Prince Vladimir was born Vladimir von Pistohlkors in Saint Petersburg, Russia. His parents were Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia, the youngest child of Emperor Alexander II, and his father’s mistress, Olga Valerianovna Paley, who was then still married to her first husband. In 1902, Grand Duke Paul—who had previously been married to Princess Alexandra of Greece and Denmark and had two children by her—wed Olga morganatically. In 1904, she was created Countess von Hohenfelsen by Prince Regent Luitpold of Bavaria, making Vladimir Count Vladimir von Hohenfelsen. In 1915 Olga was created Princess Paley by Nicholas II, making Vladimir a prince.
Prince Vladimir had two elder half-siblings of his father’s marriage to Alexandra Georgievna of Greece, née Princess Alexandra of Greece and Denmark: Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia. He had two full sisters, both of whom eventually were styled Her Serene Highness Princess Paley, Irina Pavlovna and Natalia Pavlovna. He also had three half siblings from his mother’s first marriage: Alexander Erikovich von Pistohlkors, Olga Erikovna von Pistohlkors, and Marianna Erikovna (or Marianne) von Pistohlkors.
He spent his childhood in Paris and later graduated from the Corps de Pages, an aristocratic military school in Saint Petersburg. He fought with the Russian army in the First World War and was decorated as a war hero with the Order of Saint Anne.
Even as a teenager Vladimir Paley showed remarkable talent as a poet. He published two volumes of poetry (1916 and 1918) and wrote several plays and essays, as well as a magnificent French translation of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovitch’s play The King of the Jews.
In the summer of 1917 he and his family were placed for a short while under house arrest by the Provisional Government, because of a poem he wrote about Aleksandr Kerensky. In March 1918 he was arrested by the Bolsheviks and sent to exile in Vyatka and later Ekaterinburg and Alapaevsk. He was brutally murdered in a mineshaft near Alapaevsk, together with his cousins Prince Ioann Konstantinovich of Russia, Konstantin Konstantinovich of Russia, Prince Igor Konstantinovich of Russia, and other relatives. Their bodies were recovered and buried months later in an Orthodox cemetery in Beijing, China, which was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.
A biography of Prince Vladimir Paley by Andrey Baranovsky was published in 1997 in Russian, and another (A Poet Among The Romanovs) by Jorge F. Saenz in 2004, in both Russian and English.
Saenz, Jorge F., A poet among the Romanovs, Eurohistory, 2004.
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