Birthday: March 25, 1875
Died At Age: 85
Sun Sign: Aries
Born Country: Russia
Born in: Saint Petersburg
Famous as: Grand Duchess of Russia
Royal Family Members
Spouse/Ex-: Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia (m. 1894)
father: Alexander III of Russia
mother: Maria Feodorovna
siblings: Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia, Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich of Russia, Grand Duke George Alexandrovich of Russia, Grand Duke Michael, Nicholas II of Russia
children: Prince Andrei Alexandrovich of Russia, Prince Dmitri Alexandrovich of Russia, Prince Feodor Alexandrovich of Russia, Prince Nikita Alexandrovich of Russia, Prince Rostislav Alexandrovich of Russia, Prince Vasili Alexandrovich of Russia, Princess Irina Alexandrovna of Russia
Died on: April 20, 1960
place of death: London
City: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Who was Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia?
Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia was the elder daughter of Tsar Alexander III of Russia and Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia. One of her brothers was Emperor Nicholas II. Her name was also somehow connected to the murder of Grigori Rasputin because she was Felix Yusupov’s mother-in-law and the cousin of Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia, both of whom were responsible for the assassination. She married a cousin and had seven children. During the war, she concentrated on her charity work, helping poor families and sustaining hospitals that treated tuberculosis. After the fall of the monarchy, she left Russia and moved to the UK, trying to have a simple and quiet life.
Childhood & Early Life
Xenia Alexandrovna was born on April 6, 1875, at the ‘Anichkov Palace’ in St. Petersburg, Russia. She had five siblings and was the elder daughter of the Imperial Family.
On her mother’s side, she was the granddaughter of King Christian IX of Denmark. Her cousins were King Constantine I of Greece, King George V of the United Kingdom, King Christian X of Denmark, and King Haakon VII of Norway.
Her godparents were her paternal grandmother, her maternal grandfather, her paternal uncle, and her maternal aunt. Her christening took place at the ‘Winter Palace Church.’ Her parents did not attend the ceremony, because that was what tradition required.
Xenia was 6 years old when her father became the Tsar after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. It was a difficult time, and there were many threats to the Imperial Family. Thus, the Tsar decided to move his family to the ‘Gatchina Palace’ to keep them safe. There, Xenia and her siblings had a happy childhood but lived amidst harsh conditions. They slept on camp beds, woke up early, took cold baths, ate simple meals, and had Spartan-like furniture in their rooms. During that period, Xenia became close to her mother. It seems, she was a shy child.
Just like her siblings, she was educated by private tutors. She studied English, French, and German, but surprisingly, not Danish, her mother’s native language.
She also showed her skills in drawing, dancing, and gymnastics. She also loved horseback riding and fishing. She wrote in a diary every day, as many royal children did those days.
Since their parents considered that the children in the family should make good use of their spare time, they used it to learn activities such as cooking, woodworking, and making puppets and clothes for their puppet theater. Their father also insisted that they spend a lot of time outside and encouraged them to keep animals and take care of them. The family holidays were spent at the ‘Fredensborg Castle,’ where her Danish grandparents lived. During one of those visits, she met her cousin, Princess Marie of Greece, who would later become her close friend.
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It seems Xenia met her future husband when she was only a year old and was walking with her nurse at the ‘Livadia Palace,’ the family’s summer retreat in Crimea. The Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich was a young boy back then. He came and introduced himself. Sandro, as he was called, was her father’s first cousin and 9 years older than Xenia. Their romance began when she turned 14 and he noticed her again.
Xenia and Sandro grew closer and spent a lot of time together. When they attended social events, she was the only one he danced with. However, her parents thought she was too young to marry and that he was not serious enough to settle down. They finally accepted to give their daughter’s hand in marriage after they had lunch with Sandro’s father, Duke Michael Nikolayevich. The marriage took place on August 6, 1894, at the ‘Peterhof Palace’ in St. Petersburg.
Charitable Activity and Life during World War I
The Grand Duchess had an important contribution to charitable work. She was part of the ‘Women’s Patriotic Association’ and was a patron of the ‘Creche Society ‘of St. Petersburg, helping poor families by looking after the children while their parents worked. One of her main concerns were the hospitals that treated persons suffering from tuberculosis, probably because her brother George had died from that disease in 1899. As a patron of the ‘Maritime Naval Welfare Association,’ she looked after the widows and children of naval personnel.
When World War I began, Xenia was in France, while her mother was in London. While they were trying to return home, their train was stopped in Germany, but they were eventually given the opportunity to stay in Denmark. After Nicholas abdicated in 1917, the situation was difficult for the Imperial Family. Tsar Nicholas and his family were murdered on July 17, 1918, and her brother had been killed in June. To escape the ‘Red Army,’ Xenia and the remaining Romanovs left Russia for good.
During the war, she had provided her own hospital train for people and had opened a large hospital for the wounded.
She finally settled at the ‘Frogmore Cottage’ in Windsor after traveling for years through Europe. Following this, she had to face the fraudulent claims of Anna Anderson, who stated she was her niece, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia. However, her sister, Olga, underlined that it was not possible and thus rejected Anna Anderson’s claims. This was not the only time people had approached Xenia and her sister saying they were their lost relatives.
Family & Personal Life
Although her marriage to Sandro was romantic and happy in the beginning, years later, he had an affair with a woman identified as Maria Ivanovna. Xenia herself had an affair with an English man named Fane who, as many believe, was the husband of Sandro’s mistress. Although they began living completely separate lives, the couple did not choose to divorce. They had a daughter and six sons.
Her husband died in 1933, and Xenia passed away years later, on April 20, 1960.
Among the most impressive things she had ever wrote was that the Russian Revolution had taken everything from her but had also granted her a privilege – “to be a private person.”