Princess Tarakanoff

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For the 1938 French film, see Princess Tarakanova (film).
An 1864 painting by Konstantin Flavitsky depicts the legend that this impostor was killed by a 1777 flood. In reality, she had died in 1775.

Yelizaveta Alekseyevna (1753 – December 15 [O.S. December 4] 1775), in later centuries known as Tarakanova or Tarakanoff, was a pretender to the Russian throne. She styled herself, among other names, Knyaginya Vladimirskaya (Princess of Vladimir), princess Elisabeth Alexeievna, Fräulein Frank, and Madame Trémouille. Tarakanova (tarakan is the Russian word for cockroach) is a name only later entertainment (literature, theater, filmography, pictures) gave to her, apparently on the basis of how she lived her last months and died. In her own time, she was not known by that name.

Life[edit]

Tarakanova claimed to be the daughter of Aleksey Grigorievich Razumovsky and Elizabeth of Russia, reared in St. Petersburg. Even her place of birth, however, is not certain, and her real name is not known. She is known to have traveled to several cities in Western Europe; she became a mistress of Philipp Ferdinand of Limburg Stirum and lived off his money in the hope that the count would marry her.

She was eventually arrested in Livorno, Tuscany by Aleksei Grigoryevich Orlov, who had been sent by Empress Catherine II to retrieve her. Orlov-Tsesmensky seduced her, then lured her aboard a Russian ship, arrested her, and brought her to Russia in February 1775. She was imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress, where she died of tuberculosis that December. She was buried in the graveyard of the Peter and Paul Fortress.

A popular theory postulates that her death was faked and she was secretly forced to take the veil under the name Dosiphea. This mysterious nun was recorded as living in Ivanovsky Convent from 1785 until her death in 1810.

Films[edit]

  • A play written by Ippolit Shpazhinsky was the basis for the 1910 Russian film Knyazhna Tarakanova (Княжна Тараканова) with V. Mikulina in the role of this pretender.
  • A 1930 French film Tarakanova in which she is played by Édith Jéhanne.
  • In 1950, a joint UK/Italian movie titled "Shadow Of The Eagle" was produced about the seduction mission by Aleksei Orlov of Princess Tarakanova, with Valentina Cortese portraying this Elizaveta and Richard Greene in the role of Count Orlov. Elizaveta Alexeievna is painted as a real princess who is a threat to Catherine the Great both politically and in royal lineage, not a pretender to the throne of Russia. The story portrays Orlov as a much more sympathetic character and betrayer to Catherine the Great, in that he allies himself to Elizaveta body and soul while claiming false allegiance to Catherine. The events in the movie follow history authentically until the meeting of Princess Tarakanova and Orlov takes place and the ending which alters actual real-life events, in that Orlov releases Elizaveta from prison in Russia after a daring raid and they live happily ever after, so this movie becomes a wildly fictional tale.
  • In 1990 an award winning Soviet film production titled "The Royal Hunt" was released based on a play by Leonid Zorin of the same title. It told the story of the life and adventures around Europe of Princess Tarakanova and the operation by Aleksei Orlov to trick and capture her.

Sources[edit]

  • Simon Segal Montefiore, Potemkin

External links[edit]