Life of St Elizabeth the New Martyr – St. Elizabeth was Granddaughter of Queen Victoria, the second child and daughter of Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse (now Germany) and Princess Alice of the United Kingdom. She was affectionately known as “Ella” by her family. When she was 14, diphtheria swept through and her mother and her 4-year-old sister both died. This changed Princess Ella’s life completely. She helped her father raise her younger siblings. When she was 20, Princess Ella married the grand prince Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, whom she had known since childhood because he and his family would come for visits. When she married, she became a Grand Duchess, and moved to Russia. The Duchess had been raised as a Lutheran Christian.
Her conversion to Orthodoxy – Now that she was living in Russia, she encountered Orthodoxy which she knew very little about before moving there. She wanted to understand the faith of her husband and her people, so she began to read and study it. Over time (and especially during a visit to the Holy Land) it became clear to her that she wanted to become Orthodox. She wrote a beautiful letter to her father, explaining that she wanted to become Orthodox (her husband was not forcing her to do so). she was Chrismated into the Holy Orthodox Church on Lazarus Saturday in 1891.
Like many converts to the Orthodox Faith, the Grand Duchess had to deal with the negative reaction of her family. “Once the decision was reached, it proved a difficult task to make it known to her relatives. She writes to them at this time that she is “intensely happy,” but that it pains her to cause grief to her beloved family. And yet her determination was firm, “I am sure God’s blessing will accompany my act which I do with such fervent belief, with the feeling that I may become a better Christian and be one step nearer to God.” Explaining the reasons for her decision, she writes in a letter: “Above all one’s conscience must be pure and true… many will — I know — scream about (it), yet I feel it brings me nearer to God… You tell me that the outer brilliance of the church charmed me… in that you are mistaken — nothing in the outer signs attracted me — no — the service, the service, the outer signs are only to remind us of the inner things.”