Robert Elgar Datlen


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Emma Datlen 1843 - 1921
report by Shaun Griffiths
Originated January 2004    Last Reviewed October 2007

Emma Datlen was born in Dover in 1843[1] the seventh of ten children of Robert and Mary Datlen. [possibly eighth of 13 children as reported by Andy Datlen][2]. She was baptised in St. Mary the Virgin Church, on 27th October 1843[3].

We are told that "Emma, a teacher, went to Paris in her early youth following a broken romance."[4][5] Why Paris in particular is not clear, maybe she had relatives or friends living there. It is then said that "she entered the service of the Grand Duke Paul of Russia and was Governess-Tutor to his children."[4][5] Again, there is no mention as to how this came about but by this time Emma must be in her fifties.

Now would be a good time to learn more about the life of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovitch Romanov so that we can see how Emma may have had the opportunity to work as Governess to his children and what life would be like in the Royal household at this time. I have written an account of Grand Duke Paul’s life which you can read by clicking your mouse here.

I am unable to find Emma in the UK censuses after 1881, which supports the supposition that she was working abroard during these years. A census was taken every five years in France and it would be well worth consulting the Paris censuses in particular the censuses of 1901 and 1906 for the Boulogne-sur-Seine area where we know that Grand Duke Paul was living in exile at the time.[6]

Incidentally, the 1881 UK census shows that Emma’s sister Caroline Datlen was Living in Streatham, Surrey and employed as a Governess there. The earlier Paris censuses may answer the question as to where Emma was employed prior to her entering the Grand Duke’s service. She must have served at least twenty years service before Grand Duke Paul arrived in Paris.

It is most likely that Emma Datlen became Governess-Tutor to the children by Paul’s second marriage and not those from Paul's first marriage. "Emma was with Prince Paul who was married with a young son. The eldest son was one of the two who shot Rasputin."[7] This eldest son would have been Dmitry Pavlovich from Paul's first marriage who did conspire along with Prince Felix Yusupov to murder Rasputin, and the young boy she was with would be Vladimir Romanov.

Vladimir was born in 1897 in Paris.[8] His two sisters Irina and Natalia were born in 1903 and 1905 respectively[8] Their mother Princess Paley wrote a book, “Memories of Russia 1916-1919”, in which she names her daughter’s English Governess as Miss White[9]. So, we are left with the possibility that Emma was Governess to Vladimir.

During his exile Paul would often return to Russia. Emma may have travelled with him and in years to come "would talk of the days it would take her to go back overland on the Trans Siberian Railway"[4][5]. Grand Duke Paul and his family were eventually allowed to return to Russia and in 1914 they moved into a house at Tsasrkoe-Selo.

Was Emma still with the family during the 1917 revolution?  Vladimir would be 21, Irina 14 and Natalia 12. The evidence suggests that she was and that they were living in Russia. "The estates were overrun by Bolsheviks in the October 1917 revolution" [5]. "She was lucky to get out, maybe made her way up through Finland."[7] What concerns me here is that although Irina and Natalia may still be young enough that their Governess, Miss White was still in attendance, surely Vladimir was in no need of a Governess at this time and even less so when we know he was actively serving in the military.

We are told that Emma, now an old lady (aged 78), "had wondered around Europe until she eventually landed at Newcastle by a steamer".[4] "Her sufferings impaired her mind, but she could say she was of Dover" and the police brought her to Robert Elgar (her brother's) house in Limekiln Street, and unable to take care of her due to her mental state went to St. Augustine's hospital and died there in 1921"[5].

"Years before when she came on holiday to Dover, she was remembered for the flowing black silk gowns she wore".[4] "and told stories of life in St Petersburgh in palace of 300 servants, the huge Siberian estates of the family and her travels on the great Trans-Siberian Railway".[5] Her final story would be of her poverty and sufferings during the revolution, of her tiresome journey across Europe and her voyage aboard the steamer that brought her back to England and to her home in Dover.


Robert Terry Datlen
Robert Terry Datlen had first person contact with his Great Aunt, Emma Datlen. Although he was young, I am sure that the stories that Emma told would remain vivid in his memory until he put down into words the account of her life. However their are a few discrepancies: Firstly he says that Emma was the Governess to the children of Grand Duke Paul. As stated above GD Paul’s daughters Governess was Miss White so Emma could only be Governess to GD Paul’s son, Vladimir. Secondly, as discussed above, I doubt that Vladimir would have been in need of a Governess immediately before or during the revolution, yet Robert’s account and the other documents, imply that she was with the family at the time of the revolution and had to make her escape.

According to Robert he was 11 years old when he met his Aunt on a visit to Dover and she would tell “stories of life in St. Petersburg in palace of 300 servants, the huge Siberian estates of the family, and her travels on the Great Trans-Siberian Railway.” This would have been about 1910, Emma would have been 57 years old, Vladimir would be 13,  Irina 7 and Natalia 5.

I wonder if Emma was employed in some other capacity such as nurse or as a maid. I will endeavor to make inquiries as to Vladimir’s Governess and try to produce some tangible evidence that proves the validity of this story.

Imperial Russian Historical Society
I wrote to Ivor Paul Gilbert, President of the Imperial Russian Historical Society, to see if he could offer any assistance with the research into Emma. He sent the following reply :-

Thank you for your email and please accept my apologies for the lengthy delay in replying but we have been overwhelmed here at the office with work since before Christmas.

I checked in our books on the Grand Duke and could find no reference to her at all.


Paul Gilbert

When Miss Emmie was in Russia
An excellent book by Harvey Pritchard, “When Miss Emmie was in Russia”, tells the story of English Governesses before, during and after the October Revolution. I have extracted some relevant passages, click here.

1871 Census
In 2006 I found Emma Datlen listed in the 1871 census for Finsbury, London [RG10_339_36_15]. She was a nurse employed by Robert Vigers, a surveyor, and his wife Jane at 27 Russell Square. Robert and Jane had two children, Alice aged 8 and Stanley aged 6. Also residing at the property were Robert’s nephew and his wife and their 10 month old baby. Besides Emma there was another nurse and also a nursemaid employed by the family. Emma gives her age as 24 years old but she would have been 27.

This gives further evidence that Emma may have not been a Governess but a Nurse. It would be useful to find her on the 1861 census as I am sure she would still be in England at this time.

1881 Census
In 2007 I conducted a thorough search of the 1881 census looking for name variants and misspellings. I found an interesting entry for Brighton [RG11 1095 10 13]. This shows an Emma Dutton aged 34 who was born in Dover and was a visitor at 24 Waterloo Street. She was unmarried and her occupation was Governess.

The original census image shows that the name Dutton could easily be Datton, Dalton or Datlon. All the other facts fit with Emma Datlen and although her age should be 37 she declared her age as 24 years on the 1871 census.

The head of the household was John Ramon, 50, who was a Lodging House Keeper and his wife and 4 children were at the residence. There was also three other visitors Frederic McCrea (15), Frances McCrea(12) and Henrietta McCrea (6) and I wonder if these children were Emma’s charges.

From Cradle To Crown
‘...the nursey-maids, for the younger children in St Petersburgh, must be English, who, by general consent, are pronounced better suited for the office than those of any other nation’.
J.G. Kohl., c.1830

From Cradle to Crown” subtitled “British nannies and governesses at the worlds royal courts” written by Charlotte Zeepvat and published by Sutton Publishing {ISBN 0-7509-3074-8] has some interesting snippets worthy of note:-

‘Yesterday a Nanny Arrived...” - page 27
The nurse was a servant. Frances Fry, who saved the premature baby of Grand Duke Pavel Alexandrovich.... was brought up with her twin sister in the Female Orphan Asylum in Lambeth... Frances would have been found a position when she left the orphanage. In April 1881 she was nurse to four-year-old Violet Cotton, a landowner’s daughter from Birchington in Kent. Exactly nine years later she arrived in St Petersburgh, to care for the infant Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna.

[1]  Civil Registration index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales: Dec 1843, district of Dover, Volume V page 123
[2]  “The Datlen Family Tree” book by Andy R Datlen, first edition March 1999
[3]  Canterbury Cathedral Archives, Baptism Record for Emma Datlen,  (Saint Mary the Virgin, Dover : 27 October 1843 : U3/30/1/9).
[4]  Hand written account of Emma's life author unknown.
[5]  An account of Emma's life written by Robert Terry Datlen (1899-1970) Great nephew to Emma Datlen. Robert Terry Datlen met his Great Aunt Emma when she came to Dover on holiday from Russia. Robert was 11 years old and would hear Emma talk of her experiences and of life in Russia. We can therefore believe that Roberts account is authentic.
[6]  “The Romanovs 1818-1959” book by John Van Der Kiste, Sutton Publishing Limited 1999, ISBN 0-7509-2275-3
[7]  An extract of a letter written by Cecil Datlen to his brother Arthur.
[8]  Genealogy of Romanov Imperial House -
[9]  “Memories of Russia 1916-1919” book by Princess Paley, Reprinted by Royalty Digest, Edition of 100 copies in 1996


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