Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Dear Ellen ... Royal Europe Through the Photo Albums of HIH Grand Duchess Helen Vladimirovna of Russia
I am saying this because this is the best book produced so far by Eurohistory. Dear Ellen ... is a super photo book of royal photographs ... photographs from the private albums of Grand Duchess Helen of Russia, who married Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark. They were the parents of three daughters: Olga (Princess Paul of Yugoslavia), Marina (Duchess of Kent) and Elisabeth (Countess zu Toerring-Jettenbach.)
The book's dedication is by Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia. Elizabeth's brother, Prince Alexander wrote a remembrance of their grandmother. Arthur Beeche also had the cooperation of Archduchess Helen of Austria and her brother, Count Hans-Veit zu Toerring-Jettenbach, the children of Princess Elisabeth.
The book is divided into 12 chapters: Prince Nicholas (1872-1902); Grand Duchess Helen (1882-1902); the Wedding (1902); Life Together (1902-1938); Widowhood (1938-1957); Princess Olga and her family; Princess Elisabeth and her family; Princess Marina and her family; The Greeks : Prince Nicholas' siblings; Grand Duchess Helen's siblings; Prince Nicholas' first cousins; and Grand Duchess Helen's first cousins.
A true treasure trove of many previous unpublished photos. Grand Duchess Helen was the only daughter of Grand Duke Wladimir of Russia and Duchess Marie Pavlovna of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Marie Pavlovna was determined to find a good husband for Ellen. Prince Max of Baden was the man most likely, but the proposed engagement soon fizzled out, and Grand Duchess Helen was left without a fiance. Her mother opened the Almanach de Gotha in search of another royal husband for her pretty and well-endowed daughter. Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria and King Albert I of the Belgians were on Marie Pavlovna's shortlist, but another candidate emerged for Helen's hand.
Prince Nicholas of Greece was determined to marry Helen, although he was not on Marie Pavlovna's list. He was a younger son of King George I of the Hellenes and his wife, the former Grand Duchess Olga Constantinova of Russia, a prince without true opportunity -- and income.
The wedding on August 29, 1902 turned out to be a true success. Helen gave birth to three daughters, Olga, Elisabeth and Marina, three of the most adorable princesses of the early 20th century. Helen and Nicholas had a happy and fulfilled marriage, a loving relationship that sustained the Russian Revolution (the murders of close family members and the loss of the very remunerative appanages), the collapse of the Greek monarchy, and exile.
After a putative engagement with Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, Olga married Prince Paul of Yugoslavia, a non-dynast to the Yugoslav throne, who serve as one of three regents during King Peter II's minority. Elisabeth, known as Woolley, married German Count Carl Theodor zu Toerring-Jettenbach. The youngest daughter, Marina, made the most spectacular marriage, when she married Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, son of King George V and Queen Mary.
One hundred and thirty six pages of pure joy. This is a book that cries out for frequent browsing.
Helen's three daughters were amazingly photogenic, and the strength of their beauty can be found not only in the lines on their faces, but also in the grace and determination they had in their private lives. All three sisters endured struggles and separation, largely due to the vicissitudes of the second world war.
I could wax lyrical for hours about this book. One of my absolute favorites is the photo is the one on page 97: a tablet vivant arranged by Maria Kirillovna of Russia, Alexandra of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Wladimir of Russia, Irma of Hohenlohe-Langenburg and Kira of Russia.
It is nice to see how Grand Duchess Helen's extended family interacted with each other. I have only seen one photo of Helen's niece, Grand Duchess Maria Kirillovna's wedding, in 1925, a portrait of the bride and groom. The British and American press were largely uninterested in this wedding, even though the bride's mother was born a British princess, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. If the Russian monarchy had survived the first world war, the marriage between elder daughter of the heir presumptive to the throne and the wealthy Prince of Leiningen would have been a grand event indeed. But in 1925, the marriage was a media afterthought. It was so nice to see that Grand Duchess Helen included a photo of Maria's bridal attendants. All were members of the family. Her sister, Kira, and two first cousins, Alexandra and Irma of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, were the bridesmaids, and the two pages were her younger brother, Wladimir, and Prince Friedrich Josias of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the youngest child of her mother's first cousin, Duke Carl Eduard of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha ... what a shame this photo was not released as a postcard.
Art Beeche's text offers a rich complement to the myriad of photographs that offer readers a delicate journey that meanders into the lives of those who lived in Imperial Russia, Imperial Germany and the fledgling Greek monarchy.
Grand Duchess Helen and her family experienced wealth we can only dream about, and in a revolutionary minute, all of wealth was gone. Helen became more than survivor, she became a can do sort of person can do when the chips are down. She inherited magnificent jewels, but the true jewels were Helen's family.
I have one quibble. It would have been really, really nice if Art Beeche had included an index to the photographs .. it would make my life easier.
The price of the book is $43.95
Posted by Marlene Eilers Koenig at 12:11 AM