Military Wiki
Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich
File:Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia.png

Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia in France, circa 1930's

Personal details
Born (1891-09-18)18 September 1891
Ilinskoe near Moscow, Russian Empire
Died 5 March 1942(1942-03-05) (aged 50)
Davos, Graubünden, Switzerland
Spouse(s) Audrey Emery
Elisabeth of Romania
Religion Russian Orthodox

His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia (Его Императорское Высочество Великий Князь Дмитрий Павлович) (6 September 1891[O.S.] – 5 March 1942) was a Russian imperial dynast. He is known for being involved in the murder of the mystic peasant faith healer Grigori Rasputin, whom he felt held undue sway over Tsar Nicholas II.


Early life

Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich was born at Ilyinskoe [near Moscow, the second child and eldest son of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich and a grandson of Alexander II of Russia; thus, he was a first cousin of Nicholas II of Russia. Dmitri Pavlovich's mother, Grand Duchess Alexandra Georgievna, née Princess Alexandra of Greece, was a daughter of George I of Greece and his Queen consort, Olga Konstantinovna of Russia. As such, he is also a first cousin of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His mother, Alexandra, was seven months' pregnant with him when, while out with friends, she jumped into a boat, falling as she got in. The next day, she collapsed in the middle of a ball from violent labor pains brought on by the previous day's activities; Dmitri was born in the hours following the accident. Alexandra slipped into a coma, from which she never emerged. Although doctors had no hope for Dmitri's survival, he lived, with the help of Grand Duke Sergei, who gave the premature Dmitri the baths prescribed by the doctors, wrapped him in cotton wool and kept him in a cradle filled with hot water bottles to keep his temperature regulated. "I am enjoying raising Dmitri," Sergei wrote in his diary.[1] Grand Duchess Alexandra died shortly after Dmitri's birth. She was only twenty-one years old at the time of her death, and the cause was almost certainly preeclampsia. Dmitri and his sister Maria lived in St Petersburg with their father until 1902, when Grand Duke Paul married a divorced commoner, Olga Pistolkors, and was banished from Russia by the Emperor. He was not allowed to take the children with him into exile, so they were sent to live with their uncle, Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich (Paul's brother) and aunt, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna (the Empress's sister), in Moscow. The loss of their beloved father and the sudden move to Moscow caused the children great distress. [see, for instant, letter of Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich to Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, 27 October 1939. The original is in the family archive at Insel Mainau, home of the late Count Lennart Bernadotte, Maria Pavlovna's son] In her memoirs, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (the Younger) describes Grand Duke Sergei as a stern disciplinarian, and his wife, Grand Duchess Elizabeth as a cold and unwelcoming presence [Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, "Education of a Princess"].

Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich as a teenager.

On 4 February 1905, Grand Duke Sergei, who had recently resigned from the post of Governor General of Moscow, was assassinated by Ivan Kalyaev, a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Battle Organization, a revolutionary terrorist group. Kalyaev, armed with a homemade bomb, had aborted his first attempt to kill the Grand Duke when he spotted Dmitri and Marie with their uncle in his carriage. His uncle's death was only one of several assassinations that robbed Dmitri of close family members. His paternal grandfather, Alexander II, was murdered by revolutionary terrorists in 1881, and his maternal grandfather, George I of Greece, would be shot by an assassin in 1913. His father, Paul, and half-brother Vladimir ("Bodya") Paley would be murdered by the Bolsheviks in January 1919. After Sergei's death, Grand Duchess Elizabeth undertook to raise her niece and nephew on her own, thus making them part of a rare female-headed household. Maria Pavlovna continued to have some feelings of anger toward her aunt, whom she would blame for her overly hasty marriage to Prince William of Sweden in 1908, but Dmitri formed a very strong bond with Elizabeth and came to admire her personal fortitude (Diaries of Grand Duke Dmitri, passim].

Maria Pavlovna's wedding to Prince William took place at Tsarskoe Selo in 1908, and after she had departed for Sweden with her new husband, Dmitri and Elizabeth Feodorovna stayed on for time at Tsarskoe as guests of the Emperor and Empress. It was during this period that Dmitri began to form a close bond with Nicholas II, looking upon him as a surrogate father. He would join the Emperor on his daily walks and seek to spend as much time with him as possible. Nicholas, in turn, treated Dmitri very kindly. He seems to have loved the young man's free spirit and sense of humor, a welcome diversion from the stresses of his daily life. Dmitri wrote several letters to his sister during his stay with Nicholas and Alexandra, describing how much he was enjoying himself there. The original letters survive in the Bernadotte family archive on the Island of Mainau. His later correspondence with Nicholas II, from 1908-1914, would fall into the hands of the Bolsheviks after the revolution and be published in 1925 in a volume entitled "Nicholas II and the Grand Dukes" ["Николай II и Великие Князья"] edited by V.P. Semennikov.

In 1909 Dmitri left Grand Duchess Elizabeth's care to move to St Petersburg with his head tutor and companion, G.M. Laiming. Established first at his father's vacant palace, then at the Belosselsky-Belozersky Palace, which he had inherited from Grand Duke Sergei, and which would become his principal residence before the Revolution, he prepared to enter the Nikolaevskoe Cavalry School. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a cornet in the Horse Guards Regiment, which his father had once commanded, and in which he had been enrolled at birth. He is reputed to have been a very good equestrian, and competed in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, coming seventh. Before World War I, he instigated the idea of a national Russian sports competition, the very beginning of what under Soviet rule became the Spartakiad.


Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, around 1910.

Outside Russia

Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov in exile in the 1920s.

Dmitri Pavlovich's sister Marie had, like many aristocratic Russians in exile, found a niche for herself in the rising Paris fashion industry by founding a business called Kitmir that specialised in bead and sequin embroidery and did much work for Chanel. (Dmitri himself found work as a Champagne salesman.)

Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov with his wife Audrey Emery in the 1920s.

Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, around 1910.

Throughout his life, Dmitri would always enjoy the companionship strong-willed and highly intelligent women, both as lovers and as platonic friends, perhaps a holdover from his adolescence when two strong-willed and intelligent women, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, loomed so large in his life. He would often have strong but overlapping relationships, as, for instance, with Natalia Brasova (wife of Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich) and the ballerina Vera Karalli, both of whom he saw in 1915 and 1916 (he would be reunited with both women in exile, and would briefly resume his relationship with Karalli). His diaries chronicle relationships with many of the most fascinating women of his day, but the affair he most remembered for was with iconic fashion designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, whom he first met in pre-WWI Paris. Their relationship lasted about a year, beginning in spring 1921 with an off-season stay in Monte Carlo where they endeavored to live as discreetly as possible since neither was as yet sure where the relationship was going, and what the future would hold for Dmitri in particular. [Diary of Grand Duke Dmitri, March/April 1921]. Rumors that Dmitri was gay or bisexual have never been substantiated, and his own letters and diaries very firmly contradict them.

Rumors that Dmitri fired the fatal shot in the Rasputin assassination likewise have never been substantiated, resting entirely upon baseless speculation. Again, his own letters and diary entires, at times written under emotional duress as he relieved events that continued to disturb him greatly, support the conventional historical account of the assassination. His frankness, his tone, and the details he provides all speak to his credibility on this topic. His final break with Felix Yusupov in London in 1920 is well documented in letters exchanged between the two men, none of which have ever been published. The originals are all part of the Ilyinsky family collection, along with Dmitri's diaries, and have been woefully, almost incredibly, neglected by scholars. Dmitri who, as an adolescent, had envisioned Nicholas II as a 'man of action' and admired him greatly, was devastatingly disillusioned by the Tsar's attitude and behavior during the war years. Like many other grand dukes, he tried to warn Nicholas of Russia's imminent peril, but was unsuccessful. The assassination was, in his conception, a patriotic act and one of desperation, but he almost immediately regretted it, and would later describe on several occasions in his letters and diaries the disgust and remorse he felt about his own involvement in the affair. Yusupov was, in 1920, offered a chance to speak about the assassination in a US lecture tour, the profits from which would go to the Red Cross, and it was his interest in pursuing this tour that proved to be the last straw in his relationship with Dmitri. The direct result of his involvement in the December 1916 assassination was exile to the Persian front where he served briefly under General Nikolai Nikolaevich Baratov at his headquarters in the Persian city of Kazvin. But after the February revolution Baratov had to ask Dmitri to leave since there were rumblings from the lower ranks and his safety could not be guaranteed. In Tehran he lived briefly with General Meidel, then head of the Persian Cossack Division, before being taken in by the British Minister to Tehran, Sir Charles Marling and his wife Lucia. Sir Charles became an important father figure to Dmitri, and the relationship there established between Dmitri and the entire Marling family, would prove to be a close and enduring one. It was Sir Charles who, by persuading the British Foreign Office in 1918 that Dmitri would undoubtedly become the next Emperor of Russia, gained his admission to Great Britain after many previous rejections. [See Sir Charles's correspondence with the FO, preserved at the Public Records Office, Kew, UK. Nikolai Nikolaevich's papers are at the Hoover Institute, Stanford, and Dmitri's diaries likewise provide a detailed account of his life in Persia, his relationship with the Marlings, and his attempts to gain entry to Britain].

Dmitri married an American heiress, Audrey Emery, in 1926 morganatically, and she was granted the title Her Serene Highness, Princess Romanovskaya-Ilyinskaya by his cousin Cyril. He did not seek a grand ducal title for her or for her son, not because Cyril was unwilling to grant one, but because it would have violated Pauline dynastic law of 1797. He refused, on the same grounds, to acknowledge Prince Gabriel Konstantinovich as a "Grand Duke". the as he stated to his friend, Vladimir Kozlianinov, in a letter of 22 April 1940, he would not address Prince Gavriil Konstantinovich as "Grand Duke," since Cyril had had no right [unpublished letter from Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich to Colonel V.F. Kozlianinov, 22 April 1940, Bakhmeteff Archive, Columbia University]. It was his belief that not even an enthroned emperor had the right to violate the Pauline law. [Unpublished letter of Constantine de Grunwald to Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, 3 June 1939, Mainau] The two had a son, His Serene Highness, Prince Paul Romanovsky-Ilyinsky, who grew up in France, England and the United States, and served as a US Marine in the Korean War. In 1989 he was elected Mayor of Palm Beach, Florida, and thus became the only Romanov descendant known to have held elected public office. Following the fall of communist Russia in 1991, a delegation of Russian royalists approached Paul Ilyinsky and asked him to assume the title of Tsar, a position he declined.[2] Dmitri and Audrey were divorced in 1937.

In the late 1920s, Dmitri became involved with the Union of Young Russians [Союз Младороссов], which, in 1935, became the Young Russia Party. It was a Russian nationalist group, modeled on Italian fascism, and formed with the express purpose of establishing a "Soviet monarchy" in Russia. He joined this group as a stand in for Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich who, as pretender to the throne, could not affiliate himself directly with any political organization or party. In 1935 Dmitri gave a series of speeches to Young Russia chapters throughout France. Over the course of the next few years, however, he grew very disillusioned with the group, and ultimately broke with it entirely. He loathed Hitler and National Socialism, and spoke out publicly against Hitler in January 1939. [unpublished letter of Constantine de Grunwald to Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, 3 June 1939, Mainau]. Young Russia's founder, Aleksandr L'vovich Kazem Bek, a White Russian emigre of Georgian heritage, was arrested by authorities in Vichy France, allowed to emigrate to the US, where he was active in Orthodox Church affairs. After WWII he returned to Russia, giving rise to suspicions that he had been Soviet agent, but no proof of this has ever been obtained, and his lifelong devotion to the Church would seem to make it unlikely. Dmitri reputedly rebuked later advances from Hitler to lead exiled Russian nobles within the German army against the Bolsheviks with the firm statement that nothing would induce him to fight against fellow Russians. However, at that time Dmitri was in no condition to fight at all any more.


Despite the popular conception of Dmitri as frail man who had suffered all his life from chronic tuberculosis, he was, for most of his life, a very active sportsman, excelling at polo, horse racing, tennis, and bobsledding. His doctors in London and Davos estimated that he first contracted tuberculosis around 1929, and it did run a chronic course, but he had not had it previously. He entered Sanatorium Schatzalp on 2 September 1939, the day after the German invasion of Poland, and remarked in a letter to his sister that he had never before spent a single night in any kind of hospital or medical institution. His cause of death remains unknown, since there is no cause listed on his death certificate, and all of Schatzalp's medical records were destroyed after the conversion of the sanatorium into a hotel in the 1950s. His son believed he had died of tuberculosis, and his cousin Prince Michel Romanov cited uremia, and his NY Times obituary cited uremia as well. Rumors of murder sprang up locally, but have never been substantiated, and there was no police investigation. [William Lee, "Leben und Sterben in Davos," in Davoser Revue, 2000]

Grand Duke Dmitri was laid to rest in the Waldfriedhof, Davos. In the late 1950s his remains were transferred to Mainau Lake Constance in southern Germany, where they now rest beside his sister's in the Bernadotte family crypt.


Paul R. Ilyinsky (1928–2004) was his only child.



  1. Perry, John Curtis, and Pleshakov, Constantine, The Flight of the Romanovs: A Family Saga, Basic Books, 1999, p. 43
  2. Xavier Waterkeyn Assassination: Political murder through the ages New Holland Publishers p.111 ISBN 978-1-74110-566-7
  • Perry, John Curtis and Pleshakov, Constantine, The Flight of the Romanovs: A Family Saga. New York, 1999.
  • Crawford, Rosemary and Donald, Michael and Natasha. London, 1997.
  • Radzinsky, Edvard, Rasputin: The Last Word. London, 2000.
  • Youssoupoff, Prince Félix, Mémoires. Paris 1990 (reprint).

("... as far as we know there was a marriage between Elisabeth of Romania and Dmitri of Russia, but there is not save information, if they had children together. It also can be that children came into the marriage from the side of Dmitri of Russia which are not direct descendants of the marriage between Elisabeth and Dmitri". - House of Hohenzollern-Sigmarigen

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).