Wednesday 27 September 2006

Empress Maria Feodorovna's remains in Russia

Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary have arrived in St Petersburg Interfax Russia has reported. B.T. reports that Prince Michael of Kent will represent Queen Elizabeth and King Constanine and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece will attend the ceremonies.

Crown Prince, Crown Princess of Denmark arrive in St.Petersburg

ST.PETERSBURG. Sept 27 (Interfax) - Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark arrived in St.Petersburg on Wednesday morning to attend the reburial ceremony of Empress Maria Fedorovna's remains, Russian Culture Minister Alexander Sokolov told the press.

The Crown Prince will open an exhibition at the State Hermitage Museum, entitled "Lauritz Tuksen, a court painter. Works from Danish and Russian collections" on Wednesday. The Crown Prince will also give a reception on his ship.

On Thursday, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary will attend the reburial ceremony of late Empress Maria Fedorovna at the Peter and Paul Cathedral.
Interfax Russia

Russian and Danish honor guards carry a coffin with remains of Czarina Maria Fyodorovna in Petergof, outside St.Petersburg on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2006. The remains of Czarina Maria Feodorovna were brought Tuesday to Russia for burial from Denmark, the country where she was born and died. Maria Feodorovna was the wife of Czar Alexander III and the mother of Nicholas II, who fell to the Bolsheviks in 1917. The Romanov's include Nikolai Romanov, Dmitry Romanov, Sebastian Romanov (little boy with the candle), Rostislav Romanov, Nikita Romanov and ordinary people paying their respects at the coffin.

Homecoming for a Danish Empress
26 September 2006 - from
The Copenhagen Post
The re-internment of Danish-born Princess Dagmar from Roskilde Cathedral to St Petersburg is also the return of Empress Maria Fedorovna to her ill-fated Romanov family
To non-Danes, the name Princess Dagmar probably means nothing: the great-great-aunt of the reigning Queen Margrethe died in 1928 in her suburban Copenhagen villa to be buried in Roskilde Cathedral. On the other hand, mention the Empress Maria from Disney's animated Anastasia (as voiced by veteran star Angela Lansbury), and there may be more than a few nods of recognition. In fact, unlike the Anna Anderson-Anastasia mystery, there's no doubt here that Dagmar and Maria are one and the same person.

How the plainly aristocratic Glucksburg that was Princess Dagmar of Denmark came to be known as the Empress Maria Fedorovna is one of those fairy tales of history to which, however, there was no happily ever after.

Instead, a Bolshevik revolution is to blame for her somewhat inauspicious end in Hvidøre in what is now Copenhagen's Whiskey Belt.

Princess Dagmar's parents, King Christian IX and Queen Louise, matched her with Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, heir to Tsar Alexander II. When Nicholas died of bronchitis in 1865, however, Dagmar was betrothed again to his brother, Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich. In 1866, she set sail from Denmark to join the Russian royal family.

Quick to learn
With a speed and efficiency to be admired, Princess Dagmar mastered the notoriously difficult Russian language and was baptised in the Russian Orthodox faith, recreated as Maria Fedorovna. Married in St Petersburg in 1866, there was little trace of simple, vivacious Dagmar in the imperial court of Maria Fedorovna; if her enthusiasm for mastering the language was impressive, it was nothing compared to the way she threw herself into the sumptuous consumption of one of the world's most decadent and glamorous societies of the time.

History as well as Hollywood warns us, though, that a life of luxury does not last, and Maria Fedorovna's offspring were to be some of the last members of the Romanov dynasty. She and Alexander (known as 'the bear') had six children, of which five survived infancy.

Two things happened in November 1894: first Tsar Alexander III died of nephritis, forcing his son Nicholas to take his place, and less than four weeks later he married Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, (who became Alexandra) who had been brought up under the strict guidance of British grandmother Queen Victoria.

Revolutionary end
As Nicholas and Alexandra's devotion to each other began to alienate them from the rest of their family, this imperial rift only added to the rising instability within Russia. Alexandra had four beautiful daughters, but no heir: the son finally born in 1904 had haemophilia - a hereditary condition known as the 'royal' disease.

Grandmother Maria, having grown estranged from her beloved son, immersed herself into St Petersburg society, charity work and travelling. She also had a yacht, the Polar Star, which she summered on.

This was to change with the Bolshevik revolution of spring 1917, plunging Russia into civil war and leading to the execution of Nicholas, Alexandra and their family in 1918 and brother Michael a little later. Maria Fedorovna left the country for the final time with what remained of her family in 1919 onboard the British ship HMS Marlborough, which stopped first in Malta before docking in England.

Maria stayed first with her sister's family there but was not suited to playing second fiddle and returned to her roots in Denmark. Right up until her death, it appeared her life had frozen with the revolution, from her Hvidøre villa, she waited quietly for a sign her sons and grandchildren had somehow survived.

Resting place
Empress Maria was buried in Roskilde Cathedral in 19 October 1928 alongside other members of the Danish royal family, but according to family members she always harboured a desire to return to Russia to lie beside her husband.

'It was her greatest wish to be buried beside her beloved husband,' said Dimitri Romanoff, who lives north of Copenhagen and is a direct descendant of Tsar Nicholas.

Plans for a homecoming
Realising Empress Maria's dream became a possibility after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Dimitri Romanoff and his older brother, Prince Nicholas, who lives in Switzerland, noted the change in winds when the former Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, took part in the reburial ceremony for the murdered family of emperors eight years ago in St Petersburg's Peter and Paul Cathedral.

After consulting other members of the Romanoff clan, Dimitri contacted Queen Margrethe in 2003 and received her approval. He then pursued the possibilities for re-internment through a chain of correspondence with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The arduous process paid off, according to Dimitri Romanoff.

'Now what we have worked for and dreamed about for years is finally happening,' he told daily newspaper Berlingske Tidende.

Royal ceremony
The re-internment ceremony which began last week essentially retraced the funeral of Empress Maria 78 years ago. First, a ceremony was held in Copenhagen's Russian Orthodox church, Alexander Nevsky Church, on Friday, followed by a memorial service in Roskilde Cathedral on Saturday.

Queen Margrethe and other members of the Royal Family attended, as well as representatives of the Danish government and parliament, together with representatives of the Russian government and the City of St. Petersburg and members of the Romanov family.

From Roskilde Cathedral, the body of Empress Maria was transported to Christiansborg, the seat of the Danish parliament, where a horse-drawn carriage awaited and transported her through Copenhagen to the naval vessel Esbern Snare. From the Copenhagen harbour, her body set sail for St Petersburg once again, following the same route she travelled to meet her coming husband.

Upon landing in St Petersburg on Tuesday - the same place where she placed foot on Russian soil for the first time 140 years ago - the body of Empress Maria was received by an emotional governor of St Petersburg Valentina Matvienko.

An honour guard of Russians and Danes brought her body to a chapel at Peterhof, the royal palace south of the city. Here, visitors could pay their respects to their returned Empress until the official re-internment ceremony on Thursday.

Danish dignitaries attending the ceremony on Thursday will include Crown Prince Frederik, Crown Prince Mary, and the minister of foreign affairs, Per Stig Møller. Crown Prince Frederik brought a silver case filled with soil from Empress Maria's garden in Hvidøre.

Full circle
For Russians, the return of their empress takes on symbolic meaning for a country trying to come to terms with its imperial past after more than seven decades of communist rule.

'The Empress Dagmar is important for Russia,' said Russia's Ambassador to Denmark, Dimitri Ryurikov. 'She brings us in harmony with our history which was denied us for most of the 20th century. That's why it's important for Russia that the wish of our empress is fulfilled and she comes home where she belongs.'
The Copenhagen Post

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