Marija Fëdorovna, (in Russian: Мария Фёдоровна?), Born Princess Dagmar of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, and then Princess Dagmar of Denmark, was empress wife of Russia as wife of Emperor Alexander III. She was the second daughter of Christian IX of Denmark and Luisa of Hesse-Kassel. Among his sons there was the last Russian monarch, Nicholas II, to whom he survived ten years.
Born in Copenhagen, she belonged to a relatively poor princely cadet branch. She was baptized in the Lutheran faith under the names of Marie Sophie Frederikke Dagmar in honor of her relative Maria Sofia Federica d'Assia-Kassel (1767-1852), queen widow of Denmark. His father became heir to the throne of Denmark, especially following the inheritance rights of his wife, as nephew of King Christian VII and became king of Denmark in 1863, at the death of King Frederick VII.
His elder brother became King George I of Greece and his eldest brother King Frederick VIII of Denmark. The elder sister Alexandra married King Edward VII of the United Kingdom while her younger sister was Thyra, Duchess of Cumberland.
The rise of the Slavophile ideology in the Russian Empire brought Alexander II of Russia in search of a bride for his heir, the Tsarevich Nikolai Aleksandrovič, in the various countries of the Germanic states who had traditionally provided consorts for the tsars. In 1864, Nikolaj, or "Nixa" as he was known within his family, went to Denmark where he became engaged to Dagmar. However, the zarevich died of meningitis on 22 April 1865, expressing the wish that Dagmar would marry his younger brother, the future Alexander III. Dagmar, who had grown fond of her future homeland and had close ties with her fiancé's family, was very struck by her death. He received a letter from Alexander II, in which the emperor tried to console her and said in very loving terms that he hoped she still considered herself a member of their family. In June 1866, during a visit to Copenhagen, Nikolai's younger brother, the new Tsarevich Aleksandr Aleksandrovič asked Dagmar his hand, after they had been in his room to review the photographs together.
Dagmar left Copenhagen on 1 September 1866. Hans Christian Andersen was among the crowd who came to the dock to see her leave. The writer wrote in his diary: "Yesterday, on the quay, as he passed in front of me, he stopped and took me by the hand My eyes were full of tears That a poor child Oh Lord, be kind and merciful to her! It is said that there is a brilliant court in St. Petersburg and the family of the tsar is pleasant, yet, he heads to an unknown country, where people are different and religion is different and where he will have none of his acquaintances by his side " .
It was warmly welcomed in Kronstadt by Alexander II of Russia and his whole family. He converted to the Russian Orthodox Church and took the name of Marija Fëdorovna (in Russian Мария Фёдоровна) and the title of Grand Duchess. The wedding took place on November 9 [October 28] 1866 in the imperial chapel of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. After the wedding night, Aleksandr wrote in his diary, "I took off my slippers and my dress embroidered with silver and I felt my beloved's body next to mine ... How I felt then, I do not want to describe it here Later we talked for a long time ". After the numerous wedding receptions were over, the newlyweds moved to the Aničkov Palace in St. Petersburg where they lived for the next 15 years, alternating with the summer villa of Livadia in Crimea.
On the morning of March 13, 1881, Alexander II, at the age of sixty-two, was killed by a bomb on his way back to the Winter Palace by a military parade. Marija later described in his diary how the wounded but still alive tsar was taken to the palace: "His legs were crushed terribly and torn open to the knee, a bleeding mass, with the middle of a boot on his right foot, and only the sole of the foot still on the left ". Alexander II died a few hours later.
Marija's contemporaries said of her: "She is a true empress", but she wrote in her diary: "Our happiest and happier times are now over, my peace and my tranquility are gone, for now I will limit myself more than never worry about Saša. "
Alexander and Marija were crowned at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 27, 1883. Although shortly before the coronation a conspiracy was discovered that threw a veil over the celebrations, over 8,000 visitors attended the ceremony.
Due to the numerous threats against them and on the advice of the head of the security services, General Čerevin, shortly after the coronation the tsar and his family moved to the palace of Gatčina, a safer place, 50 km from San Petersburg, an immense palace with 900 rooms, built by Catherine II, where Marija and Alexander III lived for 13 years and where their five surviving children grew up.
Under strict surveillance, the imperial couple periodically went to the capital to participate in official events. Marija ardently wishes to participate in dances and gatherings at the Winter Palace. These also happened in Gatchina. Alexander used to enjoy the company of the musicians, even if he would end up sending them out one by one. When this happened, Marija knew the party was over.
During the reign of Alexander III, opponents of the monarchy quickly disappeared clandestinely. A group of students intended to assassinate Alexander III on the sixth anniversary of his father's death in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg. The conspirators had stuffed some books with the dynamite they intended to throw at the tsar when he arrived at the cathedral. However, the Russian secret police discovered the bombers and five students were hanged, among them was Aleksandr Ul'janov, elder brother of Vladimir Lenin.
When Marija Alessandra's eldest sister visited Gatchina in July 1894, she was surprised to see how weak her brother-in-law Alexander III had become. Marija was aware that he had been ill for a long time and that he did not have much left to live and therefore focused his attention on his eldest son, the future Nicholas II, since he depended on both his personal future and the future of the dynasty.
Nikolai intended to marry Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, but neither Alexander III nor Marija approved the marriage. Nikolaj summed up the situation as follows: "I want to move in one direction, and it is clear that Mama wants me to go another - my dream is to marry Alix one day". Although Marija and Alexander found Alix, whom they had met, shy, hysterical and unbalanced, and were worried that the young princess did not possess the right characteristics to become empress of Russia, they reluctantly consented to the marriage.
On 1 November 1894, Alexander III died at the age of only forty-nine in Livadia. In his diary Marija wrote: "My heart is completely broken and I am torn down, but when I saw the blissful smile and the peace in his face that came later, he gave me strength." For some time Marija was inconsolable. His sister, Alessandra, and her brother-in-law, the future Edward VII arrived in Russia a few days later. The Prince of Wales organized Alexander's funeral and set the date for the marriage of the new Tsar Nicholas II with Alix.
The nephew of Marija Fëdorovna, prince Felix Jusupov, noted that he had a great influence on the Romanov family. Sergej Witte praised his skill and his diplomatic tact. However, he did not get along with his daughter-in-law, Aleksandra Fëdorovna, holding her responsible for the many evils that afflicted her son Nicholas and the Russian Empire in general.
After the death of Alexander III was overcome, Marija again expressed a clear vision of the future. "Everything will be fine," he said. She had lived in Russia for 28 years, of which thirteen as empress, and 34 years of widowhood were still waiting for her, the last ten years in exile in Denmark. He continued to live in the Anichkov Palace in St. Petersburg and at the Gatchina Palace. At the end of 1916 he left St. Petersburg to live in the Mariinsky palace in Kiev. He never returned to St. Petersburg.
During the first period of Russification, he had tried to stop his son from violating the autonomy of the Grand Principality of Finland and calling upon the unpopular governor-general Bobrikov. During the period of the second Russification, at the beginning of the First World War, the empress widow, traveling from her special train across Finland to Saint Petersburg, expressed her continued disapproval of the oppression of Finland to the point of having a orchestra of a welcome committee playing the Pori regiment march and the Finnish national anthem "Our Country", which at the time were under the explicit prohibition of Franz Albert Seyn, the then governor general of Finland.
The revolution arrived in Russia in March 1917. After traveling from Kiev to meet the deposed son, Nicholas II, in Mogilev, Marija returned to the city. He immediately realized how much Kiev had changed and that his presence was no longer pleasing. He was persuaded by his family to travel by train to Crimea with another group of Romanov exiles and lived for a short period in one of the imperial residences in the Crimea, where he received the news that his sons, his daughter-in-law and his nephews had been murdered, but rejected the public report as a rumor. The day after the assassination of the Tsar's family, Marija received a messenger from Nicky, "a touched man," who told her how difficult the life of her son's family had been in Yekaterinburg. "And no one can help them or free them - only God! My Lord saves my poor, unlucky Nicky, help him in his hard ordeal". In her diary she comforted herself: "I'm sure they all came out of Russia and now the Bolsheviks are trying to hide the truth". He maintained this belief until his death. His letters to his son and his family have all been lost, but in one that has been saved, he wrote to Nikolai: "You know that my thoughts and prayers will never leave you, I think of you day and night and sometimes I feel so bad in my heart that I believe I can not stand it anymore, but God is merciful, He will give us the strength for this terrible trial ". Marija's daughter, Ol'ga Aleksandrovna, wrote "And yet I am sure that in the depths of her heart my mother was locked in to accept the truth a few years before her death".
Despite the overthrow of the monarchy (1917), at first he refused to leave Russia. Only in 1919, under the pressure of her sister, the widowed Queen Alessandra, decided reluctantly to leave, fleeing from the Crimea across the Black Sea to London. King George V sent the warship HMS Marlborough to recover his aunt. After a brief stay in the British base in Malta and later in London, he returned to his native Denmark, choosing Hvidøre, near Copenhagen, as his residence. Although Queen Alexandra never treated her sister badly and spent time with Marlborough House in London and at Sandringham House in Norfolk in Great Britain, Marija felt that she was now "number two". This is not surprising since Marija was just a former empress while her older sister was a popular queen mother.
In exile in Copenhagen in Denmark, there were many Russian emigrants. For them, Marija still remained the empress. People respected her and appreciated her and often asked her for help. The Russian monarchical assembly held in 1921, offered to become the locum tenens of the Russian throne. He refused the request, which he did not want to interfere in political games and gave an evasive answer: "Nobody saw Nicky killed" and so there is a possibility. He gave financial support to Nikolaj Sokolov, the investigator who studied the circumstances of the Tsar's family's death. They did not meet: at the last moment, the Grand Duchess Olga sent a telegram to Paris asking to cancel the appointment. It would have been too difficult for an old and sick woman to hear the terrible story of her son and family.
In November 1925, Dagmar's favorite sister, Alessandra, died. For Dagmar it was the last loss he could bear. "She was ready to meet her Creator," wrote his son-in-law, Grand Duke Aleksandr Michailovich, about Dagmar's last years. On October 13, 1928 in Hvidøre near Copenhagen, in a house that he had once shared with his sister Regina Alessandra, Dagmar died at the age of 80.
After the function in the Russian Orthodox church of Aleksandr Nevsky in Copenhagen, the empress was buried in the cathedral of Roskilde. In 2005, Queen Margaret II of Denmark and Russian President Vladimir Putin and their respective governments agreed that the remains of the empress should return to St. Petersburg in accordance with her desire to be buried next to her husband. On September 26, 2006, a statue of Marija Fëodorovna was inaugurated in Peterhof. After a ceremony at St. Isaac's Cathedral, she was buried next to her husband Alexander III in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul on September 28, 2006, 140 years after her first arrival in Russia and nearly 78 years after her death.