July 18 – Grand Duchess Elizabeth; Theneva

Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna Romanova the New Martyr (1864–1918) (Елизавета Фëдоровна Романова) was second daughter of Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse-and-by-Rhine and Princess Alice of Great Britain, and grew up being called “Ella” (although if she ever sat in the cinders you can bet she caught heck for it). She was sent away at the beginning of a diphtheria epidemic in 1878, and returned to find her mother and one of her sisters had died. She and younger sister Alexandra (who later married Tsar Nicholas II) were sent to England and partly raised by their grandmamma, Queen Victoria.

Considered by many the most beautiful woman in Europe, she was courted by (then-future) Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, who, when she finally told him to shove off, left his studies in Bonn and returned to Prussia, crushed. (Could this be among the causes of the Great War? Let’s not go there.) She had a laundry list of other admirers on her dance card, but it was Grand Duke Sergei of Russia who finally won her heart and her hand, which he took in 1884. In 1891, she voluntarily converted to Orthodoxy (“her conversion appears to have been sincere,” one source insultingly grudges), at news of which Sergei voluntarily wept for joy.

When Sergei was assassinated by a terrorist in 1905, Elizabeth collapsed (her family thought she might be having a breakdown). She soon pulled herself back together, sold all her worldly goods, and created the Monastery of Saints Martha and Mary, with an attendant hospital, chapel, pharmacy, and orphanage (no gift shop is mentioned). There she worked serving the poor and sick of Moscow, surrounded by the hardworking and devout Sisters of Love and Mercy (which order she founded), who worked hard and devoutly. She floated the idea of reviving the female diaconate, which flew like an element 82 zeppelin.

In 1918 she was arrested by the Cheka and moved to the Urals with other family members and attendees. They were ultimately taken to an abandoned mineshaft, beaten, tossed in, and followed with grenades (although after every explosion the assassins heard hymns being sung in the shaft). Their bodies were later discovered by the White Army. Elizabeth’s relics (and those of the nun (St.) Barbara[1], her friend and co-worker) were taken to the Church of Maria Magdalene in Jerusalem.

Theneva (VI Cent.) was the daughter of the Brittonic king Leudonis of Gododdin (or maybe Lothian, or Haddington). While minding her own business one day she was, er, imposed upon by Ewen, son of Erwegend (also known as Ywain ab Urien), who dressed up as a woman for the occasion. Following said occasion he confusingly said, “Don’t cry. I haven’t treated you like a man would. I’m a woman too, right?” As it turns out he wasn’t a woman after all, as was demonstrated some months later by certain changes in Theneva’s body. When her father observed said changes he had her taken to the top of Traprain Law, a nearby hill, and used in a crude gravity experiment. When she survived the fall, she was put into a coracle and cast adrift. She floated across the Firth of Forth to Fife (or Culross), where (St.) Serf took her in and raised her soon-to-be-born son, whom he called “dear one.” Which is to say, “Mungo”—that’s right, the (St.) Mungo, founder and patron of Glasgow. (His real name is Kentigern, which is an Anglicization of his real real name, which is Cyndeym.)

Theneva went on to marry Prince Dingad (son of Nudd), with whom she had other children including (St.) Eleri. Through the loss of a peripatetic “T,” her name got transmogrified into St. Enoch, under which guise she is the namesake of a quondam railway station and an extant shiny glass shopping mall in Glasgow.


[1] Also commemorated today.