Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark)
||This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. The specific problem is: article filled with POV and unsourced assertions. (September 2013)|
(Dagmar of Denmark)
|Empress consort of All the Russias|
|Tenure||13 March 1881 – 1 November 1894|
|Coronation||27 May 1883|
26 November 1847|
Yellow Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark
|Died||13 October 1928
|Burial||Peter and Paul Cathedral|
|Spouse||Alexander III of Russia|
|Issue||Nicholas II of Russia
Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich
Grand Duke George Alexandrovich
Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna
Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich
Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna
|House||House of Romanov-Holstein-Gottorp|
|Father||Christian IX of Denmark|
|Mother||Louise of Hesse-Kassel|
|Religion||Lutheran upon marriage Russian Orthodox|
Maria Feodorovna (26 November 1847 – 13 October 1928), christened Dagmar, was a Danish princess who became Empress of Russia as spouse of Emperor Alexander III of Russia. She was the second daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark and Louise of Hesse-Cassel and sister of Britain's Queen Alexandra, and King George I of Greece. Among her children was the last Russian monarch, Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, whom she outlived by ten years.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Engagements and marriage
- 3 Tsarevna
- 4 Empress of All the Russias
- 5 Dowager Empress
- 6 Revolution and exile
- 7 Death and burial
- 8 Film and stage representations of the Dowager Empress
- 9 Issue
- 10 Paintings by Maria Feodorovna
- 11 Ancestry
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Princess Marie Sophie Frederikke Dagmar was born at the Yellow Palace in Copenhagen. Her father was Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, a member of a relatively impoverished princely cadet line. Her mother was Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel.
She was baptised into the Lutheran faith and named after her kinswoman Marie Sophie of Hesse-Kassel, Queen Dowager of Denmark as well as the medieval Danish queen, Dagmar of Bohemia. Growing up, she was known by the name Dagmar. Most of her life, she was known as Maria Feodorovna (Russian: Мари́я Фёдоровна), the name which she took when she converted to Orthodoxy immediately before her 1866 marriage to the future Emperor Alexander III. She was known within her family as Minnie.
In 1852, Dagmar's father became heir-presumptive to the throne of Denmark, largely due to the succession rights of his wife Louise as niece of King Christian VIII. In 1853, he was given the title Prince of Denmark and he and his family were given an official summer residence, Bernstorff Palace. Dagmar's father became King of Denmark in 1863 upon the death of King Frederick VII.
Due to the brilliant marital alliances of his children, he became known as the "Father-in-law of Europe." Dagmar's eldest brother would succeed his father as King Frederick VIII of Denmark (one of whose sons would be elected as King of Norway). Her elder, and favourite, sister, Alexandra married Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) in March 1863. Alexandra, along with being queen consort of King Edward VII, was also mother of George V of the United Kingdom, which helps to explain the striking resemblance between their sons Nicholas II and George V. Within months of Alexandra's marriage, Dagmar's second older brother, Wilhelm, was elected as King George I of the Hellenes. Her younger sister was Thyra, Duchess of Cumberland. She also had another younger brother, Valdemar.
During her upbringing, Dagmar, together with her sister Alexandra, was given swimming lessons by the Swedish pioneer of swimming for women, Nancy Edberg; she would later welcome Edberg to Russia, where she came on royal scholarship to hold swimming lessons for women.
Engagements and marriage
The rise of Slavophile ideology in the Russian Empire led Alexander II of Russia to search for a bride for the heir apparent, Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich of Russia, in countries other than the German states that had traditionally provided consorts for the tsars. In 1864, Nicholas, or "Nixa" as he was known in his family, went to Denmark where he was betrothed to Dagmar. On 22 April 1865 he died from meningitis. His last wish was that Dagmar would marry his younger brother, the future Alexander III. Dagmar was distraught after her young fiancé's death. She was so heartbroken when she returned to her homeland that her relatives were seriously worried about her health. She had already become emotionally attached to Russia and often thought of the huge, remote country that was to have been her home. The disaster had brought her very close to "Nixa's" parents, and she received a letter from Alexander II in which the Emperor attempted to console her. He told Dagmar in very affectionate terms that he hoped she would still consider herself a member of their family. In June 1866, while on a visit to Copenhagen, the Tsarevich Alexander asked Dagmar for her hand. They had been in her room looking over photographs together.
Dagmar left Copenhagen on 1 September 1866. Hans Christian Andersen, who had occasionally been invited to tell stories to Dagmar and her siblings when they were children, was among the crowd which flocked to the quay in order to see her off. The writer remarked in his diary: "Yesterday, at the quay, while passing me by, she stopped and took me by the hand. My eyes were full of tears. What a poor child! Oh Lord, be kind and merciful to her! They say that there is a brilliant court in Saint Petersburg and the tsar's family is nice; still, she heads for an unfamiliar country, where people are different and religion is different and where she will have none of her former acquaintances by her side".
Dagmar was warmly welcomed in Kronstadt by Alexander II of Russia and all his family. She converted to Orthodoxy and became Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna of Russia. The lavish wedding took place on 9 November [O.S. 28 October] 1866 in the Imperial Chapel of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Financial constraints had prevented her parents from attending the wedding, and in their stead, they sent her brother, Crown Prince Frederick. Her brother-in-law, the Prince of Wales, had also travelled to St. Petersburg for the ceremony; pregnancy had prevented the Princess of Wales from attending. After the wedding night, Alexander wrote in his diary, "I took off my slippers and my silver embroidered robe and felt the body of my beloved next to mine... How I felt then, I do not wish to describe here. Afterwards we talked for a long time." After the many wedding parties were over the newlyweds moved into the Anichkov Palace in St. Petersburg where they were to live for the next 15 years, when they were not taking extended holidays at their summer villa Livadia in the Crimean Peninsula.
Maria Feodorovna was pretty and popular. Early on she made it a priority to learn the Russian language and to try to understand the Russian people. She rarely interfered with politics, preferring to devote her time and energies to her family, charities and the more social side of her position. Her one exception was her militant anti-German sentiment due to the annexation of Danish territories by Prussia in 1864, a sentiment echoed by her sister, Alexandra.
On 6 May 1868, Maria Feodorovna became a mother for the first time, with the birth of her eldest son, Nicholas. Her next son, Alexander Alexandrovich, born in 1869 died from meningitis in infancy. She would bear Alexander four more children who reached adulthood: George (b. 1871), Xenia (b. 1875), Michael (b. 1878) and Olga (b. 1882). As a mother, she doted on and was quite possessive of her sons. However, she had a more distant relationship with her daughters.
In 1873, Maria, Alexander and their two eldest sons made a journey to England. The imperial couple and their children were entertained at Marlborough House by the Prince and Princess of Wales, and delighted London society by dressing alike at social gatherings. The following year, Maria and Alexander welcomed the Prince and Princess of Wales to St. Petersburg, who had come for the wedding of the Prince's younger brother, Alfred, to Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna, daughter of Tsar Alexander II and the sister of the tsarevich.
Empress of All the Russias
On the morning of 13 March 1881, Alexander II, aged 62, was killed by a bomb on the way back to the Winter Palace from a military parade. In her diary, Maria later described how the wounded, still living Emperor was taken to the palace: "His legs were crushed terribly and ripped open to the knee; a bleeding mass, with half a boot on the right foot, and only the sole of the foot remaining on the left." Alexander II died a few hours later. Although the people were not enamoured of the new emperor, they adored Russia's new empress. As Maria's contemporaries said of her: "She is truly an empress." She herself was not altogether pleased with her new status. In her diary she wrote, "Our happiest and serenest times are now over. My peace and calm are gone, for now I will only ever be able to worry about Sasha." Despite being haunted by her father-in-law's gruesome death and her anxiety over the safety of her husband, at Alexander II's funeral, she was at least afforded the comfort of the presence of her brother-in-law and favourite sister, the Prince and Princess of Wales, the latter of whom, despite her husband's reluctance and Queen Victoria's objections, stayed on in Russia with Maria for several weeks after the funeral.
Alexander and Maria were crowned at the Kremlin in Moscow on 27 May 1883. Just before the coronation, a major conspiracy had been uncovered, which cast a pall over the celebration. Nevertheless, over 8000 guests attended the splendid ceremony. Because of the many threats against Maria and Alexander III, the head of the security police, General Cherevin, shortly after the coronation urged the Tsar and his family to relocate to Gatchina Palace, a more secure location 50 kilometres outside St. Petersburg. The huge palace had 900 rooms and was built by Catherine the Great. The Romanovs heeded the advice. Maria and Alexander III lived at Gatchina for 13 years, and it was here that their five surviving children grew up.
Under heavy guard, Alexander III and Maria made periodic trips from Gatchina to the capital to take part in official events. Maria longed for the balls and gatherings in the Winter Palace. These also occurred at Gatchina. Alexander used to enjoy joining in with the musicians, although he would end up sending them off one by one. When that happened, Maria knew the party was over.
As tsarevna, and then as tsarina, Maria Feodorovna had something of a social rivalry with the popular Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, wife of her Russian brother-in-law, Grand Duke Vladimir. This rivalry had echoed the one shared by their husbands, and served to exacerbate the rift within the family. While Maria Feodorovna knew better than to publicly criticise both the Grand Duke and Duchess in public, Marie Pavlovna had earned the caustic epithet of "Empress Vladimir" from the tsarina.
Nearly each summer, Maria, Alexander and their children would make an annual trip to Denmark, where her parents, King Christian IX and Queen Louise, hosted family reunions. Maria's brother, King George I, and his wife, Queen Olga, would come up from Athens with their children, and the Princess of Wales, often without her husband, would come with some of her children from England. In contrast to the tight security observed in Russia, the tsar, tsarina and their children relished in the relative freedom that they could enjoy at Bernstorff and Fredensborg.
During Alexander III's reign, the monarchy's opponents quickly disappeared underground. A group of students had been planning to assassinate Alexander III on the sixth anniversary of his father's death at the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. The plotters had stuffed hollowed-out books with dynamite, which they intended to throw at the Tsar when he arrived at the cathedral. However, the Russian secret police uncovered the plot before it could be carried out. Five students were hanged; amongst them was Aleksandr Ulyanov, older brother of Vladimir Lenin.
The biggest threat to the lives of the tsar and his family, however, came not from terrorists, but from a derailment of the imperial train in the fall of 1888. Maria and her family had been at lunch in the dining car when the train jumped the tracks and slid down an embankment, causing the roof of the dining car to nearly cave in on them.
When Maria's eldest sister Alexandra visited Gatchina in July 1894, she was surprised to see how weak her brother-in-law Alexander III had become. At the time Maria had long known that he was ill and did not have long left. She now turned her attention to her eldest son, the future Nicholas II, for it was on him that both her personal future and the future of the dynasty now depended.
Nicholas had long had his heart set on marrying Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, a favourite grandchild of Queen Victoria. Despite the fact that she was their godchild, neither Alexander III nor Maria approved of the match. Nicholas summed up the situation as follows: "I wish to move in one direction, and it is clear that Mama wishes me to move in another - my dream is to one day marry Alix." Maria and Alexander found Alix shy and somewhat peculiar. They were also concerned that the young Princess was not possessed of the right character to be Empress of Russia. Nicholas's parents had known Alix as a child and formed the impression that she was hysterical and unbalanced. It was only when Alexander III's health was beginning to fail that they reluctantly gave permission for Nicholas to propose.
On 1 November 1894, Alexander III died aged just 49 at Livadia. In her diary Maria wrote, "I am utterly heartbroken and despondent, but when I saw the blissful smile and the peace in his face that came after, it gave me strength." Two days later, the Prince and Princess of Wales arrived at Livadia from London. While the Prince of Wales took it upon himself to involve himself in the preparations for the funeral, the Princess of Wales spent her time comforting grieving Maria, including praying with her and sleeping at her bedside.
Maria Feodorovna's birthday was a week after the funeral, and as it was a day in which court mourning could be somewhat relaxed, Nicholas used the day to marry Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, who took the name Alexandra Feodorovna. Upon Nicholas and Alexandra's marriage, Maria officially became dowager empress.
Once the death of Alexander III had receded, Maria again took a brighter view of the future. "Everything will be all right," as she said. Maria continued to live in the Anichkov Palace in St. Petersburg and at Gatchina Palace. In May 1896, she travelled to Moscow for the coronation of Nicholas and Alexandra.
As a new Imperial Train was constructed for Nicholas II in time for his coronation, Alexander III's "Temporary Imperial Train" (composed of the cars that had survived the Borki disaster and a few converted standard passenger cars) was transferred to the Empress Dowager's personal use.
Maria Feodorovna's grandson-in-law, Prince Felix Yusupov, noted that she had great influence in the Romanov family. Sergei Witte praised her tact and diplomatic skill. Nevertheless, despite her social tact, she did not get along well with her daughter-in-law, Tsarina Alexandra, holding her responsible for many of the woes that beset her son Nicholas and the Russian Empire in general. The fact that Russian court custom dictated that a dowager empress took precedence over an empress consort, combined with the possessiveness that Maria had of her sons, and her jealousy of Empress Alexandra only served to exacerbate tensions between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.
By the turn of the twentieth century, Maria was spending increasing time abroad. In 1906, following the death of their father, King Christian IX, she and her sister, Alexandra, who had become queen-consort of the United Kingdom in 1901, purchased the villa of Hvidøre. The following year, a change in political circumstances allowed Maria Feodorovna to be welcomed to England by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, Maria's first visit to England since 1873. Following a visit in early 1908, Maria Feodorovna was present at her brother-in-law and sister's visit to Russia that summer. A little under two years later, Maria Feodorovna travelled to England yet again, this time for the funeral of her brother-in-law, King Edward VII, in May 1910. During her nearly three-month visit to England in 1910, Maria Feodorovna attempted, unsuccessfully, to get her sister, now Dowager Queen Alexandra, to claim a position of precedence over her daughter-in-law, Queen Mary.
Empress Maria Feodorovna, the mistress of Langinkoski retreat, was also otherwise a known friend of Finland. During the first russification period, she tried to have her son halt the constraining of the grand principality's autonomy and to recall the unpopular Governor-General Bobrikov from Finland to some other position in Russia itself. During the second russification period, at the start of the First World War, the Dowager Empress, travelling by her special train through Finland to Saint Petersburg, expressed her continued disapprobation for the russification of Finland by having an orchestra of a welcoming committee to play the March of the Pori Regiment and the Finnish national anthem "Maamme", which at the time were under the explicit ban from Franz Albert Seyn, the Governor-General of Finland.
In 1899, Maria's second son, George, died of tuberculosis in the Caucasus. During the funeral, she kept her composure, but at the end of the service, she ran from the church clutching her son's top hat that been atop the coffin and collapsed in her carriage sobbing. Two years later, according to her daughter, Grand Duchess Olga, she arranged Olga's disastrous marriage to Peter, Duke of Oldenburg. For years Nicholas refused to grant his unhappy sister a divorce, only relenting in 1916 in the midst of the War. When Olga attempted to contract a morganatic marriage with Nikolai Kulikovsky, Maria Feodorovna and the tsar tried to dissuade her, yet, they did not protest too vehemently. Indeed, Maria Feodorovna was one of the few people who attended the wedding in November 1916. In 1912, Maria faced trouble with her youngest son, when he secretly married his mistress, much to the outrage and scandal of both Maria Feodorovna and Nicholas.
In May 1914, Maria Feodorovna travelled to England to visit her sister. While she was in London, World War I broke out, forcing her to hurry home to Russia. In Berlin her train was prevented by the German authorities from continuing toward the Russian border. Instead she was obliged to return to Russia by way of (neutral) Denmark and Finland. Upon her return in August, she took up residence at Yelagin Palace, which was closer to St. Petersburg (renamed Petrograd in 1916) than Gatchina. During the War, she served as president of Russia's Red Cross. As she had done a decade earlier in the Russo-Japanese War, she also financed a sanitary train. In 1916, the Dowager Empress left Petrograd to live in the Mariyinsky Palace in Kiev, reportedly in protest over the influence of Grigori Rasputin at court. She never again returned to Russia's capital.
Revolution and exile
Revolution came to Russia in 1917, first with the February Revolution, then with Nicholas II's abdication on 15 March. After travelling from Kiev to meet with her deposed son, Nicholas II in Mogilev, Maria returned to the city, where she quickly realised how Kiev had changed and that her presence was no longer wanted. She was persuaded by her family there to travel to the Crimea by train with a group of other refugee Romanovs.
After a time living in one of the imperial residences in the Crimea, she received reports that her sons, her daughter-in-law and her grandchildren had been murdered. However, she publicly rejected the report as a rumour. On the day after the murder of the Tsar's family, Maria received a messenger from Nicky, "a touching man" who told how difficult was the life of her son's family in Yekaterinburg. "And nobody can help or liberate them - only God! My Lord save my poor, unlucky Nicky, help him in his hard ordeals!" In her diary she comforted herself: "I am sure they all got out of Russia and now the Bolsheviks are trying to hide the truth." She firmly held on to this conviction until her death. The truth was too painful for her to admit publicly. Her letters to her son and his family have since almost all been lost; but in one that survives, she wrote to Nicholas: "You know that my thoughts and prayers never leave you. I think of you day and night and sometimes feel so sick at heart that I believe I cannot bear it any longer. But God is merciful. He will give us strength for this terrible ordeal." Maria's daughter Olga Alexandrovna commented further on the matter, "Yet I am sure that deep in her heart my mother had steeled herself to accept the truth some years before her death."
Despite the overthrow of the monarchy in 1917, the former Dowager Empress Maria at first refused to leave Russia. Only in 1919, at the urging of her sister, Dowager Queen Alexandra, did she begrudgingly depart, fleeing Crimea over the Black Sea to London. King George V sent the warship HMS Marlborough to retrieve his aunt. After a brief stay in the British base in Malta, she travelled to England, to stay with her sister, Alexandra. Although Queen Alexandra never treated her sister badly and they spent time together at Marlborough House in London and at Sandringham House in Norfolk, Maria, as a deposed dowager empress, felt that she was now "number two," in contrast to her sister, a popular dowager queen, and she eventually returned to her native Denmark. After living briefly with her nephew, King Christian X, in a wing of the Amalienborg Palace, she chose her holiday villa Hvidøre near Copenhagen as her new permanent home.
There were many Russian émigrées in Copenhagen who continued to regard her as the Empress and often asked her for help. The All-Russian Monarchical Assembly held in 1921 offered her the locum tenens of the Russian throne but she declined with the evasive answer "Nobody saw Nicky killed" and therefore there is a chance. She rendered financial support to Nikolai Sokolov who studied the circumstances of the death of the Tsar's family but they never met. The Grand Duchess Olga sent a telegram to Paris cancelling an appointment because it would have been too difficult for the old and sick woman to hear the terrible story of her son and his family.
Death and burial
In November 1925, Maria's favourite sister, Queen Alexandra, died. That was the last loss that she could bear. "She was ready to meet her Creator," wrote her son-in-law, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, about Maria's last years. On 13 October 1928 at Hvidøre near Copenhagen, in a house she had once shared with her sister Queen Alexandra, Maria died at the age of 80, having outlived four of her six children. Following services in Copenhagen's Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Church, the Empress was interred at Roskilde Cathedral.
In 2005, Queen Margarethe II of Denmark and President Vladimir Putin of Russia and their respective governments agreed that the Empress's remains should be returned to St. Petersburg in accordance with her wish to be interred next to her husband. A number of ceremonies took place from 23 to 28 September 2006. The funeral service, attended by high dignitaries, including the Crown Prince and Princess of Denmark and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, did not pass without some turbulence. The crowd around the coffin was so great that a young Danish diplomat fell into the grave before the coffin was interred. On 26 September 2006, a statue of Maria Feodorovna was unveiled near her favourite Cottage Palace in Peterhof. Following a service at Saint Isaac's Cathedral, she was interred next to her husband Alexander III in the Peter and Paul Cathedral on 28 September 2006, 140 years after her first arrival in Russia and almost 78 years after her death.
Film and stage representations of the Dowager Empress
NBC-TV 1986 miniseries Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna, in which Olivia de Havilland portrays the Dowager Empress, represents her as considering a personal meeting with Anna Anderson, the woman who claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia. There is no evidence that the Empress Dowager ever had such an intention (or indeed that she had ever been requested to grant an audience to the woman).
Tsar Alexander III and Maria Feodorovna had four sons and two daughters:
|HIM Tsar Nicholas II||18 May 1868||17 July 1918||married 1894, to Alexandra Feodorovna; had issue|
|HIH Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich of Russia||7 June 1869||2 May 1870|
|HIH Grand Duke George Alexandrovich of Russia||9 May 1871||9 August 1899|
|HIH Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia||6 April 1875||20 April 1960||married 1894, to Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia; had issue|
|HIH Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia||4 December 1878||13 June 1918||married 1912, Natalia Brasova; had issue|
|HIH Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia||13 June 1882||24 November 1960||married 1901, Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg, 1916, Nikolai Kulikovsky; had issue|
Paintings by Maria Feodorovna
- "Idun (1890): Nr 15 (121) (Swedish)" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-06-17.
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- Malevinsky (1900)
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- The Diaries of Empress Marie Feodorovna, p. 239[full citation needed]
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- Af mier, pmol. "Mand faldt ned i Dagmars grav" (in Danish). Nyhederne.tv2.dk. Retrieved 2014-06-17.
- Barkovets, A. I.; Tenikhina, V. M. (2006). Empress Maria Fiodorovna. St. Petersburg: Abris Publishers.
- Battiscombe, Georgina (1969). Queen Alexandra. Constable & Company.
- Hall, Coryne (2001). Little Mother of Russia: a Biography of Empress Marie Feodorovna. London: Shepheard-Walwyn. ISBN 978-0-8419-1421-6.
- King, Greg (2006). The Court of the Last Tsar: Pomp, Power and Pageantry in the Reign of Nicholas II. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-471-72763-7.
- Korneva, Galina; Cheboksarova, Tatiana (2006). Empress Maria Feodorovna's Favourite Residences in Russia and Denmark. St. Petersburg: Liki Rossi.
- Lerche, Anna; Mandal, Marcus (2003). A Royal Family – The Story of Christian IX and his European descendants. Aschehoug. ISBN 87-15-10957-7.
- Malevinsky, P. (1900). "Императорский ширококолейный поезд для путешествий по России постройки 1896 - 1897 гг. Составлено под руководством Временного Строительного Комитета по постройке Императорских поездов инженером П. Малевинским" [Imperial broad-gauge train for travel in Russia, constructed in 1896-1897] (PDF) (in Russian). МПС России (Russia's Ministry of the Means of Transportation).
- Van der Kiste, John (2004). The Romanovs: 1818–1959. Stroud, UK: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 075093459X.
- Vorres, Ian (1985). The Last Grand Duchess. London: Finedawn Publishers.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark).|
- (Russian)/(Danish)/(English) Website of the Danish Cultural Society Dagmaria
Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark)
Cadet branch of the House of OldenburgBorn: 26 November 1847 Died: 13 October 1928
Title last held byMarie of Hesse and by Rhine
|Empress consort of Russia
Title next held byAlix of Hesse and by Rhine