In 1908 George Mikhailovich, Grand Duke of Russia purchased a bright red 33cm Steiff bear. He gave the colourful little bear to his daughter, Princess Xenia. She called him Alfonzo. Her nanny, Miss Ball, made him a bright cotton Cossack tunic and trousers.
The Princess and Alfonzo were inseparable. Their early life was spent at Horax House, a palace in the Crimea. In 1914 they travelled to London and spent the summer at Buckingham Palace. Princess Xenia’s mother was a cousin of George V.
Whilst there World War I started so the Princess and Alfonzo remained at Marlborough House in London. When the revolution then began it was evident they needed to remain in London even longer so they moved to their own house in Chester Square.
On 17 March 1917 Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate, he and his family were shot at Yekaterinburg in July 1918. Xenia’s father survived but was assassinated in St Petersburgh in 1919.
Alfonzo, as the only momento of her father, remained a treasured possession for the rest of Princess Xenia’s life: in 1921 the Princess went to America, where she married William Leeds and lived in Oyster Bay.
When Princess Xenia died, in 1965, Alfonzo went to her daughter, Nancy.
In 1989 Alfonzo returned to London, where he was a huge attraction at a Christies auction. With such provenance, interest was high and a world record of £12,100 was achieved.