The descendents of Prince Victor Pavlovitch (1768-1834) and by definition his four sons all carried the title of Prince. The family rose in prominence for a hundred years and would leave their mark with the construction of palaces in St. Petersburg and Europe. They were military adjutants to the Emperors and Grand Dukes, their wives, sisters and mothers were ladies in waiting. They were art collectors who founded numismatic museums and patrons of art and music. They were no strangers to the society pages of newspapers across the continent. Perhaps the apogee of their prominence in Imperial Russia was prince Victor Sergeievitch (1860-1923), the grandson of Victor Pavlovitch who was a close friend of Emperor Nicholas II but ultimately a man who saw the need to remain independent of the court’s suffocating political intrigues.
Largely thanks to the scion of the princely line, Victor Pavlovitch, the Kotchoubey name became present in both music and main stream literary works in both the 19th and 20th century. Lev Nikolaievitch Tolstoy featured Victor Pavlovitch in his seminal book, War and Peace. C.S. Forester in his Hornblower series also featured Kotchoubey in his story line. Perhaps, the greatest promoter was Russian poet Alexander Sergeievitch Pushkin who among the many women he admired and loved was Victor Pavlovitch’s daughter, countess Natalia Victorovna Strogonova (nee Kotchoubey) for whom he immortalized the family in his epic poem, Poltava. A poem that told the story of the forbidden love between Matrena Kotchoubey (the daughter of Judge General Vassyl Leontievitch Kotchoubey) and her godfather Hetman Ivan Stepanovitch Mazeppa. Thanks in part, to Lord Byron and his own novel, Mazzepa, the story was all the rage in early 19th century Europe. More minor pieces included poems dedicated to members of the family by Pushkin’s classmate, Prince Piotr Wiazemsky and other 19th century writers. Finally, the Kotchoubey line more broadly was made famous by its musically inclined members like composer Princess Alix Kotschoubey (nee de Bressant), her cousin princess Lilasabeta Vassilievna Kotchoubey (nee Kotchoubey) who was also a composer and Sergei Mikhailovitch Kotchoubey (or Sergio Cocciubei) an opera singer who first performed in Italy in the 1930s. Piotr Ilyovitch Tchaikovsky composed one of his magnificent operas, Mazeppa, on the basis of Pushkin’s poem Poltava with one of the lead roles going to the character of Judge General Vassyl Kotchoubey.
The non-titled Kotchoubeys were offered repeatedly an imperial favor of being granted a title but family legend has it that regardless of the branch of the family they proudly and consistently refused the offers. After all, the family did not need to carry any other title but “Bey” which was de facto fused into their last name when their ancestor Kuchuk Bey converted to Russian Orthodoxy in the mid 17th century and became Andrei Kotchoubey. Victor Pavlovich, exceptionally, agreed to be given the title of count by Emperor Paul I and then ultimately received the title of prince which was awarded to him by Emperor Nicholas I. Perhaps in a cruel sense, this departure from family tradition and the heady loss of grounding in the family’s roots was the ultimate undoing for the line. The ‘princely’ branch of the family, which was also the cadet line of the family died out in 1956 with the death of the last Prince Victor Victorovitch Kotschoubey who died in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States. He and his wife had spent the last years of his life welcoming guests to their hotel, the Croton Heights Inn (now: the Peter Pratt Inn (http://www.prattsinn.com/) in Westchester county, New York, USA.