Natalya Pavlovna Paley was born in a landmark year for the history of Russia in 1905. Her father - Grand Duke Pavel Alexandrovich - was the son of Emperor Alexander II. The story of the birth of a future world celebrity is associated with a somewhat piquant moment in the history of the Romanovs' house: Natalia Pistolkors’s mother, Natalya, came from a family of a poor and not noble Petersburg official, and, besides, she was already married to an Ostsee German, stayed in the Russian military service.
Pavel Alexandrovich was forced to secretly marry her in Livorno, but because of the morganatic union, he was denied entry into the territory of the Russian Empire, even after the Bavarian prince regent Luitpold granted Olga and her children the title of counts von Hohenfelsen. The young couple decided to stay in Paris, where their daughter Natalia was born on December 5th. By the way, in 1908, Nicholas II replaced anger with mercy and allowed the family of Pavel Alexandrovich to return to their homeland, and in 1915 even bestowed the Countess Hohenfelsen a princely title with the name Paley, which genetically goes back to the history of the Zaporizhian Sich.
Olga Valerianovna Paley
In March 1917, Pavel Aleksandrovich and his son Vladimir were arrested (after 2 years he was shot by order of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission in the Peter and Paul Fortress, and his son would be dumped alive in the mine in Alapaevsk). Olga Paley manages to leave Russia for Finland, and from there to get to Paris, where she had a mansion in Boulogne, after the sale of which she had the means to live quite comfortably with her daughters.
The turbulent 20s, along with the flourishing of the most diverse artistic trends and styles, entailed particular attention to fashion as a tool for effective and original positioning of oneself in society. The most significant changes compared with previous eras have undergone women's fashion, which is natural in the context of increased emancipation and the involvement of women in economic and political activities.
Natalia Paley's family
Therefore, women's clothing simplified, approaching everyday needs, and getting rid of many layers of petticoats and corsets made it more comfortable and practical. The fulfillment by women of those duties (including professional ones), which were previously considered to be purely masculine, added to the female fashion and opposite gender elements: clothing for sports, trouser suits, strict shirts and blouses. The development of production technologies, as well as the appearance of artificial fabrics (for example, viscose) led to a real consumer boom, when even representatives of the working class could join the fashionable stockings or underwear.
1920s Women's Fashion
Many Russian émigrés, finding themselves abroad without significant means of subsistence, agreed to work in the fashion industry. The opportunity to receive guaranteed incomes led many emigre Russian aristocrats to open their fashion houses: for example, IRFE (the Yusupov enterprise), Kitmir (embroidery samples from Paley Maria Pavlovna’s half-sister). The famous Coco Chanel also contributed to the “Russian wave” of French fashion, recruiting immigrants from Russia (largely due to the close relationship with the stepbrother Paley Dmitry). So, Olga Valerianovna and her daughters were in the very center of the fashion world of Paris.
Young Natalya Paley chose a career as a fashion model, having got a job at Yusupov's firm "IRFE", especially since her older sister Irina recently married the brother of the founder of the fashion house Irina Yusupova. Thanks to her extraordinary and sensual appearance, Paley is quickly gaining popularity in Russian émigré circles, and then Coco Chanel herself notices her. Thanks to her patronage, the young model was hired by Lucien Lelong, the first fashion designer who created the prêt-à-porter clothing line for mass production.
In collaboration with Christian Dior, he invented more than 40 perfume fragrances, one of which was dedicated to Natalia Paley as a wedding gift held in 1927. Interestingly, Olga Valerianovna, faced with the choice of accepting her husband’s spouse as a noble family, reacted exactly the same way as her Romanov relatives 20 years ago — she categorically did not approve of this unequal marriage of the granddaughter of the Russian emperor and the French tailor. Probably, it was the pressure of the mother that led Natalya Paley to part with her spouse soon.
Pavel Fedorovich Chelishchev, artist, founder of the mystical realism genre, choreographer and member of the Russian Seasons troupe Dyagilev Serge Lifar, French playwright Jean Cocteau were among the admirers of Natalya Paley. The popularity of the Russian emigrant peaks when she is invited to work in Hollywood in 1937, and shortly before that she breaks up with Lelong. The couturier was seriously worried about the divorce and devoted to his beloved the fragrance “Le N”, which acquired many admirers both in the Old and in the New World.
In America, Paley is getting married again: this time for director and producer John Chapman Wilson. She continues her modeling career in the American firm “Lynchbooker” - the beauty and charm of Paley bring her more and more new acquaintances: with Marlene Dietrich, Erich Maria Remarque, Antoine de Saint-Exupery. By the way, both writers have devoted quite a few pages of their works and letters to her: for example, the storyline of Remarque's novel “Shadows in Paradise” reminds of the vicissitudes of the real history of the relationship between the writer and the Russian beauty. Roman Remarque with Paley lasted about 11 years, however, a quiet family life in a Swiss mansion did not attract a secular fashion model, and therefore she decided to return to America again, and Remarque soon found his true love - American actress, former wife Charlie Chaplin Paulette Goddard.
In 1961, Paley's husband, John Wilson, died of cirrhosis of the liver, and Paley feels that her time has passed: she feels that she will never be the center of attention again, and this has resulted in severe depression and subsequent addiction to alcohol. Paley consciously isolated herself from society for 20 years without leaving her home and not showing herself to the public. In 1981, she fell and injured the femoral neck - a diagnosis made by doctors put an end to her career: to remain bedridden for the rest of her life. Paley actually repeated the fate of yet another recluse diva — Marlene Dietrich, who somehow was a rival to the Russian emigrant in America (for example, Remarque interrupted his affair with Dietrich, having become acquainted with Paley).
The Russian beauty, the face of the European 20-30s, decides to leave life with dignity: left alone in a room draped with a black satin, where her own pictures were hung on the walls at the time of dazzling youth and portraits of her family, she took a large dose of sleeping pills . In the note left on the table there were only 3 words: “I want to die with honor”.