Monday, August 8, 2011
Consort Profile: Empress Charlotte of Prussia
In 1814 Grand Duke Nicholas Pavlovich of Russia first visited Berlin and the Romanov and Hohenzollern houses immediately began to arrange a marriage between the dashing Russian prince and the petite Prussian princess. When the Grand Duke returned in 1815 he happily fell in love with the beautiful seventeen year old princess and she with him. As the Princess said to her brother, “in our hearts we have a world of our own”. Throughout the tour the two were totally inseparable and by the end of the trip the Grand Duke had proposed and Princess Charlotte accepted though it would be a long engagement. She was nineteen when Charlotte and the Grand Duke Nicholas were married in 1817 at the chapel in the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. It was the start of a great romance as Princess Charlotte, renamed the Grand Duchess Alexandra Feodorovna after her conversion to Russian Orthodoxy said, “With complete confidence and trust, I gave my life into the hands of my Nicholas, and he never once betrayed it”.
Only a few weeks after the wedding Grand Duchess Alexandra was pregnant and gave birth to a son (the future Tsar Alexander II) in 1818. Six more children came in fairly quick succession in the ensuing years, though the petite Grand Duchess sometimes had trouble and did have a miscarriage in 1820. She was curious, graceful, musically inclined, an avid reader, rather soft-spoken but still authoritative and although frequently in frail health still maintained an always regal bearing. Whether in private or in public she was the ideal royal consort. She had her own interests but her family, her husband and children, always came first and she was happiest with them. Nicholas was happy and content as well, being utterly satisfied with his career in the Imperial Russian Army and with a loving wife at home he positively worshipped. However, they would not have as much time to themselves as they would have liked after the Grand Duke, rather unexpectedly, was propelled onto the Russian throne as Tsar Nicholas I. It was 1825, the Decembrist Revolt had just been suppressed and Nicholas set out on a reign that it was to make him known as the “Gendarme of Europe”, faithful protector of monarchial stability.
Empress Alexandra remained devoted to her husband for the rest of her life, though she was greatly troubled by her fragile health which forced her to spend a great deal of time outside of Russia. This was hard as she had completely adopted Russia as her own (to her, the Tsar and Russia were one and the same) and she always referred to Russia, not Germany, as her country. When her health continued to deteriorate her doctors warned her that the Russian winter would be the death of her and she would have to move south permanently she decided instead to move to St Petersburg for fear that she might succumb while in a foreign country and she was determined to die on Russian soil. She spent her remaining time at the Alexander Palace and died there, in her sleep, on November 1, 1860. Just before she had closed her eyes for the last time attendants heard her say, “Niki, I am coming to you”.