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Marie of Hesse and by Rhine
Princess Maximilienne Wilhelmine Marie of Hesse and the Rhine (8 August, 1824-8 June, 1880) was a princess of Grand Ducal Hesse and, as Marie Alexandrovna, Empress consort of Alexander II of Russia. She was born at Darmstadt, the capital of the Grand Duchy, and died at Saint Petersburg.
Her maternal grandparents were Karl Ludwig, Prince of Baden (1755 - 1801) and Amalie, Landgravine of Hesse-Darmstadt (1754 - 1832). Amalie was daughter of Ludwig IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (1719 - 1790) and Caroline, Grafin von Pfalz- Zweibrücken (1721 - 1774).
Karl Ludwig was son of Karl Friedrich, Grand Duke of Baden (1728 - 1811) and Carolina Louise, Princess of Hesse-Darmstadt (1723 - 1783). Carolina Louise was daughter of Ludwig VIII, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (1691 - 1768) and Charlotte, Grafin von Hanau-Lichtenburg (1700 - 1726). She was also a sister of Ludwig IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel.
Karl Friedrich, Grand Duke of Baden was son of Friedrich Magnus, Margrave of Baden-Durlach (1703 - 1732) and Anna Charlotte Amalie, Princess of Orange (1710 - 1777). His maternal grandparents were Johan Willem Friso of Orange-Nassau and Marie-Louise , Princess of Hesse-Kassel (1688 - 1765).
Marie-Louise was daughter of Karl I von Hessen-Kassel (1654 - 1730) and Marie Amalie Kettler, Princess of Courland (1653 - 1711). Her brother became Frederick I of Sweden. Her maternal grandparents were Jacob Kettler , Duke of Courland (1610 - 1682) and Louise Charlotte, Princess of Brandenburg.
Louise Charlotte was daughter of Georg Wilhelm Hohenzollern, elector of Brandenburg, Duke of Prussia and Charlotte von der Pfalz (1597 - 1660). Charlotte was daughter of Frederick IV, Elector Palatine (1574 - 1610) and Louise Juliana von Orange-Nassau. Her brother became Frederick V, Elector Palatine.
Louise Juliana was daughter of William I of Orange and Charlotte de Bourbon-Monpensier.
She was the youngest of seven children born to Wilhelmine of Baden , Grand Duchess of Hesse-Darmstadt (1788 - 1836), the younger four appearing to have been fathered by Baron Auguste Senarclens de Grancy. To avoid a scandal, Ludwig II, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine acknowledged Alexander and Marie as his own children; the other two had died young. Yet they still lived in a separate establishment in Heiligenberg while the Grand Duke lived in Darmstadt.
When in 1838, the Tsarevich Alexander Nikolayevich toured Europe to find a wife, he fell in love with the 14-year-old Marie. He married her in 1841, even though he was well aware of the 'irregularity' of her birth. At first her mother-in-law Charlotte of Prussia objected to the marriage but Alexander II insisted.
As she was very shy, she was regarded as stiff, austere, and with no taste in dress, no conversation, no charm. The damp climate of Saint Petersburg did not agree with the delicate chest Marie had inherited from her mother, so that she had a racking cough and recurring fever. Nevertheless, she became the mother of eight children. These pregnancies together with ill health kept her away from many Court festivities, which brought temptations to her husband.
In 1855 Alexander became Emperor, which forced her to attend more State functions whether she was ill or not. Although Alexander II always treated her well, she knew from 1858 onwards that his feelings were for someone else. In 1865, the death of her eldest and favourite son, the Tsarevich Nicholas, was a great blow.
Every now and again she was able to go to her brother Alexander who lived with his morganatic wife in Heiligenberg. There she met Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, daughter of Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, wife of her nephew Prince Ludwig. She resented Alice's suggestion of the marriage between her brother Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and her own daughter, but the marriage ultimately went through. When Alice died in 1878, Marie often invited the motherless children for visits to Heiligenberg. It was during these visits that Marie's son, Grand Duke Serge, first got to know his future wife, Alice's daughter Elisabeth.
The continuing threats of the Russian revolutionaries were accompanied by several assassination attempts. Because of these, Alexander II brought Princess Catherine Dolgoruki, his mistress, and their three children to the Imperial Palace. Here Marie could hear these children playing on the floor above her. She died shortly afterwards on 3 June, 1880.
Her children were
- Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna of Russia (30 August, 1842 - 10 July, 1849).
- Tsarevich Nikolai of Russia (20 September, 1843 - 24 April, 1865).
- Alexander III of Russia (10 March, 1845 - 1 November, 1894).
- Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia (22 April, 1847 - 17 February, 1909). He married Marie Alexandrine Elisabeth Eleonore von Mecklenburg-Schwerin, daughter of Friedrich Franz II of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Augusta of Reuss-Köstritz. They were maternal grandparents of Princess Olga of Greece and Denmark.
- Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia (14 January, 1850 - 14 November, 1908). He married Countess Alexandra, Countess Zhukovskaja.
- Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia (17 October, 1853 - 24 October, 1920). Married Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
- Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia (10 May, 1857 - 17 February, 1905). Married Elizabeth Alexandra Louise Alice von Hessen, daughter of Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine and Princess Alice of the United Kingdom.
- Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia (3 October, 1860 - 30 January, 1919). Married first Princess Alexandra of Greece and secondly Olga Valerianovna Karnovich, Princess Palei.
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