Dmitri Pavlovich

Dmitri Pavlovich

Dmitri Pavlovich, the second child and only son of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich and a grandson of Alexander II of Russia, and Alexandra Georgievna, the daughter of King George I of Greece, was born at Ilinskoe near Moscow on 18th September 1891. His mother died soon after childbirth and he was raised by his uncle, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich and the Grand Duchess Elisabeth of Hesse, who had no children of their own.

On 17th February 1905, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich was killed when he became a victim of a bomb thrown by revolutionary terrorists led by Boris Savinkov, during the early stages of the 1905 Russian Revolution. The Grand Duchess Elisabeth of Hesse became a nun and Dmitri now went to live with Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarini Alexandra Fyodorovna. It has been argued by Richard Cullen, the author of Rasputin (2010): "Nicholas and Alexandra were very fond of young Dmitri. In fact, some evidence exists that they wanted him to marry their eldest daughter, Olga, and pass on the throne to them jointly, in the likely event Aleksei did not survive childhood." However, the Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, disapproved of Dimitri's behaviour with woman. Cullen goes onto argue: "Dmitri's love of high living and comparatively loose ways very likely shocked the more strait-laced Olga. Dmitri and Olga were first cousins once removed, a connection she may have felt was not healthy for any children they would have together."

In September, 1915, Nicholas II assumed supreme command of the Russian Army fighting on the Eastern Front. As he spent most of his time at GHQ, Alexandra Fedorovna now took responsibility for domestic policy. Rasputin served as her adviser and over the next few months she dismissed ministers and their deputies in rapid succession. Alexander Kerensky complained that: "The Tsarina's blind faith in Rasputin led her to seek his counsel not only in personal matters but also on questions of state policy. General Alekseyev, held in high esteem by Nicholas II, tried to talk to the Tsarina about Rasputin, but only succeeded in making an implacable enemy of her. General Alexseyev told me later about his profound concern on learning that a secret map of military operations had found its way into the Tsarina's hands. But like many others, he was powerless to take any action."

Rumours began to circulate that Grigory Rasputin and Tsarina Alexandra Fedorovna were leaders of a pro-German court group and were seeking a separate peace with the Central Powers in order to help the survival of the autocracy in Russia. Michael Rodzianko, the President of theDuma, toldNicholas II: "I must tell Your Majesty that this cannot continue much longer. No one opens your eyes to the true role which this man (Rasputin) is playing. His presence in Your Majesty's Court undermines confidence in the Supreme Power and may have an evil effect on the fate of the dynasty and turn the hearts of the people from their Emperor". Rasputin was also suspected of financial corruption and right-wing politicians believed that he was undermining the popularity of the regime.

On 21st November 1916, Vladimir Purishkevich, the leader of the monarchists in the Duma, wrote to Prince Felix Yusupov: "I'm terribly busy working on a plan to eliminate Rasputin. That is simply essential now, since otherwise everything will be finished... You too must take part in it. Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov knows all about it and is helping. It will take place in the middle of December, when Dmitri comes back... Not a word to anyone about what I've written." Yusupov replied: "Many thanks for your mad letter. I could not understand half of it, but I can see that you are preparing for some wild action.... My chief objection is that you have decided upon everything without consulting me... I can see by your letter that you are wildly enthusiastic, and ready to climb up walls... Don't you dare do anything without me, or I shall not come at all!"

Eventually, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, joined Felix Yusupov, Vladimir Purishkevich, Dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert and Lieutenant Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin, an officer in the Preobrazhensky Regiment,in the conspiracy to kill Grigory Rasputin. Yusupov later admitted in Lost Splendor (1953) that on 29th December, 1916, Rasputin was invited to his home: "The bell rang, announcing the arrival of Dmitrii Pavlovich Romanov and my other friends. I showed them into the dining room and they stood for a little while, silently examining the spot where Rasputin was to meet his end. I took from the ebony cabinet a box containing the poison and laid it on the table. Dr Lazovert put on rubber gloves and ground the cyanide of potassium crystals to powder. Then, lifting the top of each cake, he sprinkled the inside with a dose of poison, which, according to him, was sufficient to kill several men instantly. There was an impressive silence. We all followed the doctor's movements with emotion. There remained the glasses into which cyanide was to be poured. It was decided to do this at the last moment so that the poison should not evaporate and lose its potency. We had to give the impression of having just finished supper for I had warned Rasputin that when we had guests we took our meals in the basement and that I sometimes stayed there alone to read or work while my friends went upstairs to smoke in my study."

Vladimir Purishkevich supported this story in his book, The Murder of Rusputin (1918): "We sat down at the round tea table and Yusupov invited us to drink a glass of tea and to try the cakes before they had been doctored. The quarter of an hour which we spent at the table seemed like an eternity to me.... Once we finished our tea, we tried to give the table the appearance of having been suddenly left by a large group frightened by the arrival of an unexpected guest. We poured a little tea into each of the cups, left bits of cake and pirozhki on the plates, and scattered some crumbs among several of the crumpled table napkins.... Once we had given the table the necessary appearance, we got to work on the two plates of petits fours. Yusupov gave Dr Lazovert several pieces of the potassium cyanide and he put on the gloves which Yusupov had procured and began to grate poison into a plate with a knife. Then picking out all the cakes with pink cream (there were only two varieties, pink and chocolate), he lifted off the top halves and put a good quantity of poison in each one, and then replaced the tops to make them look right. When the pink cakes were ready, we placed them on the plates with the brown chocolate ones. Then, we cut up two of the pink ones and, making them look as if they had been bitten into, we put these on different plates around the table."

Felix Yusupov added: "It was agreed that when I went to fetch Rasputin, Dmitrii, Purishkevich and Sukhotin would go upstairs and play the gramophone, choosing lively tunes. I wanted to keep Rasputin in a good humour and remove any distrust that might be lurking in his mind." Stanislaus de Lazovert now went to fetch Rasputin in the car. "At midnight the associates of the Prince concealed themselves while I entered the car and drove to the home of the monk. He admitted me in person. Rasputin was in a gay mood. We drove rapidly to the home of the Prince and descended to the library, lighted only by a blazing log in the huge chimney-place. A small table was spread with cakes and rare wines - three kinds of the wine were poisoned and so were the cakes. The monk threw himself into a chair, his humour expanding with the warmth of the room. He told of his successes, his plots, of the imminent success of the German arms and that the Kaiser would soon be seen in Petrograd. At a proper moment he was offered the wine and the cakes. He drank the wine and devoured the cakes. Hours slipped by, but there was no sign that the poison had taken effect. The monk was even merrier than before. We were seized with an insane dread that this man was inviolable, that he was superhuman, that he couldn't be killed. It was a frightful sensation. He glared at us with his black, black eyes as though he read our minds and would fool us."

Vladimir Purishkevich later recalled that Yusupov joined them upstairs and exclaimed: "It is impossible. Just imagine, he drank two glasses filled with poison, ate several pink cakes and, as you can see, nothing has happened, absolutely nothing, and that was at least fifteen minutes ago! I cannot think what we can do... He is now sitting gloomily on the divan and the only effect that I can see of the poison is that he is constantly belching and that he dribbles a bit. Gentlemen, what do you advise that I do?" Eventually it was decided that Yusupov should go down and shoot Rasputin.

According to Yusupov's account: "Rasputin stood before me motionless, his head bent and his eyes on the crucifix. I slowly raised the crucifix. I slowly raised the revolver. Where should I aim, at the temple or at the heart? A shudder swept over me; my arm grew rigid, I aimed at his heart and pulled the trigger. Rasputin gave a wild scream and crumpled up on the bearskin. For a moment I was appalled to discover how easy it was to kill a man. A flick of a finger and what had been a living, breathing man only a second before, now lay on the floor like a broken doll."

Stanislaus de Lazovert agrees with this account except that he was uncertain who fired the shot: "With a frightful scream Rasputin whirled and fell, face down, on the floor. The others came bounding over to him and stood over his prostrate, writhing body. We left the room to let him die alone, and to plan for his removal and obliteration. Suddenly we heard a strange and unearthly sound behind the huge door that led into the library. The door was slowly pushed open, and there was Rasputin on his hands and knees, the bloody froth gushing from his mouth, his terrible eyes bulging from their sockets. With an amazing strength he sprang toward the door that led into the gardens, wrenched it open and passed out." Lazovert added that it was Vladimir Purishkevich who fired the next shot: "As he seemed to be disappearing in the darkness, Purishkevich, who had been standing by, reached over and picked up an American-made automatic revolver and fired two shots swiftly into his retreating figure. We heard him fall with a groan, and later when we approached the body he was very still and cold and - dead."

Felix Yusupov later recalled: "On hearing the shot my friends rushed in. Rasputin lay on his back. His features twitched in nervous spasms; his hands were clenched, his eyes closed. A bloodstain was spreading on his silk blouse. A few minutes later all movement ceased. We bent over his body to examine it. The doctor declared that the bullet had struck him in the region of the heart. There was no possibility of doubt: Rasputin was dead. We turned off the light and went up to my room, after locking the basement door."

The Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov drove the men to Varshavsky Rail Terminal where they burned Rasputin's clothes. "It was very late and the grand duke evidently feared that great speed would attract the suspicion of the police." They also collected weights and chains and returned to Yuspov's home. At 4.50 a.m. Dimitri drove the men and Rasputin's body to Petrovskii Bridge. that crossed towards Krestovsky Island. According to Vladimir Purishkevich: "We dragged Rasputin's corpse into the grand duke's car." Purishkevich claimed he drove very slowly: "It was very late and the grand duke evidently feared that great speed would attract the suspicion of the police." Stanislaus de Lazovert takes up the story when they arrived at Petrovskii: "We bundled him up in a sheet and carried him to the river's edge. Ice had formed, but we broke it and threw him in. The next day search was made for Rasputin, but no trace was found."

Rasputin's body was found on 19th December by a river policeman who was walking on the ice. He noticed a fur coat trapped beneath, approximately 65 metres from the bridge. The ice was cut open and Rasputin's frozen body discovered. The post mortem was held the following day. Major-General Popel carried out the investigation of the murder. By this time Dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert and Lieutenant Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin had fled from the city. He did interview Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, Felix Yusupov and Vladimir Purishkevich, but he decided not to charge them with murder.

Tsar Nicholas II ordered the three men to be expelled from Petrograd. He rejected a petition to allow the conspirators to stay in the city. He replied that "no one had the right to commit murder." Sophie Buxhoeveden later commented: "Though patriotic feeling was supposed to have been the motive of the murder, it was the first indirect blow at the Emperor's authority, the first spark of insurrection. In short, it was the application of lynch law, the taking of law and judgment forcibly into private hands."

Dmitri Pavlovich was sent to the Persian Front and was out of the country during the Russian Revolution. Pavlovich wrote to Prince Felix Yusupov: "Yes! It (the Revolution) has happened! The development of events, the possibility of which you and I had visualised, has come to pass. The final catastrophe has been brought about by the wilful and short-sighted obstinacy of a woman (Alexandra). It has, naturally, swept away Tsarskoe and all of us at one stroke, for now the very name of Romanov is a synonym for every kind of filth and indecency. I regard the future gloomily, and if I had not firm faith in God's mercy, and were not convinced that everything comes to an end that better days must dawn at last - I should most likely have lost courage long ago!"

Pavlovich managed to escape London where he joined up with fellow conspirator, Prince Felix Yusupov. The two men fell out over Yusupov's decision to speak openly about the killing of Grigory Rasputin. He moved to Paris where he had a brief affair with Coco Chanel.

Dmitri Pavlovich with his son and wife.
Dmitri Pavlovich with his son and wife.

In 1927 Pavlovich married an American heiress, Audrey Emery. The following year they had a son, Prince Paul Romanovsky-Ilyinsky. The couple were divorced in 1938 and Audrey took her son to live in the United States.

Pavlovich was active in the pro-fascist Union of Mladorossi. However, it has been argued that he rejected a suggestion by Adolf Hitler to lead exiled Russian soldiers within the German Army as part of Operation Barbarossa. The reason for this was probably for health as much as political reasons.

Dmitri Pavlovich died from kidney failure in Davos, Switzerland, 5th March, 1941.

Primary Sources

(1) General Globachyov, the head of Okhrana, report on the murder of Grigory Rasputin (December, 1916)

On the night from the sixteenth to the seventeenth the point duty policeman heard several shots near 94 Moika, owned by Prince Yusupov. Soon after that the policeman was invited to the study of the young Prince Yusupov, where the prince and a stranger who called himself Purishkevich were present. The latter said: "I am, Purishkevich. Rasputin has perished. If you love the Tsar and fatherland you will keep silent." The policeman reported this to his superiors. The investigation conducted this morning established that one of Yusupov''s guests had fired a shot in the small garden adjacent to No. 94 at around 3 a.m. The garden has a direct entrance to the prince's study. A human scream was heard and following that a sound of a car being driven away. The person who had fired the shot was wearing a military field uniform.

Traces of blood have been found on the snow in the small garden in the course of close examination. When questioned by the governor of the city, the young prince stated that he had had a party that night, but that Rasputin was not there, and that Grand Duke Dmitrii Pavlovich had shot a watchdog. The dog's body was found buried in the snow. The investigation conducted at Rasputin's residence at 64 Gorokhovava Street established that at 10 p.m. on 16 December Rasputin said that he was not going to go out any more that night and was going to sleep. He let off his security and the car in his normal fashion. Questioning the servants and the yard keeper allowed police to establish that at 12:30 a.m, a large canvas-top car with driver and a stranger in it arrived at the house. The stranger entered Rasputin's apartment through the back door. It seemed that Rasputin was expecting him because he greeted him as somebody he knew and soon went outside with him through the same entrance. Rasputin got into the car, which drove of along Gorokhovava Street towards Morskava Street. Rasputin has not returned home and has not been found despite the deployed measures.

(2) Vladimir Mitrofanovich Purishkevich, The Murder of Rusputin (1918)

These were my recollections as I sat in the rear of the car, with the lifeless corpse of the "venerable old man", which we were taking to its eternal resting place, lying at my feet. I looked out of the window. To judge by the surrounding houses and the endless fences, we had already left the city. There were very few lights. The road deteriorated and we hit bumps and holes which made the body lying at our feet bounce around (despite the soldier sitting on it). I felt a nervous tremor run through me at each bump as my knees touched the repulsive, soft corpse which, despite the cold, had not yet completely stiffened. At last the bridge from which we were to fling Rasputin's body into the hole in the ice appeared in the distance. Demitrii Pavlovich slowed down, drove onto the left side of the bridge and stopped by the guard rail....

I opened the car doors quietly and, as quickly as possible, jumped out and went over to the railing. The soldier and Dr Lazovert followed me and then Lieutenant S., who had been sitting by the grand duke, joined us and together we swung Rasputin's corpse and flung it forcefully into the ice hole just by the bridge. (Dmitrii Pavlovich stood guard in front of the car.) Since we had forgotten to fasten the weights on the corpse with a chain, we hastily threw these, one after another, after it. Likewise, we stuffed the chains into the dead man's coat and threw it into the same hole. Next, Dr Lazovert searched in the dark car and found one of Rasputin's boots, which he also flung off the bridge. All of this took no more than two or three minutes. Then Dr Lazovert, Lieutenant S. and the soldier got into the back of the car, and I got in next to Dmitrii Pavlovich. We turned on the headlights again and crossed the bridge.

How we failed to be noticed on the bridge is still amazing to me to this day. For, as we passed the sentry-box, we noticed a guard next to it. But he was sleeping so deeply that he had apparently not woken up even when... we had inadvertently not only lit up his sentry-box, but had even turned the lights on him.

(3) Dmitri Pavlovich, letter to Felix Yusupov (23rd April 1917)

Yes! It (the Revolution) has happened! The development of events, the possibility of which you and I had visualised, has come to pass. The final catastrophe has been brought about by the wilful and short-sighted obstinacy of a woman (Alexandra). It has, naturally, swept away Tsarskoe and all of us at one stroke, for now the very name of Romanov is a synonym for every kind of filth and indecency. I regard the future gloomily, and if I had not firm faith in God's mercy, and were not convinced that everything comes to an end that better days must dawn at last - I should most likely have lost courage long ago!

Ah, how desperately I long at times to have a talk with you! How intensely I long to share my thoughts and opinions with you! We have lived through so much together; it is not often that people meet under such strange conditions. You used to understand me so well; you knew how to support me in moments of trial. For God's sake write to me. What is happening? How are things?

Could you not tentatively inquire what it would be advisable for me to do? Honestly speaking, I have no particular desire to come back to Russia just now; anyhow, what am I to do there? Shall I come back, and, with hands idly folded in my lap, calmly endure all sorts of filthy insinuations only because I bear the name of Romanov and am descended in a straight line from the "Tsar liberator" I cannot do that. Furthermore, I am firmly convinced that, should tile need for my services arise, I shall not be forgotten. So I must again restrain my urgent desire to see you and to speak to you... When all is said and done, we have had sonic delightful times, although we have gone through trying experiences, as for example our separation. But we have had occasion for laughter too...

In finishing this letter, my dear friend, I might even say without fear of exaggeration, my dearest friend, I wish to assure you my sincerest affection. My thoughts often and often fly to you in an eager but impotent desire to help you, or only to be with you. Kiss your wife for me. She will know me better by now from your descriptions of me. I send my love to your parents. Tell your mother that I frequently think of her.

God keep you, my dear friend. Keep up your spirits. I am as yet far from losing courage. For God's sake, write to me as much as you possibly can, and with as many details as you can get in. If you disagree with me, say so outright, we shall understand each other.