By 1914, Grand Duchess Olga was 18 1/2, prime marriageable age. As the eldest daughter of the Russian Tsar who would bring beauty, charm, and quite a large fortune to a potential groom’s family, she was one of the most eligible princesses in Europe.
In keeping with the royal tradition of marrying one’s cousins, one of the first suitors Nicholas and Alexandra considered was the son of their first cousin Marie of Romania, Prince Carol. A visit to Romania was arranged for the summer under the guise of a diplomatic visit.
Pierre Gilliard recorded Olga’s reaction to the situation:
Olga: "Tell me the truth monsieur, do you know why we are going to Rumania? "
Gilliard: "I believe it’s a courtesy visit. The Czar is going to return the visit the King of Rumania paid him sometime back."
Olga: "Oh, that’s the official reason…but what’s the real reason? I know you are not supposed to know, but I’m sure everyone is talking about it and that you know it…"
Olga: "All right! But if I don’t wish it, it won’t happen. Papa has promised not to make me…and I don’t want to leave Russia."
Gilliard: "But you could come back as often as you like."
Olga: "I should still be a foreigner in my own country. I’m a Russian, and mean to remain a Russian."
The Romanians threw a lovely gala banquet for the Imperial Family and Olga behaved with her usual charm toward Prince Carol. The day after the banquet, however, the entire marriage scheme had already been abandoned. Olga would not marry Prince Carol.
Below is a photograph of the Russian Imperial Family and their Romanian cousins taken during this visit. Olga is on the far right, seated with a baby on her lap and Prince Carol is the young man with the mustache standing directly behind Tatiana. His mother, Marie of Romania, is on the right side of Tatiana.
Interestingly, a few years later Prince Carol asked the Tsar for his daughter Maria. The Tsar merely laughed and said that Maria was still only a schoolgirl.
In retrospect, some might think that it was a shame that Olga did not marry Prince Carol, as she would have been spared the horrible massacre in Ekaterinburg with her family.
However, I think that Olga would have been extremely unhappy with Prince Carol, who turned out to be an awful person. First, he married the daughter of a Romanian general in 1918 and had one son with her before the marriage was annulled in 1919. He was a notorious philanderer and left his second wife Crown Princess Elena for a mistress while they still had a young son. As a result of this affair, Carol renounced his right to the throne in favor of their son. They were then divorced and his son succeeded to the throne when his father King Ferdinand died in 1927. In 1930, Carol decided that he wanted to be King of Romania after all and kicked his own son off the throne. He was not even kind to his own mother.
In short, an intelligent, beautiful, independent minded young woman like Olga could never have been happy with such a horrible man. Luckily for her, she was perceptive enough to realize this and had parents who had enough respect for her to allow her to choose her own destiny. Sadly, her undying loyalty to her country and to her father had grave consequences in the end.
Sources: Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by Pierre Gilliard and Born to Rule by Julia P. Gelardi
A letter to Anna Vyrubova, January 1918:
Dearest, we were so glad to hear from you. How cold it is these days, and what a strong wind. We have just come back from a walk. On our window it is written “Anna darling - ” I wonder who wrote it. God bless you, dear. Be well. Give my love to all who remember me.