1896 Coronation uniform of Emperor Nicholas II

PHOTO: The 1896 Coronation uniform of Emperor Nicholas II 

During his coronation, which took place on 27th May (O.S. 14th) May, 1896, the last Russian emperor Nicholas II appeared before his subjects in the uniform of a colonel of the Preobrazhensky Life Guards Regiment – the first of the two oldest regiments of the Russian Imperial Guard, founded by Tsar Peter I in 1691.

Like his grandfather Alexander II (1818-1881) and great-grandfather Nicholas I (1796-1855), Nicholas II preferred the uniform of this regiment – in which he served in military service – to all others.

By the time of his accession to the throne, he served in the rank of colonel of the Preobrazhensky Regiment, and when he became emperor, he felt a special sense of pride from the fact that “he remained a simple colonel”.

His coronation uniform was made of dark green cashmere; with silk trimming, red collar with white piping and cuffs; embroidered with gilded threads with a pattern that is complex in composition and virtuoso in technique of execution, distinguishing the shape of the Preobrazhensky Regiment. The uniform is adorned with epaulettes bearing the monogram of his father Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894) and gilded aiguillettes, a flap on the chest, which the emperor himself unfastened during the coronation ceremony to perform the sacrament of Chrismation. Nordenstrem ordered the buttons for the uniform from a well-known supplier in the capital.

PHOTO: brothers Nikolai and Karl Nordenshtrem

It is known that the entire uniform for Nicholas II’s coronation was ordered from the workshop of N.I. Nordenstrem – the famous “king of Russian military tailors,” who specialized in military dress. Nikolai Ivanovich Nordenshtrem (1838-1903) was “a true artist in his field,” and the uniforms cut by him “bore the imprint of strict grace and good taste.” Nordenstrem was appointed Supplier to the Imperial Court, and for eighty years, he served four Russian emperors – Nicholas I, Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II.

Nicholas II placed orders for all his military uniforms from Nordenstrem, whose shop was located at 46 Nevsky Prospect in St. Petersburg. The famous atelier also received orders from Their Imperial Highnesses the Grand Dukes Alexei, Sergei and Pavel Alexandrovich; Konstantin and Dmitry Konstavtinovich; Nikolai and Peter Nikolaevich; George and Alexander Mikhailovich; Kirill, Boris and Andrey Vladimirovich; Alexander and Konstantin Petrovich Oldenburgsky; Prince Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg; Duke Eugene Maximilianovich Leuchtenberg; as well as many Russian and foreign dignitaries.

PHOTO: Coronation uniform of Emperor Nicholas II and Coronation dress of Empress Alexandra, on display in the Armoury Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin

The Coronation regalia – the textiles, religious vestments and court livery – were preserved in the Moscow Armoury, they survived the upheaval of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The Coronation uniform of Emperor Nicholas II is on permanent display in the Armoury Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin – Hall 6, Showcase 45.

© Paul Gilbert. 8 February 2021

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