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THE DESTINY OF THE PRINCESS
OF THE BLOOD ROYAL*
When Abbess Tamara of the Mount Olives Convent, Jerusalem, died in 1979, not many people knew who she had been in her civil life.
She was Granddaughter of the Emperor Nicholas I of Russia, and the oldest daughter of HIH the Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich of Russia by his wife Elizaveta Mavrikievna née HH Princess Elisabeth of Saxe-Altenburg, and wife of Prince Konstantin Alexandrovich Bagration-Mukhransky.
Actually, meeting the Prince Bagration-Mukhransky turned young Princess streamlined life up at the HIM Nicholas II court…
For the first time Tatiana met Prince Konstantine at Ostashevo, estate of the Grand Duke Konstantin, Tatiana’s father, in winter 1910. The Cavalry Regiment Cornet Bagration-Mukhransky received an invitation to the evening tea. During the evening the young people felt delighted and reveled in the company. The Princess of the blood royal greatly enjoyed Prince Konstantine’s endless stories while the Prince sank into his company’s charm. Shortly, the Georgian Prince was seen quite often at the Princess family house in Ostashevo and the Marble Palace in Saint Petersburg.
In the beginning Tatiana’s parents hoped friendship between their daughter and a representative of a noble but non-emperor family would have disappeared.
“The Cornet must realize that he cannot expect more than tea companies, and boating in Pavlovsk courtyard!”
The Grand Duke was especially anxious to know that His beloved son Oleg assisted to the couple. Oleg was the first to reveal Tatiana’s feelings to the Prince Bagration, and when he saw reciprocal feelings decided to help the couple in exchanging letters.
When the father found out that the friendship went too far till to kisses – He decided to talk to Tatiana! At the end of the talk the father threatened if His daughter got married to the Georgian Prince, He would cease supporting them from the Imperial Treasury. But, Tatiana did not mind much about losing money, and she continued her affair with Bagration.
Finally, the Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich decided to meet the loved Georgian Cornet, “You, a young man, ought to be advised that the Romanovs shell get married only to a representative of equal family!”, stated the Grand Duke. But, Bagration-Mukhransky did not intend to retread and replied, “Sir, please be advised the Bagrations are truly equal to the Romanovs!”
Such familiarity immediately resulted in exiling Prince Konstantin Bagration-Mukhransky from Saint Petersburg to Tiflis and further to Tehran. And, Tatiana in order to quickly forget her Georgian friend was sent to her aunt, the Widow Empress Maria Fiodorovna, in the Crimea.
Tatiana obeyed her father’s will. The Grand Duke exhorted to His daughter before leaving for the Crimea, “You need to calm down, and in a year or two you will realize your destine is other choice”. The young lady could not dare to argue with Her parent, and went to the sea.
While being in the Crimea, the Princess of the blood royal spent most of her time in reading a book “Queen Tamara, or Golden Age of Georgia” by Prof. Marr.
The book was sent by her mother, the Grand Duchess Elizaveta Mavrikeevna. The mother secretly supported and was in favour of having the Georgian son-in-law.
The book turned into a real outlet for Tatiana. The Princess was craving for knowledge about Konstantin’s land. No wonder all Her discussions were about Georgia and the Bagration-Mukhranskys royal history.
Tatiana proudly talked to everyone that the Bagrations dynasty enthronization was held in 1611 just two years earlier than the Romanovs.
Obviously, most of the guests of the Widow Empress were not pleased by such statements. But the young Princess of the blood royal did not mind others and seriously thought about moving to Tiflis, where Prince Konstantin had his own house.
Sometimes, Tatiana felt like she had been to the capital of Georgia for many times, walking through its old streets upward to St. David’s Monastery hill.
At last, the Widowed Empress looking at Her niece’s daily suffer asked Her son to allow the young Cornet be back from the Caucasus. Nicholas II could not disobey His mother’s will and soon Prince Konstantin was back from his exile.
And, of course Konstantin directly went to the Crimea to see his Tatiana.
HIM Maria Fiedorovna did not prevent young couple from their date. Every morning the Prince came to the Emperor’s Palace and stayed with his adored Tatiana till the evening.
The charming idyll was nearly broken. Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich missed His beloved daughter and decided to visit the Crimea unexpectedly.
The Grand Duke was more than astonished seeing Tatiana sitting in a hammock and no one but the Georgian Prince, believed to be exiled from Saint Petersburg, was resting at her feet in the courtyard of the Emperor Palace.
Everyone was confused, but Tatiana rushed to Her father and kneed in front of Him begging for blessing Her marriage to the Prince Konstantin.
“We love each other and be happy only together”, cried she out.
The Grand Duke was touched with His daughter’s words and Bagration-Mukhransky’s persistent character.
But, the marriage may only be blessed by HIM Emperor of All Russians.
Upon words by Tatiana’s brother the Prince of the blood royal Gavril Konstantinovich, HIH Emperor Nicholas II asked for consent His mother widowed Emperor Maria Fiedorovna to make changes to the Pauline Laws on Royal Marriages.
Later, Nicholas II confessed to Tatiana’s mother that He could not dare to discuss the subject with the Widowed Empress during three months, and when at last He decided His mother responded only three words, “It’s high time”. While repeating His mother’s words the Emperor lowered His voice exactly in the way Her Imperial Highness did. Henceforth, the highest consent on the marriage was received.
The engagement ceremony was held at Royal Church in Oreanda on Holy Queen Tamar’s Day, 1st of May 1911.
Before leaving for the engagement ceremony Her Highness the Princess of the blood royal Tatiana Konstantinovna, Granddaughter of Nicholas I, signed a renunciation of the right to succession to the Imperial Throne of All the Russias belonging to Her as a member of the Imperial House.
Wedding ceremony was held at Grand Duke’s estate at Pavlovsk on 3rd of September 1911. Among the guests was the groom’s aunt, the Princess Bagration-Mukhranskaya, who arrived from Tiflis. She was the only person did not rising up when the Emperor attending the wedding came to Her. Such familiarity was only allowed among the members of the royal family. Guests were confused, but Nicholas II respected the Georgian Princess accordingly and they exchanged greetings.
Tatiana and Prince Konstantin Bagration-Mukhransky had two children: Prince Teymuraz Konstantinovich Bagration-Mukhransky (born in 1912), and Princess Natalia Konstantinovna Bagration-Mukhransky (born in 1914).
But, the happiness did not last long... After the outbreak of the World War I, aide-de-camp lieutenant Konstantin Bagration-Mukhransky went to the front.
Tatiana together with Her children stayed at Her parent’s Palace in Pavlovsk and waited for Her husband to be back.
Tatiana’s brother the Prince of the blood royal Gavril remembers his last meeting with his sister’s husband, “Kostya Bagration, Tatiana’s husband, arrived from the front in spring. He served at the Cavalry Regiment and wished to be moved to the Infantry loosing dozens of soldiers at that time… Obviously, Tatiana was not happy with Her husband’s decision but she gave Her consent. Kostya Bagration was a brave officer. He had St. George’s armour… Kostya went back to the front soon and I did not see him anymore. On 20th of May 1915, I received a letter from my mother in the morning. She wrote that Kostya was killed. General Brusilov, Commander-in-Chief of South-Western front wired my father that Bagration was the Commander-in-Chief of a company and died a hero’s death in his first action near Lvov on 19th of May… When I came to Tatiana she was sitting quietly in the Pilaster Hall. Thanks Lord, she believed much in God and accepted this hard blow with Christian humility. She did not even wear a black dress but only white, henceforth stressing her grief ever more. There was a funeral praying at Pavlovsk Palace Church in the evening. The praying was attended by Emperor Nicholas II with Empress and Grand Princesses and great many people… Shortly after praying Tatiana together with Igor left for the Caucasus on her husband’s funeral.”
The Prince Konstantin Bagration-Mukhransky had to be buried at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in the ancient capital of Georgia Mtskheta.
Local newspapers reported that the widow ordered to buy all flowers available in Tiflis and brought them to Mtskheta.
Before leaving for the Caucasus, Tatiana saw her father to ask for blessing and say goodbye. Unfortunately, the Grand Duke blessed His daughter for the last time. Two days after her husband’s funeral Tatiana got a telegram saying her father’s death.
The young widow having two hardest blows found console in discussion with her aunt, the Grand Duchess Elizaveta Fiedorovna, Abbess of Marfa and Maria’s Convent in Moscow.
“All comes from God’s will. You keep praying, and will certainly meet your beloved people in Heavens”, said the Grand Duchess to Tatiana.
The Grand Duchess Elizaveta, sister of Empress Alexandra Fiedorovna, had also passed through similar hard blow – Her husband was murdered by terrorists.
But lost and ordeals were widened. After the Bolshevist revolution in October 1917, the Grand Duke Dmitri Konstantinovich, Tatiana’s uncle, took care of her and her children. They were exiled from Petersburg.
Shortly, they were ordered to be back to Petrograd, where the Grand Duke was shot.
Another tragic news came from Alapaevsk – Tatiana’s brothers and the Grand Duchess Elizaveta Fiedorovna were thrown alive into the shaft.
Aide-de-camp Alexander Korochenzov serving to the Grand Duke Dmitri Konstantinovich, helped Tatiana and her young children to escape from Russia. They were fortunate enough to flee to Switzerland. Tatiana decided to marry Alexander Korochenzov, who saved her and her children’s life in fact.
In October 1921, they married in Geneva. Not quite three months later, however, Tatiana became a widow for the second time when Alexander died in Lausanne… Tatiana raised her children alone, and tried hard to give them good education granting independence.
Her daughter Natalia married to Sir Charles Hepburn-Johnston GCMG and, as Lady Johnston, accompanied him to his many diplomatic postings overseas when not living in London.
Tatiana’s son Teymuraz had a short love-affair with the Princess Leonida Georgievna Bagration-Mukhransky, but moved to New York and chaired the Tolstoy Foundation there.
After both children were grown and married, Tatiana fulfilled Her father’s dream and took the veil in Switzerland in 1946.
The Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich even asked the Emperor Alexander III permission to take the veil. But the Emperor stated, “If We, Kostya, become monks, who will serve to Russia?!”
Tatiana Romanov-Bagration took the veil and become Mother Tamara, named so after the medieval Georgian Holy Queen Tamar, a remote ancestor of her husband, the Prince Konstantin Bagration-Mukhransky.
Whenever Mother Tamara arrived to Geneva, she always stayed at Tatiana’s house, the niece of Konstantin Bagration-Mukhransky.
The namesake of the Princess of the blood royal is over 80 years old now. She told me that Mather Tamara had brilliant character and great sense of humor. Before taking the veil she had a dog and called it “Megobar” that means “friend” in Georgian.
For several years Mather Tamara served at St. Mary Magdalene Convent in Jerusalem, where holy relics of her aunt the Grand Duchess Elizaveta Fiedorovna, who turned her to the faith, were moved to rest in peace.
In 1951 Mother Tamara became Abbess of the Mount of Olives Convent in Jerusalem.
She died at the age of 89 on Dormition of Holy Mother Theotokos Day, 28th of August 1979.
*Extract from the Igor Obolensky’s book “The Destiny of Beauty”