Mathilde Kschessinska - First Russian Prima Ballerina Abssoluta

Mathilde Kschessinska, or as many may also have known her, “Her Serene Highness Princess Romanova-Krasinskaya”, was the first Russian prima ballerina assoluta in the world. She is also well known for her love affair with future Emperor Nicholas II who at that point had never been with any other women.

Mathilde joined and performed at the Mariinsky Theatre of St. Petersburg like so many of her other Polish family members. In 1893, Pierina Legnani astounded the world with thirty-two uninterrupted fouettes in the play, Cinderella. Kschessinska was the first to repeat this amazing feat again. Prima ballerina assoluta is the highest title a ballerina can be given and Pierina and Mathilde were the only two Imperial Russians to attain to such a high status.

Mathilde Kschessinska’s name continued to be put through the mud with many scandals and rumors, especially when she formed a menage a trios with Sergei Mikhailovich and his cousin Andrei Vladimirovich, two Grand Dukes of the Romanov family. The house of the Romanov’s was the last imperial dynasty of Russia, which ruled the Russian and Muscovy Empire.

Kschessinska had many aristocratic connections, which helped her to accumulate a fortune in valuable property in the Russian capital. Infact, her connections were such that she had Lenin, the first head of Soviet Russia, address a revolutionary crowd from the elegant balcony of her house after he returned from Finland in 1917.

When the Russian Revolution had subsided, Mathilde Kschessinska moved to the French Rivera, and later in 1921, to the French capital. There she married Grand Duke Andrey Vladimirovich Romanov, one of the tsar’s cousins, and in the same year had a son with him, which they called Prince Vladmir Romanovsky-Krasinsky.

Eight years later she opened up her very own ballet school, and there she had the opportunity to teach Dame Margot Fonteyn, the only ballerina in England to attain to the title of Prime ballerina assolute, Andre Eglevsky, Dame Alicia Markova an English Prima ballerina and Tamara Toumanova. Kschessinska performed for one last time at a charity event in Covent Gardens at the age of 64. She then published her autobiography, in 1960, called Dancing in St. Petersburg: The Memoirs of Kschessinska. Twelve years later, a few months before her 100th birthday she died.


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