Julia Dent Cantacuzène Spiransky-Grant

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Julia Dent Grant
Princess Julia Cantacuzène
Countess Spéransky
Julia Cantacuzina.jpg
Born Julia Dent Grant
(1876-06-06)June 6, 1876
The White House, Washington, D.C., USA
Died (1975-10-04)October 4, 1975 (aged 99)
Washington, D.C., USA
Noble family Grant family (by birth)
Cantacuzino (by marriage)
Spouse(s) Prince Mikhail Mikhailovich Cantacuzène (1899–1934, div.)
Prince Michael Mikhailovich Cantacuzène
Princess Bertha Mikhailovna
Princess Zenaida Mikhailovna
Father Frederick Dent Grant
Mother Ida Marie Honoré
Religion Russian Orthodox, formerly Episcopalian

Julia Dent Grant Cantacuzène Spiransky, Princess Cantacuzène, Countess Spiransky (6 June 1876 – 4 October 1975), was an American author and historian. She was the eldest child of Frederick Dent Grant and his wife Ida Marie Honoré, and the first grandchild of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States. In 1899, she married Prince Mikhail Cantacuzène, a Russian general and diplomat.

Princess Cantacuzène was the author of three first-person accounts of the events leading up to the Russian Revolution in 1917, as well as a personal historian of the Russian people during that time. As the wife of a Russian nobleman, she was in a primary position to observe both the Imperial and Bolshevik positions during the Revolution.[1] The title of Countess Spiransky has been alternatively spelled "Spéransky" and "Speranski."


Early life[edit]

Julia Dent Grant was born at the White House on 6 June 1876. She was the first child of Frederick Dent Grant and his wife Ida Marie Honoré (1854–1930), the daughter of Henry Honoré, of French ancestry, who made his fortune in Chicago real estate. She was named for her grandmother, the First Lady Julia Grant née Dent. At the time of her birth, her father was assigned to the 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment with the rank of lieutenant colonel. When Julia was 5 years old, her father took a leave of absence from the Army to assist his father, the former president Grant, in writing his memoirs.

Julia had fond memories of her grandfather, who died when she was 9 years old. Due to severe financial setbacks, her family came to live with her grandparents in Long Branch, New Jersey [2] and she spent the last year (1884–1885) of her grandfather's life in his home with his companionship. Her memories of him were clearly fond ones, as she remembered the following:

My grandfather wasn't exactly gay, and I do not remember his laughing ever, but the talk between us was very interesting. He always took me seriously. I felt promoted and felt inclined to live up my position as his companion. Sometimes he would pinch my ear or my cheek and say softly, 'Julianna Johnson, don't you cry," and it rather teased me. But generally he held my pudgy dimpled hand on the palm of his, and we learned to count the fingers and dimples together; sometimes I made a mistake and sometimes he did so, letting me correct him. And he taught me "cat's cradle" with a string. We walked together hand in hand, silent frequently, but at other moments talking of our surroundings, and he called me habitually "my pet," or "my big pet," which made me very proud. I was not at all afraid of him, for he had a charming, gentle way of acting always, and though his face was generally grave, now and then a sudden gleam lighted up the eyes and made them seem to smile in answer to my chatter.

In 1889, President Benjamin Harrison appointed Julia's father as United States minister to Austria-Hungary. The Grant family traveled together to Austria-Hungary. After Grover Cleveland became president, Grant was confirmed to continue in his post in Europe. Julia made her formal début into society in Vienna, at the court of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Frederick Dent Grant resigned his position as US ambassador in 1893,[3] whereupon the family returned to New York.

Marriage and family[edit]

Part of the Cantacuzene Wedding Party in Newport

Immediately after her father's tenure (1883–1887) as a police commissioner of the New York Police Department, Julia Dent Grant traveled to Europe in the company of her maternal aunt, Bertha Palmer (née Honoré) who was representing the Board of Lady Managers of the World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago World's Fair.) From 1891 to 1893, aunt and niece travelled throughout Europe to promote interest in the Exposition as well as to collect art. Julia met Prince Mikhail Cantacuzène, who was attached to the Russian embassy in Rome.[4] Prince Michael (or Mikhail) was Prince Mikhail Cantacuzène, son of Prince Mikhail Rodionovich Cantacuzène and Elizabeth Siscard, was born on 29 April 1875 in Odessa, Russia. He was a distant relative of Grigorii L'vovich Kantakuzen, who was the Russian representative to the U.S. from 1892 to 1895.[5] Two weeks after their first meeting in Rome, Prince Cantacuzène followed Julia to Cannes, ostensibly to serve under Grand Duke Kyrill. After a courtship of two days, the couple became engaged in Cannes,[6] then embarked upon four months of wedding preparation, during which time they were separated. The couple married at Beaulieu, an Astor home which her aunt Bertha Palmer had leased for the summer season, in Newport, Rhode Island, in a small, private Russian Orthodox ceremony the evening of 24 September 1899.[7][8] The following day at noon there was an Episcopal Church wedding service in All Saints' Memorial Chapel, Newport.[9][10] After her marriage, she combined her names, titles, and styles in a Russian manner as Julia Dent Cantacuzène Spiransky-Grant; however, she was commonly referred to as Princess Julia Cantacuzène or Princess Cantacuzene.

Prince and Princess Cantacuzène resided in St. Petersburg (later Petrograd) or at their estate in Ukraine during their early married years, with the Princess giving birth to their three children, Mikhail Mikhailovich, Barbara or "Bertha" Mikhailovna, and Zinaida Mikhailovna. Princess Cantacuzène remained in St. Petersburg during World War I in which Prince Cantacuzène served as aide-de-camp and later Major-General, and finally General, in the service of Tsar Nicholas II. He served with distinction and was wounded in battle in 1914; as commander of the South Russia Cossacks, in 1915 he led 15,000 men in what has been called the last great cavalry charge against a fortified position in military history.[4] The family left Russia in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution; in 1917, they escaped from Petrograd with her jewels sewn into her clothing, and escaped via Finland to the United States. The couple moved to Washington, D.C. and attempted to attract support for a counter-revolution in Russia, but after news of the assassination of the Tsar and of his brother, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia, ended their activism. The couple relocated to Sarasota, Florida, joining the firm founded by her aunt Bertha Palmer.

Prince and Princess Cantacuzène divorced on 27 October 1934,[11] after which Mrs. Julia Grant Cantacuzène, having re-established her U.S. citizenship and reverted to non-aristocratic title and style, moved back to her native Washington, D.C.


  • Prince Mikhail Mikhailovitch Cantacuzène, Count Spéransky (b. 21 July 1900, St. Petersburg, d. December 1972[12]), married firstly Clarissa Curtis, daughter of Thomas Pelham Curtis and Frances Kellogg Small, secondly Florence Bushnell Carr, thirdly Florence Clarke Hall. He had a son and a daughter from his first marriage.[13]
  • Princess Barbara Mikhailovna Cantacuzène, Countess Spiransky (b. 27 March 1904, St. Petersburg, d. 1991[14]) married firstly Bruce Smith, secondly William Durrell Siebern.[15] She was known as Bertha. She had a son by her first husband, named Bruce Smith, as well.[14]
  • Princess Zinaida Mikhailovna Cantacuzène, Countess Spéransky (b. 17 September 1908, St. Petersburg, d. 1984[14]) married Sir John Coldbrook Hanbury-Williams, son of Major-General Sir John Hanbury-Williams and Annie Emily Reiss.[13] She was known as Ida. She had three children, a son and two daughters.[14]

She was survived, at her death, by her daughters, six grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren.[16]

Writing career[edit]

Cantacuzène was the author of numerous articles which appeared in the New York Times, Saturday Evening Post, and Woman's Home Companion[4] Her books included, "Russian People; Revolutionary Recollections," (1919) "Revolutionary Days; Recollections of Romanoffs and Bolsheviki, 1914–1917," (1920) and "My Life Here and There." (1922) All of her books were published in the U.S. by Charles Scribner's Sons, and in London by the firm of Chapman & Hall. "Revolutionary Days" (with selections from "My Life Here and There") was republished in December 1999 by R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company.

Books authored[edit]

Later life[edit]

She was a founder of the Sulgrave Club, where she lunched regularly until 1970. She was active in the White Russian community in Washington. She went blind before she turned 80 years old, but regained partial eyesight two weeks before she turned 90.[16] She died in Washington on October 4, 1975, at the age of 99, and is buried at the National Cathedral.[17]



  1. ^ "Revolutionary Days". Chas Scribner's Sons. ASIN B000NPQAT2. 
  2. ^ "My Life Here and There (excerpt)". Chas Scribner's Sons. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  3. ^ "FORMER U.S. AMBASSADORS TO AUSTRIA". U.S. Embassy in Vienna. Archived from the original on September 7, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  4. ^ a b c "Prince Michael and Princess Cantacuzène". Sarasota County History Center. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  5. ^ "PRINCE CANTACUZENE LEAVES US; Russia's Representative Changes Places With Stuttgart Minister". New York Times. 26 October 1895. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  6. ^ Revolutionary Days. Charles Scribner's Sons. 
  7. ^ "AN AMERICAN PRINCESS; Public Wedding of Miss Julia Grant and Prince Cantacuzene". New York Times. 
  8. ^ "Julia Dent Grant, Princess Cantacuzène". New York Times. 23 September 1899. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  9. ^ Miss Julia Grant Married: The Ceremony of the Russian Church performed at Beaulieu, The New York Times, 25 Sept 1899, p. 7
  10. ^ An American Princess: Public Wedding of Miss Julia Grant and Prince Cantacuzene, The New York Times, 26 Sept 1899, p 6
  11. ^ "Grant's Kin Divorces Prince Cantacuzène". New York Times. 28 October 1934. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  12. ^ Social Security Death Index, no. 329-24-6606
  13. ^ a b "Cousins of John Crossley, Princess Cantacuzène". Ancestry dot com. Archived from the original on 2011-01-08. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  14. ^ a b c d Revolutionary Days by Princess Julia Cantacuzene, Countess Speransky, nee Grant (Chicago: R R Donnelley & Sons Company, December 1999), lvi
  15. ^ "Cousins of John Crossley, Princess Cantacuzène". Ancestry dot com. Archived from the original on 2011-01-08. Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  16. ^ a b Obituary of Princess Julia Cantacuzene, The New York Times, 7 October 1975, page 38.
  17. ^ Julia Dent Cantacuzène Spiransky-Grant at Find a Grave

Further reading[edit]

  • Croft, Lee B., Ashleigh Albrecht, Emily Cluff, and Erica Resmer. Entry on Grigorii L'vovich Kantakuzen (pp. 126–131) in Ambassadors: U.S.-to-Russia/Russia-to-U.S. Capstone Publications. 2010. ISBN 978-0-557-26469-8. Treats genealogy of Kantakuzen Princely line from Russian sources and from Princess Julia's personal writings.

External links[edit]