Olga Nikolaevna of Russia

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Olga Nikolaevna of Russia : biography

11 September 1822 – 30 October 1892

Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna of Russia (11 September 1822 – 30 October 1892), later Queen Olga of Württemberg, was a member of the Russian imperial family who became Queen Consort of Württemberg.

She was the second daughter of Nicholas I of Russia and Charlotte of Prussia. She was thus a sister of Alexander II of Russia. She married Charles I of Württemberg, with whom she had no children.

Early life

Grand Duchess Olga of Russia was born on 11 September 1822 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Her father was Emperor Nicholas I of Russia, the son of Emperor Paul I of Russia and Empress Maria of Russia (née Princess Sophia Dorothea of Württemberg). Her mother was Empress Alexandra of Russia (née Princess Charlotte of Prussia), the daughter of King Frederick William III of Prussia and Queen Louise of Prussia (née Princess Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz).

Olga grew up as part of a close family of eight sisters and brothers. She had two elder siblings: Emperor Alexander II of Russia and Grand Duchess Maria of Russia; and five younger siblings: Grand Duchess Alexandra of Russia, Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia (died in infancy), Grand Duke Constantine of Russia, Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia and Grand Duke Michael of Russia.

Attractive, cultured and intelligent, she was considered to be one of the most eligible princesses in Europe. She spoke several languages, and was fond of music and painting.


Royal Monogram as Queen of Württemberg King [[Charles I of Württemberg and Queen Olga with their foster daughter Grand Duchess Vera of Russia]] Olga met Crown Prince Charles of Württemberg in early 1846 in Palermo, Two Sicilies. Her parents wished that she make a dynastic marriage, especially since her siblings Alexander, Maria and Alexandra had married relatively insignificant royal partners. There had already been several marriages between members of the Russian Imperial Family and members of the Württemberg Royal Family (in addition to the marriage between Olga’s paternal grandparents): Olga’s future father-in-law, King William I of Württemberg, married Olga’s paternal aunt, Grand Duchess Catherine of Russia; Olga’s paternal uncle, Grand Duke Michael of Russia, married William I’s niece, Princess Charlotte of Württemberg.

Olga gave her consent to Charles’ proposal of marriage after only a few meetings, on 18 January. The wedding was held in great splendor on 13 July 1846 at the Peterhof Palace, Russia. The couple came back from Russia to Württemberg on 23 September. They lived mostly in the Villa Berg in Stuttgart and in the Kloster Hofen in Friedrichshafen.

The couple had no children, probably because of Charles’ homosexuality. Olga’s husband became the object of scandal several times for his closeness with various men. The most notorious of these was the American Charles Woodcock, a former chamberlain whom Charles elevated to Baron Savage in 1888. The resulting outcry forced Charles to renounce his favourite. In 1863, Olga and Charles adopted Olga’s niece, Grand Duchess Vera of Russia, the daughter of Olga’s brother Grand Duke Constantine.

On 25 June 1864, after the death of his father, Charles acceded the throne and became the third king of Württemberg, making Olga the fourth queen of Württemberg. The new king was enthroned on 12 July 1864.


Work and influence

With no children of her own, Olga dedicated her life to social causes. She was especially interested in the education of girls, and also supported wounded veterans and the handicapped. A children’s hospital of Stuttgart, the Olgahospital, was named for her in 1849; and an order of Protestant nursing nuns of Stuttgart, the Olgaschwesternschaft, was named for her in 1872. These charitable enterprises made her very popular among her subjects, much more so than her husband.

Olga was fond of agriculture and was keenly interested in all happenings on her farming estate which was located in the German Volhynia colony of Russia. She received detailed reports from her ward Karl Alexander Wieler, a Württemberg orphan, who managed her estate and would rise to prominence in Russia’s Imperial government owing to this Imperial association.