Princess Helen of Serbia

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For other royal consorts titled "Helen of Serbia", see Helena of Serbia.
Princess Helen
Princess Elena Petrovna of Russia
Yelena of Serbia.jpg
Spouse Prince John Constantinovich of Russia
Issue Prince Vsevolod Ivanovich of Russia
Princess Catherine Ivanovna of Russia
House House of Karađorđević (by birth)
House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov (by marriage)
Father Peter I of Yugoslavia
Mother Princess Zorka of Montenegro
Born (1884-11-04)4 November 1884
Cetinje, Montenegro
Died 16 October 1962(1962-10-16) (aged 77)
Nice, France

Jelena Karađorđević or Princess Helen of Serbia (4 November 1884 – 16 October 1962) was the daughter of King Peter I of Yugoslavia and his wife Princess Zorka of Montenegro. She was the elder sister of George, Crown Prince of Serbia and King Alexander I of Yugoslavia. Helen was also a niece of Anastasia of Montenegro (or "Stana"), wife of Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich of Russia, and of Milica of Montenegro, wife of Grand Duke Peter Nicolaievich of Russia, the women who introduced Grigori Rasputin to Tsarina Alexandra.[1] She was born Princess Jelena Karađorđević, became Princess Jelena of Serbia at the accession of her father and was known as Elena Petrovna, Jelena Petrovna, Hélène Petrovna or Ellen Petrovna after her marriage.

Early life[edit]

The strong-minded, purposeful Helen, whose mother died when she was a small child, was brought up largely under the care of her aunts Stana and Milica and educated in Russia at the Smolny Institute, a school in St. Petersburg for well-born girls. "She was a very sweet-faced though plain girl, with beautiful dark eyes, very quiet and amiable in manner," wrote Margaretta Eagar, governess to the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II. Eagar wrote that Helen, then about seventeen, often came to tea with another of her aunts, Princess Vera of Montenegro, and cousins. Young Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna of Russia was very fond of her.[2]

Engagement and marriage[edit]

Princess Elena Petrovna and Prince Ioann Konstantinovich. Engagement photograph

A fourth aunt, Elena of Montenegro, Queen of Italy, invited her for a visit and introduced her to Prince John Constantinovich of Russia. He proposed marriage soon after. It was a love match, a surprise to the family because the gentle, introverted John had thought of becoming a Russian Orthodox monk.[3] "Perhaps you know that Ioanchik is engaged to Helene of Serbia, it is so touching," wrote his distant cousin, 14-year-old Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia, to her aunt, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia, on 14 July 1911. "How funny if they might have children, can they be kissing him? What foul, fie!"[4] The couple married on 21 August 1911, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Helen studied medicine at the University of St. Petersburg following their marriage, a career pursuit she had to give up when she gave birth to her first child.[5] The couple had two children, Prince Vsevelod Ivanovich ( 20 January 1914 – 18 June 1973), and Princess Catherine Ivanovna born in Pavlovsk on ( 12 July 1915 - died in Montevideo, Uruguay on 14 July 2007). The three children and seven grandchildren of her daughter Princess Catherine, who married and later separated from Marchese Farace di Villaforesta, are the only great-grandchildren of Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovich of Russia and his wife Grand Duchess Elisabeth Mavrikievna.[6]

Revolution[edit]

Helen voluntarily followed her husband into exile when he was arrested following the Russian Revolution of 1917 and tried to obtain his release. John was imprisoned first at Yekaterinburg, Siberia and later moved to Alapaevsk, a town in Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia, by the Bolsheviks, where he was murdered on 18 July 1918 along with Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna, Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich; John's brothers Constantine Constantinovich and Igor Constantinovich, his distant cousin Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley; Grand Duke Sergei's secretary, Fyodor Remez; and Varvara Yakovleva, a sister from the Grand Duchess Elizabeth's convent. They were herded into the forest by the local Bolsheviks, pushed into an abandoned mineshaft and grenades were then hurled into the mineshaft.

Imprisonment[edit]

John had persuaded Helen to leave Alapaevsk and go back to their two young children, whom she had left with John's mother, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mavrikievna of Russia, but Helen was arrested at Yekaterinburg and imprisoned herself at Perm in 1918. During her imprisonment, the Bolsheviks brought a girl who called herself Anastasia Romanova to her cell and asked her if the girl was Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, the daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. Helen said she didn't recognize the girl and the guards took her away.[7]

Exile[edit]

Swedish diplomats obtained permission for Helen's mother-in-law Grand Duchess Elizaveta Mavrikievna to leave Russia with Helen's children, Vsevelod and Catherine, and her own two younger children, Prince George Constantinovich and Princess Vera Constantinovna, in October 1918 aboard the Swedish ship Angermanland. Helen remained imprisoned at Perm until Norwegian diplomats located her and had her transferred. She was then kept prisoner at the Kremlin Palace before finally being allowed to leave and join her children in Sweden.[8]

Helen eventually settled at Nice, France. She never remarried.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Robert K. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra, 1967, p. 198
  2. ^ Eagar, Margaret (1906). "Six Years at the Russian Court". alexanderpalace.org. Retrieved 3 January 2007. 
  3. ^ (Charlotte Zeepvat, The Camera and The Tsars: A Romanov Family Album, 2004, p. 56.)
  4. ^ Alexander Bokhanov, Dr. Manfred Knodt, Vladimir Oustimenko, Zinaida Peregudova, and Lyubov Tyutyunnik, translator Lyudmila Xenofontova, The Romanovs: Love, Power and Tragedy, 1993, p. 127.
  5. ^ Zeepvat, The Camera and the Tsars: A Romanov Family Album, 2004, p. 56
  6. ^ Paul Theroff (2007). "Russia". An Online Gotha. Retrieved 3 January 2007. 
  7. ^ Peter Kurth, Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, 1983, p. 43.
  8. ^ Charlotte Zeepvat, The Camera and the Tsars: A Romanov Family Album, 2004, p. 213.

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