Prince Felix Felixovich Yusupov, Count Sumarokov of Russia (1887- 1967), seen here at age sixteen in a dazzling portrait by Valentin Serov, was a pretty and privileged and precocious poufster, fersure. Heir to one of the world’s largest private fortunes at the outbreak of The Great War, he lost it all, and continued to metamorph -- an extraordinary character.

Felix’s two volume memoirs Lost Splendour and En Exil are his enduring treasure, a veritable Golden Horde of the Tatars that begins with fourteenth century khan ancestors and ends in mid-twentieth century Paris. What happens in-between is the most interesting part: a coming-of-age story
rich with candor and wit, in a strangely detached voice -- equal parts De Profundis, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Wizard of Oz. Now put that in your pipe, and smoke it!

And meet a very young man of Byzantine beauty who wears his mother’s Worth dresses and famous jewels to dine in Saint Petersburg’ chicest restaurants and perform in its cabarets;
gets cruised by King Edward VII at the opera; hangs out with bands of gypsies; creates a startling lavender, orange and black décor in his apartment at Oxford; marries the Tsar’s only niece Princess Irina (a union that lasts fifty years); and with his lover Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich masterminds the plot to murder Rasputin, in a desperate measure to save the monarchy.

(Felix is tormented by recurring nightmares of the mad monk's murder for the rest of his life, and Dimitri involved with the creation of Chanel No. 5, and then a champagne salesman in New Jersey.)

Civil War necessitates that Felix’s spectacular fortune, its palaces, paintings and objects d’art are to be left behind, save two Rembrandts and a bag of diamonds which pavé the way to safety in Paris. Re-establishing themselves in a house on the Bolougne-sur-seine, the Yusupov’s are renowned for financial generosity to fellow Russian immigrants, and cause a sensation with a short-lived couture house Irfé as well as a £25,000 award for libel in connection with MGM’s Rasputin and the Empress.

The disclaimer which now screens at the end of every American film, "The preceding was a work of fiction, etc.," is due to the legal precedent set by the Yusupov case. Life is stranger than fiction, indeed!

Felix, and his wife Princess Irina Alexandrovna of Russia


Rasputin and the Empress, 1932