Sunday, December 31, 2017

Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig and Princess Alix of Hesse and By Rhine in Italy 1893 by Petra H. Kleinpenning

In the spring of 1893, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine and his youngest sister, Princess Alix, traveled to Italy for three and half weeks to +sightsee.  The siblings spent their time in Florence and Venice, visiting churches, museums, and other sites, along with spending time with family members including Princess Marie of Battenberg (the wife of the Count of Erbach-Schonburg) and the Hereditary Princess Charlotte of Saxe-Meiningen (nee Prussia).

Kleinpenning, the editor of The Correspondence of the Empress Alexandra of Russia with Ernst Ludwig and Eleonore, Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Hesse,  compiled this 60-page book by using contemporary sources including the local Darmstadt newspaper, papers in the State Archive of the Russian Federation and memoirs (the Princess of Erbach-Schonburg).   Neither Ernie nor Alix kept travel diaries for their own views and comments during their stay,

After returning to Darmstadt, Alix wrote to her friend Toni Becker about her trip. "Our stay in Florence was idyllic and the weather so favourable all the time --we have seen a lot, but one is never finished.  There are almost too many beautiful things here."

One expects that Alix thought about the man she was in love with -- the Tsarevitch of Russia -- but as she was unwilling to abjure her Lutheran faith to convert to Russian Orthodoxy)

There is no doubt that the trip proved successful for the siblings.  Ernie, for one, was able to indulge in his love for art.   It was also a time for Ernie and Alix to spend time with family, including their grandmother, Queen Victoria, who was also on holiday in Italy.  No doubt, the Queen was considering marital partners for the siblings.  She certainly had a wife in mind for the artistic Ernie: his first cousin, Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh.  They got engaged in January 1894 and were married three months later.

It was at Ernie's wedding that Alix finally accepted Nicholas' proposal.  By the end of 1894,  Alix had converted to Orthodoxy, married Nicholas (who had succeeded his father only weeks earlier) and had become the Empress (consort) of all the Russias.

Kleinpenning has made the most of her sources.   She offers readers a bit of insight into Ernie and Alix's final year of singlehood, traveling together as tourists, sharing confidences and enjoying each other's company.  One can imagine their conversations as they observed great art.

This book may be slim, but it offers insight and retrospect.  Ernie had succeeded his father in 1892 and was finding his way as the Grand Duke.  His three older sisters were married with families of their own, leaving Alix as the only sister at home.

During his lifetime, Ernie visited Italy several more times.  Although Alix desired to see Italy again, she never again visited the country.

Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig and Princess Alix of Hesse and By Rhine - 1893 is available from, but not

It is a print on demand book.  The book's publisher, Brave New Books, is located in the Netherlands. 

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