Michael C. Betanelly

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Michael C. Betanelly was a Georgian immigrant engaged in export-import business. He married Helena Petrovna Blavatsky on April 3, 1875 at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. Rev. William H. Furness conducted the service.[1] She had agreed to this marriage after her suitor agreed that she could retain her name and independence, and that it was a marriage in name only. Colonel Olcott was astonished at the situation and she later told him that it arose from karmic complications from past lives.[2] The marriage broke off after several months and Betanelly sued for divorce, which was finally granted on May 25, 1878, with William Q. Judge acting as Blavatsky's counsel.

Betanelly is mentioned in several letters:


  1. GBC letter to Boris de Zirkoff, dated March 9, 1956. Boris de Zirkoff Papers. Records Series 22. Theosophical Society in America Archives. The church was located at Chestnut and Van Pelt Street, and the pastor described HPB as Russian, aged 36 [she was actually 43] and her husband as Russian, aged 33.
  2. Charles J. Ryan, H. P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Movement (Pasadena: Theosophical University Press), 55.