Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Glamorous Grand Duke

Legend has it that Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovitch and Chanel met on a beach, although they may have been introduced to each other by Dmitri's sister, Marie Pavlovna. One wonders what the dark and handsome Dmitri and the petite Chanel first said to each other! They soon became lovers.

The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess certainly had a strong influence on Chanel's fashion career. Dmitri introduced her to the former perfumier to the Tsars, Earnest Beaux, and Marie made gorgeous embroidered clothes for the business before becoming a designer herself. Beaux created the celebrated Chanel No.5.

Dmitri was the son of the Tsar's uncle, Grand Duke Paul, and his wife, Princess Alexandra of Greece, who died giving birth to him. After Paul made a morganatic marriage and was sent into exile by the Tsar, Marie and Dmitri were looked after by the Tsaritsa's sister, Grand Duchess Ella and her husband, Grand Duke Serge. Ella was beautiful but rather cold and Serge was greatly disliked. Although they were surrounded by splendour and played with the Tsar's children, it must have been a strange childhood. Ella was obsessed with Serge, who was secretly gay. Serge was rather cruel, but apparently he was kinder to the children than Ella. He was regarded as a petty tyrant and assassinated in 1905.

Dmitri had many lovers before he met Chanel, including the ballerina, Vera Karalli and his cousin's morganatic wife, Natasha. The greatest scandal involving the grand Duke occurred when he and the flamboyant Felix Youssopoff had an affair. Dmitri was considered as a husband for Grand Duchess Olga by the Tsaritsa at one stage.

When he and Felix got fed up with Rasputin's evil influence over Alexandra and the Tsar, they decided to murder him. They thought that this would solve the many problems of the royal family and the country. Rasputin was very difficult to get rid of. His killing involved poisoning, shooting and drowning. The Tsar was horrified when he found out that Dimitri was involved and sent him into exile. This, of course, saved his life.

Dmitri always had money problems and his love affair with Chanel didn't last. However, he eventually married a wealthy American heiress, Audrey Emery, moved to Florida and had a son, Paulie. Paul eventually became the Mayor of Palm Beach.

They eventually divorced and Dmitri died young of tuberculosis in Switzerland during the Second World War. He was reburied in the palace chapel on the island of Mainau in Lake Constance in southern Germany. Marie's son owned the property there and she wanted him buried there.


Ms. Lucy said...

I had no idea about Chanel...Thanks for more interesting info this morning:)

Christina said...

I love your blog it is filled with loads of interesting anecdotes!
I don't believe that Serge was secretly gay. It seems to be malicious rumours that gave rise to that story, and although he was domineering and highly-strung, his servants were devoted to him. Css. Tolstoy, too, writes of his kindness when she went to him seeking help for her son.
A lovely blog!!

Viola said...

Thank you so much for your praise, Christina! It means a lot to be praised by a published author. I am very interested in reading both of your books. Where can I buy the first one?

There are so many rumours about the Russian royals. Serge seems to have been a very complicated character - either loved or hated.

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