||Portrait of Empress Maria Alexandrovna
Oil on canvas
Maria Alexandrovna (1824-1880), nee Maximiliana-Wilhelmina-Augusta-Sophia-Maria, was the daughter of Grand Duke Ludwig II of Hessen-Darmstadt and Duchess Wilhelmina-Louisa. She lost her mother when she was 9 years old, and a governess brought up the princess and her brother in the castle of Jugendheim near Darmstadt. In 1841, the princess arrived in St. Petersburg, where she converted to Orthodoxy and received the name Maria Alexandrovna. On April 14, 1841, her wedding to the heir to the Russian throne, Grand Duke Alexander Nikolayevich (later Alexander II), took place in the Winter Palace. Continuing the tradition begun by Empress Maria Fyodorovna, wife of Paul I, Maria Alexandrovna patronized many charitable institutions in Russia, including the Red Cross. Due to her frail health, Maria Alexandrovna lived in seclusion during her last years and did not take part in the life of the Russian court.