Author Topic: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovitch, his family and life  (Read 262367 times)

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David

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Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovitch, his family and life
« on: February 24, 2004, 08:30:56 PM »
If anyone has the opportunity to read a biography on Grand Duke Michael, dont pass it by. Most notable is his relationship, then forbidden marraige to a Moscovite divorcee Natalie Brassova. She was shunned by almost the whole family, and even recieved etiquette slights when she appeared in public. Michael loved her madly and planned to settle down to a quiet life at one of his country estates. Of course he was killed with his butler in 1918, but Countess Brassova survived with their infant son and moved to Paris. She was also penniless. Everything she tried to do for money failed. With her last 100 pounds, she had Southebys appraise a collection of orders and garters Michael had recieved when heir. She hoped to auction them off to get enough to eeke out the remainder of her life (she was beginning to get ill). Just as hope seemed on the horizon, the countries that bestowed the orders began demanding them back, claiming they could only be awarded, and not sold. She returned them, and spent her final days in an attic appartment in Paris. Her landlady took cruel delight in rediculing and humiliating her pathetic downfall. She was so poor that she often had no food or money. Felix Yusoupov was one of the few old timers who would take her parcels of food and small amounts of cash. Incidentally, her beloved son died in a car accident in the early 30s. She hung on for 20 more years, finally dying of cancer. Hard and sad life!

Offline Jane

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Re: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovitch, his family and life
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2004, 10:51:14 AM »
David, are you are referring to "Michael and Natasha" by Rosemary and Donald Crawford?  I own that book, and have read it several times!  There is also a wonderful book called "Before the Revolution" (by Kyril FitzLyon if memory serves--oh I wish I were at home at the moment!), which has several pictures of Nathalie Brassova in it.  Two of them are captioned, but there is one taken of her and her close friend Madame Schlieffer on the platform of the train station at Gatchina, referring only to 'two fashionable ladies.' If you are at all familiar with her appearance, you can see quite clearly it is Nathalie Brassova, in her lovely white summer hat.  

Offline royalist

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Re: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovitch, his family and life
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2004, 01:12:16 PM »
There is another book ---hard to find-- by Nathalie's daughter from a previous marriage:
Step-daughter of Imperial Russia by Nathalie Majolier.  


David

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Re: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovitch, his family and life
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2004, 07:17:22 PM »
There are so many books Id love to read! Thank God Alexander Palace Time Machine has gone to such lengths to reproduce a few of them. Natalie sure was a beauty- maybe even the archtype of the doe eyed Edwardian Lady. I can recall one photo in particular...taken at Gatchina I think...of her in a wicker chair and Michael perched on the arm. It was her birthday and she had baskets of flowers around her. My how ones world can change!

Offline Almedingen

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Re: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovitch, his family and life
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2004, 04:41:37 PM »
The book Step-Daughter of Russia by Majolier can be bought as a reprint from Royalty Digest at:

http://www.picrare.com/Royalty_Digest/RDBookForSale/RDReprints.htm
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Almedingen »

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovitch, his family and life
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2004, 08:20:15 PM »
There is also THE GRAND DUKE"S WOMAN, by Pauline Gray.  Not sure where this fits in with the other mentions,  but is about Nathalie [Nathalia]
Life may not be the party we expected, but while we are here, might as well dance..

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Hessen

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Re: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovitch, his family and life
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2004, 12:55:03 AM »
 I was wondering,Grand Duke Michael who ruled as Tsar for a day did not abdicate but murdered.So his decendant should be the Pretender.For Countess Brassova, who were an ex-empress,must she be given special treatment equally to her in-laws?And if not as an ex-empress,as the mother of the Prentender to the imperial throne.

Offline Greg_King

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Re: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovitch, his family and life
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2004, 12:56:53 AM »
Quote
There is also THE GRAND DUKE"S WOMAN, by Pauline Gray.  Not sure where this fits in with the other mentions,  but is about Nathalie [Nathalia]


Pauline was Natasha's granddaughter from her previous marriage.  She lived in Hampshire last I heard from her.  Her book drew heavily on Natasha's diaries and letters, which she had until she turned them over to the Russian Collection at Leeds.  When I visited her she had kept only one thing-Natasha's nightgown.

Greg King

Offline Sarai

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Re: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovitch, his family and life
« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2004, 07:31:43 AM »
Hessen,
There is a response to your question on another thread here, called "The Succession." Somebody else also asked the question about Grand Duke Michael's son with Nathalie becoming Tsar, and here is a helpful response posted by Jane: "Interesting "what if" to ponder...however, I would have to respectfully disagree with you about Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich's son George standing in the line of succession.  First, George was born out of wedlock.  His parents didn't marry until about two years after his birth.  Second, Mikhail A. married a twice-divorced woman without the Emperor's permission, in violation of the family laws.  Third, even though Nicholas finally relented and allowed George to be given the surname of Brassov and the right of legitimacy, did he not eliminate the son from the succession?" You can read more about that topic on that other thread, but apparently Michael's descendant would not have inherited the throne.

Offline Nick_Nicholson

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Re: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovitch, his family and life
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2004, 07:41:24 AM »
Dear Hessen, et al.


You Say: "Third, even though Nicholas finally relented and allowed George to be given the surname of Brassov and the right of legitimacy, did he not eliminate the son from the succession"

The Fundamental laws are clear.  Count Brassov, son of GD Michael and Natalia was never in the succession.  He was (forgive me) bastard issue.  When Nicholas chose to recognize Michael's marriage, he recognized it as a "morganatic union" morganatic means outside of the family.  Though Count Brassov was regarded as a nobleman, he was never regarded as a dynast or as a member of the Imperial Family, let alone someone who would ever succeed to its rights and priveleges.
Nick Nicholson
New York City

Offline Nick_Nicholson

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Re: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovitch, his family and life
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2004, 07:43:29 AM »
Oh, PS.  Hessen --

Michael did abdicate in favor of the provisional government, leaving it up to the assembly to decide whether to make him Emperor by national constituent election.
Nick Nicholson
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Offline Jane

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Re: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovitch, his family and life
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2004, 10:39:07 AM »
While George was "bastard issue," as Nick points out, GD Michael fought with his brother (and the Holy Synod) for years to secure George's legitimacy.  When Natasha became pregnant by Michael, her estranged husband, Vladimir Wulfert was legally the putative father.  Michael would not allow Wulfert to have any legal rights over his son, so ultimately, a few years after George's birth, a "new" birth certificate was issued, with retroactive effect, basically establishing George as legitimate issue of GD Michael and Natasha Wulfert.  Natasha carried a certified copy of it with her at all times as insurance.  So while George was conceived out of wedlock, legally speaking he was 'legitimate' thanks to the power of the law.  

Edited to add thanks to Almedingen re the info above.  :)
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Jane »

Offline Sarai

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Re: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovitch, his family and life
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2004, 06:59:16 PM »
I have the book Michael & Natasha by the Crawfords and agree that it is a very good book on this subject. The authors do a good job of making these two tragic characters appear quite sympathetic, especially Michael. He was so handsome and seemed so romantic and tender with Natasha and her children; he was truly a kind-hearted fellow. I think that their romance was just as touching and compelling as Nicholas and Alexandra's, although perhaps it does not appeal to quite so many because it was not such an innocent affair and Natasha may not be viewed as such a sympathetic character as Alexandra.

It is unfortunate that this couple had to live at a time when divorce was so looked down upon. The authors write, "The uncompromising views of the Dowager Empress, for example, were shared with no less absolute conviction in England by her sister Queen Alexandra, as well as by her daughter-in-law the Empress Alexandra. Their doors were closed firmly in the face of any divorcee, as were those of hostesses, royal or otherwise, who continued to believe, and would go on so believing for half a century more, that divorce was a disgrace which condemned both guilty and innocent parties to the shadows" (pg. 34).

If I have one criticism of this book, however, it is that it seems very one-sided in portraying Michael and Natasha as the hero lovers who fought against all odds for their love, and the Tsar & Tsarina as the jealous villains trying to keep them apart. They are especially hostile towards Alexandra, and seem to play into the typical generalization we have all read so many times of Nicholas as the weak husband controlled by a domineering and hysterical Alexandra. They refer to the Tsarina as Nicholas's "suffocating, tight-mouthed wife" (pg. 44). They put into question her very state of mind, stating: "Natasha was certainly formidable and she would not have survived the past years if she had been otherwise. But at least she was entirely sane. Some people wondered if the same could be said about Alexandra" (pg. 179). And they also portray Alexandra as insanely jealous, on one occasion even ordering some pictures of Natasha that were on display at a studio window taken down by the police in front of a crowd. The Imperial couple are deemed as being very closed-minded and looking down upon anybody who did not share their exemplary family values. I assume that these are all statements based in fact, and admittedly I will give credit to the authors for not being afraid to show the uglier side of the Tsarina by writing about these accounts. On the other hand, if one steps back for a moment and tries to see things from her point of view, one can understand her concern. Nicholas and her were a product of a time when divorced people were looked badly upon, however unfair that may seem to us, and if Michael were to become Tsar one day, they didn't want a twice-divorcee as Empress and her son becoming Tsar. In summary, this is a very interesting book from which I learned things about both couples that I didn't know before.

Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovitch, his family and life
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2004, 11:16:17 PM »
A couple of points here:

Even thought Michael fought for his son to not have Wulfert as his legal father, his son George Brassov was never a dynast. The documents that had Michael listed as his father could in no way have made him a dynast.

Natalia's status as a divorcee was not what made her unacceptable as a partner. You need look no farther than the wife of Nicholas Nicolievich (Jr.). His wife, Anastasia of Montenegro, was the former wife of the Duke of Leuchtenberg, but her second marriage to Nicholasha was dynastic, and she was an Imperial Grand Duchess, albiet by marriage.

Natalia was unacceptable as a wife for Michael for two reasons. First, and most importantly, she was not of royal descent, as required for an Imperial Grand Duke by the Fundamental Law of the Russian Empire. Second, and more subtly, Michael's affair with Natalia was an abuse of power that Nicholas and Alexandra correctly took exception to.

Michael was commander of the regiment of which Lt. Wulfurt was a member. To seduce, then have a child by, and then to marry the wife of an officer who owes you loyalty is surely a tremendous breach of trust, not to mention, an abuse of power. In contemporary terms, it would be like a CEO hitting on the wife of one of his executives. It would be inappropriate now, and it was inappropriate then. Yet, one hears few words in sympathy for Lt. Wulfert, Natalia's quickly discarded 2nd husband.

Finally, Natalia was never Empress. Her husband deferred the crown (not refused it, and also did not abdicate) out of belief in democratic principles.

Offline 3710

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Re: Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovitch, his family and life
« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2004, 09:55:34 AM »
Romanovs had all reason to dislike Brasova. N mentioned  that NB was reading letters sent to Michael by his relatives aloud and was making comments on them to her friends (one can imagine WHAT sort of comments). You do not even have to be a Tsar to dislike that sort of things.
Difficult to judge, though, she was in a difficult situation.
Her photo albums from happy Gatchina times are now inthe Library of  School of Slavonic and East European Studies  in London - poor quality photos, but what  a story behind...
Lisa you are totally right about unappropriety of this affair (this is how the regiment saw it, too). But do you really think it was all Michael's ''doing''? Natalia seems more likely to seduce him then otherwise.

Hate to be judgemental, but does anyone know where her realtives were when she was dying all alone in Paris?
Galina
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 3710 »