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Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia

Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich
Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia in France, circa 1930's
Born (1891-09-18)18 September 1891
Ilinskoye Estate, near Moscow, Russian Empire
Died 5 March 1942(1942-03-05) (aged 50)
Davos, Graubünden, Switzerland
Burial Mainau, Lake Constance, Germany
Spouse Audrey Emery
Issue Prince Paul Dmitriievich Romanovsky-Ilyinsky
Full name
Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov
House House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov
Father Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia
Mother Princess Alexandra of Greece and Denmark
Religion Russian Orthodox

Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia (Его Императорское Высочество Великий Князь Дмитрий Павлович; 18 September 1891 – 5 March 1942) was a Russian Imperial Highness and one of the few Romanovs to escape murder by the Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution. He is known for being involved in the murder of the mystic peasant and faith healer Grigori Rasputin, whom he felt held undue sway over his first cousin Tsar Nicholas II.[1]


  • Biography 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Assassination of Rasputin 1.2
    • Outside Russia 1.3
    • Death 1.4
  • Descendant 2
  • Ancestry 3
  • References 4
  • Sources 5


Early life

Ilyinskoye (estate)

Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich was born at the family estate Ilyinskoye (Olga Konstantinovna of Russia.[2]

His mother, Alexandra, was seven months' pregnant with him when, while out with friends, she jumped into a boat, falling as she got in. The next day, she collapsed in the middle of a ball from violent labor pains brought on by the previous day's activities; Dmitri was born in the hours following the accident. Alexandra slipped into a coma, from which she never emerged. Although doctors had no hope for Dmitri's survival, he lived, with the help of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, who gave the premature Dmitri the baths prescribed by the doctors, wrapped him in cotton wool and kept him in a cradle filled with hot water bottles to keep his temperature regulated. "I am enjoying raising Dmitri," Sergei wrote in his diary.[3] Grand Duchess Alexandra died shortly after Dmitri's birth. She was only twenty-one years old , and the cause was almost certainly preeclampsia.

Dmitri and his sister Maria lived in St Petersburg with their father until 1902, when Grand Duke Paul married a divorced commoner, Olga Pistolkors, and was banished from Russia by the Emperor. He was not allowed to take the children with him into exile, so they were sent to live with their uncle, Grand Duke Sergei and aunt, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna (the Empress's sister), in Moscow. The loss of their father and the sudden move to Moscow caused the children great distress.[4] In her memoirs, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (the Younger) describes Grand Duke Sergei as a stern disciplinarian, and his wife, Grand Duchess Elizabeth as a cold and unwelcoming presence.[5]

Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich as a teenager.

On 4 February 1905, Grand Duke Sergei, who had recently resigned from the post of Governor General of Moscow, was assassinated by Ivan Kalyaev, a member of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. Kalyaev, armed with a homemade bomb, had aborted his first attempt to kill the Grand Duke when he spotted Dmitri and Marie with their uncle in his carriage. His uncle's death was only one of several assassinations that robbed Dmitri of close family members.[6] After Sergei's death, Grand Duchess Elizabeth undertook to raise her niece and nephew on her own, thus making them part of a rare female-headed household. Maria Pavlovna continued to have some feelings of anger toward her aunt, whom she would blame for her overly hasty marriage to Prince William of Sweden in 1908, but Dmitri formed a very strong bond with Elizabeth and came to admire her personal fortitude.[7]

Maria Pavlovna's wedding to Prince William took place at Tsarskoe Selo in 1908, and after she had departed for Sweden with her husband, Dmitri and Elizabeth Feodorovna stayed on for time at Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo as guests of the Emperor and Empress. It was during this period that Dmitri began to form a close bond with Nicholas II, looking upon him as a surrogate father. He would join the Emperor on his daily walks and seek to spend as much time with him as possible. Nicholas, in turn, treated Dmitri very kindly. He seems to have loved the young man's free spirit and sense of humor, a welcome diversion from the stresses of his daily life. Dmitri wrote several letters to his sister , describing how much he was enjoying himself there.[8]

In 1909 Dmitri left his aunt's care to move to St Petersburg with his head tutor and companion, G.M. Laiming. Established first at his father's vacant palace; then at the Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace, which he had inherited from Grand Duke Sergei, and which would become his principal residence before the Revolution. He prepared to enter the Nikolaevskoe Cavalry School. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a cornet in the Horse Guards Regiment, which his father had once commanded, and in which he had been enrolled at birth. He is reputed to have been a very good equestrian, and competed in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, coming seventh. Before World War I, he instigated the idea of a national Russian sports competition, the very beginning of what under Soviet rule became the Spartakiad.

Assassination of Rasputin

Rasputin and Yusupov (wax figures) in the fancy basement, a former wine cellar in the Yusopov palace

A few days before the night of 16/17 December (O.S.) Rasputin had been invited to the Yusopov palace[9] at an unseemly hour, intimating Felix Yusupov's attractive wife, Princess Irina, would be present. In point of fact, she was away in the Crimea, staying with her parents-in-law.[10] Yusupov, who had visited Rasputin regularly in the past few months for treatment, went with dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert to Rasputin's apartment in Dmitry's car. A sound-proof room in the basement in the east wing had been specially prepared for the crime. Waiting on another floor were the fellow conspirators: Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich, Vladimir Purishkevich and Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin, an army officer in the Preobrazhensky Regiment.

The second bullet came from Vladimir Purishkevich

"Dmitry received Yusupov's suggestion with alacrity, and alliance was welcomed as indicating that the murder would not be a demonstration against the dynasty."[11] They had planned to burn Rasputin’s possessions and call from the train station a popular restaurant to ask if Rasputin was in. Sukhotin put on Rasputin’s fur coat, his rubber boots, and gloves. He left together with Dmitri Pavlovich and Dr. Lazovert in Purishkevich' car,[12] suggesting Rasputin had left the palace alive.[13] Because Purishkevich' wife refused to burn the fur coat and the boots in her small fireplace in Purishkevich' ambulance train, the conspirators went back to the palace with the mentioned items. When the body was wrapped in a curtain, the conspirators drove in the direction of goloshes, a rubber boot (size 10), was stuck between the piles of the bridge.[15]

His own letters and diary entries, at times written under emotional duress as he relived events that continued to disturb him greatly, support the conventional historical account of the assassination. His final break with Yusupov in London in 1920 is well documented in letters exchanged between the two men, none of which have ever been published. The originals are all part of the Ilyinsky family collection, along with Dmitri's diaries, and have been woefully, almost incredibly, neglected by scholars. Dmitri who, as an adolescent, had envisioned Nicholas II as a 'man of action' and admired him greatly, was devastatingly disillusioned by the Tsar's attitude and behavior during the war years. Like many other grand dukes, he tried to warn Nicholas of Russia's imminent peril, but was unsuccessful. The assassination was, in his conception, a patriotic act and one of desperation, but he almost immediately regretted it, and would later describe on several occasions in his letters and diaries the disgust and remorse he felt about his own involvement in the affair. Yusupov was, in 1920, offered a chance to speak about the assassination in a US lecture tour, the profits from which would go to the Red Cross, and it was his interest in pursuing this tour that proved to be the last straw in his relationship with Dmitri.

Outside Russia

The direct result of his involvement in the December 1916 assassination was exiled to the Persian front where he served briefly under General Nikolai Baratov at his headquarters in the Persian city of Kazvin. But after the February revolution Baratov had to ask Dmitri to leave since there were rumblings from the lower ranks and his safety could not be guaranteed. Ronald Wingate entertained Dmitri when he passed through Najaf. In Tehran he lived briefly with General Meidel, then head of the Persian Cossack Division, before being taken in by the British Minister to Tehran, Sir Charles Marling and his wife Lucia. Sir Charles became an important father figure to Dmitri, and the relationship there established between Dmitri and the entire Marling family, would prove to be a close and enduring one. It was Sir Charles who, by persuading the British Foreign Office in 1918 that Dmitri would undoubtedly become the next Emperor of Russia, gained his admission to Great Britain after many previous rejections.[16]

Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia in exile in the 1920s.

He was the only Romanov permitted to live in England, but moved to Paris after two years. Dmitri's sister Marie had, like many aristocratic Russians in exile, found a niche for herself in the rising Paris fashion industry by founding a business called "Kitmir" that specialized in bead and sequin embroidery and did much work for Chanel. Dmitri himself found work as a Champagne salesman.

Throughout his life, Dmitri would always enjoy the companionship of strong-willed and highly intelligent women, both as lovers and as platonic friends, perhaps a holdover from his adolescence when two strong-willed and intelligent women, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, loomed so large in his life. He would often have strong but overlapping relationships, as, for instance, with Natalia Brasova and the ballerina Vera Karalli, both of whom he saw in 1915 and 1916. (He would be reunited with both women in exile, and would briefly resume his relationship with Karalli.) His diaries chronicle relationships with many of the most fascinating women of his day, but the affair he most remembered for was with iconic fashion designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, whom he first met in pre-WWI Paris. Their relationship lasted about a year, beginning in spring 1921 with an off-season stay in Monte Carlo where they endeavored to live as discreetly as possible since neither was as yet sure where the relationship was going, and what the future would hold for Dmitri in particular.[17] Rumors that Dmitri was gay or bisexual have never been substantiated, and his own letters and diaries very firmly contradict them.

Dmitri married an American heiress, Cyril. Dmitri and Audrey were divorced in 1937.

In the late 1920s, Dmitri became involved with the Vichy, France, allowed to emigrate to the US, where he was active in Russian Orthodox Church affairs. After WWII he returned to Russia, giving rise to suspicions that he had been a Soviet agent, but no proof of this has ever been obtained, and his lifelong devotion to the Church would seem to make it unlikely. Dmitri reputedly rebuked later advances from Hitler to lead exiled Russian nobles within the German army against the Bolsheviks with the firm statement that nothing would induce him to fight against fellow Russians. However, at that time Dmitri was in no condition to fight at all any more.


Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia with his wife Audrey Emery in the 1920s.

Despite the popular conception of Dmitri as a frail man who had suffered all his life from chronic tuberculosis, he was, for most of his life, a very active sportsman, excelling at polo, horse racing, tennis, and bobsledding. His doctors in London and Davos estimated that he first contracted tuberculosis around 1929, and it did run a chronic course, but he had not had it previously. He entered Sanatorium "Schatzalp" on 2 September 1939, the day after the German invasion of Poland, and remarked in a letter to his sister that he had never before spent a single night in any kind of hospital or medical institution. His cause of death remains unknown, since there is no cause listed on his death certificate, and all of Schatzalp's medical records were destroyed after the conversion of the sanatorium into a hotel in the 1950s. His son believed he had died of tuberculosis, and his cousin Prince Michael Feodorovich of Russia cited uremia, and his NY Times obituary cited uremia as well. Rumors of murder sprang up locally, but have never been substantiated, and there was no police investigation.[19]

Grand Duke Dmitri was laid to rest in the Waldfriedhof, Davos. In the late 1950s his remains were transferred to Mainau, situated in Lake Constance, where they now rest beside his sister's in the Bernadotte family crypt.


The two had a son, His Serene Highness, Prince Paul Romanovsky-Ilyinsky, who grew up in France, England and the United States, and served as a US Marine in the Korean War. In 1989 he was elected Mayor of Palm Beach, Florida, and thus became the only Romanov descendant known to have held elected public office. Following the fall of communist Russia in 1991, a delegation of Russian royalists approached Paul Ilyinsky and asked him to assume the title of Tsar, a position he declined.[20]


  • Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich


  1. ^
  2. ^ As such, he is also a first cousin of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
  3. ^ Perry, John Curtis, and Pleshakov, Constantine, The Flight of the Romanovs: A Family Saga, Basic Books, 1999, p. 43
  4. ^ See letter of Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich to Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, 27 October 1939. The original is in the family archive at Insel Mainau, home of the late Count Lennart Bernadotte
  5. ^ Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna (1931) "Education of a Princess". The Viking Press.
  6. ^ His paternal grandfather, Alexander II, was murdered by revolutionary terrorists in 1881, and his maternal grandfather, George I of Greece, would be shot by an assassin in 1913. His father, Paul, and half-brother Vladimir ("Bodya") Paley would be murdered by the Bolsheviks in January 1919.
  7. ^ Diaries of Grand Duke Dmitri
  8. ^ The original letters survive in the Bernadotte family archive on the Island of Mainau. His later correspondence with Nicholas II, from 1908-1914, would fall into the hands of the Bolsheviks and be published in 1925 entitled "Nicholas II and the Grand Dukes" ["Николай II и Великие Князья"], edited by V.P. Semennikov.
  9. ^ Farquhar, Michael (2001). A Treasure of Royal Scandals, p. 197. Penguin Books, New York. ISBN 0-7394-2025-9; The Russian Revolution by Richard Pipes, p. 263. [2].
  10. ^ C.L. Sulzberger, The Fall of Eagles, pp. 271–273
  11. ^ B. Pares (1939), p. 402.
  12. ^ O.A. Platonov Murder
  13. ^ J.T. Fuhrmann, p. 211.
  14. ^ Wikimapia
  15. ^ Almasov, B. (1924) Rasputin und Russland, p. 204.
  16. ^ See Sir Charles's correspondence with the FO, preserved at the Public Records Office, Kew, UK. Nikolai Nikolaevich's papers are at the Hoover Institute, Stanford, and Dmitri's diaries likewise provide a detailed account of his life in Persia, his relationship with the Marlings, and his attempts to gain entry to Britain.
  17. ^ Diary of Grand Duke Dmitri, March/April 1921
  18. ^ Unpublished letter of Constantine de Grunwald to Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, 3 June 1939, Mainau.
  19. ^ William Lee, "Leben und Sterben in Davos," in Davoser Revue, 2000
  20. ^ Xavier Waterkeyn Assassination: Political murder through the ages New Holland Publishers p. 111 ISBN 978-1-74110-566-7


  • Perry, John Curtis and Pleshakov, Constantine, The Flight of the Romanovs: A Family Saga. New York, 1999.
  • Crawford, Rosemary and Donald, Michael and Natasha. London, 1997.
  • Radzinsky, Edvard, Rasputin: The Last Word. London, 2000.
  • Youssoupoff, Prince Félix, Mémoires. Paris 1990 (reprint).
  • Grand Duchess Marie of Russia (ed Russell Lord), Education of a Princess - a Memoir, 1930, ASIN: B000K5SJJ4
  • Grand Duchess Marie of Russia, A Princess in Exile, 1932, ASIN: B000TG41CS
  • The Romanovs: The Final Chapter (Random House, 1995) by Robert K. Massie, pgs 210-212, 213, 217, and 218 ISBN 0-394-58048-6 and ISBN 0-679-43572-7
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