Extracts from Letters of the Holy New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth to her Nephew the Martyred Emperor Nicholas II
- Extracts from Letters of the Holy New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth to her
Nephew the Martyred Emperor Nicholas II
There survive some 100 letters and cards written by the Grand Duchess
Elizabeth to Nicholas II. They were all written in English, although the
Grand Duchess sometimes uses expressions in Russian, French or German. In
the extracts selected below, originally published in the Russian journal
Istochnik No 4, 1994, all Russian words have been translated into English
and here appear in italics. Expressions in other languages are translated
in brackets after them.
5 January 1891
?It was an eventful day also for me as Serge afterwards spoke about his
religion to me and I said then I should like to know it more thoroughly.
Well a year and a half have passed and that summer I read lots with him but
then came again many months of doubts and worries. I always wished to put
off although au fond de mon coeur (at the bottom of my heart) I already
belonged to your religion. Alas I am very bad and did not have enough
strength, enough faith. I felt at last how wicked it was so as to keep off
worries and painful conversations with my old friends that I continued in
outward forms and before the world to be a protestant when my soul already
belonged to the Orthodox belief - it was lying before God and man and a
very great sin, and I do so heartily repent?
18 April 1909
?You mention the spirit of delusion into which alas one can fall and of
which often with Serge we have talked about. He with his large heart and
tact whilst I was protestant never forced his religion upon me and found
strength to bear up in this great grief of not seeing me in his faith,
thanks to Fr John, who told him 'Leave her alone, don't speak about our
faith, she will come to it of herself' and thank God it was so. Well,
Serge, who knew his faith and lived in it as perfectly as a true Orthodox
Christian can, brought me up and thank God warned me against this spirit of
delusion you talk of. My nature is too calm to be carried away in that
direction, but yet one must always be on one's guard as the devil slips in
when we least expect?
?I took up the life I am now leading not as a cross - but as a road full of
light God showed me after Serge's death and which years and years before
had begun in my soul. I can't tell you when - it seems to me often that
already as a child there was a longing to help those that suffer. Above all
those who have moral sufferings?In my life I had so much joy - in my
sorrows so much boundless comfort, that I long to give a little of that to
others. I could write pages and pages, and yet it is difficult to put on
paper all I feel. I long to thank and thank every minute for all God gave
me and long to bring Him my feeble gratitude by serving Him and His
suffering children. Oh, this is not a new feeling, this is an old one which
always was in me. God has been so kind to me?
?I - good gracious - what am I, no better and probably worse than others.
If people may have said foolish exaggerated things it is my fault, but they
don't say it to my face, they know I hate flattery as a dangerous poison. I
can't help people loving me, but then you see I love them and they feel it.
I try to do my best for them and people can be grateful although one must
never expect it. I don't one minute think I have taken up a spiritual feat,
it is a joy, I don't see my crosses nor feel them because of the boundless
kindness of God I have always felt - I long to thank Him?
?Our lectures with the priest are most interesting - quite exceptionally so
as he not only has his deep faith but has read immensely. He begins from
the Bible and will end by church history and all showing the way how the
sisters can after speak and help those in moral suffering. You know the Fr
Mitrophan and had a good impression at Sarov, at Orel he was adored and
here many come from far to our little church and find strength in his
beautiful simple sermons and confession. He is large, nothing of the
narrow-minded bigot, all founded on God's boundless love and forgiveness -
a true Orthodox priest keeping strictly to our Church - for our work God's
blessing, as he has laid the foundation as it ought to be - so many he has
brought back to faith, put on the right road, so many thank me for the
great blessing they have received being able to come to him. No exaltation
- but you know me well enough that I love calm deep religion and would not
choose a fanatic as priest in one way or the other?
?My darling Serge rests in God with so many he loved who have gone to join
him and God has given me on this earth a beautiful work to fulfil. Will I
do it well or badly He only knows but I will try my best and I put my hand
in His and go with no fear whatever the crosses and criticism this world
may have in store - little by little my life has turned onto this way. It
is not a fantasy of the moment and no disappointment ever can come - I can
be disappointed in myself but then I also have no illusion and don't
imagine I am different to others. I want to work for God and in God for
suffering mankind and in my old age when my body can't anymore work I hope
God will let me then rest and pray for the work I began and then I will go
out of the busy life and prepare for that great home - but I have health
and energy and there is so, so much misery and Christ's steps as guide are
amongst the suffering in whom we help Him?
?If you find a minute's time to answer me, please do and say if you
understand all and perhaps a kind little word add in your English letter in
Russian that I can read it to the priest where you say you believe in him
and are sure he will know how to help me if God wills difficult moments to
come?He confesses me, guides me in the church and gives me an immense help
and example through his pure simple life, so modest and high in its
boundless love for God and the Orthodox Church. Only to speak to him for a
few minutes one sees he is modest, pure and a man of God, and God's servant
in our church?
26 March 1910
?'Patience is the home of the soul, humility is the food of the soul' - one
must not look from above down, one must feel oneself the worst of the
worse, It seemed to me often like false to try and acknowledge one is the
worst of the worse but that is to what we must come - with God's help all
is possible. Don't look on my letter as a long epistle of preaching - I
call it my confession to you. In two weeks my new life blessed I the church
begins. I am as if bidding goodbye to the past its faults and sins and with
the hope of a higher goal and a purer existence. Pray for me deary. Oh, if
you came and then spent the week of Lent and Easter - my taking of vows is
even more serious than if a young girl marries. I am espousing Christ and
His cause, I am giving all I can to him and our neighbours, I am going
deeper into our Orthodox Church and becoming a missionary of Christian
faith and charity work and Oh dear I am so unworthy of it all and I do so
want blessings and prayers?
7 April 1910
Dearest brother dear,
I ask your blessing, prayers and forgiveness before the solemn day I am
approaching. May God help me to be worthy of this task which is one of deep
joy and soul's peace for me. May my humble trials find acceptance in His
sight and may you deary as my earthly Sovereign get a little help in your
work which I will try to do with God's help by bringing comfort to your
children. Please please be convinced - that however awkward or sinful my
poor earthly life may go - I am a true subject of yours - the will is
always full of good intentions and religious wishes even if on the way I
stumble and make endless mistakes. Serge died with joy for you and his
country. It was two days before that he said how willingly he would give
his blood if thereby he could be of help. I hope God may give me strength
that never one can say I was unworthy of having been in olden times guided
by such a true noble husband and true Christian.
With all my heart I kiss you and send my humble blessings and prayers.
Your true old friend and Sister,
13 April 1916
?Today is 25 years I entered our beloved church and we had mass and a big
Te Deum with the clergy who gave me images, also the Palestine Society. In
soul I was with Papa, Mama who was my God-mother and Serge reliving these
years which in a month will be 25 in Moscow. All melts into intense
gratitude to God, our Church and the noble examples I could see of true
Orthodox people and I only feel so small and unworthy of God's boundless
love and of the love I received in Russia - even the moments of sorrow were
lit up with such comfort from above, the little human misunderstandings
were so lovingly smoothed down that I can say 'thank God for all'.
Pray for me deary and bless me.
Your loving old Sister and humble subject and friend