Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Adventures of President Grant's Great-Granddaughter

(Library Canada Archives)

Imagine experiencing the glamour of the Imperial Court in Vienna and being presented to Empress Elisabeth! Julia Grant, the great-granddaughter of the Civil War general and President Ulysses S. Grant, had this adventure and many more. This beautiful and clever woman became a Russian princess, fled the Revolution, and wrote many articles and books.

Born at the White House in 1876, she was the daughter of the President's son, Frederick, who was a diplomat. She remembered her grandfather who died when she was ten and described him as grave and serious but kindly. She was apparently very fond of him.

Frederick became the U.S. Ambassador to Austria-Hungary when Julia was older. She learned fluent Austrian in Vienna and made her debut at the Imperial Court. She must have also learned the accomplishments of most educated, upper-class American women and become quite cosmopolitan.

Although the family returned to New York, Julia traveled to Europe with her socialite aunt, Bertha Palmer, who was involved in the Chicago World's Fair, when she was about 19. She met a handsome, young officer in Rome from an aristocratic family. Julia and Prince Michael Catacuzene, who was attached to the Russian Embassy in Rome, soon fell in love.

They married at one of the Astor houses, Beaulieu in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1899.
There were two services - the Episcopalian one at this house and a Russian Orthodox one. Julia's wedding dress was described in the New York Times as 'severely cut and quite simple'. It was made of rich, white satin. She also wore a tulle veil with real orange blossoms attached to it.

After the wedding, the couple divided their time between their apartments in St.Petersburg, their country estate in the Ukraine, and a home in the Crimea. Prince Michael worked for Tsar Nicholas II. Julia knew many famous people in Russia and wrote some books about her time there. One, Revolutionary Days, is available as a free download from a few different web sites. It is supposed to be quite lively and has had good reviews.

During World War One, Prince Michael led a force of 15,000 men in the last great cavalry charge. He was wounded and again given an important role by the Tsar. However, the Revolution of 1917 endangered the lives of all aristocrats. The couple and their children were lucky enough to flee - Julia had to hide her jewels in her clothes. They settled in Sarasota, Florida, where the Prince became Chairman of the Palmer Bank.

Unfortunately, Julia and the Prince, eventually divorced after having three children.
After their divorce in 1934, Julia went to live in Washington where she lived a very social life and wrote her articles and books. The Prince stayed in Sarasota where he married again.

The Princess died at 99, a great age even now!


Matterhorn said...

Wow, it sounds like she had a very long and exciting life!

May I link to this article, and quote an excerpt, on my Nordic/Baltic blog, Sword and Sea?

Viola said...

Of course, Matterhorn! Thank you for asking - I'm flattered. I will be interested to read your article.

Kittie Howard said...

Historians regard Grant as one of our worst presidents. Beyond how Grant achieved that distinction, I didn't know anything about him. So, I really, really enjoyed this post and plan to learn more about Julia, a really interesting person.

Big applause, Viola, you're the best!

Viola said...

I didn't realise that Grant was such a bad president. I must read more about him. What did he do? I just reviewed a book about Robert E. Lee at my book blog - you might like that.

I found Julia's book on the Internet and plan to read it.

Thank you so much for your praise, Kittie. I love to read your posts too, and hope to catch up this week.

Val Proto said...

Grant was not a "bad" President. He was an honest man, but sadly, he also was extremely loyal to men who did not deserve his loyalty. As well, as many did in the changing structure of the "federal government" as it developed before, during and after the War of Secession, Grant was used to using the "quid pro quo," exchanging favors with persons dealing with the government. Indeed, so many such favor seekers met with Grant in the lobby of Willard's Hotel in DC that they became known as "lobbyists," a word still in use today.

Custom Search