1. Many are enthralled by the modesty of Saint Elisabeth and her sister St. Alexandra. Few might be aware, however, that all of their upper-class victorian ancestors - including Queen Victoria - held modesty in high regard. Princess Alice, daughter of Queen Victoria and mother of Elisabeth and Alexandra - had her children do housekeeping work from a very young age. They made their beds, cleaned the rooms, and kept the fire in the fireplace without anyone helping them. Their house was furnished with great simplicity, and their lifestyle was very unpretentious.
2. Saint Elisabeth Feodorovna was struck by the extreme poverty of the peasants in the estate of her husband, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich Romanov. They had no access to a doctor or midwife, and many children died in their infancy. At first, the Duke brushed off his wife's concerns and blamed the peasants' troubles on their heavy drinking. However, she managed to persuade her husband to hire a midwife and build a hospital.
3. Saint Elisabeth was indifferent to light reading. She only read serious literature. English novels were her favourites. With time, she developed a taste for Russian literature. Dostoyevsky's House of the Dead had a profound and stunning effect on her.
4. Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich never asked her to convert to Orthodoxy, leaving her to fight her inner struggle by herself and make her own decision. Not being able to take communion with her husband tormented her. When her anguish was too much to bear, she disclosed it in a letter to her father. She let him know her desire to convert. Most of her family did not take favourably to her decision. Her brother Ernst said she had been seduced by the outward splendour of the Russian Church. "No, outward beauty had nothing to do with my decision", insisted Saint Elisabeth. When she told her husband of her decision to convert, he cried with joy.
5. Elisabeth received her name in honour of Elisabeth of Thuringia, whom she regarded as a model of kindness and generosity. She kept her name after her conversion but chose the mother of Saint John the Baptist as her patron saint.
6. Saint Elisabeth forgave her husband's assassin Ivan Kalyayev fully and unreservedly. She visited him in prison and begged him to repent. The terrorist refused, but her humility softened his heart. She left him an icon, which he put on his bed. Elisabeth Romanov petitioned the Russian Tsar to spare Kalyaev's life. The Tsar refused, but the prosecutor's sent his representative to convince Kalyaev - unsuccessfully - to ask the Tsar for a reprieve.
7. Preparing to establish a convent, Saint Elisabeth was working to revive the office of deaconesses. Some accused her - unjustly - of Protestant leanings because of this. Her only intention was to combine charity with evangelism in the best possible way. In the end, the Russian Orthodox Church refused to institute the ministry of a deaconess. However, Elisabeth Romanov still managed to translate her ideas into practice in her Convent of Saint Martha and Mary.
8. Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna frequented the slums of Khitrovka, an area of Moscow known for its high crime rate. Entering a foul-smelling dwelling in the market shantytown, Elisabeth asked a vagrant to help her carry a bag full of money and gifts for the poor. His peers protested. They said he was the most hopeless thief and the worst scoundrel in the neighbourhood. They said that she would be a fool to trust him, but she did not listen. The man helped her with gladness and went on to work at her convent, where he accepted Christ.
9. A revolutionary visited the Martha and Mary Convent for the first time and had a long conversation with Saint Elisabeth Romanov about socialism and Christianity. After the talk, the man, most probably a student, declared, "Who knows, perhaps we are after the same goal, but we are following different routes".
10. Together with the other royal martyrs, Saint Elisabeth Romanov was thrown into an abandoned mine. In agonising pain, she continued to care for her fellow victims to her last breath, tearing up her cloth veil to dress their wounds.
Archpriest Artemis (Vladimirov), the Spiritual Father of Moscow's St. Elisabeth Gymnasium and a writer, discusses the relevance of the martyrdom of Grand Duchess Elisabeth Romanov and the Russian royal family to the present.
Historian Dmitry Grishin the author of a literary biography of Elisabeth Romanov published in Russian as a part of the book series "Outstanding People". We asked him to talk about Elisabeth Romanov as a wife and almsgiver, and how these two…