THE grave of a Russian princess left barely recognisable has been restored to look as good as new.
Princess Catherine Yourievsky, who was the daughter of Tsar Alexander II, died on Hayling Island in 1959. She was buried in the churchyard of St Peter’s at Northney.
Portsmouth’s Russian orthodox parish – which is part of the Diocese of Sourozh – took on the restoration as part of a campaign to keep the memory of distinguished Russians in the UK alive.
John Newbery, a member of the parish of St Peter and St Paul, led the operation to clean and straighten the headstone, which had sunk into the ground at St Peter’s.
He said: ‘It had got very grubby, and it even posed a health and safety risk of falling down. Now it stands out.’
Born in St Petersburg in 1878, Her Serene Highness Princess Catherine fled Russia in the wake of the communist revolution with her second husband, Prince Serge Obolensky.
Ending up in London, Princess Catherine was an understudy of opera star Dame Nellie Melba, and had a successful singing career.
John added: ‘She was getting money as a singer, but when that source of income dried up, she ended up with not very much.’
Catherine received an allowance from Queen Mary of Teck, the wife of King George V, but that source of money ceased when Mary died in 1953.
Destitute, jobless and alone, Catherine moved to Hayling Island in 1932.
John said: ‘She did not have anywhere else to go. It was really cheap to live here.’
Catherine was a member of the WI and residents on Hayling Island treated her sympathetically.
She died in a care home in 1959, and her funeral at St Peter’s was attended by just eight people.
The Russian orthodox parish is planning a long-awaited panikhida for Catherine, which is the traditional Russian memorial service to commemorate a dead person.
John anticipates that the panikhida will take place at St Peter’s in the autumn, and that a member of the Russian Embassy will attend alongside members of the parish.