Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna of Russia
Elizabeth Alexeievna was the wife of Emperor Alexander I of Russia.
Elizabeth was born in Karlsruhe, on 13 January 1779 as Princess Louise Maria Auguste of Baden. She was the third of the seven children of Charles Louis, Hereditary Prince of Baden and his wife Amelia Frederica of Hesse-Darmstadt. Her grandfathers were Charles Frederick, Margrave of Baden and Louis IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt.
Princess Louise was only twelve years old when her fate was determined. Empress Catherine the Great of Russia was looking for a bride for her eldest grandson, the future Alexander I, and chose the Princesses of Baden. Catherine invited Princess Louise and her younger sister Frederica, to Russia. In the autumn of 1792, the two sisters arrived to St. Petersburg.
Louise was a model of beauty, charm, and honesty. Alexander and his bride were engaged in May 1793.
The Princess of Baden learned Russian, converted to the Orthodox Church, took the title of Grand Duchess of Russia and traded the name Louise Maria Auguste for Elizabeth Alexeievna. The wedding took place on 28 September 1793. Elizabeth was only fourteen, and her husband was a year older.
After the death of Catherine the Great in November 1796 in Elizabeth’s marriage began to appear first cracks. She first found refuge for her loneliness in a close intimate friendship with the beautiful Count Golovin. Later, she started a romantic liaison with Alexander’s best friend, Polish Prince, Adam Czartoryski. Their relationship lasted for three years.
On 29 May 1799, Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna. At court, some attributed the paternity to the Polish Prince. The child had black hair and dark eyes and at the baptism, Tsar Paul I did not fail to remark his amazement that two blonde, blue eyed parents had had a dark-haired child. Elizabeth soon lost both her lover and her daughter. Adam Czartoryski was sent with a diplomatic mission abroad, and Elizabeth’s baby daughter did not live long.
With an elegant figure, regal carriage and a beautiful angelic face, she was regarded by contemporaries as one of the most beautiful women in Europe and probably the most beautiful consort at that time.
Russian poet Alexander Pushkin dedicated his poem “I wasn’t born to amuse the Tsars” to her.
Elizabeth had a love affair with a handsome staff-captain, Alexis Okhotnikov. All the correspondence between Elizabeth and Alexis Okhotnikov (and some of her diaries) were destroyed by the Emperor Nicholas I after her death. The affair with Okhotnikov had a tragic end. The staff-captain died in 1807 after an attempt on his life. Many contemporaries considered that Alexander I or his brother Grand Duke Konstantin had ordered him killed.
On 16 November 1806, Elizabeth gave birth to the second daughter. There were rumors that the newborn, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Alexandrovna, was not a child of Emperor Alexander but of Okhotnikov. Fifteen months later, the little girl died suddenly of an infection blamed on teething.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Elizabeth Alexeievna was a reliable supporter of her husband’s policies as she had been in other personal and political crises. After the fall of Napoleon, she joined her husband and many of the crowned heads of Europe in the Congress of Vienna (1814), there she was reunited with her old paramour, Adam Czartoryski. He was still in love with her and forgave her past infidelity with Okhotnikov. Their re-encounter was short-lived.
By 1825, Elizabeth Alexeievna’s health was frail; she suffered from a lung condition and a nervous indisposition.
Elizabeth died of heart failure on May 4, 1826 in Belev, Tula Province.
Her Grand Ducal Highness Princess Louise of Baden (1779–1793)
Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Elizabeth Alexeievna of Russia (1793–1801)
Her Imperial Majesty The Empress of all the Russia (1801–1825)
Her Imperial Majesty Dowager Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna of Russia (1825–1826)