There were two Russian Grand Duchesses of the Romanov Dynasty called Olga. The first was the daughter of Alexander III, the second was her niece, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and sister of Anastasia Romanov. This article gives a brief biography of each.
Olga Alexandrovna Romanova (1882 − 1960)
Olga Alexandrovna was the youngest daughter of Alexander III, the penultimate Emperor of Russia. As his daughter, her formal title was Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna.
Olga’s early life among the Romanovs was uneventful, until her marriage at the age of 19 to the Duke of Oldenburg, Peter Alexandrovich in 1901. While married to Peter, Olga fell in love with Nikolai Kulikovsky, a military officer and a commoner. In order to be able to marry him, in 1916, Olga’s marriage to Peter was annulled, on the grounds that it was never consummated. Peter was believed by many to be homosexual, so this seems a plausible reason for the divorce to be granted, although whether the marriage actually remained unconsummated, or whether this was just a convenient excuse, is less certain
Olga fled Russia shortly after the Russian Revolution, and lived in exile in Denmark for 30 years, until 1948, when she moved to Canada. Throughout her life in exile she retained the title of Grand Duchess, but she lived a relatively simple life, spending much of her time on farms in each country, before finally moving to a flat in Toronto. She lived in Canada until her death in Toronto in 1960.
As well as her royal title, Olga was well known for her paintings. She painted throughout her life. Many of her paintings were sold to supplement her income, and are available on display at galleries around the world, including the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. You can see a sample of her work in this article – the painting is called Village Church in Autumn, and was painted in 1920.
Olga Nikolaevna Romanova (1895 − 1918)
Her childhood was, like her Aunt’s, rather uneventful by the standards of the Russian royal family. She led a sheltered life, and developed a reputation for her compassionate nature. As the eldest child of the family, her parents expected her to be the most responsible child, and this expectation caused difficulties in her relationship with her mother at times.
During her teenage years, Olga developed a close relationship with Rasputin, the Russian mystic who was rumoured to have a hold over Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, her mother, as well as her sisters. There are persistent (and completely unverified) rumours that Rasputin seduced Olga, and perhaps her other sisters, but it is worth noting that Olga was the only one of Nicholas II’s daughters not to attend Rasputin’s funeral.
Olga Nikolaevna was an attractive young woman, but even if she hadn’t been, her status as Imperial Princess would have granted her many suitors. There were many rumours of who her latest flame was, and who she would eventually be married to.
The final year of Olga Romanov’s life was spent in captivity. Her father, mother and sisters were all arrested by the Bolsheviks and kept under house arrest, first at the imperial palace of Tsarskoye Selo, and later in Tobolsk and Yekaterinburg. She was killed, along with the rest of her family, on 17 July 1918, by Bolshevik forces worried that they might be re-captured by White (Tsarist) forces in the Russian Civil war, and provide a rallying point for opposition to the revolution. You can read a more detailed account of the family’s last hours in our article about the Romanov Massacre.
A number of people claimed to be Olga Romanova after her death – much as many impersonators claimed to be her younger sister Anastasia Romanov. It is only in the past few years that her death has been conclusively proved by the use of DNA samples.