July marks 100 years since Moscow lost its White Angel, the affectionate moniker given to the woman born Elizabeth Alexandra Louise Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt on November 1, 1864, in Darmstadt. Better known in her adopted homeland as Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna, she was the sister of Empress Alexandra (Tsar Nicholas II’s wife) and granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria. Her intelligence, beauty, and selflessness earned Elizabeth veneration in Russia.
Her parents were Victoria’s daughter, Princess Alice, and Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine. Her mother instilled in “Ella” the ability to empathize with the suffering of others and a drive to help ease that suffering. This would ultimately become her life’s mission.
Courted by Europe’s most eligible royal bachelors, she chose to wed Alexander II’s son, Grand Duke Sergei, who would later serve as governor general of Moscow. Several years after their marriage, Yelizaveta converted to Russian Orthodoxy.
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