Princess Kyra Nikolaievna (née Elaguine) was the second wife of Prince Victor Victorovich Kotshoubey (1893-1956). She was the daughter of Nikolai Alexandrovitch Elaguine (?) and Miss N. Popova. The Elaguine name also written as Yelagin would be known to anyone in St. Petersburg because of the famous Yelagin / Elaguine Palace which was built by the prolific Italian architect Carlo Rossi for the imperial family in place of an earlier palace that was built for Ivan Perfilievich Yelagin / Иван Перфильевич Елагин (1725–94) who was a Russian freemason, historian, poet, translator and historians suggest a secretary to Catherine the Great.
Records suggest that when Yelagin was made director of the court theatres, he began his own reign of terror in the theatre. According to the Wikipedia entry he also helped Empress Catherine with her manuscripts. It would seem that all her literary works survive only in Yelagin’s handwritten copies.
She was a Russian émigré from a storied family and like her husband born in Russia but almost ten years after him on 15.08.1904. She outlived her beloved Victor by almost thirty years and she passed away in 1984. They were married in 1940 and as America was preparing to enter WWII, the tragedies and turmoil of lives that had been tested by enough revolutions and wars to last a lifetime sought refuge in the quiet certitude of life as inn keepers. Histories cruel ironies were only known to a few guests but who would have imagine that when Victor was born and feted by the Imperial court, the Emperor Alexander III and the Empress Maria Feodorovna that he would live out his life Yorktown heights serving his guests instead of being served himself. Victor bought the Croton Heights Inn (renamed the Peter Pratt Inn in 1956) soon after they were married. The Inn was not too far from Hyde Park, the storied home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife and Eleanor and as the guestbook of the inn can attest, there was no lack of activity at the Croton Heights Inn even during the war years. The Kotchoubeys entertained the who is who of New York society. Surely the flair and charms of Prince Serge Obolensky who was married to Lady Astor was only one part of a great love affair between high society and the storied princes of the lost world of the Romanoffs who sang, danced and thrilled America’s elite in all of their capitals. After the war, the couple continued to run the inn but Victor’s health was failing.
Here’s an excerpt from the Inn’s brochure while the Kotschoubey’s were proprietors from the Peter Pratt Inn website (see: http://www.prattsinn.com/croton_heights_inn/heights_brochure_inside.htm)
In 1953, Victor passed away in Boston, Massachusetts. Victor was buried in the Russian Cemetery in Mahopac, NY not far from the inn.
After Victor’s death, Kyra moved to New York city to the Upper East side. For those who hadn’t looked at the phone book of Carnegie Hill, they could be pardoned for thinking that they had stumbled onto a resettlement community of St. Petersburg’s most elite families. Living on Carnegie Hill within a stone’s throw of the Cathedral of our Lady of the Sign on 93rd Street which was located in the old George Moore mansion purchased by Semenko who had made his fortune in Hollywood were some of Russia’s greatest names. The families settled in the Upper East Side and especially 96th Street included: The Galitzine’s, the Cheremeteffs, The Troubetzkoy’s, the Kotchoubey’s, the Bouteneff’s, the Bagration’s, the Tatischeff’s, the Lobanov-Rostovsky’s, the Anichkovs, the Taneev’s, the Hesketh’s, The Pouschine’s, the Nebolsine’s and the Khlebnikov’s. The would gather on Sundays at the church on 93rd Street in a most ironic location. When Semenenko purchased the church on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church of America (ROCOR), the main church hall was placed inside the old ballroom with the holy alter passed atop the raised stage of the orchestra pit. For many years, Kyra lived at 16 East 96th Street and eventually she moved to 97th Street.
A year after arriving in New York with his family from Italy, Andrei Sergeievitch with his parents met Prince Victor and his wife Kyra at the the wedding of their cousin Count Alexei Mussin-Pushkin (son of Countess Ekaterina Vassilievna Mussin-Pushkin (née Kotschoubey) and Marina Woiczehovsky. The year was 1953 and Victor with his failing health would die a fe years later.
That meeting was, of course, a preview of life’s little coincidences and happenstances. Kyra Nikolaevna and the Kotchoubeys would find themselves in a number of circumstances that would provide Andrei’s mother Irina Geeorgievna (née Gabrichevsky) and Andrei’s father, Sergei Mikhailovitch with interesting jobs. Kyra found a job for Sergei teaching equestrian riding to young girls in Vermont and they both went on to work with Sergei at Ecole Champlain.
In another twist of fate, the famous director Sergei Denham of Ballet Russe was looking for Princess Kotchoubey to run his Ballet school. So he did what every New Yorker did when they wanted to find something-he looked in the White Pages. As he scanned the page for Kotchoubey Denham found the number for Irina Kotchoubey and he immediately came into contact with Irina Georgievna (née Gabritchevskaya). Kyra had been listed under the German spelling of the name and it came after “kotc” as is is spelled “kotsch”. Was this really the reason she did not get the call? we will never know but Denham arranged for an interview with Irina and liked her and then hired her. Never knowing that perhaps the Princess Kotschoubey he was seeking was in fact Kyra Nikolaievna.
After Denham found and hired Irina Georgievna he always referred to her, incorrectly, as Princess Kotchoubey. Despite her protest, she is so listed in all the Ballet Russe de Montecarlo literature under that title.