Prince Sergei Mikhailovich Poutiatine was born in the Russian Empire on 7 December 1893 at St Petersburg. He was the eldest son of Prince Michael Mikhailovich Poutiatine (1861-1938) and his wife Princess Sofia Sergeevna (1866-1940; née Paltova). Sergei had one younger brother, Prince Alexander Mikhailovich Poutiatine (1897-1953). The Putyatins (Poutiatines) were a Rurikid family with princely and noble lines.

Prince Michael Mikhailovich Poutiatine (left) with Rasputin in the early 1900s

Sergei attended the Corps des Pages in St Petersburg. Sergei’s father Michael was a palace commandant at Tsarkoe Selo. It was there, as youths, that Sergei became acquainted with the young lady who was to become his first wife, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia (1890-1958). During World War I, Sergei served for four years in the Imperial Fourth Rifle Regiment, where he reached the rank of captain. The prince received the Cross of St George from Emperor Nicholas II for his wartime service. Grand Duchess Maria noted in The Education of a Princess, her first book of memoirs, that “he was a splendid officer, twice wounded, and cited for heroism in action. He came fairly often to our house; I had known him since childhood; but during the war I saw him but seldom.

Grand Duchess Maria was the only daughter and eldest child of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich (1860-1919) and Grand Duchess Alexandra Georgievna (1870-1891; née Greece). In 1908, Grand Duchess Maria married Prince Wilhelm of Sweden, Duke of Södermanland (1884-1965). Maria and Wilhelm had one son, Prince Lennart of Sweden, Duke of Småland (1909-2004; later Count of Wisborg). The couple’s union was dissolved by divorce in 1914.
Prince Sergei and Grand Duchess Maria had developed deep affections for one another in Spring 1917.

Again, Maria confided in the pages of The Education of a Princess:

The revolution which brought me to the comparative refuse of Tsarskoie-Selo brought him [Sergei] there also from the front, where – because of his father’s situation at court – his position had become dangerous. And now that we were both refugees, in a manner of speaking, at Tsarskoie, he came often to see me at my father’s house. Our relations adjusted themselves; our mutual shyness disappeared; we were definitely attracted to each other. 

Feelings that I had never before experienced stirred in the depths of my heart. In spite of the revolution, in spite of all the uncertainty, all the anxiety, our unused youth, our fresh mental forces, leaped to claim their due. Spring was upon us, carrying along living floods of new joy. Above all else, one wanted happiness, one wanted to take from life everything that was left for life to give. Our very realisation of the peril, of the indefiniteness of our situation, our constant personal danger, contributed to the awakening of these feelings and set them aglow. Thus, at the collapse of our old world, we dared upon its wreck to seize at a new chance of happiness, to live a new life. 

I gave myself entirely over to the strange new delight of being really in love.

On 19 September 1917, Prince Sergei Mikhailovich Poutiatine married Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna at Pavlovsk Palace. Maria’s father, Grand Duke Paul, was a strong supporter of his daughter’s union with Sergei, telling her: “You must find yourself a good man and marry him; then I would feel easy about you… Listen, if you like Poutiatin, I consider that you should marry him.

Shortly after their marriage, the couple resided first at Grand Duke Paul’s palace, which was located on the English Embankment in St Petersburg. They moved in with Sergei’s parents at the Poutiatine’s apartment in the city. Sergei and Maria’s only child, a son, was born on 8 July 1918 at Pavlovsk. The infant Prince Roman Sergeievich Poutiatine was baptised on 18 July 1918. On the day of her son’s baptism, Grand Duchess Maria lost her half-brother Prince Vladimir Paley and her aunt Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna when they were assassinated by the Bolsheviks at Alapayevsk.

In the wake of the upheaval of the Russian Revolution, Prince Sergei and Grand Duchess Maria fled Russia with their child – they eventually arrived in Romania in December 1918. Prince Michael and Princess Sofia Poutiatine travelled to the Romanian capital to look after their grandson, Roman. In the meantime, Sergei and Maria went first to the United Kingdom and then France, where they were able to secure lodgings in Passy, a suburb of Paris. Tragically, Sergei and Maria’s son Roman died on 29 July 1918 at Bucharest shortly after he turned one year-old.

Grand Duchess Maria recalled the loss of her son in her second book of memoirs, A Princess in Exile:

One Monday morning in summer we returned from a quiet week-end in the country and found the usual batch of mail. It included a letter from my mother-in-law. She wrote regularly once a week to give us news of the child, and up till the last letter it had invariably been excellent. The last report was not so good, but there had been nothing alarming about it. Although the letter was addressed to my husband, I opened it myself. From the very first sentence I guessed with a shock that something had happened. I was terror-stricken. Shipping over the first page of preparatory phrases I turned to the second and at the end of it I found the dreadful news. The baby had died. 

How ruthlessly death was persecuting us! Was it going to stamp us out altogether?  

The baby was exactly a year old. This was the fourth being dear to me whom I had lost within just a few months. The letter that had brought the news of his death contained very few details, and we only learned afterwards how it had occurred. He had been in perfect condition, gaining weight steadily and progressing satisfactorily, when as the hot weather came on he developed intestinal trouble. At first his illness inspired no anxieties, but suddenly from one day to the next he grew worse, had convulsions, and died. 

Nothing could describe the despair of his grandparents. Some strange psychological twist in my character made me painfully self-conscious of this new calamity. I concealed it out carefully from my friends in London; only Dmitri knew about it. I feared and wanted to avoid renewed expressions of sympathy; I hated to appear as the embodiment of tragedy.  

The weight on my own heart grew heavier, although I was so crushed already by my father’s death that most of my sensibility had been blunted, nearly killed. For many years afterwards I was unable to react to joy. Something seemed to have burnt out within me.

Prince Sergei Poutiatine in 1914
In exile, the relationship between Prince Sergei and Grand Duchess Maria slowly deteriorated. The loss of their only child was a contributing factor, combined with the massive chaos brought upon by the Revolution and its effect on both families. For a time, Sergei worked at a bank in London. Maria took solace in the renewed company of her brother Grand Duke Dimitri. Maria recalled that her husband “assimilated things with surprising facility. In London he learned to speak fluent English in no time; in Paris he rapidly pickup French, which he had known but forgotten for want of practice, and he could write both languages extremely well.” Maria began to discover a purpose and a sense of independence with the founding of her fashion house Kitmir.

Unsurprisingly, the effects of life in exile took a toll on the couple. Again, Maria remembers: “My second marriage, although a ‘love match,’ had been an unequal union. It had been contracted, moreover, under the stress of a great crisis. As soon as our lives had ceased to be in actual danger and we had to take up our places in organised society, the difference in our tastes and temperaments became apparent.” Prince Sergei Poutiatine and Grand Duchess Maria of Russia were divorced in 1924. The grand duchess wrote: “I decided at last on a divorce. My affection for his family was unchanged, and they remained in my care for a number of years. Until Putiatin’s remarriage to an American girl, we met occasionally in a friendly way. The divorce proceedings had to go through two phases, the Russian Orthodox Church and the French courts.” In 1930, Sergei immigrated to the United States and settled in New York.

Princess Shirley Poutiatine on her wedding day (1906-1990; née Manning)
Photograph (c) of The New York Times

It was in the New World that Prince Sergei Poutiatine found his future. On 12 January 1931, Prince Sergei married Miss Shirley B Manning (b.6 December 1908) at the Russian Orthodox Church of St Augustine in New York City. Shirley was the second daughter and youngest child of John Alexander Manning (1870-1938) and his wife (1878-1964; née Edith Helen Baker). An industrialist, Mr Manning was the president of the John A Manning Paper Company of Albany, president of the Behr-Manning Corporation of Troy, and president of the Schuyler Meadows Club. For many years, he was also the president of Albany Hospital. His daughter, Shirley, was educated at the Fermata School for Girls in Aiken, South Carolina, and at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut.

Prince Sergei and Princess Shirley Poutiatine after their 1931 wedding
Photograph (c) The Capital Times
Prince Sergei became a US citizen on 23 April 1940 at Albany, New York. The naturalisation ceremony was presided over by Justice Francis Bergan of the New York Supreme Court. At the time, Sergei and Shirley Poutiatine were residing in Loudonville, New York. After he became a citizen in the United States, Sergei heartily encouraged others to refer to him as “Mister” Poutiatine – he was not one to put on airs and graces.

In their early years, the couple lived between Loudonville and Paris. However, the hamlet of Loudonville was the town in which the Poutiatines primarily made their home and raised their family. Sergei and Shirley had three children: Prince Ivan Sergeievich Poutiatine (b.3 December 1931), Prince Michael Sergeievich Poutiatine (Albany, New York 8 May 1935-Vero Beach, Florida 17 December 2004), and Princess Mariana Sergeevna Poutiatine (b.6 October 1942). In June 1960, Ivan Poutiatine married Lochiel Cameron; the couple have three sons: Michael (b.1962), Andrew (b.1965), and Peter (b.1969). In May 1965, Michael Poutiatine married Marcia Meserve; they had two daughters, Allison (b.1967) and Jennifer (b.1970). In December 1972, Mariana Poutiatine married Charles Barton Cotten Sr; they have one daughter, Alexandra (b.1975).

Prince Ivan and Princess Lochiel Poutiatine in 2016
Photograph (c) Drew Altizer

Ivan Poutiatine studied architecture and moved to Mill Valley, California, in 1965. He has served on the Mill Valley City Council and Planning Commission, as well as being a participant in numerous other civic endeavours in his community. Ivan attributed his desire to be a part of public service to his parents’ admonition that “one must always give back to his/her community.

Princess Marcia Poutiatine, widow of Prince Michael, in 2019
Photograph (c) Vero News

Michael Poutiatine graduated from Yale University. He worked for a period at the business that his maternal grandfather had founded, the John A Manning Paper Company. However, for the majority of his career, Michael worked in the travel sector.

Princess Mariana Poutiatine as a student at Miss Porter’s School in 1960

Aged seventy-two, Prince Sergei Mikhailovich Poutiatine died on 26 February 1966 at Charleston, South Carolina. Sergei and Shirley had a home in the “Holy City.” The prince was buried in the cemetery of Old Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church at Charleston. His wife, Princess Shirley Poutiatine, passed away on 7 September 1990 at Charleston, South Carolina. Princess Shirley was eighty-one years-old. Her mortal remains rest beside those of her husband.

Princess Shirley Poutiatine’s grave in Charleston, SC
Photograph (c) FindAGrave
Prince Sergei Poutiatine survived his first wife, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia, by nearly eight years. Maria died at Mainau on 13 December 1958, aged sixty-eight. 
Note: Thanks to Nick Nicholson for his input and revisions in this piece. 

For more on the family of Prince Sergei Poutiatine, please visit these links:

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