What She Wants

The Secret Romances of the Romanov Sisters, the Last Russian Princesses

The grand duchesses innocently fell in love with the soldiers and officers they met.

It's been a century since the Romanovs were slain, and yet, their story still manages to fascinate many today. One side that's often unexplored are the young princesses' many suitors. As noblewomen, the princesses were expected to marry into similar houses. Though there were many prospects such as dukes and princes, the sisters enjoyed the companionship of more common men.


As the only daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra to be of age, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna was often linked with the royal bachelors of that time. These included Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia, Crown Prince Carol of Romania, and Edward, Prince of Wales.

In 1914, just before the outbreak of the war, Olga joined her parents on a trip to Romania. It was then that she met Prince Carol. The two were a match by any means, but upon meeting, they struggled to make small talk. According to her tutor Pierre Gilliard, Olga was a brazen young woman who followed the beat of her own drum. Weeks before the courtesy call, she allegedly said: "I’m a Russian," she replied resolutely, "and I mean to remain a Russian. And Father promised not to make me marry anyone I don't want to marry."


While spending time at the Imperial Russian yacht, Standart, Olga met an officer named Pavel Voronov. Olga was smitten with the young strapping officer, and filled her diary with entries about him. They spent most days walking around the deck, sitting on the deck, and playing games. In one entry, she wrote in code: "I love him terribly much, and it was so hard, I was angry and almost did not speak to him…" Sadly, Voronov became betrothed to another Olga, Romanov family friend Olga Kleinmichel. It would take time before the heartbroken princess would be infatuated with another.

In 1915 and 1916, Olga wrote about another officer, Dmitri Chakh-Bagov. Olga cared for Chakh-Bagov when she became a Red Cross nurse along with her sisters. She would affectionally refer to him as "golden Mitya," but he continually had to leave for the war after he was nursed back to health. Even though she knew nothing would come out of it, she'd cherish their moments together.


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Like her sister, Olga, Tatiana fell in love with another soldier during their time as nurses. Her romance with Dmitri Yakovlevich Malama, an officer in the Imperial Russian Cavalry, would prove to be more serious. In September 1914, Malama gave Tatiana a French bulldog named "Ortipo." Her mother, Alexandra would even write to Nicholas: "I must say a perfect son in law he w(ou)ld have been—why are foreign P(rin)ces not as nice!"


Maria grew up surrounded by soldiers and often looked up to them. When she came of age, she adored a soldier named Nikolai Dmitrievich Demenkov whom she met during a visit to the Army Headquarters in Mogilev. Her crush would turn out to be more playful: She would sign letters with 'Mrs. Demenkov,' refering to him as her 'dear Demenkov.'

Of course, nothing would come out of the two as fate would have it.


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About The Author
Paolo Chua
Associate Style Editor
Paolo Chua is the Associate Style Editor at Esquire Philippines, where he writes about fashion and grooming. Before joining Esquire Philippines, he was a writer at Town & Country Philippines.
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