Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna of Russia
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...
(24 June 1825 – 10 August 1844) was the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas I
Nicholas I , was the Emperor of Russia from 1825 until 1855, known as one of the most reactionary of the Russian monarchs. On the eve of his death, the Russian Empire reached its historical zenith spanning over 20 million square kilometers...
, Emperor of Russia, and his wife, Princess Charlotte of Prussia.
She was the namesake
Namesake is a term used to characterize a person, place, thing, quality, action, state, or idea that has the same, or a similar, name to another....
of her paternal aunt, Grand Duchess Alexandra Pavlovna, but in the family she was known as "Adini". Alexandra was reportedly her father's favorite child; according to her sister Olga's memoirs, he maintained that she alone among his children had inherited her mother's "Prussian look". It was also said that she resembled her grandmother, Queen Louise of Prussia
Duchess Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was Queen consort of Prussia as the wife of King Frederick William III...
. Nicholas affectionately spoke of Adini as "... a little moppet, but very sweet".
Alexandra was famous in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...
society for both her beauty and her lively personality. She was also the musician in the family. A serious student of vocal music, she was talented enough to qualify for lessons from the famous soprano Henriette Sontag
Henriette Sontag was a German operatic soprano of great international renown. She possessed a sweet-toned, lyrical voice and was a brilliant exponent of florid singing.-Life:...
On 28 January 1844, Alexandra married Prince Frederick William of Hesse (1820–1884) in St. Petersburg. Her husband was the only son of Prince William of Hesse
Landgrave William of Hesse-Kassel , son of Landgrave Frederick of Hesse-Cassel and Princess Caroline of Nassau-Usingen....
and Princess Louise Charlotte of Denmark
Princess Louise Charlotte of Denmark was a princess of Denmark.She was born in Christiansborg Palace to Hereditary Prince Frederick of Denmark and Norway and Sophia Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin , Princess and Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.-Marriage:On 10 November 1810 in Amalienborg Palace...
. "Fritz", as he was called, had come to St. Petersburg as a prospective bridegroom for Olga, but fell in love with Adini instead on the first evening he spent with the family. Although Olga was the elder daughter and also found Fritz to be an engaging young man, she graciously stepped aside in favor of her sister, and even chaperoned the couple when they wanted to spend time together away from the prying eyes of the court. The emperor and empress then gave their permission for Alexandra and Fritz to be married.
Alexandra became acutely ill with tuberculosis shortly before her wedding, and this complicated the pregnancy which soon followed. She was never well enough to travel to Hesse
The Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel or Hesse-Cassel was a state in the Holy Roman Empire under Imperial immediacy that came into existence when the Landgraviate of Hesse was divided in 1567 upon the death of Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse. His eldest son William IV inherited the northern half and the...
and take up her new position with her husband. They stayed in St. Petersburg, where her health rapidly declined.
She went into labor prematurely, three months before the child was due, and gave birth to a son, Wilhelm. The infant died shortly after he was born, and Alexandra died later the same day. Her parents were devastated and their grief would last until the end of their lives. She was buried with her baby son in her arms, at the Peter and Paul Fortress
The Peter and Paul Fortress is the original citadel of St. Petersburg, Russia, founded by Peter the Great in 1703 and built to Domenico Trezzini's designs from 1706-1740.-History:...
in St. Petersburg.
Nine years later, Fritz married Adini's first cousin, Princess Anna of Prussia
Maria Anna Friederike was a Princess of Prussia. She was usually called Anna.-Suitors:...
(1836–1918), as his second wife. Eventually he became head of the House of Hesse-Kassel. Although they had six children together, Fritz and Anna were never emotionally close, and it is speculated that one reason was because Fritz was unable to overcome his grief for his first wife.
In the gardens of the Petergof palace near Saint Petersburg there is a memorial bench with a small sculpture bust of the Grand Duchess. Her rooms there have been preserved just as they were at the time of her death.
Six sheaves of wheat made of diamonds, which came to Hesse on one of the gowns in Alexandra's trousseau, were transformed into a tiara by Anna around 1900. This tiara is now the traditional wedding tiara of the Hessian princely family, and was last worn by Floria of Faber-Castell when in 2003, she married Donatus, Hereditary Prince of Hesse, Adini's husband's great-great grandson by his second marriage.
Hesse: A Princely German Collection
. Catalog of exhibition at the Portland Art Museum, 2005. John E. Buchanan, Jr., Director, The Marilyn H. and Dr. Robert B. Pamplin, Jr. Collection.
Olga, Queen of Wuerttemberg. Traum der Jugend goldener Stern
. Günther Neske Verlag, 1955.