Elisabeth is born the daughter of a Grand Duke (of Hesse) and one of Queen Victoria's daughters. When she is 16, her mother dies and her children spend much time in England after that, being raised by their grandmother QV. When Elisabeth ("Ella") is introduced to society, she has a number of suitors including the future Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany (such an alliance might have avoided WWI or at least helped) but chooses to marry for love. She ends up with Grand Duke Serge of Russia, who is the son of Tsar Alexander II.
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She loves her husband, but soon finds that he is not the man who she thought he was. For one, he turns out to be homosexual and this puts a strain on their marriage as she wants children (she never has any but Serge and Ella take in their niece Maria Pavlovna "the Younger" and Dmitri Pavlovich and raise them). She wanders in life, not really sure of her purpose. Her husband is assasinated in 1905, after 20 years of marriage, and she realizes that her calling was never to be married in the first place. She then starts an order of nuns devoted to caring for the sick and hurt.
During World War I, she helps tend many sick. People love her but do not like the tsar. Right before the revolution, she goes to her sister the Tsarina Alexandra to plead with her to stop taking advice from Grigory Rasputin. Alexandra holds her ground and the sisters part in tears, never to be seen again. On July 17, Alexandra, her husband, and her children are shot in a cellar in Ekaterinburg. The next day, Ella and some of her loyal friends are thrown into a pit. Except for one, they survive the fall and die a slow death of starvation. When her body is exhumed months later, it has not decayed at all.
The review of this Book prepared by Maggie