February 23, 1857 – Sergei Alexandrovich Romanov
He was one of the fabulously wealthy Romanovs, and he was notorious for his sexual exploits with other men. While serving as Governor of Moscow from 1891 to 1905, he proved partial to young male flesh, often paid for. His elevated social status as the younger brother of Tsar Alexander III and uncle of Tsar Nicholas II afforded him the protection he needed to be able to live his indiscreet gay life.
There were at least seven gay grand dukes at the time, uncles, nephews and cousins of the tsar and “Serge”, as he was called, was at the top of the heap, and probably a top.
He was involved in a series of same-sex affairs between 1874 and 1884. When he was living in St. Petersburg, the Imperial Chancery Chief Alexander Mossolov complained that his scandalous sex life was the talk of the town. Although there were laws criminalizing homosexuality, the Romanovs smartly chose not to enforce them. During this same time period there was even a gay tsar (but not a Russian): Tsar Ferdinand I, of Bulgaria, who ruled from 1887-1918.
Although the Grand Duke married Princess Elizabeth of Hesse, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, his gayness assured a childless marriage. However, they became the guardians of the son and daughter of the Grand Duke’s younger brother, Grand Duke Paul, with whom he had enjoyed a “special closeness” as a youth. Paul had been banished from Russia and stripped of all titles when, after the death of his first wife, he married a divorced woman of lower social class in 1902, without being granted special dispensation by his nephew, Tsar Nicholas II.
His wife complained that he showed more affection to their adopted children than to herself. So, the Grand Duke suggested that she take a plaything of her own. Princess Elizabeth was more an object of possession than affection, a strikingly beautiful woman Grand Duke Sergei could have on his arm while out in society. The Grand Duke would attended musical performances with his boyfriends.
He was highly proficient in languages, art and music; a skilled painter and he even played flute in an orchestra. He also wore a corset to accent his trim figure. He had a nervous habit of playing with the many rings on his fingers and never appeared self-assured, despite his rank.
He had a successful military career. After active duty in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, he was awarded the Order of Saint George for bravery and courage in action with the enemy. After a visit to the Holy Lands, he became Patron of the Russian presence in Jerusalem, including chairmanship of a society dedicated to the upkeep of Orthodox shrines in the Holy Lands. As Governor of Moscow, however, he oversaw the expulsion of 20,000 Jews, victims of government-sponsored pogroms.
In his later years, the poor dear lived in constant fear of assassination, as his own father had been. Unfortunately, that is what happened. While traveling alone by carriage inside the walls of the Kremlin, The Grand Duke was killed by a terrorist bomb in 1905, just months after he had retired from the Governorship of Moscow. He was just 47 years old.