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Christ Church Castletown:
A Russian Aristocratic Connection

James Durney

In February 2012 Kildare Library and Arts Service, received a query about an unusual name on a headstone at Christ Church, the little church inside the gates at Castletown House, Celbridge – Whengle or Wrengle. So began a search of the archives which led to this interesting tale. It was discovered that it was in fact the grave of Baron Alexis Wrangel, the son of the famous Russian White Army leader, Baron Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel, who fought the communists during the Russian Civil War!
On June 1 2005 the New York Times carried an obituary for Baron Alexis Wrangel, who was buried in the Conolly-Carew family plot in Castletown House, Celbridge:

WRANGEL – Baron Alexis, 83, of Tara, County Meath, Ireland, died peacefully on May 27, 2005 after a lengthy illness. He is survived by his wife Diana and his sister Nathalie Basilevsky as well as an extended family. Baron Wrangel was a diplomat, author, equestrian and former U.S. Air Force Officer who was a son of General Baron Peter N. Wrangel, the last Commander in Chief of the White Russian Army during the Russian Civil War. A funeral service will be held on Friday, June 3, 2005 at St. Colmans Russian Orthodox Church, Stradbally, County Leix, Ireland. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to: The Tolstoy Foundation, 104 Lake Road, Valley Cottage, New York, 10989.

The funeral service was held on Friday, 3 June 2005, at St. Colman of Oughaval Russian Orthodox Church in Stradbally, Co. Laois. Father Peter Baulk conducted the service assisted by members of the Russian Orthodox Church in Dublin. It was in strict accordance with the rites of the Russian Orthodox Church and was attended by a large congregation, more than a hundred people. The hearse was escorted along the route from St. Colman to Celbridge under the watchful eye of the Gardaí who took it in turn to see a trouble free journey. Baron Wrangel was laid to rest in the Conolly-Carew family burial plot in Celbridge Church, which is the parish church of Baroness Wrangel’s family home, Castletown House. A bugle was not sounded on that day and no salvo echoed over the grave. The family and close friends enjoyed a pleasant lunch for the wake afterwards in the Setanta Hotel, which was built as a charity school for girls by the Lord Conolly-Carew in the nineteenth century. The family toasted the memory of the Baron Wrangel with his favourite drink, champagne.
In 1985 Baron Alexis Wrangel married Hon. Diana Sylvia Conolly-Carew, daughter of William Francis Conolly-Carew, 6th Baron Carew and Lady Sylvia Gwendoline Eva Maitland. Alexis Wrangel was the son of Baron Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel, who was born in Mukuliai, Kovno Governorate in the Russian Empire (near present-day Zarasai), Lithuania. The Wrangel family was of the local Baltic German nobility, and Pyotr Nikolayevich was distantly related to the famed Arctic explorer Ferdinand von Wrangel.
Pyotr Wrangel was commissioned a reserve officer in the Life Guards cavalry in 1902. He fought in the Russo-Japanese War and World War I. Following the end of Russia’s participation in the war, Wrangel resigned his commission and went to live in Yalta, in the Crimea. Arrested by the Bolsheviks at the end of 1917, he was released, and escaped to Kiev. In August 1918, he joined the anti-Bolshevik Volunteer Army based and was given command of the 1st Cavalry Division and the rank of major general in the White movement. After the Second Kuban Campaign in late 1918, Wrangel, nicknamed the Black Baron, was promoted to lieutenant general, and his Division was raised to that of a corps. An aggressive commander, he won a number of victories in the north Caucasus. He gained a reputation as a skilled and just administrator, who, in contrast to some other White Army generals, did not tolerate lawlessness or looting by his troops. Continued disagreement with South Russia leader, Anton Denikin led to his removal from command, and Wrangel departed for exile to Constantinople in February 1920.
However, in March 1920, Denikin was forced to resign, and a military committee asked that Wrangel return as Commander-in-Chief of the White forces in the Crimea. He assumed the post in April and put forth a coalition government which attempted to institute sweeping reforms (including land reforms). He also recognized and established relations with the new (and short lived) anti-Bolshevik independent republics of Ukraine and Georgia, among others. However, by this stage in the Russian Civil War, such measures were too late, and the White movement was rapidly losing support both domestically and overseas.
After defeats in which he lost half his standing army, and facing defeat in Northern Tavria and the Crimea, Wrangel organized a mass evacuation on the shores of the Black Sea. Wrangel gave every officer, soldier, and civilian a free choice: evacuate and go with him into the unknown, or remain in Russia and face the wrath of the Red Army. The last military and civilian personnel left Russia with Wrangel onboard the General Kornilov on November 14 1920. Initially, Wrangel lived on his yacht Lucullus at Constantinople, which was rammed and sunk by the Italian steamer Adria. Wrangel, who was on shore at the time, escaped with his life in what was widely regarded as an assassination attempt, as the Adria had sailed from Soviet-held Batum.

The Black Baron: Russian White Army leader, Baron Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel

Wrangel then journeyed with his staff via Turkey and Tunisia to the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes as the head of all Russian refugees, and arguably became the most prominent of all exiled White émigrés. He settled in Brussels, Belgium, from September 1927, and worked as a mining engineer. Wrangel’s memoirs were published in the magazine White Cause in Berlin in 1928.
Wrangel died suddenly in 1928, and his family believed that he had been poisoned by his butler’s brother, who briefly lived in the Wrangel household in Brussels and who was allegedly a Soviet agent. Wrangel’s funeral and burial took place in Brussels, but he was re-interred, on October 6 1929, in the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church in Belgrade, Serbia, according to his wishes. The story of his alleged poisoning was featured in the book KGB’s Poison Factory: From Lenin to Litvinenko by Boris Volodarsky. Alexis Wrangel also wrote a number of books, including one on his father, General Wrangel 1878-1929. Russia’s White Crusader (1987).

In February 2012 Kildare Library and Arts Service, received a query about an unusual name on a headstone at Christ Church, Castletown House, Celbridge

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