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(1893 – 1988)
Source: Illustrated Tasmanian Mail, January 20, 1926.
Pauline Curran was born in Hobart on 9 February 1893. The daughter of John Bury (JB) Curran and Elizabeth Prosser, she was the youngest of ten children. Pauline was named after a successful racehorse owned by her father.
The founder of the Tattersall’s lottery, George Adams, was a close friend of the family and on his death in 1905 JB Curran found himself one of the beneficiaries of the Adams fortune. Through the Adams legacy Pauline remained a wealthy woman throughout her life and was able to leave a substantial legacy herself.
Educated at St Michael's Collegiate School, Pauline moved to Eaglehawk Neck with her parents during the war years, helping to care for her ailing father. In 1918, Pauline entered into an ill-fated betrothal with Captain Patrick Fitzgerald, aide de camp to the Governor, Sir Francis Newdegate. Despite an official announcement of their engagement being posted in the Illustrated Tasmanian Mail, Captain Fitzgerald left Tasmania to rejoin his regiment in England and did not honour the betrothal.
JB Curran died in 1921, leaving his estate to be held in trust to support his wife and youngest daughter, Pauline (until her marriage). On the death of his wife the estate was to be divided equally amongst his children.
By 1924, Pauline and her mother were preparing to travel to England, where Pauline was to be presented at Court in May. During this ‘grand tour’ Pauline met Prince Maximilian Melikoff, the second son of Prince Peter Melikoff de Somhetie and Princess Melikoff, nee Baroness D’Osten-Sachen. Their engagement was announced on 21 January 1925, three months after they met.
Prince Melikoff, who was born in Russia in 1884, had served with distinction with the 13th Hussars Russian Imperial Calvary from 1914 to 1917. A White Russian, he fought against the Bolsheviks from 1918 to 1921, leaving the military to join his émigré parents in Nice. He spent the next three years finding work in Europe and met Pauline while working as a chauffeur.
Pauline and Prince Melikoff were married in Hobart in St David’s Cathedral on the evening of 20 January 1926. Despite the Prince having no principality, not being heir to a throne or having any fortune, Hobart treated the Melikoff marriage as a ‘royal event’. Crowds assembled to watch the arrival of the wedding couple hours in advance and the wedding was covered extensively in the Illustrated Tasmanian Mail on 27 January 1926.
After spending four months in Tasmania the Melikoff’s moved to Sydney and then on to Cannes in 1926. The following years included trips back to Australia and frequent sojourns in London.
Little is known of Pauline’s activities through the years of WW2. She does reappear again in the notice of her husband’s death on 16 April 1950, where Melikoff is described as the “beloved husband of Princess Pauline Melikoff”.
In the years following Prince Melikoff’s death Pauline returned to Tasmania on a number of occasions. The trips ceased after she experienced the trauma of a home invasion and robbery in her Mayfair home in the early 1980s. While she was not seriously injured, it did rob her of her confidence.
Pauline made two wills before she died. One was drawn up in Hobart in 1982 and the other in London in 1985. The British will disposed of her Mayfair home, English share portfolio and personal effects. The bulk of this part of her considerable estate was left to the conservation group Greenpeace.
The Australian will established the Princess Melikoff Trust Fund which manages the income which continues to pour into Pauline’s estate through her shares in the George Adams legacy. In 2008, the Trust Fund was estimated to be worth $15 million.
The two beneficiaries are St Ann’s Homes for the Aged and the Tasmanian Government wildlife protection services. The St Ann’s legacy is a result of her sister, Beatrice, support for the facility. Beatrice and a number of Pauline’s friends became residents of St Ann’s in their later years. In 2003, St Ann’s dedicated a plaque to honour the princess.
The legacy to the Tasmanian Government states that “any income so received shall be applied and dealt with particular reference to the prevention of the practice of killing baby seals and dolphins”. Pauline’s substantial legacy comes from her love of animals and has greatly benefitted Tasmania.
Described by the Mercury as the ‘Belle of Tasmania’, Princess Melikoff died in London on 30 January 1988.
Source: Victoria Rigney, Dancing on the Edge of Empire: A transformative tale of Pauline Melikoff Hobart girl and Russian Princess, 2008
Image Source: p.43 of the 26/01/1926 issue of Illustrated Tasmanian Mail. Obtained from, and reproduced with the permission of, the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office.