Maria Fedorovna was prepared for a bright and dramatic life full of events. A Danish princess, she was at first betrothed to one, but married another, and then became an empress who was originally a foreign country for herself. In her life fit and happiness of love, and a large number of losses. She survived not only her husband, but also her sons, grandchildren, and even her country. At the end of her life, she returned to Denmark, which remained one of the few corners of calm and well-being in interwar Europe.
Maria Fedorovna, nee Maria Sophia Frederica Dagmar, was born on November 14 (November 26 in a new style) 1847 was in Copenhagen. It originated from the ruling Denmark of the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg dynasty from the middle of the XV century, belonging to the German Oldenburg family. To him - to the younger branches of the family - belonged to the rulers of neighboring Sweden, several German princes and, to some extent, Russian emperors. Peter III the ancestor in the male line of all subsequent Romanovs descended precisely from the Holstein-Gottorp line of the Oldenburg family.
Empress Maria Feodorovna in Russian dress with a diadem and a necklace of diamond 51, 1883 year
Her father was the Danish king Christian IX, the mother of Louise of Hesse-Kassel. The family had six children: the heir to the throne Frederick, Alexandra, Wilhelm, Dagmar, Tyr and Waldemar. It was a friendly Danish family, in which the second daughter Dagmar, or officially Maria-Sofia-Frederica-Dagmar, enjoyed particular love. Her kindness, sincerity and delicacy earned her universal love among numerous relatives across Europe. Dagmar knew how to please everyone without exception - not because she put some special effort into it, but because of her innate charm. Not being a rare beauty, Princess Dagmar, nevertheless, stood out for her special charm, which could leave almost no one indifferent.
Sister Dagmar - Alexander the Danish became the future wife of the British king Edward VII, their son George V had a portrait resemblance to Nicholas II - the son of Dagmar and Emperor Alexander III. It is worth noting that the Danish princesses were highly valued at the European "Bride Fair" for noble aristocratic families. Therefore, there is nothing surprising in the fact that young Dagmar, which was famous for its wonderful character and charm, was also noticed in Russia. Russian Emperor Alexander II and his wife Maria Alexandrovna (nee Princess of Hesse-Darmstadt) were just looking for a wife for their eldest son, the heir to the throne Nikolai Alexandrovich.
In 1864, his father sent Nicholas to travel around Europe, in particular, to visit Copenhagen, where he was advised to pay special attention to young Dagmar, about which many good things had been heard in the royal family. A marriage with a princess from Denmark was beneficial to Russia. So the empire wanted to consolidate its position on the Baltic Sea at the peak of Prussia and Germany. Also, this marriage would establish new kinship, including with the UK, relations with which for a long time were very strained. In addition, the immutable German brides in Russia are already fed up, and the Dane (albeit from a German kind by origin) would not annoy anyone much either at court or among the people. Such a marriage was also beneficial for Denmark, a small Baltic state that would receive a strong ally.
Heir to the Tsarevich Nikolai Alexandrovich with the bride, Princess Dagmar
Nikolai Alexandrovich came to Copenhagen, just to meet, but immediately fell in love with a young princess. Big-eyed, short, miniature, she did not shine with special beauty, but she conquered with her liveliness, charm and charm. Already 16 September 1864, Nikolai made a proposal to Princess Dagmar, and she accepted it. She fell in love with the Russian heir, agreeing to change her faith for Orthodoxy for him - it was a necessary condition for marriage. However, during a trip to Italy, the crown prince suddenly fell ill for everyone. Since October 20 1864, he has been treated in Nice. In the spring of 1865, his health condition deteriorated significantly. On April 10, Emperor Alexander II arrived in Nice, his brother Alexander and Princess Dagmar were there. On the night of April 12, 1865, after many hours of agony, the 22-year-old heir to the Russian throne passed away, the cause of his death was tuberculous meningitis. Grief Dagmar struck everyone then, in 18 years she became a widow, and not having time to get married, she even lost weight from grief and shed tears. The unexpected death of the heir also shook the entire Russian Empire and the Romanov family.
At the same time, Russian Emperor Alexander III did not forget about Dagmar, having appreciated her loyalty and strong character. Now the Russian Imperial House wanted her to marry Alexander Alexandrovich’s new heir. It is worth noting that the affection between them arose even when they were courting the dying Tsarevich Nicholas in Nice together. Already on 17 on June 1866 of the year their engagement took place in Copenhagen, and three months later - on September 1 of 1866, the Danish princess arrived in Kronstadt, where she was met by the entire imperial family. In October, 1866, Dagmar adopted Orthodoxy under the name of Maria Fedorov - the patronymic was given to her in honor of the icon of the Feodorovskaya Mother of God, who was the patroness of the Romanov dynasty. 28 October 1866 was the wedding ceremony of Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich and Grand Duchess Maria Fedorovna, the residence of the newlyweds became Anichkov Palace.
Cheerful and cheerful in nature, Maria was warmly received by the metropolitan and court society. Her marriage to Alexander, despite the fact that their relationship began under rather sorrowful circumstances (in addition, Alexander himself had managed to defeat a strong cordial attachment to the maid of honor Maria Mescherskaya), was extremely successful. For almost a 30-year life together, the couple retained a genuine affection for each other. The relationship between Alexander III and Maria Fedorovna was amazing for the house of the Romanovs. Undoubted love and mutual tenderness throughout life - an incredible rarity in the royal family, where it was often considered the norm, having married by calculation, win mistresses. Alexander II was no exception, but more on that later.
Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich and Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna
The charm of the young wife of the heir to the throne was liked by everyone, exerting a truly magical effect on people. Despite her small stature, Maria Fedorovna was distinguished by such majestic manners, that with her appearance she could overshadow everyone. An extremely sociable, agile, with a cheerful and lively character, she managed to return to the Russian imperial house the brilliance that was lost after the illness of Empress Maria Alexandrovna. At the same time, Maria Feodorovna loved painting and was fond of her, she even took lessons from the famous Russian artist A. P. Bogolyubov, she also loved horse riding. And although the behavior of Maria Feodorovna gave many a reason to accuse the young tsesarevna with a certain frivolity and superficiality of their interests, in spite of this, she enjoyed universal respect. This is not surprising, she had a solid and very strong character and at the same time an amazing sense of tact, which did not allow her to openly demonstrate her own influence on her spouse.
The young crown princess had a wonderful relationship with her mother-in-law and father-in-law. Alexander II treated her with undisguised sympathy, which somewhat smoothed out the cooling in relations with his eldest son that grew year by year. The fact is that by the beginning of the 1870-ies, Cesarevitch Alexander and his close associates became almost an opposition political group. Neither of which criticism of the Tsar-Liberator and his activities was discussed, however, undisguised attention to everything Russian, the opposition of aspirations and national feelings to the cosmopolitanism of the imperial court and the Russian aristocracy looked demonstrative. At the same time, the future emperor experienced persistent hostility towards Germany (especially Prussia), in which he found his wife’s full support. To Prussia, which after part of the 1864 war of the year in her native Denmark part of the land - Schleswig and Holstein (for the sake of justice, inhabited mainly by the Germans), Maria Feodorovna experienced a steady hostility. On the contrary, Emperor Alexander II adored his relative, the Prussian king and German emperor Wilhelm.
There was another problem that seriously complicated the relationship between father and son. The last one and a half decades before his death, Emperor Alexander II led a double life. His strongest passion for the young princess Ekaterina Dolgorukova caused the emperor of the Russian Empire to live in two families, and after the death of his legitimate wife in 1880, he waited the minimum term of mourning, ignoring the opinion of his relatives, and married his old lover. This marriage was morganatic, and this meant that the new wife and her descendants would not be able to claim the imperial throne. However, the already strained relations with the Tsarevich became even more aggravated. In addition, there were rumors in the capital that the emperor was going to crown "Katya". All this time, Maria Feodorovna remained on the side of her husband, sharing all his feelings, but also played the role of a “buffer”, trying to mitigate and smooth out conflicts in the Romanov family as much as she could.
Tsesarevna and Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna with children. From left to right: George, Ksenia, Nikolai, 1879 year
During the 14 years of marriage, Alexander Alexandrovich and Maria Fedorovna had six children. In 1868, the firstborn was born - Nikolai - the future last Russian emperor Nikolai II, who was all called Nicky in the family, Alexander appeared in a year (died before the year, in April 1870), in 1871, George (died in 1899 year), in 1875 year - daughter Xenia (died in 1960 year in London), and three years later - Michael (killed in 1918 year). Their last child, daughter Olga, was born in the 1882 year (she died in the 1960 year in Toronto), when Alexander was already the emperor of Russia.
In March 1881, Emperor Alexander II died in a terrorist attack. By coincidence, the successful attempt on the sovereign was made on the day when he was about to sign a draft of political reforms, called the "Constitution of Loris-Melikov." Even if this project outlined only the first tentative steps towards a constitutional restriction of autocracy, it could be the beginning of transformations throughout the country. But that did not happen. The new emperor, the eldest son of Alexander II, who became Alexander III, ascended the throne; in the same year, Maria Feodorovna became the current empress, and after the death of her spouse in the 1894 year - the widow empress.
Alexander III, in contrast to his father, pursued a policy of counter-reforms, all possible constitutional reforms were canceled. At the same time, during the years of the reign of Alexander III, Russia did not wage a single war, for which the monarch received the official nickname Tsar the Peacemaker. His thirteen-year reign was calm and unhurried, as was the autocrat himself. At the same time, the personal life of the emperor, as before, was permeated with happiness. It was not carefree, but it really was. Externally, in the life of Alexander and Mary, almost nothing has changed. The emperor, as before, remained emphatically, some noted that prior to asceticism, modest in everyday life, and there was no posture in such behavior. Maria and Alexander often missed each other, so they tried to part as little as possible, and when this happened, they wrote each other letters each day. Published later, these letters have kept a lot of touching evidence of their love, which was not confused during all the years of their life together.
Maria Feodorovna with her son, Russian Emperor Nicholas II
Contemporaries noted that a surprisingly friendly atmosphere always reigned in the royal family, there were no conflicts. They brought up children in love, but did not indulge. Parents who valued organization and order, tried to instill in their children a love for everything Russian, ideals, traditions, faith in God. At the same time, the English education system was adopted at the imperial court, which provided for mandatory oatmeal for breakfast for children, plenty of fresh air, and cold baths for hardening. The spouses themselves not only kept the children in austerity, but also themselves lived quite modestly, not approving of luxury. For example, it was noted that for breakfast the emperor and the empress had only boiled eggs and rye bread.
Their happy marriage lasted until the death of Emperor Alexander III in the 1894 year, he died at a fairly young age, not even before 50 years. The son of Alexander and Mary Nicholas II ascended to the Russian throne. During his reign, the widowed empress patronized Sergei Witte and his policies. Maria Fedorovna paid much attention to social activities. She was a guardian of the Water Rescue Society, the Women's Patriotic Society, headed by the Empress Mary’s institutions of institutions (various educational homes, educational institutions, shelters for disadvantaged and defenseless children, poorhouse houses), and paid great attention to the Russian Red Cross Society (ROCS). Thanks to the initiatives of Maria Fedorovna, this organization received fees for issuing passports for travel abroad, as well as train fees for first-class passengers. During the First World War, she ensured that the “sub-collection” - 10 kopecks from each telegram was also sent to the needs of society, which significantly increased the ROKK budget and the amount of assistance provided to them.
In June 1915 of the year, the widowed empress went to Kiev for a month, and in August of the same year she begged her son Nicholas II not to assume the supreme command, but to no avail. In 1916, she finally moved from St. Petersburg to Kiev, settling in the Mariinsky Palace. During the war years, she organized the work of hospitals, as well as numerous sanitary trains, in which hundreds of thousands of wounded Russian soldiers and officers improved their health. Here in Kiev 19 October 1916, she celebrated the half-century anniversary of her direct participation in the affairs of the Office of Institutions of the Empress Maria.
Empress Dowager Maria Feodorovna and her camera-Cossack Timothy Box. Copenhagen, 1924 year
In Kiev, Maria Feodorovna learned about the renunciation of her son, after which she traveled to Mogilyov to meet him. After that, with her youngest daughter, Olga, and the husband of Xenia’s eldest daughter, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, she moved to Crimea, from where she was evacuated in 1919 on board the British battleship Marlboro. Already from the UK she returned to her native Denmark, where she settled in the villa Vidyre, where she had previously lived with her sister Alexandra. In Denmark, she was accompanied by a camera-Cossack. Box Timofey Ksenofontovichwhich all this time served as her bodyguard. While in Denmark, Maria Feodorovna rejected all attempts of the Russian emigration to involve her in political activities.
Maria Feodorovna passed away on 13 on October 1928 of the year at the age of 81. After the funeral of 19 in October in the local Orthodox church, her ashes were placed in a sarcophagus in the Royal Tomb of the Cathedral, located in the Danish city of Roskilde next to the ashes of her parents. The members of the Danish royal family are currently also resting here.
In 2004-2005, an agreement was reached between the Danish and Russian governments to transfer the remains of Empress Maria Fedorovna from Roskilde to St. Petersburg, where she bequeathed to bury herself next to her husband. September 26 aboard the Danish ship "Esburn Snare" the ashes of Maria Fedorovna went on his last trip to Russia. In Russian territorial waters the Danes met the flagship of the Baltic fleet The Undaunted who escorted the Danish ship to the port. Upon arrival of the ships at the port, the Russian warship Smolny met them with 31 gun salvos, just as many cannon salvos were fired when the Danish princess arrived in Kronstadt in 1866. On September 28, 2006, the coffin with the remains of Empress Maria Feodorovna was buried in St. Petersburg in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in the Peter and Paul Fortress near the grave of her husband Alexander III.
Based on materials from open sources