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

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich, by Sergei Zaryanko, 1853

The Grand Duke turned twenty-two in the year this portrait was painted.

Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich of Russia (8 August 1831, Tsarskoye Selo – 25 April 1891, Alupka), third son and sixth child of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia and Alexandra Feodorovna. (He is sometimes referred to as Nicholas Nikolaievich the Elder, as his son carried the same name.) Like most of the Romanov men, he had a career in the army, and as a Field Marshal he commanded the Russian army of the Danube in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 to 1878, though with no distinction. His brother, Alexander II, nonetheless continued to promote his military career, naming him Commander of the St. Petersburg military region. Eventually he received the ranks of Field Marshal-General, Inspector General of Cavalry, and Inspector General of the Russian engineering forces. He also served on the State Council.

Tall and strong, neither handsome nor very intelligent, he had an unsavory reputation on account of his gross "financial irregularities" - debt, bribery, embezzling, etc. - and his rampant womanizing. He married Alexandra of Oldenburg in 1856 and they had two sons. But soon enough he began a relationship with a ballet dancer, Catherine Chislova, with whom he would have five children and set up a very public second family. His wife finally left him in 1881, though she refused him a divorce.

That same year, his brother Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and his successor, Alexander III, had little use for his disreputable "Uncle Nizi", and he was deprived of all influence. In 1882, as consequence of his escalating debt - he had already mortgaged the magnificent Nikolaevsky Palace - he was put under financial supervision. Denied a divorce, the Grand Duke hoped to outlive his wife and marry his mistress. But his wife would outlive him by nine years, and Chislova unexpectedly died in 1889, at the age of forty-three. After her death, his health rapidly declined; he had been suffering from oral cancer which now spread to his brain, causing increasingly erratic behavior. After one particularly embarrassing incident, during a ballet performance, when he attacked a male dancer he believed to be a woman, he was declared insane. He was put under locked confinement and taken to Alupka in the Crimea, where he died the next year. After his death, his palace in St. Petersburg was immediately sold to help settle his massive debts.


For other posts related to Sergei Konstantinovich Zaryanko.

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