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St Elizabeth the New Martyr (1) : The grand-daughter of Queen Victoria was as close to the poor of Moscow’s slums as she was to the Russian Tsar.
St Elizabeth the New Martyr
Part one

Elizabeth (1864-1918) was the grand-daughter of Queen Victoria. Her husband Sergei was Tsar Nicholas II’s uncle and the Governor-General of Moscow; her younger sister Alix was the Tsar’s wife. Steadfastly opposed to violence and the abuse of power, she dedicated her life to peace-making and charity.

AFTER Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich was assassinated by Marxist revolutionary Ivan Kalyayev on 18th February 1905, his widow Elizabeth, a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria and the Tsar’s sister-in-law, went to see Kalyayev in jail.

Elizabeth understood only too well the grievances of Russia’s people. Her husband had once expelled twenty thousand Jews from the capital, and Elizabeth had warned him that such actions could only bring grief to their country, and to themselves.

But she understood, too, the futility of violence. She hoped that if Kalyayev would renounce it, her brother-in-law, the Tsar, might be persuaded to pardon him, and break the cycle. But Kalyayev was defiant.

Widowed and childless, Elizabeth now sold her possessions to found a convent and become a nun, nursing the sick and assisting the poor in Moscow’s slums.

But in 1917, the violence broke out again. Kalyayev’s Marxist confederates overthrew Tsar Nicholas, and took him, his wife Alix, who was Elizabeth’s younger sister, and their five children prisoner.

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Picture: Photo by Hayman Selig Mendelssohn, via Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. View original
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fedorovna in 1887, aged 23, three years after she married the Grand Duke, Sergei in 1884. She was born in Germany, but after her mother Alice, daughter of Queen Victoria, died in 1878, Elizabeth, her brother and her sisters spent their holidays in England; and English, rather than German, was Elizabeth’s first language.

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