In the fall of 1898 Alix found
herself with child again. It was becoming her obsession to have
a son, someone to continue the Imperial Lineage. Like during her
previous pregnancy Alix found herself easily tired, near faint at
times, and used a wheelchair to get about. As the spring of 1899
was giving way to summer, Alix began to feel pains in her stomach
every day. This lasted three weeks, until the rainy day of 14 June
A happy day: the Lord sent
us a third daughter - Maria, who was safely born at 12:10! Alix
hardly slept all night, and towards the morning the pains got
stronger. Thank God it was all over quite quickly! My darling
felt well all day and fed the baby herself. Mama arrived from
Gatchina at 4 o'clock. The immediate family gathered in church
for a Te Deum. Had tea with Mama; wrote telegrams and went through
the unbearable papers. I only managed to get out into the fresh
air after dinner - the evening was marvellous.
Diary, Peterhof, 14 June~
What a joy that everything has
ended safely, and the anxiety of waiting is over at last, but what
a disappointment that it isn't a son. Poor Alix! We, of course,
are delighted either way - whether it's a son or a daughter!
~Xenia's Diary, 14 June~
of not producing an Heir was felt by both parents, having to deal
not only with their own disappointment, but the entire country's
as well. Their answer to a third daughter: a telegram which only
bore Maria's title and name.
A 2 o'clock I received a telegram:
THE GRAND DUCHESS MARIA NICOLAIEVNA
And so, there's no Heir. The whole of Russia will be disappointed
by this news.
~KR's Diary, 14 June~
15 June, 1899, Abas Tuman
My dear Nicky
I congratulate you and Alix with
all my heart on this new happiness for your family - the birth of
your third daughter. I had been waiting for this news for over two
weeks and was surprised at such a delay. I hope that Alix is well
and that everything is fine. I am terribly sad and upset that I
have not yet been able to see your daughters and get to know them;
when can I do! It means it's not my fate, and everything is the
will of God.
~An excerpt of Tsarevich Georgy's last letter
Maria spent her first days with
her Mama on the balcony at Peterhof, as the weather had turned unusually
hot that season for being so far north. Everyone marvelled at Marie's
amiable disposition, always smiling and happy. The Children's Governess
declared that she was born good, "with the very smallest trace
of original sin possible." But she was, after all, only human.
I remember a Miss Eager, Maria's
nurse, who was mad on politics and would talk incessantly about
the Dreyfus case. Once she even forgot that Maria was in her bath,
and started discussing the case with a friend. Maria, naked and
dripping, scrambled out of the tub and started running up and down
the palace corridor. Fortunately I arrived just at that moment,
picked her up, and carried her back to Miss Eager who was still
talking about Dreyfus!
~Olga Alexandrovna's Memoirs~
she was still a toddler she was in her mother's boudoir with her
sisters as her parents took tea. Along with tea, tiny vanilla flavoured
wafers were served. The children were not allowed to ask for anything
from their parents' table during tea, but temptation proved too
great for Maria. She grabbed a wafer and shoved it in her mouth.
By the time Miss Eager was called Mashka stood in the middle of
the room, her cheeks stained with tears. She swallowed the wafer
and boldly declared:
Dere! Ive eaten it all up,
you cant eat it now.
Everyone was shocked
at this sudden outburst of disobedience, from the angel no less!
Bed was suggested as punishment. Alix relented to Miss Eager, but
Nicky interjected, begging that she be allowed to stay with them.
I was always afraid of the wings
growing, and I am glad to see she is only a human child.
Despite the occassional battles
in her head reared by original sin, goodness ruled her heart and will.
She was constantly held up as an example to her older sisters. Olga
and Tatiana were jealous of this new addition; a typical occurance
in large, growing families. They weren't willing to share their playtime
with Mashka. She was too good and too perfect, until they finally
declared her a stepsister. Miss Eager warned them against pushing
their sister away, that assuredly one day they would be punished for
One day they made a house with chairs at one end of the nursery
and shut out poor Maria, telling her she might be the footman, but
that she should stay outside. I made another house at the other
end for the baby, then a few months old, but her eyes always kept
traveling to the other end of the room and the attractive play going
on there. She suddenly dashed across the room, rushed into the house,
dealt each sister a slap in the face, and ran into the next room,
coming back dressed in a dolls cloak and hat, and with her
hands full of small toys. "I wont be a footman,
Ill be the kind, good aunt, who brings presents, she
said. She then distributed her gifts, kissed her nieces,
and sat down. The other children looked shamefacedly from one to
the other, and then Tatiana said, We were too cruel to poor
little Maria, and she really couldnt help beating us.
They had learned their lesson - from that hour they respected her
rights in the family.
~Miss Eager's Memoirs~
plump cherub grew into a good natured, wholesome little girl. Marie
was an avid daydreamer. One of her favourite places in Tsarskoe
Selo was out back by the Children's Island, where she could lay
among daiseys and lilis. The peaceful ambiance fed her imagination.
Her greatest hope was to one day be married and a mother. She had
a girlish fascination with officers and tried her best to be among
them whenever possible.
One day the little Grand Duchess
Maria was looking out of the window at the regiment of soldiers
marching past, and exclaimed, Oh! I love these dear soldiers;
I should like to kiss them all! I said, Maria, nice
little girls dont kiss soldiers. She made no remark.
A few days afterwards we had a childrens party, and the Grand
Duke Constantines children were amongst the guests. One of
them, having reached twelve years of age, had been put into the
Corps de Cadets, and came in his uniform. He wanted to kiss his
little cousin Maria, but she put her hand over her mouth and drew
back from the proffered embrace. Go away, soldier, said
she, with great dignity. I dont kiss soldiers.
The boy was greatly delighted at being taken for a real soldier,
and not a little amused at the same time.
~Miss Eager's Memoirs~
Mashka was big boned and physically
very strong like her grandfather Alexander III. She was interested
in clothes and perfume like Tatiana, but not to her sister's extent.
She enjoyed painting and drawing, and always did so left-handed. She
had great artistic talent, but lacked the drive to study it seriously.
Marie joined her sisters in the classroom in the fall of 1907. Her
tutors found her smart, but fought against her idleness. She was never
good at spelling but enjoyed her lessons in English, as well as other
foreign languages, arithmetic, history, dance, drama...
Maria was a fine girl, tall for her
age, and a picture of glowing health and colour. She had large and
beautiful gray eyes. Her tastes were very simple, and with her warm
heart she was kindness itself. Her sisters took advantage somewhat
of good nature, and called her "fat little bow-wow'" (Le
Bon Gros Tou-tou). She certainly had the benevolent and somewhat gauche
devotion of a dog.
She was taught to act like a Lady
in the highest sense of the word since she was just a toddler. Yet
Maria was bold, spontaneous, and blunt in her conversations. With
an innocent curiosity she carefully logged each and every detail concerning
her father's officers. She knew their names, their family's, and of
their lives at home.
She was broad-boned and physically
very strong.... She was the most unaffected, affectionate, and friendly
member of the family. By nature, she was the archetypal mother. She
loved little children, especially playing with and fussing over them.
She loved being with ordinary people: she would talk to the soldiers,
asking them about their homelife.
When she was younger Mashka was plump and somewhat clumsy, making
her a perfect target for her family's jokes. Alix was concerned for
her daughter's figure, and was pleased that the extra weight started
vanishing with puberty. Maria grew into her feminine stature gracefully.
The clumsiness was replaced by self assurance. She always had an attractive
and flirtatious manner about her. In her teens she blossomed into
a regal young woman, though always retained a certain level of naivety.