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The Baroness and the Child

The Baroness Buxhoeveden once shared with me from her passionate memory an extravagant anecdote. She was a child, and still living with her grandfather in the country near the Volga.

“I often rode the pony that my grandfather gave to me. He was incredibly fast. One autumn day, when I was only six years old, I was riding the pony along the main road. It had rained heavily and the deep ravines were full of thick brown mud. The groom suggested that we take a shortcut through a garden. I accepted this plan and we proceeded slowly through the gates, making our way carefully along a thick carpet of dead leaves hoping to avoid the hidden mole holes. We went single file through the brush, the branches of the wild shrubs lashing our mounts.

Suddenly, from the dense vegetation a silhouette appeared. It was a young boy with dark hair and a very pale face, he was wearing the cap of a schoolboy and a red shirt with an embroidered collar. He grabbed my bridle. ‘You’re on my land!’ he cried in a surprisingly high-pitched voice. ‘This is private property! Get out of my garden, you and your tousled head!’

I was scared. I had never been spoken to so harshly. I was hurt by the insult about my curly hair, curls that I had previously been so proud of. The groom became indignant. “This is the young baroness! The young daughter of Piotr Gavrilovitch! She is too small to ride her pony through the thick mud! We have to take the shortcut. Anyway, the gate was open!’

“Little or not, out!” he screamed ferociously. He then grabbed the head of my horse and turned it back towards the gate, pushing me out. The groom was forced to follow, deeply insulted.

Back home, my mother scolded the groom for having brought me on their land. ‘Stay away from those people.’”

And yet, the young baroness had already gotten close to them.

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“Not far from our home, there was a small, miserable village, Kokoushkino. The thatched cottages were run down, and the peasants were extremely impoverished. In the middle of the village there was one of those small manor houses Turgenev loved to describe. It had a veranda and a portico supported by white pillars with flaking and chipping paint. Many of the windows were broken and vines were growing through the floorboards of the veranda. A small calf tied to a post in the abandoned courtyard was the only sign that the home was inhabited.

I passed by there frequently. One or two times during my childhood, I saw an old woman with white hair dressed in an ugly black robe, erring around like a ghost. The groom, a round-faced boy from the village told me she was ‘the old Barina Ulyanov’. The name meant nothing to me. (“Barina” signifies “wife of a lord” in Russian). However, in time it would become quite notorious. The Ulyanovs were part of the local, provincial aristocracy. The father was dead and his widow, along with her young son, lived there during the first years of the last decade of the 19th century. Their older son had been hanged for his participation in a plot to assassinate Tsar Alexander III.

The young son of the impoverished widow, the young boy who chased the young Baroness Buxhoeveden from his garden, Vladimir Ulyanov, in his childhood a righteous defender of private property, would become famous after taking the surname “Lenin”.


Photographs by Justin Creedy Smith

by  Prince Michael of Greece

7 comments on “The Baroness and the Child

  1. Lecamus eric

    Cher Prince Michel de Grèce.. Toujours aussi réjouissantes vos chroniques que je lis comme les contes d’autrefois avec gourmandise.. Merci…

  2. Pascal HERVE

    Christ est ressuscité !

    Monseigneur ,

    Permettez moi de vous remercier très chaleureusement d’avoir pris l’initiative de créer ce site et de nous faire partager vos souvenirs , vos voyages , vos réflexions .
    Toutes ces anecdotes , magnifiquement racontées , sont d’un grand intérêt pour moi qui croit que l’Histoire est faite aussi et peut être surtout par des hommes et des femmes exceptionnels , elles sont aussi un grand dépaysement dans un monde qui semble s’enfoncer dans la médiocrité .
    Veuillez agréer , Monseigneur , l’hommage de mon profond respect .

  3. Alan Korutos-Chatham de Bolivar

    A most interesting story, who indeed would have imagined the future of that boy a harsh defender of private propeerty become what we know of how he turned up. There is not only a story in that but History .
    Many thanks for sharing,
    With warmest regards
    Alan K-Ch

  4. André Santos

    Príncipe Michael, que anedota deliciosa! Gosto muito das postagens de Vossa Alteza Real. Parabéns pelo site!

    Cordiais Saudações desde o Brasil.


    André Santos

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