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Short biography
Dorothea Lieven, née von Benckendorff, was born in Riga (now in Latvia) to an aristocratic Baltic Russian family. Her father was the military governor of the region. Her mother was a senior lady-in-waiting and close friend of Empress Maria Fyodorovna, wife of Tsar Paul I. Dorothea was educated at the exclusive Smolny Convent Institute for young noblewomen in St. Petersburg and served as a maid- of-honor to the Empress. In 1800, at age 14, she was married to General Count (later Prince) Khristofor Andreyevich Lieven, with whom she had five children. In 1812, her husband was appointed Russia's Ambassador to Great Britain, a post he held for more than 20 momentous years. She became a leader of London fashion and society, the hostess of a famed salon, patroness of Almack's, and introduced the waltz to England. She cultivated relationships with statesmen such as Prince Metternich, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Palmerston, Lord Castlereagh, Lord Grey, and Lord Palmerston, and knew nearly everyone in political power in Europe for 40 years. Such were her diplomatic skills and influence that in 1825, Tsar Alexander I entrusted her with a secret mission to the British government; and she played a key role in the births of modern Greece and Belgium. In 1834, Tsar Nicholas I recalled Prince Lieven, and shortly after their return, the couple's two youngest sons died suddenly. The Princess left Russia and settled in Paris. Her salon there was nicknamed "the listening post of Europe." She remained involved in politics until her death. Her diary and her letters have been published.
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