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Princess Irina (Romanova) Yusupova

Great Russian women

Princess Irina Alexandrovna of Russia

Princess Irina, nee Romanova was the only niece of tsar NikolasII and the favorite granddaughter of Tsar Alexander III. Princess Irina Romanova was born on July 3, 1895 in Peterhof in the family of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich and Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, sister of Nikolas II. She spent her childhood in Gatchina, near St-Petersburg under the close supervision of her mother and grandmother.

In 1914 Irina Romanova married Prince Felix Felixovich Yusupov, Count Sumarokov-Elston, a descendent of one of Russia's oldest families. Felix Yusupov was famous for his astonishing good looks, he studied at Oxford and inherited a huge fortune that was said to be larger than of the Tsar himself. Irina and Felix received the blessing of the marriage of Emperor Nikolas II and Empress Maria Feodorovna.

The Yusupovs were on their honeymoon in Europe and the Middle East when World War I broke out. They were briefly detained in Berlin after the outbreak of hostilities. Irina asked her first cousin, Crown Princess Cecilie of Prussia to intervene with her father-in-law, the Kaiser. Kaiser Wilhelm II refused to permit them to leave, but offered them a choice of three country estates to live in for the duration of the war. Felix's father appealed to the Spanish ambassador to Germany, and won permission for them to return to Russia via neutral Denmark to Finland, and from there to St. Petersburg.

The Yusupovs' only daughter, Princess Irina Felixovna Yusupova, nicknamed Bebé, was born on 21 March 1915.

For the participation on December 17, 1916 at the murder of Grigoriy Rasputin, Felix was exiled into his remote estate in Kursk province. Then came the Russian Revolution that forced Prince and Princess Yusupov into exile. The couple settled in Boulogne outside Paris in early twenties and later moved to a small house in the city. There Prince started a charming little theater where the IRFE fashion house subsequently started up.

In 1924 Felix and Irina Yusupov established the couture house IRFE whose name was composed of the first syllables of their names, Irina and Felix. The adventure started out in modest premises: the rented studio on rue Obligado. The couple was short of money and the legend says that Irina and Felix raised the necessary funds by selling one of the most beautiful gems of the family collection, the Polar Star to Cartier.

The house of IRFE, like the couple that founded it was elute and refined. During 1925 Irina was involved in numerous advertising shoots, demonstrating dresses created by IRFE. Irina had distinct style, appeared at the catwalk herself and hired as models daughters of Russian emigre noble families. She was recognized as one of the most beautiful women of her time, a model of elegance and refined taste. The Yusupov's were famous for their financial generosity. This philanthropy, plus continued high living and poor financial management extinguished what remained of the family fortune. Felix Yusupov's bad business sense and the Wall Street Crash of 1929 eventually forced the company to shut down. In 1931 the fashion house IRFE and all its branches were closed. Only the perfumes IRFE continued to be sold till the end of the 1940-s.

The Yusupovs did not give up though. In 1927, Prince Felix published a book of memoirs about the plot and assassination of Rasputin. The earned income for this book let the family continue their grand style living for some while. After Yusupov published his memoir detailing the death of Grigory Rasputin, Rasputin's daughter Maria sued Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich in a Paris court for damages of $800,000. She condemned both men as murderers and said any decent person would be disgusted by the ferocity of Rasputin's killing. Maria's claim was dismissed. The French court ruled that it had no jurisdiction over a political killing that took place in Russia.

Yusupov and his wife successfully sued MGM through the English courts for invasion of privacy and libel in connection with the 1932 film "Rasputin and the Empress". The alleged libel was not that the character based on Felix had committed murder, but that the character based on Irina, called "Princess Natasha" in the film, was portrayed as having been seduced by the lecherous Rasputin. In 1934, the Yusupovs were awarded £25,000 damages, an enormous sum at the time, which was attributed to the successful arguments of their counsel Sir Patrick Hastings. The disclaimer which now screens at the end of every American film, "The preceding was a work of fiction, any similarity to a living person etc.," first appeared as a result of the legal precedent set by the Yusupov case.

Felix and Irina's daughter was largely raised by her paternal grandparents until she was nine and was badly spoiled by them. Her unstable upbringing caused her to become "capricious," according to Felix. Felix and Irina, raised mainly by nannies themselves, were ill-suited to take on the day-to-day burdens of child-rearing. Irina's only child adored her father, but had a more distant relationship with her mother. Irina and Felix, close to one another as they weren't to their daughter, enjoyed a happy and successful marriage for more than fifty years.

In 1967 the French film by Robert Hossein "I killed Rasputin" which as an adaptation of Felix Yusupov's book Lost Splendor was released. The part of the movie is the interview Felix and Irina Yusupov gave for it.

Yusupov died in Paris in 1967. Irina Yusupova died 3 years later in 1970 and was buried at Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery in the southern suburbs of Paris France.


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