Rules for happy life –
Do not wed a Romanov,
Don’t stand near mine shafts.
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna was killed a hundred years ago today, a day after her little sister, Empress Alexandra, was shot up in an Ekaterinaburg cellar with husband, children, servants, and dog. Somehow, Elizabeth’s end managed to be even worse. How did she pull that off? Let’s investigate.
She was born Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine in 1864, the second daughter of the second daughter of Queen Victoria. Elisabeth had a very English upbringing and despite being a German princess, English was her first language. As she grew up, practically every eligible male royal (including Wilhelm II, shudder) wanted to court her because she managed to be both beautiful and charming. But it was Grand Duke Sergei, son of Tsar Alexander II, who stole her heart, so off to Russia she went!
It was actually at their wedding that her little sister met Sergei’s nephew, the future Nicholas II. The newlyweds encouraged them to get together, Elizabeth telling sis that converting to Russian is Orthodoxy was NBD, really.
Elizabeth and Sergei had a relatively happy marriage, adopting a niece and nephew and Elizabeth continuing to charm anyone. Pity Sergei was a reactionary monster, as witnessed by him expelling 20,000 Jews from Moscow. (Elizabeth’s response: “God will punish us severely.”) Not terribly surprising, then, that Sergei was assassinated by bomb. Elizabeth pled for the assassin’s life, but no one (including the assassin) was down for that.
So Elizabeth became a nun, dedicating herself to helping the poor. She last met her sister in 1916, telling her that Rasputin was bad news.
Elizabeth, along with a Grand Duke and his secretary, a parcel of princes, and another nun from Elizabeth’s convent, was arrested by the Cheka in 1918. They were shuffled about for a while before winding up at a school in Alapayevsk. Then, on the night of July 17, Elizabeth and crew were woken up, transported on carts to an abandoned iron mine, and beaten up. They were then thrown into the mine shaft, had a couple of grenades tossed in after them, and finally, a bunch of firey brushwood when they just would not stop singing hymns.
Nevertheless, only the secretary died right away. We do not actually know how long the others held on. The White Army found the bodies three months later and concluded that most died slowly of their injuries or starvation. Elizabeth had used her wimple to bandage Prince Ioann’s head.