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Tuesday 17 February 2009

Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich

On 17th February 1905, Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich was blown to pieces by a terrorist's bomb. His wife, Ella, Grand Duchess Elizabeth, heard the explosion and hurried to the scene where she picked up what was left of him with her own hands and, having his remains placed in the neighbouring Chudov chapel, knelt in prayer as his blood trickled down the steps.
Three days later, she visited his assassin in prison, taking with her a Bible and an icon of Christ.
This event changed her life forever. Little by little, she gave away all her jewels and other possessions to create a sort of palace of the poor, where she nursed the most abject patients, built an orphanage and arranged all kinds of work for young people.
Grand Duke Serge was hated in proportion the degree to which Ella was loved. His name has been vilified through history but he was not a 'bad' man at heart. Highly strung, reactionary and probably unable to consummate his marriage, he became more intransigent each year and his treatment of the Jews in Moscow was horrendous (but he was acting, too, on the orders of his brother, Tsar Alexander III, and both of them were under the sway of the Procurator General of the Holy Synod). Serge also took a great deal of interest in the people and truly believed in Tsardom as building the kingdom of God on earth. His servants respected him and were devoted to him (which says a lot, considering 'no man is a hero to his valet'). Countess Tolstoy records in her diary how she visited him to ask for a military position for her son, and how very accommodating he was. She also wrote of his travelling all the way from St. Petersburg to Moscow for one day to attend a wedding of one of his servants.
Ella, who was so different from him, would never hear a word against him. I truly believe that he, for all his faults, was one of those people whom history turns into a monster, when he was just a man, doing his best with what he had...Blinkered he might have been, prejudiced he might have been, but cruel and nasty, he wasn't.

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