Rare antique unpublished private family snapshot photo of Prince Felix Felixovich Yusupov, Count Sumarokov-Elston (1887-1967), with his bathing shorts on, and his daughter Princess Irina Felixovna Yusupov nicknamed "Bébé" (1915-1983), seated on his lap, on the banks of a river, circa 1920.
From the private family collection of Prince and Princess Felix Yusupov.
Felix was a Russian aristocrat, prince and count from the Yusupov family, best known for participating in the assassination of Grigori Rasputin. He was born in the Moika Palace in Saint Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire. His father was Count Felix Felixovich Sumarokov-Elston, the son of Count Felix Nikolaievich Sumarokov-Elston. Zinaida Yusupova, his mother, was the last of the Yusupov line, of Crimean Tatar origin, and very wealthy. For the Yusupov name not to die out, his father was granted the title and the surname of his wife, Princess Zenaida Nikolaievna Yusupova upon their marriage.
The Yusupov family, richer than any of the Romanovs, had acquired their wealth generations earlier. It included four palaces in Petrograd (St Petersburg), three palaces in Moscow, 37 estates in different parts of Russia (Kursk, Voronezh and Poltava), coal and iron-ore mines, plants and factories, flour mills and oil fields on the Caspian Sea.
When World War I broke out in August 1914, both were briefly detained in Berlin. Irina asked her relative, Crown Princess Cecilie of Prussia, to intervene with her father-in-law, Kaiser Wilhelm II. The Kaiser refused to permit the Yusupov family 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 in Germany and won permission for them to return to Russia via neutral Denmark to the Grand Duchy of Finland and from there to Saint Petersburg. The Yusupovs' only daughter, Princess Irina Felixovna Yusupova, nicknamed Bébé, was born on 21 March 1915. Bébé was largely raised by her paternal grandparents until she was nine. She was very 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. Bebe adored her father but had a more distant relationship with her mother.
After the death of his brother, Felix was the heir to an immense fortune. Consulting with family members about how best to administer the money and property, he decided to devote time and money to charitable works to help the poor. The losses at the Eastern Front were enormous, and so Felix converted a wing of the Moika Palace into a hospital for wounded soldiers.
Felix was able to avoid entering military service himself by taking advantage of a law exempting only-sons from serving. Irina's first cousin, Grand Duchess Olga, to whom she had been close when they were girls, was disdainful of Felix: "Felix is a 'downright civilian,' dressed all in brown, walked to and fro about the room, searching in some bookcases with magazines and virtually doing nothing; an utterly unpleasant impression he makes – a man idling in such times," Olga wrote to Nicholas on 5 March 1915 after paying a visit to the Yusupovs. In February 1916 Felix began studies at the elite Page Corps military academy and tried joining a regiment in August.
"Yusupov's plan, as he described it in his book, was to seek closer acquaintance with the healer Grigori Rasputin, and win his confidence. He asked Rasputin to cure a slight malady from which he suffered." Yusupov first approached the lawyer Vasily Maklakov, who agreed to advise Felix. Yusopov then approached Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin, an army officer in the Preobrazhensky Regiment who was recovering from injuries who was a friend of his mother. Grand Duke Dmitri received Yusupov's suggestion with alacrity, and his alliance was welcomed as indicating that the murder would not be a demonstration against the [Romanov] dynasty.
On the night of 29/30 December (NS) 1916, Felix, Dmitri, Vladimir Purishkevich, assistant Stanilaus de Lazovert and Sukhotin killed Rasputin in the Moika Palace. A major reconstruction of the palace had almost been finished, with a small room in the basement carefully furnished. (For some time, Yusupov lived in a mansion owned by Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia, his mother-in-law.) Rasputin was hit by a bullet that entered his left chest and penetrated the stomach and the liver; a second entered the left back soon after the first and penetrated the kidneys. The wounds were serious, and Rasputin would have died in 10–20 min, but he succeeded in escaping, only to fall in the snow-clad courtyard. It is not clear if Rasputin was beaten by Yusupov with a sort of dumb bell and if it was Purishkevich who shot him in the forehead. The conspirators finally threw the corpse from Bolshoy Petrovsky Bridge into an ice hole in the Malaya Neva.
On the Empress's orders, a police investigation commenced and traces of blood were discovered on the steps to the back door of the Yusupov Palace. Prince Felix attempted to explain the blood with a story that one of his favourite dogs was shot accidentally by Grand Duke Dmitri. Yusupov and Dmitri were placed under house arrest in the Sergei Palace. (The upper levels of the palace were occupied by the British embassy and the Anglo-Russian Hospital.
The Empress had refused to meet the two but said that they could explain what had happened in a letter to her. She wanted both shot immediately, but she was persuaded to back off from the idea. Without a trial, the Tsar sent Dmitri to the front in Persia; Purishkevich was already on his way to the front in Romania. The Tsar banished Yusupov to his estate in Rakitnoye, in Belgorod Oblast.
One week after the February Revolution, Nicholas abdicated the throne on 2 March. Following the abdication, the Yusupovs returned to the Moika Palace before they went to Crimea. They later returned to the palace to retrieve jewels (containing the blue Sultan of Morocco Diamond, the Polar Star Diamond, and a pair of diamond earrings that once belonged to Marie-Antoinette) and two paintings by Rembrandt, the sale proceeds of which helped sustain the family in exile. The paintings were bought by Joseph E. Widener in 1921 and are now in the National Gallery in Washington, DC.
In Crimea, the family boarded a British warship, HMS Marlborough, which took them from Yalta to Malta. On the ship, Felix enjoyed boasting about the murder of Rasputin. One of the British officers noted that Irina "appeared shy and retiring at first, but it was only necessary to take a little notice of her pretty, small daughter to break through her reserve and discover that she was also very charming and spoke fluent English."
From Malta, they travelled to Italy and then to Paris. In Italy, lacking a visa, he bribed the officials with diamonds. In Paris, they stayed a few days in Hôtel de Vendôme before they went on to London. In 1920, they returned to Paris.
In 1932, he and his wife successfully sued MGM in the English courts for invasion of privacy and libel in connection with the 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.
In 1928, after Yusupov published his memoir detailing the killing of Rasputin, Rasputin's daughter, Maria, sued Yusupov and Dmitri 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 had occurred in Russia.
Irina and Felix enjoyed a happy and successful marriage for more than 50 years. When Felix died in 1967, Irina was stricken by grief and died three years later. He was buried in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery, in the southern suburbs of Paris.
Princess Irina was born in Petrograd, the only child of Prince Felix Yusupov and Princess Irina of Russia.
After the February Revolution, the Yusupovs fled Russia and settled in Paris, leaving behind most of their wealth. At first, the little girl was raised by her paternal grandparents until, at the age of nine, they returned the little princess to her parents. According to her father, his daughter received a poor education causing an alteration in the character of the girl, who became capricious. She was raised by nannies and, whilst she adored her father, she was very distant with her mother.
She married in 1938 Count Nikolai Dmitrievich Sheremetev, son of Count Dmitri Sergeievich Sheremetev and his wife Countess Irina Ilarionovna Vorontzova-Dashkova. His ancestors include Boris Petrovich Sheremetev and Illarion Ivanovich Vorontsov-Dashkov. He worked with the shipping company, Vlasoff. He later contracted tuberculosis, and they moved to Greece for a climate better suited to his condition.
They had one daughter, Countess Xenia Nikolaevna Sheremeteva, born in Rome in 1942.
Princess Irina died in 1983 at Cormeilles in France. She was buried alongside her paternal grandparents and her parents at the cemetery Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery in Essonne, France.
Size: 8.5 x 8.5 cm approx