Imperial Dancer: Mathilde Kschessinska and the Romanovs
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The vivacious Mathilde Kschessinska (1872-1971) was the mistress of three Russian Grand Dukes and the greatest ballerina of her generation. As a young girl, she had enjoyed romantic troika rides, and passionate nights, with the future Tsar Nicholas II. When their relationship ended Mathilde began simultaneous affairs with Nicholas's cousin, Grand Duke Sergei and Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich. When her son was born in 1902 nobody knew for certain the identity of the father - except that he was undoubtedly a Romanov. In ballet, she partnered the great Vaslav Nijinsky, became a force to be reckoned with in the Imperial Theatre and, later in life, taught Margot Fonteyn. Mathilde Kschessinska is mentioned in almost every book about the Romanovs but so many myths surround her that she has become the stuff of legend. It is said a hoard of Romanov treasure lies buried under her house in St Petersburg and that a secret passage connected her home to the Winter Palace. Even her own memoirs, published in the 1960s, are as much fantasy as reality. The real story, which this book will reveal, lies in what Mathilde did not say.
Moscow, Russky Antiquariat, 2003 Vassili, Count Paul (Princess Catherine Radziwill). Confessions of the Tsarina, New York, Harper & Bros, 1918 Ves, St Petersburg, 1914 Volkonsky, Prince Serge. My Reminiscences (trans. A.E. Charnot) (2 vols), Hutchinson, 1925 Von Habsburg, Geza and Lopato, Marina. Fabergé, Imperial Jeweller, Thames & Hudson, 1993 Vorres, Ian. The Last Grand-Duchess: Her Imperial Highness Grand-Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, Hutchinson, 1964 Welch, Frances. The Romanovs & Mr
with flowerbeds, seed beds and an orangerie. The house, which included a large cellar, had been completely refurbished and its elegant interiors often featured in magazines. As usual Mathilde paid great attention to her bedroom, covering the walls in cretonne and ordering furniture from Meltzer, St Petersburg’s best manufacturer. She also arranged a small round boudoir, with light wood furniture from Buchner. The outbuildings consisted of an ice-house, a farm for the cows, greenhouses, a
School, where his pupils included Anna Pavlova and Lydia Kyasht. At the end of this season Ivan Vsevolozsky, Director of the Imperial Theatres since 1881, retired and became Director of the Hermitage, ‘his retirement… precipitated by his disagreements with his new superior… Baron V.B. Frederiks.’11 He was succeeded in the Imperial Theatres by 39-year-old Prince Sergei Volkonsky, a member of one of Russia’s greatest families. The prince was inexperienced in theatre administration, having come
Tsar during the Friday of Carnival Week, Mathilde was furious. ‘Is that so?’ she remarked to a companion. ‘Fiametta shall not be given.’ Then, under the pretext that Fiametta needed many rehearsals and the dancers were tired after giving two performances daily all week, the Tsar was persuaded by Kschessinska’s entourage to insist that a different work be substituted.16 Volkonsky said that the Tsar had interfered with details of the repertoire, and even the distribution of the roles, before but
Pharaoh’s Daughter). A few months earlier Mathilde had a new wig made with a centre parting which she wore with the bandeau. The hairstyle pleased her so much that she adopted it for everyday wear. From Sergei there was a very valuable gift – a mahogany chest in a gold mounting, containing yellow diamonds of all different sizes which were eventually made up into a corsage ornament by Fabergé. Other gifts bought from Fabergé by admirers included an elephant made from pink rhodonite with ruby