My grandmother, Empress Maria Feodorovna was born in 1847 in Denmark and was named Princess Dagmar. She was the 4th child of future King of Denmark Christian IX, who ascended the throne only in 1863, after the death of childless Frederick VII – the last of the Danish Oldenburg family, who held the throne for over 400 years (from 1448 to 1863).
The beginning of the reign of my Danish great-grandfather was stormy. He was persecuted as a “German”, but after 43 years of reign (from 1863 to 1906) he became not only popular and loved at home, but, like Queen Victoria of Great Britain, nicknamed “Mother-in-law of Europe”, he had the right to be called “Father-in-law and The soul of Europe ”, a title much more comfortable.
He placed his descendants on two non-existent European thrones at that time: son – in Greece, grandson – in Norway. My grandmother’s older brother, of course, inherited the Danish throne under the name of Frederick VIII (1906-1912). His sons (nephews of Empress Maria Feodorovna) later became: one king of Denmark – Christian X (1912-1947), and the other – the king of Norway – Gokon VII (1905-1957).
My grandmother’s older sister, Alexandra, married the English king Edward VII, and my brother Wilhelm, having married the Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna, became the King of the Hellenes, George I, and thus the founder of the current Greek dynasty. The younger sister, Tyra, married Ernest Augustus duke of Cumberland. King Christian IX called his daughters: Alexandra – “my beautiful daughter”, my grandmother – “my smart daughter” and Tyra – “my good daughter.” The younger brother, Prince Valdemar, who died in 1939, was the grandfather of Anne, Queen of Romania.
Princess Dagmar’s childhood was turbulent. Denmark, which lost Norway as a result of the Napoleonic wars, and with it its world-scale fleet, was a poor country. The uprising in Holstein, then belonging to Denmark, supported by Prussia, Saxony and other countries of the German Union, resulted in 1848 in a 3-year war (1848-1850). My grandmother’s father, Prince Christian, took part in this war as the commander of the Horse Guards Regiment.
14 years later, in 1864, upon his accession to the throne, despite the recognition by Queen Victoria of England and the Russian Tsar of his rights to the entire territory of the Danish kingdom, Prussia and Austria-Hungary, led by the iron will of Chancellor Bismarck, attacked with all their military might against Denmark, justifying its attack by the “protection of the rights” of the southern duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. At the beginning, the war gave Denmark a brilliant naval victory off the island of Helgoland. Admiral Swenson burned the Schwarzenberg, the beauty and pride of the Austrian fleet, and drove several dozen Allied ships into neutral waters, where they were interned. The development of the Prussian-Austro-Hungarian offensive on land was initially delayed at the flank position of “Dub- Bel”, but with its fall, the enemy spread throughout Jutland, and the war, although lasted another six months, was actually lost. Under the peace treaty in Vienna, Denmark lost the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein.
The defeat of Denmark was admitted by Russia in part in retaliation for the fact that Denmark let the British squadron into the Baltic Sea during the Crimean War (just ten years earlier). However, almost immediately after the defeat, it was considered desirable to support and legitimize the new Danish dynasty by marrying the young princess Dagmar to the Tsarevich, the eldest son of the Tsar-Liberator (the liberator of the peasants, and later the liberator of the Balkans).
However, phthisis in those days was an incurable disease. On his deathbed, Tsarevich, joining the hand of his bride with the hand of his brother, the future Emperor Alexander III, bequeathed him to marry young Danish princess. The wedding took place on November 9, 1866.
The young couple settled in the Anichkov Palace in Saint Petersburg, where they stayed for 15 years, until the accession to the throne of the heir to Alexander. This circumstance turned out to be very favorable, since my miniature grandmother, who seemed even smaller next to the gigantic figure of my grandfather, for 15 years was able to completely get used to her new homeland, new orders and customs.
Our last Empress, the Tsarina-Great Martyr, Alexandra Feodorovna started her life in Russia not so successfully. She became both a wife and an empress in a completely unfamiliar environment.
The lively and cheerful disposition of my grandmother won her friends and adorers for life. She loved beauty, luxury, dress and dancing and, after poor Denmark, enjoyed the splendor of Russian court life, which she later gave splendor and fun at the court of her husband, who became Emperor Alexander III.
They complemented each other perfectly. He was entirely and fundamentally a man of duty, a straightforward man, who loved order, simplicity and modesty. But he was never a heavy “idol”, as modern pseudo-“historians” like to portray him.
It should be noted that he was very cheerful and good with children. He had a fine sense of humor. As an example, I will give the following case. My grandfather was not very fond of balls, and my grandmother could dance all night! And, of course, while the Empress was dancing, the ball could not end… Then the Emperor sometimes resorted to such a “tactic” – a joke: he approached, as if by chance, the orchestra and slowly sent the musicians away one by one until the last who blew on the trumpet all the cheeks “um-pa-pa, um-pa-pa”. Dancing by will, not by will, but stopped.
My grandparents had 5 children:
The future Emperor Nicholas II – was born in 1868,
Grand Duke Alexander (died in infancy) – b. in 1869,
Grand Duke George (who died young in Abastuman from tuberculosis) – b. in 1871,
Grand Duchess Xenia – born in 1875,
Grand Duke Michael – born in 1878
Grand Duchess Olga – born in 1882
Of all the children of my grandmother, I personally knew, besides my mother, only one aunt, Ksenia, who died the same year as her mother. Aunt Ksenia died on Easter, and my mother died before Christmas in 1960.
Having become Empress, Maria Feodorovna did not interfere in the affairs of state of her sovereign husband, but was always his loyal assistant in everything else, taking on herself a significant share of representative duties. She was the Chief of the Guards Crew and was also “La Dame Blance” Chief of the Cavalry Regiment (“Cavalier Guards” was created by Peter the Great for the coronation of Catherine I, and he himself became the “Regimental” Commander. Generals were officers, and majors and below were “privates”! Most respectable military unit!)
In addition, my grandmother was the chef of Her Majesty’s Cuirassiers (the so-called “Blue” or “Gatchina” cuirassiers). The following regiments bore her name and her monograms on her shoulder straps:
– 2nd Life-Dragoon Pskov Regiment of Her Majesty Empress Maria Feodorovna (on pink shoulder straps);
– II Ulansky Chuguevsky E.V. G. I. M. F. P. (on white shoulder straps) and
– II East Siberian Rifle E.V.G.I.M.F.P. (on crimson shoulder straps).
The empress headed many different organizations and institutions, public, charitable, and also accounting institutions – also bearing her name. The lovely schoolgirls present here, who wore her code and aprons with folds according to the number of letters of her name, are well aware of this … Nice tradition!
So, in royal duties, Maria Feodorovna’s life flowed during her lifetime and after the death of Tsar Emperor Alexander III in 1894 and during the Great War that began in 1914 – until the revolution itself, which caught her in Kiev, from where Maria Feodorovna moved to Crimea, where followed my parents and my aunt Ksenia and her husband Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich and children.
There all were arrested by the Yalta Council and were kept in custody. There were frequent “searches” – allegedly in search of weapons. But usually various expensive things “disappeared” …
The Empress was “searched” only once, bursting into the bedroom at night …
But she, sitting in bed, shouted so much at the commissars and sailors that they embarrassedly cleaned up and never went into her bedroom again. Despite the fact that she was a prisoner and despite her small stature, she could still be formidable and commanding, – Even to influence unbridled rebels.
After the Brest-Litovsk “peace”, the Germans came to the Crimea and freed us all, saving us from inevitable death.
The Empress, who from childhood had fierce hatred of the Germans for Denmark, and now for Wilhelm for Russia, did not accept the German general who wished to visit her.
After the defeat and surrender of the Central Powers, the “White” and the British squadron came to the Crimea.
At the insistence of his mother, King George V sent for his aunt the warship H.M.S. “Marlborough”.
But the Empress made it a condition of her departure that the British agree to take away at the same time all those who would wish to leave Russia with her, which was done by the royal sailors.
My parents (I was born in Crimea) did not want to leave their homeland. Then, it seemed to them, there was still hope for the best … And they moved to the Kuban (where my brother Gury was born, in the spring of 1919).
After the collapse of the White movement in southern Russia, we evacuated to Constantinople. From Turkey, through Serbia and Vienna, we reached Denmark, where to my grandmother had already arrived from England. We lived with her until her death in 1928.
In exile, the Dowager Empress continued, to the best of her strength and catastrophically curtailed financial resources, to help everyone who turned to her. Now, as in the reign of her husband, and then her son, about whom, and about whose family, she continued to think of as living, she did not interfere in politics. The only time the empress broke her silence, giving permission to Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich to make public her letter, written to him about the arbitrary performance of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich. How wise the words of the Queen-Mother sound to this day:
“Your Imperial Highness! My heart sank painfully when I read the manifesto of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, who declared himself the Emperor of All Russia. I am afraid that this manifesto will create a split and thus will not improve, but, on the contrary, worsen the situation in already tortured Russia. If God, in His inscrutable ways, was pleased to call to Himself my beloved sons and grandson, then I believe that the Sovereign Emperor will be indicated by our basic laws, in alliance with the Orthodox Church, together with the Russian People. I pray to God that He will not be angry with us to the end and will soon send us salvation in ways that He only knows. I am sure that you, as a senior member of the House of Romanov, think in the same way as me.
– Maria, 21 Sept. / 4 Oct. 1924 “.
Not only Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, but also the last leader of the Russian Army, General Baron Wrangel, and most of the true monarchists thought the same way as my grandmother.
In winter she lived in Copenhagen at the Amalienborg Palace, which consisted of 3 and 4 floors Baroque buildings covering a wide area. She was assigned the building in which her father, Christian IX, had previously lived. Directly opposite was the residence of King Christan X, her nephew. On the right side of her house lived the Queen Dowager Louise, and the building on the left, like the lower floor of “our” building, was intended for official receptions.
When the king was in his residence, at 12 o’clock in the afternoon there was a “Watch-parade” – changing of the guard, with music, taking out the banner, etc. Moreover, some officers always looked sideways from under the visors of their bearskin hats: was the Empress standing at the window, and if she was noticed, then joyfully, although not officially, saluted her with a saber. The king did not like this, and he made rude remarks to them. But the officers continued. For the Empress was very popular among the Danes. But I will return to this later.
We spent summers by the sea, 12 kilometers north of Copenhagen, in a vast villa “Hvidore”, with a beautiful garden and a private beach. The early widowed sisters, the Empress of Russia and the Queen of England, bought “Hvidore” for their meetings “halfway” with their father.
In the billiard room, above the fireplace, there was an inscription: “Ost-Vest-Hjomme bedst” - “East-West – home is best.”
As far back as I can remember, I have always had the deepest respect for “Amama”, as we called her in the family. She – it seemed to me – was “the most important!” A house, a garden, a car, a driver Axel, two cossacks, with daggers and revolvers, who were on duty in the hallway, and even Danish guards at their red booths – in general, everything, everything, everything was grandmother’s and existed only for her … Everyone else, including myself, was “nothing!” So it seemed to me, and so, to a certain extent, it was.
When she was resting during the day, my brother and I were forbidden to make noise even in the garden. Moreover, we were repeatedly punished that the Empress scolded our mother for literally loud behavior… We were not beaten, we were not left without sweets or without walks, but we were long and tediously ashamed for the troubles that our poor mother got through because of our fault from my grandmother.
At first, dad scolded – right after the upset mother returned from the Empress. And then, even in the evening, before prayer, my beloved nurse “Avaka” – Ksenia Yakovlevna Mozhaeva – turned to the voice of my conscience.
I remember such a shameful “feat”: I will call it “The Tulip Massacre.” From a very early age, I was terribly fond of tulips. They attracted me. I loved to feel their waxy petals and even got permission from my mother to pick one petal from the fading tulips in a vase. This indulgence turned into a big flaw in my upbringing. Once, when I was 5-6 years old, someone presented the Empress with literally hundreds of tulip bulbs, and they were all planted in a huge star-shaped flower bed in front of the windows of the country house. And then a multicolored carpet arose, pleasing all eyes, not excluding mine.
But one hot day I noticed that some flowers opened – in my opinion – more than “due”. I decided that they would soon fall off. The flowers are still coming to an end, and there is no need for them to stand longer … Having explained the situation to “Gurka” (my younger brother) and armed with our wooden swords, we fearlessly rushed to this mass of “soldiers in bright clothes “… And there was a battle, just an epic battle. The Russian fairytales battle: “I wave to the right – the street lays down, to the left – a lane lays down” … the heads were rolling. The little brother could hardly keep up with me. I yell in rapture! And through my own cry I hear how Gurka offers to stop this beating of an already clearly defeated enemy. I’m going to turn around in indignation, scold him for his cowardice and lack of military enthusiasm, when suddenly I feel that someone grabbed me from behind by the shoulder with a raised hand, and I hear the loud voice of the nanny right in my ear: “What are you doing? Are you gone crazy?” and she dragged me disarmed into the house …
The poor brother trailed behind, sobbing. As a senior, I got a lot of lectures …
Princes Valdemar and Georges were both sailors and admirals, Valdemar was the Danish Admiral of the Fleet (chief-com.), And Prince George was listed as admiral not only in the Greek, but also in the Russian Imperial Fleet. But at the time described, Greece was a republic, and the prince lived in Denmark, not far from the Empress’s house. I also remember the others who were present. Dowager Queen of Greece Olga visited us twice. The Queen nicknamed my brother “Little Sunshine on the feet” – precisely because of these “audiences”, since when he entered the door, in his short summer pants, the sun’s rays played and shone on his bare legs.
The younger sister of my grandmother, Duchess Thyra of Cumberland, often came from Gmunden (Austria).
When my grandmother became older and generally weakened our visits became irregular and more rare.
In the winter from 1927 to 1928 we did not leave for Copenhagen, because the doctors felt that the Empress was too weak to move. The “Hvidore”, which was not designed for the winter, was kept warm by kerosene stoves. Another six months passed, and in the fall, towards evening, she died.
And almost immediately, a Danish guard officer appeared, in full dress uniform with a huge wreath from the regiment, whose chief was, at one time, Emperor Alexander III.
The same telegrams were sent to Metropolitans Anthony and Evlogy. Evlogy’s answer was: “I’m leaving.” The answer from Karlovtsy was conditional: “I will come if Evlogy is not there” – and did not come …
Many high-ranking officials attended the funeral:
The empress’s nephew is King Haakon of Norway, King Albert of Belgium with heir Leopold, future kings of England, brothers Edward VIII and George VI and many, many others.
In 1985, while in Denmark, we visited the cathedral in Roskilde, where the kings used to be crowned and where their family tomb is. The tomb of the Empress rests in the cathedral, in the crypt, right under the tomb of her parents.
On the wall, near the tomb of the Empress, there are icons and icon lamps. The white walls, along which the coffins of her relatives are placed, according to the Protestant custom, are not decorated with lamps and icons.
The Empress after her death, may have left a bright mark forever and will remain in the memory of people for many years.
After her death, back in my time, there was not an official, but rather an intuitive “Russian Party” in Denmark. I remember the old Lance Baron Gersdorf, in general a large original, who spoke Russian well, and even became Orthodox. At our church meetings, he liked to start his statements with the words: “I am, as an Orthodox Dane,” which, in his opinion, gave him a certain special position in society. This fascination with Russia and all Russians began at the end of the last century, when the Danes saw a selfless friend in Russia.
During the reign of Christian IX (Father of the Empress), great work was done to strengthen Copenhagen. The Peacemaker Tsar Alexander III was interested in Danish well-armed neutrality. Copenhagen in the hands of Germany or England would have locked the Baltic Sea and our exit from it, and the French allies would not have the opportunity to get to us.
When I was at the military school in 1942, this means 14 years after the death of my grandmother, under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel of the Engineering Troops Bennicke (later General), our class made an excursion, on bicycles, to Copenhagen fortifications, which were long outdated, but on which it was yet possible clearly learn the principles of fortification. The fort we visited was built with money raised by the “Danish Women”. Their chairperson was none other than “Kejserinde Dagmar”, as the Danes used to call my grandmother. How many women have collected, and how much Kejserinde Dagmar added – today nobody knows.
When we finished inspecting the casemates, caponiers, etc., Bennicke, having gathered us on the top of this fort, spoke with great enthusiasm about the heroism and staunchness of the Russian troops in the defense of Port Arthur.
Another engineer, Lieutenant Colonel Lavets, gave German lessons at the same school, but always chose topics about Suvorov, Bagration, Nikolai Nikolaevich, etc. for reading and translation.
Lavets also shone in black and gold, with scarlet pampas, the ceremonial uniform of the engineering troops, at all Russian dancing balls, right up to the war.
These examples confirm that there was a subconscious “Russian Party” in Denmark and solely on the merits of my grandmother!
When, during the occupation of Denmark by the Germans (9.4.1940 to 5.5.1945), I was imprisoned by Germans in September 1944, my parents were acquaintances to someone called Vorsoe who had a loophole to the invaders. He swore to my mother to do everything in his power to get me released, adding that, “Your mother did so much for my father!” What did she do? Unfortunately, I don’t know. All I know is that his father was once a Danish Guards officer.
I was released after a month. Whether it was his merit, or whether I got freedom for another, more mystical reason, I do not know.
When I was in prison and knew nothing about the meeting between my parents and my savior Versoe, I saw “Amama”: in the patterns of the wall, I clearly saw her image like on a small photo…
Of course, I prayed fervently in prison, and knowing how my grandmother did not like Germans, I turned to her for help. Is it possible to address the dead, not the saints? Isn’t this a pagan “ancestor cult”? I do not know. My prayers have been answered. I took only an example from our, then already deceased, Archpriest Fr. Leonid Kolchev.
Even in my childhood, shortly after the death of the Empress, the USSR embassy filed a claim in the Danish court for the rights to the Russian church in Copenhagen, since it was, they say, an “ambassadorial”. And it turned out very, very serious. Later fr. Leonid, who knew my grandmother from Livadia (Crimea), told how, after his proper prayers, he turned mentally to the Empress and in simple words asked her help: to intercede and preserve built by her church.
And then, as with me 13 years later, an unexpected incident occurred. Mr. Trollay, a lawyer of the Danish High Court, on his own initiative, feeling as if he owed the Empress, took up this case free of charge and brilliantly won the trial in the High Court. The Bolsheviks did not get the church even to this day, and the story of the old priest made a great impression on me – the boy. Therefore, I also prayed to my grandmother. The Anointed One of God, the Mother and Grandmother of our Royal Martyrs and the most endured in her life both for them and for Russia.
She did not become a saint. But these two examples are enough to say that the “Light Trail” left by her, as I said earlier, continues to help the people she loved and whom she herself would take care of if she were alive.
I believe that God gave rest to her soul, which suffered in earthly life. And may she have an eternal and grateful memory! Amen.
T. N. Kulikovsky