Prince Vladimir Paley, first cousin of the last Tsar, was a poet among the Romanovs, but not a Romanov. The rules of the Imperial family prevented him from being considered a member of the dynasty, due to the “unequal” marriage of his parents. This circumstance could have saved his life; however, when he was requested by the Bolshevik regime to deny his beloved father, Grand Duke Paul of Russia, he remained loyal to the ties of affection and honor, and chose captivity and death instead.
Brutally murdered in 1918, when he already seemed called to become one of the great characters of Russian literature, - his poetry, full of passionate feeling, young freshness and sometimes mystic depth, was forgotten for political reasons, while his beloved country lived under a regime of terror of which he was one of the first victims. His only “crime” was to be related to a dynasty of which he had not even been an official member.
“Volodya was an extraordinary being, a living instrument of rare sensitiveness, which could of itself produce sounds of startling melody and purity, and create a world of bright images and harmonies. In years and experience he was still a child, but his spirit had penetrated into regions reached only by a few. He had genius…”
This was the way Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, daughter of Grand Duke Paul of Russia and his first wife, Alexandra of Greece, spoke of her younger brother in her autobiography Education of a princess, and she was quite right: Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley was indeed an extraordinarily gifted character and a most remarkable poet.
Prince Vladimir was born in St. Petersburg on December 28, 1896. He was the son of the Grand Duke Paul, youngest son of Emperor Alexander II, and of Olga Valerianovna Karnovich, the daughter of a chamberlain in the Imperial Court. Since his parents’ marriage was considered to be morganatic, Vladimir could not use his father’s surname of Romanov, but was later granted the title of Prince Paley by a special decree of Tsar Nicholas II.
Prince Vladimir spent his childhood in Paris, where his parents at first lived in exile after their unauthorized marriage (according to Russian Imperial family law), in an atmosphere of great love and tenderness. Since his early years, it was clear that he was an extraordinarily gifted child. He learned quickly to play the piano and other instruments, and revealed most remarkable skills for drawing and painting. He learned to read and write with similar ability in French, English and German, and later in Russian as well. At a very early age he astounded people by his extensive reading and his extraordinary memory. His elder half-sister Maria wrote:
“When he was still a baby, there was something indefinable about him that set him apart from the others… His parents saw how different he was from the others and wisely did not try to shape him according to pattern, as had been done with us. They allowed him comparative freedom to develop his unusual abilities.”
After lengthy negotiations with the Imperial Court, in 1907 the Grand Duke Paul finally succeeded in obtaining Tsar Nicholas II’s pardon for his unauthorized marriage, as well as permission for the whole family to return to Russia. The Grand Duke wanted his son to follow the dynastic tradition of an army career, and in 1908 Prince Vladimir became a student in the Corps-des-Pages, the Saint Petersburg military school for aristocratic youngsters.
Throughout his stay in the Corps-des-Pages, Vladimir continued privately to school himself in painting and music. And it was around 1910 that the young prince started to write poetry, a vocation that he would never abandon. His mother wrote:
“Ever since the age of thirteen Vladimir had been writing delightful verses… Each time he returned home, his poetic talent displayed itself more decidedly… He availed himself of every free moment to devote his mind to his cherished poetry. By temperament a dreamer, he observed everything, and nothing escaped his subtle, watchful attention… He loved Nature ardently. He went into ecstasy over everything God had created. A moonbeam inspired him, the scent of a flower gave him an idea for a poem. He had a prodigious memory. What he knew, what he had time to read in his short life, was truly marvelous. ”
Nasceu no dia 9 de Janeiro de 1897 e era um conhecido poeta. O seu pai era o Grão-Duque Paulo que se casou com a sua mãe sem a autorização do Czar depois de a sua primeira esposa, a Princesa Alexandra da Grécia, morrer ao dar à luz o meio-irmão de Vladimir, Dmitri que foi um dos assassinos de Rasputine e, por isso, nasceu sem qualquer título. No entanto, à medida que os pretendentes ao trono iam morrendo, o pai de Vladimir aproximava-se, por isso o Czar Nicolau II elevou-o a Conde em 1904 e, finalmente, a Príncipe em 1915.
Vladimir tinha dois meios-irmãos do primeiro casamento do pai (Maria Pavlovna e Dmitri Pavlovich) e três do primeiro casamento da mãe (Alexandre, Olga e Mariana von Pistohlkors). Além dos meios-irmãos tinha duas irmãs biológicas chamadas Irina e Natália Pavlovna.
Passou a sua infância em Paris e mais tarde frequentou a mesma academia militar dos primos Constantinovich em São Petersburgo. Lutou pelo lado russo na Primeira Guerra Mundial e foi condecorado com a Ordem de Santa Ana pelos seus esforços.
Desde a adolescência, Vladimir mostrou um grande talento para a poesia e publicou dois livros com os seus poemas em 1916 e em 1918 além de várias peças e ensaios. Também foi ele que traduziu a peça do Grão-Duque Constantino Constantinovich, “O Rei dos Judeus” para francês.
No Verão de 1917 ele e a sua família foram condenados a prisão domiciliária devido a um poema que ele tinha escrito sobre o chefe do Governo Provisório, Alexandre Kerensky. Em Março de 1918 foi preso pelos bolcheviques e enviado para exílio com os seus primos. O seu pai foi preso em São Petersburgo.
God is in Every Place and Thing…
God is in every place and thing,
Not only in our lucky star,
Not only in the fragrant flower,
Not just in joys sweet dreams bring,
But also in the darkness of poverty,
The sightless terror of our vanity,
In hurtful things, where light is not,
In things to bear which is our lot…
God’s in the tears of our pain,
The wordless sorrow of goodbyes,
The faithless seekings of our brain,
In suffering itself is God.
It is through life upon this sod,
That we must reach the unknown land,
Where the crimson trails of nails
Lord Christ will touch the wounds of man.
And that is why all flesh must die,
And why God is in all that is.
by Prince Vladimir Paley