Grand duchess 1819-1876
The unlikeliest source of controversy, Maria was the daughter of Nicholas I and a great patron of the arts and charity. When she and her womanising husband, Maximilian de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg, began to drift apart Maria fell for Count Gregori Alexandrovich Stroganov who the rumour mill insisted was the real father of her son, George.
Following Maximilian’s death the two married in secret, terrified of her father’s wrath. When Nicholas I died, she had slightly better luck with her brother Alexander I. Although he refused to legitimise their union, he suggested they live abroad while he provide for the children of her first marriage.
Maria Nikolaevna was otherwise the dutiful daughter and duchess