Thursday, 20 April 2017
Incorrect Date of Birth of Grand Duke Alexei A.
Grand Duke Alexei, the fourth son of Alexander II and Empress Marie, is relatively unknown in the midst of authors’ preferences for the more popular Romanov subjects.
A younger, middle child, Alexei has been sidelined to brief references in memoirs and biographies that are generally negative on his naval career and love affairs. A Russian monograph in 1997 on his palace in St. Petersburg challenged the predominant view of Alexei’s life and Nicholas II’s diaries reveal fresh insights into his ‘beloved uncle’.
The original published sources, quoting January 14th, 1850 (New Style) as the date of birth of Grand Duke Alexei, is lost in time. It has been replicated since, with variations on the month and date but the year 1850 remaining constant: January 2nd, 1850 (Old Style), February 1st, 1850 or February 2nd, 1850.
Sergei S. Tatischev prepared the first volume of ‘Emperor Alexander III – His Life and Reign” for publication in 1904. The historian was given permission to conduct research in His Majesty’s Own Library in the Winter Palace, the archives of the Ministry of the Imperial Court, etc.
Tatischev wrote that Grand Duke Alexei was born on January 2nd, 1849 (Old Style) in the Winter Palace. He quotes Alexander II’s letter to the Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow on the same date “… The Lord gave me a son, full of reverence for the first Metropolitan of Moscow St. Alexei, of the Russian land, in whose house I was born [Kremlin] and received Holy Baptism, we called him Alexei …”
The manuscript had been read by Count Sheremetev, Nicholas II and Empress Marie. There was no disagreement with the date of birth of Alexei or Alexander II’s letter.
F. Chevlier’s engraving (below) of Vladimir Hau’s 1850 painting of the four eldest sons of Alexander II shows Alexei as a toddler sitting next to his brother Vladimir.
Grand Duke Alexei, who was born and lived thirty-seven years of his life in the Winter Palace, is emerging from the shadows.