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Grand Duchess Natalia Alexeievna of Russia (1755-1776) was actually born Princess Wilhelmina Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt.

In 1773 Empress Catherine II of Russia needed to find a suitable wife for her son Paul (King Frederick II of Prussia.) She couldn’t decide between Wilhelmina and her sisters Amalie and Louis, so she sent a flotilla of ships to fetch the girls so she could compare them- in charge of the ships was Paul’s best friend Andrei.

Everyone was smitten with Wilhelmina and Paul selected her as his wife because she was beautiful, outgoing and vibrant. I can’t imagine the pressure of being Catherine’s daughter-in-law- whoa. Catherine needed to approve all the ladies’ outfits in her court as to be sure no one would out-shine her. eek.

They were married in grand fashion and Wilhelmina changed her name to Natalia. After some time, the marriage seemed to fall apart. Natalia had a very public affair with Andrei (Paul’s BFF.) When Catherine found out Natalia was pregnant, she didn’t care whether the baby was Paul’s or Andrei’s… she just wanted an heir, so she overlooked the whole “affair” thing.

Poor Natalia gave birth to a stillborn son in 1776- the baby was so big, they should have done a c-section, but they did not and Natalia died.

Paul was wrecked with grief and is quoted as saying “The surgeon Moreau told me privately that in his opinion, the surgeons and doctors of the court were asses. The Grand Duchess should never have died. In truth, it is very surprising that greater care is not taken in advance with a Grand Duchess. The people are very angry, weeping and bitter. Yesterday and today, people in shops were heard to say, ‘The young ladies die; the old babas never die.'”