Tatiana King, 83, former princess

September 12, 1993|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Staff Writer

Tatiana Galitzine King, 83, a former Russian princess, died Aug. 22 of heart failure at College Manor in Lutherville, where she moved this year from her home at Elkridge Estates.

She was born at her family's estate at Saratov, Russia, near the Volga River, the daughter of Prince Leon Galitzine and Princess Elena Gagarine.

Mrs. King wrote of her family's struggle to escape the Bolsheviks a memoir, "The Russian Revolution, Childhood Recollections," that Princeton University Press published in 1972.

Her father, the governor-general of the province of Samara, which became Kuibyshev during the Soviet period, was forced to move his family to Siberia to escape the Bolsheviks during the 1917 revolution. In Siberia, he was chief of the Red Cross of the White Army and was confused with a military commander of the same name, and was arrested and imprisoned in Irkutsk. He died there of typhus in 1921.

The Soviets permitted the family to leave the country, and they immigrated to Arco, Italy, in 1922.

Mrs. King was educated in convent schools in Italy and France, and came to the United States in 1929 under the sponsorship of Professor and Mrs. R. W. Lee of Princeton, N.J.

In 1932, she and Edward S. King were married. He came to the Walters Art Gallery in 1934 to catalog the nearly 25,000 works of art that had been left to the city after the death of Henry Walters in 1931. He was named the first director of the Walters in 1951 and retired in 1966. The Kings, who lived in Homeland for many years, were divorced in 1961.

In 1961, Mrs. King was described in an interview in The Sun as being "handsomely svelte, with her hair neatly coiffed which enhances her patrician features."

"She was an extremely handsome woman," said her son, Henry Alexander Galitzine King of Princeton. "Her younger sister, Helene Galitzine, modeled for the painter Henri Matisse."

Mrs. King was active in numerous civic activities after moving to Baltimore. She became interested in the Rosewood State Training School, which her father-in-law, Henry S. King, helped found.

In 1948, she was one of the first Red Cross "gray ladies" to work at Rosewood, and later she served as a member of the school's Women's Auxiliary. Rosewood eventually was renamed the Rosewood Center.

In 1953, Mrs. King was co-chairwoman of the Women's Division of the Red Cross Fund campaign and was chairwoman of the first Mental Health Drive in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

Interested in the YMCA, she was active in the organization's fund drive in 1955 and was the driving force behind the building of the YMCA International Center in East Baltimore. A member of the Women's Civic League, she was co-chairwoman of the 1960 Flower Mart.

She was founder and for 10 years president of the Cosmopolitans, an international gourmet club, and was a member of the Women's Hamilton Street Club, Cliff Dwellers Garden Club and The Bassets walking club.

Mrs. King returned to Russia twice with her sister, visiting her former homeland in 1967 and 1985.

"She never had a tremendous desire to go back to Russia. She felt alienated from the current regime and missed the old aristocracy," her son said. "For her, it was like being dropped onto the moon. She spoke a language that no longer existed, she was 60 years out of date, yet people there were intrigued by her."

She was fluent in Russian, as well as English, French and Italian. She spoke to her brother and sisters in Russian at the dining table, her son said.

"She had a great capacity and desire to help others," Mr. King said. "She helped her sisters and brother come to the U.S. and financially helped family members who stayed in Europe. Her family meant a great deal to her."

In addition to her son, she is survived by three grandchildren, two nephews and six nieces.

A memorial service for Mrs. King will be conducted at 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St.

The family suggested memorial contributions to the YWCA of Greater Baltimore, 204 E. Lombard St., Baltimore.

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