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Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

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Title: Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna of Russia, Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone
Collection: 1876 Births, 1936 Deaths, British Princesses, British Women in World War I, Burials at the Ducal Family Mausoleum, Glockenburg Cemetery, Coburg, Companions of the Order of the Crown of India, Dames of the Order of Queen Maria Luisa, Deaths from Stroke, Disease-Related Deaths in Germany, Duchesses of Holstein-Gottorp, Grand Duchesses of Hesse, House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov, House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (United Kingdom), Ladies of the Royal Order of Victoria and Albert, People from Attard, Princesses of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Russian Grand Duchesses by Marriage
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Grand Duchess Viktoria Feodorovna of Russia
(Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha)
Grand Duchess consort of Hesse and by Rhine
Grand Duchess Cyrill Vladimirovich of Russia
Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna.
Born (1876-11-25)25 November 1876
San Anton Palace, Attard, Malta
Died 2 March 1936(1936-03-02) (aged 59)
Amorbach, Germany
Burial 10 March 1936
Schloss Rosenau, Coburg
7 March 1995
Peter and Paul Fortress, Saint Petersburg
Spouse Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine
(m. 1894; div. 1901)
Kirill Vladimirovich, Grand Duke of Russia
(m. 1905–36; her death)
Issue Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine
Maria Kirillovna, Princess of Leiningen
Kira Kirillovna, Princess of Prussia
Vladimir Kirillovich, Grand Duke of Russia
Full name
Birth name: Victoria Melita
Russian: Виктория Фёдоровна
House House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
(by birth)
House of Hesse-Darmstadt
(by marriage)
House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov (by marriage)
Father Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Edinburgh
Mother Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia
Religion Church of England (1876–1907)
Eastern Orthodox (1907-1936)

Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha VA, GCStJ, CI, RRC (25 November 1876 – 2 March 1936) was the third child and second daughter of Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. She was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria as well as of Tsar Alexander II of Russia.

Born a British princess, Victoria spent her early life in England and for three years in Malta, where her father was serving in the Royal Navy. In 1889 the family moved to Coburg, where Victoria's father became the reigning Duke in 1893. In her teens Victoria fell in love with her maternal first cousin Kirill Vladimirovich, Grand Duke of Russia, but they could not marry because the Orthodox Christian religion forbids marriage between first cousins. Instead, bowing to family pressure, Victoria married in 1894 a paternal first cousin, Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse, following the wishes of their shared grandmother, Queen Victoria. Their marriage was a failure. Victoria scandalized the royal families of Europe when she divorced her husband in 1901. The couple's only daughter died of typhoid fever in 1903.

Victoria married Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich in 1905. They wed without the necessary approval of the Tsar. In retaliation, Nicholas II stripped Kirill of his offices and honors and Victoria and Kirill were initially banished from living in Russia. They had two daughters and settled in Paris before they were allowed to return in 1909. In 1910 they moved to Russia, where she was known as Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna. After the fall of the Russian monarchy in 1917, they escaped to Finland where she gave birth to her only son. In exile they lived for some years in Germany and from the late 1920s in Saint-Briac. In 1926, Kirill proclaimed himself emperor in exile and Victoria supported her husband's claims. Victoria died after suffering a stroke while visiting her daughter Maria in Amorbach.


  • Early life 1
  • Youth in Coburg 2
  • Grand Duchess of Hesse 3
  • Divorce 4
  • Remarriage 5
  • Grand Duchess of Russia 6
  • War 7
  • Revolution 8
  • Exile 9
  • Claims to the Russian throne 10
  • Last years 11
  • Titles, styles, honours and arms 12
    • British arms 12.1
  • Ancestry 13
  • Notes 14
  • Bibliography 15
  • External links 16

Early life

Victoria was born on 25 November 1876 in San Anton Palace in Attard, Malta, hence her second name, Melita.[1] Her father, who was stationed on the island as an officer in the Royal Navy, was Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, the second-eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Her mother was Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, a daughter of Alexander II of Russia and Marie of Hesse.

The Duchess of Edinburgh with her children. From left to right: Princess Alexandra, Grand Duchess Maria, Princess Beatrice, Princess Marie, Prince Alfred and Princess Victoria Melita

As a grandchild of the British monarch, she was styled Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria of Edinburgh. To her family, she was always known as Ducky. At the time of her birth, she was 10th in the line of succession to the British throne. The princess was christened on 1 January 1877 at San Antonio Palace by a Royal Navy chaplain. Her godparents included her paternal grandmother Queen Victoria, who was represented by a proxy.[2]

After the Duke’s service in Malta was over they returned to England where the family lived for the next few years. They divided their time between Eastwell Park, their country home in Kent, and Clarence House, their residence in London facing Buckingham Palace. Eastwell, a large estate of 2,500 acres near Ashford, with its forest and park was the children's favorite residence.[3] It was in England where Princess Victoria spent her early years. The marriage of her parents was unhappy. The Duke was taciturn, unfaithful, prone to drinking and emotionally detached from his family. Victoria's mother was independent-minded and cultured. Although she was unsentimental and strict, the Duchess was a devoted mother and the most important person in her children's lives.[4]

As a child, Victoria had a difficult temperament. She was shy, serious and sensitive. In the judgment of her sister Marie: "This passionate child was often misunderstood."[5] Princess Victoria Melita was talented at drawing and painting and learned to play the piano.[6] She was particularly close to Marie. The two sisters would remain very close throughout their lives.[7] They contrasted in appearance and personality. Victoria was dark and moody while Marie was blond and easy-going.[5] Although she was one year younger, Victoria was taller and seemed to be the older of the two.[8]

In January 1886, shortly after Princess Victoria turned 9, the family left England when her father was appointed commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean naval squadron, based on Malta. For the next three years, the family lived at the San Anton Palace in Malta, Victoria's birthplace.[9]

Youth in Coburg

The Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha with his family. From left to right: Princess Beatrice, Alfred Duke of Saxe-Coburg Gotha, Duchess Marie, Dowager Duchess Alexandrine, Princess Victoria, Princess Alexandra and Princess Marie at Rosenau.

As a son of

Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Cadet branch of the House of Wettin
Born: 25 November 1876 Died: 2 March 1936
German royalty
Title last held by
Princess Alice of the United Kingdom
Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine
9 April 1894 – 21 December 1901
Title next held by
Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich
Titles in pretence
Title last held by
Alix of Hesse and by Rhine
Empress consort of Russia
31 August 1924 – 2 March 1936
Reason for succession failure:
Empire abolished in 1917
Title next held by
Princess Leonida Georgievna Bagration
  • "Victoria Melita of Edinburgh (1876-1936)" at the Wayback Machine (archived October 27, 2009), by Jesus Ibarra.

External links

  • van der Kiste, John. Princess Victoria Melita, Sutton Publishing, 1991, ISBN 0-7509-3469-7
  • Maylunas, Andrei and Sergei Mironenko. A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story, Doubleday, 1997, ISBN 0-385-48673-1
  • Perry, John Curtis and Constantine Pleshakov. The Flight of the Romanovs, Basic Books, 1999, ISBN 978-0-465-02462-9
  • Sullivan, Michael John. A Fatal Passion: The Story of the Uncrowned Last Empress of Russia, Random House, 1997, ISBN 0-679-42400-8
  • Zeepvat, Charlotte. The Camera and the Tsars: A Romanov Family Album, Sutton Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0-7509-3049-7


  1. ^ Michael John Sullivan, A Fatal Passion: The Story of the Uncrowned Last Empress of Russia, Random House, 1997, p. 7
  2. ^ Yvonne's Royalty Home Page — Royal Christenings,; accessed 22 March 2014.
  3. ^ Sullivan, p. 34
  4. ^ John Van der Kiste, Princess Victoria Melita, Sutton Publishing, 1991, p. 15
  5. ^ a b Sullivan, p. 37
  6. ^ Sullivan, p. 56
  7. ^ Sullivan, p. 38
  8. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 14
  9. ^ Sullivan, p. 63
  10. ^ Sullivan, pp. 80-82
  11. ^ Sullivan, pp. 87-88
  12. ^ "'Wedding group'". National Portrait Gallery. 
  13. ^ Sullivan, p. 115
  14. ^ John Curtis Perry and Constantine Pleshakov, The Flight of the Romanovs, Basic Books, 1999, p. 83
  15. ^ Sullivan, pp. 93, 114
  16. ^ Sullivan, p. 113
  17. ^ a b Sullivan, p. 126
  18. ^ a b Sullivan, pp. 217-218
  19. ^ Sullivan, p. 146
  20. ^ Sullivan, p. 148
  21. ^ a b Sullivan, p. 152
  22. ^ Sullivan, p. 153
  23. ^ Sullivan, p. 157
  24. ^ Terence Elsberry, Marie of Romania, St. Martin's Press, 1972, p.62
  25. ^ Sullivan, p. 182
  26. ^ Sullivan, pp. 189-190
  27. ^ Van der Kiste, pp. 60-61
  28. ^ a b Sullivan, p. 208
  29. ^ Sullivan, p. 209
  30. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 81
  31. ^ Sullivan, p. 223
  32. ^ Sullivan, p. 224
  33. ^ Charlotte Zeepvat, The Camera and the Tsars: A Romanov Family Album, Sutton Publishing, 2004, p. 107
  34. ^ Sullivan, p. 229
  35. ^ Sullivan, p. 230
  36. ^ Sullivan, p. 233
  37. ^ Sullivan, p. 236
  38. ^ Sullivan, p. 237.
  39. ^ Sullivan, p. 243
  40. ^ Sullivan, p. 246
  41. ^ a b Sullivan, p. 247
  42. ^ Sullivan, p. 252
  43. ^ Sullivan, p. 253
  44. ^ Sullivan, pp. 274-275.
  45. ^ Sullivan, p. 262
  46. ^ Sullivan, p. 254
  47. ^ Sullivan, p. 283
  48. ^ Sullivan, p. 288
  49. ^ Sullivan, p. 271
  50. ^ Sullivan, p. 272
  51. ^ Sullivan, p. 313
  52. ^ Sullivan, p. 314
  53. ^ Sullivan, pp. 311-312
  54. ^ Zeepvat, p. 214
  55. ^ Van der Kiste, 105
  56. ^ Sullivan, p. 321
  57. ^ Sullivan, p. 325
  58. ^ Sullivan, p. 333
  59. ^ Sullivan, p. 341
  60. ^ Perry and Pleshakov, p. 228
  61. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 145
  62. ^ Sullivan, p. 343
  63. ^ Sullivan, p. 349
  64. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 147
  65. ^ Sullivan, pp. 353-354
  66. ^ Sullivan, p. 354
  67. ^ Sullivan, p. 355
  68. ^ Sullivan, p. 357
  69. ^ Sullivan, 364
  70. ^ Sullivan, p. 371
  71. ^ Sullivan, p. 379
  72. ^ Sullivan, p. 374
  73. ^ a b Sullivan, p. 377
  74. ^ a b c d Van der Kiste, p. 163
  75. ^ Sullivan, p. 375
  76. ^ Sullivan, p. 376
  77. ^ Perry and Pleshakov, pp. 307-308
  78. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 139
  79. ^ Sullivan, p. 390
  80. ^ Perry and Pleshakov, p. 308
  81. ^ Sullivan, p. 393
  82. ^ Sullivan, p. 395
  83. ^ Sullivan, 404
  84. ^ Sullivan, pp. 403-404
  85. ^ Sullivan, pp. 406-407
  86. ^ Perry and Pleshakov, p. 309
  87. ^ Sullivan, p. 234
  88. ^
  89. ^
  90. ^
  91. ^
  92. ^
  93. ^ Sullivan, p. 288
  94. ^
  95. ^
  96. ^ Sullivan, p. 224
  97. ^ Sullivan, p. 224
  98. ^
  99. ^ Heraldica – British Royal Cadency



As a male-line grandchild of the British monarch, Victoria Melita bore the royal arms, with an inescutcheon for Saxony, the whole differenced by a label of five points argent, the outer pair bearing hearts gules, the inner pair anchors azure, and the central point a cross gules.[99] In 1917, the inescutcheon was dropped by royal warrant. Her arms from that point on are duplicated in the arms of Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy.

British arms

Foreign honours
National honours

  • 25 November 1876 – 9 April 1894: Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh, Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duchess of Saxony
  • 9 April 1894 – 21 December 1901: Her Royal Highness The Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine
  • 21 December 1901 – 8 October 1905: Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh, Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duchess of Saxony
  • 8 October 1905 – 2 March 1936: Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Viktoria Fyodorovna of Russia
Coat of arms of Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Coat of arms of Grand Duchess Viktoria Fyodorovna

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Victoria was buried in the family mausoleum at Rosenau in Coburg, Germany, until her remains were transferred to the Grand Ducal Mausoleum of the Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg on 7 March 1995. Her husband was intensely lonely after her death. The marriage of their daughter, Kira, to Louis Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia, in 1938 was a bright spot for Kirill, who saw it as the joining of two dynasties. However, Kirill died just two years after his wife.[85] Kirill, though he had been unfaithful, still loved and missed the wife he had depended so much upon and passed his remaining years writing memoirs of their life together.[86] "There are few who in one person combine all that is best in soul, mind, and body," he wrote. "She had it all, and more. Few there are who are fortunate in having such a woman as the partner of their lives -- I was one of those privileged."[87]

[84] She died on 1 March 1936. Her sister Marie of Romania eulogized her sister in a letter after her death: "The whole thing was tragic beyond imagination, a tragic end to a tragic life. She carried tragedy within her – she had tragic eyes – always – even as a little girl – but we loved her enormously, there was something mighty about her – she was our Conscience."[83] Victoria suffered a stroke soon after attending the christening of her fifth grandchild, Mechtilde, in February 1936. Family and friends arrived, but nothing could be done. When her closest sister, Marie of Romania, reached her bedside, Victoria was asked if she was glad Marie had come. Victoria haltingly said, "It makes all the difference." However, she "shuddered away from Kirill's touch," wrote Marie of Romania.[82] During the winter Victoria and her husband enjoyed visiting nearby [74] They were part of the social life of the community, going out to play bridge and organizing theatricals.[74] In Saint-Briac, during the summer, Kirill played golf and he and Victoria joined in picnics and excursions.

Grand Duchess Viktoria with her husband and their two youngest children, Kira and Vladimir, Saint-Briac, 1935

Last years

Victoria was exceedingly protective of her son Vladimir, upon whom her hopes for the future rested. She would not let him attend school because she was worried about his safety, and because she wanted him to be brought up as Romanov Grand Dukes were prior to the revolution. Instead, she hired a tutor for him. She also refused to let him be educated for a future career.[78] In return for her devotion, Vladimir loved and respected his mother. "We adored our parents and their love for us was infinite," Vladimir wrote after their deaths. "All the hardships and bitterness we had to endure in the years were fully covered by our mutual love. We were proud of (them.)"[79]

In the mid-1920s the German government established relations with Moscow and the presence of Kirill and his wife, pretenders to the Russian throne, became an embarrassment.[74] Although the Bavarian government rejected pressures to expel the Russian claimant, Kirill and Victoria decided to establish their permanent residence in France.[75] In the summer of 1926 they moved to Saint-Briac on the Breton coast, where they had spent their summer vacations before.[76] The remoteness of Brittany provided both privacy and security. They bought a large house on the outskirts of the town and gave it a Breton name, Ker Argonid, Villa Victoria. The resort town of Saint-Briac was a favorite spot for retired British citizens who wanted to live well on a limited income. Victoria made friends among the Britons as well as the French and other foreign residents of the town, who enjoyed associating with a Royal. Though at first her manner could seem haughty, residents soon discovered that Victoria was more approachable than her husband. Their friends treated them with deference, curtsying or calling them by their Royal titles.[77] They lived a secluded country life, finding it more agreeable than at Coburg.[73]

By the mid-1920s, Victoria worried over the prospects of her children. Maria, her eldest daughter married a relatively minor prince, Friedrich Karl, the Hereditary Prince of Leiningen on 25 November 1925, Victoria’s 49th birthday.[72] Victoria was at her daughter's bedside when she gave birth to her first child, Emich Kirill, in 1926.[73] She also attended the subsequent births of Maria's children.

Victoria with her husband and their two youngest children

Kirill suffered a nervous breakdown in 1923 and Victoria nursed him back to health. She encouraged his dreams of restoring the monarchy in Russia and becoming Tsar.[67] At Saint-Briac, Kirill officially declared himself the Guardian of the Throne in 1924.[68] Victoria went on a trip to the United States in 1924, hoping to raise American support for restoring the monarchy.[69] Her attempt did not meet with success, due to the isolationism prevalent in the United States during the 1920s.[70] She continued in her efforts to help Kirill restore the monarchy and also sold her artwork to raise money for the household.[71]

Claims to the Russian throne

While in Germany, Victoria showed an interest in the Nazi Party, which appealed to her because of its anti-Bolshevik stance and her hope that the movement might help restore the Russian monarchy.[65] She and Kirill attended a Nazi rally in Coburg in 1922 and Victoria donated money to the party. She was likely unaware of the most sinister aspects of the Nazi Party.[66]

After more than two years living under strained conditions in the autumn of 1919 Victoria and Kirill left Finland and went to Germany.[61] In Munich they were reunited with Victoria's mother and the family group moved to Zurich in September 1919.[62] With the death of Victoria's mother, she inherited her villa, Chateau Fabron in Nice and her residence in Coburg, the Edinburgh Palace. In the following years the exiled family divided their time between these two places.[63][64]

She pleaded with her cousin, Lord Acton, the British Minister in Helsinki, noted the toll the revolution had taken on Victoria. She "looked aged and battered and has lost much of her beauty, which is not astonishing considering all that she has gone through."[60]

After two weeks in Haiko, the family moved to a rented house in Porvoo where, in August 1917, Victoria gave birth to Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich of Russia, her only son and the heir to the dynasty.[57] The family remained in Finland, a former Grand Duchy under Russian rule, which had declared its independence in December 1917. They hoped that the White Russians would prevail. They gradually ran out of supplies and had to beg for help from family. In July 1918, Victoria wrote to her first cousin, Margaret, the Crown Princess of Sweden, begging her to send baby food so she could feed Vladimir.[58] She was alienated from England because she felt her English relatives had not done enough to help the Romanovs.[59]

Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna with her husband and their three children.


They were permitted to board a train without incident in the first week of June 1917. [56] Anxious for their safety Kirill and Victoria decided that the best thing to do was to leave Russia. They chose

At the fall of the monarchy Kirill was forced to resign his command of the Naval Guards, but nevertheless his men remained faithful and they continued to guard Kirill and Victoria's palace on Glinka Street. Close to despair Victoria wrote to her sister Marie, Queen of Romania that they had "neither pride nor hope, nor money, nor future, and the dear past blotted out by the frightful present; nothing is left, nothing."[55]

At the end of the "February Revolution" of 1917, Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate and political turmoil followed.[51] Kirill led his naval unit to the Duma on 14 March 1917 and swore his loyalty to the Duma, hoping to restore order and preserve the monarchy. It was an action which provoked criticism from other members of the family, who viewed it as treason.[52] Victoria supported her husband and felt he was doing the right thing.[53] She also sympathized with the people who wanted to reform the government. Victoria wrote to Queen Marie of Romania in February 1917 that their home was surrounded by a mob, "yet heart and soul we are with this movement of freedom which at the time probably signs our own death warrant ... We personally are losing all, our lives changed at one blow and yet we are almost leading the movement."[54]

By March 1917, the revolution had spread all over Saint Petersburg. During this period Victoria discovered she was again pregnant, which worried her because of her previous miscarriages and difficult pregnancies, and besides she was almost forty one years old.


When Rasputin was murdered in December 1916, Victoria and Kirill signed a letter along with other relatives asking the Tsar to show leniency to Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia, one of those implicated in the murder. The Tsar denied their request. Twice during the war Victoria visited Romania, providing the country, where her sister Marie was now queen, with help. Victoria returned to Saint Petersburg in February 1917. Kirill had been appointed commander of the Naval Guards, quartered in Saint Petersburg, so he could be with his family for some time. Although publicly loyal to the Tsar, Victoria and Kirill began to meet in private with other relatives to discuss the best way to save the monarchy.

[50] The Tsarina believed Rasputin healed her son of his hemophiliac attacks with his prayers. Victoria told her sister, Queen Marie of Romania, that the Tsar's court was "looked upon as a sick man refusing every doctor and every help."[49].Grigori Rasputin starets Victoria frequently visited the front near Warsaw and she occasionally carried out her duties under enemy fire. Kirill, for his part, was also in Poland, assigned to the naval department of Admiral Russin, member of the staff of Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich, commander in chief of the Russian army. Kirill and Victoria had always shared their relatives' distaste for the Tsar and Tsarina's friendship with the [48] During


Victoria fit in within the Russian aristocracy and the circle of her mother-in-law Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna.[17] As French was frequently spoken in high circles, Victoria never completely mastered the Russian language.[46] Although she was a first cousin of both Nicholas II, on her mother's side, and to Empress Alexandra, on her father's side, the relationship with them was neither close nor warm. As Kirill became a keen auto racer, the couple often took trips by car, a favorite pastime was traveling through the Baltic provinces. Victoria dreaded the long Russian winter with its short days, and she traveled abroad frequently visiting her sister Marie in Romania and her mother in the south of France or in Coburg. Victoria and her husband had a close relationship with their daughters, Maria and Kira. The family was spending the summer of 1914 on their yacht in the Gulf of Finland and were in Riga when the war broke out.[47]

Nicholas II was forced to reinstate Kirill after deaths in the Russian royal family had promoted Kirill to third in the line of succession to the Russian throne. Kirill and Victoria were brought back to Russia, with Victoria granted the title of Grand Duchess of Russia. She would be known in Russia as Grand Duchess Viktoria Fyodorovna. In May 1910, Victoria and Kirill arrived in St Petersburg.[43] The new grand duchess enjoyed entertaining at evening dinners and lavish balls attended by the cream of Saint Petersburg society.[44] Victoria had an artistic talent that she applied to home decoration in her several elaborate residences which she arranged attractively. She decorated, gardened, and rode and also enjoyed painting, particularly watercolors.[45]

Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna and her daughters Maria and Kira, 1913.

Grand Duchess of Russia

Victoria, who had matured as she entered her 30s,[40] decided to convert to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1907, a decision that thrilled both her mother and her husband.[41] That same year the first of their three children, Maria Kirillovna, was born. She was named after her grandmother and nicknamed "Masha."[41] Their second daughter, Kira Kirillovna, was born in Paris in 1909. Victoria and Kirill, who had hoped for a son, were disappointed to have a girl, but named their daughter after her father.[42]

The couple married on 8 October 1905 in Tegernsee. It was a simple ceremony, with Victoria's mother, her sister Beatrice, and a friend, Count Adlerburg, in attendance, along with servants. The couple's uncle Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia was invited, without being told the reason, but did not arrive until after the ceremony.[36] Tsar Nicholas II responded to the marriage by stripping Kirill of his royal allowances and expelled him from the Russian navy.[37] The Tsarina was outraged and said she would never receive Victoria, "a woman who had behaved so disgracefully", or Kirill.[38] The couple retired to Paris, where they purchased a house off the Champs-Élysées and lived off the income provided by their parents.[39]

After Victoria's divorce from Ernst, Grand Duke Kirill, whom Victoria had seen on all her subsequent visits to Russia, was discouraged by his parents from trying to keep a close relationship with her. Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna told Kirill to keep Victoria as his mistress and marry someone else.[33] A few months later, war broke out between Russia and Japan. As a senior member of the navy, Kirill was sent on active service to the front in the Russo-Japanese War. His ship was blown up by a Japanese mine while entering Port Arthur and he was one of the few survivors. Sent home to recover, the Tsar finally allowed him permission to leave Russia and he left for Coburg to be with Victoria.[34] The narrow escape from death had hardened Kirill's determination to marry Victoria. "To those over whom the shadow of death has passed, life has a new meaning," Kirill wrote in his memoirs. "It is like daylight. And I was now within visible reach of fulfillment of the dream of my life. Nothing would cheat me of it now. I had gone through much. Now, at last, the future lay radiant before me."[35]

A formal portrait of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, Grand Duchess Victoria, and their daughter Maria Kirillovna, 1908, Coburg


After her divorce, Victoria went to live with her mother at Coburg and at her house in the French Riviera.[30] She and Ernst shared custody of Elisabeth, who spent six months of each year with each parent. Elisabeth blamed Victoria for the divorce and Victoria had a difficult time reconnecting with her daughter. Ernst wrote in his memoirs that Elisabeth hid under a sofa, crying, before one visit to her mother. Ernst assured the child that her mother loved her too. Elisabeth responded, "Mama says she loves me, but you do love me." Ernst remained silent and didn't correct the child's impression.[18] Elisabeth died at age eight and a half of typhoid fever during a November 1903 visit to Tsar Nicholas II and his family at their Polish hunting lodge. The doctor advised the Tsar's family to notify the child's mother of her illness, but the Tsarina delayed in sending a telegram. Victoria received the final telegram notifying her of the child's death just as she was preparing to travel to Poland to be at her bedside.[31] At Elisabeth's funeral, Victoria removed her Hessian Order, a medallion, and placed it on her daughter's coffin as a final gesture "that she had made a final break with her old home."[32]

From left to right, sitting: Princess Irene, Grand Duchess Elizabeth, Victoria Melita, Grand Duke Sergei. Standing:Tsar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, Princess Victoria and Grand Duke Ernest Ludwig, Darmstadt, 1894

[29] The divorce of the reigning Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Hesse caused scandal in the royal circles of Europe. Tsar Nicholas wrote to his mother that even death would have been better than "the general disgrace of a divorce."[28]"Though both had done their best to make a success of their marriage, it had been a failure ...[T]heir characters and temperaments were quite unsuited to each other and I had noticed how they were gradually drifting apart." Victoria, Princess Louis of Battenberg, later wrote that she was less surprised by the divorce than Ernst was. [28]. "For to keep up your spirits and a laughing face while ruin is staring you in the eyes and misery is tearing your heart to pieces is a struggle which is fruitless. I only tried for her sake. If I had not loved her so, I would have given it up long ago."Victoria, Princess Louis of Battenberg The Supreme Court of Hesse dissolved the marriage on 21 December 1901. Ernst, who had at first resisted the divorce, came to believe it was the only possible step. "Now that I am calmer I see the absolute impossibility of going on leading a life which was killing her and driving me nearly mad," Ernst wrote to his elder sister [27] Efforts to rekindle the marriage failed and, when Queen Victoria died in January 1901, significant opposition to the end of the marriage was removed.[26] Queen Victoria was saddened when she heard of the trouble in the marriage from [25][24] Her marriage to Ernst suffered a further blow in 1897, when Victoria returned home from a visit to her sister Queen Marie of Romania and reportedly caught Ernst in bed with a male servant. She did not make her accusation public, but told a niece that "no boy was safe, from the stable hands to the kitchen help. He slept quite openly with them all."

Victoria Melita and her daughter Princess Elisabeth of Hesse, who died in 1903 of typhoid fever.


Victoria and Ernst's marriage was an unhappy affair. Victoria despaired of her husband's lack of affection towards her, while Ernst devoted much of his attention to their daughter, whom he adored. Elisabeth, who physically resembled her mother, preferred the company of her father to Victoria.[18] Ernst and Victoria both enjoyed entertaining and frequently held house parties for young friends. Their unwritten rule was that anyone over thirty "was old and out."[19] Formality was dispensed with and royal house guests were referred to by their nicknames and encouraged to do as they wished. Victoria and Ernst cultivated friends who were progressive artists and intellectuals as well as those who enjoyed fun and frolic. Victoria's cousin Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark remembered one stay there as "the jolliest, merriest house party to which I have ever been in my life."[20] However, Victoria was less enthusiastic about fulfilling her public role. She avoided answering letters, put off visits to elderly relations whose company she did not enjoy, and talked to people who amused her at official functions while ignoring people of higher standing she found boring.[21] Victoria's inattention to her duties provoked fights with Ernst. The young couple had loud, physical fights. The volatile Victoria shouted, threw tea trays, smashed china against the wall, and tossed anything that was handy at Ernst during their battles.[21] Victoria sought relief in her love for horses and long gallops over the countryside on a hard-to-control stallion named Bogdan.[22] While she was in Russia for the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II, Victoria's affection for Kirill was also rekindled. She enjoyed flirting with him at the balls and celebrations that marked the coronation.[23]

Eventually, Victoria and Ernst bowed to their families' pressure and married on 9 April 1894 at Schloss Ehrenburg in Coburg. The wedding was a large affair, with most of the royal families of Europe attending, including Queen Victoria, the Empress Frederick, Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Prince of Wales. Victoria was now titled The Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine.[17] Her wedding is also significant since at the same time the official engagement of the future Tsar Nicholas II of Russia to Ernst's younger sister, Alix, was proclaimed. Together Victoria and Ernst had two children, a daughter, Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine, whom they nicknamed Ella, born on 11 March 1895, and a stillborn son, born on 25 May 1900.

Victoria Melita and Ernst Ludwig at their marriage in 1894

Grand Duchess of Hesse

Soon after her sister Marie was married to the Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania, a search was made for a suitable husband for Victoria. Her visit to her grandmother Queen Victoria at Balmoral Castle in the autumn of 1891 coincided with a visit by her cousin Prince Ernest Louis of Hesse, heir to the grand ducal throne of Hesse. Both were artistic and fun loving, got along well and even shared a birthday. The Queen, observing this, was very keen for her two grandchildren to marry.[16]

The teenage Victoria was a "tall, dark girl, with violet eyes ... with the assuredness of an Empress and the high spirits of a Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich. There Victoria met her first cousin Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich. Although the two were deeply attracted to each other, Victoria's mother was reluctant to allow her to marry him because the Russian Orthodox religion forbids the marriage of two first cousins. She was also suspicious of the morality of the Romanov men. When her teenage daughters were impressed by their handsome cousins, their mother warned them against the Russian grand dukes who did not make good husbands.[15]


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