The Riga Benckendorff family, says Almanach de Gotha, were of bourgeois Swedish origin and became ennobled in the sixteenth century. They never used the German nobility’s prefix ‘von’ which some historians later attached to the Russian ambassador’s name by association with the German family the von Benckendorff-Hindenburgs, to which the Petersburg courtiers had no ties.1 A Benckendorff became an officer in Peter I’s army and a member of the Russian service nobility. The family rose at the imperial court at the end of the eighteenth century. Grand Duchess Maria, the daughter-in-law to Catherine II, was greatly attached to her maid of honour, Juliana Schilling von Kanstadt, who had come with her to Russia from her native Würtemberg. For political and domestic reasons Catherine II wanted Fraulein Schilling von Kanstadt to return to Germany. The young grand duchess countered by marrying off her favourite to an officer from the grand duke’s retinue, Christoph (Khristofor Ivanovich) Benckendorff. Juliana Schilling remained in Russia, and her husband became a general. When Maria became empress-consort (1796-1801) the Benckendorff couple remained close to her, and their children’s fortunes were made.2 Even the Russian names of their sons (they also had baptismal Germanic names), Aleksandr and Konstantin, were also those of the sons of the imperial couple, pointing to the Benckendorffs’ ties to the Romanovs. One of their daughters married General Shevich; their descendant was Russia’s ambassador to Vienna in the 1890s; another married Prince von Lieven, Russia’s ambassador to Britain, and became known as a confidante of British and French statesmen and an agent of the Russian government.