L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Monday, April 14, 2014

Alexandra Petrovna - from Grand Duchess to nun

Grand Duchess Alexandra Petrovna (2 June 1838, St. Petersburg – 25 April 1900, Kiev), born Duchess Alexandra Frederika Wilhelmina of Oldenburg, was the eldest of the eight children of Duke Peter Georgievich of Oldenburg and his wife Princess Therese of Nassau-Weilburg. The Oldenburg family was closely related to the Romanovs; Duke Peter, a scholar and philanthropist, was a grandchild of Paul I. Alexandra grew up in a happy home and was well educated, showing an early interest in medicine and the problems of the poor.

Portrait by Carl Timoleon von Neff (1804-1877), circa 1850s.

At Peterhof, on 6 February 1856, she married Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich, Senior (1831-1891), and together they had two sons, Grand Dukes Nicholas Nikolayevich, Junior (1856-1929), and Peter Nikolayevich (1864-1931). The marriage was not a happy one as the couple had little in common. Alexandra was religious and serious-minded, and her great interest was caring for the health of the poor. Her husband financed a hospital for her in St.Petersburg where the poor could cared for without charge, and she eventually founded a training school for nurses.

In the meantime, her husband, a well known gourmand, sportsman, and womanizer, began a relationship with a ballet dancer. She bore the Grand Duke five children, essentially creating a second family. He mismanaged and squandered his fortune - in 1882 he had to be put under a kind of financial guardianship - and his magnificent palace had to be sold after his death.

His wife had left him for good in 1881, moving to Kiev. But she refused to grant him a divorce. She remained close to her sons, who had sided with her in the family's dissolution. Alexandra became a nun in 1889, taking the name "Sister Anastasia". She founded a monastery in Kiev, a convent for nursing nuns with its own hospitals, asylums, and dispensary to provide free treatment for the poor. She died of stomach cancer in 1900, at the age of sixty-one. She was buried in the monastery graveyard in a plain coffin, wearing her nun's habit.

"Sister Anastasia" near the end of her life.

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