St. Maria the Grand Duchess - A Model Russian Woman

Editor's Note: This article was generated by machine translation, so our staff cautions the reader about possible inaccuracies that may have resulted from this. However, it was deemed worthwhile to still publish such a piece because of the intrinsic value of the message - which remains evident even in its translated form.

Among the Sisters, the two Elders, with their already established bright characters and the perky Junior, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna seems to be lost and obscured. But the point here is not in any external moments, but in the very character of the beautiful girl about whom we will now speak. 

This young Tzarevna wonderfully accurately fits into the archetype of a Russian wife and mother, presenting perhaps Russia's most beloved female image: a cheerful, pure-hearted red maiden, a swan, a future modest and faithful spouse, a homemaker and hostess.

S. Y. Ofrosimova has noticed this bright, nature-emphasized Russianness of the Grand Duchess Maria: "Beside her sits the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna. She could safely be called a Russian beauty. Tall, full, with sable eyebrows, with a bright blush on her open Russian face, she is especially dear to the Russian heart.

Looking at her one can involuntarily imagine Her dressed in a Russian boyar dressing gown; around Her arms one can see snow-white kissey sleeves, on Her high chest - precious stones, and over Her high white forehead - a headdress with self-pierced pearls. Her eyes light up her whole face with a peculiar, radiant gleam; they at times seem black, long eyelashes cast a shadow on the bright blush of Her delicate cheeks. She is cheerful and alive, but has not yet awakened to life in it, surely, lurks immense power of this Russian woman.

Gilliard at the same time noted a certain subordination of Maria to her sisters: "Maria Nikolayevna was a beauty, large for her age. She shone with bright colors and health, she had large wonderful eyes. Her tastes were very modest, she was the epitome of cordiality and kindness; her sisters may have taken advantage of this a little and called her 'Good Fat Tutu'; this nickname they gave her for her good-natured and somewhat baggy helpfulness."

Sophie Bukhsgevden, the Empress' maid of honor and friend of all four girls, wrote that Maria Nikolaevna was in total submission to the younger Anastasia Nikolaevna, "the little shooter," as her mother called her. But there is no doubt that this subordination, if it really took place, could not have come from the weakness of Maria's character. We will see that this young girl possessed great inner strength. "She had a strong, commanding look. I remember her habit of giving her hand, deliberately pulling it down" (I. V. Stepanov).

Julia Den recalled: "When I first met the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna, she was still quite a child. During the Revolution we became very attached to each other and spent almost all our days together. She was simply golden and possessed a remarkable inner strength. However, until those nightmarish days came, I had no idea how selfless she was.

Her Highness was strikingly beautiful... eyes puffed out with long eyelashes, thick dark brown hair. Some of Maria Nikolayevna's fullness was the cause for jokes on Her Majesty's part. She was not as lively as her sisters, but she had a world view and always knew what she wanted and why.

Lily Dan recounted the following episode from what she called the nightmare days: "Where is Marie?" - the Sovereign asked. I returned to the red room. Maria Nikolaevna was still sitting, crouched, in the corner. She was so young, so helpless and hurt, that I wanted to comfort Her, as one would comfort a small child. I knelt beside her, and she leaned her head on my shoulder. I kissed Her crying face.

"My darling," I said. - You mustn't cry. You will kill Mama with your grief. Think of Her."

Hearing the words, "Think of Her," the Grand Duchess remembered her duty to her Parents. Everything and always has to be in their best interests.

"Ah, I completely forgot, Lily. Of course I must think of Mama," replied Maria Nikolayevna.

Little by little the sobs subsided, Her Highness regained her composure, and she went with me to see Her Parent.

Anna Taneyeva, another witness to those terrible days, also recalls the courage and self-control of the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna: "... I shall never forget the night when the few loyal regiments (the Compagnie, His Majesty's escort, the Guard carriage and artillery) surrounded the palace, as the soldiers in riotous arms, threatening to smash everything, marched through the streets to the palace in droves. The Empress sat at my bedside in the evening.

Quietly, wrapped in a white shawl, she went out with Maria Nikolayevna to the regiments, which were already preparing to leave the palace. And perhaps they too would have gone out that night if it had not been for the Empress and her brave daughter, who with calmness went round the soldiers until twelve o'clock, encouraging them with words and affection, while forgetting the mortal danger to which they were exposed. As they left, the Empress said to my mother, 'I go to them not as a Sovereign, but as a mere sister of mercy to my Children.

"Mother was grieving, and I, too, cried," Maria Nikolaevna confessed to Taneyeva, "but afterwards for Mother's sake I tried to smile at tea.

Possessing no less inner strength than her sister Tatiana, Maria nevertheless was a "home girl" with her own deep inner life, inside of which there were inner processes little noticed by anyone. She had Her own deep feelings, hidden from the Sisters, but the sensitive Mother in this rich, by nature intimate nature guessed these feelings, always encouraged, was Mary, like the rest of the Children, a loving friend.

The following extracts from the correspondence between the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and her daughter Maria make a little more clear the image of this least known of all the Sisters:

"Dear Maria, I thank you lovingly for several of your letters. Our Friend came for a very short time. Try always to be a good and obedient little Girl, then everyone will love you. I have no secrets with Anastasia, I do not like secrets. May God bless you. Many kisses from your Mother."

"My dear Mashenka. Your letter has made me very sad. Dear child, you must promise Me never again to think that no one loves you. How did you get such an extraordinary idea into your head? Get it out of there quickly. We all love you very tenderly, and only when you get too excited, too capricious and disobedient do they scold you, but scolding does not mean not loving. On the contrary, it is so that you can correct your shortcomings and become a better person.

You tend to stay away from others, think you are in their way, and stay alone with Trina instead of being with them. They imagine you don't want to be with them. You're becoming a big Girl now, and you had better be with them more. Well, think no more about it and remember that you are just as dear to us as the other four, and that we love you with all our hearts. Loving you very much old Mother." "Yes, I, too, am very saddened that Our Beloved Friend is going away now. But while he is away, we must try to live as he wishes us to live. Then we will feel that he is with us in our prayers and thoughts."

"Mary, dear, don't forget to read the book your father gave you before Confession and Communion. Anya and I do the same. Blessings from your old Mama."

"Maria, my child, well, don't be so wild, be sure to obey your older sisters and don't catch a cold. I hope you have a great time on the boat. Sleep well. Blessings from your old Mother."

"My dear Mary, you will read this when we leave. It is very sad to leave you three little ones, and I will think of you all the time. You are the eldest in this group, so you must look after the little ones well - I have never left Baby for two days

Go to the hospital... and to the Grand Palace to visit the wounded. Did you show Grudno your hospital? Do it, my dear, give her pleasure. Drop in on Sonya when you're free. Send a telegram... When you get up in the morning, write how the three of you are doing, and in the evening, how you spent the day. Sunday early in the morning to church."

"Dear Mary. Please distribute to all the officers in the Great Palace (during World War I the Empress turned the Catherine Palace into a military hospital. - Ed) these images from Me. Unfold them... If there are too many, give the rest back to Me. Then, I send bread - consecrated prosphora and un consecrated - they are to warm it up and eat it.

I also send images for Our wounded officers, but I do not know how many we have lying around, and some are not Orthodox. Give the surplus ones to the officers in your hospital. I hope you will bring me a letter. May God bless and keep you. 1000 kisses from your old Mother, who misses you very much."

The inner world of the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna was colored by a bright religious feeling. This was one of the typical traits of the women of the Terem - their religiosity was thorough, deeply and sincerely felt, carried within their souls, and almost not exhibited ostentatiously. With a mother-friend, however, it is possible to share. In correspondence with Alexandra Feodorovna, Maria Nikolaevna analyzed her religious experiences more often than the other sisters, talking about faith and the Church.

"You know, it is very strange, but when I came out of Alexei's room after prayer, I had a feeling as if I had come from confession ... such a pleasant, heavenly feeling."

"My dear Mother, you told Me you wanted to go to Communion of the Holy Mysteries. You know, I also wanted to go at the beginning of Lent. I hope you have a good trip. Many kisses to You and the Pope. Anastasia kisses you, too. How I wish I could go to confession on the 14th. May God bless you. Your Mary". "Mother, my dear, I wish you a Merry Christmas and hope that God will send you the strength to go to the hospital again. Sleep well. Your loving Daughter Mary. I love you and kiss you tenderly."

"My beloved Mother, I am so happy for you that you will soon see your dear Daddy. I or Anastasia will say prayers with Baby."

The most complete portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna was compiled by Dieterichs: "Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna was the most beautiful, typically Russian, good-natured, cheerful, even-tempered, affable girl. She loved and knew how to talk to everyone, especially the common man. During walks in the park, she was always talking to the soldiers of the guard, asking them questions and well remembered who had a wife's name, how many children, how much land, etc.alt.

She always had a lot of common topics of conversation with them. For Her simplicity She was nicknamed "Mashka" by Her sisters and Alexey Nikolaevich. It was said that by Her appearance and strength She was descended from the Emperor Alexander III. And indeed she was very strong: when the sick Alexei Nikolaevich had to move somewhere he called: "Mashka, carry me. She easily lifted Him up and carried Him.

She was the last of the Family to catch measles; on the historic evening of 27th February her illness took a particularly bad form, developing into a lumpy and very violent pneumonia. Only the strong constitution of the Grand Duchess ultimately helped Her to overcome the grievous illness, but more than once Her situation became critical. During her arrest she was able to arrange all around her, not excluding the commissars Pankratov and Yakovlev, and in Ekaterinburg the guards-workers taught her to make scones from flour without yeast."

Н. A. Sokolov emphasizes that "by nature it was a typical mother. Her domain was small children. Most of all, she loved to coddle and babysit them.

Sidney Gibbs tells us that the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna at the age of eighteen (in 1917) "was dense and very strong - could lift me easily. Of pleasant appearance. After an illness (measles) she lost a lot of weight. She drew with pencil and paint and played the piano quite well, but worse than Olga or Tatiana. Maria was simple, loved children, a little inclined to be lazy; perhaps she would have made a fine wife and mother."

Thus, from several fragments we can put together a portrait of a simple and modest young girl with artistic inclinations, certainly with strong convictions and a developed sense of motherhood. It is interesting to note that on the last terrible trip to Ekaterinburg, when the Children were temporarily left in Tobolsk, because Alexei Nikolaevich was too ill to go, Nicholas Alexandrovich and Alexandra Feodorovna took with them exactly Maria Nikolaevna, so that she helped the Mother.

Source: (Russian)

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