Alexander von Benckendorff (diplomat)
Alexander Philipp Konstantin Ludwig Graf von Benckendorff (Russian: Александр Константинович Бенкендорф, Alexander Konstantinovich Benkendorf; 1 August 1849 – 11 January 1917) was a Russian diplomat, of Baltic German heritage, who served as ambassador to Denmark and the United Kingdom.
He was born in 1849, the son of Count Konstantin Alexander Karl Wilhelm Maximilian von Benckendorff (22 October 1816 – Paris, 29 January 1858) and wife (Potsdam, 20 June 1848) Princess Louise Constantine Nathalie Johanne de Croy (Anholt, 2 November 1825 – Meran, 8 January 1890), grandson of General Count Konstantin von Benckendorff and grandnephew of General Count Alexander von Benckendorff, and was educated in France and Germany before entering the diplomatic service in 1869. He began as an attaché in Florence, and eventually served in Rome. He resigned in 1876 and lived nearly ten years on his estates, in St. Petersburg and abroad.
He married Countess Sophie Shuvalova (16 October 1857 – 28 May 1928), granddaughter of Lev Naryshkin and Olga Potocka, in 1879, and was survived by a son and a daughter. A younger son died in one of the first battles of World War I on the East Prussian front.
Returning to diplomacy in 1886, he became First Secretary at the Embassy in Vienna, and from 1897 to 1903 he was the Ambassador to Denmark. The Copenhagen post gave him a vantage point for watching the principal moving powers of European politics since the matrimonial alliances of the Danish royal family occasionally brought together in a friendly family circle the widow of Alexander III, Nicholas II and the Prince of Wales who was to become King Edward VII. In this way, Count Benckendorff received his initiation into the spirit of an Anglo-Russian rapprochement even before it actually resulted in an entente.
From 1903 until his death in 1917, he was the Ambassador to the Court of St. James's, the chief Russian diplomat in the United Kingdom. His major achievement was to organize the signing of the Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907, which solidified relations between the two nations and helped create the Triple Entente, the alignment which would later become the Allied Powers of the First World War. He also formally proposed the agenda for the Second Hague Conference of 1907.
In 1911 Benckendorff's daughter Nathalie married an Englishman, Jasper Nicholas Ridley, and later became the grandmother of the economist Adam Ridley. His son Constantine married harpist Maria Korchinska.
Alexander von Benckendorff died on 11 January 1917 from influenza · , and was buried in Westminster Cathedral, where he worshipped weekly. Benckendorff was a convert to Roman Catholicism from Lutheranism.
Honours and awards
- Order of St. Alexander Nevsky with diamonds "for ex-zealous service."
- Order of the White Eagle
- Order of St. Vladimir, 2nd and 3rd classes
- Order of St. Anna, 1st degree
- Order of St. Stanislaus, 1st degree
- Foreign awards
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- Regarding personal names: Until 1919, Graf was a title, translated as Count, not a first or middle name. The female form is Gräfin. In Germany since 1919, it forms part of family names.
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