среда, 1 февраля 2012 г.

Poet and Lady-in-waiting


Legend of Mary SHERVASHIDZE and Galaktion TABIDZE

(extract from the Igor Obolensky’s book “The Enigmas Georgia”)

There are some masterpieces of the world literature that are being argued and discussed even a century later.
Researchers are still stumbled in revealing the real objects of adoration by such geniuses as Byron and Pushkin.
Another enigma appeared in 1915, when the great Georgian poet Galaktion Tabidze published his poem “Mary”.
A century passed but admirers of this famous poet have still been trying to comprehend who that mysterious Mary is? Whom the Great Galaktion devoted his love and adoration? 
This is one of the biggest mysteries of the 20th century literature.
When Galaktion was asked whether his Mary really existed he replied, “That’s my secret”.
“Mary” is believed to be a prominent Georgian aristocrat lady Mary Shervashidze, a lady-in-waiting to Empress Alexandra Fiodorovna of Russia at the beginning of the 20th century.
Mary had a great power of spreading her charming beauty and endow with inspiration all around. But, she became immortal due to Galaktion Tabidze and his poem “Mary” rather than her amazing beauty.

You were married that night Mary!
Mary, that night your eyes were dimmed,
The glints and hues of Heavens weary –
With autumn’s sadness overfilled!
Lady Mary herself wrote to a Georgian collector and historian Papuna Tsereteli, “I did not know Galaktion Tabidze in person. I got married in Kutaisi on 20th of September 1918. It was already evening though still light, and weather was fine. That’s all I can tell you about.”
Mary held a respectable position in the Georgian high society, as well as the Russian Imperial court for the last few decades of its existence. Certainly, she and Galaktion belonged to different social communities. And, it is quite possible that the poet just saw a glimpse of amazing young lady or was even met at some metropolitan celebrities meeting but the lady neither paid any attention nor remembered him.
It is obvious that they knew each other either. In1923 there was issued a collection of poems by Galaktion. And, in one poem he describes himself cutting the name of “Mary Shervashidze” on a wood.
Galaktion’s friend remembered they often saw Mary in Kutaisi. 
Once, Galaktion even brought Mary’s photo to prominent Georgian artist Lado Gudiashvili and asked to paint a portrait. Gudiashvili wrote the order, but Galaktion did not like the painting.
Love-story of genial Galaktion impressed me so much that I tried to find the very Mary and look into the personal features of that legendary lady.
Tatuli Gviniashvili, Princess Babo Dadiani’s daughter, helped me greatly. Princess Dadiani, an aristocratic Tiflisian lady, was a best man  at Mary and aide-de-camp of Emperor Nicholas II George (Gigusha) Eristavi’s wedding.  That was the wedding Galaktion bitterly described into his poem.
Tatuli Gviniashvili told me that once she asked to Tabidze whether Mary really existed, and he replied, “Existed!”
“They might have not had any relations. That’s quite natural. Mary Shervashidze spent most of her life in Saint Petersburg.
But, even one glimpse might have been enough for Galaktion’s great sense of imagination to write such masterpiece.”
Tatuli was lucky to know Galaktion in person and meet Mary Shervashidze several times in Paris. 
Thus, all life-stories about that mysterious Lady she got from the original source.
“In late 60’s I arrived to Paris for the first time and immediately got invitation from Mary. She herself called and invited me. You know, my mother and she were close friends.
I was so excited while driving to her house. My uncle, Babo’s brother, accompanied me. We chatted a bit:
(my uncle) – You have no idea what you are going to see! This is incredible beauty!
(me) – On, what an extraordinary beauty I will see. Don’t you know Tbilisi is full of extremely beautiful women?
(my uncle) – No, Mary is something completely different.
And, he was absolutely right. 
I was shocked when I saw Mary Shervashidze. She was amazingly charming.
Once, Duchess of Leyhtenberg met Mary at the Royal Palace in Saint Petersburg and couldn’t hide her admiration, “I’d get married blindly to a Georgian who has even a small portion of your charm”, Mary smiled and replied, “I will show you the one right now”, and called Levan Melikishvili, a knight guard being on duty that day.
Young Georgian knight was really handsome and the Duchess felt in love with him and got married. They had a son Teimuraz. 
After the Bolshevist revolution the family moved to Tiflis in 1917, and later was forced to flee Georgia in 1921.”
In 1917, Mary Shervashidze left Saint Petersburg for Georgia.
After returning back to Georgia Mary Shervashidze got married to former aide-de-camp of Emperor Nicholas II George (Gigusha) Eristavi, who was grandson of great King Irakli II of Georgia.
The country lived full artistic and cultural life during its independence until 1921. 
Prominent portraitist Savely Sorin visited Georgia at that time and painted portraits of several Georgian beautiful ladies. The master was amazed and impressed with Princess Mary. 
After returning to France he used to rebuke his models, “Why are you acting like that? Do you imagine yourself being Mary Shervashidze-Eristavi? Then keep in mind, there is no other woman like her!”
Savely Sorin devised Mary’s portrait to Georgia after his death, but his widow liked it so much that decided to keep it at her house in Monte Carlo. 
After her death she devised the portrait to Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco.
They say Mary’s portrait decorated Princess’ bedroom, and she looked at the portrait before morning dress every single day. That was the way one of the most beautiful ladies of the world decided whether she looked good enough that day.
During 80’s of last century, Mrs Sorin hosted a legendary Georgian dancer Nino Ramishvili in Monte Carlo. The widow was in perfect mood and unexpectedly offered Nino Sukhishvili Junior (Nino Ramishvili’s granddaughter) to take the portrait to Georgia. But, the young lady felt shy to take such a gift. Certainly, she deeply regrets her timidity now… 
…A day before Soviet Red Army invasion Mary together with her husband, and relatives and friends flee Georgia in March 1921. At first they lived in Constantinople and later moved to Paris. Beautiful Mary was surrounded by admirers in Paris either, where she easily found a job.
At that time increasingly popular Coco Chanel offered a modeling position to Mary. Because of the losses incurred as a result of fleeing Georgia, Mary’s family met some financial problems and she had to put aside her principles and accepted Chanel’s proposal. “That was the only reason Aunt Mary walked on the podium”, noted Mary’s relative and her closest friend Princess Dadiani’s granddaughter. 
Here should be noted that during 20’s of last century a modeling position was called dummy and definitely was not as prestigious as nowadays. Hence, the Princess enjoying respect and admiration at the Emperors court short time ago had to step over some of her values.
In 1947 Mary’s husband George Eristavi passed away. She stayed as his widow the rest of her life though had dozens of proposals. Mary did not have any children but nurtured her niece Nanuka and nephew Konstantin.
Nanuka died at her early age and Aunt Mary gave way to despair staying all days round at home. Another great grief was her beloved nephew Konstantine’s death. 
Princess Mary became all alone. She looked after her cats like her own babies.
Princess Shervashidze was in correspondence with Princess Dadiani, who came back from emigration to the Soviet Georgia. The correspondence still exists and is preserved. I was lucky to look at Mary’s letters though it was hard for me to read them as the Princess Shervashidze had rather original handwriting, “Warm-hearted feelings and emotions fill my soul every time I get your cordial letters. I wish to be with all of you there. I am so lonely here, but blame no one as people have their own concerns”…
In the final years of her life Mary lived to a nursing home having three rooms. 
But, she kept her apartment in Paris as she noted, “Just to play cards with friends”. She had to give cats to others. Her finances covered the apartment’s rent but couldn’t afford the maid. For many years the Princess lived on the pension she got as forced displaced person. 
Princess Shervashidze-Eristavi like all other Georgian émigrés refused to gain French citizenship. 
Despite her age Mary had admirers even at the nursing home. An old Earl brought a bunch of fresh flowers every day. Princess Shervashidze behaved as though she did not care much, but if the Earl happened to come without flowers Mary refused to talk to him, in that case the only way for the Earl to atone was a cute bunch of flowers.
Mary’s financial problems were saved by one of her admirers Vadim Makarov, a son of Admiral Makarov Commander-in-Chief of Pacific Fleet. Vadim named Princess Shervashidze-Eristavi into his will.
Vadim Makarov used to serve together with Kolchak in Siberia for few years and then immigrated to America. He met with Mary thanks to his sister Alexandra, who was former lady in waiting to Empress Alexandra Fiodorovna of Russia.
Vadim Makarov was a good entrepreneur and made about 3 mln US Dollars fortune that was huge sum of money in 1964. Most of his fortune was given to his sister Alexandra, and several ten thousands to Princess Shervashidze-Eristavi…
The Royal court evenings of Saint Petersburg and Chanel’s podiums all remained in the past, but Mary still kept looking after her appearance.
Princess Dadiani’s daughter Tatuli Gviniashvili remembered her leaving Paris for Georgia in 60’s. All Georgian emigration community gathered to see Tatuli off at the station but only Mary was late. Everybody joked “The train will be arriving to Tbilisi when Mary comes”.  And while joking and laughing, the Georgians noticed that all other people were looking at one direction. The Georgians also turned towards it and were shocked – Mary was walking along the platform wearing violet shirts and jacket and holding a bunch of beautiful violets in her hands…
Princess Shervashidze was always late. That was a part of her extraordinary character and she was always forgiven.
Once, being a lady in waiting to Empress Alexandra Fiodorovna of Russia she was late on some Royal funeral. She went into the hall after Emperor Nicholas II that was strictly forbidden upon the Royal Palace Etiquette. Mary expected the Emperor’s fair anger but His Royal Majesty charmed with her beauty could only state, “It is a sin to have such beauty”…
As for Mary’s admirer Galaktion, he passed through a tragic life. 
His wife Olga Okudjava was shot during Stalin’s repressions. Loosing of beloved wife turned into real tragedy to the poet. He could not overcome the grief.
Tabidze began drinking alcohol and absolutely did not care about his appearance in the streets of Tbilisi. Strangers recognized and saw him home with respect and sorrow quite often. But Galaktion never minded…
The only thing he minded was creative thought. And, the only thing he cared about was his little notebook that he always kept into his pocket. That was the notebook where Galaktion wrote the poem “Mary”…
Galaktion Tabidze suicide himself on the 17th of March 1959. He jumped off a hospital window. The great poet was buried on the Holy Mount Mtatsminda Pantheon of Prominent Georgians in Tbilisi.
Meanwhile, Mary Shervashidze could not understand why everybody around was excited about the real addressee of Tabidze’s poem. She kept saying, “Isn’t it enough that the poem is simply genial?!”
Indeed, such discussions pleased her much. 
She wrote to Princess Dadiani, “My dear Baboshka, you cannot imagine how pleased and happy I was receiving your letter and realizing how lovely you care about my fame and image. When the poem “Mary” was published I was often told to be the addressee. I could not say anything since he did not hand me the poem. I wish I could come back to my Motherland and see and hug all of my dear people there, and talk about everything”…
Unfortunately, Mary was never able to come back to her native Georgia. Though, she always missed it and felt real nostalgia.
She always kept asking her friends, “How’s Georgia there?”  One could always find a book of “A Knight in Tiger’s Skin” by Rustaveli on her bedside table. She could read much of the poem by heart.
… Mary Shervashidze died in 1986 at the age of 97.
She kept clever mind and renowned beauty till her last days. 
Mary Shervashidze-Eristavi was buried on the Russian cemetery in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois near Paris, France. 

The Destiny of the Princess of the blood royal


The Princess of the Blood Royal Tatiana (Romanova)
(extract from the Igor Obolensky’s book “The Destiny of Beauty”)

When Abbess Tamara of the Mount Olives Convent, Jerusalem, died in 1979, not many people knew who she had been in her civil life.
She was Granddaughter of the Emperor Nicholas I of Russia, and the oldest daughter of HIH the Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich of Russia by his wife Elizaveta Mavrikievna née HH Princess Elisabeth of Saxe-Altenburg, and wife of Prince Konstantin Alexandrovich Bagration-Mukhransky.
Actually, meeting the Prince Bagration-Mukhransky turned young Princess streamlined life up at the HIM Nicholas II court…
For the first time Tatiana met Prince Konstantine at Ostashevo, estate of the Grand Duke Konstantin, Tatiana’s father, in winter 1910. The Cavalry Regiment Cornet Bagration-Mukhransky received an invitation to the evening tea. During the evening the young people felt delighted and reveled in the company. The Princess of the blood royal greatly enjoyed Prince Konstantine’s endless stories while the Prince sank into his company’s charm. Shortly, the Georgian Prince was seen quite often at the Princess family house in Ostashevo and the Marble Palace in Saint Petersburg.
In the beginning Tatiana’s parents hoped friendship between their daughter and a representative of a noble but non-emperor family would have disappeared.
“The Cornet must realize that he cannot expect more than tea companies, and boating in Pavlovsk courtyard!”
The Grand Duke was especially anxious to know that His beloved son Oleg assisted to the couple. Oleg was the first to reveal Tatiana’s feelings to the Prince Bagration, and when he saw reciprocal feelings decided to help the couple in exchanging letters.
When the father found out that the friendship went too far till to kisses – He decided to talk to Tatiana! At the end of the talk the father threatened if His daughter got married to the Georgian Prince, He would cease supporting them from the Imperial Treasury. But, Tatiana did not mind much about losing money, and she continued her affair with Bagration.
Grand Duke Konstantin

Finally, the Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich decided to meet the loved Georgian Cornet, “You, a young man, ought to be advised that the Romanovs shell get married only to a representative of equal family!”, stated the Grand Duke. But, Bagration-Mukhransky did not intend to retread and replied, “Sir, please be advised the Bagrations are truly equal to the Romanovs!”
Such familiarity immediately resulted in exiling Prince Konstantin Bagration-Mukhransky from Saint Petersburg to Tiflis and further to Tehran. And, Tatiana in order to quickly forget her Georgian friend was sent to her aunt, the Widow Empress Maria Fiodorovna, in the Crimea.
Tatiana obeyed her father’s will. The Grand Duke exhorted to His daughter before leaving for the Crimea, “You need to calm down, and in a year or two you will realize your destine is other choice”. The young lady could not dare to argue with Her parent, and went to the sea.
While being in the Crimea, the Princess of the blood royal spent most of her time in reading a book “Queen Tamara, or Golden Age of Georgia” by Prof. Marr.
The book was sent by her mother, the Grand Duchess Elizaveta Mavrikeevna. The mother secretly supported and was in favour of having the Georgian son-in-law.
The book turned into a real outlet for Tatiana. The Princess was craving for knowledge about Konstantin’s land. No wonder all Her discussions were about Georgia and the Bagration-Mukhranskys royal history.
Tatiana proudly talked to everyone that the Bagrations dynasty enthronization was held in 1611 just two years earlier than the Romanovs.
Obviously, most of the guests of the Widow Empress were not pleased by such statements. But the young Princess of the blood royal did not mind others and seriously thought about moving to Tiflis, where Prince Konstantin had his own house.
Sometimes, Tatiana felt like she had been to the capital of Georgia for many times, walking through its old streets upward to St. David’s Monastery hill.
At last, the Widowed Empress looking at Her niece’s daily suffer asked Her son to allow the young Cornet be back from the Caucasus. Nicholas II could not disobey His mother’s will and soon Prince Konstantin was back from his exile.
And, of course Konstantin directly went to the Crimea to see his Tatiana.
HIM Maria Fiedorovna did not prevent young couple from their date. Every morning the Prince came to the Emperor’s Palace and stayed with his adored Tatiana till the evening.
The charming idyll was nearly broken. Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich missed His beloved daughter and decided to visit the Crimea unexpectedly.
The Grand Duke was more than astonished seeing Tatiana sitting in a hammock and no one but the Georgian Prince, believed to be exiled from Saint Petersburg, was resting at her feet in the courtyard of the Emperor Palace.
Everyone was confused, but Tatiana rushed to Her father and kneed in front of Him begging for blessing Her marriage to the Prince Konstantin.
“We love each other and be happy only together”, cried she out.

The Grand Duke was touched with His daughter’s words and Bagration-Mukhransky’s persistent character.
But, the marriage may only be blessed by HIM Emperor of All Russians.
Upon words by Tatiana’s brother the Prince of the blood royal Gavril Konstantinovich, HIH Emperor Nicholas II asked for consent His mother widowed Emperor Maria Fiedorovna to make changes to the Pauline Laws on Royal Marriages.
Later, Nicholas II confessed to Tatiana’s mother that He could not dare to discuss the subject with the Widowed Empress during three months, and when at last He decided His mother responded only three words, “It’s high time”. While repeating His mother’s words the Emperor lowered His voice exactly in the way Her Imperial Highness did. Henceforth, the highest consent on the marriage was received.
The engagement ceremony was held at Royal Church in Oreanda on Holy Queen Tamar’s Day, 1st of May 1911.
Before leaving for the engagement ceremony Her Highness the Princess of the blood royal Tatiana Konstantinovna, Granddaughter of Nicholas I, signed a renunciation of the right to succession to the Imperial Throne of All the Russias belonging to Her as a member of the Imperial House.
Wedding ceremony was held at Grand Duke’s estate at Pavlovsk on 3rd of September 1911. Among the guests was the groom’s aunt, the Princess Bagration-Mukhranskaya, who arrived from Tiflis. She was the only person did not rising up when the Emperor attending the wedding came to Her. Such familiarity was only allowed among the members of the royal family. Guests were confused, but Nicholas II respected the Georgian Princess accordingly and they exchanged greetings.
Tatiana and Prince Konstantin Bagration-Mukhransky had two children: Prince Teymuraz Konstantinovich Bagration-Mukhransky (born in 1912), and Princess Natalia Konstantinovna Bagration-Mukhransky (born in 1914).
But, the happiness did not last long... After the outbreak of the World War I, aide-de-camp lieutenant Konstantin Bagration-Mukhransky went to the front.
Tatiana together with Her children stayed at Her parent’s Palace in Pavlovsk and waited for Her husband to be back.
Tatiana’s brother the Prince of the blood royal Gavril remembers his last meeting with his sister’s husband, “Kostya Bagration, Tatiana’s husband, arrived from the front in spring. He served at the Cavalry Regiment and wished to be moved to the Infantry loosing dozens of soldiers at that time… Obviously, Tatiana was not happy with Her husband’s decision but she gave Her consent. Kostya Bagration was a brave officer. He had St. George’s armour… Kostya went back to the front soon and I did not see him anymore. On 20th of May 1915, I received a letter from my mother in the morning. She wrote that Kostya was killed. General Brusilov, Commander-in-Chief of South-Western front wired my father that Bagration was the Commander-in-Chief of a company and died a hero’s death in his first action near Lvov on 19th of May… When I came to Tatiana she was sitting quietly in the Pilaster Hall. Thanks Lord, she believed much in God and accepted this hard blow with Christian humility. She did not even wear a black dress but only white, henceforth stressing her grief ever more. There was a funeral praying at Pavlovsk Palace Church in the evening. The praying was attended by Emperor Nicholas II with Empress and Grand Princesses and great many people… Shortly after praying Tatiana together with Igor left for the Caucasus on her husband’s funeral.”
The Prince Konstantin Bagration-Mukhransky had to be buried at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in the ancient capital of Georgia Mtskheta.
Local newspapers reported that the widow ordered to buy all flowers available in Tiflis and brought them to Mtskheta.
Before leaving for the Caucasus, Tatiana saw her father to ask for blessing and say goodbye. Unfortunately, the Grand Duke blessed His daughter for the last time. Two days after her husband’s funeral Tatiana got a telegram saying her father’s death.
The young widow having two hardest blows found console in discussion with her aunt, the Grand Duchess Elizaveta Fiedorovna, Abbess of Marfa and Maria’s Convent in Moscow.
“All comes from God’s will. You keep praying, and will certainly meet your beloved people in Heavens”, said the Grand Duchess to Tatiana.
The Grand Duchess Elizaveta, sister of Empress Alexandra Fiedorovna, had also passed through similar hard blow – Her husband was murdered by terrorists.
But lost and ordeals were widened. After the Bolshevist revolution in October 1917, the Grand Duke Dmitri Konstantinovich, Tatiana’s uncle, took care of her and her children. They were exiled from Petersburg.
Shortly, they were ordered to be back to Petrograd, where the Grand Duke was shot.
Another tragic news came from Alapaevsk – Tatiana’s brothers and the Grand Duchess Elizaveta Fiedorovna were thrown alive into the shaft.
Aide-de-camp Alexander Korochenzov serving to the Grand Duke Dmitri Konstantinovich, helped Tatiana and her young children to escape from Russia. They were fortunate enough to flee to Switzerland. Tatiana decided to marry Alexander Korochenzov, who saved her and her children’s life in fact.
In October 1921, they married in Geneva. Not quite three months later, however, Tatiana became a widow for the second time when Alexander died in Lausanne…  Tatiana raised her children alone, and tried hard to give them good education granting independence.
Her daughter Natalia married to Sir Charles Hepburn-Johnston GCMG and, as Lady Johnston, accompanied hit to his many diplomatic postings overseas when not living in London.
Tatiana’s son Teymuraz had a short love-affair with the Princess Leonida Georgievna Bagration-Mukhransky, but moved to New York and chaired the Tolstoy Foundation there.
After both children were grown and married, Tatiana fulfilled Her father’s dream and took the veil in Switzerland in 1946.
The Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich even asked the Emperor Alexander III permission to take the veil. But the Emperor stated, “If We, Kostya, become monks, who will serve to Russia?!”
Tatiana Romanov-Bagration took the veil and become Mother Tamara, named so after the medieval Georgian Holy Queen Tamar, a remote ancestor of her husband, the Prince Konstantin Bagration-Mukhransky. 
Whenever Mother Tamara arrived to Geneva, she always stayed at Tatiana’s house, the niece of Konstantin Bagration-Mukhransky.
The namesake of the Princess of the blood royal is over 80 years old now. She told me that Mather Tamara had brilliant character and great sense of humor. Before taking the veil she had a dog and called it “Megobar” that means “friend” in Georgian. 
For several years Mather Tamara served at St. Mary Magdalene Convent in Jerusalem, where holy relics of her aunt the Grand Duchess Elizaveta Fiedorovna, who turned her to the faith, were moved to rest in peace.
In 1951 Mother Tamara became Abbess of the Mount of Olives Convent in Jerusalem.
She died at the age of 89 on Dormition of Holy Mother Theotokos Day, 28th of August 1979.