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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Two church interiors by Hortense Haudebourt-Lescot

Le Baisement des pieds de la statue de saint Pierre dans la basilique Saint-Pierre de Rome, 1812.
La Confirmation par un évêque grec dans la basilique Sainte-Agnès-hors-les-Murs a Rome, circa 1816.


Antoinette-Cécile-Hortense Haudebourt-Lescot (14 December 1784, Paris - 2 January 1845, Paris), French painter, mainly of genre scenes. At the age of seven, she began studies with Guillaume Guillon-Lethière, a popular history painter and family friend. In 1807, he was appointed director of the French Academy in Rome, and she joined him the next year; she would remain in Rome until 1816. Her work there focused on the customs and dress of the Italian peasant.  Such foreign experience was rare for a woman artist, and influenced much of her work. She regularly exhibited her work at the Paris Salon, showing some 110 paintings there between 1811 and 1840.

Haudebourt-Lescot married the architect Louis-Pierre Haudebourt in 1820, and died twenty-five years later at the age of sixty.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Lady Charlotte Finch, governess to the children of King George III, by William Hopkins, 1787

Lady Charlotte Finch, née Fermor (1725 - June 1813), governess to all thirteen surviving children of George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, King and Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. She was the daughter of Thomas Fermor, 1st Earl of Pomfret. In 1746 she married the Hon. William Finch, to whom she bore four children. She was sworn in as royal governess in August 1762, one day after the birth of her first charge, George, Prince of Wales, the future King George IV. Shortly after her selection, her husband began to show signs of mental illness. Fearing for her safety, she left her husband, taking their children, and took an apartment in St. James's Palace and a small house in Kew. An enthusiastic botanist and an enlightened teacher, Lady Charlotte's tenure as governess to the royal children spanned more than thirty years.


William Hopkins (Active 1787 - 1811), portrait painter and copyist, he was perhaps a pupil of Sir William Beechey, copies of whose portraits he made. Little is known of his career, but he appears to have been commissioned to paint the portraits of a number of people in the royal household. He exhibited thirteen works at the Royal Academy between 1803 and 1811, during which time his address is given as Windsor Castle.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Misha - Part II

Continued from yesterday's post.

Upon the outbreak of World War I, eager to rejoin the army and serve his country, Michael telegraphed the Tsar requesting permission to return to Russia - provided his wife and son could accompany him. He was granted permission, and on their return, since Natalia was not permitted to live in any of the imperial residences, Michael bought a villa for them, once more in Gatchina.

The villa in Gatchina; Michael is in the window.
A formal portrait taken on their return to Russia.  (It appears there's something on Natalia's face, but it's actually just a single spot on her veil.
Not at all unusual for the fashion of the day, but it makes me sort of crazy; I had to force myself not to Photoshop it out, dear readers!)
Two more formal portraits.

He was promoted from his previous rank of colonel to major-general, and given command of a newly formed division, the Caucasian Native Cavalry; the appointment was perceived by some as a demotion because the division was mostly formed from new Muslim recruits rather than the elite troops that Michael had previously commanded. The six regiments - which became known as the famous "Savage Division" - were each composed of a different ethnic group: Chechens, Dagestanis, Kabardin, Tatars, Circassians, and Ingush, commanded by Russian officers. The men were all volunteers as conscription did not apply in the Caucasus, and though discipline was difficult to maintain, they were a highly effective fighting force. He was a popular leader, and for his actions commanding his troops in the Carpathian mountains in January 1915, Michael earned the military's highest honor, the Cross of St. George.

At the beginning of the war, Michael had written to Nicholas asking him to legitimize his son, arguing that he wanted to be certain the child would be provided for in the possible event of Michael's death at the front. Nicholas eventually agreed and granted George the style of "Count Brasov" by decree on 26 March 1915. By that time, Michael was distraught over the conditions the army was forced to endure, lack of supplies and disorganization, and incompetent leadership at the highest levels. Throughout the summer of 1916, Michael's corps was involved in the brutal Brusilov Offensive. The Guards Army suffered heavy losses, but Michael's troops performed well and he was awarded a second gallantry medal, the Order of St. Vladimir with Swords, for his own part in actions against the enemy.

In his memoirs, General Brusilov, Michael's commander on the south-eastern front, said of the Grand Duke that he was "an absolutely honourable and upright man, taking no sides and lending himself to no intrigues... he shunned every kind of gossip, whether connected with the services or with family matters. As a soldier he was an excellent leader and an unassuming and conscientious worker." He was also made an adjutant-general at this time, but the poor progress of the war, and the almost constant separation from his wife and child was a great strain. Worse, Michael was suffering greatly from his stomach ulcers, and in October 1916 he was ordered to take leave in the Crimea. In January of the next year, Michael returned to the front to hand over command of his corps. He was then made Inspector-General of Cavalry stationed at Gatchina.

With his mother, his sister Xenia, and her sons Feodor and Nikita.
With Natalia, visiting a hospital.
With his officers.
Being visited by Natalia at the front.

On the night of 27–28 February 1917, Michael attempted to return to Gatchina from Petrograd - as St. Petersburg had been renamed during the war - but was unable to do so; the Revolution had actually begun several days before. There was sporadic gunfire and revolutionaries patrolled the streets rounding up individuals connected to the Tsarist régime. Michael was able to reach the Winter Palace where he ordered the guards to withdraw to the Admiralty, for the greater safety of all concerned, and then sought refuge in the apartment of a friend, Princess Putyatina, on nearby Millionnaya street. Two days later, his train stopped by revolutionary forces, and under pressure from his generals and representatives of the Duma (the senate), Tsar Nicholas II abdicated in favor of his son and, later that night, fearing for his son's health and that Alexei would be separated from his family, abdicated for the child as well:

"We have judged it right to abdicate the Throne of the Russian State and to lay down the Supreme Power. Not wishing to be parted from Our Beloved Son, We hand over Our Succession to Our Brother the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich and Bless Him on his accession to the Throne."

Michael awoke the next morning with the unexpected news that his brother had abdicated in his favor and that a delegation from the Duma would soon arrive. There were now several questions to be resolved: the newly formed Provisional Government had not agreed to Michael's succession, and there was the question as to whether his brother had had the right to remove his son from the succession and, therefore, whether Michael was actually legally Tsar. The legitimacy of the present government was also in question. After hours of discussion, lawyers were called to the apartment to draft a manifesto that Michael would sign. It read:

"Inspired, in common with the whole people, by the belief that the welfare of our country must be set above everything else, I have taken the firm decision to assume the supreme power only if and when our great people, having elected by universal suffrage a Constituent Assembly to determine the form of government and lay down the fundamental law of the new Russian State, invest me with such power. Calling upon them the blessing of God, I therefore request all the citizens of the Russian Empire to submit to the Provisional Government, established and invested with full authority by the Duma, until such time as the Constituent Assembly, elected within the shortest possible time by universal, direct, equal and secret suffrage, shall manifest the will of the people by deciding upon the new form of government."

Though most observers considered his actions patriotic and the only sensible response to the circumstances, his brother, when informed, was appalled. The hope of monarchists, that Michael might assume the throne as a constitutional monarch once a democratic government was established, was quickly overtaken by events. Though his renunciation of the throne had been conditional, and hoped temporary, his manifesto marked the end of Tsarist rule in Russia.

Michael returned to Gatchina. He was discharged from the military and his movements were restricted to the vicinity of Petrograd. In July, the current Prime Minister, Alexander Kerensky, ordered the ex-Tsar and his family moved away from the capital to the relative quiet of Tobolsk in the Urals. On the eve of their departure Michael was allowed a few moments to visit with his brother; with Kerensky present, the two brothers could do little but make awkward pleasantries. It would be the last time they would ever see each other.

The next month, Kerensky placed Michael and Natalia under house arrest, along with Nicholas Johnson who had been Michael's personal secretary for the last five years. (A Russian despite his name, Johnson was by this time also a close friend; the two had bonded over their shared love of music, and in better times often played duets together.) A week later they were moved to an apartment in the capital, but his stomach problems worsened and he was allowed to return to Gatchina. On the first day of September 1917, Russia was declared a republic, settling any question of a Romanov accession, and two weeks later Michael's house arrest was lifted. At first Michael and Natalia - along with his brother Nicholas and his family - had thought they might be allowed to move to England, but the British government and its king - Michael and Nicholas' first cousin, George V - were afraid that letting members of the Romanov family into Britain would result in a strongly negative public reaction, and so refused them refuge. Concerned over their increasingly uncertain situation, Michael was able to obtain a travel permit, and planned to move his family to the greater safety of Finland. They packed and prepared to move, but their preparations were observed and they were once more placed under house arrest. The Kerensky government had fallen with the October Revolution, and the Bolsheviks were now in power.

In March of the following year, Michael and Johnson were sent under arrest to Perm, a thousand miles to the east. The journey, in a windowless, unheated freight car, took eight days. At first taken to a hotel on arrival in Perm, two days later he was jailed by the local Soviet. After frantic lobbying by Natalia back in Petrograd, he was given his freedom but not allowed to travel. He moved into a hotel with Johnson and two manservants, his valet and former chauffeur. At the same time, back in Gatchina, Natalia, fearing for her son's safety, with the help of Danish diplomats arranged for the seven-year-old boy to be smuggled out of Russia by his nanny. Two months later she was granted permission to join Michael in Perm. They spent only about a week together before the extremely volatile political and military situation in the vicinity made it unsafe for her to remain. For the next month, while waiting and hoping for some improvement in his circumstances, Michael was again very ill with his stomach ulcers.

The last known image of Michael, taken at Perm.
The man standing next to him has long been identified as Nicholas Johnson, despite there being a lack of any physical resemblance. But he has now finally
been reidentified as a certain Colonel Peter Lyudvigovich Znamerovsky who had also been exiled to Perm and who was later murdered by the Bolsheviks.

At a quarter to midnight on the twelfth of June 1918, four armed men, at the instigation of the leader of the local secret police, used a forged order to gain admittance to Michael's hotel; they demanded he leave with them. At first he refused, asking to be allowed to speak to a higher authority, and then citing his illness. His protests were ignored, and he was made to dress. Johnson insisted on accompanying him, and the four men and their two prisoners got into two small horse-drawn carriages. They drove out of town and into the forest; when Michael asked their destination, he was told they were headed for a remote railway crossing where they would catch a train. In the early hours of the thirteenth of June, the carriages came to a stop in the middle of the wood. Immediately upon alighting, Michael and Johnson were fired upon. Loaded with home-made bullets, the assassin's guns jammed, and it isn't known if Michael was hit in the first volley. But as he ran with arms outstretched to the wounded Johnson, he was shot at point-blank range in the head. Johnson was then shot dead. The bodies were stripped and buried, any valuables stolen. The Ural Regional Soviet approved the execution, either beforehand or retrospectively, as did Lenin. But at the time, the authorities claimed that he'd been abducted and then disappeared; it would be several years before his loved ones came to accept that he was dead.  Michael was the first of the Romanovs to be murdered by the Bolsheviks. Neither Michael's nor Johnson's remains have ever been found.


Natalia, circa 1919.

Natalia was imprisoned for several months but eventually, with forged papers and in disguise, she and her daughter were able to escape Russia. They made their way to London, where George and his nanny joined them from Copenhagen a few months later. From this point, their finances would be a constant concern, and in 1927 they would move to Paris where it was much less expensive to live.

George.  All who had known his father said that
George was remarkably like him.

In the summer of 1931, shortly before his twenty-first birthday, George had just finished his final examinations at the Sorbonne and was driving with a friend to Cannes for a holiday. Near Sens, while his friend was driving, the car skidded and crashed into a tree; the driver was killed and George was rushed to the hospital with two broken legs and severe internal injuries. His mother rushed to his bedside, but he never regained consciousness and died the next morning.


Natalia struggled on, continuing her desperate attempts at recovery of any of Michael's few assets outside of Russia, but with very little success. And after the end of World War II, having sold all her belongings, she was living in an attic storeroom, in extreme poverty.  On 23 January 1952, Natalia, by now completely penniless, died of cancer is a Paris charity hospital. She was laid to rest beside her son in the Passy Cemetery. The inscription on their tomb reads:

Fils et Épouse de S.A.I Grand Duc Michel de Russie

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Misha - Part I

Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia (4 December/22 November 1878, St. Petersburg – 13 June 1918, Perm), the youngest son of Emperor Alexander III of Russia. At the time of his birth, his paternal grandfather, Emperor Alexander II, was still living, and Michael was therefore fourth in line to the throne, following his father and elder brothers Nicholas and George. But by 1899, after the assassination of his grandfather, and the deaths of his father and brother George, he was heir presumptive. Five years later, his brother Nicholas II's son Alexei was born, moving Michael back to second in line. But, famously, Alexei was afflicted with haemophilia, and wasn't given much hope for living into adulthood, so his young uncle was still looked on - by those few aware of the Tsarevich's condition - to become the next Tsar. In 1917, at the beginning of the Russian Revolution, the Tsar abdicated, for himself and for his twelve year old son, and proclaimed his younger brother the next "Emperor of all the Russias". But the next day, Michael issued a manifesto acknowledging the power of the Provisional Government and deferring his acceptance of the throne until the "will of the people" was democratically shown. He neither abdicated nor refused the throne, and though the flood of history soon proved such questions irrelevant, many consider him, Tsar Michael II, Russia's actual "Last Tsar".


Michael was born at the Anichkov Palace in St. Petersburg, the youngest of three sons and youngest child save one of the Tsarevich Alexander of Russia and his wife, the Tsarevna Marie Feodorovna, before her marriage Princess Dagmar of Denmark, and called Minnie in the family. After the assassination of Michael's grandfather, the new Tsar Alexander III moved his family to the greater safety of Gatchina Palace, which was twenty-nine miles southwest of St. Petersburg. There, the conditions in the nursery were surprisingly spartan: the children slept on hard camp beds and rose at dawn, they washed in cold water, and their food was plain in the extreme. Much time was spent in outdoor activity in Gatchina's large surrounding estate, often with their father. Michael was always known as Misha by his parents and older brothers and sister, but the youngest sibling, his sister Olga - only four years his junior, and his closest companion throughout his childhood - called him "Floppy". Michael, like all the children, was looked after by an English nanny, Mrs. Elizabeth Franklin, and taught by private tutors. Through his Danish mother, he was related to the royal families of Denmark, Great Britain, and Greece, the vast extended family was extremely close and would gather en masse each summer in Denmark.

With his parents, older brothers, and elder sister Xenia at Gatchina.
Wearing a sailor cap emblazoned with the name of the Imperial yacht, Tsarevna.
With his sister Olga.  (Four images.)

When Michael was fifteen his father fell fatally ill, and died on the first of November, 1894; he was only forty-nine. After her husband's death, the Dowager Empress resumed residence at the Anichkov Palace in St. Petersburg with her two youngest children. (Her eldest son, the new Tsar Nicholas II, had married only days after his father's death; her middle son, George, was ill with tuberculosis and, for his health, lived by himself in the Caucasus; and her elder daughter, Xenia, had married the previous year.) Like most male members of the Russian Imperial family, Michael was enrolled in the military, eventually becoming a member of the Horse Guards Artillery. He attained his majority in 1898 and was now financially independent, with sizable capital and estates at Otrovo in Russian Poland and Brasovo near Orel, some two-hundred and fifty miles from Moscow. Only eight months later his brother George died and, since his sister-in-law the Empress Alexandra had only given birth to daughters thus far, Michael became heir presumptive to the Russian throne.

With his mother and two sisters.
His sister Olga is in the background.

The Grand Duke was a quiet, good-natured, unremarkable young man, much loved by his family. He performed the many public duties expected of someone in his position, attending openings and unveilings and launchings. In 1901, he represented Russia at the funeral of Queen Victoria and was given the Order of the Bath, and the following year he was made a knight of the Garter in King Edward VII's (his uncle by marriage) coronation honors. In private, his activities and interests were far from extravagant. His hobbies were cars and photography and watch collecting. He always craved physical exercise, and his tastes in food and drink were extremely plain. His one great love was music, and he played the piano and several other instruments. He loved to spend quiet evenings making music, alone or with friends; it appears he even composed.

On his mother's yacht, The Polar Star.
Dressed for the famous Boyar Ball, held in the Winter Palace in 1903.

In June 1902, Michael transferred to the Blue Cuirassier Regiment and moved to Gatchina, where the regiment was based. That same year he began a romance with Princess Beatrice of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Michael's father and Beatrice's mother, born a Russian grand duchess, were brother and sister, and the Orthodox church forbid marriage between cousins; Beatrice would later marry a Spanish prince. Michael next fell in love with a lady-in-waiting to his sister Olga. Alexandra Kossikovskaya, known as "Dina", was a commoner, the daughter of a lawyer. Michael refused to take her as his mistress, and in 1906 asked his brother the Tsar for permission for them to marry. Nicholas refused on the grounds that, marrying a commoner, Michael would have to be removed from the line of succession; he was threatened with loss of his army commission and exile if he married Dina anyway. Dina was dismissed as Olga's lady-in-waiting, put under surveillance by the Okhrana - the Tsarist-era secret police - and prevented from travelling, while the Dowager Empress took Michael with her to Denmark. Unable to see Dina, by the next summer he was resigned to the situation, though she appears to have never gotten over the romance, and would never marry.

With his sister Olga.  Olga's first husband, Duke Peter of Oldenburg, is directly behind her.
Escorting his relative, the Dowager Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, born Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna.
At Brasovo, with his beloved terrier, Jack.

At the beginning of 1908, Michael began a friendship with Natalia Sergeyevna Wulfert, the wife of a fellow officer; she was previously divorced and had a young daughter by her first husband. Their relationship deepened, and by the summer of the following year, they were lovers. By that winter, Natalia was separated from her husband and living in an apartment in Moscow paid for by Michael. When the Tsar became aware of the situation, he had his brother transferred to the Chernigov Hussars at Orel, but Michael traveled from Orel to Moscow several times a month to visit Natalia. She gave birth to their son in July of 1910. (As this occurred - before - her divorce from Wulfert, the eventual divorce decree was back-dated.) The baby George - named after Michael's dead brother - was given the surname "Brasov" derived from the name of Michael's estate Brasovo, in acknowledgement of his paternity. The following year the Tsar permitted Natalia to move to Brasovo, granting her the surname "Brasova".

With Natalia.
With Natalia and Jack.
Celebrating Natalia's birthday at Brasovo in 1911.  Notice the chair decorated with daisies, and
the portrait of Michael, a gift, based on his appearance at the Boyar Ball of 1903.  (See above.)
Michael and Natalia are at center, and composer Sergei Rachmaninov is third from
left; the music lover Grand Duke and the great Rachmaninov were good friends.
Natalia and Rachmaninov are seated at far right.

In May 1912, Michael went to Copenhagen for the funeral of his maternal uncle, King Frederick VIII. There he fell ill with a stomach ulcer that was to trouble him for the rest of his life. Natalia joined him there and, after a holiday in France - all the while trailed by the Okhrana - he was transferred to St. Petersburg to command the Chevalier Gardes. Natalia accompanied Michael to the capital but, because of her very uncertain position, within a few months he had moved her to a villa in Gatchina.

In September, the couple again went abroad, again followed by the Okhrana. While in Berlin, they announced that they would drive to Cannes. But, eluding the secret police, they made a diversion to Vienna, where they were secretly married in the Serbian Orthodox Church, on October 16th. A few days later, they arrived at Cannes, where they were joined by the two children. Two weeks after the wedding, Michael wrote to his mother and brother to inform them; they were, not surprisingly, horrified and angry. The Tsar was particularly upset as his son was in the midst of his most serious haemophiliac episode, and Michael had explained that it was just that dire situation that had spurred his decision to marry: his actions would remove him from the succession and, should the young Tsarevich die, he couldn't be separated from Natalia and their child. In a series of decrees between December and January 1913, Nicholas relieved Michael of his command, banished him from Russia, froze all his assets there, and seized control of his estates.

In Venice.

Michael and Natalia - who would not be styled Grand Duchess, but called Madame or Countess Brasova - lived in French and Swiss hotels for the next six months. They were visited by sympathetic friends and relatives, including his sister Xenia. In July they met the Dowager Empress in London; according to the Grand Duchess Xenia's diary, her mother told Natalia "a few home truths". Not long after, Michael took a one-year lease on Knebworth House, a furnished and staffed estate twenty miles north of London. Michael's finances were nonetheless uncertain since he had to rely on funds released at the Tsar's command, as his brother still controlled all his estates and assets.

At Knebworth House. Natalia is seated at center with Michael behind her. Natalia's daughter Natalia - called
"Tata" - is seated at her feet; Jack is a blur at her side. Michael's secretary, Nicholas Johnson, stands at right.
With Tata and George
With Jack and a Borzoi.
With Jack.
With Natalia and George.

Continued in tomorrow's post.