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Category: History

Influence of the will of the widowing empress Maria Fiodorovna on the fate of the grand duchess Elena Pavlovna (1830 - 1860)


UDC 94 (47).07


(1830 - 1860)

© 2010 of I.P. Azernikov

Historical and archival institute

Russian State Humanitarian University,

Miusskaya Square, 6, Moscow, 125993,

Historical and Archival Institute of Russian State Humanitarian University, Miusskaya Sq., 6, Moscow, 125993,

The salon of the grand duchess Elena Pavlovna takes the important place in public life of the St. Petersburg society, especially by preparation of reform on an abolition of serfdom of 1861. On the basis of earlier not published archival documents it is shown that the will of the widowing empress Maria Fiodorovna played a special role in Elena Pavlovna's fate and defined her authoritative influence in discussion of Great reforms.

The salon of Grand Princess Elena Pavlovna occupies an important place in public life of Petersburg society, especially in the time of the preparation of reforms to the abolition of serfdom in 1861. Based on previously unpublished archival documents, article shows that the last will of Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna played a special role in the fate of Elena Pavlovna and has determined her authoritative influence in the discussion of the Great Reforms.

The grand duchess Elena Pavlovna played an important role in the history of preparation of Great reforms of the 1860th. The personal circumstances which led it to close communication with two deans of royal family affected that it always had an opportunity to inform the ruling monarch of a thought, the idea of the liberal elite which brought together on the "morganatic evenings". Unlike empresses the grand duchess was deprived of any official structure of participation in social and political life. It had no special department or the official yard owing to what the identity of the owner of salon got an exclusive role. The grand duchess Elena Pavlovna really was one of the most outstanding women of the world who played a noticeable role in social and political life.

Elena Pavlovna and Mikhail Pavlovich's Braque it is impossible to call happy, too spouses had different characters. For this reason Elena Pavlovna spent time in a circle of the widowing empress Maria Fiodorovna contrary to Nicholas I's wife empress Alexandra Fiodorovna. Elena Pavlovna's rapprochement with the yard of the widowing empress played a role in future "career" of the grand duchess. There is an opinion that the emperor Nicholas I gave support to all its undertakings, expressing respect to personal qualities of Elena Pavlovna, that trying to brighten up so unsuccessful marriage. Whether really the emperor felt guilty for svo-

his brother or just paid tribute to the grand duchess, does not matter, the fact that the given "warm friendship" in many respects promoted strengthening of position of Elena Pavlovna in family that allowed it to influence, even some pressure upon decision-making is important concerning domestic policy of the state.

The will, unexpected for many, of Maria Fiodorovna who died in 1828 became really royal gift for Elena Pavlovna. Written in French, it is stored in the State archive of the Russian Federation. Mother empress charged the pet project - charitable institutions not to the senior daughter-in-law - Alexander Fiodorovna, and younger - to Elena Pavlovna. "Je desire que mes deux Instituts soyent regis avec le meme soin et la meme sollietitude que je leur donnais, et pour qu&ils le soyent je prie mon fils d&en charger ma Belle Fille, l&Epouse du Grand Duc Michael: alors ils ne pourront que prosperer et continuer d&etre utiles a l&Etat. La connaisance que j&ai de la solidite et bonte de son caractere, me donne la persuasion, qu&Elle s&en acquittera avec soin et sensibilite. Je desire de meme que les regles etablies pour la reception a l&Institut Marie soyent suivies par ma Belle Fille et que toujours la liste des aspirantes, tant pour la reception sans ballotage, reservee pour les orphelins de pere et de mere..." [1]. Translation of the author: "I wish that both of my institutes coped with the same care and attention, as at me therefore

I ask my son to charge management of them to my daughter-in-law, the spouse of the Grand duke Mikhail; I am convinced that in that case they will always prosper and bring benefit to the state. Knowing the hardness and kindness of its character, I am quite sure that it will belong to this duty with due consideration and care. I also wish that the established rules of transfer in Maria's Institute remained the same and at my daughter-in-law and that places for the orphans who were left without father and mother were always left".

The will was made one year prior to the death of the empress in January - November, 1827 and represents the document, very impressive on volume, from 95 archival sheets. It was found in personal apartments of the empress in the Winter Palace. "on December 16, 1828, the grand duke Mikhail Pavlovich accompanied by the minister of the yard Volkonsky commanding over post department of the main A. Golitsyn and the former personal secretary of the late empress G.I. Villamov opened personal apartments of Maria Fiodorovna and got from a case a green briefcase in which the will was stored" [2, page 18].

It is very indicative that Maria Fiodorovna entrusted such serious business as management of the department, not the wife of the emperor (though it would be more than logically), but the grand duchess - not holding by then still rather high position in hierarchy of family.

It was possible to explain such decision of Maria Fiodorovna with relative indifference of Alexandra Fiodorovna to public affairs that made contrast in comparison with the younger daughter-in-law.

Most likely a role was also played by Maria Fiodorovna and Elena Pavlovna's trusting relationship, proximity of their views of a role of women of the highest circle and also the general environment. Among their most active general interlocutors it is possible to mark out the count and contess of Bludov, the marquis de Custin, the count Vilyegorsky. The countess D.A. Bludova, remembering the grand duchess, noticed extreme relationship not only spiritual, but also physical between the widowing empress and her younger daughter-in-law: "From Vir-temberg, from the same sovereign house, but younger generation, there was a grand duchess Elena Pavlovna, mind and education much above her (Maria Fiodorovna. - I.A.), but with the same legends, with the same noble and high view on a duty of the rank..." [3, page 363].

The method of work of both was also extremely similar: ". It did not dump on others work and activity, but also did not take control of one all business as happens to many, and did not lose thus expensive help of those modest forces which in total are the strongest engine of the great enterprise. She was able to inspire the employees with both own indefatigability, and confidence that they are useful and necessary that have the share in achievement of the goal. For that, a byvsha constantly the servant of business, it found the makers who obeyed it it is joyful and self-sacrificing and not & #34; yak of Rabi, but yak свободни" [3, page 363].

Elena Pavlovna became brilliant "schoolgirl" of Maria Fiodorovna when organized at the time of the Crimean war Krestovozdvizhensky community for the help to wounded: ". Especially close I saw it in such business during the Crimean war, and her all cares of sisters in these, imperishable memory, 54 and 55. While most of good people worried, was indignant, cried about abuses, about shortcomings, about death of people, and scolded is useless swindlers, she directly and urgently set to work: opened wide open doors of the palace, opened a treasury of the treasury and a treasury still the richest the light positive mind - invited all experts on business, all experienced doctors and sent an appeal to all Russian women wishing to bring the share of the victim and dobra in a great sacrifice of Russia" [3, page 363].

This readiness for full-time persistent employment in the social sphere brought together Maria Fiodorovna and Elena Pavlovna's motivations. Besides such relationship of souls arose not casually. Maria Fiodorovna took the hottest part in "introduction to the high society" of the young spouse of Mikhail Pavlovich, often inviting her to "the Pavlovsk" and acquainting with constant guests of the palace.

After death of Alexander I, Maria Fiodorovna and the grand duke Konstantin Pavlovich in 1831 the family hierarchy significantly changed. Mikhail Pavlovich and his spouse ranked second after the emperor now that allowed Elena Pavlovna to receive higher position in family and even partially to come out of the shadow of the husband. First of all it affected public and charity of the grand duchess.

Its role of the closest adviser and confidant of the new emperor - Alexander II who had it the nephew became top of participation of Elena Pavlovna in social and political life. At this time the salon of the grand duchess becomes the center for discussion of questions of an abolition of serfdom, exactly there was "circle" of future active figures of reform.

According to contemporaries, "addressed Elena Pavlovna with various offers, counting on her help and influence; through her hands there passed the set of various notes on the most various questions: about financial reforms, about judicial transformations, transformation of army, projects of the railroads, but an overwhelming part of material concerned a country question" [4, page 85].

Release of peasants interested Elena Pavlovna at Nicholas I, but vigorous activity of its salon on this matter began only at the end of the 1850th with coming to power of Alexander II. The salon of the grand duchess can be considered the center of development of plans for release of peasants: practically here all future figures of reform met: K.D. Kavelin, N.A. Milyutin, Yu.F. Samarin, prince V.A. Cherkassky, chairman of drafting panels

Ya.I. Rostovtsev and, of course, her nephew Konstantin Nikolaevich. "Around the Grand duchess all secret threads of preliminary work on a country question were pulled together" [4, page 87]. Its palace "became the center in which privately developed the plan of desired reform to which the people of mind and will long since planning and preparing it gathered now" [4, page 86].

In the salon it presents Milyutin to the empress with whom he could discuss an issue of release of peasants; acquaints it with the prince Gorchakov; prepares in February, 1860 at itself in the Mikhailovsky Palace a meeting and a long conversation of the sovereign with Milyutin about works of drafting panel; tries to establish the trustful and sympathetic personal relations between Milyutin and the grand duke Konstantin Nikolaevich; reports to him about each conversation with the sovereign concerning release business and in writing and verbally tries to support in it cheerfulness and belief in success, constantly quoting the Bible: "Sowing in tears will reap with pleasure".

Of course, presence on them of Alexander II, the empress Maria Aleksandrovna and other members of imperial family gave to its evenings in the context of preparation of the plan of an abolition of serfdom the special importance. It is natural what meetings of members of the royal family, representatives of the government with people not of their circle - "workers on a country question" - gave to evenings of Elena Pavlovna special political value, "covering secular entertainments with public concerns of day" [5, page 527]. The grand duchess gave the amazing chance to the adherents on a country question directly to meet and communicate with the people who are in power, and often it representing. According to the prince Obolensky, "with amazing art she was able to group guests so that to call the sovereign and the queen on attention and a conversation with persons, for them quite often alien and against which they could be prejudiced; at all this, all this became imperceptibly for profane persons in the mysteries of eyes and without exhaustion of the sovereign" [6, page 60].

Often Elena Pavlovna specially invited the crowned nephew for maintenance of fighting spirit of thinkers of reform. For example, when after Ya.I. Rostovtsev's death the mood of the most part of members of drafting panels was suppressed, at the request of the grand duchess the emperor visited her salon and felt sympathy and gratitude to members of the commissions [6, page 60]. Appointment in February, 1860 of Panin to the place of liberally adjusted Rostovtsev threatened with many resignations for figures of the commissions. And again Alexander II let know N.A. Milyutina that counts on his further participation in works [7, page 162]. But, as expected, disagreements between figures of reform and the count Panin after all arose. Elena Pavlovna addressed Alexander II again to listen to Milyutin's version about the cause of disputes [7, page 162].

When after release of peasants Lanskaya and Milyutin were out of work, she tried to preserve Milyutin for further useful activity and until the end of his life remained to it the devoted friend. The chief employees of Milyutin - the prince Cherkassky and Yury Samarin - were her regular customers and in the middle of works of drafting panel as summer of 1859 and 1860 lived in its palace on the Stone island. Introduction of territorial institutions and judicial reform drew to themselves attention and unconditional sympathy of the grand duchess. She vividly was interested in the first steps of new institutions and very hotly took to heart rumors that after falling of the Minister of Justice Zamyatnin the serious danger can threaten judicial charters. But all more her thoughts addressed the future of peasant reform. She asked Samarin to write "A historical essay of bondage in its emergence and influence on national life" and also the history of release of peasants and its value in national life, finding that for this purpose the author has enough only "to force to endure mentally of himself an era of nice fight".

Apparently, the salon of the grand duchess turned into "nitty-gritty of politics" of the forthcoming reform on an abolition of serfdom. She frankly used the seniority in family forcing to listen to her opinion of all other Romanov did not miss an opportunity to strengthen the influence on Alexander II and his wife Maria Aleksandrovna. And she managed to make in a question of reform the empress by the supporter. Possibly, knowing what influence her maid of honor Anna Tyutcheva has on Maria Aleksandrovna, Elena Pavlovna approached and made friends with her. In the same way for impact on the grand duke Konstantin Nikolaevich Elena Pavlovna used his entrusted assistant A.V. Guo-lovnina.

It is quite probable that without meetings of members of imperial family, and especially the emperor with members of drafting panels the reform on an abolition of serfdom in Russia would not look as we know it.

The grand duchess watched closely the course of other liberal reforms of the 1860th. "However peasant reform of 1861" [4, page 91] became the culmination of public work of the grand duchess which had the greatest political resonance.

After her death the Minister of Internal Affairs, the frequent guest Elena Pavlovna P. A. Valuyev wrote: "Today the Grand duchess Elena Pavlovna died almost suddenly and unexpectedly after a three-day disease. The last representative of the pregoing regal generation died away. Together with her and in her face the brilliant intellectual lamp died away. The after-life of the late grand duchess was marked by various types of activity and numerous shades of different influences". In its palace there were many historical meetings,

the having various political consequences, for example, "... the emperor Nikolay with the English envoy (Hamilton-Samur) which was the preface to East war. In the same palace several years in succession the Adullamsky cave of the famous figures of Drafting panel on country business of N. Milyutin, the prince Cherkassky, Yu. Samarina stayed... In it sometimes concentrated, representatives of all main elements of the St. Petersburg world from members of the imperial house to visitors of writers and actors sometimes met" [8, page 60].

The salon of the grand duchess Elena Pavlovna was important in public life of the St. Petersburg society, especially by preparation of reform on an abolition of serfdom of 1861. However it is necessary to emphasize the huge role of Maria Fiodorovna in formation of positions of Elena Pavlovna at court. Having actually made her the successor under the will, the widowing empress put the grand duchess Elena Pavlovna - the younger daughter-in-law - on one level with the spouse of the emperor Nicholas I. Having such high status, Elena Pavlovna rightfully held the authority on family, putting pressure upon the nephew Alexander II at discussion of the fundamental moments in future reform of 1861. And though eventually Elena Pavlovna's role in policy falls down, it sme-

shchat the activity towards charity, supports of culture and health care, her authority and influence in royal family allowed to undertake reform on an abolition of serfdom in such look in which she took the place in the history.


1. GARF. T. 663. 4. Op. 1. L. 2.
2. Empress Maria Fyodorovna: on materials of the Reigning Hostess of Pavlovsk exhibition. Pavlovsk, 2000.
3. Memoirs of the countess Bludova//Russian old times. 1896. T.86. Page 359 - 367.
4. A.P. Shestopalov. Grand duchess Elena Pavlovna//history Questions. 2001. No. 5. Page 73 - 94.
5. F.G. Turner. Memoirs of life of F.G. Turner//Russian old times. 1909. T. 137. Page 522 - 534.
6. D.A. Obolensky. My memories of the grand duchess Elena Pavlovna//Russian old times. 1909. T. 137. Page 52 - 64.
7. Correspondence of the emperor Nikolay Pavlovich with the grand duke Konstantin Pavlovich. 1825 - 1829 / / Collection of the Russian historical society. SPb., 1910. T. 131. Page 160 - 163.
8. P.A. Valuyev. Diary of P.A. Valuyev, Minister of Internal Affairs: in 2 TM, 1961.

Came to edition On April 13, 2010

Jerry Reese
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