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The birth of Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna – Royal Central

The birth of Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna – Royal Central

‘Saw good Mrs Clark, returned from Darmstadt, who gave me an excellent account of Alice, the Baby & dear little Victoria’ (Quoted in Charlotte Zeepvat, From Cradle to Crown, 13).

With these phrases, Queen Victoria recorded in her journal for 13 December 1864, that she had seen Mrs Clark, the nurse who had attended the confinement in Darmstadt of her second daughter, Alice, Princess Louis of Hesse. Mrs Clark had attended the birth of Princess Alice’s first baby, Princess Victoria, who was born at Windsor Fort in 1863, after which the infant had been promptly ‘wrapped in the velvet & ermine cloak, in which all our children had been carried’ (Quoted in Ibid, 12). The new ‘Baby’ in query who had simply been born on 1 November 1864, was a woman. So profitable was Mrs Clark in her position that the Queen wrote to Alice in Darmstadt, recommending that Mrs Clark stay together with her somewhat longer, though this can’t have been very lengthy if she did so. Alice’s second daughter is best recognized to historical past, as Elisabeth Feodorovna, Grand Duchess Sergei of Russia, typically referred to as ‘Ella’, brutally thrown down a mineshaft and left there to die by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

This was the gorgeous Russian Grand Duchess over whom a minimum of the flamboyant Queen Marie of Romania sighed within the try to explain her, writing: ‘I would like to dip my pen in colour, so as to be able to make her live again, if only from a moment, because eyes that have never beheld her will never be able to conceive what she was.’

She was the despair of painters such because the expert portraitist Friedrich August von Kaulbach, who declared himself – in accordance with Ella’s brother Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig in his personal memoirs – merely unable as an artist to breed in paint, one thing which was so good, concluding: ‘She is the most difficult that I have ever yet painted’ (Ernst Ludwig, Erinnertes, 60). However Ella additionally had an internal, soulful magnificence, which deepened by means of the private sufferings she sustained.

Elisabeth Feodorovna, Grand Duchess Sergei, ca 1894 (By W Lapre, St. Petersburg (Royal Assortment RCIN 2927287) [Public domain or United States Public domain], by way of Wikimedia Commons)

Princess Elisabeth Alexandra Louise Alice was born on 1 November 1864 and christened on 28 November, her fundamental identify of Elisabeth being chosen in clear homage to the thirteenth century St. Elisabeth of Hungary, because the widespread ancestress of the Homes of Hesse and Saxony, as Alice defined in a letter to Queen Victoria, simply over every week earlier than the christening (Alice, Biographical Sketch and Letters, 78). Maybe no different single point out is apter when contemplating the legends that abound of this ministering, medieval saint who tended to the hunger-ridden poor and needy and the actions of her namesake as a widowed Grand Duchess in Moscow, who had been named after the Hungarian St. Elisabeth at birth. Probably this selection of identify was additionally impressed by the truth that Princess Alice had visited the tomb of St. Elisabeth in Marburg in August 1863: ‘At Marburg, I saw in the beautiful church the grave of St. Elizabeth, the castle where she lived, and many other things which Kingsley mentions in his Saint’s Tragedy… (Quoted in Alice, Biographical Sketch and Letters, 57).

Alexandra was a household selection in praise to her sister-in-law, the Princess of Wales, who had given birth to a son prematurely, Prince Albert Victor of Wales, on eight January 1864. (By the way, a toddler whom Queen Victoria at one time enormously hoped Alice’s daughter Alix would marry). Louise was virtually definitely chosen for Alice’s youthful sister, Princess Louise, with Alice little question after herself. On the birth of her daughter, Princess Alix in 1872, Alice wrote to Queen Victoria that they gave the brand new child the identify ‘Alix’ for ‘Alice’, ‘as they homicide my identify right here: Aliice they pronounce it, so we thought ‘Alix’ couldn’t so simply be spoilt’ (Quoted in Ibid, 280).

However the identify Elisabeth was additionally chosen as a result of it was the identify of the child’s paternal grandmother Princess Charles of Hesse, who by the way, held her at her christening (Ibid, 78). The identify Victoria had been chosen for her first daughter, in homage to Queen Victoria and since the infant had been born at Windsor. Elaborating additional on the selection of names in addition to on the personal identify by which she can be referred to as inside the household, it appears as if Alice felt the necessity to make clear how her child daughter can be addressed each publicly and privately, for she wrote to the Queen: ‘I forgot to tell you, in answer to your letter about Ella’s identify, that, of course, she have to be referred to as Elizabeth; solely ‘entre nous’ Ella’ (Quoted in Meriel Buchanan, Queen Victoria’s Relations, 88).

Ella’s distinctive magnificence was already in proof as a toddler, which we collect from Alice’s letters to the Queen, which describe Ella’s darkish blue eyes and ‘rich brown’ hair (Alice, Biographical Sketch and Letters, 102). A lock of Ella’s hair as a toddler is preserved in its personal envelope, within the Schlossmuseum at Darmstadt, together with the hair of Alice’s different youngsters and Alice. Queen Marie of Romania described her eyes a lot later as being ‘long-shaped’ and ‘sky-blue’ (Quoted in Ibid, 97).

If we assume that Ella was a full-term youngster, she should have been conceived roughly at across the starting of February 1864. Alice’s revealed letters to Queen Victoria include descriptions of her toddler daughter, Princess Victoria throughout this early half of 1864. Nevertheless, there’s additionally a reference to the pleasant winter pastime of sledging with jingling bells in Darmstadt, an enthralling vignette to think about in hindsight if we keep in mind Ella’s future life in distant Russia, the land of the troika. When Ella’s youthful sister Princess Alix of Hesse – future Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna – visited Russia in 1889, Ella made a collection of entrancing watercolour sketches to embellish a body for the Tsarevich Nicholas to recollect the Hessian winter go to, together with the ice and the skates (Andrei Maylunas and Sergei Mironenko, A Lifelong Ardour, 16); the Tsarevich recorded in his diary for February 1889: ‘Slid down the hill with Aunt Ella and Alix…’ (Quoted in Ibid, 15). Ever vulnerable to evaluating her youngsters, Alice had written on Princess Alix’s birth in 1872, to Queen Victoria: ‘Baby is like Ella, only smaller features, and still darker eyes…’ (Quoted in Alice, Biographical Sketch and Letters, 280).

Princess Alice visited Queen Victoria between Might and August of 1864; again in Darmstadt and now closely pregnant with Ella, Princess Alice took communion within the chapel on the Hessian searching lodge of Kranichstein, along with Prince Louis of Hesse and two of her women in ready, as a result of she needed to ‘take it before my hour of trial comes’ (Alice, Biographical Sketch and Letters, 75).

Her birth is listed as having taken place on the home at Bessungen, which was a suburb of Darmstadt and the oldest of the town’s southernmost districts, for which purpose it was truly generally known as a separate principality till 1888 (Elizabeth Jane Timms, Birth in Darmstadt – Princess Alix of Hesse, in Royalty Digest Quarterly, 2017/three, 7). We will see from Queen Victoria’s journals, that the Queen was in residence at Windsor on the time of Alice’s confinement and that the information was conveyed to her by telegram by Prince Louis. Alice gave birth to her second daughter shortly after 9 o’clock within the morning, an occasion which resulted in a twenty-five gun salute.

The Queen’s journal entry for 1 November 1864 calmly hints at an preliminary sense of remorse of one other woman for Princess Alice, versus an inheritor for the Home of Hesse, a hope which was not glad till the birth of Prince Ernst Ludwig, 4 years later: ‘Heard just before going out by telegraph from Louis, that dear Alice had got a 2nd daughter… & that both were doing well. Very thankful, as had felt rather anxious about her, but am sorry it is again a girl…’  (Quoted in Christopher Warwick, Ella: Princess Saint & Martyr, 19). This hope for an inheritor to the home of Hesse was echoed a lot later in a letter – with sometimes execrable grammar – written by Ella herself to Queen Victoria, on the being pregnant of Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig’s first spouse, Victoria Melita: ‘I am so very very glad she is expecting a Baby if only it could be a Boy the idea of our branch of the Hessian family dying out made me so sad.’ (Quoted in Maylunas and Mironenko, 91).

Alice’s letter to Queen Victoria two days previous to Ella’s christening confirms that she felt properly within the aftermath of the birth: ‘All people say I look better, and have more colour than I have had for long, and, indeed, I feel strong and well, and my fat Baby does perfectly, and is a great darling…’ (Quoted in Alice, Biographical Sketch and Letters, 78). Queen Victoria’s journal entry continued: ‘Went to the beloved Mausoleum where I prayed for dear Alice & the Baby & that her dear Father’s blessing may relaxation on them’. (Quoted in Warwick, 19). 

This sense of praying within the Royal Mausoleum on the tomb of Prince Albert for a blessing on the Royal Household was one thing that the Queen took to doing; movingly, she made some extent of doing it the day earlier than the marriage of the Prince of Wales to Princess Alexandra of Denmark: ‘I opened the shrine and took them in… I stated “He gives you his blessing!” and joined Alix’s and Bertie’s arms, taking them each in my arms. It was a really touching second, and all of us felt it’ (Quoted in Christopher Hibbert, Queen Victoria, A Private Historical past, 303).

The first (revealed) point out of Ella’s birth that we’ve from Alice is contained inside her letter to Queen Victoria, written from Darmstadt on 7 November 1864, the place she echoes the Queen’s journal entry: ‘The little daughter was but a momentary disappointment to us, which we have quite got over. We console ourselves with the idea that the little pair will look very pretty together…’ (Quoted in Ibid, 77). Later one other ‘pair’ can be added to Alice’s brood; her youngest daughters, Princess Alix and Princess Marie ‘May’ of Hesse, born in 1872 and 1874 respectively, who would double up as her elder pair had achieved.

A few fortnight after the birth, Ella measured about twenty-three and a half inches and so was significantly greater than her eldest sister, Princess Victoria, who Alice recalled as having been about twenty inches when she was born (Ibid 79). Alice concluded after Ella’s christening that her second daughter was ‘larger’ and extra ‘dark’ than little Victoria, (Ibid, 79) who was of blonde colouring and who had stored murmuring all through the ceremony to Alice ‘Go to Uncle’s’, while managing to journey over the footstool that was set in entrance of her (Ibid, 78).

The earliest surviving pictures of Ella preserved within the Royal Assortment have been taken by the Berlin photographer Heinrich Graf and could be discovered inside the voluminous albums entitled ‘Portraits of Royal Children’; these pictures date from February 1865. In these touching footage, the two-month-old Princess Elizabeth is photographed asleep on a fur-draped chair, tightly wrapped in garments and sporting a child bonnet, with solely her tiny head seen. One of these charming photographs has been mounted into the royal album, instantly beneath a photograph of her mom, Princess Alice, in profile. Graf photographed Ella once more, apparently sporting the identical white bonnet, propped up towards a cushion, her shiny blue eyes already a hanging function for the fashionable onlooker.

A month earlier, Alice had written to Queen Victoria: ‘Ella has her bath as a bed, and Victoria sleeps in the bassinet, which is done up with chintz for the occasion…’ (Quoted in Alice, Biographical Sketch and Letters, 85). In March, child Ella was vaccinated towards smallpox however with out success. By June, Ella had been weaned and was crawling; Alice reported to Queen Victoria that by mid-June, she had her first two tooth (Ibid, 101). She was speaking the next month and, like several proud mom, Princess Alice recorded that these early phrases have been, ‘Papa’ and ‘Mama’.

A chubby portrait of a two-year-old Ella was commissioned by Queen Victoria from the painter Christian Karl Magnussen, while the toddler princess was staying together with her grandmother at Osborne in 1866, collectively together with her elder sister, Princess Victoria. This pleasant picture now graces the Nursery Bed room at Osborne Home, as does a watercolour of her youthful sister Princess Alix, who would later comply with her to Russia, painted by the Austrian artist Georg Koberwein.

Ella was canonised in New York by the Russian Orthodox Church Overseas in 1984 and later recognised by the Moscow Patriarchate in April 1992 because the Holy Imperial Martyr Saint Elisabeth Romanova. Her lovely statue by the sculptor John Roberts, depicting her as a nun of the SS Martha and Mary Convent she based in Moscow, was devoted on 9 July 1998 and adorns the western entrance of Westminster Abbey, the place she stands alongside a row of trendy martyrs. Hewn from French Richemont limestone (Warwick, 312), it was unveiled within the presence of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, whose mom, Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece, shares a burial place with Ella and her attendant nun, Sister Barbara who was martyred together with her, within the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives. Ella’s coffin lies in a crypt chapel of the church. Ella’s cousin, Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, visited the location in April 1931 and wrote to Queen Mary that ‘dear old Bishop [Serafim] who knew Ella very well in Moscow showed us round and took us to the vault where her coffin rests (all very poor and simple)’ (Quoted in Warwick, 311). Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, was the daughter of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, whom the Hesse youngsters had all been extraordinarily fond of; poignantly, it was the 2 bracelets given her way back by her Uncle Leopold, which Ella’s youthful sister Alix – now Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna – had been unable to take away at Ekaterinburg, when the Commandant of the Ipatiev Home appropriated the jewelry of the Russian imperial household, on four July 1918, a dozen days previous to the night time of their homicide (Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden, The Life & Tragedy of Alexandra Feodorovna, 344).

A statue of Ella options amongst the seven statues of martyrs carved for the nave display of St. Albans Cathedral to mark the cathedral’s 900th anniversary, in 2015. A wonderful statue additionally stands within the grounds of Ella’s convent of SS Martha and Mary in Moscow. On this centenary yr of the homicide of the Russian Imperial Household, it’s particularly poignant to recollect Ella’s birth, 100 years after her demise, for that journey which ended with such horrific barbarism in a mineshaft almost sixty ft deep, often known as Decrease Selimskaya [Russian, Nizhny Seliminsky] on the street to Sinyachikha close to Alapaevsk, had begun again in 1864, in Bessungen, Darmstadt.

Following her dying at Buckingham Palace in 1969, the stays of Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece have been first positioned within the Royal Vault at St George’s Chapel. Solely a lot later in 1988, have been they lastly transferred to Jerusalem and interred within the Russian Orthodox Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives, in a crypt beneath the church, the place her maternal aunt Ella was additionally buried, in a coffin with a glass lid. Princess Alice had been the eldest daughter of Victoria, Princess Louis of Battenberg, Ella’s elder sister, whom their mom, Alice’s namesake and maternal grandmother, Alice, Princess Louis of Hesse, had written on Ella’s birth, that ‘the little pair will look very pretty together…’

©Elizabeth Jane Timms, 2018