Zachary Mdivani

Zachary Aslan Mdivani born in Georgia, in 1867, had a sparkling military career. He was the aide-de camp of Tsar Nikolas II, the commander of the 13th Leib-Grenadier Erivan Regiment, the Military Minister of the Republic of Georgia, Governor and Military Commandant of Batum, and Chief of the Union of Leib-Erivan abroad.

His wife, Elisabeth Sabalewska was half Georgian, half-polish. They had five children: Nina, David, Serge, Roussudana, and Alexis.

After Sovietization, Zachary and his family left Georgia for Constantinople. Having spent a short period in Turkey, he joined Georgian government in exile in Paris. In 1922, a big tragedy happened to the Mdvani family - Elisabeth suddenly died from intoxication after a party given to celebrate their safe escape.

Zachary tried his best to support his children morally and physically. They, themselves had to work hard to keep their spirits up.

However, working hard didn’t bring as much success to them, as one strategic action of the youngest Mdivani did. It is said that Alexis approached Noe Zhordania, the chairman of the Georgian government-in-exile, with the plea to issue a fake document of Mdivanis’ Princedom. In turn, Alexis promised a reasonable financial support of the Georgian emigrants living in Paris. Zhordania refused. However, the Minister of Justice of the government-in-exile, Eugeny Gegechkori agreed to the seductive proposal and made the document which changed the lives of the Mdivani siblings for ever.

Zachary often joked that he was the only person on earth having inherited the princely title from his children. He never returned to Georgia and passed away in 1933, in Paris, at the age of 66.

“To have gone to our friends and explained our origin, who our father was and all that sort of thing, would have been ridiculous. To have told strangers would have been even more ridiculous. Our real friends knew my father, my mother, my uncles. They knew my father, who died in April of 1933 in Paris, was Prince Zachariah Mdivani, who had been aide-de-camp to His Majesty Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, had been Under-secretary of State in the Ministry of War in Georgia and Governor-General of Batoum and all its provinces. They knew, too, my father had been in the suite of the Emperor, an honor that had come to only twenty men out of a population of one hundred and eighty million persons. They knew my father was the owner of towns, had his own private train, innumerable homes, all of which, of course, were confiscated in the Revolution of 1921 which placed Georgia under the dominion of Soviet Russia.” David Mdivani

The Marrying Mdivanis


David, labeled as the “most conservative” of the brothers by the press, was the eldest son of Zachary Mdivani. He was 17, when he arrived to America with his brother, Serge. And he was the first among his “Marrying” brothers to get married.

After working in Texas and Oklahoma oilfields, brothers saved $300 and headed to California, where searching for oil property on which to sink wells of their own. David founded an oil company, which almost overnight changed the fortunes of the “penniless princes”. They gradually developed a big business of their own. On one of their business trips to Europe, they met a famous Hollywood film star, Pola Negri, who later became Serge’s wife. However, before that she had introduced David to the Hollywood society. At one of the parties, the young “prince” was noted by a Hollywood producer Mack Sennet, who proposed him to become one of his actors for $150 a week.

In 1926 David Mdivani was filmed in a Hollywood movie “A Small Town Princess” under the name of David Manor. Ironically, he played a role of Lionel Lorraine, a film star marrying a princess. It was the time, when MaeMurray, Hollywood diva of silent movies announced, she was going to marry Prince David Mdivani. On June 27, 1926 the couple gave a wedding party in Beverly Hills, inviting many of the Hollywood icons of 1920’s.

At that time, May had a sparkling career. Being a major star for Universal, she was working at five movies a year, starring in films like The Delicious Little Devil(1919), Peacock Alley(1922),Valencia(1926) etc. Mae was beautiful, rich and famous. She was one the most demanded actresses in Hollywood. But David didn’t seem to be proud of it. Moreover, learning that Mae was expecting a child, he asked her to give up her career.

For the sake of David’s love and the happiness of her family, Mae decided to give up her career and let her husband rule her life. A few next years they lived in secrecy together, letting no one know where they were and what they did. They created a “fairyland” of their own, trying to be as happy as they could and spending as much money as May’s bank accounts could afford. Then a message from “reality” finally reached them. It read:

May’s choice lay with her family. Their baby was born in secrecy; no one knew about him. He even had no documents. Koran Mdivani was 16 months old when he was first introduced to the public.

And the motherly intuition proved to be severely right. The series of disappointments started to appear one by one in May’s life. Soon she found herself having no career, no money, no house, and not even love. Moreover, newspapers wrote that Mdivani bit Murray, treated her inhumanly, traced her with a loaded gun and threated to kill her.

On August 1, 1931 Mae filed a divorce suit in Los Angeles court. At this time, she was totally broke. She even had no money to support their child Koran’s surgery, when he suddenly was taken to the hospital with severe headaches. Seeing Mae in despair, after the heavy operation, a famous neurosurgeon Daniel Cunning took Koran to his sister, Elisabeth, for care.

Later, May applied to the court again to get money from David, to support their son, Koran; however, Cunnings refused to give the child back and said it was money, not motherly feelings that moved Mae to return him. Finally, it was Koran’s own choice to stay with the Cunnings. In 1940 he was officially adopted by the Cunning family under the name of Michael Daniel Cunning.

In the early 1940’s Mae was often seen roaming in the streets of Playa del Rey, California, or sitting for hours in front of a big seaside mansion, in which she once lived happily, surrounded with fame and luxury. In 1964, she was found in St. Louis pretending she was in New York.

Later Mae was taken to Motion Picture House, a charitable organization that offered assistance and care to those in need in the motion picture industry, where she died in 1965, at the age of 79. The nurses of the house remember May, suffering from dementia, having forgotten many things about her life, however, still sustaining the regal title once endowed upon by her “Prince”. "Step aside, peasants! Let the Princess Mdivani pass!" she would proudly announce to the nurses.

Meanwile, David was seeking for new adventures. He was often seen in Paris, visiting Diva of French cinema Arletty. The actress was expecting a child from David, but she refused to have it because she had heard enough about the marrying passions of brother Mdivanis.

The 1930’s turned out to be too tragic for David. From 1933 till 1938, he lost his two brothers and one sister, Roussoudan.

In 1944, David married Virginia Sinclair, the daughter of “Sinclair Oil” founder, bought an oil drill in California and launched a big business of his own. David and Virginia had a son – Michael and lived together until 1964. After divorcing Virginia, David never got married again, however, till the end of his life, he visited Arletty in Paris and was talking about her in his last days.

other side of the story

“For many years my brothers, Princes Alexis and Serge, and myself were names that made news, and the yarns written about us were fantastic in the extreme… In the midst of denunciations from strangers it seemed so odd to offer a defense. It seemed so utterly futile for us to rush forward with words to explain who we were or whence we had come when the best possible proof could be had by anyone who really wanted the truth… But truth didn't matter to some people when writing about the Mdivanis.”

Main Menu


Nina Mdivani, ”Europe’s most tragic Princess” – as one of the newspapers of 1936 attributed her, was the eldest of the famous Mdivani siblings. (The Queenslander, Thursday 11 June 1936, page 15)
Nina was 22 when she first married Professor Charles Henry Huberich, 48, a New York lawyer, author of volumes on “Commercial Laws of the World”. The marriage was performed on July 19, 1925, at Oxford Register Office. According to the British press, the bridegroom had residences in New York, Berlin and Hague.

The marriage had lasted 11 years. It was after the loss of two brothers, first Alexis and then Serge that Nina decided to escape from tragic reality and to find solace somewhere in the heart of Britain.

“Princess Seeks Solace in London - And Finds Love” – read the headline of the Queenslander, June 11, 1936. It appeared that a famous British aviator, Denis Conan Doyle, the son of a famous author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and a good friend of Mdivani brothers came to express his condolences and to bring compassion to the heart-broken “princess”.
At that time, Denis was practicing spiritualism and was said to be communicating with his dead father’s spirit. Nina got interested and inspired by Doyle’s unusual beliefs and commitments. Their warm friendship soon grew into ardent love.

In summer of 1936, after divorcing Charles Huberich, Nina Mdivani became a daughter-in-law of the famous creator of Sherlock Holmes. As Denis acknowledged later, his marriage was also consulted with his father’s spirit and added, that “not once since he had died, had he advised him wrong”.

Having been married to a rich and famous man of London, Nina started to live even more flamboyant life, than she ever had, partly on the cost of the Conan Doyle family possessions and partly - on her former sister-in-law, Barbara Hutton’s naïve generosity. Being friends with Nina - a good socialite and of course, a “princess”, was a privilege for Hutton. She showered her with diamonds and precious gifts, sometimes even designed exclusively for the “Princess” Mdivani.

Nina’s lust for luxurious life reached its climax after the sudden death of her husband in 1955. Denis unexpectedly died on a trip to India and Nina got the part of the Conan Doyle fortune. Soon she married Denis’ secretary, Anthony Harwood, ordered a white Rolls Royce and started to travel around Europe, spending as much money as the “Princess” could afford, staying in the best hotels and shopping in the top stores of the time.

Nina’s and Barbara’s friendship lasted until Hutton’s death. From a beautiful, romantic girl, once dreaming of becoming a real “princess”, Hutton grew into a woman seemingly disappointed with her own life. Addicted to drugs and alcohol, she died in 1979, leaving $3.500 from all her fortunes on the bank account. Anthony Harwood, Nina’s late husband had already died of a heart attack. Having lost Barbara, the richest friend and a companion, Nina remained alone against all the misfortunes that followed.

London of 1970’s did not appear a perfect place to stay in solitude for the aged “princess” used to live a royal life. Oil crises and inflation had caused financial difficulties to many, including Nina. Adhering to the old lifestyle that she couldn’t give up, Mdivani started to sell her jewels one by one. Eventually, she said farewell to her white Rolls Royce and to the golden years of her life as well.

In 1987, Nina Mdivani, the first and the last of Zakhary Mdivani’s children, passed away. She died alone in her room, leaving behind a long list of unpaid bills on the table and a big secret under her bed – it is said, that the Jade Necklace that once belonged to Barbara Hutton, and was sold at Sotheby’s for $27.44 million in 2014, was found exactly under Nina Mdivani’s deathbed.

Main Menu


Serge was the second son of Zakhari Mdivani. In early 1920’s David and Serge left Paris for Southampton, where they embarked on a ship called Olympic that brought them across the Atlantic to seek new adventures and to fallow their American Dream. Two brothers were the first Georgian “Royalty” to descend on the American land, where their vertiginous matrimonial carriers began.

After a period of financial difficulties, brothers managed to break through, and gradually gained a remarkable place in the American society. It is said, that the rich and successful women of the time were eager for a higher social status, and were charmed with the title of the princess, rather than the brothers themselves, however, historical archives keep their memories unveiling entirely different realities.

Serge’s first wife was a Hollywood Diva, a silent film star, Pola Negri. They first met on a ship during their trip to Paris. They spent half an hour on the deck together. A year later, on the same ship heading to Paris, they met again. “I left you here just a little while ago”-said Serge, “And I have been waiting for you to return”- answered Negri. They got married in Paris on January 14, 1927.

Pola Negri was a Hollywood and European film star mostly known for her famme fatale roles. Her filmography counts approximately 100 films including Barbed Wire (1927), Mazurka (1935), Madame Bovary (1937) etc. She was also popular for her personal relationships with Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino. “I was engaged to Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino, but Serge Mdivani was the perfect lover.”

Soon after the divorce, Serge left for Europe again. On the ship, he was invited to a dinner party given by Lord Thompson, former British Minister, where he was introduced to Mary McCormic, a famous opera singer. In a very short time, they got married. However, the marriage did not last long. In 1933 they divorced with a scandalous court case. McCormick sued her husband for “inhuman treatment”, just like May Murray was suing her husband David Mdivani at the same time.

Serge was 33, when he first met his brother Alexis’ former wife, Louise Van Alen. Alexis had already died in a car accident in Spain. Despite Serge tried to abstain himself from a marriage that would excite gossipers around the world, on February 8, 1936 he married his former sister-in-law.

Six weeks later, in Palm Beach, during a polo match, while Serge was pursuing a ball across the field. His pony suddenly swerved directly into the path of one of the best polo players’ charging steed. There was a collision. Serge fell on his face and was trying to get up, when his pony kicked him directly in his head. Doctors believed he died instantly of a fractured skull, but he was still breathing. The rain poured down. Louise was by his side. Despite doctors tried their best, Serge died within ten minutes from cerebral hemorrhage.

“A few days before I sailed from America, I spoke to Serge on the telephone and tried to persuade him to join me. I pressed him as much as I could, for I had already had several dreams in which I had seen him lying dead with a wound in his head. But Serge would not leave before the end of the polo season. I left by boat for Britain. Again I had the same dream, and then, in mid-ocean, I got the news of Serge's death from a polo accident.

Main Menu


In 1920’s Paris bourgeois was extensively discussing a “demonic love triangle”, in which a Georgian name of Roussoudana Mdivani was involved.

other side of the story

Everything started from one misty morning of 1925, when a famous painter and culptor, Jose Maria Sert was working in his studio located on Montparnasse, “Villa Segure”. There was a knock on the door. In a few minutes, Sert found himself charmed by a young woman having introduced herself as princess Mdivani, a sculptress wishing to have piece of advice on her work.

At that time Sert was in his fifties, he was married to Misia Godebska, a pianist of Polish descent. Paris knew Misia for her scandalous love affairs and affectionate friendships with Coco Chanel, Salvador Dali and Picasso, she was an inspiration of Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, a prototype of Jean Cocteau’s and Proust’s heroines… Misia was used to the countless number of young females visiting her husband’s studio, but this time, a strange feeling of imminent danger filled her heart to the brim.

“When, after three or four days, 1 realized that the visits were continuing, I decided to meet this young Princess of whom Sert spoke with such excitement. On arriving at the studio I saw, as I alighted from the car, a young girl running across the road, who seemed to be hiding her face with her handbag. I invited Roussy and her sister to luncheon, and had to insist for a long time before she accepted, as though regretfully. I realized at once what it was that had captivated Sert. He was right in all that he had said about her. She was exactly as he saw her. She was ravishing”. The memoirs of Misia Sert.

One day, in Biarritz, putting away Sert’s suit, Misia found his letter to Roussy, where he talked about his devotion and the wish to marry her. Despite Roussy tried to run away to New York in order to split the strange bonds with the Sert family, she couldn’t resist their love. A year later, Misia stepped back and divorced her husband in Hague to give the way to the happiness of two people, whom she mostly adored in her life. She appeared brave enough to arrange their wedding ceremony and even help Sert choose an engagement ring and a ruby necklace for the bride.

The marriage of Roussoudana Mdivani and Jose Maria Sert was officially registered in Hague, on August 18, 1928. Sert, being of Spanish descent, built a palace for her young princess in Palamos, Spain, where they often spent their summertime.
Among the numerous guests were Dali and Gala.

It is said that Dali adored Roussi and named her among three adorable women of Paris with Coco Chanel and Bettina Berger.

Despite long distance parting them from each other, Mdivani siblings were closely attached and used to cross the Atlantic at least once in two years to see each other. After one of such trips from America, Roussy returned with a “bad cold”, which gradually grew into a severe disease, which could not be properly cured at that time. Grief caused by the death of two brothers – Alexis and Serge broke her in every possible sense. Despite Coco’s and Misia’s efforts to save her life, Roussy passed away at the age of 32, in 1938.

Main Menu


Alexis was the youngest of the Mdivani siblings. When his elder sister, Nina got married to Professor Charles Huberich, she decided to give a proper education to Alexis and took him to Cambridge, where he, smart and handsome, became very popular among young ladies. However, his choice stopped at Louise Van Alen, a heiress to Astor millions. Despite her parents were against the marriage, no force could resist to the power of the so called “Mdivani Charm”. The wedding was held in Newport, in 1931.

However, instead of romantic adventures the title of princess brought series of disappointments to Louise. One morning, reading a newspaper, she came across an article reviewing a gossip about her husband’s romance with the world’s richest girl, Barbara Hutton. Soon the world started talking about it. Louise filed a divorce suit.

Barbara Hutton, 21, was the most wanted bride-to-be of that period. She received letters and gifts from all over the world. Not many people were taken by surprise on hearing her fiancé’s last name – Mdivani. The press started to talk about the brothers’ “successful” marrying careers again.

other side of the story

“Paris. When the' lime trees bow gently 'in the breeze along the Champs Elysee and the roses are fragrant in the Gardens of the Luxembourg, that is the time when Paris, and all the world, dreams of love.

It is June, the month of weddings. And June, despite a year of depression, political upheaval, and wars and rumors of wars, keeps on doing its romantic stuff to the tune of the Lohengrin march and the pervading scent of blossoms…

The magic of June was clearly revealed by the starry-eyed Barbara when she cried to a reporter, 'I'm wildly, madly excited, - I don't know whether I'm coming or going! I've known Prince Mdivani since I was 15, but for the last three months — I've been in love!"

The world’s richest girl was baptized the night before the wedding in order to get married to a Georgian prince at the orthodox church of Alexander Nevsky in Paris. Crowds of people had gathered from different countries to see the richest bride of the world getting married to her Georgian “Prince”. First came the Prince in his Rolls Royce which he received as a wedding gift from the bride. A little bit later, appeared Barbara Hutton accompanied by her father.

The wedding gown for the ceremony was one of the-most elaborate and picturesque any other bride had ever worn before - exaggerated historical styles mingled with modernism. M. Jean Patou, its creator, had spent hours studying Miss Hutton's personality. He believed he had expressed it with very broad shoulders, strange sleeves and sweeping folds of white satin. The bride wore ropes of pearls on her neck, and diamonds were blazing in her coiffure. Her trousseau cost £1000.

As usual, according to orthodox rules, the wedding ceremony is held with crowns, which, by the press, was perceived as the crowning ceremony of “Princess Barbara”. “The witnesses for the bride were her father Franklyn Hutton and her aunt Mrs. James P.Donahue, while witnesses for the groom were his brother-in-law, Jose Maria Sert and Akaki Chkhenkeli - Georgian Minister in Paris” – Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, June 20, 1933.

other side of the story

While gossipers were trying to imagine Barbara Hutton’s royal life as romantic as they could, young woman was suffering from the neglect from her husband’s part. Rumors said he was constantly absent and mostly disappeared for polo matches, for which he spent incredible amounts of money. In 1935, Barbara decided to divorce her prince, however she insisted to maintain the title of the “princess” for the rest of her life.

other side of the story

After the court process was over, Alexis left for Spain to spend summer at his sister Roussy’s house. Many famous people of Europe had gathered that summer at Serts’. Among the guests were Salvador Dali with Gala, and German Baroness von Thyssen. It is said, that Alexis fell in love with her. One of the evenings, when she decided to leave for Paris, Alexis offered a ride in his Rolls Royce.

Main Menu