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Today, November 25th, is the 145th anniversary of the birth of HRH Victoria Melita of Edinburgh, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Grand Duchess of Russia. (November 25, 1876 – March 2, 1936) Victoria Melita was the third child and second daughter of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. She was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and also of Emperor Alexander II of Russia.

Born a British princess, Victoria spent her early life in England and lived for three years in Malta, where her father served in the Royal Navy. In 1889 the family moved to Coburg, where Victoria’s father became the reigning duke in 1893.

In her teens Victoria fell in love with her first cousin Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich of Russia (the son of her mother’s brother, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia) but his faith, Rusian Orthodox Christianity, discouraged marriage between first cousins. Bowing to family pressure, Victoria married her paternal first cousin, Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine in 1894, following the wishes of their grandmother, Queen Victoria.

The marriage failed – Victoria Melita scandalized the royal families of Europe when she divorced her husband in 1901. The couple’s only child, Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine, who they nicknamed Ella, died of typhoid fever in 1903 at the age of 8.

In 1905, Victoria married Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich of Russia. They wed without the formal approval of Britain’s King Edward VII (as the Royal Marriages Act 1772 would have required), and in defiance of Russia’s Emperor Nicholas II. In retaliation, the Emperor stripped Kirill of his offices and honours, also initially banishing the couple from Russia.

They had two daughters and settled in Paris before being allowed to visit Russia in 1909. In 1910 they moved to Russia, where Nicholas recognized Victoria Melita as Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna. After the fall of the Russian monarchy in 1917 they escaped to Finland (then still part of the Russian Republic) where she gave birth to her only son, Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich of Russia in August 1917.

In exile they lived for some years among her relatives in Germany, and from the late 1920s on an estate they bought in Saint-Briac in Brittany. In 1926 Kirill proclaimed himself Russian Emperor in Exile, and Victoria supported her husband’s claims. Victoria died after suffering a stroke while visiting her daughter Maria in Amorbach (Lower Franconia).

HIH Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia

She is the grandmother of Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, claimant to the Russian Throne, and the great-grandmother of Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia, claimant to the German Imperial Throne.

HI & RH Prince Georg Friedrich, The Prince of Prussia