1857. Oil on canvas. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia. Read Note.
Maria Alexandrovna (1824-1880) Empress, wife of Russian Emperor Alexander II, whom she married him on 16 April, 1841. She was the daughter of the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt, Louis II, before converting to Orthodox Christianity, her name was Maximiliana Wilhelmina Augusta Sophia Maria. In the summer of 1840, she came to Russia and the wedding took place on 16 April 1841.
She actively participated in organizing education for women and promoted the opening of gymnasiums for girls. With her patronage, several schools for women, the Society of the Red Cross and a number of other charitable societies were started in Russia. She bore Alexander II 8 children.
Prince P.A. Kropotkin wrote:
"Of the entrie royal family, without doubt, the most likeable was Maria Alexandrovna. She was remarkable for her sincerity, and when she made a compliment to anyone, she spoke what she really felt. Her ladies-in-waiting did not like her and found her too strict; they could not understand why she took the love affairs of her husband so personally. The Empress took an active part in the liberation of the serfs. Gymnasiums for women, founded by her, were well-established, with broad programs and a democratic spirit. Her friendship with Alexander Ushinsky saved this talented pedagogue of democratic views from exile, the fate of many gifted people of the time.
“She died in the Winter Palace all alone: Alexander II lived in another palace and paid his wife only official visits. The ladies-in-waiting, all except two who deeply loved her, had left her; all courtiers curried favor with Alexander’s new mistress, princess Ye. M. Dolgorukaya.”
See: Christina Robertson. Portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Aleksandrovna. Portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Aleksandrovna.