Elizabeth and Zakhari Mdivani and their five children were Georgian nobles that fled their homeland after the Russian Revolution. Zakhari Mdivani served as a general under Nicholas II, the last Russian tsar. Settling throughout Western Europe and the United States and styling themselves as “princes and princesses,” each of the five children would go on to have multiple marriages—often to affluent public figures—that brought them great wealth, media attention, and turmoil.
Nina Mdivani (1901-1987) married American attorney and legal scholar Charles Huberich in 1925 and they divorced 1936. That year Nina wed Dennis Conan Doyle, eldest son of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. Upon Dennis' death in 1955, Nina became the executor of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate and she married Dennis Doyles' secretary Anthony Harwood.
Serge Mdivani (1903-1936) married silent film star Pola Negri in 1927. He mishandled her five million dollar fortune pursuing business ventures and they divorced in 1931. Serge then married wealthy opera star Mary McCormic who backed him and his brother in an oil rig scheme that nearly bankrupted her. They divorced and Serge married his former sister-in-law, Louise Van Alen, in 1936. He died shortly thereafter when he was kicked in the head by a pony in a polo match.
David Mdivani (1904-1984) married film star Mae Murray in 1926. The next year they had a son who would eventually be adopted by another family after a fierce custody battle. When they divorced Murray was left bankrupt. In 1944 David married oil heiress Virginia Sinclair, and they had a son Michael.
Roussadana “Roussie” Mdivani (1905-1938) was a sculptor who designed the Harmon Trophy, an aviation award. She married Spanish painter José Maria Sert in 1928 and died in 1938.
Alexis Mdivani (1907-1935) married wealthy socialite Louise Astor Van Alen in 1931 (later to be married to Serge, briefly). They were only wed for a short time when Alexis began pursuing Barbara Hutton, the richest woman in the world. Alexis divorced Van Alen and married Hutton in 1933. They divorced in 1935 and Alexis began a relationship with Maud Thyssen, whom he met through his friendship with Salvador Dali. That year, Alexis and Ms. Thyssen were involved in an automobile accident in Spain which killed Alexis and disfigured Thyssen.
The collection consists primarily of correspondence, financial papers, clippings, and photographs. The correspondence documents the written communication of the Mdivani siblings, spouses, and other relatives, as well as friends and acquaintances, and focuses on family, health, and social life, among other topics. The financial papers in the collection consist of legal documents about the estates of the deceased, communication with attorneys, banks, and retailers, inventories of assets, and receipts from large purchases. The clippings, which date largely from the 1930s, mainly cover weddings, divorces, and deaths in the Mdivani family, as well as their social lives, hobbies, and gossip surrounding their relationships. Photographs document the lives of all five Mdivani siblings and their many spouses and include images of childhood and family life, weddings, social events, travels, residences, hobbies, personal belongings, recreation, and the military career of General Zakhari Mdivani.
The collection also includes the diaries of Dennis Conan Doyle and Anthony Harwood, scrapbooks, genealogy, and artifacts, such as Conan Doyle's racing trophy.