Maria Alexandrovna of Russia

Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia (17 October 185324 October 1920), later the Duchess of Edinburgh and then the Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was a daughter of Alexander II of Russia and his first Empress consort Marie of Hesse. Maria became the wife of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, the second son of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

From 1893 until her death, she had the distinction of being a Russian grand duchess (by birth), a British royal duchess (by marriage), and the consort (and later widow) of a German sovereign duke (by marriage).

Early life

The Duchess was born at Tsarskoye Selo, Russia, the second daughter of Alexander II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias (who was assassinated in 1881) and his wife Marie of Hesse and by Rhine , the daughter of Ludwig II, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine. She was the aunt of Tsar Nicholas II, who was murdered in 1918. Her brother, the Grand Duke Serge, was assassinated in Moscow in 1905, and another brother, the Grand Duke Paul, was shot in Petrograd in 1919.


On 23 March 1874 at the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, the Grand Duchess Marie married His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, a career naval officer. The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh made their public entry into London on 12 March. The marriage, however, was not a happy one, and the bride was thought haughty by London society. Furthermore, Tsar Alexander II's insistence that his daughter be styled "Her Imperial Highness" and have precedence over the then Princess of Wales infuriated Queen Victoria. The Queen insisted that style "Her Royal Highness" Marie Alexandrovna acquired upon marriage, should always precede the style "Her Imperial Highness," which was hers by birth. For her part, the new Duchess of Edinburgh apparently resented the fact that the Princess of Wales, who was the daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark, took precedence over her, the daughter of the Russian Tsar. After the marriage, Marie was varyingly referred to as Her Royal Highness, Her Royal & Imperial Highness, and Her Imperial & Royal Highness.

The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh had six children:

Styles of
Duchess Maria of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha as consort
Reference style Her Imperial & Royal Highness
Spoken style Your Imperial & Royal Highness
Alternative style Ma'am


On the death of his uncle, Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, on 22 August 1893, the vacant duchy fell to the Duke of Edinburgh, since his elder brother the Prince of Wales had renounced his right to the succession. He surrendered his British allowance of £15,000 a year and his seats in the House of Lords and the Privy Council, but retained the £10,000 granted on his marriage in order to maintain Clarence House as his London residence. Upon her husband's ascension to the ducal throne, the Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna became Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, in addition to the Duchess of Edinburgh. As the consort of a sovereign German duke, she technically outranked her sisters-in-law at Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

The couple's only son, Prince Alfred, became involved in a scandal involving his mistress and shot himself in January 1899, in the midst of his parents' twenty-fifth wedding anniversary celebrations. He survived, but his embarrassed parents sent him off to Meran to recover, where he died two weeks later, on 6 February. The Duke of Edinburgh and Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha died of throat cancer on 30 July 1900 at Schloss Rosenau in Coburg. The ducal throne passed to his nephew, Prince Carl Edward, Duke of Albany. Now the Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the Duchess of Edinburgh continued to reside in Coburg.

She died in October 1920 in Zürich, Switzerland and was buried in the ducal family's cemetery outside Coburg.

Titles from birth to death

Here is a list of titles that the Duchess bore from birth to death in chronological order:

  • Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia
  • Disputed style:
    • Her Imperial & Royal Highness The Duchess of Edinburgh
    • Her Royal & Imperial Highness The Duchess of Edinburgh
    • Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Edinburgh
  • Her Imperial & Royal Highness The Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
  • Her Imperial & Royal Highness The Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

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