Extraordinary archive of letters written by Princess John Constantinovich of Russia nee Princess Helen of Serbia (1884-1962), between 1958 to 1962, to French aristocrat Viscountess Jeanne d'Illiers. telling the tragic story of the last few years of a woman brought up in the height of luxury to someone who died in abject poverty in France. These passionate letters show vividly the plight of many Russian emigres. The letters which were written in French are full of despair at her life. She is constantly on the move looking for the cheapest type of accommodation and surviving on handouts from the Viscountess who has taken pity on her. She talks about how she feels abandoned by her family, and hopes to finish her memoirs, which could be a source of income, but never happened due to an unscrupulous manager.
These letters come from the archive of the d'Illiers family. In total there are twenty-four signed letters, eight of which are with their original envelopes, there are also three postcards from Helen to the Viscountess. In addition to these there are two letters from the Viscountess to Helen and an additional five letters from friends of the Viscountess discussing the plight of Helen. There is also the business card of an hotel in Nice presumably one that she stayed, and a receipt for a box of Chinese tea sent by the Viscountess to Helen who subsequently returned the receipt to the Viscountess. There is also a photocopy of the rare Memoir 'J'etais a l'Ekaterinebourg' by Helen that was published in French and this has been translated into English. The letters from the Viscountess were returned to her following the death of Helen in 1962.
She was the daughter of King Peter I of Yugoslavia and his wife Princess Zorka of Montenegro. She was the elder sister of George, Crown Prince of Serbia and King Alexander I of Yugoslavia. Helen was also a niece of Anastasia of Montenegro (Stana), wife of Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich of Russia, and of Milica of Montenegro, wife of Grand Duke Peter Nicolaievich of Russia, the women who introduced Grigori Rasputin to Tsarina Alexandra. She married Prince John Constantinovich of Russia who was murdered in 1918 along with other members of the Romanov family.
The strong-minded, purposeful Helen, whose mother died when she was a small child, was born in Cetinje, Montenegro, and was brought up largely under the care of her aunts Stana and Milica. She was educated in Russia at the Smolny Institute, a school in St. Petersburg for well-born girls. "She was a very sweet-faced though plain girl, with beautiful dark eyes, very quiet and amiable in manner," wrote Margaretta Eagar, governess to the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II. Eagar wrote that Helen, then about seventeen, often came to tea with another of her aunts, Princess Vera of Montenegro. Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna was very fond of her.
A fourth aunt, Elena of Montenegro, Queen of Italy, invited her for a visit and introduced her to Prince John Constantinovich of Russia. He proposed marriage soon after. It was a love match, a surprise to the family because the gentle, introverted John had thought of becoming a Russian Orthodox monk. "Perhaps you know that Ioanchik is engaged to Helene of Serbia, it is so touching," wrote his distant cousin, 14-year-old Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia, to her aunt. The couple married in St Petersburg on 21st August 1911.
Helen studied medicine at the University of St. Petersburg following their marriage, a career pursuit she had to give up when she started a family. They had two children, Prince Vsevolod Ivanovich (1914-1973), and Princess Ekaterina Ivanovna (1915-2007). Following the Russian revolution she voluntarily followed her husband into exile when he was arrested in 1917 and tried to obtain his release. John was imprisoned first at Ekaterinburg, Siberia and later moved to Alapaevsk, a town in Sverdlovsk Oblast by the Bolsheviks, where he was murdered on 18th July 1918 along with Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna, Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich; John's brothers Prince Constantine Constantinovich and Prince Igor Constantinovich, his distant cousin Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley; Grand Duke Sergei's secretary, Feodor Remez; and Varvara Yakovleva, a sister from Grand Duchess Elisabeth's convent. They were herded into the forest by the local Bolsheviks, pushed into an abandoned mineshaft and grenades were then hurled into the mineshaft.
John had persuaded Helen to leave Alapaevsk and go back to their young children, whom she had left with John's mother, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mavrikievna of Russia. In June 1918, Helen visited the Ipatiev House and demanded to see the tsar, secretly hoping to pass on letters to the imperial family from their relatives. After being refused entry by the guards (who had their rifles aimed at her), she went to the Amerikanskaya Hotel half a mile away, making repeated enquiries to the Cheka. She was however arrested by the secret police and imprisoned in Perm.
During her imprisonment, the Bolsheviks brought a girl who called herself Anastasia Romanova to her cell and asked Helen if the girl was Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, the daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. Helen said she didn't recognize the girl and the guards took her away. Two weeks later, Helen was put on a train back to Petrograd.
King Olav V of Norway through Swedish diplomats obtained permission for Helen's mother-in-law Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mavrikievna to leave Russia with Helen's children, Vsevelod and Catherine, and her own two younger children, Prince George Constantinovich and Princess Vera Constantinovna, in October 1918 aboard the Swedish ship Angermanland. Helen remained imprisoned at Perm until Norwegian diplomats located her and had her transferred. She was then kept prisoner at the Kremlin Palace before finally being allowed to leave and join her children in Sweden.
After meeting up with her children in Sweden they first moved to Paris and eventually went to live in Belgrade with her father King Peter I of Serbia. Her children were sent to England to be educated and were not taught Russian due to her dreadful experiences during the revolution. When King Peter died in 1921 and not being on good terms with her brother King Alexander she went to France and lived at the Villa Trianon in Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat. She lived here until 1953, which she could pay for from her pension being a Princess of Yugoslavia. But as of November 1945, the money stopped coming in and she was forced to sell everything. She eventually settled in Nice, France and she never remarried. In 1953 and at the age of 69 she was forced to move yet again
Her nephew Prince Tomislav of Yugoslavia and his wife Margaretha were in Southern France in 1959 when he discovered that Helen was living in Nice. He had heard that she was living a very difficult life in a rented room, impoverished, with no income and even lacking food sometimes. He tried to find her and help, however she rejected even a meeting. "No one, not even me, was allowed to see her in such dismal condition. She persisted in that until her death."
Prince Tomislav,whom she called Tommy asked the Serbian Orthodox Church in Trieste to send some humanitarian help to her, but they were prevented because she was technically a Princess of Russia and that it was the responsibility of the Russian Orthodox Church. He later arranged for her to get some money and food every day through the secretary of his friend the Aga Khan, he was surprised that she didn't decline, a few years later she died.
I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generous help during my move yesterday. I am really confounded and cannot find the words to express all that I feel as well as to Madame your sister.
Please believe, Madame, my infinite gratefulness and the expression of my profound recognition with my cordial thoughts.
Helene of Serbia
Paris 4th June 1958”
“Paris, Sunday evening, 8th June 1958
The wonderful packet can only have come from you! How and with what words may I express my thanks and gratitude? You are an angel of goodness and kindness, and to have met you in my life is for me a great joy as you have understood all the distress of my soul, and it is with the greatest tactfulness that you show me such kind feelings! I wholeheartedly thank you for the envelope! It really is too much and I feel so confounded at having to accept such generosity from you. I cannot say anything as the words cannot be found!
I kiss you and remain always your grateful and affectionate
Helene of Serbia”
Letter from de Robiers at the International Institute of St. Helen to Viscountess Jeanne d’Illiers regarding a pension for Princess Helen
“20th June 1958
I sent you through my niece from Yvoire the sum of 10, 000 francs for the sister of King Alexander. It goes without saying that these little donations will not be sufficient to get her back on track and the main thing we can is to let her family intervene including the Princess Maria Pia. She with another member of the family should be able to ensure a pension even if modest. You could probably find a religious community that would welcome her. Talking of which, you could write on my behalf to Madame Carre, 6 avenue d’Ingres, Paris XVI who was going to find out about a boarding house in the outskirts of Paris.
Please believe, dear Madam, in the assurance of my fond memory.
F de Robiers”
“Very dear Madam and friend,
Herewith the letter for Lausanne, begging to acknowledge it and to send it on. I again want to take this opportunity to thank you for everything that you do for me, however with regret as I will never be able to pay you back. I will, with joy, be at yours on Saturday. In the meantime, I kiss you cordially with all my heartfelt gratitude.
Helene of Serbia
Paris 31 July 1958”
“Very dear friend,
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the kindness you have shown me. I was so happy to see you again and thank you as well as the Viscount for the wonderful day spent in your delightful company. May these flowers show my endless gratitude and affection and embrace you cordially.
Your devoted Helene”
Letter from M. Lagerod to Viscountess Jeanne d’Illiers concerning the fate of Princess Helen
Let me thank you in both Laetitia and my names for such a cordial welcome at such an untimely hour for which I apologise again. Laetitia was thrilled to feel “at home” in your charming home. She was thrilled that you also had the kindness to let her have a glimpse at the shops in Paris which was her main concern since her departure from Lausanne!
I hope you had a wonderful trip and that the weather made your week-end at the seaside even nicer. As you had asked me to, I have passed on to HRH the Duchess of Pistoia the information with regard to the Princess of Serbia, whose wish not to have her plight publicized with be respected. However, HRH the Duchess believes that we could interest the ‘Association d’Entrade de la Noblesse Francaise’ (ANF) whose chairman is the Marquis de Brissac to her fate. Her Highness knows him very well and could speak to him if you feel that this would be opportune.
I understood that the government gives a monthly handout of 50, 000FF which equals 500 Swiss Francs – is that correct? In case I am wrong, I would be very much obliged if you could let me know so that I could rectify any possible error to Her Highness the Duchess.
Please accept Madame as well as the Count d’Illiers, the expression of my reiterated consideration as well as my most distinguished regards.
“Paris 9 September 1958
Very dear Madam and great friend
I am leaving Paris today and would like to express my gratitude again and forever all the feelings of gratitude that I address to you from the bottom of my heart! Never will I be able to forget everything that you have done for me and how you have eased my situation by your solicitude and your Christian Kindness! May God, recompense you and grant you a happy life. I hope to see you again one day and to tell you in person all the gratefulness that I feel and all my unalterable feelings. The packages of goodies that you left me will be returned to you from my current lodgings including the radio with my emotional thanks. I am going to Nice to collect my overdue trunks in the hope that I will still find something in them!!! Then we will see where and how I will be. For the moment, my correspondence will be sent to me at the address below.
Again, thank you! May God, bless you always! I kiss you with a lot of affection and gratitude!
Helene of Serbia
at Mlle Deruppé
6 rue Pastorelli
“Nice, 6 rue Pastorelli
At Melle Deruppé
11th September 1958
Very dear Madame and friend,
Wholeheartedly I thank you for your kind card. I am very pleased that your stay in Brittany with your sister was a happy one.
So here I am in Nice and I am going to start looking for a room in the nearby neighborhoods. It will be laborious, as the prices here have gone up in a disastrous way for those who must live in dribs and drabs. I have left with Mme Sellier four parcels for you with the linen that you kindly lent me. It was, on your behalf, once again an act of kindness for which I will never be able to tell you how thankful I am to you.
There is the radio and a letter for you. Can you imagine that Mme Sellier was unbelievably rude towards me and all about something futile: I had asked her to put some bleach in the drains of the bathroom. She answered that she had already done so - which wasn’t true – as bleach always leaves an unmistakable odor. Seeing that she did not want to spend money on bleach, I bought myself the product in powder form for the drains. And then she came to me in a fury saying that I am ruining her bathroom and that this product is only to be used in the loos. I answered that from the time that I had bathrooms by the dozens I always used this product with success and without any damage when she possibly didn’t even have one and I turned my back on her! After that she came back telling me that when the concierge left on holiday that I had not given her anything and that she, Mme Sellier, had given her 200 francs on my behalf! To that I answered her: ‘how can she spend other people’s money without their consent and added: “besides I am not surprised by this as you have no education, no savoir-vivre because you are not a Lady.”
She left furious. Once the concierge returned, I gave her a 500 franc note as a tip for my stay there, but I was unable to ask about the 200 francs as there was someone else in her lodge. If I am quoting this vulgar story to you it is so that you know when you go and collect the parcels what to answer if this woman talks to you about the money. It would be best to ask the concierge if she has received something from Mme S on my supposed behalf and like that you will know before seeing Sellier. Forgive me, I beg you, for involving you in this horrible affair, so undignified for civilized people.
You have no idea how much I felt and missed your presence. But on the other hand – no selfishly- I was happy to know you were away from the Capital in this season.
Please send Madame de Sugny my salutations of gratefulness for her kindness during my move to Mme Bouhier. Those are things that we cannot forget.
Ending this, I send you my most cordial thoughts with a heart filled with gratitude for your constant and touching kindness. May God, bless you always.
I kiss you tenderly thinking of you always and remaining for life your grateful friend.
Helene of Serbia”
“Nice 29th October 1958
Very dear Madam,
How can I thank you for such a kind and affectionate letter? I am so happy to know that you are back in Paris and hoping that you had an enjoyable holiday. I am also very pleased to hear that you have collected your radio and your belongings from this ghastly woman and I thank you again and always for everything that you have done for me with such kindness! As for me – I am still sitting on a branch having not been able to find a small furnished studio to rent! Everything is for sale and it is the dance of the millions which makes people lose their mind. I have been to the farthest away areas to find something, which has shown itself to be negative and I do not know what else to do than wait armed with patience, if I have any left! Can you believe that I have successfully managed to have some articles published which have been taken from my memoirs in the Swiss magazine “L’Illustré” and in 3 weekly issues. I will send you the first two, the third will follow when it comes out at the end of this month. There are a lot of mistakes for which I am not responsible, such as the spelling for the town of Ekaterinburg and the designation of Tatiana as being the second sister to the Tsar when she was the Tsar’s daughter. A manager is going to be in charge of having the complete memoirs published, but it is rather difficult at the moment. In all I have received 150 thousand francs and the other equal amount goes to the manager (unfortunately!)
I preciously keep this amount in case I find a studio for rent as one must pay 3 months up front and a deposit. There I think you have all my news which could be of interest to you. Please forgive my handwriting but I have rheumatism in my right hand. Ending this, I would beg you to salute the Countess de Martignac hoping that she is in good health and that she won her court case. To Madame de Sugny my memory and good wishes to her and her children. Receive yourself my great and generous friend, the expression of my infinite gratitude.
Kissing you affectionately
Helene of Serbia”
“Nice, 12th November 1958
Dear and great friend!
I wholeheartedly thank you for such an affectionate letter. I am happy to know that you are in good health as well as Madame your mother. Of course, you can keep the issues of the magazine and I will soon send you number 5 which will come out in the next few days. Yes, you are correct in saying that the price is not very high when one thinks of the one that a common actress receives from publishing her memoirs and scandals! But my manager keeps 50% which decreases the amount that I get. We are, therefore, looking for a publisher who would publish the whole book which would be much more advantageous. I should soon move to a small hotel as Mlle Deruppé is currently selling her tiny apartment as a lifelong annuity and is only keeping one room for herself. I do not know if I will be able to find a room in a hotel for less than a thousand francs a day. Nice is as expensive as Paris and the small hotels date from about 50 years ago. I thank you so much for offering me Hyères, but it is so far from everything in a direct line and I do not have the courage to isolate myself any more. In any case, I am so grateful that you thought about it. I just have to wait patiently for the time when I will be able to rent in the area a small studio once my book has been published, one day.
I beg you to salute on my behalf your mother as well as Mme de Sugny.
As for yourself, my dear friend, I cordially kiss you with a lot of affection and recognition for everything that you have done for me.
May God, keep you.
Helene of Serbia
Nice Hotel du Breuil
11 rue Gounod 11”
Viscountess Jeanne d’Illiers to Helen
“4th December 1958
I thank Your Highness belatedly for sending me the last illustrated magazines and thereby introducing me to this fascinating and incredible tale. I am really upset to know of the terrible distress Your Highness had to go through.
It is even more upsetting in so that far from being exempt of worries, Your Highness does not yet know the comfort of material/financial security.
Lately, I have been able through friends to acquaint myself with advertisement for furnished rentals in Nice. I allow myself to transcribe one of the many offers as way of information – “Studio – avenue Thiers in a modern building – Lift – Entrance – Studio kitchen – modern bathroom, terrace – individual heating by gas – 30,000 francs per month. Contact Agence Lamot 27 Boulevard Victor Hugo. Is Your Highness aware of these advertisements – maybe there are other cheaper studios for rent through this agency.
I really hope that Your Highness finds a stable and agreeable abode, as the hospitality of Mademoiselle Deruppe cannot last.
On the other hand I am concerned about your belongings that you have left at the hotel for many years and wonder if the Manager has been understanding.
Once again I would like to tell you how much I admire Your Highness and I ask that you accept my very respectful feelings.
“7th December 1958
Very dear Madame and friend
I wholeheartedly thank you for such a kind letter and for all the affection written in it! I am deeply touched by your constant tokens of friendship and I will never be able to tell you how grateful I am. Here is my new address and I am comfortable here – a room at one thousand francs per day, having not been able to find anything cheaper. The hotel is small – twelve rooms in all but it is modern and clean, it opened nearly two years ago. The owners are proper – banking families from Nice, knowledgeable and with good manners. Over and above this they are royalists which certainly doesn’t spoil anything! They have provided for free a cellar for free for my numerous luggage which has been taken away from the Napoleon and from the Red Cross (the last remains of objects of no value, looted boxes at the contractor from Nice). I distributed to those who are poorer than me objects that I will never require again. As I have given up, for the moment, the idea of having a studio: one must pay 3 months’ rent in advance as well as a deposit so I would be forced to go on a strict hunger diet by force majeure. A heartfelt thank you for the address that you have sent me for a studio rental, but I have given up until further notice. You are an angel to have thought of that!
I was last week in Montpellier, for the 6th anniversary of the death of my aunt. My whole Italian family was there and I had the pleasure of being able to thank in person the Duchess of P. which I was very happy to do.
My manager does not seem able to get the summaries of the magazine from Lausanne published in the French and foreign magazines. He has taken 50% (of my earnings), and so I am not very rich, and with regards to the whole book I have not sent him anything yet, waiting for Mlle de Bourgues gives me some details as to how I am supposed to act in order to safe guard my future interests. If you see her, she will explain my situation to you and how I have once again shown myself to be a gullible fool.
Ending this, as my hand is painful in this freezing cold, I thank you again and for all the kindnesses that you have always shown towards me. I do not know why but it means so much me (it goes directly to my heart)
May God, bless you and protect you!
The letter from Madame your mother meant a lot to me! Please salute her on my behalf and kissing you cordially, I am always your affectionate
Helene of Serbia”
“26th February 1959
Very dear Friend,
How can I thank you for such a kind letter and for its contents? I was worried by your silence and was wondering whether your return to Paris went without difficulty, especially because of all these floods and unforeseen obstacles. But what can I say about the cheque? I am embarrassed as it is much more than the value of that miserable jade for which I was being offered 1500 frs, if that!!!
How can I justify the 10, 000? I am feeling humiliated as it is your generous heart which has made you value it above its value, and very much above this little worthless object. The recognition that I feel cannot be expressed in words and I only have excuses to give you to take advantage of your magnificent kindness! I allow myself to inform that the cheque could not be paid into the Societe Generale of Nice as there was written payable S Gle avenue "Kleber, Paris". Also, I apologise from the bottom of my heart for causing you any annoyance, but the bank has suggested that I return it. Forgive me, very dear friend and benefactor of this setback but this does not depend of my will. You are so kind that you will understand. I hope that you are in good health as well as Mme de Martignac despite the bad weather of this season. Here, it is still cold despite a beautiful sun without any heat. I myself, have caught a cold which has been complicated by lumbago. I often think of the immense pleasure of seeing you again in Nice. And all your kind attentions towards me that I have received from you and Mr d'Illiers.
I end, by renewing constantly and always my infinite thanks and gratitude for everything that you do for me. Only God will be able to return to you through benedictions and protection, your charitable Christian acts. As for myself it is from the bottom of my soul that I can only say thank you.
I kiss you with much affection begging you to salute cordially Madame de Martignac as well as Monsieur D'Illiers.
Remaining always your very affectionate
PS: Has the mimosa flourished?"
“Nice 6th March 1959
Very dear friend
I wholeheartedly thank you for the thousand that I received this morning at the Societe Generale. I am sorry to have caused you this disturbance and cordially excuse myself. On the other hand, I cannot believe that this important sum of money is the result of the sale of the jade that was only worth one tenth of that, you have put me in an awkward position dear friend, and I find myself with an inferiority complex! It is despairing to know that I will never be able to show you my gratitude more than through meaningless words.
So, receive again and again these words which express a huge affection and huge gratitude. I wholeheartedly kiss you
Madame la Vicomtesse d'Illiers
25 rue de Lubeck 25
Nice 27th Dec 1959
Permanent address 6 r. Pastorelli
Very dear friend,
How may I express my gratitude to you for your very kind and affectionate letter (forwarded from Gounod). All that you say is so moving and affectionate and moves me greatly as well as the pious thought of sending me the photographs from 12th October. Your presence at the ceremony made me well up in tears for not having been able to be present myself, I was there next to the monument in thought.
Regarding your letter, which was sent back from the Hotel du Breuil, it is not the first time that one has made such a gaffe. When I left my address 6 r. Pastorelli, a few were lost due to my lack of attention and my negligence! As I have moved a few of times into horrible furnished rooms, I had given no-one my temporary addresses, wishing to only give the one at Mlle Deruppé, the only definite one.
With regards to myself, and the publishing of my memoirs, my "manager" continues his silence in the knowledge that in September I had asked, in writing, for the rupture of the contract as he had failed to place the six articles from ‘Illustré’, and that I could not wait for ever for a favourable solution, especially as he did not know anyone nor the French language. If, I wrote, this terminated contract did not reach me by 31st December I would be obligated to file a complaint in court. I think that he will be afraid and will capitulate!! At least I hope so!
Life in Nice has become the height of expensiveness and I cope as I can! No thoughts of living in Italy until I have sorted out my problems with my manager. My stay in Toulon at my cousins had to be postponed because of her husband's illness. So here are I am again on the fence, meaning on the floor.
Forgive me, I beg, this letter is so badly written, but I have articulatory rheumatism in my fingers which is neither attractive nor useful.
If I am at the end of January in Nice, it will be with the greatest joy to see you again. A simple postcard giving me an appointment at your hotel will suffice and I will come straight away.
I end this letter with so little aesthetics and excuse myself again.
With all my deep gratitude and affection, I kiss you cordially. My good memory to Mr d'Illiers
Your affectionate Helene
PS: Re-reading this letter I hesitated to post it and wanted to start another but my hand would not obey the pen. Forgive me!
Madame la Vicomtesse d'Illiers
25 rue de Lubeck 25
“Very dear friend,
Please accept all my affectionate wishes for the festive season. May God, keep you and bless you always for all your kindness and charity towards me. I wish wholeheartedly that you are in good health. As for me, my situation has not changed and my manager has not yet granted me an end to the contract so that I can act alone and finally publish my memoirs. I have made a fundamental error in letting myself get hoodwinked by this individual and I am bearing the consequences!
Simply put he doesn’t even respond to my letters! The new year will bring me I hope a glimpse of optimism!!! I intend to go on a visit to a Russian relative in the Var and to stay there until my situation improves. For my correspondence please address it to: Mlle Deruppe, 6 rue Pastorelli in order to avoid any errors in transmission.
I embrace you greatly, very dear friend, by asking you to send Mr d’Illiers my regards and best wishes.
Your devoted Helene”
“Nice 20 February – 1960
Very dear friend!
I hope that you are back after a trip that wasn’t too difficult?
I would like to thank you for your very nice visit it was a great joy for me to be able to see you again and thank you also for having come.
I wish that soon we will meet again. On my front, nothing has changed: silence everywhere which I do not know how to explain.
One thousand regards to Madame de Martignac and many cordial salutations to you, dear friend,
Embracing you affectionately,
Helene of Serbia”
“Nice- 4 rue de Congres
Very dear friend!
How may I express in words my gratitude and my confoundment to be in receipt of such kindness on your behalf?
Really it is too much and your constant attentions towards me fills me without ever being able to thank you as one should. I am moved to tears by the thought of you helping me and today I will call the dentist for an appointment - All this was so far from my thoughts that I had relegated it to the back of my mind. May God, bless you every day and grant you all the goodness that I wish you from a grateful heart. These past few days I have gone through some rather painful hardships. A maternal aunt of mine who was only three years older than me and who was like a sister, darling, has just died of a stroke. She lived in Auvergne and was linked to a Russian aristocratic family running a farm. She worked herself with resignation and courage. She was supposed to come here at the end of April to have a rest and I was waiting with the most feverish impatience. And now she las left me suddenly. I am heartbroken!
The funeral and burial will take place in Antibes next to an older sister who has already been laid to rest there. We are waiting for King Umberto, her nephew as well as her testamentary executor to choose the date for this sad day. I am still unable to believe this and I have for the time being put aside the troubles with my manager who has been dishonest once again and has created unbelievable confusion. But what is that in comparison to my mourning?
I end this by saying thank you from the bottom of my soul and I do not know how to express my gratitude and affection for you! Be blessed always.
Kissing you tenderly, I remain always your affectionate,
“10-Madame La Vicomtesse d’Illiers
25 rue de Lubeck
Letter with envelope
Nice 25 May- 1960
Dear, dear Great friend!
Can I ever have enough words to express all the feelings felt by me upon receipt of your letter and of its content?? No, I never will have the opportunity to thank you enough and as I would like to!
You will therefore have to read in my heart all the gratitude and affection for your gesture and for your charitable kindness that fills my soul as well as with confoundment. May God, reward you as you deserve! Only he will be able to do so!
I hope that you are still in good health despite the awful winter which was not much better in Nice. I am still in the room that you know and I do not bemoan it as others don’t even have that! The matter with my manager carries on causing me troubles. He is a dishonest man who cannot admit that the contract must end one day- that is to say in November 1960 after which I will be able to give my memoirs in one volume to an English publisher with whom I am already in negotiation. However, I still have a lot of work to do in order to finish these memoirs and I do not feel able to do so as long as I am living in a room with no windows where I can get no inspiration! I have therefore become resigned to wait! You have the kindness to ask about my daughter and her trip to Rome. Yes, she was there for three weeks and she was joined by her daughter who came from America. Both were infinitely happy to see one another. The ex-husband has been “decent” for once and paid for my daughter’s return trip by plane and the Hotel she was staying at in Rome. Thank God, at least there was a little happiness.
In relation to the recent deaths, I have been put to the test in so far that I have been having cardiac weaknesses (arrhythmia) to the point at which I was unable to go outside in fear that I would fall in the street! I am better but still have not completely recovered. Affectionately I thank you for the heartfelt interest that you take in my pain. Finishing this letter which from beginning to end is filled with emotion of an eternal gratefulness for your eternal care. To your dear mother, my cordial regards and infinite gratefulness. I embrace you, dear incomparable friend. May the Lord continuously be your help and your support in the life that you live according to the divine principles.
Thank you thank you it is the only thing I know to say but you will understand!
My greetings to the Viscount.
My tenderness and thoughts,
Your devoted Helene”
“Nice 31st December 1960
Dear and excellent friend!
I wholeheartedly thank you for such a kind letter and for the wishes that you send me. What a joy it will be to see you again in February! It is with impatience that I wait for this date. I wish you a happy stay in Roe hoping that the weather will be good. I have received a very special present from your dear mother. She really is too kind to spoil me such and I am confounded.
I still have not received any reply from New York regarding the articles that I sent them. I am rather worried as it has been three months since I asked for them to be published. I am looking forward to leaving this dingy room and to find somewhere in Haute-Savoie and to be able to put myself to work and finish these memoirs in one volume. I must have absolute quiet and be far from noise and tiring Nice as well as from this hotel with their clients screaming as if they are at the market. I will have been here for 18 months and I wish to free myself as fast as possible from the atmosphere.
The weather is freezing despite the pale sun often coming out.
I end this letter by kissing you affectionately and am waiting to see you soon.
My cordial salutations to the Viscount.
May God, bless you and protect you always.
With gratitude and affection
“Christmas 1960 – New Year 1961
Very dear friend
Please accept my most affectionate wishes of happiness and health with the wish of seeing you here again as last year!
It was such a long time without any news from you and I hope that you are still well? As for myself, nothing has changed since our last encounter, but on 25th November I finally disengaged from my manager and I may do as I wish with my articles. I have sent them to New York where they shall be placed in an American magazine which would be extremely favorable to me! I am therefore, waiting to hear back- if the feedback is satisfying, it would give me the opportunity to finish my memoirs for a volume. This will only be possible once I change abode and leave this cellar in which the walls have become a swamp.
Therefore, I am unable to concentrate and write the book. Everything is in the hands of God who will have pity of me. The weather here is icy even though the sun and the rain succeed each other.
I hope that your dear health is good?
I look forward to seeing you again.
In the meantime, I embrace you with much gratitude for your great kindness towards me ever since the first day I met you. May God, bless you and protect you always.
I embrace you and ask you to send my regards for the New Year to the Viscount.
Your devoted Helene “
“Nice 21 February 1961
Very dear friend!
Forgive me for not having thanked you yet for your dear visit which was a real joy for me. But I have been busy with the lawyer and have had to do endless translations of some of the letters by my manager (written in Serb), also my hand was clenched and it is only now that I can write legibly.
I hope that your trip was pleasant and that you found your mother in good health? I cannot get over how quickly her letter arrived at my current address. It is admirable and amazing.
I hope that we will be able to see each other again one day.
In the meantime, I kiss you affectionately with a lot of gratitude for everything that you have done for me and I remain your very affectionate friend.
PS: No change regarding the mess "with the author's rights" and the manager does not even respond to the letters from my lawyer! I wonder what is left for me so that I can get out of his guardianship!”
“Nice, 28- II- 1961
Very dear and excellent friend!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for such a kind letter, to which I answer belatedly. The reason is that I have been at one my meetings with the lawyer regarding Krakow who was not answering my request of returning the contract. Also, I have had to think and decide what needs to be done. I have therefore re-read the innumerable correspondence with Krakow and have had to translate it in order to hand it over to the lawyer. Thank God there are sentences where there are promises of restitution, since June 1959, and a formal commitment to break the contract and return it to me. We will see what follows and I hope that this time we can hope!
Thank you very dearly for everything that you have done for me and I have good hope that your friend will find me a room with a certain comfort which I do not have here. I am so grateful to you for having agreed to look for things. I would like you to thank your dear mother for her letter which was so moving and so affectionate towards me.
And to you, what must I say and how may I express my gratitude? May God, bless you always and protect you against everything. As for me I kiss you wholeheartedly and from my soul remain your faithful friend full of affection.
“Nice 13th March 1961
Very dear friend!
I am sorry to bother you once again and am sorry that I still haven’t heard anything from your friend regarding the room I am looking for.
I must vacate this current one on 21st March as it has been rented out beforehand to someone for this date. I therefore undertook some research for a temporary rental but there is nothing like as good as a room in Nice, the question of comfort does not exist however, and the prices are extravagant. What must I do - I do wonder! I am being offered as a favour a room at the Ruhl(!) but the price is astronomical: 1500 old francs per day. Despite the kindness of the Duchess of P - I cannot afford such an expense especially as I had to reimburse a few people who had lent me some money. Write to me I beg you two lines to tell me what I should do? I wholeheartedly apologise for the constant worries that I burden you with! I am horrified!!
Kissing you with a lot of affection and recognition as well as your dear mother, I am always your very affectionate
Viscountess Jeanne d’illiers
I take the liberty to write to you again about the room that you had the kindness to tell me about for my friend Mme de Serbie – she has today sent me a desperate letter saying that the rental of the modest room she is staying in ends on the 26th of this month and she has no idea where to go – having told her that you had mentioned some man leaving towards the 12th March and that you may have a comfortable room to privately rent – she is wondering whether this might be suitable. I am extremely sorry, dear Madam, to come back to you with these material questions but I sense that my friend is so desperate that I am not hesitating in asking you this great service. The best I think is that you could get in touch with her if a room, even a modest one, could be offered to her – Mme de Serbie is not difficult despite being of a certain age but still very active and brave. Again here is her address……
Viscountess Jeanne d’Illiers to Helen
“17th March 1961
By this same letter, I wrote again to Mme de Taurius who has informed me of an available room as from 12th March in your price range and very comfortable, privately owned, and will only be occupied during the races – knowing how worrying this is for Your Highness, I have once again given your address to Madame de Janine so that she may contact you directly in the event that she hears of an available room. Unfortunately, I am unable to do anything useful from Paris, and I am really sorry about that. Once again here is the address of Mme de Taurius 2 Bd de Cimiez Telephone 85-67-44. Do believe me Madame, that I am sorry to know that you are once again homeless”
Letter from Madam de Taurius to Viscountess Jeanne d’Illiers regarding accommodation for Princess Helen
I respond immediately to your note that I have just received.
At the beginning of the week I wrote to Mme de Serbie, very tired before then) my idea had been to have her stay at the Grand Palais instead of us. I was waiting for the departure of a doctor who comes up for the race each year and stays with some old maids where he is apparently extremely happy. He was leaving the 12th – before going to see the old maids, I wrote to your friend to know the length of her possible stay – I gave her my telephone number in order to ease communication.
This Thursday she rang but I was out – she said she would call back at 6pm – my young maid informed me and I went home – no phone call but the following morning (that is yesterday) I received a charming letter saying that she had found somewhere.
If, however, for any reason she is unhappy with the room or is unable to stay there for the month, tell me. I wanted to wait as I did not want to xxx as he comes every year with his departure date, and I regret it. I had also spoken to L’Abeille but thinking that the Grand Palais would be perfect I had delayed that side of things and I am very sorry not to have done things sooner – I was tired as I had told Mme de Serbie the races are finished and we have a little respite. Believe me dear Madame, to my sympathetic memory.
Letter from Madam de Taurius to Viscountess Jeanne d’Illiers regarding accommodation for Princess Helen
“Nice 25th Feb
I very much regretted that your visit was so short and that you were unable to come to the house which I completely understood! It will be for next time!
As for your friend, I am going to do everything I can, these last few days I have been absolutely overrun with cousins at home, the beginning of flu meant I was too tired and unable to look after it – But be certain that it is certainly possible to find a room more comfortable and less expensive – I am going to speak to L’Abeille as they know so many people – I am awaiting for a Dr who came up to the races which end on the 12th March and who is staying with some people in a very comfortable environment – as I know he is keen on this room I do not want to talk about it – but without doubt everyone will be pleased to have another lodger following his departure and it is certainly not astronomical. Excus ethis scawl, but I do not wish to wait to write to you – in any case as soon as I have something more precise – I will let you know.
Believe in my very sympathetic thoughts and pass these as well to Chr Dillon.
“Nice 19th March 1961
Very dear and excellent friend!
A heartfelt thank you for your two kind letters that I only answer today. I received no news from Mme de Taurines, and in desperation, I have started looking for a furnished room anywhere. As soon as I had found one, after many unsatisfactory searches, I received a letter from Mme de Taurines, a letter dated 13th March saying that she had been unwell but was better now and offered very kindly to look for somewhere where I can stay such as at the Grand Palais. I have written back to her with recognition and gratitude telling her that I have to leave the current room on the 20th March as it had already been rented out from that date. So, dear friend a heartfelt thank you for your constant attention towards me for which I will never be able to show you how grateful I am for your touching kindness! So, tomorrow my address will be: Mme H de S – Hotel Liberty, 5bis rue Berlioz. It is a tiny room in a tiny furnished flat which has been modernised. There is constant hot water (which wasn’t the case at Mme Medecin (2 hours a day) and a loo where I must be at 8am, at Mme Medcin. Over and above this, at the Liberty I have an electric stove which is very welcome. But the price is the same as everywhere else: 25 thousand per month. Despite the generosity of the Duchess of P. I have had to pay back several debts which have been dragging for a year now and I can only afford the Liberty for three or four months. So, this is where I am at, and I am at the end of my strength. Can you believe that my lawyer (a woman) tells me that “copyright” does not exist either in France nor in England which I doubt very much and I cannot say anything without proof of the contrary and I am unable to publish anything whatsoever without the agreement and collaboration of Krakow who still has not yet returned the contract which he had promised to do. Up until today, I have not received anything and I am chained to him. I am surprised that my lawyer has not yet filed a complaint for breach of trust. But she is unmovable, despite the fact that I have given her a copy of several letters from Krakow to me in 1959 when he promises to send back the contract. So, this is the situation that just goes round and round in circles, and I despair as I am once again in prison! God only, by a last-minute miracle can save me from such despair!
Dear friend, you will see from this that I am helpless to act against what fate throws at me.
Ending this, I thank you again and for all the interest you show in me, much more than anyone in my family, and furthermore I am infinitely grateful for your moral and physical help that you give me at every point. You are an angel of goodness that God has sent me! Please be blessed!
I wholeheartedly kiss you with huge and limitless affection and gratitude, I remain always your affectionate friend.
PS: A thousand affectionate thoughts to your mother whom I kiss.”
“Dear and excellent friend,
Receive my best wishes for Easter which are sent with great affection and appreciation. I am always confounded in the presence of such kindness towards me! I hope you are well and that your work for Chaillot goes well. As for myself, I am at the same stage, that is that my contract has not been returned. I am waiting for the lawyer to lodge a complaint for “Breach of Trust.”
With great affection, I embrace you.
“Nice 15th September 1961
Very dear and excellent friend!
For such a long time, I have not had any news from you and I have not given you any, I hope that you are all in good health. Above all, I would like to know if your mother feels well. As for myself, since you last saw me at rue Spitalieri, I have changed my address 5 times! Everything was already booked up for the Summer season and I had to look somewhere else to stay for a few days. Everything has become so expensive and scandalous, 1000 francs to 1500 per day for a modest mansard. I did not know where to go and my moral was at the lowest point! I am currently near the station in a two-star hotel in a mansard on the 6th floor under the roofs. The price is 975 francs per day with a tropical temperature from the bricks that surround it!
My financial situation has not changed since we last met in February, I wrote to Mlle de Brugues to ask whether it would be possible to raise my income a little. A flat refusal! So, I have had to borrow money. I wonder how I will get out of this??! With regards to the story with my manager, my lawyer did not seem in a huge rush to sort matters out nor to find a way to move forward – after two years – I had the idea to contact a Russian family from Paris, a longtime friend, whose son was very intelligent and capable. I explained by letter my situation and asked what I must do and how to get out of it. I just received his response and I am still dumbfounded! He spoke to a legal person and explained my situation. I have received a response which gives me great joy and great hope: my case follows the French legal code and the position of an author with his manager. I now have point by point the entire procedure on how to engage and how to end the relationship with this harmful individual. All of this has been sent to me by dactylography stating the relevant chapter of the Legal code and the relevant page numbers. You will understand my joy but also my surprise that my lawyer did not know these points of law. It is unbelievable! She is on holiday until 1st October and I must wait until this date to show her what she did not know as my lawyer. On the other hand, when at Easter, King Humbert came to Nice for a few days and asked me how I was getting on with my memoirs. I told him that I am where I was previously and that I did not know how to get rid of my manager - the King told me to let him know when I am able to finish it as he would send over his publisher with whom I will be able to work without an intermediary! Only yesterday, I wrote to him to let him know that I am finally free of my manager and will wait for the publisher. Here is a step towards my freedom, but the procedure is still going to be long, and whilst I wait I must finish writing these memoirs. The complicated conditions of my life by living in a mansard do not inspire me at all. In any case, there is some hope and that’s the most important! I am, therefore, waiting for October to ask my lawyer to let Krakov know that the contract has been abolished following these points in law: -phew!!! You will be pleased, my dear friend, as I was really desperate at not being able to get out of this untenable and endless story!
Forgive me for writing so badly but I have rheumatism in my hand and it hampers the pen. I wanted to let you know my situation as you have always shown such interest in me and with such goodness, friendship and understanding.
May God, bless you and protect you in every way as always!
Ending this, I kiss you wholeheartedly as well as your dear mother and send you my endless affection and gratitude. My kind memory to Monsieur d’Illiers.
Your grateful and affectionate,
31 rue Paganini 31 – Nice
Madame La Vicomtesse d’Illiers
25 rue de Lubeck 25”
“Nice, Hotel Frank - 31 rue Paganini
Thursday 19th October - 1961
Dear and Excellent friend!
I have just received with emotion and infinite gratitude your kind and touching letter. Before anything, I would like to tell you how happy I am to know - thank God that you are in good health! After so many months silence, I was terribly worried. But thanks to God, you are well - which makes me happy and comforts me. Thereafter, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the big gift included in your letter. I had to accept it as one of my affairs which has not been resolved as I had hoped, meant that I was slightly tight. And here you and your dear mother are the “only” true friends, compassionate and Christian who have come to look after my fate, to relieve me in this life full of difficulty. May God, bless you and protect you! Indeed because of the standstill by my lawyer for two and half years, I could not extract myself from my problems. I wrote to Melle de Bourgues to ask her if she could raise my allowance (pension) by 10 000 old francs. But her refusal was categorical, invoking the huge expenses of the Red Cross having to relieve the refugees from Algeria. I fully understand that there are those who are poorer than me, but I wouldn’t have thought that 10 000 old francs could deprive anyone. I will wait for better days, I have just been directly in contact with London, with an editor regarding my memoirs, thanks to God I have been freed from Krakow as your dear mother will have told you. One of these days, I will go to my lawyer, whose just back from vacation and I will present to her the Codes of French laws which entitle me to have the absolute right to fully break the contract and from now on publish it without use of any intermediary.
I have not, however, been able to finish my memoirs, the daily material worries take away the little wit and courage I have. I need a peaceful retirement in order to concentrate on a painful past. And this is what I am waiting for as soon the editor replies. I suggested he publish them as advertisements, rather like the six articles published in Switzerland in 1958, and to give me a financial advance so that I can finish these memoirs and give them to him. If we need a lawyer in order to clear this up, I will tell the editor to do it via his lawyer. I do not want to take any risks. So here, dear friend, is what the present situation is like. A heartfelt thank you relating to your friend from the Grand Palais. I am very thankful, but I have already rented for November a mansard at the Hotel Du Breuil, rue Gounod that you know well. The “Frank” (Hotel) will close at this time until the New Year. The mansard at the Du Breuil is less agreeable but they are very nice to me and they will give me a keener winter price. Until that time, you can write to me at the Frank. It is therefore in this new mansard that I want to finish my memoirs and finally be at peace. My health is not wonderful: very high blood pressure and huge physical tiredness: therefore I have had to feed myself at the “self-service” once a day but it isn’t very good, nor terribly nourishing. In the evening, I just have some tea and some buttered biscottes, and the rest of the time I am just happy to wait around! A miracle! And here it comes thanks to the infinite kindness of you, dear friend!! My “relative” was here for two days and invited me to the Negresco for lunch, it was very nice and cordial but never asked me if I needed anything. As it isn’t in my habit to whimper on my fate, I did not expose my situation. I only said that I was living in a mansard which was too expensive for my means. What else could I say????
Thus, I finish my complaints by asking for your forgiveness but by expressing again and again my recognition and my affection for your constant attentions towards me. How may I mention this often enough???
Your dear mother and yourself, very dear friend, are the only people who think of me and help me generously. The Lord, may he bless and recompense you for following his laws.
As for myself, by kissing you tenderly, I am your eternally grateful friend.
“9-Nice 6th May 1962
Very dear friend,
I cannot remember if I wrote to you for Easter as I am out of the clinic after having spent two weeks there thanks to double pneumonia!
I have just returned to Trank, still very feeble and bedridden! It is the first time in my life that I am ill! All my thoughts are with you and your dear mother, hoping that your health is still as good. With all my tenderness and affection
“Dear and Excellent friend!
I have received your generous gift and once again I write to you from the bottom of my heart for your great kindness and generosity. I am nevertheless confounded as you have spoilt me so recently! May God, bless you and help you in all your great Christian charity. Your dear mother has just written to me and I can see that you have a lot to do. All my kindest thoughts and wishes to you. As for me, I am recovering little by little, I am again in contact with my lawyer - nothing done yet to free me from the clutches of Krakov! Also, I am continuing my work for the future book as he has no rights on it!...
May the Lord always grant you good health and his constant blessing for everything that you have done for me.
I embrace you with all my heart and stay forever your grateful and devoted friend.
Nice 29 May 1962
Order Number: 6107 CH.V
13th June 1958
25 rue de Lubeck
1 small box of Chinese Tea - 1 kilo
For the Princess of Yougoslavia
From Mme de Sargenton 26 , avenue de l'Opera"