"the" Mrs. Astor

Monday, August 17, 2009

It seems that I spent the better part of last week bickering with Baroness Seitzinger; about what I can't recall, and I doubt that it matters, but it prompted Mamie to issue this public statement:
"Do I need to separate you two? Why do I always have to step in and mediate a facsimile of peace between you? If your brand of lunacy is all I have to look forward to in old age, then I don't know if I'll make it." (I was tempted to take this as a suicide note and have her committed.)

In the end, Seitzinger high-tailed it up to Palm Beach again and proceeded to issue nonsensical statements and photos. At one point she mentioned tiaras or royalty, and I asked, "Do you know that Palm Beach had a member of royalty elected as mayor?" "Was he Roumanian?" (Really, where does she come up with these things?) "No," I replied, "Russian!" Prince Paul Romanovsky-Ilyinsky was elected to the commission of Palm Beach and then was elected mayor for three terms. He was the only child of American heiress Audrey Emery and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia.
This, of course, is the very Dmitri who conspired with Prince Felix Yusupov to murder Rasputin. The murder probably saved both their lives when they were exiled from St. Petersburg by the tsar (both being way too high on the social ladder to do much else). Dmitri ended up in Persian serving with the British forces there and Felix at one of his distant estates.
Felix is one of those characters in history where only the word, Sensational, sums it up. Born in such extreme wealth that at one time he was wealthier than the tsar, he spent his early teens in drag, had an affair with Dmitri that nearly caused heart failure to Alexandra, and brazenly returned to his palace in St. Petersburg during the Red Terror to retrieve his jewels and Rembrandts. He also married the tsar's niece to even it all out, a great story in his autobiography, Lost Splendor. He lived with his wife in Paris until 1967 although he and Dmitri could not reconcile their differences on talking about the murder in public.

For his part, Paul Ilyinsky, led a rather low-key life, having served in the marines and later becoming a photographer. He never used the title, Prince (or any of the many others he inherited), although I always remember news organizations gushing over them in interviews. He fit right in to Palm Beach society and, when a delegation arrived from Russia after the fall of Communism asking if he would take a position, replied that nothing made him happier than being mayor of PB. He died in 2004, no doubt the only Romanov to have been an American elected official.


At 7:28 PM, Blogger countess von Cartier said...

What a wonderful History lesson my Dear.....Very Interesting

At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Thomas Barker said...

I love it! I just ordered the book off of Amazon. Can't wait to read it!


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