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Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna of Russia

Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna
Hereditary Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna by Josef Grassi, 1802. Pavlovsk Palace
Born (1784-12-24)24 December 1784
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Died 24 September 1803(1803-09-24) (aged 18)
Spouse Frederick Louis, Hereditary Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Issue Paul Friedrich, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Marie Louise, Duchess of Saxe-Altenburg
House House of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov
Father Paul I of Russia
Mother Maria Feodorovna
(Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg)

Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna of Russia (Russian: Великая Княжна Елена Павловна) (24 December 1784 – 24 September 1803) was a daughter of Grand Duke, later Tsar Paul I of Russia and his second wife Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg. After marrying the son and heir of the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin she ceased to use her Russian title.


  • Life 1
  • Marriage 2
    • Children 2.1
  • Life in Schwerin and death 3
  • Descendants 4
  • Titles and styles 5
  • Ancestry 6


Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna was born in Saint Petersburg, capital city of the Russian Empire. The arrival of a second daughter was happy news to her father, Tsarevich Paul Petrovich, who had lost his first wife Wilhelmina Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt in childbirth, eight years before. She was also said to be very beautiful so her grandmother, the Empress Catherine, named her after Helen of Troy.

As a girl, Elena was educated privately at home, her first years' education being supervised by her paternal grandmother, the formidable Catherine II of Russia. As any other royal of her time, the Grand Duchess' education was focused mainly on art, literature and music. Her real purpose in life, eventually, would be to marry well and provide her husband-to-be with children. Out of all her siblings, Elena was closest to her older sister Alexandra, whose life was shaped practically the same as was Elena's.


If royal males have gone down in history for their political and military decisions, women have played decisive roles in uniting through blood and marriage all European royal families. Elena's mother, Sophie Marie Dorothea of Württemberg (by now known as Maria Fyodorovna following her baptism in the Orthodox faith), turned out to be an excellent matchmaker. Although one of her daughters died as an infant, the rest married members of Europe's most important and prestigious royal houses.

In the late 1790s Elena was betrothed to Hereditary Prince Friedrich Ludwig of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1778–1819). He was the eldest son of Friedrich Franz I, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. At the same time her sister Alexandra, who was very like her in many ways, was engaged to Palatine Joseph of Hungary (1776–1847).

It was customary for European princesses to travel to their husband's homelands to wed; Russian Grand Duchesses were always the exception, as they were all married at home following tradition. On 23 October 1799 Elena Pavlovna and Friedrich Ludwig were married at the palace of Gatchina. (Her sister Alexandra followed her example and married her fiancé in the same place one week later).


Elena and Friedrich Ludwig had two children

  • Paul Friedrich, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (15 September 1800 – 7 March 1842)
  • Georg, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg

Life in Schwerin and death

Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna (now Princess Elena) moved to Schwerin with her husband. There she was introduced to a whole new court, quite different from the opulence of Saint Petersburg. She was quite content with her married life and soon after the wedding she was with child. In September 1800 she gave birth to a son, Paul Friedrich, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin from 1837 till 1842, who was named so after his grandfathers, the Tsar of Russia and the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. The year 1801 had been especially hard for Elena, for she lost two close members of her family in just a few days. On 16 March her sister Alexandra died in Buda after giving birth to a daughter Alexandrine, who died a few days before. Just eight days later her father, the tsar, was assassinated. The following year Elena became pregnant again and in March 1803 produced a daughter whom they named Marie Louise after her grandmothers, the Dowager Tsarina and Duchess Louise of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.

In September 1803, Elena Pavlovna fell gravely ill and died suddenly on 24 September. She was buried with great sorrow in the Helena Paulovna Mausoleum in Ludwigslust which was named in her memory. Several members of the Mecklenburg-Schwerin dynasty, including her husband's second wife, are buried there.


Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin's mausoleum

Her great-granddaughter, Princess Elisabeth of Saxe-Altenburg, married Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich of Russia in 1884; another great-granddaughter, Princess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (known as Miechen) married Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia; her brother Franz Friedrich married Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna, daughter of Grand Duke Michael Nikolaievich of Russia. His daughter, Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin was Crown Princess of Germany through marriage, and her older sister Alexandrine of Mecklenburg-Schwerin became Queen consort of Christian X of Denmark.

Elena's widower, Friedrich Ludwig, remarried in 1810 to Caroline Louise of Saxe-Weimar. They had a daughter, Princess Helene Luise Elisabeth (1814–1858), who married Ferdinand Philippe d’Orléans, Duke of Chartres (1810–1842), but Friedrich again became a widower in 1816. In 1818 he married Auguste of Hesse-Homburg but he died the following year. He never became Grand Duke because his father outlived him, and he was succeeded by Elena Pavlovna's son, Paul Friedrich, in 1837.

Titles and styles

  • 24 December 1784 – 23 October 1799 Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna of Russia
  • 23 October 1799 – 24 September 1803 Her Imperial Highness The Hereditary Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin


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