“It is a pity Countess Lieven wears skirts”, the Tsar Alexander wrote to his foreign minister Count Nesselrode. “She would have made an excellent diplomat.”
Born in 1785 as Dorothea Benckendorff during the time of the French Revolution and subsequent treatises between Russia and England, the Countess married in 1800 Count Christopher Lieven who in 1812 was appointed ambassador to Great Britian.
Unpublished memoirs reveal that “later at London I always wrote the private dispatches, my husband copied them…” (Cromwell, 31). Witty, distinguished and fashionable the London ton came to rely on the presence of the Countess (Cromwell, 40). Friends with Emily Cowper, the Countess soon became appointed as one of the patronesses of Almacks.
Invitations to her house were sought after not only for the political undertones but for her exalted station in the Ton. In 1826, her husband ascended to the title of Prince making the Countess a Princess. She was said to be directly or indirectly involved in every major political or diplomatic event until 1857; a French diplomant said she knew “everyone in the Courts and cabinets…and all the secret annals of diplomacy.”
After the tragic death of two of her sons, she would later remove to Paris where her salons extended her importance in political realms.
Is there a biography of her which you would recommend? She sounds amazing!
Dorothea Lieven: a Russian princess in London and Paris, 1785-1857
By Judith Lissauer Cromwell
Ms. Cromwell uses letters and more…so its a good bet for an entertaining read!