Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich the younger and the Kunstkamera



Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich the younger, 1 January 1891–18 July 1918

Prince Konstantin was the fourth child and third son of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich the elder and Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Mavrikiyevna (née Princess Elisabeth Auguste Marie Agnes of Saxe–Altenburg). The family eventually grew to nine children, of whom eight survived into adulthood. They were among the few branches of the extended family tree to have a fairly close relationship with Nicholas II’s family, since they were so normal and moral in comparison to many of their other relatives.

konstantin as the sun

Dressed as the Sun, in a play put on for his parents on their 25th anniversary

Like just about all Romanov males, Konstantin, called Kostya, attended the Corps des Pages military academy from a young age. He was also taught at home by tutors, though the most brilliant member of the family was his younger brother Oleg. Konstantin had crushes on Grand Duchess Olga Nikolayevna and Princess Elisabeta of Romania, and was so eager to start his own family after seeing the happiness of his oldest brother, Ioann, and his older sister Tatyana. He was described as a sweet, shy, silent person.


Prince Konstantin, right, with his younger brother Prince Igor

Konstantin, along with his brothers Ioann, Gavriil, Oleg, and Igor, served in the Izmaylovskiy Guards Regiment during the Great War. They all became decorated war heroes, risking their lives in the front-line trenches along with everyone else, and were well-liked by their fellow soldiers. Sadly, Oleg was killed in action in 1914, though that probably spared him the fate of Ioann, Igor, and Konstantin.


The eight surviving siblings circa 1907; I’m at least 90% sure Konstantin is third from the left in the front row

In April 1918, Konstantin, Igor, and Ioann fell into Bolshevik hands and were taken to the Urals. They initially were held in Yekaterinburg, and then taken to nearby Alapayevsk. Also with them were Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley, Grand Duke Sergey Mikhaylovich and his secretary, and the Tsaritsa’s sister Ella and one of her nuns.

On 18 July 1918, the day after the Imperial Family were murdered, the Alapayevsk prisoners were blindfolded, had their hands bound, and were taken by wagons to an abandoned mineshaft. Only Grand Duke Sergey knew they were being taken to be murdered, and tried to resist several times. The prisoners were beaten and thrown alive into the water-filled mineshaft, with grenades thrown in after them. Some of them took several days to die. When the White Army found the bodies, they saw Konstantin’s mouth and stomach stuffed with dirt, a desperate attempt to quench his hunger and thirst.


Ikon of the Alapayevsk martyrs; I can discern just enough Church Slavonic to understand Konstantin is on the far left in the group on the right

In my alternative history, Konstantin is rescued, and becomes the husband of Grand Duchess Olga, one of the women he had a crush on. Sadly, in real life, this sweet, shy prince never found the marriage and family he longed for so badly.

View of the Kunstkamera from across the Neva River, Copyright FlorsteinCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported2.5 Generic2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license

The Kunstkamera is a largely ethnographic and anthropological museum, which I’d best compare to Philadelphia’s creepy Mütter Museum. Basically, it’s full of medical curiosities like deformed skeletons and human remains. Established in 1727 by Peter the Great, it holds the distinction of being Russia’s very first museum. In addition to its massive cabinet of curiosities, it also has a large mineralogical collection, the first 1,195 of which came from Peter the Great himself. Sadly, some of the objects were lost to a 1747 fire.

Copyright Витольд Муратов (Vitold Muratov), Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Déjà Vu Blogfest 2015—In Memoriam

Today’s my English birthday (eight days after my Hebrew birthday this year), and I think I’ve finally reached the age where I simply want to say I’m old enough instead of giving my true age. It’s not like anyone would believe me if I told them my true age anyway, since I don’t look a day over 25, if that. Though don’t worry I’ll be one of those people pretending to be turning 21, 25, or 29 every single year from now on!

deja_vu 2015

As in previous years, D.L. Hammons is once again hosting his Déjà Vu Blogfest, wherein participants repost something they felt didn’t get enough exposure, or their favorite post from the past year. Click on the button for more information and the list of participants.

My Friday posts generally don’t get many views, and this one has under 30 to date since its 17 July posting. It’s a memorial post for Russia’s last Imperial Family, with nothing more than their names, pictures, birthdates, and death dates. I felt that would convey the enormity of this loss of life far more than some overly graphic account of the murders. The Mourner’s Kaddish doesn’t once mention Death, and the Torah portion Chayei Sarah (The Life of Sarah) starts by talking about how Sarah lived, not that she died. In mourning Death, we celebrate Life.

I also avoided any discussion of the ongoing arguments over whether the Imperial Family (particularly Nicholas and Aleksandra) should’ve been canonized, or which people in particular. To make a long, heated story very short, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad canonized everyone but Fyodor Remez as New Martyrs (including two other servants murdered in September 1918), whereas the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia only canonized the immediate Imperial Family as passion-bearers, plus Aleksandra’s sister Ella and her nun Varvara as New Martyrs.

Originally published 17 July 2015:

In memory of the 19 souls murdered 97 years ago, victims of Bolshevik repression and now elevated to sainthood by the Russian Orthodox Church:

Murdered on 17 July 1918:


Tsar Nicholas II (Nikolay Aleksandrovich), born 6/18 May 1868


Empress Aleksandra Fyodorovna, née Princess Viktoria Alix Helena Luise Beatrice of Hesse and by Rhine, born 6 June 1872


Grand Duchess Olga Nikolayevna, born 3/15 November 1895


Grand Duchess Tatyana Nikolayevna, born 29 May/11 June 1897


Grand Duchess Mariya Nikolayevna, born 14/27 June 1899


Grand Duchess Anastasiya Nikolayevna, born 5/18 June 1901


Tsesarevich Aleksey Nikolayevich, born 30 July/12 August 1904


Dr. Yevgeniy Sergeyevich Botkin, born 27 May/8 June 1865


Anna Stepanovna Demidova (lady-in-waiting), born 14/26 January 1878


Ivan Mikhaylovich Kharitonov (cook), born 2/14 June 1870


Aloiziy Yegorovich Trupp (footman), born 5 April 1856

Murdered on 18 July 1918 (though most took several days to die):


Grand Duke Sergey Mikhaylovich, born 25 September/7 October 1869, and his secretary, Fyodor Remez


Sister (formerly Grand Duchess) Yelizaveta Fyodorovna, née Princess Elisabeth Alexandra Luise Alice of Hesse and by Rhine, born 1 November 1864


Sister Varvara Alekseyevna Yakovleva, born circa 1850


Prince (né Grand Duke) Ioann Konstantinovich, born 23 June/5 July 1886


Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich the younger, born 20 December 1890/1 January 1891

Prince Igor Konstantinovich

Prince Igor Konstantinovich, born 29 May/10 June 1894


Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley (really a Romanov), born 28 December 1896/9 January 1897

Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world. (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 37a)

WIPpet Wednesday—Hopeless situation

Here are some of my recent pictures from around the pond:






WIPpet Wednesday is a weekly bloghop hosted by K.L. Schwengel. The caveat is that excerpts must be related to the date in some way. I’m sharing 23 lines, for 5 x (201)5=25, minus 2015.

The palace pediatrician has used the deathbed of 35-month-old Prince Savva to start voicing some legitimate but ill-timed concerns, followed by outright disrespect and insinuations that Grand Duke Mikhail intends to steal his nephew’s birthright, make his commoner wife Empress, and install his morganatic son as the heir. Mikhail reacts with outrage, but is a lot less harsh than he should’ve been. He soon grows to regret this, as he suspects this doctor may be in cahoots with the hated Vladimirovichi. They’re the ones who really have their eyes on the throne, and don’t even attempt to disguise their ambitions.


Mikhail stormed towards the doctor and pointed to the door. “You’re going back to your quarters right now, and will vacate my home as soon as you’ve collected all your belongings.  You’re damned lucky I’m not ordering you to vacate under armed guard and that I won’t be subjecting you to an interrogation, since you’ve been very loyal and conscientious until this outrageous behavior just now.  I’ll get one of the other doctors to come here in your stead, and when it’s payday, you’ll receive your final salary congruent to the number of days you worked this month.  I can’t believe such impudence from a loyal servant, and at now of all times.”

The doctor put his instruments back into his black bag, stood up, and marched to the door in silence.  As soon as he was gone, Mikhail picked up the phone and asked to be connected to Dr. Merkulov.  He explained the situation, his voice running over with rage and his hands shaking, and promised to pay Dr. Merkulov extra for sitting with Savva in his final hours.  When the phonecall was over, Mikhail went into the hall to smoke a cigarette.

“I could about go for a cigarette myself now,” Konstantin said. “Nothing can take my mind off of this, but a cigarette would at least make me feel better superficially.”

“Go ahead,” Mikhail called. “You all deserve it.”

Copyright Gentil Hibou

Konstantin smoothed Savva’s hair before taking the unresponsive child off his lap so he could get a package of Gauloises and matches from a drawer in the nightstand.  After he’d distributed cigarettes and lit them for everyone, he went back to sitting on the bed with Savva on his lap.  Aleksey could only inhale the smoke and wish he were allowed to smoke.  Just about everyone in his extended family, both men and women, smoked, even people who weren’t yet adults.  No one in his immediate family ever offered him a cigarette, even a few puffs on theirs, and he didn’t want to find out what might happen if he smoked in secret and word got back to his uncle, sisters, or brothers-in-law.


General consensus is that he’s only pretending to smoke in this photo, for reasons including the uncharacteristically pushed-back cap

Dr. Merkulov arrived ten minutes later, and found the same lack of vital signs as the palace pediatrician had.  The only signs of life were a weak pulse and shallow, involuntary breathing, both of which would slowly shut down as the cerebral hemorrhage increased and put more strain on the small, fragile little body.  Dr. Merkulov made the sign of the cross over Savva, then crossed himself.  This was just what had killed Aleksey’s cousin Heinrich and uncle Frittie, now visited upon a fourth generation.  Now more than ever, he was determined to avoid marriage and potentially creating yet another sick child.


By 1922, people obviously knew enough to know hemophilia is passed along by women, but since not enough men had survived long enough to father children, it wasn’t entirely understood if men could pass it on as well. Today, we know a hemophiliac can’t have sick sons himself, unless his partner is either a carrier or rare female hemophiliac. All their daughters, however, will be automatic carriers, and thus it’s the maternal-line grandsons at risk.

WIPpet Wednesday—Disrespectful doctor

Some of my recent pictures from my walks around the pond:






WIPpet Wednesday is a weekly bloghop hosted by K.L. Schwengel. The caveat is that excerpts must be related to the date in some way. I’m sharing 29 lines, for the 29th of the month.

Savva, the 35-month-old firstborn child of Grand Duchess Olga and Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich the younger, is on his deathbed with a cerebral hemorrhage and has just had Extreme Unction performed. Shortly after the ceremony, the palace pediatrician becomes extremely chutzpahdik (impudent; disrespectful) and starts seriously overstepping his bounds and behaving extremely inappropriately.

“Marital hygiene” is an old-fashioned euphemism for birth control.


Prince Konstantin and his seven surviving siblings, circa 1907. I’m at least 90% sure Konstantin is third from the left in the front.

“Please forgive me for broaching such a sensitive subject, Your Highness,” the doctor told Konstantin, “but I really hope your third child is a girl.  You don’t want to have three sick boys in a row.  And whatever this coming child is, you shouldn’t risk further children after already having two sons stricken with this curse.  You know your wife is a carrier, and that this dreaded characteristic wasn’t just a fluke with one child.  I’m sure any of your priests will grant you permission to employ marital hygiene with these extenuating circumstances.  It’s not like you’re anywhere near to the order of succession and need an heir and some spares.”

“My children are Divine blessings,” Konstantin said softly. “I have seven surviving siblings, and wanted my own family so badly for so many years.  My wife and I aren’t having children as some kind of dynastic security blanket.  I’d want a lot of children even if I hadn’t been born a prince.”

The doctor turned to Aleksey. “And you, Your Majesty.  I really don’t mean to be morbid or disrespectful, but I hope this has moved you to change your mind about heading off to Paris for four years.  With your condition, you never know when it’s going to be your time.  Even if you don’t reign for very long, at least secure the dynasty by marrying and producing an heir.  No one wants to see the succession shift to you-know-whom.”

“This isn’t the time or place to discuss such things,” Mikhail said. “I’m very disappointed in you for even broaching such subjects at a child’s deathbed.  If you value your esteemed position, you won’t speak any further on such matters.”

“Yes, Your Imperial Highness.  But we must discuss these things as soon as possible.”

“That’s entirely up to my family’s discretion.  The dynasty is secure in my hands, and my nephew will take the appropriate measures to keep it secure once it’s his turn on the throne.  The particulars aren’t your concern.”

“It should’ve been his turn on the throne since two years ago.  Do you really intend to hand over the reins at some point, or do you plan to steal your nephew’s birthright?  You may have grown too fond of your position as Regent, and His Majesty is too innocent to understand your scheme.  I hope to God you’re not amending the House Laws again, so your morganatic son can inherit the throne and your commoner wife can become Empress.  It was bad enough you already revised them once, even if part of those revisions were for an understandable, realistic reason.”

WIPpet Wednesday—No chance for a miracle

A few of my favorite recent pictures from my walks around the pond:





WIPpet Wednesday is a weekly bloghop hosted by K.L. Schwengel. The caveat is that excerpts must be related to the date in some way. I’m sharing 23 lines, for 22+2015.

Aleksey’s 18th birthday party has been adjourned in the wake of one of his nephews, 35-month-old Prince Savva Konstantinovich, suffering a cerebral hemorrhage after a minor fall. Some people left for the rival Vladimir Palace to continue their merrymaking, and then Aleksey himself left the party for his nephew’s sick bed, over several protests. As much as he hates having to revisit the kind of scene which is now just the stuff of nightmarish memories, it’ll be far worse to remain at the banquet.


Unhappily taking a therapeutic mud bath in the Crimea

By the time Aleksey had reached Olga and Konstantin’s room, the palace pediatrician had been summoned and Savva lay unresponsive on the bed.  One of the palace chapel’s priests was also in the room.  Almost more heart-stopping than the sight of Savva was Olga, who sat in a corner clutching a prayer rope.  She hadn’t looked so catatonic and melancholic since captivity.

“This is very bad,” the doctor said. “The child has lost consciousness, and will probably be gone before daybreak.  There are six other priests on their way here to perform Extreme Unction.  He’s too far gone for mere Last Rites.”

“Are you absolutely sure he can’t make a miraculous recovery?” Konstantin asked. “My brother-in-law here was given up for dead so many times, even after Last Rites, and today he’s reasonably healthy.  Don’t plan my firstborn child’s funeral while he’s still in the land of the living.”

The doctor shook his head. “I’m truly sorry, Your Highness, but this is a cerebral hemorrhage, and your son lost consciousness very quickly.  As much danger as His Majesty was in all those years ago, at least that hemorrhage wasn’t in his brain.  Who knows what caused that miraculous remission.”

“It sure as hell wasn’t that damned monk,” Mikhail said, facing a window. “Whatever happens, please don’t use this tragedy as an excuse to invite another person like that into our home.  Once was bad enough.”

“Oh, believe me, we won’t be inviting any crazed monks into this home,” Konstantin said. “I’m sure we all remember what his influence led to, and no one wants to repeat that devastation ever again.”

Twenty minutes later, the other six priests hurried into the room, carrying seven candles, a bowl of wheat with a shrine lamp, wine, olive oil, and seven anointing brushes.  Savva still hadn’t regained consciousness, nor was there there any sign he was recovering.  During the entire ceremony, he lay motionless across his father’s lap.