Arantza de AreilzaYussupov

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This morning I thought of who could best describe the marvelous city of Saint Petersburg, of who could portray with great fealty the height of its splendor and be capable of transmitting, with able beauty, the special soul of the City of the River Neva, which the contemporary Russians affectionately call, "Peter."  I then recalled the most captivating figure whose memoirs I had read, Prince Felix Yussupov.   

On his mother’s side, the last of the Yussupovs was a direct descendant of the Khanes Nogai Tartans, and, on his father’s side, was the great grandchild of King Frederick IV of Prussia.  His Serene Highness inherited the greatest fortune of Russia, which many calculated was superior to that of the Czars. 

Felix Yussupov was the cadet son of the Princess Zenaide Yussupov and Count Felix Sumaroff-Elston, the highest Russian aristocracy.  This luck of lineage allowed him to live in the aristocratic splendor of the final years of Czarist Russia and, to witness the end of that world and of the country he had known. 

In his memoirs, entitled, "Lost Splendor," Felix Yussupov narrates, with the aloofness and refined humor which were characteristic of the Oxford education he received, the lifestyle of a Russian aristocrat from the beginning of the century, and the celebration and courtliness which captured the palaces where he lived such as the Moika of Saint Petersburg or the beautiful Arkhangelsoye in the outskirts of Moscow. 

But, perhaps, the most attractive aspect of his memoirs is the complex personality of the author. 

Felix Yussupov possessed a great beauty which was accompanied by a lucid intelligence and refined artistic tastes.  In his youth, he was the object of numerous scandals related to his nighttime escapades dressed as a cabaret singer (his identity was betrayed by the mother’s valuable jewels which he wore), and as a beggar, eager to know the social reality of his country outside of the noble circles that he belonged to. 

Felix Yussupov was surely bisexual, which did not impede his marriage to the Grand Duchess Irina Alexandrova, niece of the Czar Nicholas II, upon his return from Oxford in 1913. 

That winter, Saint Petersburg only spoke of the influence of Rasputin over the imperial family.  Rasputin, son of a Siberian horse thief, to who was attributed all sorts of healing powers through hypnosis, and who, his supporters went to see, in him, the Reincarnation of Christ. 

The high ranking officials of the Czarist Court were profoundly worried by the influence of the "staretz" over the Czarina, and, the weakness of the Czar which put the crown in danger. 

The Prince Yussupov saw the imminent danger and decided to assassinate Grigori Rasputin, a horrific episode which he describes, in detail, in his memoirs.  By winning the trust of the preacher, Yussupov invited him one night to his Moika palace where, after a long and anguished evening, when his poison mixed with wine failed, he saw himself obligated to finish off his scheme with various gun shots, before throwing his body, still alive, to the icy Neva River. 

Some hypotheses suggest that Felix Yussupov belonged to the British Secret Service, who saw in him the ideal instrument, by relationships and his quasi legal immunity, to eliminate from the Russian Court, the germanphile ascendant embodied by Rasputin. 

In 1919, the Prince and his family had to abandon Russia after all of their belongings were confiscated of which they were only able to save a few precious objects, two Rembrandts and the Pellegrina Pearl, the pearl that Phillip IV of Spain gave to his daughter Maria Teresa for her engagement with Louis XIV of France.  The Yussupovs lived the first period of exile in London and then definitively establish themselves in Paris, where Prince Felix, the last of the Yussupov, passed away in 1969. 


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