Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna on her wedding day to Colonel Nicholas Kulikovsky in Kiev, 1916.
My mother is watching ‘The View’ right now, a show I absolutely despise. I was upstairs getting ready and heard them talking about relationship statistics. The claim made was that when women are better educated, fewer marriages take place and fewer babies are born. Personally, I find this very offensive. It insinuates that women who marry and have children are uneducated and consequently “need” a man to survive.
You can’t call yourself a feminist if you judge other women for the choices they make in life. If a woman chooses to get married and have a family and be a homemaker, good for her! My grandmother did it, my mother did it, and I hope that someday I can too. The fact that my mom stayed home and took care of us is one of the things I admire most about her. My grandmother, who just passed away, gave birth to nine children and raised eight (number nine died at birth). Not everyone is born with the gift of being a nurturer. Choosing to be a wife and mother does not make you less intelligent, less educated, or less important.
If a woman chooses not to get married and to have a career instead, good for her! It’s her choice. I know of a lot of women who are perfectly happy in this lifestyle. If a woman chooses to get married and not have kids, good for her. If she chooses to get married and have kids and a career, good for her! If she decides to adopt a child and remain single, great!
Feminism is about the ability to make your own choices. My mother and grandmother chose to be homemakers. I had the opportunity to get a college education and I graduated from a private college with honors. Guess what? I still want to get married and be a wife and mother. Suck on that Barbara Walters.
I should probably stop looking at the engagement ring I picked out last year because it just depresses me that I’m still not wearing it.
Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna and her first husband Prince Peter of Oldenburg: 1901.
The Grand Duchess said of her first marriage:
”To tell you the truth, I was just tricked into it. I was asked to a party at the Voronzovs’. I remember I did not want to go but I thought it would be unwise to refuse. Hardly had I got there than Sandra took me to her sitting room upstairs, stood back, let me go in, and then closed the door on me. And imagine my amazement when I saw old Cousin Peter standing there, looking extremely ill at ease. I can’t remember what I said. I do remember that he did not look at me. I heard him stammer through a proposal. I was so taken aback that all I could say was ‘thank you,’ when the door flew open, Countess Voronzov ran in, embraced me, and cried ‘All my congratulations!’ I can’t remember anything of what followed. That evening at the Anitchkov, I went to Michael’s rooms and we wept together.”
Source: The Last Grand Duchess: Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna by Ian Vorres.
I saw that someone who reblogged my Anastasia post earlier today wondered if Anastasia may have gotten married young if the war had not intervened, in response to my statement that she had no specific romantic interest that we know of.
So, here is what I think:
As far as I know, Anastasia’s marital prospects were never seriously considered. She was the youngest of four daughters, and consequently behind her sisters in priority of marriage. Even in the early twentieth century, many royals did marry in their late teens. However, Nicholas’ nuclear family was a notable exception. By the time Alexandra agreed to marry Nicholas in 1894, he was twenty-six and she was twenty-two (almost an old maid by the standards of the day). They married for love and had a successful, lasting marriage unlike many of their relatives. Nicholas and Alexandra wanted their children to be happy in their marriages like they were and would not push them into unwanted dynastic matches.
This is quite obvious based on the failed match between Olga (then 19) and Carol of Romania in 1914. It is clear that Olga had the ultimate veto on the match, as she told Pierre Gilliard “Papa has promised not to force me, and I don’t want it so it won’t happen.”
A year later, Carol asked for Maria, who was then just sixteen. Nicholas laughed at the proposal and told Carol that Maria was only a school girl.
Anastasia turned sixteen in June of 1917. Her parents still considered her very much a child (as they really did all of their children, who were very sheltered). In addition, Alexandra was a very doting mother who was dependent on her daughters. She was reluctant to let them leave the nest.
Based on the fact that the tsar deemed sixteen far too young for marriage and Anastasia’s eldest sister was still unmarried at the age of twenty-one, Anastasia would probably not have married for at least another five years, if at all. She may not have wanted to get married, and her parents certainly would not have forced her.
Even in the best of circumstances, Anastasia would not have been married until after her sisters and certainly not by 1917-1918. If the family had lived, I would say Anastasia would have been considered to be at an acceptable marriageable age around 1923.
There appears to be some interest of late on the topic of who the Grand Duchesses might have married if they had had the chance. Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.
First of all- all of the girls would certainly have made dynastic marriages if explicitly commanded to do so by their parents. Luckily for them, Nicholas was not a forceful kind of person and I think, genuinely wanted his daughters to marry for love. Alexandra always said she wanted the girls to have what she and Nicholas had, but honestly I think she wanted to control them as long as possible.
We know that Olga was considered for several dynastic matches: Prince Carol of Romania, Prince Edward of Wales, and even her father’s cousin Grand Duke Dmitri. Evidently she rejected all of them, and anyhow, Dmitri came to be considered unsuitable due to his wild lifestyle.
In 1913 and 1914, Olga was in love with Pavel Voronov as I discussed in an earlier post. Her parents (personally I believe it was mostly Alix) sabotaged this match. In 1915, Olga begins to mention “Mitya” in her diary. It appears that he was actually Dmitri Shakh-Bagov, an officer from the Caucuses who was treated in the hospital at Tsarskoe Selo. He was born in 1893 and apparently reciprocated Olga’s affection, but the war intervened and he was sent back to the front.
It is unclear whether Olga ever considered marrying Mitya, but it seems likely that marriage was probably on her mind. In 1915, she was already 20 years old. Her cousin Irina, who was only a few months older than she was, was already married with a child. Olga was especially close to her Aunt Olga Alexandrovna, who in 1916 was granted a divorce from Peter of Oldenburg so she could marry Colonel Nicholas Kulikovsky. She mentions in a letter from captivity in Tsarskoe Selo that she regrets not having had a “heart to heart” with her aunt at their last meeting. Could she have wanted to discuss her love life? We will never know for sure, but I think that based on Olga’s track record, she would have probably married an officer and really been quite happy.
The gentleman with his head circled between Olga and Tatiana is Mitya.
During the war, Tatiana met a young soldier named Dmitri Malama while working in the hospital. She treated his injuries and evidently he admired her, because he gave her her dog Ortino (the first one) as a gift. They were by no means a “couple,” in modern terms, but Alexandra commented in a 1916 letter to Nicholas “I must say, a perfect son-in-law he would have been-why are foreign princes not as nice? Ortino [the dog] had to be shown to his ‘father’ of course.” Malama was born in 1891 and apparently when he learned of the murder of the Imperial Family, he went out of his way to be killed in action fighting for the Whites in 1919. I think that Tatiana would have liked to marry Malama, and he certainly cared for her. It’s even possible that Alexandra might have allowed the match, had things been different. (Tatiana was her favorite, after all.) However, I do think that Tatiana would have been most likely to make a dynastic marriage without complaint simply to make her parents happy.
Tatiana standing next to Dmitri Malama’s hospital bed. Olga is sitting near his feet.
Maria always wanted to marry an officer and have many children. I think that she would have followed her sister Olga’s hypothetical footsteps and married a commoner. She was a great flirt and had a crush on Nicholas Demenkov. She often signed her letters to her father playfully with “Mrs. Demenkov.” Maria was very gentle and kind and would have made a wonderful wife and mother.
Demenkov is the man directly behind Tatiana, with the mustache.
With Anastasia, it is difficult to tell. She was really too young to have a particular “sweetheart” and never had one to anyone’s knowledge. I think that she would have been just as happy to marry a commoner as to make a dynastic marriage, as long as it was for love. Who knows, maybe Anastasia did not want to get married.
I think all of the girls would have made wonderful wives and mothers and it is a shame that they never experienced those parts of life and that consequently we will never know about them!
Sources: The Romanovs: Love, Power, and Tragedy by Dr. Manfred Knof, Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nicholaevna, 1913, A Lifelong Passion by Andrei Maylunas and Sergei Mironenko, and The Alexander Palace Time Machine Forum
By 1914, Grand Duchess Olga was 18 1/2, prime marriageable age. As the eldest daughter of the Russian Tsar who would bring beauty, charm, and quite a large fortune to a potential groom’s family, she was one of the most eligible princesses in Europe.
In keeping with the royal tradition of marrying one’s cousins, one of the first suitors Nicholas and Alexandra considered was the son of their first cousin Marie of Romania, Prince Carol. A visit to Romania was arranged for the summer under the guise of a diplomatic visit.
Pierre Gilliard recorded Olga’s reaction to the situation:
Olga: "Tell me the truth monsieur, do you know why were are going to Rumania? "
Gilliard: "I believe it’s a courtesy visit. The Czar is going to return the visit the King of Rumania paid him sometime back."
Olga: "Oh, that’s the official reason…but what’s the real reason? I know you are not supposed to know, but I’m sure everyone is talking about it and that you know it…"
Olga: "All right! But if I don’t wish it, it won’t happen. Papa has promised not to make me…and I don’t want to leave Russia."
Gilliard: "But you could come back as often as you like."
Olga: "I should still be a foreigner in my own country. I’m a Russian, and mean to remain a Russian."
The Romanians threw a lovely gala banquet for the Imperial Family and Olga behaved with her usual charm toward Prince Carol. The day after the banquet, however, the entire marriage scheme had already been abandoned. Olga would not marry Prince Carol.
Below is a photograph of the Russian Imperial Family and their Romanian cousins taken during this visit. Olga is on the far right, seated with a baby on her lap and Prince Carol is the young man with the mustache standing directly behind Tatiana. His mother, Marie of Romania, is on the right side of Tatiana.
Interestingly, a few years later Prince Carol asked the Tsar for his daughter Maria. The Tsar merely laughed and said that Maria was still only a schoolgirl.
In retrospect, some might think that it was a shame that Olga did not marry Prince Carol, as she would have been spared the horrible massacre in Ekaterinburg with her family.
However, I think that Olga would have been extremely unhappy with Prince Carol, who turned out to be an awful person. First, he married the daughter of a Romanian general in 1918 and had one son with her before the marriage was annulled in 1919. He was a notorious philanderer and left his second wife Crown Princess Elena for a mistress while they still had a young son. As a result of this affair, Carol renounced his right to the throne in favor of their son. They were then divorced and his son succeeded to the throne when his father King Ferdinand died in 1927. In 1930, Carol decided that he wanted to be King of Romania after all and kicked his own son off the throne. He was not even kind to his own mother.
In short, an intelligent, beautiful, independent minded young woman like Olga could never have been happy with such a horrible man. Luckily for her, she was perceptive enough to realize this and had parents who had enough respect for her to allow her to choose her own destiny. Sadly, her undying loyalty to her country and to her father had grave consequences in the end.
Sources: Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by Pierre Gilliard and Born to Rule by Julia P. Gelardi