Princess Charlotte of Württemberg

Princess Charlotte of Württemberg (9 January 1807 – 2 February [O.S. 21 January] 1873), later known as Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, was the wife of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich of Russia, the youngest son of Emperor Paul I of Russia and Duchess Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg.

Princess Charlotte
Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna of Russia
Elena Pavlovna in 1840, painted by Vladimir Ivanovich Hau
Born(1807-01-09)9 January 1807
Stuttgart, Kingdom of Württemberg, Confederation of the Rhine
Died2 February 1873(1873-02-02) (aged 66)
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
(m. 1824; died 1849)
IssueGrand Duchess Maria
Elizabeth, Duchess of Nassau
Catherine, Duchess Georg of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Grand Duchess Alexandra
Grand Duchess Anna
German: Friederike Charlotte Marie
FatherPrince Paul of Württemberg
MotherPrincess Charlotte of Saxe-Hildburghausen
ReligionRussian Orthodox Church
prev. Lutheranism

Early life


She was born in Stuttgart, as Princess Charlotte of Württemberg, the eldest daughter of Prince Paul of Württemberg and of Princess Charlotte of Saxe-Hildburghausen. As a child, Charlotte lived in Paris with her father and her younger sister Pauline. Their home was quite modest by royal standards. In Paris, Charlotte came under the tutelage of several intellectuals.

Marriage and issue


In 1822, she became engaged to Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich of Russia, her first cousin once removed (Mikhail's mother was her father's aunt). It was said that Charlotte was an exceptional girl, highly intelligent and mature for her age of 15.[1] The Grand Duke was obviously impressed by her beauty and her poise, and during a reception held in her honor, she charmed all the guests with her conversations.[1] On 17 December 1823, she was received into the Russian Orthodox Church and was given the name Elena Pavlovna.[2] On 20 February 1824, the couple married in Saint Petersburg and settled in the Mikhailovsky Palace. When the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna died in 1828, the palace of Pavlovsk passed on to Mikhail and he and Elena visited it often. Their marriage was not a happy one: Mikhail's only passion was for the army, and he neglected Elena. Nevertheless, he and Elena had five daughters, only two of whom lived to mature adulthood:

Influence at court and in society

Russian Sisters of Mercy in the Crimea, 1854-1855

Elena became a close friend of her brother-in-law, Emperor Alexander I of Russia and of his wife the Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna. She was also quick to befriend the shy Maria Alexandrovna, who married the then Tsarevich Alexander in 1841. When Princess Charlotte's husband died, in 1849, she became a patron of several charitable organizations and of the arts. She founded the Saint Petersburg Conservatoire and co-founded (1854) a group of nursing sisters (Society of the Sisters of Marcy [ru]) which would eventually become the forerunners of the Red Cross in Russia. During her time in Russia she became known as the "family intellectual", and was considered[by whom?] the most exceptional woman in the imperial family since Catherine the Great (r. 1762–1796). She founded the Russian Musical Society (1859) and the Russian Conservatoire (1862), and was liberal on serfdom. She helped to push her nephew Alexander II to abolish serfdom while he stayed with her.[3][need quotation to verify]

As a patroness of the composer Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894), she commissioned some of his early operas: Fomka the Fool (1853), The Siberian Hunters (1852), and Vengeance (1852/1853).[4]

Elena died in Saint Petersburg, at the age of 66.




  • Lincoln, W. Bruce. The Romanovs: Autocrats of All the Russias. 1983
  • Sebag Montefiore, Simon. The Romanovs: 1613-1918. 2016. Knopf Publishing Group.
  • Taylor, Philip S., Anton Rubinstein: A Life in Music, Indianapolis, 2007
  • Zeepvat, Charlotte. Romanov Autumn. 2001


  1. ^ a b Zeepvat, p. 19.
  2. ^ Zeepvat, p. 20.
  3. ^ Sebag Montefiore, Simon (28 January 2016). The Romanovs: 1613-1918. Hachette UK (published 2016). p. 546. ISBN 9781474600279. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  4. ^ Taylor (2007), 39.