v 6.40.00
19 Dec 2022
updated 21 Dec 2022

Sofka Skipwith (formerly Zinovieff,
née Princess Sofka Dolgorouky)
(23 Oct 1907 – 26 Feb 1994)

I've seen her described as passionate rather than beautiful, but these qualities aren't mutually exclusive and from the evidence of this photograph, I'd say that she possessed both in super-abundance. In later years she tended towards stoutness, but nevertheless managed to work her through over 100 lovers in addition to two husbands of her own and her long-term partner Jack. She was renowned for pep-talks, to which she would subject every new female acquaintance, on the importance of effective contraception!

She was also described as being monstrously selfish, and was culpably neglectful of her three sons, but was capable of great kindness and courage, particularly during the Second War, during which she was interned in France, when she made great efforts to save many hundreds of Jews from the clutches of the Nazis. She had been born into great wealth and luxury in Tsarist Russia, but during her internment converted to Communism (of the idealistic kind, not the murderous Bolshevik variety) and spent her last decades living in a small Cornish cottage with a retired English trade-unionist.

Her lifetime's journey from St Petersburg to Bodmin Moor was almost unbelievably eventful and colourful, and has been the subject of countless articles in the media to this very day.

The first I read was a profile in the Observer (18 Oct 1987), which my wife Sonia had filed away years before. It was by then more than a little creased and mottled, but provides a very good overview of Sofka's life and times, as also does Wikipedia.

Her autobiography Sofka: The autobiography of a princess was published in 1968, and very highly admired, though I don't have a copy of it, as its second-hand prices on Amazon are astronomical. One of the Amazon reviews is by Penny FitzLyon, Ian Zinovieff-FitzLyon's daughter. It's a great pity that no press reviews could have survived from that pre-internet era.

However, there are a multitude of excellent – and wide-ranging – reviews of Red Princess: A Revolutionary Life, the much more recent biography by her grand-daughter and namesake Sofka Zinovieff, Peter Zinovieff's daughter.

plus an obituary

and two profiles 1,   2 in addition to that in the Observer already cited.

Dolgorukys, Zinovieffs and Skipwiths

You might well ask why this narrative should be included, as the dramatis personae are entirely unrelated to me, and are (or were) all of much higher socio-economic background than myself. But, of course, the usual mission statement applies here as elsewhere – this is a defining backdrop against which I have subsisted for over 50 years, and which has inevitably coloured my take on life.

Your next question would inevitably be, well, how did it all come about? Via Sonia herself, of course, without whom nothing in the Family unit would have come into being.

Having felt a mutual romantic inclination towards the 15-year-old son of a family who had visited Ardnagashel that summer, she (of like age) corresponded with him for some time afterwards, as teenagers do. The family went elsewhere the following year, but the bar had been set high as the boy in question was a pupil at Eton.

A little later on, as schooldays in Bray drew to an end, the vie Bohème of Dublin, and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) student life in particular, began to appeal and it was there that she was introduced by her cousin Jalik to Paddy Skipwith, Chris Kendall (all three of whom were reading geology) and a multitude of other high-spirited contemporaries. Her teenage romance with the eminently likeable Paddy (though a mere Harrovian) continued after she moved to London for secretarial training, but eventually came to naught – though it did introduce her to his extraordinary mother Sofka and Sofka's partner Jack, with both of whom she got along very well.

However, the Kaulback-Skipwith-Kendall axis has been part of the picture ever since. (Indeed I was once shipwrecked with Skipwith and Kendall on the southern shores of the Persian Gulf, and Paddy kept our spirits up over 4 days or so by playing his recorder, most memorably from Gossec's Tambourin.)

Other beaux and ardent admirers followed in turn, mere playthings of an idle hour, variously hailing from Charterhouse, Marlborough, Rugby, Stowe etc, but to no avail – their credentials simply didn't cut the mustard. So it was not until I happened by that she felt at last (for some extraordinary reason, still not fully explained) that this was the Real Thing, and the bar could be lowered more or less to ankle level.

So much for the scene-setting, let's focus on the Skipwiths.

In this context the story begins with Yuri Dolgoruky, who in family legend (and to some extent in historical fact) was the founder of Moscow. The word "Dolgoruky" appears to have been a nick-name, as in Russian it is said to mean "long-armed", possibly implying that he was vengeful, or that his influence was far-reaching geographically. He seems to identify with George I of that region in the Wikipedia article about him. As a subsequent family name, it appears that Dolgoruk(i)y can also be rendered as Dolgorukov or Dolgoroukoff.

I'm indebted to the following internet sources for most of the information in the ensuing tabulation, while other sources are attributed via the appropriate links in situ.

External links to the first of these sources seem very imprecise, but once in the internal links are fully functional.

The second of these sources is particularly hard to follow, as I don't honestly understand his prefixing system, especially as there are no corresponding indentations. I would welcome any better-informed interpretations.

There is also a Wikipedia article about the House of Dolorukov but it's of no relevance to present purposes except for their rather fine coat of arms:

I am weaving the Dolgoruky, Zinovieff and Skipwith strands into this single table, as their generation patterns are more or less in step with one another. It seems to work pretty well.

#IndividualSpouse / PartnerFamily
?Yuri Dolgoruky
(ca 1099 –
15 May 1157)

Dolgoruky portraits

founder of Moscow, the Russian equivalent of Romulus

younger brother of Mstislav I (the Great) of Kiev

(grandsons of King Harold II, last Saxon King of England)
Married twice At least 15 children
Let's skip a few generations ...
-5Prince Aleksei Alekseievich Dolgoruky
(1775 –

Dolgoruky portraits
Margarita Ivanovna Apaitchikov Prince Sergei Alekseievich Dolgoruky
(2 Nov 1809 –
16 Sep 1891)

Prince Dmitri Alekseievich Dolgoruky
-4Prince Sergei Alekseievich Dolgoruky
(2 Nov 1809 –
16 Sep 1891)

Dolgoruky portraits
Countess Maria Alexandrovna Apraksina
(19 Dec 1816 –
2 May 1892)
(m 15 Jan 1833)
Princess Alexandra Sergeievna Dolgoroukova
(18 Nov 1834, St. Petersburg –
12 Sep 1913, Cannes)

Princess Margarita Sergeievna Dolgoroukova
(1839 –
25 Feb 1912)

Lt. Gen. Prince Nicholas Sergeievitch Dolgorouky
(28 Apr 1840, St. Petersburg –
28 Feb 1913, Ouchy)

Prince Alexander Sergeievitch Dolgoruky
(29 Oct 1841, St Petersburg –
7 Jun 1912, St Petersburg)

Princess Barbara Sergeievna Dolgoroukova
(21 Nov 1844 –
21 May 1865)

Prince Alexis Sergeievitch Dolgorouky
(16 Mar 1846 –
25 Jun 1915, Paris

Princess Marie Sergeievna Dolgorukova
(14 Dec 1847 –
25 Sep 1936, Nice)

Prince Dimitri Sergeievitch Dolgorouky
(31 Aug 1850, St. Petersburg –
9 Nov 1886, Frankfurt)

Princess Anna Sergeievna Dolgorouky
(fl 1920)

Princess Seraphima Sergeievna Dolgoroukova
(21 Sep 1859 –
20 Sept 1868)
-3Prince Alexander Sergeievitch Dolgorouky
(29 Oct 1841, St Petersburg –
7 Jun 1912, St Petersburg)

Dolgoruky portraits
Countess Olga Petrovna Schouvaloff
(17 Aug 1848 –
21 Sept 1927)
(m 7 Apr 1868)
Princess Maria Alexandrovna Dolgoroukova;
(1 Mar 1869, St Petersburg –
12 July 1949, Rome)

Princess Sophia Alexandrovna Dolgoroukova
(6 July 1870, Tsarskoie Selo –
30 Nov 1957, Rome)

General Prince Serge Alexandrovitch Dolgorouky
(27 May 1872 –
11 Nov 1933)

Princess Olga Alexandrovna Dolgorukova
(27 Nov 1873, St Petersburg –
3 Jan 1946, Innsbruck)

Prince Peter Alexandrovitch Dolgorouky
(b 10 Jun 1883, St Petersburg –
22 Oct 1925, Neuilly-sur-Seine)

and possibly one or two more
-2Prince Peter Alexandrovitch Dolgoruky
(10 Jan or Jun 1883, St Petersburg –
22 Oct 1925, Neuilly-sur-Seine)
Countess Sophia Alexeievna Bobrinskaya
(27 Dec 1887 –
25 Nov 1949)
(m 10 Jan 1907)
Princess Sophia (Sofka) Petrovna Dolgorukov
(23 Oct 1907, St Petersburg –
26 Feb 1994, Bodmin)


Prince Nikita Petrovich Dolgorukov
(b 1912/13)

Princess Marina Petrovna Dolgorukova
(b 1912)

Prince Petr Petrovich Dolgorukov
(b ca 1918 –

Prince Aleksandr Petrovich Dolgorukov
(b 19 Nov 1919, Firenze)

Princess Olga Petrovna Dolgorukova
(17 Jan 1921, Firenze –
28 Oct 1942, Boulogne)

Prince Serge Petrovich Dolgorukov
(b 27 Oct 1922, Firenze)
Anna Leontievna Mikhailova
(24 Jun 1888, St. Petersburg –
7 Nov 1968, Lagny-sur-Marne)
(m 1912)
-2Lev Alexandrovich Zinovieff
(6 Jan 1882 –
13 Jun 1958)

son of Alexander Dmitrievich Zinoviev
(29 May 1854 –
20 Feb 1931)

grandson of Dmitri Vasilievich Zinoviev
(1822 –

great grandson of Vasily Nikolaevich Zinoviev
(11 Dec 1755 –
19 Jan 1827)

Zinoviev portraits
Olga Petrovna Baranoff
(1883 –
23 Jun 1972)


Daughter of a cavalry general who became Minister of the Court of Tsar Nicholas I's son, Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolayevich. Before her marriage, Olga had served as Maid of Honour to the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna and the Empress Alexandra.
Major Lev (Leo) Lvovitch Zinovieff RM
(15 Feb 1905, St Petersburg –
21 Sep 1951, Stowehill railway accident)

Olga Zinovieff
(d 1981)

Elena Zinovieff
(1909 –

Kyril Lvovich Zinovieff
(11 Sep 1910 –
31 Jul 2015)

Zinovieff portraits
-1 Princess Sophia (Sofka) Petrovna Dolgorukov 1,  2
(23 Oct 1907, St Petersburg –
26 Feb 1994, Bodmin)
Major Lev (Leo) Lvovitch Zinovieff junior RM
(15 Feb 1905, St Petersburg –
21 Sep 1951, Stowe Hill railway accident)
(m 27 Jun 1931)

Wedding portraits

secondly married to Jean Mackintosh, elder daughter of the thirteenth Duke of Hamilton.
Peter Zinovieff
(26 Jan 1933 –
23 Jun 2021)

Ian Zinovieff FitzLyon
(b Dec 1935)

Zinovieff portraits
Grey d'Estoteville Townsend Skipwith 1,  2
(23 Mar 1912 –
31 May 1942, KIA over Düsseldorf)
(m 21 Jul 1937)



Flying Officer RAF Volunteer Reserve

(the variant d'Estouteville is actually the more historical spelling)

son of Sir Grey Humberston d'Estoteville Skipwith, 11th Bt.1,  2


and Elsie Maude Allison-Browne

Sir Patrick Alexander D'Estoteville Skipwith, 12th Bt.
(1 Sep 1938 –
6 Oct 2016)

known variously as PADS, Paddy or Skipwit.
Jack King

Communist trade-union activist
-1Kyril Lvovich Zinovieff
(11 Sep 1910 –
31 Jul 2015)

Zinovieff Portraits
Cecily April Mead
(22 Apr 1920 –
17 Sep 1998)
Sebastian FitzLyon

Julian FitzLyon
0Peter Zinovieff obit
(26 Jan 1933 –
23 Jun 2021)

Zinovieff Portraits

D Phil (Oxford), geology
Victoria Gala Heber-Percy
(b 28 Feb 1943)
(m 25 Nov 1960)

Wedding portrait

daughter of Robert Vernon Heber-Percy and Ann Jennifer Evelyn Elizabeth Fry
Sofka Zinovieff 1,  2
(b 10 Nov 1961)

Zinovieff portraits

Leo Zinovieff
(b 3 Mar 1963)

Nicholas Zinovieff
(b 3 Mar 1966)
Rose Lucinda Verney
(b 17 Aug 1950)
(m 15 April 1978)

daughter of Sir John Verney, 2nd Bt. and Jeanie Lucinda Musgrave
Olga Zinovieff
(b 1978)

Katarina Zinovieff
(b 1981)

Iliena Zinovieff
(b 1983)
0Ian Zinovieff FitzLyon
(b Dec 1935)
Josephine Sadd Collins
(b 1933)
(m 1957)
Penny FitzLyon
0Sir Patrick Alexander D'Estoteville Skipwith, 12th Bt.
(1 Sep 1938 –
6 Oct 2016)



Harrow School

MA (Trinity College Dublin), geology

PhD (Imperial College), geology

maritally labile
Gillian Patricia Harwood
(1 Sep 1938 –
1 Jun 2012)
(m 24 Jun 1964,
div 1970)

Wedding portrait
Zara Alexandra Jane d'Estoteville Skipwith
(b 8 Apr 1967)

Alexander Sebastian Grey D'Estoteville Skipwith, 13th Bt.
(b 9 Apr 1969)

(= Anne Tolstoy-Miloslavsky)
Askhain Bedros Attikian 1,  2
(ca 1942 –
23 Aug 2006)
(m 21 Jun 1972
qua Bardell,
Q3 1972, Chelsea 5a 1663,
div 1997)

her second marriage
Junelle Woleslagle
(b 1951)
(m 22 Mar 1997
div 1998)

possibly a fake datum
Martine Sophie de Wilde
(m 22 Mar 1997
or 17 Dec 1998,
d or div 2011)

daughter of Joseph de Wilde
Grey Camille d'Estouteville Skipwith
(b 17 Jul 1997)

Louis Peyton d'Estouteville Skipwith
(b 17 Jul 1997)
Katherine (Katy) Jane Mahon
(m 2012)
Nikolai Skipwith

Helen Smith, of Lysterfield in Australia, recollects (Nov 2018) a very touching visit by Sofka Skipwith in 1971 to Paddy's first wife Gillian Skipwith, by then divorced from Paddy, and their two children Zara and Sasha (for whom Helen was employed as nanny). The family was at that time living in Bramham Gardens, Earls Court.

Grannie Sofka brought her grandchildren beautifully hand-made Russian wooden toys and some wonderful illustrated story-books.

Helen also well remembers Sofka's very kind son Patrick and his lovely girlfriend Ashkain. Sadly their marriage too was to end in divorce.

While I've yet to read Red Princess, the profiles of Sofka that I've read do seem to be unanimous that she was overwhelmingly focussed on her indefatigable love-life, and was a very neglectful mother, so it's reassuring to have this account of her kindly visit to the grandchildren of that time.

The Rude Forefathers

The backgrounds of the Zinovievs and Dolgorukovs have been given in sufficient detail above, but what of the Skipwiths themselves?

Wikipedia takes them back to the creation of the principal baronetcy in the 17th century, as reproduced below, but their roots go further back to the Norman usurpation of Harold II, and indeed further still, as will become evident.


Skipwith baronets, of Prestwould (1622)

  • Sir Henry Skipwith, 1st Baronet (died c. 1658)
  • Sir Henry Skipwith, 2nd Baronet (c. 1616 – c. 1663)
  • Sir Grey Skipwith, 3rd Baronet (1622 – died c. 1671)
  • Sir William Skipwith, 4th Baronet (c. 1670 – 1736)
  • Sir Grey Skipwith, 5th Baronet (1705 – c. 1750)
  • Sir William Skipwith, 6th Baronet (1707 – 1764)
  • Sir Peyton Skipwith, 7th Baronet (1740 – 1805)
  • Sir Grey Skipwith, 8th Baronet (1771 – 1852)
  • Sir Thomas George Skipwith, 9th Baronet (1803 – 1863)
  • Sir Peyton Estoteville Skipwith, 10th Baronet (1857 – 1891)
  • Sir Grey Humberston d'Estoteville Skipwith, 11th Baronet (1884 – 1950)
  • Sir Patrick Alexander d'Estoteville Skipwith, 12th Baronet (1938 – 2016)
  • Sir Alexander Sebastian Grey d'Estoteville Skipwith (born 1969).

The heir apparent to the baronetcy is the present holder's only son Constantine Alexander Paul d'Estoteville Skipwith (born 2006).

Wikipedia also provides a pointer to the early Norman era:


In 1870–72, the Rev John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Skipwith like this:

SKIPWITH, a township and a parish in the district of Selby and N. R. Yorkshire. The township lies 3½ miles N of Duffield-Gate r. station, and 5 NE of Selby; has traces of possession by the ancient Britons; was held by Patrick de Schwywyc immediately after the Norman conquest; and gives name to the Skipwiths of Newbold. Acres, 2,569. Real property, £2,006. Pop., 299. Houses, 61. The parish contains also the township of North Duffield, and comprises 5,789 acres. Post town, Selby. Pop., 769. Houses, 157. The property is sub-divided. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of York. Value, £300. Patron, the Lord Chancellor. The church is good, and has a Saxon tower. There are an endowed school with £14 a year, and charities £21.

And we can connect with this to some extent via the www.geni.com website (though the individual entries are managed by a variety of contributors, so that the dates are sometimes out of kilter with one another, and sometimes downright suspect):

Edward Kimber and Richard Johnson, editing and extending an earlier work by Thomas Wotton, published in 1741, picked up the story in detail, starting from Robert d'Estouteville, Lord of Cottingham [III] (?1040 -?1107):


(Click here for facsimile page-turning version)

As always with such online facsimile versions, the maximal screen display can be achieved by using a judicious combination of the options Fullscreen / F11 / Hide Nav Bar / Zoom custom ...%

As did the Rev William Betham, who evidently relied pretty heavily on Kimber and Johnson's text, but, to his credit, structured and formatted it to make for much easier reading:


(Click here for facsimile page-turning version)

As always with such online facsimile versions, the maximal screen display can be achieved by using a judicious combination of the options Fullscreen / F11 / Hide Nav Bar / Zoom custom ...%

By far the most readable of the Skipwith histories is that of 1867 by Fulwar Skipwith (18 Feb 181022 Jun 1883), one of the "Heaven-born" of the ICS. He begins with Robert le Grandbois d'Estouteville, and quotes a number of sources to the effect that Robert was acclaimed by for his prominent role in the Battle of Hastings. This may well be true, but doesn't seem to be substantiated by the "List of Proven Companions" which is defined as those whose active participation in that unhappy day for England is established beyond doubt.

What of course isn't at all in question is that he was lavishly endowed with large estates by the victorious usurper, but returned to Normandy, and eventually fell from favour, thereby being dispossessed and imprisoned, in the reign of Henry I.

It was his son Robert d'Estouteville who restored the family fortunes, not least by his marriage to the Saxon-born heiress Eneburga by means of which he acquired inter alia the lordship of Schypwic, which passed in due course to his younger son Patrick ...

(Click here for facsimile page-turning version)

As always with such online facsimile versions, the maximal screen display can be achieved by using a judicious combination of the options Fullscreen / F11 / Hide Nav Bar / Zoom custom ...%

Mr. Elphinston talked of a new book that was much admired, and asked Dr. Johnson if he had read it. JOHNSON: "I have looked into it." "What," said Elphinston, "have you not read it through?" Johnson, offended at being thus pressed, and so obliged to own his cursory mode of reading, answered tartly, "No, Sir, do you read books through?"

And in case you wonder, neither do I, nor even could I, given the sheer size of many of the discursive reference volumes from a more leisurely age than our own, and the number and complexity of family connections to be investigated.