by Bob Atchison
The last Grand Duke to call Pavlovsk home, Konstantin Konstantinovich was born in Strelna Palace to Konstantin, son of Tsar Nicholas I and Grand Duchess Alexandra, originally a princess of Saxe-Altenburg. His early life was that of a Romanov prince which began studies early in life with an intense program focused on history, military tactics and languages. While he followed the classic, main stream subjects of a prince, at the same time he was allowed to indulge an instinctive personal inclination toward the arts and music, which produced an exceptional talent for the piano. After his schooling was completed Konstantin entered the military, as all Romanov men were expected to do.
Konstantin's initial choice was to follow his father's career and enter the Navy, where his ship-board adventures took him as far away as the USA. Unhappy with Navy life he was later allowed to join the Imperial Izmailovsky Guard. Following Romanov tradition he married a German Princess, Elizabeth of Saxe-Altenburg, and began a family which eventually numbered nine children; six boys and three girls. Elizabeth never became Orthodox and remained a Lutheran throughout her life. Normally this would have been frowned upon, however the house rules of the Romanov family enacted by Tsar Paul I designated Konstantin's children, as the great-grandchildren of a Tsar, to be lower-tier Princes and Princesses - relatively far from the line of succession. Paul's rules required the heir to the throne to be born to an Orthodox mother, but the idea that one of Konstantin's children mught inherit the throne was a long-shot, as there were plenty of first-string Romanovs in line before them.
After leaving the military Konstantin pursued the arts, which were his passion. He wrote poetry and organized theatrical events, in which he acted. The Grand Duke was not a dilettante pursing creative activities for which he had no real talent, for his poetry was quite good, even first-rate. Konstantin's interest in the theatre led him to write plays. His "King of Judea", debuted in the Hermitage Theatre in 1913 and created quite a stir for it was the first time a Grand Duke had appeared on the 'public' stage as an actor.
Konstantin was a tall, elegant man with a light red beard. he had refined habits and loved beauty. He inherited Pavlovsk Palace and was a worthy custodian of its treasures and traditions.
During World War I, in October 1914, Konstantin's son Oleg was badly wounded and later died in Vilna with his parents by his side. Oleg was the only Royal to die in the Great War and the only Romanov to die in battle.
Already in bad health the death of his son sapped what little life remained in his weakened body. The Grand Duke died ion June 15, 1915 and was the last Romanov to be buried in Peter and Paul Fortress before the revolution.
Three of Konstantin's sons were murdered by the Bolsheviks, making four of his children that gave their lives for Russia.
Recently the opening of the Romanov archives and Konstantin's private writings has revealed with startling honesty his anguish over his feelings of homosexuality.
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