Karelin’s Lost Portrait of the Imperial Family

PHOTO: portrait of the Imperial Family (1910) by A. A. Karelin (1866-1928),

Up until the 1917 Revolution, the collection of the Ancient Depository [opened in 1910] of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg, included a portrait of the Imperial family. The portrait was painted in 1909, the year of the foundation of the new building of the Ancient Depository.

The portrait is quite unique. The Emperor and Empress are depicted in ceremonial robes with orders, standing next to the regalia of imperial power – the crown and ermine mantle, while Tsesarevich Alexei is dressed in a simple sailor’s uniform. The Trinity Cathedral of the Lavra is visible to the left in the background.

The artist was the famous Russian portrait painter of the late 19th-early 20th centuries, Andrey Andreevich Karelin (1866-1928), who, worked on orders from the Ministry of the Imperial Court. He painted historical and religious themes, portraits, and icons. He took part in the painting of the pavilion of the Nizhny Novgorod All-Russian Exhibition in 1896, in the creation of the interior decoration of the Church of the Resurrection of Christ in St. Petersburg, the Church of Alexander Nevsky and the Church of the Life Guards of the Ulan Regiment in Warsaw (1907), for the Church of the Resurrection of Christ (Saviour on Blood) in St. Petersburg, he created designs for 10 interior mosaics “Parable about poor Lazarus after death” and designs for an additional 9 mosaics of saints, martyrs, apostles and monks on pilasters.

PHOTO: Andrey Andreevich Karelin (1866-1928),

For the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 1913, Karelin created a 10-meter canvas depicting the accession of Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich Romanov, for which he received personal nobility from Emperor Nicholas II.

The Ancient Depository of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra was closed in 1922 in the midst of a Bolshevik campaign to confiscate church property, which the monastery. All items of artistic value were transferred to the State Museum Fund, and then distributed among the museums of Russia. As a result, the fate of Karelin’s portrait of the Imperial Family, as well as many of his significant works commissioned by the Imperial Court remains unknown to this day.

© Paul Gilbert. 16 January 2021


Dear Reader

If you find my articles, news stories and translations interesting, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. Thank you for your consideration – PG

The fate of Nicholas II’s Imperial Train

PHOTO: Two carriages of the Imperial Train on display in Alexandria Park, Peterhof. 1932
© Archive of the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve

In May 1917, the Imperial Train of Emperor Nicholas II was sealed and transferred to Moscow, where it remained mothballed on the side tracks for more than a decade.

In the fall of 1929, two railway carriages were slowly rolled along temporary tracks which were laid from the Novy Peterhof railway station through the Proletarsky (former Alexandria) Park in Peterhof, to a small clearing just south of the Cottage Palace, it was to be the final stop for the former Imperial Train of Emperor Nicholas II.

The history of the Imperial Train dates back to the 1890s. Construction on the first of two trains began in 1894 in the Alexandrovsky Mechanical Plant of the Nikolaev railway, and completed in February 1896. A few years later it was supplemented with three additional carriages manufactured in the St. Petersburg-Warsaw railway assembly workshops. By the early 1910s, the Imperial Train consisted of a total of eleven carriages.

Each of the carriages was painted dark blue with gold trim and gilded decorations in the form of the Imperial coats of arms mounted between the windows. The interiors featured panels, ceilings and furniture made of polished oak, walnut, white and gray beech, maple and Karelian birch. 

PHOTO: Workers move carriages to the Alexandria Park, Peterhof. 1929
© Archive of the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve

With the outbreak of World War I, the number of carriages was reduced to three, and the Imperial Train became a travelling residence for Nicholas II. Travelling back and forth between Tsarskoye Selo and General Headquarters at Mogilev, the train served as a military field office, equipped with telephone and telegraph communications. It was in the Salon Car of on this train that Emperor Nicholas II signed his signed his abdication on 2nd March 917.

Subsequently, the former Tsar’s train was used by the ministers of the Provisional Government for several months. After the Bolsheviks came to power, the Imperial Train was used by the chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council Leon Trotsky (1879-1940).

PHOTO: Semyon Geychenko (second from the left) and Anatoly Shemansky (far right)
© Archive of the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve

One can only speculate what the fate of the Imperial carriages would have been, had it not been for the efforts of two Peterhof museum workers, Semyon Geychenko and Anatoly Shemansky. It is largely thanks to their efforts, that two carriages from the Imperial Train were transferred from the People’s Commissariat of Railways to the Peterhof Museum in 1929.

PHOTO: Carriages of the Imperial Train on display in Alexandria Park, Peterhof. 1930
© Archive of the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve

The following year, 1930, a permanent exhibition “The Carriages of the Former Tsarist Train” was opened in a small clearing just south of the Cottage Palace in the Proletarsky (Alexandria) Park. At the time of the opening of the exhibition, the interiors of the Tsar’s carriages had survived nearly intact. Near the carriages a platform and two wooden pavilions were built.

The pavilions housed the exposition “Imperialist War and the Fall of Autocracy,” which included four sections: “Causes of the World War”, “Russia in World War”, “The Collapse of Tsarism”, “The Final Journey of Nikolai Romanov from Tsarskoye Selo to Yekaterinburg.” The exhibit was supplemented with items from the Lower Dacha, the summer residence of Nicholas II and his family, located nearby on the shore of the Gulf of Finland.

The first carriage consisted of two parts: a dining room and a salon. In this car, the exhibition outlined the situation that had arisen before the February 1917 Revolution and the projects of the palace coup that preceded it. The dining car was used during the war for staff meetings with the Tsar’s participation.

The second carriage consisted of a maid’s compartment, the Empress’s bedroom, Nicholas II’s office and his valet’s compartment. The interior decoration, furnishings and decoration of the carriages resembled that of the Lower Dacha: Art Nouveau furniture made by Melzer’s firm, a comfortable leather cabinet, family photographs, and numerous icons in the bedroom.

PHOTO: The Imperial Train can be seen through the trees during the years of occupation
© Private Archive

PHOTO: German soldiers stand at the gutted Imperial Train during the years of occupation
© Private Archive

Sadly, the fate of most of the luxurious carriages of the Imperial Train is a sad one, having been destroyed in a fire some time during the Russian Civil War (1917-1922).

Equally sad, “The carriages of the Former Tsarist Train” exhibit at Peterhof was permanently closed in 1936. During the years of Nazi occupation of Peterhof (1941-44), the exhibition complex was virtually destroyed by the invaders: the platform and pavilions were destroyed, as well as the two remaining carriages and their historic interiors.

PHOTO: The salon of the Imperial Train, destroyed by the Nazis
© Archive of the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve

PHOTO: The sad state of the carriages of the Imperial Train as they looked in the 1950s
© Archive of the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve

In the first decade after the end of the Great Patriotic War, the question of the possibility of restoring the cars remained open. Nevertheless, the revival of the museum turned out to be unrealistic: on 18th February, 1954, a special commission of the October Railway ruled that due to the damage inflicted during the war years, the carriages of the Imperial Train  had become completely unserviceable and could not be restored.

In the summer of 1954, by order of the Department of Culture of the Executive Committee of the Leningrad City Council, the carriages were dismantled. Out of almost one thousand items and memorial items from the carriage interios, nearly all were destroyed or stolen. Today, only 55 items have been preserved in the funds of the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve, including writing utensils, furniture, and furnishings.

NOTE: I am currently preparing an article on the Imperial Train and its luxurious interiors. Stay tuned . . . PG

© Paul Gilbert. 12 January 2021


Dear Reader

If you find my articles, news stories and translations interesting, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. Thank you for your consideration – PG

The church where Nicholas II and his family worshiped in Tobolsk

PHOTO: Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, Tobolsk. 1910

During their eight month stay in Tobolsk [August 1917-April 1918], Nicholas II and his family were held under house arrest in the former Governor’s Mansion [renamed the “House of Freedom” by the Bolsheviks]. Their movements were restricted, as they had been at Tsarskoye Selo from March 1917 to the end of July 1917. Several weeks after their arrival in Tobolsk, they were permitted to worship in the nearby Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin up until January 1918, after which services were restricted to the confines of the “House of Freedom”.

The brick church was built between 1735-1758. A two-story quadrangle, completed with an octagon, on which five decorative domes were placed, with a two-aisled refectory and a three-tiered bell tower. The refectory included the chapels of Procopius and Ioann of Ustyug and the Great Martyr Catherine.

Pierre Gilliard recalls: “Finally, on September 21st, the festival of the Nativity of the Virgin, the prisoners were allowed for the first time to go to the church. This pleased them greatly, but the consolation was only to be repeated very rarely. On these occasions we rose very early and, when everyone had collected in the yard, went out through a little gate leading on to the public garden; which we crossed between two lines of soldiers. We always attended the first Mass of the morning, and were almost alone in the church, which was dimly lighted by a few candles; the public was rigorously excluded. While going and returning I have often seen people cross themselves or fall on their knees as Their Majesties passed. On the whole, the inhabitants of Tobolsk were still very attached to the Imperial family, and our guards had repeatedly to intervene to prevent them standing under the windows or removing their hats and crossing themselves as they passed the house.”

Empress Alexandra Feodorovna wrote in her diary: “During the services, officers, the commandant and the commissar stand beside us so that we do not dare to speak”.

On 8th September 1917, the Empress wrote in her diary: “We went to the service in the Cathedral of the Annunciation on foot, I was in my [wheel]chair, through the city garden, the soldiers were stationed all the way, the crowd stood where we had to cross the street. It is very unpleasant, but, nevertheless, I am grateful for being in a real church for [for the first time] in 6 months ”.

PHOTO: View of Tobolsk and the Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin

Commissar Vasily Pankratov described this event as follows: “Nicholas Alexandrovich was informed that tomorrow a Liturgy would be performed in the church, and that it was necessary to be ready by 8 o’clock in the morning. The prisoners were so pleased with this news that they got up very early and were ready by 7 o’clock. When I arrived at 7:30, they were already waiting. About 20 minutes later, the duty officer informed me that everything was ready. It turned out that Alexandra Feodorovna decided not to walk, but to ride in a chair, as her legs hurt. Her personal valet quickly wheeled the chair out to the porch. The whole family went out, accompanied by their retinue and servants, and we proceeded to the church. Nicholas II and his children, walking in the garden, looked around in all directions and talked in French about the weather, about the garden, as if they had never seen it. In fact, this garden was located just opposite their balcony, from where they could observe it every day. But it is one thing to see an object from a distance and, as it were, from behind a lattice, and another to walk through it freely. Every tree, every twig, bush, bench acquires charm … From the expressions on their faces, from their movements, one could assume that they were experiencing some special euphoria. As she was walking through the garden and not watching where she was going, Anastasia even fell. Her sisters laughed, even Nicholas himself was amused with this awkwardness of his daughter. Alexandra Feodorovna’s face remained motionless. She sat majestically in her chair and was silent. On leaving the garden, she got up from the chair, from where we crossed the street to enter the church. Outside stood a double line of soldiers, [a chain of riflemen was also placed in the garden along the entire route] and behind them stood curious onlookers. Upon entering the church, Nicholas and his family took their place on the right, their retinue closer to the middle. Alexandra Feodorovna knelt down, Nicholas and the four grand duchesses followed her example. After the service, the whole family received a prosphora [a small loaf of leavened bread used in Orthodox liturgies], which for some reason they always passed to their servants”.

The prisoners were allowed to visit the church again – on 14th September, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. On 18th September, Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna wrote to her aunt Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna: “We were twice in church. You can imagine what a joy it was for us after 6 months, because do you remember how uncomfortable our camp church in Tsarskoye Selo was? The church here is good. One large summer room in the middle, where they serve for the parish, and two winter ones on the sides [referring to the side-chapels]. The right side-chapel is reserved for us”.

The family managed to visit the church for a third time on 1st October – on the feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos. Then again on 22nd October, the day marking the anniversary of the accession of Nicholas II to the throne and the feast of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God. The entire family received communion on this day of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. “What a spiritual consolation in the time we are going through!” – the Emperor wrote in his diary that day. In addition, the Imperial family were allowed to attend church on 26th November, 3rd and 10th December, and 19th January.

Pierre Gilliard again writes: “The next day, Christmas Day, we went to church. By the orders of the priest the deacon [Fr Vasiliev] intoned the Mnogoletie [the prayer for the long life of the Imperial family] This was an imprudence which was bound to bring reprisals. The soldiers, with threats of death, demanded that the prayer should be revoked. This incident marred the pleasant memories which this day should have left in our minds. It also brought us fresh annoyances and the supervision became still stricter.”

Following the incident involving Fr Vasiliev, the Imperial family were no longer permitted to attend church. Instead, an improvised chapel was set up in the ballroom of the mansion, which consisted of a folding iconostasis and an altar, decorated with the Empress’s bed-spread, which served as an altar cloth. The local priest was invited to perform services for the Imperial family and their retinue up until April 1918, when they were transferred to the Ipatiev House [renamed the “House of Special Purpose”] in  Ekaterinburg, where they were subsequently murdered by members of the Ural Soviet on 17th July.

The Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin was closed by the Soviets in 1930, the building demolished in 1956 – the same year that the author of this article was born.

© Paul Gilbert. 8 January 2021


Dear Reader

If you find my articles, news stories and translations interesting, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Nicholas II visits the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, 1911

Duration: Duration: 5 minute, 11 seconds with musical background

On 29th August 1911, Emperor Nicholas II and his family, accompanied by Russian Prime Minister Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin (1862-1911), arrived in Kiev.

In the opening of this video we see the Imperial family and their entourage arriving at the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra on 30th August 1911, the feast day of St Alexander Nevsky.

At 0:45, the Emperor and his family visit the grave of the folk heroes Kochubey and Iskra, “who laid down their belly for the Faith, the Tsar and the Fatherland”.

At 2:15, the Imperial family follow behind Metropolitan Flavian of Kiev and Galicia, members of the clergy and the City Duma, during a Cross Procession to take part in the opening of a memorial to his grandfather, Emperor Alexander II (1818-1881).

Following behind is Russian Prime Minister Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin, who is seen at 2:21, wearing a white jacket. He was mortally shot the following day, on 1st September, during a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tale of Tsar Saltan at the Kiev Opera House. In a letter to his mother, the Tsar told her that Stolypin had turned to him and made the sign of the cross in the air with his left hand. He was buried at the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra on 9th September 1911.

At 2:34, the tall, handsome figure of General Alexander Spiridovitch (1873-1952) passes directly in front of the camera. Spiridovitch served as the personal security chief for Nicholas II and his family from 1906-1916. He was also responsible for the security of the tsar’s residences.

In 1928, his memoirs Les Dernières années de la Cour de Tsarskoe Selo, were published in Paris. The first English translation Last Years of the Court at Tsarskoe Selo was published by Royal Russia in two volumes, in 2010 and 2017 respectfully: Volume I (1906-1910) and Volume II (1910-1914).

At 3:23, the Imperial family attend the opening and consecration of a memorial to his grandfather, Emperor Alexander II, where a moleben is performed.

At 4:05, the Imperial family depart in open horse-drawn carriages.

© Paul Gilbert. 7 January 2021

2nd International Nicholas II Conference CANCELLED!

NOTE: the cancellation of this event has nothing to do with my statement dated 3rd January 2020, announcing my retirement from publishing. My research and writing on the life and reign of Russia’s last emperor and tsar will most certainly continue, plus my plans to offer lectures, conferences and other events dedicated – PG

Due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, I regret to announce that the 2nd International Nicholas II Conference, scheduled to take place at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York on Saturday, 15th May 2021 has been CANCELLED!

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the reason. It restricts making travel arrangements for those who wish to participate, including speakers. My number one concern, however, is the health and safety of every one attending.

While the event is still four months away, I am forced to make a decision now, simply because I would be spending a lot of money promoting the event, selling tickets, paying speakers, etc., and do not want to have to cancel the event at the last minute. Under the present circumstances, I am forced to make a final decision on the event at this time.

In addition, Canada’s border with the United States remains closed to all “non essential travel” and according to the Canadian Government will “remain in effect until necessary”. This means that both myself and any other Canadians wishing to attend this event would be unable to enter the United States or return to Canada without problems. While we are all pinning our hopes on the COVID vaccine, the process of distribution and inoculations has been very slow here in Canada.

Fr. Theophylact, my contact for the event at the Holy Trinity Monastery agrees with my decision to cancel the Conference. We are also in agreement, that once this pandemic is behind us, that the event can be rescheduled for a later date.

© Paul Gilbert. 6 January 2021

Nicholas II’s little known hunting dacha in Crimea

PHOTO: Beshuiskaya dacha, Nicholas II’s hunting lodge in Crimea

The beginning of His Majesty’s Own Hunt in the Crimean mountains was established by Emperor Alexander II (1818-1881) in the 1860s from the Nikitskaya dacha, situated in the Yuzhno-Berezhansky Forest, near Livadia. Subsequently, the Tsar’s Hunt in Crimea expanded, with two additional state forest dachas established in the Beshuisky and Ayan forest districts (Crown Lands).

From 14 to 18 October 1880, a hunt was organized for Tsesarevich Alexander Alexandrovich (future Emperor Alexander III) in the Beshuisky forest. It was this hunting trip which prompted the construction of the Beshuiskaya dacha, situated 60–70 yards from the Kosmo-Damianovsky Monastery. The hunting lodge was completed by September 1884. 

PHOTO: Nicholas II and Count Frederiks in front of Beshuiskaya dacha

The Beshuiskaya dacha was a one-story wooden building on a stone foundation, and consisted of 8 rooms: a living room with an office, a bedroom, two servants’ rooms, a pantry and a bathroom. Following the example of his grandfather and father, Nicholas II came here repeatedly for hunting and to visit the monastery.

The most professional and promising employees from the tsar’s hunting estates at Spala, and later from Białowieża, were transferred to Crimea. In the fall of 1913, Edmund Vladislavovich Wagner was appointed Head of His Majesty’s Own Hunt in the Crimea. In total, the staff of His Majesty’s Own Hunt in 1913-1917, including the gamekeepers, consisted of thirty people.

PHOTO: Nicholas II relaxing on the balcony of Beshuiskaya dacha

Nicholas II records one of his Crimean hunts on 17th September 1913:

“… I got up at 3 o’clock and went hunting, and killed one deer . . . The weather was excellent and the day was very warm. I returned to the house by 9 o’clock. Drank tea with my daughters, who had been at the early Mass. We sat on the porch until 12 o’clock when they brought my deer. We had breakfast and left at exactly one o’clock to Livadia, where we arrived at 3.20 … “

During his last visit to the southern coast of Crimea in the spring of 1914, the emperor made several trips to Beshuiskaya, but these were not for hunting, but entertaining and hiking with his family, relatives, officers and members of his retinue.

Empress  Alexandra Feodorovna, hoping for a miracle, chose a healing spring at the Kosmo-Damianovsky Monastery, for the treatment of Tsesarevich Alexei, who suffered with hemophilia. However, the journey from Livadia to the monastery was rather long and burdensome.

By 1910, the Imperial Garage in Livadia was completed, the roads used by the Tsar had to be made suitable for his motorcars. That same year, construction began of the Romanov Highway, a mountain route which connected Upper Massandra with the Tsar’s hunting lodge and the nearby monastery. The road was completed in the fall of 1913, making it suitable for motor traffic.

PHOTO: Count Alexander Grabbe, Emperor Nicholas II, Prince Vladimir Orlov,
unknown officer, and palace commandant Vladimir Voeikov

The advantages of the new highway reduced the distance between the Imperial residences by more than twenty kilometers. Thanks to this, the travel time was reduced: judging by the diary entries of Nicholas II, He usually got from Livadia to the Hunting Lodge in about three hours.

The date of 6th May 1914, turned out to be the last time that Emperor Nicholas II and his Family would drive along the scenic Romanov Road from Livadia to visit Beshuiskaya dacha, their hunting dacha in Crimea. Within a few short months, the outbreak of the First World War, their joyful happy days would forever remain in the past.

PHOTO: another view of Beshuiskaya dacha, Nicholas II’s hunting lodge in Crimea

© Paul Gilbert. 6 January 2021


Dear Reader

If you find my articles, news stories and translations interesting, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMe, PayPal, credit card, personal check or money order. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Paul Gilbert Retires from Publishing

PHOTO: Paul Gilbert, Independent Publisher and Bookseller since 1994

All good things must come to an end. After more than 26 years as an independent publisher I have decided to retire. My publishing business officially closed on 31st December 2020. My decision was not an easy one, but one which I have been considering for some time now. While I had hoped to continue publishing for a few more years, circumstances beyond my control have forced me to do otherwise.

In anticipation of my retirement and plans to move back to England, I began downsizing my business back in 2016, when I turned 60. I stopped selling other publishers books, I ceased publishing books by new authors, I stopped importing books in bulk from Russia, then I closed down my Royal Russia web site, and focused on publications on the life and reign of Emperor Nicholas II. 

These measures, saw my annual sales slowly decrease, however, shrinking book sales during the last few years have resulted in my business operating in the red. Amazon had a huge impact on my sales (their discounting book prices and free shipping have helped put many independent booksellers out of business). Annual parcel rate increases by Canada Post (the most expensive in the world) to the United States and overseas have had a huge detrimental impact on book sales. The final nail, however, was the COVID-19 pandemic which further affected declining sales.

I regret to announce that the books and periodicals which I had planned to publish this year have been cancelled. This includes ALL future issues of ROYAL RUSSIA (No. 15 was the last issue published) or SOVEREIGN (No. 11 was the last issue published). The articles planned for publication in SOVEREIGN will instead be published on my blog NICHOLAS II. EMPEROR. TSAR. SAINT.

My ONLINE BOOKSHOP will remain open until all remaining stock has been sold. It is at this time that my bookshop will close permanently. 

I will dedicate my retirement to researching and writing articles for my Nicholas II blog, of which the number of views increased by nearly 100 percent over the previous year: 137,235 in 2020 compared to 70,429 in 2019. It is my blog that I will now devote my time and resources, because it is through this particular venue that I can reach a wider and growing readership. 

I will also continue to update my FACEBOOK page daily with news, photos and videos about Nicholas II, and the history of the Romanov dynasty and Imperial Russia. I have plans to offer lectures, conferences and other events dedicated to the life and reign of Russia’s last emperor and tsar.

I am very proud of what I accomplished over the last 26+ years. I published more than 100 titles, including new books; first English translations; reprints of Russian Royal classics in both hard cover and paperback editions, periodicals and calendars.

A heartfelt THANK YOU to each and every one of you who bought my books over the years, your patronage has been very much appreciated..

I believe that I am making the right decision and look forward to sharing my research with all of you for many more years to come. I pray that God will grant me many more years.

© Paul Gilbert. 3 January 2021

Nicholas II: TOP 10 articles of 2020


In 2020, the number of views on my blog Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint increased by nearly 100 percent over the previous year: 137,235 in 2020 compared to 70,429 in 2019.

People from 178 countries around the world visited my Nicholas II blog in 2020, including places such as Bhutan, Iceland, Vatican City, Cuba and Mongolia.

My Nicholas II blog was most popular with people in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, Italy, Russia, Brazil, Germany and Netherlands.

Below, is a list of the 10 most widely read articles and news stories of 2020:

[1] Audio recording of the voice of Nicholas II – posted 25th August 2020

[2] Obituary: Olga Nikolaevna Kulikovsky-Romanov (1926-2020) – posted 2nd May 2020

[3] Romanov Book of the Year for 2019: ‘The Romanov Royal Martyrs – posted 18th November 2019

[4] Russian media provide a first look at the progress of the recreation of the historic interiors in the Alexander Palace – posted 26th November 2019

[5]The Bolshevik sale of the Romanov jewels – posted 9th October 2020

[6] Nicholas II: the Tsar with the dragon tattoo – posted 16th March 2019

[7] “There are still many conjectures surrounding the death of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna” – posted 16th August 2020

[8] Why was Russia’s senior investigator and forensic expert dismissed from the Ekaterinburg remains case? – posted 14th March 2020

[9] Nicholas II’s Diaries 1894-1918 – posted 23rd January 2020

[10] The myth that Nicholas II’s death was met with indifference by the Russian people – posted 19th June 2020

© Paul Gilbert. 1st January 2021


Dear Reader

If you find my articles, news stories and translations interesting, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMe, PayPal, credit card, personal check or money order. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Romanov Book of the Year for 2020: ‘Empress Alexandra’ by Melanie Clegg

Based on her comprehensive research from primary sources, ‘Empress Alexandra’ by Melanie Clegg is my personal choice for the Romanov Book of the Year for 2020 – Paul Gilbert

NOTE: This book is now available in the UK and North America, and can be ordered from your favourite bookseller. As a courtesy to those who have not yet read the book, I did not want to give anything away, or publish any spoilers, therefore, I have used material from the publishers web page and added my own additional comments and notes to this review – PG

* * *

My love of reading has helped me navigate, what turned out to be a rather dreadful year for most this year. There were several noteworthy Romanov titles published in 2020, however, it was ‘Empress Alexandra: The Special Relationship Between Russia’s Last Tsarina and Queen Victoria’ by Melanie Clegg which I enjoyed the most.

In her new book, British historian and author Melanie Clegg takes a fresh and intimate look at the close relationship that existed between the last Empress of Russia and her grandmother Queen Victoria.

The story begins with the birth of Alexandra’s mother Princess Alice, who was the third child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Alice was betrothed to Prince Louis of Hesse and by Rhine shortly before her father’s death in 1861 and their wedding was described by her mother as ‘more of a funeral than a wedding’.

Alexandra was just six years old when her mother died of diphtheria in 1878 at which point both she and her elder sisters were taken immediately under the wing of their grandmother, Queen Victoria, who oversaw their education, cared for them and tried to arrange their future.

It was Victoria’s dearest wish that Alexandra should marry her first cousin Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, who was second in line to the British throne. However, Alexandra had already fallen in love with the Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich [future Emperor Nicholas II] of Russia – a match that horrified her formidable and Rusophobic grandmother.

Although Victoria was disappointed by Alexandra’s decision to marry Nicholas, the two continued to correspond until the end of her life in 1901.

What I enjoyed so much about this particular title is how the author captured the essence of Queen Victoria’s relationship with her granddaughter Princess Alix of Hesse, later Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, into one volume. The relationship between the two female rulers, who were so different in ability and personality but bound together by blood and genuine affection makes this a fascinating read!

Clegg intended this book to simply be a study of the relationship of Queen Victoria and her granddaughter, but after some reflection, she decided to begin with the birth of Alexandra’s mother Princess Alice, believing that her relationship with her mother shaped that between Victoria and Alexandra, and was highly relevant to the events that occurred later on.

The author draws from the vast collection of Queen Victoria’s letters and diaries from the Royal Archives (RAVIC/MAIN/QVJ), and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s letters edited by Sergei Mironenko and Andrei Maylunas.

Published by Pen and Sword Books (UK). Hard cover. 216 pages with more than 40 high quality black and white photographs from the Royal Collection Trust. 


My previous selections for Romanov Book of the Year include the following titles:

(2019) The Romanov Royal Martyrs: What Silence Could Not Conceal

(2018) The Race to Save the Romanovs: The Truth Behind the Secret Plans to Rescue the Russian Imperial Family by Helen Rappaport [*my review was lost after I closed down my Royal Russia blog, on 1st January 2020 – PG]

© Paul Gilbert. 31 December 2020

Gifts for the Restoration of the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: the purple Wilton carpet in the recreated Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room

As the next stage of the restoration of the Alexander Palace comes to an end, it is important to recognize the generosity of individuals and businesses who have made gifts for the interiors of the former apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna.

These gifts will be showcased in the recreated interiors of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room and the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, as well as the New Study of Emperor Nicholas II.

The making of carpets, drapes, cushions was a laborious and complex process associated which involved the careful study of historical samples preserved in the museum’s collection, which became analogs for the decoration of the historic interiors of the Alexander Palace.

PHOTO: preserved carpet sample from Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room

Larry Hokanson, a carpet designer in the United States, became the first donor who expressed a desire to participate in the recreation of the interior decoration of the Alexander Palace. Mr. Hokanson undertook to recreate the Wilton carpet for the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room, which was lost during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), based on the historical sample preserved in the museum’s collection. This carpet, with a simple but delicate floral design over a purple background, featured a distinctive weave typical of vintage English handmade wool carpets. The Hokanson factory was able to replicate this sophisticated weaving technique, colour and pattern exactly. The magnificent replicated carpet was gifted to the museum in 2013, the year marking the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg.

Up until now, this valuable gift has been kept in the museum’s funds, the purple Wilton carpet has now been laid in the recreated Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room.

PHOTO: curtains recreated for the New Study of Nicholas II

In 2011, fabrics for the production of curtains for the New Study of Nicholas II were donated to the Alexander Palace, by the Swiss company Fabric Frontlain with the financial support of Tissura. Fabric with hyacinths were recreated from an historical sample preserved in the Tsarskoye Selo Collection.

In 2020, Janusz Anzhey Szymaniak, General Director of the Renaissance Workshops for the Restoration of Antique Monuments, donated sets of pillows and cushions for sofas in the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, made at the St. Petersburg enterprise Le Lux. The fabric for these items was recreated according to the historical model preserved at the Italian factory Rubelli, and the intricately woven silk tassels at the Polish company Re Kon Art.

PHOTO: cushions and pillows recreated for the Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room

In the outgoing year, work on the interior decoration of the Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II continued in the Alexander Palace. Acquiring a reed mat for wall decoration turned out to be a difficult task. This special mat of traditional Japanese weaving not only decorated the walls of the interior, but also protected them from damage. The museum asked Tsutsui Akiyuki, Vice Consul of the Japanese Consulate General in St. Petersburg for cultural affairs, for help. Mr. Tsutsui was of great assistance in resolving the issue of acquiring a reed mat and is now in charge of the issue of its delivery from Japan to the Alexander Palace. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the mat can not be delivered within the originally planned timeframe.

NOTE: all photos © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve

© Paul Gilbert. 23 December 2020


Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II, showcasing the private, domestic life of the Russian monarchs who used the palace as an official residence. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family. The multi-museum complex, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.


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