Zinaida Volkonskaya was born on December 3 (14), 1789, in Dresden, in the family of Prince Alexander Mikhailovich Beloselsky-Belozersky, a noble aristocrat who was a Russia's ambassador at the Saxon court, and Varvara Yakovlevna Tatishcheva, who died when her daughter was only three years old. By 1792 her father had already been in the position of Russian ambassador at the court of the Sardinian kingdom in Turin. Prince Beloselsky-Belozersky had died in 1809, when his family returned to Russia. And Zinaida started a new stage of life: in 1810 she married a representative of a noble family, the master of the hunt (aide-de-camp) of Emperor Alexander I, Prince Nikita Grigorevich Volkonsky.
Zinaida's husband was to accompany the Emperor during his overseas campaigns after the events of 1812, and followed him to Dresden, Vienna, Paris and London, followed by his wife and son. And that's the time when Zinaida's and Alexander I's affair begins, the proof of which is their remained letters.
Zinaida had a beautiful contralto of high professional level, she painted beautifully, she wrote music herself and she can be called one of the first female composers of Russia, besides she was a poetess and was fond of prosaic genre. At that time being close to the Emperor only strengthened the popularity and publicity of the young singer, who began to perform at the stages of private and state theaters in Europe, including Paris, Rome and Verona.
In 1817 the princess and her sons returned from European wanderings to Russia in order to give them proper education. She enjoys a noisy social success, but she misses Italy that became almost native for her; in the fall of 1819 she leaves in Warsaw for several months, and in the spring of 1820 arrives in Rome, where she remains until 1822. Mingling in the highest quarters, she begins to gather a kind of "Russian circle" around herself, inviting visitor Russian writers, musicians and especially artists and sculptors to her place (artist OA Kiprensky, K.P. Bryullov, F.A. Bruni, S.F. Shchedrin, V.K. Sazonov, sculptor S.I. Galberg, architect K.A. Ton).