Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia (née Princess Dagmar of Denmark). “On the 25th day of the present month of March our well-beloved daughter-in-law H.I.H. the Czarevna…wife of H.I.H. the Cesarevitch…brought into the world a daughter… who has received the name of Xenia.”1 The christening took place on 17 April, which was also the Tsar’s birthday. From England, Dagmar’s delighted sister The Princess of Wales wrote, “Thank God that is is all over and you got through it well, and that you have a little girl!”2

Xenia and her siblings Nicholas (born 1868), George (born 1871), Michael (born 1878) and Olga (born 1882) were raised in a Spartan manner. They slept on camps beds, rose at 6 am and took cold baths. Their rooms were very simply furnished.3 Xenia became her mother’s companion, and she also received regular gifts from her aunt in England. The Princess of Wales had a special interest in her as, according to the New Style calendar, she had been born on the same day as her son Prince Alexander John of Wales, who had died after just one day of life.4

On 13 March (O.S. 1 March) 1881, life changed forever when Xenia’s grandfather, Tsar Alexander II, was assassinated. Her father now became Tsar Alexander III. The family moved to Gatchina where the children had several private tutors. Special emphasis was placed on foreign languages.5 Xenia had a special talent for drawing, and she also learned gymnastics, dancing and the piano.6 The family often travelled to Denmark for holidays. She became best friends with Princess Marie of Greece, the daughter of King George of Greece and Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia. 7

In the winter of 1888, Xenia caught typhoid. Her hair had begun to fall out, and it was cut short. Fortunately, she made a full recovery.8  As she grew up, she was encouraged to take an active interest in charity and in 1893, she was present at the consecration of a hospital for children with chronic diseases.9 She began to suffer from a recurring skin disease that causes painful red spots.10

By 1886, Xenia was fourteen years old, and she had begun to take an interest in her 20-year-old paternal first cousin once removed Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia, known as Sandro in the family.11 Her mother certainly did not want her to marry that young.12 In 1893, Xenia turned 18 years old. Alexander saw no reason to wait any longer for marriage and went to her father. He had no objection but asked that the couple wait at least one more year.13 In August 1896, the couple were finally married.

They spent their honeymoon on the Crimean estate of Ai-Todor, but their idyll was broken by the news of the Tsar’s declining health. He joined them in the Crimea as the doctors believed a warmer climate would help.14 Nevertheless, he grew weaker by the day and died on 1 November [O.S. 20 October] 1894. Xenia’s brother was now Tsar Nicholas II. Nicholas married Alix of Hesse, now Alexandra Feodorovna, on his mother’s birthday as that meant court mourning could be relaxed slightly.15 Around this time, Xenia discovered that she was pregnant.16

On 15 July (O.S. 3 July) 1895, Xenia gave birth to a daughter named Irina. Xenia hired an English nanny, who had already spent 12 years in Russia. She and her husband became close companions of the new Tsar and Tsarina, who also had their first baby at the end of the year.17 Xenia quickly fell pregnant again and gave birth to a son named Andrei on 24 January (O.S. 12 January) 1897.18 On 23 December (O.S. 11 December) 1898, Xenia gave birth to a second son named Feodor.19 This was followed by the birth of a third son named Nikita on 16 January (O.S. 4 January) 190020 and the birth of a fourth son named Dmitri on 15 August (O.S. 2 August) 1901.21 Two more sons followed in 1902 and 1907. However, these sons were only distantly in line for the throne.

The decline of Xenia and Alexander’s marriage became common knowledge in society, and they were all but leading separate lives.22 In 1914, her eldest daughter Irina married Prince Felix Felixovich Yusupov, who was later best known for his participation in the murder of Rasputin. Xenia and her mother were in France when the First World War broke out, and their train was stopped in Germany.23 Eventually, they were given the option of going to Denmark.24  Nicholas’s abdication in 1917 completely threw Xenia. “My God! Give him the strength to go through all this. Poor, poor one, what he has gone through, only God knows!”25

During the turbulent times, Xenia was in the Crimea with her mother. Little news came their way, and by the beginning of 1918, they had been in Ai-Todor for three months. “Mama is most depressed and spends most of her time in the garden.”26 Nicholas and his family were murdered on 17 July 1918, her brother Michael had been killed in June. But nobody knew for sure what had happened. The First World War came to an end in November 1918. As a Romanov, she was now considered “undesirable.”27 During the bitter winter of 1918, Xenia and some of her children caught the Spanish flu but luckily, all survived.28 As the Red Army closed in, the British warship HMS Marlborough evacuated Xenia, her mother and other Romanovs. It was the last time Xenia would see Russia.

They arrived in England in May 1919 and some of their servants fell to their knees before King George V, believing him to be the Tsar.29 She would spend the 1920s dividing her time between London, Paris and Copenhagen.30 In 1925, she was allowed to settle at the Frogmore Cottage in Windsor. Her husband had been living a nomadic life since his exile from Russia and he died in 1933 of either tuberculosis or cancer of the spine.31

Upon the death of George V, she was offered Wilderness House at Hampton Court as a residence.32  By then, her grandchildren were getting married, and it wouldn’t be long before she was a great-grandmother. He health began to fail after the Second World War. She began to have trouble writing letters but battled against the pain in her hands to keep up her correspondence.33 She celebrated her 80th birthday in 1955 but could not leave Wilderness House, though she received a steady stream of visitors.34

In April 1960, the end was near. She was given last rites and passed away on 20 April. On 29 April, she was laid to rest next to her husband in France.

  1. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 4 UK & US
  2. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 5
  3. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 6
  4. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 5
  5. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 12
  6. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 13
  7. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 16
  8. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 24
  9. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 25
  10. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 26
  11. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 27
  12. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 28
  13. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 30
  14. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 40
  15. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 43
  16. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 44
  17. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 45
  18. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 48
  19. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 49
  20. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 51
  21. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 52
  22. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 76
  23. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 86
  24. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 87
  25. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 101
  26. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 127
  27. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 140
  28. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 142
  29. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 154
  30. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 161
  31. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 191
  32. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 206
  33. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 229
  34. Van der Kiste, John; Coryne Hall (2002). Once a grand duchess: Xenia, sister of Nicholas II p. 232



About Moniek 1172 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.