Grand Duc Constantin Constantinovitch de Russie père de Tatiana






Mavra was 16 in the summer of 1882 when KR visited Altenburg. KR was 22 and 'getting over a disappointed love, and the attraction between them was immediate. But while Elizabeth had no doubts, Konstantin agonized. He was a profoundly introspective man and a year passed in which he failed to write to Elisabeth as promised, though he wrote poems about her; then he returned to propose marriage.' Mavra arrived in Russia in April 1884--2 months before Ella, who, like Mavra, would keep her Lutheran religion upon her marriage. KR was disappointed about her lack of conversion, being very profoundly religious and devoted to Orthodoxy. Mavra caused a bit of an uproar in the Court when she refused to kiss the cross held up in services. KR's 'fears were aroused, but on the wedding morning she wrote to reassure him: 'I promise you, that I will never do anything to anger or hurt you through our divided religions...I can only tell you again, how very much I love you.' Konstantin's mind was eased' and he carried Mavra's letter in his pocket throughout the day. KR would record that 'After the words 'God our Lord, by Glory and Honor marry this couple!' I saw Elisabeth already as my wife, who is given to me for ever and whom I should love, take care of and caress. The moment when the Priest led us to the altar-stand was especially solemn for me, I felt light and happy...We were man and wife. We were permitted to kiss one another. Then we went to His Majesty, the Tsaritsa and my parents. The service began...A stone had fallen from my heart...' ' Embarking on their married life, they settled happily down, with KR's pet name for her being 'Lilinka and writing to his father that Mavra 'belongs to us already.'

'Recently, passages extracted' from KR's diary 'suggesting homosexual activitiy have dominated everything written about him. But even if these can be taken at face value they represent only isolated episodes in his life which he himself regretted. The effect of their publication has been to negate the important and consistent part played at his side by one person: Elizaveta, his wife and companion for more than three decades and the mother of their nine children, the births stretching over a twenty-year period.'


His Imperial Highness, the Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich Romanov  was born on August 22, 1858, and died on June 15th, 1915. He was a Russian poet and playwriter, a grandson of Tsar Nicholas I and is best known by "K.R."

K.R. was the fourth child of Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich and his wife, Alexandra of Saxe-Altenburg. He was born at the Constantine Palace, Strelna. He had an older sister named Olga who married George I in 1867 and became Queen of the Hellenes.

It was said that the Romanov boys were to learn about the military, but K.R. was more so interested in music, art and letters. Nevertheless, he went to serve in the Imperial Russian Navy. K.R. was unsatisfied and left the navy to join the elite Izmailovsky Regiment of the Imperial Guard where he served with distinction. It was while serving with the Izmailovsky Regiment that he began to become a homosexual and for the rest of his life, he struggled with it despite the Orthodox beliefs. But still, he wed in 1884 to Princess Elizabeth of Saxe-Altenburg, who later became officially known as Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mavrikievna, but to the family was known as "Mavra."

Together, K.R. and Mavra had nine children: Ioann, Gavriil, Tatiana, Konstantin, Oleg, Igor, Georgie, Natalia and Vera. However, Princess Natalia died two months after her birth in 1905.

K.R. was a devoted husband and father and he and his family lived at Pavlovsk.

K.R. also translated several foreign works like Goethe and Schiller into Russian and also very famous, translating Shakespeare's Hamlet. He was a poet and a playwriter and even directed his own plays. He even starred as Joseph of Arimathea in his last play, King of Judea.

But this Grand Duke also had a strong and intense homosexuality. His first homosexual experiences was in the Imperial Guards. Despite his love for his wife, he tried his best to resist, but sometimes could not hold the temptation. He was a regular visitor to the male brothels of St. Petersburg. Once in 1904 he wrote in his diary:

Ordered my coachman to go, and continued on foot past the bath-house. I intended to walk straight on, but without reaching the Pevchesky bridge, I turned back and went in. And so I have surrended again, without much struggle, to my depraved inclinations.

In the end of 1904, he became attracted to a man named Yatsko. He wrote in his diary:

I sent for Yatsko and he came this morning. I easily persuaded him to be candid. It was strange for me to hear him describe the familiar characteristics: he has never felt drawn to a woman, and has been infatuated with men several times. I did not confess to him that I knew these feelings from my own personal experience. Yatsko and I talked for a long time. Before leaving he kissed my face and hands; I should not have allowed this, and should have pushed him away, however I was punished afterwards by vague feelings of shame and remorse. He told me that, ever since the first time we met, his soul has been filled with rapturous feelings towards me, which grow all the time. How this reminds me of my own youth.

A few days later, K.R. and Yatsko met again, and a stronger relationship developed between the two.

As time went by, K.R. wrote of his homosexuality less and less. No one knows the reason. Perhaps it was from aging and becoming ill?...

When war between Russia and Germany broke out in 1914, K.R. and his wife were in Germany. Once they heard the bad news, they escaped from the enemy territory back to their Russia. When K.R. and Mavra returned to their homeland, K.R. was in a very bad state of health. Five of his six sons had to serve in the Russian army and his favourite son, Oleg, was quite wounded while fighting against the Germans. Soon after, K.R. died on June 15th, 1915.
KR wrote poetry from childhood and began to published, under the initials 'KR' as early as 1886. 'His work was well-received and Tchaikovsky and others wrote musical settings for his lyrics. He also wrote plays. Alexander III suggested a Russian translation of Hamlet and at the long-awaited performance, in the Hermitage Theatre in February 1900, Konstantin took the title role. His final play, The King of the Jews, was performed in the autumn of 1913.' KR took the part of Joseph of Arimathea while his son Konstantin was a Roman prefect. In the summer of 1914, KR recited the 'Nune Dimittis' from the play at Pavlovsk in front of the Imperial family. Baroness Buxhoeveden recalled it as 'a moving and admirable piece of poetry and its author, then already a sick man, with his fine features bearing the stamp of the many emotions of a sensitive spirit, his hair and beard streaked with grey, looked like an inspired patriarch taking leave of the world' while noting that GDss Tatiana whispered to her that watching him, 'It is like a farewell' which the Baroness agreed with. 'It was the farewell to his work--the last legacy of a true poet.'

KR died the following year at Pavlovsk 'his health finally broken by the tragedies' of WW1. The last blow came with the death of his son, Oleg. This son was the most like him--an 'aspiring poet and writer' and KR's 'acknowledged favorite'. The young prince was severely wounded that October and blood poisoning set in. He was moved to Vilna but could not be saved. He 'lived just long enough to see his parents and to receive from his father the medal of the Order of St George'. In early June, KR was resting in his study 'after a recent angina attack and his nine-year-old daughter Princess Vera was with him'. She would write to one of her brothers that she suddenly heart 'Papa gasping for breath'. After 3 or 4 more of these 'horrible gasps, I rushed to Mama, to the bedroom where she was trying on a new coloured dress, probably for Ostashevo, where we were about to go because Papa was much better...In such moments of fear a person is given extra powers. Mama could never understand how I had managed to open a heavy door with a mirror and green plants in front of it, the door between Papa and Mama's studies.' Vera ran to her mother, crying and panting that her Papa couldn't breathe. Mavra rushed after her 'but everything was over'. '

KR's funeral was the last state funearl of Imperial Russia. The coffin first rested in the Italian Hall at Pavlovsk, 'guarded by representatives of regiments' that KR had served in and the 'military schools in his charge.' On the 8th day, it was taken by train to the captial and 'carried in solemn procession, with the men of the family following on foot.' A photo of the funeral was noted by Gavril in a caption as 'the Tsar himself' followed by Grand Dukes Kyril, George M and Boris in the first row, then himself, GD Dmitri K, Ioann and Konstantin Jr in the 2nd; and GD Nicholas M. The funeral took place the next day. 'At the last moment the family added a tribute of their own, personal to the dead man and very typical of him.' Wherever KR had gone, he always 'treasued a small metal box of earth from Strelna, his birthplace. The box must have been a gift from his wife...at least, on the lid was engraved in her handwriting a quotation from Lermontov: 'Can one ever forget one's Motherland, even for a moment?' The precious Strelna earth was scattered on the coffin lid.'

Thankfully, for one a sensitive and kind-hearted as KR, he didn't live to see the deaths of 3 of his sons, as well as his brother Dmitry, and numerous cousins. Fate wasn't as kind to Mavra who, in 5 years, lost her son and son-in-law (Tatiana's husband) in battle, her husband, 3 sons and a brother-in-law to the Bolsheviks. Mavra had 'managed a precarious existance in teh Marble Palace' reduced to 'stealing' her own possessions to sell for food. 'Part of the building was taken over by Bolsheviks, and, with conditions worsening all the time, in October 1918 she accepted an offer of help from the Queen of Swden [born Princess Victoria of Baden and a distant Romanov relation]. Swedish diplomats obtained permission for her to leave with Georgi and Vera, the grandchildren [Ioann's children] and four members of the household, and passage was arranged on the Swedish ship Angermanland. The journey was dangerous. The passengers and their luggage were searched on boarding--even Princess Vera's spectacle frames were examined' but Mavra had been clever enough to send any valuables she could salvage ahead with Swedish diplomats. 'She and her family could not escape the attention of a Soviet agent on board the ship and the Angermanland was halted twice--once by the Soviets and once by the Germans. The weather was against them too, and the voyage took eight days.'

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