Prince Eugène de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s stepson and the Viceroy of Italy, was a general in the French troops during the French invasion of Russia in 1812. He led a 20,000-strong taskforce from Moscow to Zvenigorod. They were stationed in St Savva Storozhevsky Monastery, where his soldiers started pillaging the temples and icons… The prince went to bed one night, and — he did not know whether it was for real or just a dream — he saw a handsome old man enter his room. The old man said, “Do not let your soldiers rob the monastery; if you do as I tell you, God will have mercy on you and you will return to your homeland safe and sound.”
General de Beauharnais woke up in terror. The dream was so real… He went to a church and saw an icon with the face of Saint Savva Storozhevsky, who had been a disciple of St Sergius of Radonezh, and recognized him as the old man who had visited him that night. Prince de Beauharnais followed the Elder’s advice. The French troops stopped marauding in the monastery. As a result, Eugène de Beauharnais was one of the few French generals who remained alive in that war. He wasn’t even wounded in any of the battles. However, this story had a surprising finale. The de Beauharnais family retained in their memory another prophecy that Prince Eugène heard from St Savva, “Your descendants will serve Russia.”
Maximilian de Beauharnais, 3rd Duke of Leuchtenberg and Prince Eugène’s son, came to Russia in 1839. He visited St Savva Storozhevsky Monastery together with the Russian Imperial Family and venerated the relics of St Savva, as he had promised to his father. He proposed to Grand Princess Maria Nikolayevna, the Emperor’s daughter, the same year. After their wedding, the couple lived on Nevsky Prospekt in St Petersburg, and that was how the descendants of Prince de Beauharnais found themselves in Russia. The Duke of Leuchtenberg’s family had to leave Russia after the 1917 Revolution. Their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren currently live in France, Germany, the US, Belgium, and Australia. They are Orthodox and have Russian names. They consider St Savva Storozhevsky as their heavenly patron.
There is an Orthodox Convent in honor of the Holy Protection of Theotokos in Bussy-en-Othe, not far from Paris. Nun Elizabeth (de Beauharnais), born Duchess of Leuchtenberg, who lives there, believes that General Eugène de Beauharnais might have been baptized Orthodox before he died, which was why he changed his name to Evgeniy. We might add that a chapel in honor of St Savva, which was amazingly similar to the Cathedral in honor of the Nativity of Christ of St Savva Storozhevsky Monastery in Zvenigorod, was built near Paris after the Napoleonic wars. St Savva Storozhevsky, a disciple of St Sergius of Radonezh, has been venerated in France since the 19th century not only by Russian émigrés but also by ethnic French who are Orthodox.