Yet although she boasted an impressive title, Maria’s formative years were nowhere near as grandiose. You see, as far as was possible the Tsar and his wife wanted their offspring to enjoy normal childhoods. To that end, then, even their staff were encouraged to do away with honorifics. They instead called the royal girl “Maria Nikolaevna,” or used her Slavic moniker, “Mashka.” She didn’t have her own room, either, and instead slept in the same chamber as Anastasia.
And this night-time proximity was perhaps one of the reasons why the siblings grew so close. Indeed, family members lovingly referred to the two girls as “The Little Pair,” whereas Olga and Tatiana, the older sisters, were called “The Big Pair.” And by all accounts, the grand duchesses got along well together as a foursome, too. They even occasionally scrawled “OTMA” at the bottom of notes – an acronym of their given names.
Yet Maria seemed to be something of the black sheep of the family. You see, the grand duchess was a particularly sweet-natured child, whereas her sisters were far more rambunctious. She often found herself apologizing for Anastasia’s unpleasant actions, for example, and the older girls once called Maria their “stepsister.” According to the girls’ governess, Margaretta Eagar, Olga and Tatiana simply thought that Maria was simply too well-behaved to be their sibling.