Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia

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For other uses, see Grand Duchess Maria of Russia.
Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna
Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Duchess of Edinburgh
Maria de rusia.jpg
Spouse Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Issue Alfred, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Marie, Queen of Romania
Victoria Melita, Grand Duchess of Russia
Alexandra, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg
Princess Beatrice, Duchess of Galliera
House House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
(by marriage)
House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov (by birth)
Father Alexander II of Russia
Mother Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine
Born (1853-10-17)17 October 1853
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Died 24 October 1920(1920-10-24) (aged 67)
Zürich, Switzerland

Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia (later Duchess of Edinburgh and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; 17 October 1853 – 24 October 1920) was a daughter of Alexander II of Russia and Empress Maria Alexandrovna and became the wife of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, the second son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She was also the mother of Queen Marie of Romania.

From 1893 until her death, she had the distinction of being a Russian grand duchess (by birth), a British princess and royal duchess (by marriage), and the consort (and later widow) of a German sovereign duke.

Early life[edit]

The Duchess was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, the second and only surviving daughter of Alexander II, Emperor of Russia (who was assassinated in 1881) by his first wife, Empress Maria Alexandrovna, daughter of Ludwig II, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine. Her eldest surviving brother became Tsar Alexander III (r. 1881-1894). One of her younger brothers, Sergei, was assassinated in 1905, and the youngest, Paul, was executed by the Bolsheviks in 1919. She also was an aunt of Tsar Nicholas II.

At the time of her birth, her grandfather, Tsar Nicholas I, was on the throne and her father was Tsarevich. In 1855, Nicholas died and her father became tsar. While devoted to both parents, she was particularly close with her father.[1]


Grand Duchess Maria was introduced to Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, the second son of Queen Victoria, by the Princess of Wales and the Tsesarevna of Russia during a family holiday in Denmark in 1871.[2] The Princess and Tsesarevna were sisters and Danish princesses. Maria and Alfred married on 23 January 1874 at the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg.[2] The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh made their public entry into London on 12 March.

The marriage, however, was not to become a happy one, and the bride was thought haughty by London Society.[3] Furthermore, Tsar Alexander II's insistence that his daughter be styled "Her Imperial Highness" and have precedence over the then Princess of Wales infuriated Queen Victoria. The Queen insisted that the style "Her Royal Highness" Maria Alexandrovna acquired upon marriage should always precede the style "Her Imperial Highness," which was hers by birth. For her part, the new Duchess of Edinburgh apparently resented the fact that the Princess of Wales, who was the daughter of the King of Denmark, took precedence over her, the daughter of the Emperor of Russia. After the marriage, Maria was varyingly referred to as Her Royal Highness, Her Royal & Imperial Highness, and Her Imperial & Royal Highness.

Queen Victoria granted her precedence immediately after the Princess of Wales. Her father gave her the then staggering sum of £100,000 as a dowry, plus an annual allowance of £28,000.[citation needed] From Russia, along with her dowry, Marie also brought trunks full of elaborate rugs, paintings, and icons, along with jewelry, gowns, and her own Russian Orthodox priest.[4]

Marie had a dislike of life in England. She never got on with Queen Victoria, finding her court dull, in contrast to court of St. Petersburg.[4] In retaliation for the quarrel over precedence, Marie attempted to upstage her mother-in-law by wearing jewels that surpassed those of the queen.[4] She also had a dislike of English weather, and deeply distrusted the British Parliament, convinced that the institution was dangerous and radical.[4]

In June 1880, Marie's mother, Empress Marie Alexandrovna, died. The previous month, Marie had returned home to visit her dying mother, and was horrified to learn that her father had installed his long-time mistress, Catharine Dolgoruky, and their children in apartments at the Winter Palace, directly above the rooms of the dying tsarina.[5] While in the past, she had turned a blind eye to her father's affair with Dolgoruky, a quarrel ensued between father and daughter. The Tsar, who had alienated the rest of the family due to his conduct, and who was distraught to lose one of his final allies in the family, hurriedly retreated from St. Petersburg to Gatchina Palace for a military review.[5] The confrontation, however, evidently prompted the tsar to return to St. Petersburg each morning to inquire after his wife's health.[5]

Marie was in England when she received the news on March 1st, 1881, that her father had been assassinated by the terrorist group Narodnya Volya on his way home to the Winter Palace, and that consequently her eldest surviving brother had become Tsar Alexander III. Alfred and Marie traveled to St. Petersburg for the funeral, from where they sent word back to England suggesting that the presence of the Prince and Princess of Wales, the brother-in-law and sister of the new tsarina, would be appreciated and the prince and princess came to both represent Great Britain and to supply familial support.[6]

  1. ^ Van Der Kiste, John The Romanovs: 1818-1959 (Sutton Publishing, 2003), pg. 67
  2. ^ a b Clay, p. 65
  3. ^ Gelardi, p. 6
  4. ^ a b c d King, Greg. Twilight of Splendor: the Court of Queen Victoria During Her Diamond Jubilee Year John Wiley & Sons, 2007. pg. 56
  5. ^ a b c Van Der Kiste, John. Romanovs: 1818-1959 Sutton Publishing, 2003. pg. 97
  6. ^ Van Der Kiste, pg. 111

Saxe-Coburg and Gotha[edit]

On the death of his uncle, Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, on 22 August 1893, the vacant duchy fell to the Duke of Edinburgh, since his elder brother the Prince of Wales had renounced his right to the succession. Upon her husband's ascension to the Ducal throne, the Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna became Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in addition to being Duchess of Edinburgh. Unlike her husband, she thoroughly enjoyed being in Coburg, having yearned to leave England.[1] As the consort of a sovereign German duke, she technically outranked her sisters-in-law at Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. In 1893, also, her eldest daughter, Marie, married Prince Ferdinand of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. Ferdinand and Marie became king and queen of Romania in 1914.

In 1894, Marie's eldest brother, Tsar Alexander III, died of nephritis, aged forty-nine, leaving his twenty-six-year-old son as Tsar Nicholas II. Alfred and Marie once again traveled to Russia for an imperial funeral, and were again joined by the Prince and Princess of Wales, who came with their eldest surviving son, George, the Duke of York. They also stayed on in St. Petersburg for the wedding of Nicholas to his fiancee, Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, the youngest surviving daughter of the Prince of Wales' and Alfred's deceased sister, Alice.

Alfred and Marie's only son, also named Alfred, attempted suicide in 1899. Although the attempt failed, he died of complications a couple of weeks later. When the elder Alfred died of cancer in July of 1900, making Marie Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the ducal throne went to Alfred's sixteen-year-old nephew, Charles Edward.

Later life[edit]

World War I broke out in August of 1914. In February of 1917, Marie's Romanov relatives in her Russian homeland were overthrown. At the end of the war, Charles Edward was forced into abdication and the twin duchies of Saxe-Coburg and Saxe-Gotha were abolished.

Marie died in October 1920 in Zürich, Switzerland, to where she had withdrawn to avoid post-war German hostility to Russians. Her demise reportedly occurred after receiving a telegram addressed to her as "Frau Coburg";[2] she was buried in the Ducal Family's cemetery outside Coburg. Of her four daughters, Marie, Queen of Romania was forbidden to travel to Germany to attend her funeral in light of Germany and Romania having fought on opposite sides in the recently concluded war.

Titles, styles, honours and arms[edit]

Titles and styles[edit]

Royal styles of
Maria Alexandrovna, Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Arms of the United Kingdom.svg
Reference style Her Imperial and Royal Highness
Spoken style Your Imperial and Royal Highness
Alternative style Ma'am
  • 17 October 1853 – 23 January 1874: Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia
  • 23 January 1874 – 22 August 1893: Her Imperial and Royal Highness The Duchess of Edinburgh
  • 22 August 1893 – 11 October 1905: Her Imperial and Royal Highness The Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duchess of Edinburgh
  • 11 October 1905 – 24 October 1920: Her Imperial and Royal Highness The Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Dowager Duchess of Edinburgh



Image Name Birth Death Notes
Erbprinz-alfred-von-sachsen-coburg-gotha.jpg Prince Alfred
("Young Affie")
15 October 1874 6 February 1899 Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from 22 August 1893
MarieRoumanie.jpg Princess Marie
29 October 1875 18 July 1938 married, 10 January 1893, King Ferdinand I of Romania (1865–1927); had issue
Vitoria Melita.JPG Princess Victoria Melita
25 November 1876 2 March 1936 married (1), 19 April 1894, Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine; had issue; divorced 21 December 1901

(2) 8 October 1905, the Cyril Vladimirovich, Grand Duke of Russia; had issue

Alexandrabritain1878.jpeg Princess Alexandra
1 September 1878 16 April 1942 married, 20 April 1896, Ernst II, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg; had issue
Beatriceedinburgh1884.jpg Princess Beatrice 20 April 1884 13 July 1966 married, 15 July 1909, Infante Alfonso of Spain, 3rd Duke of Galliera; had issue


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gelardi, p. 14
  2. ^ Prince Michael of Greece (2006). Jewels of the tsars: the Romanovs & Imperial Russia. NY, USA: Vendome Press. p. 85. ISBN 9781902686554. 


  • Clay, Catrine (2006). King, Kaiser, Tsar: Three Royal Cousins Who Led the World to War. New York: Walker & Company. ISBN 0-8027-1623-7. 
  • Gelari, Julia P. (2005). Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0-312-32424-3. 
  • Sandner, Harold (2004). Das Haus von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha 1826 bis 2001 (in German). Andreas, Prinz von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha (preface). 96450 Coburg: Neue Presse GmbH. ISBN 3-00-008525-4. 
Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia
Cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg
Born: 17 October 1853 Died: 24 October 1920
German nobility
Preceded by
Alexandrine of Baden
Duchess consort of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
22 August 1893 – 30 July 1900
Title next held by
Victoria Adelaide of Schleswig-Holstein