Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia (Russian: Мария Павловна; 16 February 1786 – 23 June 1859) was the third daughter of Paul I of Russia and Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg. She was the Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach by her marriage to Charles Frederick, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.
Born on 16 February 1786 in Saint Petersburg to Paul I of Russia and his wife Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg. Maria Pavlovna was raised at her father's lavish palaces at Pavlovsk and at the nearby Gatchina.
She was the sister of:
- Alexander I, Tsar of Russia (1777–1825), m. Luise Auguste, Princess of Baden (Elizabeth Alexeiyevna) (1779–1826), and had two daughters (both died in childhood).
- Konstantin Pavlovich, Grand Duke of Russia (1779–1831), married Juliane, Princess of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (Anna Feodorovna) (1781–1860); married Joanna, Countess Grudsinska, Princess Lowicz (1799–1831). No children.
- Alexandra Pavlovna (1783–1801) m. Joseph, Archduke of Austria, Count Palatine of Hungary (1776–1847), and had one daughter (died at birth).
- Elena Pavlovna (1784–1803) m. Friedrich Ludwig, Hereditary Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1778–1819), and had two children.
- Catherine Pavlovna (1788–1819) married Georg, Duke of Oldenburg (1784–1812), had two sons; married Wilhelm I, King of Württemberg (1781–1864), and had two daughters.
- Olga Pavlovna (22 July 1792 – 26 January 1795).
- Anna Pavlovna (1795–1865) m. Willem II, King of the Netherlands (1792–1849), and had five children.
- Nicholas I, Tsar of Russia (1796–1855), m. Charlotte, Princess of Prussia (Alexandra Feodorovna) (1798–1860), and had ten children.
- Michael Pavlovich, Grand Duke of Russia (1798–1849), m. Charlotte, Princess of Württemberg (Elena Pavlovna) (1807–1873), and had five children.
As a child, she was not considered pretty: her features were disfigured as a result of a pioneering application of the Smallpox vaccine. Her grandmother, Catherine II of Russia, admired her precocious talent as a pianist but declared that she would have been better to have been born a boy. Her music instructor was Giuseppe Sarti (1729-1802), an Italian composer and Kapellmeister at the Russian court. From 1798, she was taught music by Ludwig-Wilhelm Tepper de Ferguson (1768-1838). In 1796 her grandmother died making her father the new Emperor of Russia as Paul I.
On 3 August 1804, she married Charles Frederick, Hereditary Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (later Grand Duke) (2 February 1783 – 8 July 1853). The couple stayed in Saint Petersburg for nine months, before departing for Weimar. There Maria was greeted with a bout of festivities, as described by Christoph Martin Wieland: "The most festive part of all the magnificence of balls, fireworks, promenades, comedies, illuminations was the widespread and genuine joy at the arrival of our new princess".Children
Maria and Carl had four children:
- Paul Alexander Karl Constantin Frederick August of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (25 September 1805, Weimar – 10 April 1806, Weimar)
- Marie Luise Alexandrine of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (1808–1877), married Karl of Prussia
- Augusta Louisa Katherine of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (1811–1890), married Wilhelm I and became German Empress.
- Karl Alexander August Johann of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (1818–1901)
After the death of the Grand Duke Carl Friedrich in 1853 she retired from public life.
Her last trip to Russia was to the coronation of her nephew as Alexander II of Russia in 1855.
Patronage of arts and sciences
Maria Pavlovna was interested in arts as well as in sciences. She was a patroness of art, science and social welfare in the poor Grand-Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. She maintained a lifelong correspondence with Vasily Zhukovsky and it was to her that Schiller dedicated one of his last poems. She attended ten courses at the University of Jena, some delivered by Alexander von Humboldt, and was instrumental in establishing the Falk Institute in Weimar.
She selected, as tutor to her son Charles Alexander, the Genevan Frédéric Soret, who became well acquainted with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In her later years, Maria Pavlovna invited Franz Liszt to her court, restoring a measure of artistic excellence previously associated with Weimar. He was appointed Kapellmeister Extraordinaire in 1842, and settled there from 1848 (after giving up the concert platform) until after her death. However, the Duchess's growing deafness prevented her from enjoying the premiere of Wagner's opera Lohengrin under Liszt's direction in Weimar on 28 August 1850.
Most famous were the "Literary Evenings (Literarische Abende)" where scholars from the neighboring Jena University and others from outside the Grand-Dukedom were invited to give lectures on various topics. This circle was a focus in post-classical Weimar.
Several collections of the Jena University benefitted by her patronage, among them the Grandducal Oriental Coin Cabinet founded in 1840 by Johann Gustav Stickel, orientalist at the University.
Schiller praised her "talents in music and painting and genuine love of reading", while Goethe hailed her as one of the worthiest women of his time.
Her Traces in Jena and Weimar
She owned a small chalet close to Jena, owned formerly by the Protestant theologist of Enlightenment Griesbach, where she used to spend the summer with her children. Maria Pavlovna is buried in Weimar, in a Russian-style chapel by the side of the Goethe-Schiller Mausoleum.
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