Maria Feodorovna, Tsarina of all the Russias, Patron of the Impoverished Nobility

December 26, 2011

Maria Feodorovna, wife of Paul I, Tsarina of all the Russias

Maria Feodorovna, Tsarina of all the Russias, was born princess of Württemberg on October 25, 1758. She was the second wife of Tsar Paul I, who fought against Napoleon Bonaparte, when the latter began to expand the egalitarian tenets of the French Revolution militarily to the rest of Europe.

Painting by Galaktionov S. F. of the Smolny Institute in 1823.

Among her numerous accomplishments, Tsarina Maria is justly celebrated for building the Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens in 1806-08. Impoverished members of the Russian nobility sent their young daughters to this imperial finishing school which prepared them for the arduous life and responsibilities of a noblewoman, be it at court, be it elsewhere. While the normal academic disciplines were not neglected, the Smolny Institute specialized in developing the social graces and cultural talents of the young ladies entrusted to its charge.

The last graduates of the Smolny Institute before the Revolution of 1917.

Tsarina Maria’s patronage of the Smolny Institute was a most wise and beneficent initiative and it gave rise to similar institutions for young girls of the nobility throughout the Russian Empire, for example, the Institute for Noble Ladies in Kiev, Ukraine.

For over 100 years, the young ladies graduating from the halls of the Smolny Institute contributed in no small measure to the brilliance, influence and glory of the Russian nobility within the Empire and throughout European high society. This noble influence endured until the atheistic and egalitarian Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

Tsarina Maria died in Pavlosk, Russia, on November 5, 1828.

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