Princess Elisabeth (“She”) was born on November 1, 1864 in Bessungen, Hesse the second son and daughter of Princess Alice of the United Kingdom and Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine (House of Hesse-Darmstadt).
She was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of Great Britain and the older sister of Alexandra, the last Russian empress.
His siblings were Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rin, Princess Irene of Prussia, Grand Duke Ernesto Luis of Hesse and Empress Alexandra of Russia.
The children were raised in British and German cultures and taught the Christian commandments of love of God and neighbor.
Elisabeth was one of the most beautiful women in Europe. She married the Russian Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, the fifth son of Emperor Alexander II of Russia and Maria Alexandrovna (née Princess Maria of Hesse-Darmstadt) in the Chapel of the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg on June 15, 1884.
She later became known as Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna, or “Elisabeth Feodorovna” in English. It was at Elisabeth’s wedding that her younger sister, Princess Alix (Alexandra), met and fell in love with Sergei’s nephew, Tsarévico Nicholas, her future husband and last Tsar of Russia.
The couple never had children of their own, but became adoptive parents to Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich and Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, Sergei’s niece and nephew when their mother died.
Conversion to Orthodoxy
Elizabeth converted to Russian Orthodoxy from her native Lutheran religion in 1891. From a letter to her father, Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and the Rhine (January 1, 1891), she stated: “I have made this decision (to convert to orthodoxy) just because of my deep faith. I feel that I must stand before God with a pure and faithful heart. How easy it would be for everything to remain as it is now, and how false and hypocritical at the same time! to lie to everyone, pretend to be a Protestant, and demonstrate it with my appearance, while my soul has already embraced the Orthodox faith? After having spent six years in this country and I already “found” religion.
Assassination of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich
Elisabeth’s happy life came to a sudden end on February 17, 1905 when the socialist revolutionary Ivan Kalyayev assassinated her husband in the Kremlin.
Grand Duke Sergei was driving home in his carriage when Kalyayev approached and threw a bomb on his lap that smashed him and the carriage into the snow. When Elisabeth heard the explosion, she ran out and began collecting the dismembered remains of her husband.
After the death of her husband, Elisabeth’s high society life ended. Wearing black mourning clothes, she became a vegetarian and devoted herself to prayer and fasting.
Full of mercy, she visited Kaliaev in prison and gave him a Bible and an icon and said: “Knowing the generous heart of my late husband, I forgive you,” and blessed the murderer. He even campaigned unsuccessfully for forgiveness: Kalyayev was hanged on May 23, 1905.
Monastery of the Saints. Marta and Maria
In 1909, Elizabeth left the Imperial Court, sold all her luxurious possessions, and founded the Monastery of the Saints. Martha and Mary (the sisters of Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead) in Moscow, dedicating their lives to serving God by helping others. She became its abbess, creating a new religious order for all women, regardless of their origin or class. They established a hospital, pharmacy, orphanage and school and distributed free medicine to the poor and provided free care to anyone who came to their door.
Russian Revolution – 1917
The violent Russian Revolution of 1917 marked the end of the Romanov dynasty and centuries of Russian imperial rule.
It began during World War I, with the February Revolution in the then capital Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg), then spread throughout the Russian Empire and concluded in 1923 with the Bolshevik establishment of the Soviet Union.
Russia was the first country to declare itself a socialist and move towards a communist society. Left-wing leader Vladimir Lenin, who took power, paved the way for the Soviet Union with its authoritarian one-party regimes. Communism in the 20th century became a terrifying and influential force around the world, setting the stage for the Cold War that began in 1947, between the Soviet Union and the capitalist United States and their respective allies.
The Cold War ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991.
Fate of the Imperial Family and Elisabeth Feodorovna
Vladimir Lenin ordered the Cheka (secret police) to arrest Elisabeth and exile her first to Perm, then to Yekaterinburg together with Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich; Princes Ioann Konstantinovich, Konstantin Konstantinovich, Igor Konstantinovich and Vladimir Pavlovich Paley; Grand Duke Sergei’s secretary, Fyodor Remez, and Varvara Yakovleva, a sister from the Grand Duchess’s convent who had refused to leave her abbess.
Then they were all brought to Alapayevsk on May 20, 1918 and housed in the Napolnaya school on the outskirts of the city.
At noon on July 17, Cheka officer Pyotr Startsev arrived, took their remaining money from the prisoners and transferred them to the Upper Siniachikhensky factory complex. That night they woke up the prisoners and took them in carts to the village of Siniachikha, 18 kilometers (11 miles) from Alapayevsk, where there was an abandoned iron mine with a shaft 20 meters (66 feet) deep.
Here the Cheka violently beat all the prisoners before throwing them into this pit. When the executioners pushed Mother Elizabeth into the well, she said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
The victims began to sing orthodox hymns, so the Cheka threw hand grenades down the well and only killed Fyodor Remez. Then they shoved a large amount of bushes into the well and set it on fire.
The white army
On October 8, 1918, the anti-Bolshevik Russian White Army recaptured this area from the pro-communist Red Army and came across the well and the bodies of Elisabeth and her companions. He was 53 years old. The day before Elisabeth and her companions were thrown into the well to die, the Tsar, Nicholas II, his sister the Empress, and their children were brutally murdered by a firing squad.
Elisabeth’s remains were initially buried in the cemetery of the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Seraphim of Sarov, in present-day Beijing in China and were later transferred to the Church of Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives that she and her husband They had. helped build.
Holy Martyr Elisabeth Feodorovna
In 1981, Elizabeth was canonized by the Russian and anti-Soviet Orthodox Church outside Russia, as well as by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1992 as the Holy Martyr Elizabeth Feodorovna after the fall of the communist Soviet Union. The sister, Varvara Yakovleva, who refused to leave the side of her abbess, Elisabeth Feodorovna, was also canonized.
The holy martyr Elisabeth Feodorovna is one of ten 20th century martyrs from around the world who are depicted in statues on the Great West Gate of Westminster Abbey in London. Her feast is celebrated on July 5 (she was martyred on July 18, according to the New Calendar, which was July 5 in the Old Calendar).