the ugly Empress of All Russia

March 24, 2012

I’m not always mean and judgmental with high positioned women as I utterly admire their inclusive  success few would support, but on the rare occasions when I collect a bunch of heavy reasons to backup my maliciousness I become the acid nightmare of all antipathic ugly ducklings belonging to the highest echelons who surely thank God for having been born hundreds of years apart from pretty-little Patricia’s sharp teeth. And just so you know, I do admit my unjust comments and unfounded spite yet they’re completely veiled by my growing venom. After all, c’est la vie! You can’t have everybody look upon you with awe and worship whatever petty thing you perform.

So, the lady I virulently criticize this week, one of the rare animosities I bear against an otherwise compassionate title holder appreciated by objective historians is the plain Empress Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, boring wife of Tsar Alexander II who didn’t even attempted to conceal his numerous extra-conjugal affairs on obvious basis.

Can you blame him?!

I bet the diary of Maria Alexandrovna (8 August 1824 – 8 June 1880) would’ve reassembled the following lines:

1838- What a luck stumbled over me this particular year! God knows how, I succeeded to charm the Tsarevich Alexander Nikolayevich during his European tour and, though my position doesn’t compare with most of the good parties proposed to my beloved fiancee by his authoritarian mother, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (who, between brackets, doesn’t appear to sympathize me), I still managed to trick him into marrying me, my young age of 14 rising tenderness in most men that become oblivious of my flaws.

Alas, the court is repugnant and finds me austere and extremely dull, tasteless, stiff, a Nordic Duchess too simple for the opulent world Russia encompasses, and I miss terribly my Darmstadt home where I could be shy and none would’ve misinterpret it! State duties weary my feeble complexion and the agitation around affects it further, keeping me away from any festivity or ball my dear husband attends, which threatens to alienate us despite my continuous care to provide him heirs. I cough and am mostly feverish! To make it worse, I start to believe I’m getting uglier by day, tired and weakened of these unfriendly factors, if you consider the dreadful portrait commissioned from Ivan Makarov…

1849-I think I’ll ask darling Christina Robertson to paint me and thus commemorate the death of my older daughter, Lina, an angel raised to Heaven. She’ll understand that a woman must be embellished through art, not depicted faithfully and in concordance with reality.

1850- Christina Robertson did the greatest of jobs and her work enthralls me so I plan to pay her twice the amount of money given last year to make me look on canvas exactly as I’m inside my head, delicate, sensuous, a real vixen beauty to eclipse mu husband’s many mistresses!

And because the new representation of my stunning self restored my confidence, I will command Makarov to imitate Robertson’s benevolence, illustrating me in the plenitude of my pulchritude most of the court contests but I’m very aware of.

How royal, rich and elegant I give the impression of being here! A century from now, when those who knew me will no longer testify my fairness, people would actually think I was the character artistically described in this picture!

But no! Photography appeared and it can’t forge a little altered vision of me!

This is a moment of grief! The stroke of a brush soaked in oil no longer enhances my features’ symmetry like in the miniatures I’m so proud of, revealing my true face to a public most repellent. Oh, the gorgeous days when one could resolve this problem with some golden rubles!

1857- Two years ago my father-in-law passed away, obliging us to undertake the role of Tsar and Tsarina of the Russian Empire, a status I would  most obviously reject if I had a chance to chose and correct the mistake of my girlhood, espousing Alexander, that is. The demands are higher and make me ill, supplemented by the horrible death of my favorite son, Nicholas, an erroneous punishment from the Providence I don’t remember wronging with anything in my whole christian life!

So it’s high time to order a portrait celebrating the grace I’m about to lose in this situation.

I’m considering popular Franz Xaver Winterhalter, who did the most splendid works, for this job… Queen Victoria and Queen Eugenie are impressively delineated as great personalities by his talented hand hence why wouldn’t I? If I pay him well he may even fix the damaged provoked by photography through a flattering enough representation in my special white tulle gown, pearls galore braided in my silky hair and around my swan neck …

Gorgeous, isn’t it? A souvenir I leave for my ancestors to admire decades from now!

Unfortunately, Firs Sergeyevich Zhuravlev and Heyn had to come and reestablish cruel truth:


Bella Swan, I presume that I’ve found your ancestor.


And before you can accuse me of being heartless mocking a poor woman marked by so many hard experiences I’ll inform you that I have no respect for her futile behavior as she had proven to be just an unimportant aristocrat unable to do something significant with her life apart from providing an heir. She swallowed all the rudeness of her husband and tolerated his amorous adventures not obedient but emotionally inert, tedious, pitiful, far from being  praiseworthy. In fact, I better like her love rival, Catherine Dolgorukov, the one who was to be Alexander’s morganatic wife due to Maria Alexandrovna’s death.

At least she wasn’t grotesque with her lizard eyes wide apart and her blunt mouth frozen in an exceedingly horizontal grimace…


5 Responses to “the ugly Empress of All Russia”

  1. Liz Says:

    I am struck by how many facial features the Empress of Russia and Tilda Swinson share. Niether are great beauties; their major difference lies in Tilda’s freedom and ability to embrace androgyny. She is not beautiful, but endlessly fascinating.

    • Indeed, Tilda is a great actress and, though not at all a beauty, very skilled in making an appealing appearance. Unfortunately, this Empress of Russia had neither the knack nor the talent to make herself pleasing…

  2. Kiki Says:

    Wow, so Alexander II fell in love with Marie and sweet but shy nature. His mother was against the match but he insisted on it. He would eventually stray from and fall “Katya”, whom like all mistresses of that time, had no issue carrying on an affair with a married man and then having his children. Marie, you may consider boring, but at least she wasn’t a woman of loose morals. And despite his infidelities, Alexander always regarded Marie with the respect owed to her as his consort.
    Marie had a frail constitution and because of it was often unable to attend public activities, which then caused her “futile actions”.
    She was a decent woman, who cared for her children and for her the children of her brother after their mother Princess Alice died.
    She may have not been vibrant and outspoken, but she was caring women who deserves more respect then, in my opinion, your post gives.

    • she was a woman of “morals” because she couldn’t find the force to be otherwise, weak, dull and boorish by nature, spared by both a brilliant mind and a beautiful body, a condition she did nothing to surpass. you find petty, resigned grand dames a monument of dignity deserving such respect only because she cared about her and her brother’s children yet i think it a huge insult to all the truly magnificent ladies in history (those who were doubtlessly vibrant and, despite crucial flaws, powerful enough to outshone them). you could say she had a frail constitution but than again, Elizabeth I was sickly too and look how she behaved! she might’ve been of good morals but wasn’t Queen Victoria a model of kind behavior too? and they were contemporaries, two Empresses of high rank!
      now, i’m a feminist and prone to admire most women of historical importance still this particular one is quite appalling. not a beauty, not an outstanding intelligence, not the greatest of mothers (if you search her children’s opinion), not the best wife. mediocrity all over the place

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