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Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia

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Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia
Princess Nicholas of Greece and Denmark
Born(1882-01-17)17 January 1882
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Died13 March 1957(1957-03-13) (aged 75)
Athens, Kingdom of Greece
Royal Cemetery, Tatoi Palace, Greece
(m. 1902; died 1938)
FatherGrand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia
MotherDuchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia (29 January 1882 – 13 March 1957), sometimes known as Helen, Helena, Helene, Ellen, Yelena, Hélène, or Eleni, was the only daughter and youngest child of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia and Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Her husband was Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark and they were both first cousins of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia. She was also first cousin of Alexandrine of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Queen consort of Denmark and the grandmother of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy, and Prince Michael of Kent. Queen Juliana of the Netherlands was also her half-first cousin.

Early life[edit]

Elena and her three surviving older brothers, Kirill, Boris, and Andrei, had an English nanny and spoke English as their first language.[1] The young Elena had a temper and was sometimes out of control. At four years old, she posed for the artist Henry Jones Thaddeus.[2] She grabbed a paper knife and threatened her nurse, who hid behind Thaddeus. "The little lady then transferred her attentions to me, her black eyes ablaze with fury," recalled Thaddeus.[3] Elena, raised by a mother who was highly conscious of her social status, was also considered snobbish by some. "Poor little thing, I feel sorry for her," wrote her mother's social rival, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, "for she is really quite sweet, but vain and pretty grandiose."[3]

Marriage and children[edit]

The family, circa 1908.

She was engaged to Prince Max of Baden, but Max backed out of the engagement. Elena's mother was furious and society gossiped about Elena's difficulty in finding a husband. At one point in 1899, the seventeen-year-old Elena was reputedly engaged to Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, however this came to nothing as he fell in love with Countess Sophie Chotek.[4]

Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark, the third son of George I of Greece, first proposed in 1900, but Elena's mother was reluctant to allow her daughter to marry a younger son with no real fortune or prospects of inheriting a throne. She finally agreed to let Elena marry Nicholas, who was Elena's second cousin through his mother Olga Constantinovna of Russia and her father Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia, in 1902 after it became clear that no other offers were on the horizon.[5]

The couple married on 29 August 1902 in Tsarskoye Selo, Russia. Like many imperial weddings, it was a grand affair, and was attended by the Emperor and Empress of Russia, the King and Queen of the Hellenes, among other royals and nobility of Russia.[6]

Elena's "grand manner" irritated some people at court.[5] According to the British diplomat Francis Elliot, there was an incident between Elena and her sister-in-law Princess Marie Bonaparte: Allegedly, Elena refused to greet Marie and "drew back her skirts as if not to be touched by her."[7] Elena thought that Marie was beneath her, because her grandfather operated the Monte Carlo Casino.[8] Elena looked down on another sister-in-law Princess Alice of Battenberg because of the latter's morganatic blood.[9] The Dowager Empress wrote that Elena "has a very brusque and arrogant tone that can shock people."[5]

Prince and Princess Nicholas of Greece and Denmark had three daughters:

Grand Duchess Elena suffered from ill health after the birth of Princess Marina, which caused her husband anguish.

According to her niece, Princess Sophie of Greece, Grand Duchess Elena's priorities, throughout her life, remained as follows: “God first, the Grand Dukes of Russia then and finally everything else.”[10] Thus, the Grand Duchess and her husband, Prince Nicholas, visited Russia annually to visit their relatives.[11]

Life in exile[edit]

Portrait by Philip de László, 1914

The family was later affected by the turmoil of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent turmoil in Greece, which became a republic and resulted in the family living in France for a time.

While living in France Grand Duchess Elena became deeply involved in charity work for Russian exiles, particularly children. Short of money due to their exile from Greece and the loss of their Russian income, Prince Nicholas and his family lived in reduced, but elegant, circumstances. Grand Duchess Elena's fabulous jewel collection, as well as Prince Nicholas' own artwork, were their sources of income.

Princess Olga of Greece married Prince Paul of Yugoslavia; Princess Elizabeth of Greece married Count Karl Theodor zu Toerring-Jettenbach, son of Duchess Sophie in Bavaria and scion of an old and rich Bavarian mediatized family; and Princess Marina of Greece married the Prince George, Duke of Kent in November 1934.

Grand Duchess Elena became a widow early in 1938, as Prince Nicholas suffered a heart attack and died suddenly. She remained in Greece throughout the Second World War, dying there in 1957. She bequeathed her personal library to the Anavryta School.

Her diaries during the period of the Second World War (1941-1946), written in English, were translated into Greek and published by Ioanna Varvalouka in 2024.[12]



  1. ^ Zeepvat, Charlotte, The Camera and the Tsars: A Romanov Family Album, Sutton Publishing, 2004, p. 65
  2. ^ Julia P. Gelardi, From Splendor to Revolution, p.158
  3. ^ a b Zeepvat, p. 90
  4. ^ "An Austro-Russian Alliance" (PDF). The New York Times. 14 August 1899. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  5. ^ a b c Zeepvat, p. 99
  6. ^ King, Stella. Princess Marina: Her Life and Times (pg. 27; Cox & Wyman Ltd, 1969)
  7. ^ Julia P. Gelardi, From Splendor to Revolution, p.238
  8. ^ Julia P. Gelardi, From Splendor to Revolution, p.238
  9. ^ Julia P. Gelardi, From Splendor to Revolution, p.238
  10. ^ Vickers, Hugo (2000). Alice : Princess Andrew of Greece. London: Hamish Hamilton. p. 69. ISBN 0-241-13686-5. OCLC 45822098.
  11. ^ Mateos Sáinz de Medrano, Ricardo (2004). La familia de la reina Sofía : la dinastía griega, la Casa de Hannover y los reales primos de Europa (1. ed.). Madrid: La Esfera de los Libros. pp. 250–251. ISBN 84-9734-195-3. OCLC 55595158.
  12. ^ Ioanna Varvalouka, The Diary of Princess Elena of Nicholas. Days of Occupation, Days of Liberation 1941-1946 [in Greek], Athens, 2024. ISBN: 978-618-218-044-0.