Princess Helene Dolgoruki

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Helene Dolgoruki (1789-1860) (also known as Yelena in Russian), best remembered in the United States as the grandmother, and surrogate mother of Madame Blavatsky.

Birth and Marriage[edit]

Helene was the daughter of Prince Paul Vassilyevich Dolgorukov (1755 - 1837) and Henrietta Adolfovna de Bandre du Plessis (d. 1812).

In 1813 she married Andrei Mikhailovich Fadeyev (1789-1867) and the family resided near the village of Rzhishchevo, in the Province of Kiev, where the estate of the Dolgorukovs was located.

Short life of her eldest[edit]

Helene's eldest daughter Helena Fadeyev married in 1830 the Russian nobleman Peter von Hahn, then a Captain of Horse Artillery in the Russian Army, who was more than twice her age. Soon after the wedding, the Captain received orders to join his regiment for service in the notably ruthless campaign to put down the Polish insurrection of 1831.

The girl-wife returned to her parents in Ekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk), in Ukraine, and it was there that Helena was born, prematurely, on the night of August 12, 1831 (July 30, on the Julian calendar). A short time later, the two Helenas rejoined Peter and the family apparently travelled from one Army camp to another as he was reassigned. Three more children were to follow, one of which died as a baby. And in 1842 Helena Fadeyev herself died.

The grandchildren arrive[edit]

Shortly, after her daughter's death, in 1842 Peter sent the children, to live with her parents, who were residing at Saratov, where Andrei had been appointed Civil Governor.

Saratov was, a semi-Asiatic city on the Volga, two hundred miles north of Stalingrad. "The Governor's palace was a rambling eighteenth-century castle, honeycombed with underground passages." (G. Williams)

Helene Dolgoruki supervised, not only the education of her two granddaughters by her deceased daughter Helena, but also that of her grandson Count Sergei Witte who "learned his letters at her knee." The Witte family lived with the Fadeyev's during this time period. Count Witte's memoirs paint a glowing picture of his grandmother.

Her work[edit]

Helene Dolgoruki spoke five languages, painted, and knew a great deal about science for her day. She corresponded with distinguished men in many fields; Sir Roderick Murchison, an English geologist and founder of the Royal Geographic Society named a fossil shell for her, the Venus Fadeef.

Her greatest passion was botany. She devoted an entire wing of her palace to an important collected of Caucasian flora, each labelled with Latin names and scientific descriptions. These are well-remembered by all three of her grandchildren who each left us descriptions in their writings.

Move to Tiflis[edit]

Sometime around 1843-1847 General Fadeyev was appointed Imperial Councillor to the Viceroy of the Caucasus (perhaps First Viceroy Count (later Prince) Mikhail Vorontsov although Blavatsky says "Woronzoff"), and the family moved from Saratov to an even more imposing castle at Tiflis. It has been reported that a constant visitor at this time was Prince Alexander Golitsyn (cousin of the wife of the Viceroy), who is said to have been paying court to the granddaughter Helena.

Last Years[edit]

A frequent visitor to the family at Tiflis, General P S Nikolayeff has left a description of the palatial splendor, in which they lived. The mansion had previously been the home of Prince Chavchavadze. Blavatsky stayed with her again in the last year of her grandmother's life. Helene died in August 1860. Andrei outlived her by a few years.

Descendents[edit]

Children of Helene Dolgoruki and Andrei Fadeyev:

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]