Alexander Ypsilantis

12 Dec 1792
31 Jan 1828
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Alexander Ypsilantis, Ypsilanti, or Alexandros Ypsilantis ( 12 December 1792 – 31 January 1828) was a member of a prominent Phanariot Greek family, a prince of the Danubian Principalities, a senior officer of the Imperial Russian cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars, and a leader of the Filiki Eteria, a secret organization that coordinated the beginning of the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire.

He should not be confused with his namesake grandfather, a Prince of Wallachia and Moldavia at the end of the 18th century.

The Ypsilantis family hailed from the Pontian population of Trabzon. He was born on 12 December 1792 in Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, as the eldest of three brothers (the others being Nicholas and Demetrios).

His father Constantine Ypsilantis and grandfather Alexander were active in the Ottoman administration and highly educated, each with their own share of service as a dragoman in the Sultan’s court and as hospodars of the Danubian Principalities.

With the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War in 1805, his father fled with family to Imperial Russia. The young Alexander had received a thorough education, becoming fluent in Russian, French, German and Romanian. At the age of 15, he was presented to the Russian Court, where he came under the patronage of Empress Maria Feodorovna.

On 12 April 1808, he entered a commission in the prestigious Chevalier Guard Regiment with the rank of cornet. Moving rapidly up the ranks, he was promoted to lieutenant on 27 September 1810 and to Stabs-Rittmeister on 18 October of the same year.

During the French invasion of Russia, he fought in the battles of Klyastitsy and Polotsk. Promoted to full Rittmeister (captain) on 20 February 1813, he went on to participate in the Battle of Bautzen. On 6 July, he was transferred to the 6th Klyastitsy Hussar Regiment as lieutenant colonel, and participated with his new unit in the Battle of Dresden, where his right arm was torn off by a shell.

Although he was immediately promoted to full colonel, it meant that Ypsilantis would not be able to see action again. However, he attended the Congress of Vienna, where he was a popular figure in society (see Auguste Louis Charles La Garde de Chambonas, Souvenirs), and earned the sympathy of Tsar Alexander I, who appointed him his aide-de-camp on 1 January 1816. In late 1817, at the age of 25, he became a major general and commander of the 1st Brigade of Hussars of the 1st Hussar Division.

After his release, he retired to Vienna, where he died in extreme poverty and misery on 29 January 1828. His last wish that his heart be removed from his body and sent to Greece was fulfilled by Georgios Lassanis, and it is now located at the Amalieion in Athens. His appearance in likenesses and the accounts of his life suggest he had dystrophia myotonica, a congenital multi-system disorder. (see Caughey J. E., Dystrophia Myotonica and Related Disorders. 1991)

His body was originally buried on St. Marx cemetery, and later on his remains were transferred to the Ypsilanti-Sina estate, Schloss Rappoltenkirchen, Sieghartskirchen, Austria, by members of his family on 18 February 1903. His last transfer occurred on August 1964, when he was finally relocated to the Taxiarches Church in Pedion tou Areos, Athens, Greece, 136 years after his death.

Ypsilanti Township, Michigan, in the United States of America is named in honor of him. Later the city of Ypsilanti, located within the township, was named after his brother Demetrius.

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