Prince Galitzine & the Silver Age

Passport of Aimée Crocker during the Silver Age

Aimée Crocker Gouraud lived in Paris both before and after the Great War. She became one of the many self-exiles who chose to leave a homeland that was considered artistically, intellectually, politically, or sexually limiting — or even oppressive. It was a town and a time for free thinkers, free lovers, free lancers, free loaders and free spirits. Aimée, the undisputed Queen of Bohemia, met her courtiers, men of adventure and women of the passing whirl, every afternoon at 4 o’clock in the café of Henri’s Hotel on the Rue Volney, at her corner table. A dozen or so male “secretaries” fluttered about the pearl shimmering throne of Her Majesty. This chorus of boys later retreated to her salon, an extraordinary palace dubbed “The House of Fantasy” by the press. Aimée rotated these courtiers with the intention of finally meeting her “grand homme” who was traditionally the man of the salon, the showcase exhibit and the celebrity for whom the hostess, or salonnière, ran her weekly gatherings and sometimes her life.

In 1925, Aimée returned from Paris to visit friends on the Cunarder Berengaria with two new tattoos delicately and strategically placed on her person. On one of her legs was a snake, a symbol of health and on her back a butterfly, a symbol of the soul. On her arm was the California dowager’s grand homme that she’d been searching for, the undernourished Russian refugee Prince Mstislav Galitzine, aka Count Ostermann. The heiress and grandmother again hit the publicity bull’s eye by embarking on her fifth venture on the matrimonial sea at the overripe age of 60. Mstislav was 26. The story caused a sensation slightly less turbulent than a tidal wave or an earthquake.

Aimée Crocker’s fifth marriage to Prince Mstislav Galitzine was an international story. The Prince was 26. Aimee was actually 60.

When Aimée was asked if she, in fact, married this young Russian prince she replied with a smile, “Most certainly not. It is he who is married to me.” The mayor of the 1st arrondissement in Paris officiated at the ceremony. Prince Galitzine was young, dark and slender with a pointed black mustache. Aimée was about five feet six inches and inclined to plumpness. When the photographers asked the bridal pair to pose together on the boat deck the heiress said, “I am exceedingly opposed to contrasts,” and smilingly declined to have the picture taken. The toast of the previous generation, Crocker confessed, “I am old. I am fat. It takes me an hour to apply my face — then it is not good looking. But my new husband — don’t tell him about me. He is so innocent, poor lamb.” The odd couple crossed the Atlantic on the same boat but in different cabins.

The prince was the right man at the right time. Fellow American expat Gertrude Stein noticed that in the mid-1920s her latest group of painter and poet admirers was 26 when she met them. “It became the period of being 26,” Stein remarked. “During the next two or three years all the young men were 26 years old. It was the right age, apparently, for that time and place.”

Prince Mstislav Galitzine by Franz Löwy, 1925

Aimée, who declined to permit advanced years to rob her of her youthful instincts and youthful surroundings, had been following this trend for decades. Crocker’s previous two husbands were both aged 26 when she married them; Galitzine gave Aimée a matrimonial 26-year-old hat trick.

Ivan Jean Lebedeff, or in Europe, Ivan Doline

On her trip back home to New York, Aimée brought two maids, a valet, her tattoos and her moneybags. The Prince brought his most intimate man-friend, silent cinema actor Ivan Jean Lebedeff, who, in Europe, used the screen name Ivan Doline. He introduced Aimée Crocker to the Prince at a party in Paris. A swift courtship and secret marriage followed, and when the blushing bride and gallant groom came to America, Lebedeff accompanied them.

Ivan was of noble blood although he possessed no title. He won recognition on the screen in France in such films as The Happy Death, The Artist’s Soul, 600,000 Francs a Month, and The Charming Prince. He joined the Prince and Princess hoping to launch a career starring in American films. He advised Mstislav to do the same. Hollywood and the silver screen would be the Prince’s chief American pursuit. His backup plan would be, perhaps, to manage a cool cabaret in Florida or a swagger Russian nightclub, just off Broadway in the Fifties. Princess Aimée denied she was his “checkbook angel,” but said she would introduce him to influential friends who could help him with his Tinseltown ambitions.

The handsome and aristocratic Lebedeff, occupied a suite adjoining that of the honeymooners at the Waldorf-Astoria. Aimée returned to her Paris palace by the end of the year without her young prince.

From Kyiv with Love

A teenage Mstislav, before his mustache grew in and he enlisted in the Imperial Corps of Pages

Prince Mstislav Alexandrovich Galitzine was born in Kyiv in 1899, the same year as Aimee’s foster daughter Yvonne. Unlike his matrimonial predecessor, Mstislav was a true prince. The Galitzine family produced its share of generals, novelists and imperial favorites, and, after the revolution, a couple of painters. Mstislav had an inquisitive mind. He studied math, engineering (with the Zeppelin Company), politics, economics and philosophy.

At the outbreak of the Great War, both Lebedeff and Galitzine enlisted in the Imperial Corps of Pages, a privileged military school reserved for sons of noblemen and high-ranking officers. For bravery fighting the Germans, Lebedeff received a St. George’s Cross, the highest Russian honor, from the hand of Nicholas II himself. Both went on to fight their own countrymen the “Reds” with Alexander Kolchak’s “White” army as officers during the Communist Revolution. They fought on the wrong side of the will of the people. Like many other aristocratic families, their lives were changed forever by the Bolsheviks.

Aimée offered up many explanations as to why she would marry a man more than half her age. She first claimed that the marriage was arranged by destiny. “I had no human desire to marry again, but many years ago I met a wonderful old seer on top of a high mountain in India who read my whole past and future. He told me that I would marry five times and when Prince Galitzine asked for my hand I realized that it was destiny calling me and I accepted. I found that the Prince was a very agreeable young man…” She continued:

I married a man young enough to be my son because I know I must have the stimulating companionship of youth to maintain my emotionality and vitality. It is always good for a woman old in years to have a young husband, for he can keep her youthful in spirit.

As an adept of the Hindoo mystics, I have learned to appreciate the value of the vibratory forces that emanate from young bodies and young minds. Long ago I discovered the secret of eternal youth, and this is why I feel as young today as I did years ago in Samoa when I fell so deeply in love with the late Robert Louis Stevenson, the immortal novelist and poet.

Love, quite as much as youth, is all a matter of invisible waves. Two perfect lovers must have vibrations of equal wave lengths. My training in the mysticism of the East has taught me how to increase or lessen the wave lengths of my emotions so that they correspond with those of my admirers, and this explains why men have fallen so easily in love with me.

Aimée wanted the prestige of a non-toiling husband of princely caste. Mstislav first swept the upper middle aged Bohemienne off her feet on the dance floor. “I married Prince Galitzine largely because he is such a splendid dancer,” she explained. “I usually dance with him one hour every morning and evening. Often he dances alone for me and then I do the same for him.”

The San Francisco Chronicle would claim that Aimée, “had left the peace of ageless Buddha for the youth offered by the arms of Eros.”

The heiress still kept the surname Gouraud but would, when the occasion presented itself, use the title Princess Galitzine for affect for the rest of her life. When asked if the Prince was her fifth or sixth husband she retorted, “Oh, my dear, no. The Prince is my twelfth husband if I include my matrimonial list of seven Oriental husbands, not registered under the laws of the Occident.”

The great William H. Crocker’s sister-in-law Princess Poniatowski

The Buccaneers

Some would say Aimée wanted the title that she was cheated and deceived out of a decade earlier when Alexander Miskinoff, her fourth husband, who claimed to have royal Russian blood, turned out to be a fraud. Crocker’s legendary cousin William had a daughter and a sister-in-law

who married into royalty. His wife’s sister Elizabeth Sperry famously married Prince Andre Poniatowski, son of Prince Stanislaus Poniatowski, Master of Horse to Napolean III, and nephew of the last Polish King Stanislaw II Augustus back in the Gay Nineties.

William’s daughter Ethel married Count Andre Chanu de Limur in 1918, not long after Aimée’s debacle marriage to false prince Miskinoff. De Limur was a member of one of the oldest and most distinguished families in France, and a much-decorated officer in the French air force. Ethel and Andre were a true love match meeting on the airfield while both were involved in volunteer work during the Great War. These storybook romances, so close to home, no doubt made an impression on Aimée who never met a man that she couldn’t have as her own for as long as she wished.

Cousin Countess Ethel de Limur, New York Times 1918

The claim that Aimée was looking for a title may have had merit. From 1880 to the 1920s, many monetarily well-endowed American women, who were not accepted socially by the old money New York clans, looked eastward across the Atlantic to Europe to acquire titles and lineages they felt would give them prestige. A gaggle of American heiresses, up to 350 in number, had invaded London and Paris at that time in a sometimes frantic scramble for titled husbands. The transaction was oftentimes a cold-blooded one. The European royal families harbored unbridled disdain for American culture, but were losing their ability to run their estates let alone their countries. Edith Wharton, a contemporary of Aimée Crocker, called this group of free spirited heiresses who swapped dollars for titles “The Buccaneers” in her novel of the same name.

Aimée had no interest in fitting in with stuffy New York high society, Mrs. Astor’s 400, but was certainly aware of new trends, and definitely enjoyed sampling the new stock of foreign men swimming in her vast dating pool.

The Silver Age

Ms. Crocker was once quoted as saying, “The Russians are adorable. They remind one of Americans. They are so natural. They are more like Californians than anyone we ever meet in Europe.” During the fin de siècle and the first decades of the 20th century, French speaking Russians were all the rave for those in the international Bohemian set. Russia was in the throws of a dynamic cultural flowering in what is now referred to as their Silver Age. An entire pléiade, a constellation of genius appeared. In every area of art: literature, music, painting, sculpture, theater and dance, Russia was in the foreground with masterpieces that were both daring and beautiful. This was the era of cheeky Chekhov’s plays, Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, of the House of Faberge and the Stanislavski system, of abstract painters Chagall and Kandinsky, and composers Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky.

Russians were behind the highest order of high art and steered a world wide “creative intelligentsia.” Their radical experimentations in all the arts were accompanied by a religious, philosophical and mystical renaissance in Russia thanks in no small part to the great Ukrainian mystic and founder of the modern theosophist movement, Madame Blavatsky. Art became an act of magical, even divine creation and a sure path to the world soul. Sex became sacred. Nothing was illicit during the Silver Age. The incantations, colors and rhythms swirling in the imagination of these high priests/artists, brought forth mystical experience, a harmony with the azure and golden gods… a “sobornost” spiritual group hug.

Genius drawn by genius. Rite of Spring collaborators and Russian legends Igor Stravinsky by Pablo Picasso, Vaslav Nijinsky by John Singer Sargent and Nicholas Roerich by Léon Bakst.


The Tsar of the Silver Age, Nicholas II, ruled a Russian Empire that stretched from the Baltic to the Pacific. One hundred twenty-six million people from 194 ethnic groups. As magnificent as it was for the imperial and elite classes, workers and peasants lived in extreme poverty and hardship. The country was being financially asphyxiated by its public debt. When the old Russian world fell apart,  (widespread inflation, food shortages and heavy losses during World War I decimated the empire), when Tsar Nicholas II and his family were murdered, when the Communist revolution convulsed the country, millions of Russians from all walks of life fled. First to escape the violence of the revolution and subsequent civil war and then the repression of the new Soviet state. The Silver Age in Russia was over.

The Bolsheviks targeted the tsarist elites, who found themselves on the run for their very lives. Ivan Lebedeff was captured and imprisoned, then made a daring escape to Constantinople before he settled in Paris. Mstislav Galitzine fled Russia by train to the East via Japan before eventually settling in France. These aristocrats (along with the creative intelligentsia) formed the initial wave of Russian emigrants to wash up on the banks of the Seine. Paris was known in happier times as a reckless playground of extravagance and inspiration to the Russian royals and cultural leaders. The City of Light was an obvious beacon and sanctuary.

The former ruling class arrived with nothing more than they could carry, most of them certain that wealth in the form of precious baubles would keep them afloat until the Bolsheviks turned tail… which, they presumed, would be any day. After the crown jewels were hocked, Russia’s exiled nobles had to scramble and improvise for their very survival. “Riches to rags” tales of ex-aristocrats scraping by as Paris waiters, taxi drivers, cabaret performers or seamstresses became legendary.

House of Galitzine

House of Golitsyn (Galitzine) coat-of-arms

Fighting on the wrong side of Russian history was a family tradition for the Mstislav branch of the noble Galitzine family. In 1825, Prince Valerian Mikhailovich Golitsyn, Mstislav’s great grandfather, was a prominent “Decembrist” conspirator who led an unsuccessful uprising after the death of Tsar Alexander I.

To stop the coronation of Emperor Nicholas, a force of about 3,000 rebels from the “Northern Society” confronted the 9,000 loyal troops stationed outside the Senate building in St. Petersburg and mounted a military palace coup. The loyalists opened fire with heavy artillery which scattered the rebels. When the smoke cleared, 1200 soldiers and civilians lay dead. The Southern Decembrists led their own unsuccessful insurrection a few days later.

The political aims of the revolutionaries, who were comprised of reform-minded members of the nobility and veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, were emancipation of the serfs and replacing the Tsar’s government with either an American-style democratic republic or a British-style constitutional monarchy. Some argued for abolishing the aristocracy and  redistributing the land, taking half into state ownership and dividing the rest among the peasants.

Decembrist Revolt by Vasily Fyodorovich, 1853

Some conspirators were sent off to fight in the Caucuses or exiled to Siberia depending on the enthusiasm with which they participated in the insurrection. Many of them were flogged, some flogged to death. Of the officers, 121 men were were exiled and sent to Siberia, and five, including the poet Kondraty Ryleyev, were hanged. For his treasonous acts, Prince Valerian Golitsyn was stripped of his title and was sentenced to exile in Siberia forever. The term was later reduced to 20 years. He was first sent to the city of Kirensk, Irkutsk province. During the Russian-Turkish war, Valerian was forced to fight, reduced to a private, in the 42nd Jaeger Regiment. He later became a non-commissioned officer in the Kabardian Jaeger Regiment.

After serving the full 20 year sentence, Golitsyn was allowed to live in Moscow again under strict supervision. A year later he was finally granted amnesty and his title was returned to him. Prince Valerian then inherited the additional title Count Ostermann through his mother’s brother, Count Alexander Ostermann-Tolstoy.

In 1863, a further “ukase,” or decree, permitted his son, Mstislav Valerianovich, to pass the title on to his children by primogeniture. Aimée Crocker’s prince-count would be the last member of the royal Galitzine family to carry the Ostermann title.

Galitzine estate, the childhood home of Valerian Golitsyn in Moscow, once housed Catherine the Great as well as the Golitsyn Museum, which exhibited paintings by famous European artists of the Italian, French and Dutch schools such as Chima da Conegliano, Caravaggio, Veronese, Titian, Canaletto, Rubens, Poussin, and many others

After the uprising, the slogan Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality became the guiding principle and the official ideology of the imperial government of Nicholas I. (This ideological trinity has been reinstalled and rebranded by sitting autocrat Vladimir Putin). Official nationality placed the Russian peasant as the simple, good, and loyal foundation of society. The educational policy of the orthodoxy, autocracy and nationality edict was to not educate the peasants in order to keep them pure and undefiled by the atheistic and egotistical heresies coming out of the West.

The Most Radical Revolution of All

Dmitry Merezhkovsky

Prince Valerian Golitsyn was immortalized as the protagonist in Dmitry Merezhkovsky’s novel The Fourteenth of December, which was written in the midst of the 1917 revolutionary crisis in Russia and set during the Decembrists revolt. Nine-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in literature, Merezhkovsky was a seminal figure of the Silver Age, the Russian Renaissance, and a founder of the Russian Symbolist movement. He fled Soviet Russia in 1919, eventually settling in Paris and becoming, along with his poet wife Zinaida Gippius and Aimée Crocker’s new husband Prince Mstislav Galitzine, a central figure in the capital of Russian emigration.

In his novel, Golitsyn, of the Northern Secret Society, arrives in St. Petersburg on the eve of December 14, 1825 from Vasilkov near Kyiv, meets with the more radical Southern Secret Society, and promotes the idea of a religious revolution, uniting Christ with liberty, as opposed to a purely political revolution. Golitsyn  proposes rule by the power of the “best people,” the revolutionary aristocracy and Russian intellectuals, who were the “the true embodiment of the Russian people’s consciousness and the Russian people’s conscience,” rather than the “beast people.” The great novelist and thinker believed wholeheartedly that the “autocracy of the people,” would be no better than the autocracy of the tsar.

Merezhkovsky took on the causes of the Galitzines, Valerian and Mstislav, who fought the dictatorship of the tsar and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Dmitry was in opposition to the monarchy, but he was also isolated from the people and their backwards Russian Orthodox traditions. He found the peasants hopelessly reactionary and superstitious.

Merezhkovsky was also at odds with the decadent aesthetes and intellectual secularists who promoted extreme individualism and embraced Nietzschean convictions that higher truths do not exist, only more beautiful illusions. Having experienced the futility of amoral individualism and asocial aestheticism, he sought an entirely new creation.

While Merezhkovsky was certainly a “shock the middle class” Bohemian, he thought their “art for art’s sake” motto fell short. Art was to the great Russian author, nothing less than a divine working to reach other worlds. He declared art to be the highest form of human activity, imagination the highest faculty, and the artist a brave explorer of the human soul. Merezhkovsky and his Silver Age coterie sought the most radical revolution of all. Resolutely they ignored economic, legal, and political questions, in favor of–in hot pursuit of–a spiritual insurgency. They challenged traditional Christianity, stressed the “inner man,” and championed emotion over intellect, imagination over reason. Their “Kingdom of the Third Testament,” (which superseded the spiritual laws in the Old and New Testaments) was to usher in a new religious consciousness. The Silver Age was supposed to be the genesis of a new humanity, a new era that would bridge the chasm between the secular intelligentsia who values freedom, beauty, culture and prosperity, and is individualistic, and the believing peasants, who, scorning this world, seeks out the eternal, values asceticism, humility and altruism, and has true Christian compassion for the suffering.

The Coronation of Mstislav I

Prince Mstislav Alexandrovich Galitzine, Count Ostermann

Handsome Prince Galitzine was installed with true princely magnificence at Aimée’s splendid villa. Troupes of Asian servants waited on him. He received the humble visits of his noble but down-and-out Russian friends on a special throne-like chair sacred to him alone. Aimée devoted herself to providing for her husband and his comrades, lavishing entertainments like they had not known since the revolutionists kicked them out of their palaces. The House of Fantasy became the scene of a succession of brilliant fêtes to celebrate her love match.

One of the most remarkable parties was the one given in honor of Prince Gagarin, another friend whom the revolution had forced to become an actor on the Parisian stage. It was a glorious masked ball at which the host and hostess and all the guests were costumed to represent birds, beasts and reptiles. The polar bears of the Arctic, the monkeys of  Africa, and the tigers of Asia were represented in costumes at great cost to produce their amazing realism. One guest, a  well-known Parisian stage beauty, excited great admiration and wonder by appearing as a boa constrictor as a tribute to the famous snake charmer hostess. Prince Galitzine was disguised as a kangaroo and his bride was costumed as an ostrich. When supper was served the maskers were seated in gilded cages with real bars through which the servants passed the food and wines to them.

Since the new intake of Russians flocking to Paris assumed the Soviet regime would last only a year or two at most, very few worried about integrating. Some aggressively resisted assimilation. Longing for home, emigres made frenzied attempts to recreate this bygone world with Russian-themed restaurants, cabarets, and clubs, with Russian-language newspapers, journals and books, and with Russian Orthodox churches. This new injection of talent revitalized and invigorating the émigré/expat community of Paris as a whole.

Some defeated officers, who found deciding between Russia without freedom or freedom without Russia unbearable, continued plotting a military fightback from abroad. At the epicenter of Russian officers exiled in Paris, Galitzine along with a Romanian friend, created an anti-Bolshevik club, which was vigorously attacked by L’Humanité, the French Communist newspaper. Later, he joined Action Française, a French far-right monarchist political movement. At the same time he helped another committee promoting the United States of Europe.

Aimée spent some of her American dollars on a counterrevolution in Russia, but decided eventually that it wasn’t worth the trouble, and expense. “The Communists,” she said, “have made such a mess of Russia that it really isn’t worth bothering with. Even if we had a revolution it would take ten years to clean up and disinfect the country so decent people could live in it again. What’s the use?”

The War of the Royals

The American colony of Paris followed the divorce proceedings with passion

During the Roaring Twenties, Aimée promoted to the press the revolutionary idea of “seasonal marriages,” marriages that would begin in the fall and may be terminated the following spring at the option of either husband or wife. A few seasons after they tied the knot, it was reported that Aimée was finding her young prince most unsatisfactory because of his even temper and his tolerant acceptance of her opinions, peculiarities, eccentricities and whims. She was irked by a demeanor described as, “nothing but politeness, mutual consideration, calm and a complete lack of interest in each other’s fads and fancies, and that awful, all-enveloping, soul-destroying peace.”

To her chagrin, Aimée also found that she had not only married the young Russian prince but the whole Paris colony of Russian exiles. It became more than a nuisance. “Every time we opened a door, a lot of them would get in like flies in the summer, each hungry for a big meal and a small loan. All that runs into money and it has cost me more than the man is worth.” It was another Galitzine headed palace coup attempt.

“Too much mother-in-law,” was another early explanation of Aimée’s marital woes.

“Too many Buddhas in the bedroom,” the 27-year-old emphatically retorted. Prince Galitzine, a devotee of the Russian Orthodox Church, charged that opposing religious beliefs caused discord. An army of over 200 “heathen” Buddhist idols pillaged from Asian temples grinned and glared at the intimidated prince. They were standing in every corner, lurking in front of every mirror, squatting on every shelf, even reclining on most of the available chairs. Galitzine believed the Buddhas had an evil influence over the marriage.

What started more than likely as a publicity stunt, a practical joke or a hormonal hot flash, wound up a nasty and embarrassing divorce action. The grounds on which the judges were asked to sever the bonds of Princess Aimée Isabella Crocker Ashe Gillig Gouraud Miskinoff Galitzine’s fifth matrimonial venture with her then 28-year-old husband, were put forward in vigorous terms by Maitre Frederic Alain. Officially Aimée charged infidelity and abandonment. Testimony was given by some of the servants that when the lazy prince arose at 1 pm, he was served with a good lunch, then sallied forth in a motor car provided by his wife, and returned home to dinner, after which he left and did not reappear until the early hours of the morning.

The matronly Aimée pleaded that when she accused the Prince of being a parasite and having an affair with another woman, he tried to force her to pay him $50,000 for a quiet divorce. She also charged that the prince belittled her father, an inexcusable offense. When he was told she was the daughter of a noted judge, he replied, “American judges are not much.”

In fighting the Queen of Bohemia, Prince Mstislav was represented by the resourceful New York-Paris law firm of Leroy B. Delaney and Stirling Nott, whose skillful handling of complicated legal problems has made them well known on both sides of the Atlantic. In a counter-suit presented his counsel declared that Galitzine had been subjected to espionage, that his letters had been confiscated, and that the servants in their home were forbidden to serve him. His defense charged that Aimée “had been intimate with three ‘gigolos’ or French dancing men,” who were named co-respondents and that a certain swarthy and handsome Catalonian had been a constant caller at the house.

Prince Galitzine also claimed that against his wishes the princess’s bathroom was turned it into an art gallery, with photographs of handsome actors, dancers, acrobats, prize fighters… over 500 dashing men, including her four former husbands and Paul Swan, the aesthetic dancer once billed as “the most beautiful man in the world.”

It was asserted in court that the much married heiress had no reason to divorce him. The marriage was characterized by the prince’s counsel as in name only and being animated by her desire to become a princess. Aimée was, according to the prince, an American buccaneer. Galitzine claimed that Aimée hired his film star friend, Ivan Lebedeff, (who went on to carve out a most remarkable career in Hollywood), to find her a prince for a husband. She ordered Galitzine brought to Paris from Nice. When she had approved of him, she formally asked for his hand in marriage. She stipulated and insisted that he was to be her husband as a companion only.

Film star Ivan Lebedeff was said to have helped broker the deal to marry Prince Galitzine, Count Osterman. Pictured with Clark Gable, Bette Davis and W.C. Fields.

The entire titled Russian colony of Paris chipped in to provide the legal sinews of war to defend their countryman against what they consider a flagrant attack upon their interests. If rich feminine customers could keep on buying titles from noblemen who have no other means of support and then wriggle out of paying for them, what would become of these indigent aristocrats?

His counsel read a letter purporting to have been written by the wife, which declared that she “hired the services” of Prince Galitzine as a commercial transaction, “A business arrangement and nothing else,” Galitzine told the court.

“Her love of the limelight made her yearn to be a Princess, and she offered me $250 a month if I would marry her and act the part of her husband before the world. If I failed to satisfy I was to be divorced as an incompetent servant is dismissed and my allowance was to be cut to $125 a month for life.” Mstislav staked all his hopes on this prenup promise.

Galitzine’s lawyer said his client had hesitated a long time before accepting the terms that Crocker had offered him in exchange for the right to call herself a princess. He finally consented to farm out the title for the stipulated price, because he was ruined by the Russian revolution, and because he had an aged mother to support.

A decree of divorce was granted on May 24, 1927. The court upheld Crocker’s contention that Prince Mstislav Galitzine had deceived her and maintained intimate relations with other women. They didn’t believe that the famously sexual Aimée Crocker would want a husband as a companion only.

The Prince lost the “luncheon allowance” he enjoyed while being married to the Queen of Bohemia. He was forced to pay all the court costs of the suit, and did not receive the $125 a month alimony which he claimed was rightfully his. A man wouldn’t receive alimony payments in a divorce settlement in New York until 1979. Mstislav was tossed out of yet another princely palace. Aimée’s fifth “halfmoon” was the briefest of all.

Galitzine got married again in Neuilly, a suburb of Paris, just six months after his divorce from Aimée, to Clarisse Biot of Vieuxville, who was only a dozen years older than him. By his second marriage, he had a little princess, Maria.

The press characterizations of Prince Galitzine and his marriage to Aimée Crocker was short-sighted. Mstislav Galitzine was not a vapid gold digger from the Silver Age. He was a Russian Renaissance man. During his short marriage to Aimée, he formed a curious friendship with Aimée’s adopted son, Reginald Gouraud. They were very close in age, Reggie being slightly older. They shared a passionate interest in science and technology. Together Mstislav and Reggie built a gas level indicator for automobiles in a laboratory built in Aimée’s Parisian palace. They received a patent from the Republic of France.

An older, more contemplative Mstislav Galitzine

Aimée left an indelible impression on her prince. His life after their earthquake of a marriage was a contemplative one. Losing a vast fortune and his princely esteem was a crushing blow and an existential dilemma. He turned to mysticism for answers. He sought the spiritual revolution, the utopia, that countryman Dmitry Merezhkovsky wrote about. Galitzine studied philosophy with his Hindu master and became a good chess player. He knew — but disliked — the great mystic G.I. Gurdjieff, but esteemed his disciple P. D. Ouspensky. He was able to fast for 40 days. To make ends meet, Galitzine gave lectures on psychology, esoteric philosophy, astrology, and dream interpretation.

During World War II Galitzine lived in St. Jean de Luz, where he was arrested by the Germans for a time. When released he tried unsuccessfully to immigrate to America with the help of his friend King Alfonso XIII of Spain. He never returned to his much loved homeland.

Merezhkovsky’s Kingdom of the Third Testament, where great artists and scientists found God and ruled the world, of course never came to pass. When the Soviets took control over Imperialist Russia ending the Silver Age, the former creative intelligentsia, the brilliant and innovative artists and intellectuals, like the nobles, were persecuted, thrown in labor camps or forced into emigration. The works of their hands, minds, and talents were obliterated. Untold numbers of enormously significant and cultural artifacts were confiscated. The Soviet enforcement agencies vigilantly guarded the country from these “decadent” influences. For about thirty years, from the late 1920s to the Khrushchev “thaw” in the 1950s, it was as if the magnificence of the Silver Age had never existed.

Four years after the divorce, Aimée’s daughter Gladys, following her mother’s example, married for a fourth time to Marquis del Sera Fiaschi of Italy, a nobleman ranking above a count and below a duke. As for Aimée, she bid farewell to matrimony forever announcing to reporters, “Marriages are not made for women like me who want to see everything, be everything, live fully, always free, never under the domination and whims of any one man.”

Selective Sources

“Aimée and her Prince to View City’s Bohemia,” Daily News, Oct 5, 1925.

“Aimée Crocker Gouraud’s 12th Husband-So She Says,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec 13, 1925, magazine section, p3.

Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, “Nietzsche in Russia: The Case of Merezhkovsky,” Slavic Review, (Cambridge University Press), Sep 1974, Vol. 33, No. 3 pp. 429-452

“Film Career is Demanded by Prince,” The Buffalo Times, Oct 17, 1925.

“Heiress on her Fifth Venture in Matrimony,” SF Chronicle, Oct 1, 1925, p1.

Konstantin Azadovski, “Russia’s Silver Age In Today’s Russia,” Third International Conference On Humanistic Discourse. Humanistic Resistance to Dogmatism Today and At The End Of The Middle Ages, Volume 9, 2001.

“Life Never Bores Princess Galitzine,” Chicago Tribune, Oct 11, 1925.

“Locked Out by His American Wife, He Sues for Damages,” San Antonio Light, Jan 30, 1927.

Maria Carlson. “Fashionable Occultism: The Theosophical World of Silver Age Russia,” Quest  99. 2, Spring 2011, pp 50-57.

O.A. Bogdanova, “Merezhkovsky’s The Fourteenth Of December: A Novel About the October Revolution,” A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences, (Moscow, Russia), Jun 25, 2017.

“Preposterous Honeymoon Triangle of Our Rich Tattooed Countess,” Buffalo Courier, Nov 15, 1925.

“Prince, 25, Fifth Husband of Rich Pearl Queen, 51,” The Daily Times, Oct 3, 1925.

“Princess’s Fifth Husband,” Liverpool Echo, Oct 3, 1925, p6.

“Russian Noble Farms Out Title to Much Married American Beauty,” The Edmonton Bulletin, May 18, 1927, p7.

“Strange Buddha-Filled Palace of the Python Princess,” Detroit Free Press, Jun 12, 1927.

“The Amazing Aimée Has Just Wed Husband Number Five,” St. Louis Dispatch, Oct 25, 1925.

Robert F. Baumann, “The Decembrist Revolt and its Aftermath: Values in Conflict,” InterAgency Journal Vol. 10, No. 3, 2019, pp 21-32.

“Too Many Buddhas for Prince,” Milwaukee Journal, Mar 13, 1927.

“Too Many Buddhas Spoil Aimée Crocker’s Fifth Romance,” St. Louis Dispatch, Feb 20,1927, p3.