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Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia

Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia (Дмитрий Павлович Романов) (18 September 1891 – 5 March 1941) was a Russian imperial dynast, 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 faith healer Grigori Rasputin, who he felt held undue sway over Tsar Nicholas II.



Early life

Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich was born at Ilinskoe near Moscow, the second child and only son of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich and a grandson of Alexander II of Russia; thus, he was a first cousin of Nicholas II of Russia. Dmitri Pavlovich's mother, Alexandra Georgievna of Greece was a daughter of George I of Greece and his Queen consort Olga Konstantinovna of Russia. As such, he was also a first cousin of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Dmitri and his sister Maria were mostly raised by their uncle and aunt, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia and his wife, Elizabeth, the elder sister of Tsarina Alexandra.

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, 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.[1]

File:Dmitrij Pavlovics of Russia.jpg
Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovitch as a teenager.
In 1905, Sergei, then governor of Moscow, was murdered by anarchists during the 1905 Revolution. The bomber had refrained from an earlier attack because he saw that Grand Duchess Elizabeth, fifteen-year-old Maria and her younger brother Dmitri were in the carriage and he didn't want to kill women and children.[2] A second attack a few days later succeeded in killing Sergei. Dmitri rushed with his aunt and sister and saw Sergei's broken body in the snow. After this incident, young Dmitri was sent to live with the tsar and his family. At some stage, there was even speculation whether he might be made heir instead of the hemophiliac tsarevich by marrying the tsar's eldest daughter, Olga.

As usual in his circle at the time, Dmitri Pavlovich joined a guards regiment as an officer. 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.


File:Dmitri pavlovich1.jpg
Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, around 1910.

Throughout his life, Dmitri Pavlovich was known as a great womanizer. Among his lovers were popular Russian ballerina and early film actress Vera Karalli[3] and Pauline Fairfax Potter, an American fashion designer and writer. He also temporarily pursued the Duchess of Marlborough (the American-born Consuelo Vanderbilt), who was separated, and later divorced, from the Duke of Marlborough. The fact that Dmitri Pavlovich was both 16 years the Duchess' junior, and economically challenged, did not assist his case. His most notable affairs were with Natasha Sheremetyev, morganatic wife of his cousin Mikhail, and in the early 1920s with Coco Chanel; however, the one (reputed) affair that had the most influence on the course of his life and that effectively gave him his place in history was with another man: cross-dressing and bisexual Prince Felix Yusupov, with whom he had a relationship in the winter of 1912/1913 that caused quite a scandal. It was this relationship that caused the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna to decide against Dmitri marrying her eldest daughter, the Grand Duchess Olga. Later, in 1916, Felix was the one who involved him in the murder of Grigori Rasputin.

Older sources (among them Felix's own memoirs) always maintained that the murder of Rasputin was Felix's idea, and that Dmitri was only involved because he owned a car that could move unimpeded through the strictly controlled city of St. Petersburg in wartime because of its imperial standard. Newer research, particularly that of Edvard Radzinsky in his book The Rasputin Files, has proposed the idea that the murder originated with Dmitri, and that he probably fired the shot that ultimately stopped the dying Rasputin from escaping. It is thought that the story subsequently told by the conspirators was concocted to protect Dmitri from a stain that would endanger his chances of succeeding to the throne of Russia.

As a direct result of his involvement in the murder, Dmitri Pavlovich was sent to the Persian front, which ultimately saved his life; most of his relatives were executed by the Bolsheviks, including his father, his aunt Elizabeth, and his morganatic half-brother Vladimir Paley, but he himself escaped, with British help, via Teheran and Bombay to London.

Outside Russia

File:Dmitri pavlovich 1920s.jpg
Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov in exile in the 1920s.

In London in 1919, he met Felix Yusupov again, but they soon fell out; officially over Felix's open gloating in the press of having killed Rasputin, which would endanger Dmitri's chances of a succession to the throne (still thought possible at that stage) by mere association. According to Felix's memoirs, the real reason for their estrangement was that Dmitri did not believe the restoration of the Russian monarchy was possible, but some self-serving elements around him tried to keep up appearances, and elbowed the dangerously disreputable Felix out.

Dmitri Pavlovich'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 specialised in bead and sequin embroidery and did much work for Chanel. (Dmitri himself found work as a Champagne salesman.) This way, Dmitri met Coco Chanel, eleven years his elder just like Natasha had been, with whom he conducted a brief affair in 1921. Through Dmitri and Marie's contacts in the industry, Chanel met perfumers in Grasse, which finally led to the creation of the famed Chanel No. 5 perfume — involvement in the creation of which is Dmitri's second claim to historic importance.

File:Dmitri pavlovich e esposa.jpg
Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov with his wife Audrey Emery in the 1920s.

Dmitri married an American heiress, Audrey Emery, in 1927, procuring for her the insubstantial title of Princess Romanovskaya-Ilyinskaya and the style of Serene Highness from his cousin Cyril for her as the marriage officially was regarded as unequal. The two had a son, HSH Prince Paul Romanovsky-Ilyinsky, who later in life became Mayor of Palm Beach, Florida, and thus the only Romanov descendant known to have held elected public office. Dmitri and Audrey were divorced in 1938.

Also during the 1930s, Dmitri was embroiled with the somewhat fascist Young Russian (in Russian: Союз Младороссов) movement around Alexander Kazembek, who was later found out to have been a possible Soviet agent provocateur - a thoroughly dishonourable affair. However, 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.


Despite his athletic interests, Dmitri Pavlovich's health had always been somewhat frail, and in the 1930s his chronic tuberculosis became acute and necessitated extended stays at a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, where he died in 1941 from acute uremia following complications after having been pronounced cured. Rumours circulated that either the Bolsheviks finally got him (or that Hitler had taken his firm "no" badly), but soon lost relevance in the general clamour and mayhem of World War II.

After the war, Dmitri was reburied in the palace chapel on the island of Mainau in Lake Constance in southern Germany as a favour to his sister Marie, as her son Count Lennart Bernadotte owned the property there.


Paul R. Ilyinsky (1928–2004) was his only child, by his morganatic wife Audrey Emery.



  1. Perry, John Curtis, and Pleshakov, Constantine, The Flight of the Romanovs: A Family Saga, Basic Books, 1999, p. 43
  2. Maylunas, Andrei, and Mironenko, Sergei, A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story, Doubleday, 1997, p. 258
  3. Radzinsky, Edvard, The Rasputin File, Doubleday, 2000, pp. 476-477
  • 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).


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