Imperial Dancer: Mathilde Kschessinska and the Romanovs
Mathilde Kschessinska (1872-1971) is well-remembered for two things – as the first great Russian Prima Ballerina, and for her affair with the future Tsar Nicholas II. As a young ballerina she caught the eye of the young Nicholas, and it was rumoured that he had a secret passage built linking her house to the Winter Palace in St Petersburg so he could visit her without being noticed. The affair ended when he announced his betrothal to Princess Alix of Hesse, though her days with the Romanov dynasty were not yet over. Some years later she became the mistress of the Tsar's cousin, Grand Duke Andrei, whom she married in Paris in 1921 after they escaped from the horrors of the Bolshevik revolution.
Having made a new life for herself in France, her career continued to prosper, and she opened a school there in 1929. She remained active well beyond middle age, and at the age of 64 she performed for a charity event at London's Covent Garden Opera House.
Until now, most of the information on her life has been taken from her memoirs, ‘Dancing in Petersburg'.
This report prepared by John Van der Kiste