Felix Yusupov

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Prince Felix Yusupov
Prince Felix Yusupov.jpg
Spouse Princess Irina Alexandrovna of Russia
Issue Princess Irina Felixovna Yusupova
House House of Yusupov (noble family)
Father Count Felix Felixovich Sumarokov-Elston
Mother Princess Zenaida Nikolaievna Yusupova
Born (1887-03-23)23 March 1887
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Died 27 September 1967(1967-09-27) (aged 80)
Paris, France
Burial Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery

Prince Felix Felixovich Yusupov, Count Sumarokov-Elston (Russian: Князь Фéликс Фéликсович Юсýпов, Граф Сумароков-Эльстон;[1] March 23, 1887, St Petersburg, Russian Empire – September 27, 1967, Paris, France) was a Russian aristocrat, a prince and count, best known for participating in the assassination of Grigori Rasputin.

Biography[edit]

Portrait of Count Felix Sumarokov-Elston (1903) by Valentin Serov (oil-painting in the State Russian Museum)

Felix Yusupov was born in the Moika Palace in Saint Petersburg, capital of the Russian Empire. His father was Count Felix Felixovich Sumarokov-Elston, the son of Count Felix Nikolaievich Sumarokov-Elston. Zinaida Yusupova, his mother, being the last of the Yusupov line, was of Crimean Tatars origin and very wealthy.[2] The Yusupov family, richer than any of the Romanovs, acquired their wealth generations earlier. It included four palaces in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), three palaces in Moscow, 37 estates in different parts of Russia (Kursk, Voronezh and Poltava), coal and iron-ore mines, plants and factories, flour mills and oil fields on the Caspian Sea.[3]

The family estate near Moscow; Arkhangelskoye Palace by Jacob Guerne

Felix led a flamboyant life. "At twelve he began wearing his mother's gowns. He describes in his autobiography often spending time with Gypsy bands and adopting female clothing.[4] His older brother took him often to restaurants and cafés".[5][6] Felix became one of the richest men in Russia after his older brother Nikolai Felixovich, Count Sumarokov-Elston (1883-June 22, 1908), having an affair with a married woman, was killed on Krestovsky Island in a duel by the jealous husband, Arvid Manteuffel, in the summer 1908.[7] From 1909 to 1913 he studied Fine Arts at University College, Oxford, where he was a member of the Bullingdon club, established the Oxford University Russian Society and spent much time partying. His long-time personal friend was Oswald Rayner, a classmate at Oxford and also a loyal companion in St. Petersburg.

Honeymoon[edit]

The Yusupov family in 1912: Prince Felix, Prince Nicholas, Count Felix Felixovich Sumarkov-Elston and Princess Zinaida.

Back in St Petersburg he married Princess Irina of Russia, the Tsar's only niece, in the Anichkov Palace on February 22, 1914. The Yusupovs went on their honeymoon to Cairo, Jerusalem, London and Bad Kissingen, where his parents were staying. When World War I broke out in August 1914, they were briefly detained in Berlin. Irina asked her relative, Crown Princess Cecilie of Prussia to intervene with her father-in-law, Kaiser Wilhelm II. The Kaiser refused to permit the Yusupov family to leave, but offered them a choice of three country estates to live in for the duration of the war. Felix's father appealed to the Spanish ambassador in Germany, and won permission for them to return to Russia via neutral Denmark to the Grand Duchy of Finland, and from there to St. Petersburg[8][citation needed] The Yusupovs' only daughter, Princess Irina Felixovna Yusupova, nicknamed Bébé, was born on 21 March 1915.[9] [10]

World War I[edit]

Felix seems to have designed the Yusupov's Mosque

After the death of his brother, Felix was the heir of an immense fortune. Consulting with family members about how best to administer the money and property, he decided to devote time and money to charitable works to help the poor.[citation needed] The losses at the Eastern Front were enormous, after a year 1.5 million Russian soldiers had died. Felix converted a wing of the Moika Palace into a hospital for wounded soldiers. Felix was able to avoid entering military service himself by taking advantage of a law exempting only-sons from serving. Irina's first cousin, Grand Duchess Olga, whom she had been close to when they were girls, was disdainful of Felix: "Felix is a 'downright civilian,' dressed all in brown, walked to and fro about the room, searching in some bookcases with magazines and virtually doing nothing; an utterly unpleasant impression he makes – a man idling in such times," Olga wrote to her father, Tsar Nicholas II, on 5 March 1915 .[11] In February 1916 Felix began studies at the Page Corps, and tried joining a regiment in August.[12]

Rasputin[edit]

"Yusupov's plan, as he described it in his book, was to seek closer acquaintance with the healer Grigori Rasputin, and win his confidence. He asked Rasputin to cure a slight malady from which he suffered."[13] First Yusupov approached the lawyer Vasily Maklakov, who agreed to advise Felix.[14] Then he approached Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin, an army officer in the Preobrazhensky Regiment, recuperating from injuries, and friend to his mother.[15] Grand Duke Dmitry received Yusupov's suggestion with alacrity, and his alliance was welcomed as indicating that the murder would not be a demonstration against the [Romanov] dynasty.[16]

Yusupov's Palace in St Petersburg by Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe, bought in 1830 by Boris Yusupov.
When the Yusupov palace was renovated at the end of 1916, Felix lived in the palace of Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna on Moika 106.
View on the Moika, the Yusupov Palace on the right (Photo Karl Bulla, 1913)

On the night of 29/30 December (N.S.) 1916 Yusupov, Grand Duke Dmitri, Vladimir Purishkevich, his assistant Stanilaus de Lazovert, and Sukhotin murdered Rasputin in the Moika Palace. A major reconstruction of the palace had almost been finished, with a small room in the basement carefully furnished. Rasputin was severely hit by a bullet that entered his left chest and penetrated the stomach and the liver; a second entered the left back soon after the first and penetrated the kidneys.[17] As the wounds were quite serious — Rasputin would have died in 10–20 minutes — Rasputin succeeded in escaping, but fell in the snow-clad courtyard. It is not clear if Rasputin was beaten by Yusupov with a sort of dumb bell and if it was Purishkevich who shot him in the forehead. The conspirators finally threw the corpse from Bolshoy Petrovsky Bridge into an ice-hole in the Malaya Neva.

On the Empress's orders, a police investigation commenced and traces of blood were discovered on the steps to the back door of the Yusupov Palace. Prince Felix attempted to explain the blood with a story that one of his favorite dogs was shot accidentally by Grand Duke Dmitri. Yusupov and Dmitri were placed under house arrest in the Sergei Palace. (The upper levels of the palace were occupied by the British embassy and the Anglo-Russian hospital.[18]) Alexandra Feodorovna had refused to meet the two, but said they could explain to her what had happened in a letter.

The Empress wanted both shot immediately, but she was persuaded to back off from the idea.[19] Without a trial [20] the Tsar sent Dmitry Pavlovich, to the front in Persia; Purishkevich was already on his way to the front in Rumania. The Tsar banned Yusupov to his estate[21] in Rakitnoye, in the Belgorod Oblast.

Yusupov published several accounts of the night and the events surrounding the murder. Recent authorities have cast doubt on Yusupov's account (see Grigori Rasputin).

Fuhrmann thinks Yusupov was the man who hatched the plot and who carried it out. "The clumsy way the assignation was carried out shows it was the work of an amateur".[22] Fuhrmann also thinks Yusupov's "... candid Memoirs were corroborated by the other conspirators."[23]

Exile[edit]

Felix Yusupov and his wife, Princess Irina Alexandrovna of Russia, 1915
Irina and Felix in exile

One week after the February Revolution, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated the throne on 2 March. Following the abdication, the Yusupovs returned to the Moika Palace before traveling to the Crimea. They later returned to the palace to retrieve jewellery (containing the blue Sultan of Morocco Diamond, the Polar Star Diamond, and a pair of diamond earrings that once belonged to the French queen Marie-Antoinette) and two paintings by Rembrandt, the sale proceeds of which helped sustain the family in exile. The paintings were bought by Joseph E. Widener in 1921 and are now in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.[24]

In the Crimea, the family boarded a British warship, HMS Marlborough, which took them from Yalta to Malta. While on the ship, Felix Yusupov enjoyed boasting about the murder of Rasputin. One of the British officers noted that Irina "appeared shy and retiring at first, but it was only necessary to take a little notice of her pretty, small daughter to break through her reserve and discover that she was also very charming and spoke fluent English".[25]

From Malta, they traveled to Italy, then by train to Paris. In Italy, lacking a visa, he bribed the officials with diamonds. In Paris, they stayed a few days in Hôtel de Vendôme before going on to London. In 1920, they returned to Paris.

Prince and Princesse Yussupov lived between :

The Yusupovs founded a short-lived couture house Irfé, named after the first two letters of their first names.[28] Irina modeled some of the dresses the pair and other designers at the firm created. They became renowned in the Russian émigré community for his financial generosity. This philanthropy, plus continued high living and poor financial management extinguished what remained of the family fortune. Felix Yusupov's bad business sense and the Wall Street Crash of 1929 eventually forced the company to shut down.[29]

Lawsuits[edit]

In 1932 Yusupov and his wife successfully sued MGM through the English courts for invasion of privacy and libel in connection with the film Rasputin and the Empress. The alleged libel was not that the character based on Felix had committed murder, but that the character based on Irina, called "Princess Natasha" in the film, was portrayed as having been seduced by the lecherous Rasputin.[30] In 1934, the Yusupovs were awarded £25,000 damages, an enormous sum at the time, which was attributed to the successful arguments of their counsel Sir Patrick Hastings. The disclaimer which now screens at the end of every American film, "The preceding was a work of fiction, any similarity to a living person etc.," first appeared as a result of the legal precedent set by the Yusupov case.[31]

Château de Keriolet belonged to the Yusupov family. In 1956 Felix won a lawsuit and regained possession of the castle on Finistère. It was sold to the city Concarneau in 1971.

In 1965 Yusupov also sued the Columbia Broadcasting System in a New York court for televising a play based upon the Rasputin assassination. The claim was that some events were fictionalized, and that under a New York City statute Felix's commercial rights in his story had been misappropriated. The last reported judicial opinion in the case was a ruling by New York's second highest court that the case could not be resolved upon briefs and affidavits but must go to trial.[32] According to an obituary of CBS's lawyer, CBS eventually won the case.[33]

In 1928, after Yusupov published his memoir detailing the death of Grigory Rasputin, Rasputin's daughter Maria sued Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich in a Paris court for damages of $800,000. She condemned both men as murderers and said any decent person would be disgusted by the ferocity of Rasputin's killing.[34] Maria's claim was dismissed. The French court ruled that it had no jurisdiction over a political killing that took place in Russia.[35]

Death[edit]

Irina and Felix enjoyed a happy and successful marriage for more than fifty years. It seems he never abandoned his pursuit for men.[36] When Felix died in 1967, Irina was grief-stricken and passed away three years later[37] He was buried in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery in the southern suburbs of Paris. Yusupov's private papers and a number of family artifacts and paintings are now owned by Victor Contreras, a Mexican sculptor who, as a young art student in the 1960s, met Yusupov and lived with the family for five years in Paris.[38]

Ancestry[edit]

Descendants[edit]

Descendants of Felix and Irina are:

  • Princess Irina Felixovna Yussupova, (March 21, 1915, Saint Petersburg, Russia- August 30, 1983, Cormeilles[disambiguation needed], France), married Count Nikolai Dmitrievich Sheremetev (October 28, 1904, Moscow, Russia – February 5, 1979, Paris, France), son of Count Dmitri Sergeievich Sheremetev and wife Countess Irina Ilarionovna Vorontzova-Dachkova and a descendant of Boris Petrovich Sheremetev; had issue:
    • Countess Xenia Dmitrievna Sheremeteva (born March 1, 1942, Rome, Italy), married on June 20, 1965 in Athens, Greece, to Ilias Sfiris (born August 20, 1932, Athens, Greece); had issue:
      • Tatiana Sfiris (born August 28, 1968, Athens, Greece), married on May 1996 in Athens to Alexis Giannakoupoulos (born 1963), divorced, no issue; married Anthony Vamvakidis and has issue:
        • Marilia Vamvakidis (July 7, 2004)
        • Yasmine Xenia Vamvakidis (May 17, 2006)[40]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Youssoupoff, Prince Felix: "Rasputin", Dial Press, 1927
  • Youssoupoff, Prince Felix: "Rasputin: His Malignant Influence and His Assassination", 1934
  • Youssoupoff, Prince Felix: "Avant L'Exil", Plon, Paris 1952
  • Youssoupoff, Prince Felix: "Lost Splendour", Jonathan Cape, London 1953
  • Ferrand, Jacques (Ed.): "Les princes Youssoupoff & les comtes Soumarokoff-Elston", Ferrand, Paris 1991

References[edit]

  1. ^ Variously transliterated from Cyrillic as Yussupov, Yusupov, Yossopov, Iusupov, Youssoupov, Youssoupoff, or as Feliks, Graf Sumarrokow-Elston.
  2. ^ In order that the Yusupov name might not die out, his father (October 5, 1856, St Petersburg – June 10, 1928, Rome, Italy) was granted the title and the surname of his wife, Princess Zenaida Nikolaievna Yusupova (September 2, 1861, Saint Petersburg – November 24, 1939, Paris) upon their marriage, on April 4, 1882 in St Petersburg. In May 1915 there were serious anti-German riots in Moscow. As the governor-general of the city, he was fired for a lack of control. After the October Revolution, he moved to Kiev and left Russia in April 1919.
  3. ^ http://www.guide-guru.com/best-of-st-petersburg-attractions/yusupovs-palace/
  4. ^ King, Greg, The Man Who Killed Rasputin, Carol Publishing Group, 1995, p. 97.
  5. ^ J.T. Fuhrmann (2013) The Untold Story, p. 198.
  6. ^ Alexander Palace
  7. ^ Gretchen Haskin (2000) His Brother's Keeper. Atlantic Magazine; Lost Splendour, p. 111.
  8. ^ G. King, pp. 114–115.
  9. ^ King, p. 116
  10. ^ King, pp. 257–258
  11. ^ Bokhanov, Alexander, Knodt, Dr. Manfred, Oustimenko, Vladimir, Peregudova, Zinaida, Tyutyunnik, Lyubov, editors, The Romanovs: Love, Power, and Tragedy, Leppi Publications, 1993, p. 240
  12. ^ Ronald C. Moe (2011) Prelude to the Revolution: The Murder of Rasputin, p. 494-495.
  13. ^ B. Pares (1939), p. 400.
  14. ^ M. Nelipa, p. 112-115.
  15. ^ M. Nelipa, p. 130, 134.
  16. ^ B. Pares (1939), p. 402.
  17. ^ To Kill Rasputin, by Andrew Cook. A review by Greg King
  18. ^ M. Nelipa, p. 108.
  19. ^ M. Nelipa, p. 108.
  20. ^ B. Almasov, p. 214; B. Pares, p. 146.
  21. ^ http://yusupov.org/rakitnoe.html
  22. ^ J.T. Fuhrmann, p. 221.
  23. ^ J.T. Fuhrmann, p. 201.
  24. ^ http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/art-object-page.1207.html
  25. ^ King, p. 209
  26. ^ Almanach de Gotha 1936, 3ème partie, page 698.
  27. ^ http://fr.topic-topos.com
  28. ^ Suzy Menkes (July 1, 2008). "Russian revival at Irfe". New York Times. 
  29. ^ "Russian label Irfe rises from its ashes in Paris". Otago Daily Times. July 2, 2008. 
  30. ^ King, p. 240-241
  31. ^ NZ Davis "Any Resemblance to Persons Living or Dead": Film and the Challenge of Authenticity,The Yale Review, 86 (1986–87): 457–82.
  32. ^ Youssoupoff v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 19 A.D.2d 865 (1963)
  33. ^ New York Times, Sept. 6, 1983 (obituary of Carleton G. Eldridge Jr.)
  34. ^ King, Greg, The Man Who Killed Rasputin, Carol Publishing Group, 1995, ISBN 0-8065-1971-1, p. 232
  35. ^ King, p. 233
  36. ^ J.T. Fuhrmann, p. 198.
  37. ^ King, p. 275.
  38. ^ Secrets of an Exiled Prince, Moscow Times, April 11–17, 2008.
  39. ^ de: Johann Aloys Josef, Freiherr von Hügel
  40. ^ Paul Theroff (2007). "Russia". An Online Gotha. Retrieved January 3, 2007. 

Sources[edit]

  • Fuhrmann, Joseph T. (2013). Rasputin, the untold story (illustrated ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 314. ISBN 978-1-118-17276-6. 
  • Greg King (1994) The Last Empress. The Life & Times of Alexandra Feodorovna, tsarina of Russia. A Birch Lane Press Book.
  • Margarita Nelipa (2010) The Murder of Grigorii Rasputin. A Conspiracy That Brought Down the Russian Empire, Gilbert's Books. ISBN 978-0-9865310-1-9.
  • Bernard Pares (1939) The Fall of the Russian Monarchy. A Study of the Evidence. Jonathan Cape. London.
  • Vladimir Pourichkevitch (1924) Comment j'ai tué Raspoutine. Pages de Journal. J. Povolozky & Cie. Paris

External links[edit]