Catherine Radziwill

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Princess Catherine Radziwiłł
Princess Catherine Radziwiłł.jpg
Spouse(s) Prince Wilhelm Radziwiłł
Karl Emile Kolb-Danvin
Nicholas Radziwiłł Wacław
Full name
Ekaterina Adamovna Rzewuska, Princess Radziwiłł, Mrs. Kolb-Danvin
Noble family Radziwiłł
Father Adam Adamowicz Rzewuski
Mother Anna Dmitrievna Dashkova
Born On March 30, 1858
St. Petersburg
Died 5 December 1941(1941-12-05) (aged 83)
New York City

Princess Catherine Radziwiłł (Polish: Katarzyna Radziwiłłowa; 30 March 1858 – 12 May 1941)[1][2] was a notable Polish aristocrat. Born in Russia into the House of Rzewuski, her maternal family was the illustrious Dashkov-Vorontsov. Carefully educated, in 1873 she married the Polish Prince Wilhelm Radziwiłł.

She became a prominent figure at the Imperial courts in Germany and Russia, but became involved in a series of scandals. She combined her love for the luxury of the courts, social life, gossip and intrigue with her literary talent and she is notable as the author of two dozen books on European royalty and the Russian court in particular most notably: Behind the Veil at the Russian Court (1914) and her autobiography It Really Happened (1932).

Family and early life[edit]

Princess Catherine Radziwill was born in St. Petersburg as Countess Ekaterina Adamovna Rzewuska, a member of the House of Rzewuski, a Polish family of warriors, statesmen, adventurers and eccentics. She was the only child of the Russian General Adam Adamowicz Rzewuski (1845—1911), who took part in the Crimean war, and his second wife Anna Dmitrievna Dashkova, a daughter of the writer Dmitry Vasilyevich Dashkov, Tsar Nicholas I's minister of justice. Catherine's mother, who belonged to some of Russia's most notable families: Dashkov, Stroganov, Pashkov and Vasilchikov, died while given birth to her. Catherine's father married for a third time and provided her with three half-brothers including Stanislaw Rzewuski, who became a novelist and literary critic. The Rzewuski was a family of notable writers including Catherine's great-great-grandfather Wacław Rzewuski, her uncle Henryk and her aunts Ewelina, wife of Honoré de Balzac, and Karolina, who kept a literary salon in Paris.

Catherine was carefully educated under the supervision of her stern father in his large estates in central Ukraine. Although, the Rzewuski family originated in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Catherine had no attachment to Poland and considered herself Russian.

On October 26, 1873, at age fifteen, she married Prince Wilhelm Radziwiłł (1845-1911), a Polish officer in the Prussian army.[1] The couple moved to Berlin to live with his family. She had seven children, four sons and three daughter. Two of her sons died in early childhood, but the other five children: Louise, Wanda, Gabriela, Nicholas and Casimir, reached adulthood. Little is known about Catherine's marriage except what she herself wrote in her memories: Her husband treated her kindly, but she felt bored and frustrated. The couple became prominent at the court in Berlin.

Literary career[edit]

Princess Catherine Radziwiłł with a red ribbon around her neck, by Giovanni Boldini.

In 1884, Nouvelle Reveu published a series articles written as letters to a young diplomat by the elderly Count Paul Vasili. The articles were critical of Berlin society and full of damaging gossip about the Imperial court. The publication of the articles, collected in the book Berlin Society, created a great scandal at court.[2] Count Paul Vasili was a fictional character and a subsequent investigation made responsible Auguste Gérard, the Empress's French reader, as the author. Only in 1918 in her book Confessions of the Czarina, Catherine admitted that she was the author of Berlin Society. The confusion was aggravated as other anonimus writers began also to use the pen-name Count Paul Vasili.[2]

After the publication of Berlin Society, Catherine began to be seen with suspicion in Berlin and she traveled extensively with her husband. When her father died in Russia, in April 1888, Catherine decided to stay in St Petersburg where her youngest son, Casimir, was born the same year. At the Russian court, Princess Radziwill, had a prominent position. She became a friend and admirer of Konstantin Pobedonostsev. Her political leanings, very liberal while in Berlin, turned to staunchly conservative in Russia. She also began an affair with General Peter Alexander Cherevin, Court commandant, head of the Third section of the Okhrana, and one of Tsar Alexander III's few trusted friends. During the late 1880s and early 1890s, Princess Radziwill reached the pinnacle of her life and of her influence at court. Her situation suffered a sharp down turn with the deaths of Tsar Alexander III, in 1894, and of her lover Cherevin, in early 1896. Estranged from her husband and children, she earned some money writing articles for American magazines and newspapers chronicling British society, but she accumulated debts.

in the summer 1899 Catherine Radziwill left for South Africa setting her eyes on South African-based British magnate and politician Cecil Rhodes. They initially became friends, but Rhodes, who was interested in men, pull away from her. Nevertheless, he paid her debts and sent her back to London, where Catherine published the book The Resurrection of Peter, defending Rhodes. A scandal in London involving debts accumulated by her son Nicholas that she try to pay claiming a stolen pearl necklace on a London Hotel sent her back to South Africa in the summer 1900. In Cape Town, she forged Rhodes's name on a promissory note. She was convicted of forging Rhodes' signature and spent sixteen months in a South African prison for her crimes.[3][4] Catherine spent her time in prison writing. Released in August 1903, few months later her book of memoirs My Recollections (1904) was published in London and New York with some level of success. Her youngest son, Casimir, died while she was in prison and her estranged husband divorced her in 1906. In 1909, she married a Swedish engineer and entrepreneur, Karl Emile Kolb-Danvin. The couple settled in St Peterburg, where her son, Nicholas, was serving in the Russian army. She published two more books, Behind the Veil of the Russian court, under her pen-name Paul Vasili, and a second autobiographical book: Memoirs of forty years (1914). During World War I, her son was killed in the Eastern front, in November 1914. Catherine and her husband moved to Stockholm where she was living at the outbreak of the Russian revolution. In a four year span, she published a dozen of books. She was on a visit to the United States when her second husband died and she decided to stay in America.

She settled in New York City where she spent the rest of life. Catherine Radziwiłł played a major role in the history of the antisemitic hoax The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In 1921, she gave a private lecture in New York. She claimed that the Protocols were compiled in 1904-1905 by Russian journalists Matvei Golovinski and Manasevich-Manuilov at the direction of Pyotr Rachkovsky, chief of the Okhrana, the Russian secret service in Paris.[5] Golovinski worked together with Charles Joly (son of Maurice Joly) at Le Figaro in Paris. This account, however, contradicts the basic chronology of the Protocols' publication, as they had already been published in 1903 in the Znamya newspaper. Moreover, in 1902, Rachkovsky was dismissed from the Paris Okhrana and returned to Saint Petersburg. Catherine Radziwill's statements were cited during the Berne Trial by Russian witnesses in 1934 and by experts in 1935; they gave evidence that her date of 1905, when Matvei Golovinski would have shown her a manuscript of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion ("with a big blue ink spot on the first page") in Paris, is obviously an error of chronology, possibly caused by a typo in her article published in The American Hebrew and reprinted by The New York Times.[6]


  • La Société de Berlin: augmenté de lettres inédites. 1884 as Paul Vasili
  • La Société de Saint-Pétersbourg: augmenté de lettres inédites. 1886 as Paul Vasili
  • La Sainté Russie; la cour, l’armée, le clerge, la bourgeoisie et le peuple. 1890. as Paul Vasili
  • The Resurrection of Peter. A Reply to Olive Schreiner, 1900. [i.e. to Schreiner’s book, Trooper Peter Halkett of Mashonaland (1897)]
  • My Recollections, 1904
  • Behind the Veil at the Russian Court, 1914.
  • The Royal Marriage Market of Europe, 1915.
  • The Austrian Court From Within, 1916
  • Sovereigns and Statesmen of Europe, 1916
  • Because it was Written, 1916 [fiction]
  • The Black Dwarf of Vienna, and other weird stories, 1916
  • Germany under Three Emperors, 1917
  • Russia's Decline and Fall: The Secret History of a Great Debacle, 1918
  • Rasputin and the Russian Revolution, 1918
  • Cecil Rhodes, man and empire-maker, 1918
  • Confessions of the Czarina, 1918
  • The Firebrand of Bolshevism; The True Story of the Bolsheviki and the Forces That Directed Them, 1919
  • Secrets of Dethroned Royalty, 1920
  • Those I Remember, 1924
  • The Intimate Life of the Last Tzarina, 1928
  • Child of Pity: The Little Prince [the Tsarevitch] Rides Away, 1930
  • Nicholas II: The Last of the Tsars, 1931
  • The Taint of the Romanovs, 1931
  • It Really Happened; An Autobiography by Princess Catherine Radziwiłł, 1932
  • The Empress Frederick, 1934.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Books by Author Catherine Radziwiłł, The New York Times, on 13 May 1941, reported that the death of Catherine Radziwiłł occurred on 11 May.
  2. ^ a b c Farrant, Leda. (2000). The Princess from St. Petersburg: The Life and Times of Princess Catherine Radziwiłł.
  3. ^ Roberts, Brian. (1969). Cecil Rhodes and the princess. Hamilton. ISBN 0-241-01603-7.
  4. ^ Anthony, Thomas. (November 1997). Rhodes: The Race for Africa. London Bridge. ISBN 0-563-38742-4.
  5. ^ "PRINCESS RADZIWILL QUIZZED AT LECTURE". The New York Times. 4 March 1921. Retrieved 2008-08-10.  cf. Full article
  6. ^ "Protocols Forged in Paris" Says Princess Radziwill In an Exclusive Interview With ISAAC LANDMAN, published in The American Hebrew, February 25, 1921, Volume 108 Number 15, page 422.

External links[edit]