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Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia (1890–1958)

Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna
Duchess of Södermanland
Maria Pavlovna photographed in 1914.
Spouse Prince Vilhelm, Duke of Södermanland
Prince Sergei Mikhailovich Putiatin
Issue Count Lennart Bernadotte of Wisborg
Prince Roman Sergeievich Putiatin
House House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov
Father Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia
Mother Princess Alexandra of Greece and Denmark
Born (1890-04-18)18 April 1890
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Died 13 December 1958(1958-12-13) (aged 68)
Mainau, Konstanz, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia, known as "Maria Pavlovna the Younger" (In Russian Великая Княгиня Мария Павловна) (Princess of Sweden (1908–1914). She was usually called "Marie," the French version of her name.


  • Early life 1
  • Assassination of uncle 2
  • Marriage and divorce 3
  • World War I and Revolution 4
  • Exile 5
  • Ancestry 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8

Early life

Maria's mother died soon after she had given birth to Maria's brother Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia, when little Maria was under two years old. Their father was distraught at the funeral and had to be restrained by his brother, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, when the lid was closed on Alexandra's coffin.[1] Sergei gave the premature Dmitri the baths prescribed by the doctors, wrapped him in cotton wool and kept him in a cradle filled with hot water bottles to keep his temperature regulated. "I am enjoying raising Dmitri," Sergei wrote in his diary.[2] The toddler Maria tapped Sergei on the shoulder and called him "pretty uncle" in English. "She is so cute," wrote Sergei.[2] After Paul recovered, he took the two children away with him, but they spent Christmases and later some summer holidays with the childless Sergei and his wife Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna.[1] The couple set aside a playroom and bedrooms for the youngsters at their home, Ilinskoe.[3] Until she was six, Maria didn't speak a word in Russian as all of her governesses spoke English. Later she had another governess, mademoiselle Hélène who taught her French and stayed with her until her marriage.

The infant Maria Pavlovna with her mother, Alexandra.
In 1902 her father married [7]

Assassination of uncle

Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna in 1900.
In 1905 her uncle was killed by a bomb during the 1905 Revolution. The bomber had refrained from an earlier attack because he saw that Grand Duchess Elizabeth, along with fifteen-year-old Maria and her younger brother Dmitri were in the carriage and didn't want to kill women and children.[8] A second attack a few days later succeeded in killing Sergei. Elizabeth and the teenagers, hearing the bomb, rushed out and saw Sergei's broken body in the snow. Maria described the scene later in her memoirs:

After the assassination, both children were emotionally distraught, particularly Dmitri. Dmitri was terrified that he would be sent back to live with his father, Elizabeth wrote. "Dmitri simply sobs and clings to me," she wrote. "His intense fright was the idea of having to leave me. He decided he must watch over me as Uncle is no more and clings to me to such a degree that the arrival of his father was more an anguish than a pleasure, the intense fear he would take him."[10] Elizabeth talked with the children and admitted that she had been unfair to them.[10] The Tsar made Elizabeth their guardian and gave Paul the right to visit Russia from time to time, though not to live there. Paul didn't want to take the children from Elizabeth, according to the diary of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich of Russia.[11]

Marriage and divorce

Maria Pavlovna and prince Wilhelm at the time of their marriage in 1908.
Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna with her infant son Lennart, her grandmother Queen Olga of Greece and great-grandmother Grand Duchess Alexandra Iosifovna of Russia and a portrait of her dead mother Grand Duchess Alexandra Georgievna in 1909.

A year later Marie was engaged to Prince Vilhelm, Duke of Södermanland (17 June 1884 – 5 June 1965), the second son of King Gustav V of Sweden and Victoria of Baden. Maria wrote later that she felt her aunt had rushed her into the marriage. However, at the time she enjoyed the attention and was eager to escape from the nursery. "Then we will be able to travel together," she wrote to Vilhelm after their engagement. "And to live just as we wish and to suit ourselves. I'm looking forward to a wonderful life -- a life full of love and happiness, just as you described to me in your last letters."[7] Maria's father initially refused to attend the wedding, which took place in Tsarskoye Selo on 3 May 1908, because the Tsar refused to permit his wife to attend and because the children remained in the custody of the Tsar and of Grand Duchess Elizabeth. "As for the Swedish prince, what can I say about him?" wrote Paul to Tsar Nicholas II on 12 May 1907. "As the children are wards, the father doesn't have the opportunity of either meeting the fiancé or pronouncing himself for or against, or expressing his opinion that a girl of seventeen is too young to be given away in marriage. The wardship has decided so many questions without me that in reality the children have been distanced from me to the utmost possible degree".[12] Paul eventually was given an opportunity to come to Russia and meet Wilhelm, which made Maria "deliriously happy."[13] Maria and Wilhelm had a single son:

  • Bernadotte af Wisborg (1909–2004).
In the beginning, the marriage looked successful.
Maria Pavlovna, Prince Wilhelm, and son Lennart in 1911.
Maria bought a house, Oak Hill, in Sweden, added Swedish to the other five languages she spoke, and became popular with the Swedes, who felt she worked harder than her husband did. She was well liked by her father-in-law Gustaf V, who appreciated her "effervescence, charm, and unconventionality."[14] She occasionally played with her son, who remembered sitting on her lap when they slid down a flight of steps on a large silver tray. She also wrote an illustrated alphabet book for Lennart that was later published.[14] However, the marriage eventually broke up when Maria discovered that there were as many restrictions on life at the Swedish court as at the Russian and that her husband Vilhelm, as a naval officer, had little time to spend with her.[7] She found him "cold, shy, and neglectful", and when she tried to approach him he walked away from her in tears.[14] On a five month trip to Siam in 1912, as representatives to the coronation of the King of Siam, Maria had an opportunity to meet other men and flirt with them, which she enjoyed. On another trip, to Germany in 1913, Marie told her husband she wanted a divorce.[15] Her father took her home with him. "If only you could see what the poor girl looked like when she arrived to us!" her father Paul wrote to the Tsar on 21 October 1913. "She was fainting every minute, she was white as a sheet, she could not eat or sleep, she was coughing dreadfully, and she still complains about her kidneys. She is only beginning to recover under the influence of our love and caress. It is unthinkable that she should return to Sweden and I beg your permission for us to begin negotiating a divorce.[16] The couple was divorced in 1914. Maria left her son behind in his father's custody. He was raised primarily by his paternal grandmother and saw his mother rarely in the years thereafter. In an interview as an adult, Lennart said his mother had a distant relationship with him and didn't know how to relate well to her grandchildren.[17]

World War I and Revolution

Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna.
Maria returned home to Russia, where she lived near her younger brother Dmitri, to whom she was intensely attached. At a dance in Moscow, the two danced seven dances in a row and the Tsar sent an equerry to separate them. Troubled by the intensity of her need for him, Dmitri distanced himself somewhat from his sister, hurting her terribly.[15] During World War I Maria worked as a nurse in Pskov and re-established ties with her father, who had provided her with three half-siblings. Her relationship with her aunt improved and she visited her regularly at the convent Elizabeth had established.[18] When she learned that Dmitri had participated in the murder of Grigori Rasputin on 17 December 1916, without telling her anything about the plot, she was horrified. "For the first time in my life," she wrote, "my brother appeared to me an individual standing apart from me, and this feeling of unaccustomed estrangement made me shiver."[19] Maria signed a letter along with other members of the Imperial family, begging Nicholas to reverse his decision to exile Dmitri to the Persian front.[20] The Tsar refused to reverse his decision. Dmitri's exile meant he was not among the Romanov grand dukes, including his father, who were murdered in the revolution that followed.


She married her second husband, Prince Sergei Mikhailovich Putiatin, in September 1917 in Pavlovsk. They had one son:

  • Prince Roman Sergeievich Putiatin (June 1918 – 1919).

Maria's father, Grand Duke Paul, attended Prince Roman's baptism on 18 July 1918, the same day, though they did not know it, that Maria's half-brother, Prince Vladimir Paley, and her aunt, Princess Elizabeth, were murdered by the Bolsheviks.[21] Maria's father was arrested by the Bolsheviks at the end of July 1918 and was later murdered on 30 January 1919.[22] Maria and her second husband left baby Roman in the care of his paternal grandparents when they fled the country, going first to Romania and the court of her first cousin, Queen Marie of Romania, and later to Paris and then to London. In 1919 she received a letter from her husband's parents telling her that baby Roman had died of an intestinal disorder. Her guilt that she had left him behind prevented her from telling her friends of the baby's existence.[23] Maria was reunited with her brother, Dmitri, in London. Her first years of exile were financed by the jewels she had had smuggled to Sweden before escaping Russia. She later opened a quality sewing and textile shop called "Kitmir" in Paris, becoming a successful entrepreneur in the Parisian fashion industry. She also wrote her memoirs of growing up in Russia.[24] Her marriage to Putiatin broke up in 1923 "over a fundamental difference in attitude," though she continued to offer Putiatin and his relatives financial assistance.[25] During her years in exile, she lived mainly in Europe including Germany, Sweden and in Biarritz and in Spain on the invitation of the Spanish queen. She lived twelve years in the United States before moving to Argentina because the United States was a country that recognized the Soviet Union. She lived in Buenos Aires and after World War II in Europe.

Maria told her adult son, Lennart, during a rare conversation with him, that she had felt lonely all of her life because of her rootless childhood. She spent much of her adulthood looking for love, having affairs, and finding it hard to fill the empty places inside of her.[26] She grieved over the death of her brother Dmitri, the only person she had really loved, in 1942.[27] She died at the age of sixty-eight in 1958 in the border town of Konstanz in West Germany[17] and was buried beside her brother Dmitri in the vault of the church in Mainau, a possession of her son Lennart.



  1. ^ a b Hugo Mager, Elizabeth: Grand Duchess of Russia, Carroll Graf and Publishers Inc., 1998, p. 143
  2. ^ a b Perry, John Curtis, and Pleshakov, Constantine, The Flight of the Romanovs: A Family Saga, Basic Books, 1999, p. 43
  3. ^ Mager, p. 179
  4. ^ Perry, John Curtis, and Pleshakov, Constantine, The Flight of the Romanovs: A Family Saga, Basic Books, 1999, p. 74
  5. ^ Andrei Maylunas and Sergei Mironenko, A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story, Doubleday, 1997, pp. 264-265
  6. ^ Mager, pp. 179-181
  7. ^ a b c Charlotte Zeepvat, The Camera and the Tsars: A Romanov Family Album, Sutton Publishing, 2004, p. 101
  8. ^ Maylunas, Andrei, and Mironenko, Sergei, A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story, Doubleday, 1997, p. 258
  9. ^ Maylunas and Mironenko, pp. 262-263
  10. ^ a b Mager, p. 214
  11. ^ Maylunas and Mironenko, p. 271
  12. ^ Maylunas and Mironenko, p. 302
  13. ^ Perry and Pleshakov, p. 103
  14. ^ a b c Perry and Pleshakov, p. 104
  15. ^ a b Perry and Pleshakov, p. 105
  16. ^ Maylunas and Mironenko, p. 383
  17. ^ a b Perry and Pleshakov, p. 340
  18. ^ Maylunas and Mironenko, p. 443
  19. ^ Perry and Pleshakov, p. 135
  20. ^ Maylunas and Mironenko, p. 517
  21. ^ Zeepvat, p. 207
  22. ^ Zeepvat, pp. 207-208
  23. ^ Perry and Pleshakov, p. 259
  24. ^ Perry and Pleshakov, pp. 256-260
  25. ^ Perry and Pleshakov, p. 260
  26. ^ Perry and Pleshakov, p. 339
  27. ^ Perry and Pleshakov, pp. 311, 340


  • Almanach de Gotha, Gotha 1932
  • Grand Duchess Marie of Russia (ed Russell Lord), Education of a Princess - a Memoir, 1930, ASIN: B000K5SJJ4
  • Grand Duchess Marie of Russia, A Princess in Exile, 1932, ASIN: B000TG41CS
  • John Curtis Perry and Constantine Pleshakov, The Flight of the Romanovs, Basic Books, 1999, ISBN 0-465-02462-9
  • Hugo Mager, Elizabeth: Grand Duchess of Russia, Carroll & Graf Publishers Inc., 1998, ISBN 0-7867-0678-3
  • Andrei Maylunas and Sergei Mironenko, A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story, Doubleday, 1997, ISBN 0-385-48673-1
  • Charlotte Zeepvat, The Camera and the Tsars: A Romanov Family Album, Sutton Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0-7509-3049-7
  • Genealogy of the Romanov Imperial House
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