Yet although she boasted an impressive title, Maria didn’t experience particularly grandiose formative years. 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. So the workers instead called the royal girl “Maria Nikolaevna” or used her Slavic moniker, “Mashka.” Maria didn’t have her own room, either; she slept in the same chamber as Anastasia.
But this night-time proximity was perhaps one of the reasons why the two girls grew so close. In fact, family members lovingly referred to the siblings 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” – an acronym of their given names – at the bottom of notes.
Yet Maria seemed to be something of the black sheep of the family. For instance, the grand duchess was a particularly sweet-natured child, whereas her sisters were far more rambunctious. Maria often found herself apologizing for Anastasia’s unpleasant actions, in fact. And according to the girls’ governess, Margaretta Eagar, Olga and Tatiana thought Maria was simply too well-behaved to be their sibling.