Empress Mariya Fyodorovna, née Princess Marie Sophie Frederikke Dagmar of Denmark, 26 November 1847–13 October 1928

Princess Dagmar, called Minnie, was the fourth child and second daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark (Father-in-Law of Europe) and Queen Louise Wilhelmine Frederikke Caroline Auguste Julie (of Hesse-Kassel). Her closest sibling was her older sister Alexandra, Queen of England from 1901–10. Indeed, their sons Nikolay (Nicholas II) and George so resembled one another as to be frequently mistaken for one another.

In 1864, Princess Dagmar was betrothed to Tsesarevich Nikolay of Russia, Tsar Aleksandr II’s heir. Nixa, as he was nicknamed, was cut from the same liberal, reforming cloth as his father. Alas, Nixa took sick on a tour of Southern Europe, and died of meningitis on 24 April 1865, aged only 21. Dagmar was heartbroken, not only over the loss of Nixa, but also because she’d become so emotionally attached to Russia and her would-be parents-in-law.


Engagement photo with Nixa

Nixa’s last wish was that his younger brother Aleksandr (Sasha) should marry Dagmar, and in June 1866, they became betrothed. She was warmly welcomed into the Romanov family, converted to Russian Orthodoxy, took the name Mariya Fyodorovna, and became Tsesarevna after her marriage to the future Aleksandr III on 28 October/9 November 1866. By all accounts, this was a very happy, loving marriage. Unlike many previous Tsars, Aleksandr III never cheated on his wife, and was a loving, involved father.


Their marriage produced six children—Nikolay (Nicholas II), Aleksandr (died at 11 months of meningitis), Georgiy (died in 1899 of TB), Kseniya, Mikhail (the short-lived final Tsar, by some views), and Olga. After they assumed power in 1881, they moved from Anichkov Palace to Gatchina Palace. During her reign as Empress, Minnie really shone at court, and the Russian people adored her.

In 1919, she and her daughter Kseniya’s family escaped the new Soviet Union on the HMS Marlborough, sent by her nephew King George V. Though a woman of her stature didn’t make it a habit of mingling with commoners, she was such an inspiration and help to her subjects while they waited for rescue. Her final act on Soviet soil was refusing to get on that ship unless all the wounded soldiers and any civilians wanting to escape were also evacuated. The British listened to her!

She ultimately settled in her old summer home Hvidøre, south of Bellevue Beach in Klampenberg, Denmark, with her favourite sister, Alexandra. She passed away at age 80, having outlived four of her six children.


In my alternative history, after the restoration of the monarchy, the Dowager Empress returns to the Mariyinskiy Palace in Kyiv, and, as in real life, isn’t afraid to give her opinion on her late daughter-in-law Alix and how royalty should behave. She doesn’t have a cordial relationship with her one living daughter-in-law, Countess Natalya Brasova, since Natalya is a twice-divorced commoner instead of a royal princess of the blood. She’s also horrorstruck Aleksey wants to go to the Sorbonne instead of immediately coming to the throne in his own right and marrying as soon as he’s of age.

Copyright Stahlkocher

The luxurious Duesenberg (manufactured 1921–37) is far and away my most-desired antique car. I love it so much, I frequently write it into my books. I’d be like a pig in slop if I ever actually owned one of these beauties. Who wants to start out with a fairly affordable, easy to find Model T when you can have a beautiful Duesenberg?

In my alternative history, Aleksey receives a dark blue Duesenberg as an 18th birthday present from his oldest sister and brother-in-law, Grand Duchess Olga and Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich (the younger).

7 thoughts on “The Dowager Empress and the Duesenberg

  1. Such a fascinating life she had! I’m glad we no longer have to deal with the rate of childhood mortality that they did back then. It would be so hard to deal with losing your children like that.

    I also love that car! Gorgeous!


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