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Great Grand Uncle Alexander

Great grand uncle Aleksandr Dimitrievic Deshayes, Colonel in the Imperial Artillery and a Commandant of the Corps des Pages, the most élite of the Russian military schools (created in 1759 by Emperor Alexander I - Decembrist Prince Sergei Volkonsky, who inspired Leo Tolstoy for the character of Prince Andrei Bolkonsky in War and peace, graduated there).

The latter duty makes him responsible for escorting Princess Alix Victoria Helena Luise Beatrice Hessen-Darmstadt from the German border to Moscow on the eve of her marriage with Tsar Nicholas II, held on 26th November 1894, after which she takes on the name of Aleksandra Fiodorovna assuming her mother-in-law patronimic.

  

Aleksandr assumes the responsabilities of head of family upon the death of his brother-in-law Leonid Pavlovic Alexeieff, my great grandfather, and this accounts for the persistence of the name Alessandro among the family descendants, a sign of gratitude from his niece Evgenia.

He is jolted by a high-spirited Arabian horse while tutoring Prince Chikrabom of Siam, then a guest at the Imperial Court (exchange programs were popular then, too), thereby breaking his spine and becoming paralised. However, according to some reports, he managed to get hold of his pistol and shot himself. A state funeral was held for his burial.

  
Left: photo from the Imperial Corps of Pages Exhibition, 2002, Columbia University Libraries (Uncle Aleksandr with some of his cadets)
Right: the Vorontsov Palace (built in 1749-1757 by Italian architects Rastrelli e Quarenghi to house the Suvorov Military School):
the sumptuous 'barracks' of the Corps des Pages in Sankt Petersburg from 1810 to 1917.