Princess Catherine Alexandrovna Yurievskaya (9 September 1878 – 22 December 1959) was the natural daughter of Alexander II of Russia by his mistress, later his wife, Catherine Dolgorukov. In her own family she was known as Katia. In 1880, she was legitimated by her parents’ marriage.
After her father’s assassination in 1881, her mother brought her up in France, and she was married there in 1901, having two sons, but was widowed in 1910. Her second marriage was during the Great War, in Russia, and she suffered hardships during the ensuing Russian Civil War. In the 1920s she became a professional singer. In 1932 she settled in England on Hayling Island, where she died in 1959.
Catherine was born at St Petersburg, Russia, on 9 September 1878, while her mother was still the mistress of Czar Alexander II. When she was two, her parents’ morganatic marriage on 6 July 1880 brought about her legitimation, so that she gained the title of Svetlost, or Serene Highness.
Her father was assassinated in March 1881, when she was three, and she lived thereafter with her mother, brother George, and sister Olga, who settled together in France.
Catherine’s mother took a house in Paris and others on the French Riviera. In 1891, she bought a house in Nice which she called the Villa Georges, in the boulevard Dubouchage. In France the family was able to afford some twenty servants and a private railway carriage.
On 18 October 1901 Catherine married at Biarritz Prince Alexander Vladimirovich Baryatinsky (1870–1910). They had two sons, Andrei (born in Paris on 2 August 1902, died 1931) and Alexander (born at Pau, in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, on 24 March 1905 died 1992). In Paris they lived at number 6, Place des États-Unis. Baryatinski died in 1910, at the age of thirty-nine.
Catherine’s brother George died, after a long illness, on 13 September 1913 in Marburg, Hesse, and was buried at St Elizabeth’s, Wiesbaden.
On 6 October 1916, at Yalta, Catherine married secondly Prince Serge Platonovich Obolensky (1890–1978), son of General Platon Sergeievich Obolensky. At the time of the Revolution of 1917 she was still in Russia, and it was later reported that she had “walked for miles without food during the Revolution, suffering great hardship”. Her new husband, Obolensky, fought in the White Army during the Russian Civil War.
Catherine’s mother died in 1922, leaving only her house in Nice, the Villa Georges. The family’s other houses, in Paris, Neuilly, and Biarritz had been sold at a loss over the years. The same year, Obolensky left Catherine for Alice Astor, the daughter of John Jacob Astor IV. After divorcing him in 1923, Catherine became a professional singer, with a repertoire of some two hundred songs in English, French, Russian and Italian.
In 1932, Catherine bought a house called “The Haven” on Hayling Island, Hampshire, which she chose for its climate, as she suffered from asthma. On 29 November 1934 she attended the wedding at Westminster Abbey of her great-niece Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark to Prince George, Duke of Kent. For many years she was supported by an allowance from Queen Mary, the widow of King George V, but after the Queen’s death in March 1953 she was left almost penniless and began selling her possessions.
She went to live in a nursing home on Hayling Island and died there on 22 December 1959. She was buried on 29 December in the churchyard of St Peter’s, Northney, with an Anglican funeral. Only two members of the family attended her funeral, her former husband Serge Obolensky and her nephew, Prince Alexander Yurievsky (1901–1988), the son of her brother George. She was also survived by her son Alexander and by her grand-daughter Elena Bariatinsky (1927–1988), who had been married a few months before her grandmother’s death and was in France