30th anniversary of Prince Nikolai Romanovich’s first visit to Russia

PHOTO: Prince Nikolai Romanovich and his wife Countess Sveva della Gherardesca

Thirty years ago, in June 1992 the Head of the House of Romanov (1992-2014) and president of the Romanov Family Association, Prince Nikolai Romanovich (1922-2014), visited Russia for the first time.

The trip had been arranged by a group of Italian entrepreneurs, friends of Nikolai Romanovich, who decided to take him together with his wife Princess Zveva, with them to Russia as a guide, giving him an opportunity to talk about the country that occupied such a special place in his life.

Nikolai Romanovich dreamed of coming to Russia through Finland, a symbolic journey in the opposite direction to those who fled from Bolshevik Russia following the 1917 Revolution and later the Civil War after 1918, towards the young independent Finnish state, symbolizing the hope of salvation. But his Italian friends chose a different route: first Moscow, and then St. Petersburg.

Later, Princess Zveva recalled their first journey home to Russia: “It was an incredible journey in terms of emotional intensity. It lasted three days, and during this time Nikolai Romanovich did not sleep, so as not to miss anything. We went from Moscow to St. Petersburg by train. I watched him sitting in the compartment, already an elderly man, eagerly looking out the window – at the forests, at the fields, villages, absorbing all the images that flashed before him. Thus, at the age of 69, he discovered this great country, which had always occupied a central place in his life.”

Their first visit to the Motherland was not accompanied by a media frenzy, there were no flashes of cameras or media crews documenting their every word and filming their every move. For Russia, their visit simply passed unnoticed. Nikolai Romanovich and his wife arrived quietly, without any pomp or ceremony, nor meetings with officials.

Nikolai Romanovich later spoke about his first impressions of Russia: “What surprised me? Nothing! As if it was meant to happen and it did. I remember when the plane landed. I didn’t kiss the asphalt at the airfield. I had my passport in hand. There was an official, I showed him my passport, he said “go” in Russian. All around me, I heard Russian voices. I am in Russia. I always said: “I will return to Russia.” I never said: I will come. It was always “I’ll be back”. And I returned. Because I never really left it. You see, we have always had the feeling that we belong to Russia, but Russia does not belong to us.”

Once in St. Petersburg, the Prince wasted little time and immediately ordered a taxi, telling the driver to drive along the Neva River. Stopping, the Prince got out of the taxi and walked down to the bank, he put his hand into the water, while saying to himself with a smile: “Now my Neva!”. He had been waiting for this moment all his life.

Prince Nikolai Romanovich continued to visit Russia, including July 1998, where he led 50 descendants of the Romanov family for the interment of Emperor Nicholas II and members of his family in the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. It was during this visit that I met Prince Nikolai in the lobby of the Astoria Hotel. I was permitted to travel in the coach with members of the Russian Imperial Family to the historic burial that day.

The legitimate Head of the House of Romanov

Prince Nikolai considered that following the death of Prince Vladimir Kirillovich in 1992 that he was head of the House of Romanov and his rightful successor. With the exception of Princess Maria Vladimirovna and her mother Princess Leonida, Prince Nikolai was recognized by the rest of the family as head of the Romanov family.

The official position of the Romanov Family Association has always been that the rights of the family to the Russian Throne were suspended when Emperor Nicholas II abdicated for himself and for his son Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich. * Please read my article “The Russian Imperial House ended with the murder of Nicholas II”, originally published on 17th February 2021

While he never had any aspirations of claiming the Russian throne, there is no question that Prince Nikolai Romanovich would have made a worthy and highly respected Tsar!

* * *

Prince Nikolai was born on 26th September 1922 in Cap d’Antibes near Antibes, France, the eldest son of Prince Roman Petrovich (1896-1978) and his wife Princess Praskovia Dmitrievna (née Countess Sheremeteva, 1901-1980), and a descendant of Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855).

In 1950, Prince Nikolai and the Countess Sveva della Gherardesca (b. 15 July 1930), daughter of Count Walfred della Gherardesca and Nicoletta de Piccolellis, met at a party in Rome. Sveva is a member of the Italian della Gherardesca noble family from Tuscany and a direct descendant of Count Ugolino della Gherardesca. They were married in Florence in a civil ceremony on 31 December 1951 followed by a religious ceremony on 21 January 1952 in the Russian Cathedral at Cannes

On 15th September 2014 – Prince Nikolai Romanovich Romanov died in Tuscany, Italy at the age of 91. He was survived by his wife, their three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

© Paul Gilbert. 12 June 2022

Emperor Nicholas II and King Edward VII meet at Reval, 1908

PHOTO: Pyotr Stolypin, Queen Alexandra, Emperor Nicholas II, King Edward VII, Vladimir Frederiks, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, on the deck of the Russian Imperial Yacht.

On 9th June 1908, a meeting of the Russian Imperial and British Royal families took place in Reval [today Tallinn, Estonia]. The historic meeting marked the first visit of a reigning British monarch to the Russian Empire, although Edward had previously visited Russia as His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales in 1866, when he attended the wedding of the future Russian Emperor Alexander III in St. Petersburg. The meeting at Reval in 1908, served as an important diplomatic purpose in the aftermath of the 1907 Anglo-Russian Entente, which settled colonial disputes and instigated the Triple Entente.

King Edward VII arrived on the royal yacht Victoria and Albert roadstead of the port of Reval. He was accompanied by his wife Queen Alexandra (sister of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna) and daughter of Princess Victoria of Great Britain. They were met by the Emperor, the Empress, their five children, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, and Queen Olga of the Hellenes (nee Russian Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna). In addition, the Emperor was accompanied by prominent members of his retinue, including Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin, and the minister of the Imperial Court, Vladimir Frederiks.

On the morning of 9th June 1908, the hills and the wooded shores of the bay were crowded with thousands of well wishers. At 7 o’clock, the Imperial Train arrived in Revel from Peterhof. Crowds of children lined up to greet the Emperor and his family: “It is impossible to describe the delight of the children when the Imperial Family passed by. Their Majesties … were very touched,” the head of Nicholas II’s secret personal guard Alexander Spiridovich recalled. Passing the cheering crowds, the Imperial family proceeded from the train station to the port, where they boarded the Imperial Yacht Standart. Two other Russian Imperial Yachts were also in port, including the yacht of the Dowager Empress, the Polar Star and the smaller steam yacht Alexandria.

PHOTO: Nicholas dressed in the uniform of Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Scots Greys, on the deck of the Imperial Yacht Standart. His son and heir Tsesarevich Alexei is standing beside him. 9th June 1908

Prior to meeting the British king, Nicholas dressed in the uniform of Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Scots Greys. Nicholas II was appointed an honorary member of the distinguished regiment by Britain’s Queen Victoria in 1894, after he became engaged to Princess Alix of Hesse (Alexandra Feodorovna), who was Victoria’s granddaughter. King Edward, in turn, put on the uniform of the Russian Imperial Army, but it turned out to be clearly too small for him, but despite this, the king looked by no means impressive.

The British yacht Victoria and Albert anchored in the roadstead between the Standart and the Polar Star. The Imperial and Royal yachts were surrounded by British and Russian warships, also lying in the roadstead.

On board Nicholas greeted the British King by saying, “It is with feelings of the deepest satisfaction and pleasure that I welcome your Majesty and her Majesty the Queen to Russian waters. I trust that this meeting, while strengthening the many and strong ties which unite our Houses, will have the happy results of drawing our countries closer together, and of promoting and maintaining the peace of the world.”

An eyewitness recalled: “While the guests were very cordial towards one another, it was felt that Edward showed some condescension towards his nephew – he seemed to patronize him … he warmly hugged and kissed the Empress, and then carefully looked at the grand duchesses, who looked a little embarrassed. Then he went up to the heir [Alexei], took him in his arms and kissed him.”

The Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna was delighted to once again meet her beloved sister Alexandra, the British Queen, with whom she maintained a prolific correspondence throughout her life. A luncheon was served on the Dowager Empress’s yacht, the Polar Star, but no speeches were made at this affair. The menu was traditional for such occasions: Toulouse consommé, pâté, champagne lobster, truffle and grouse rolls, vol-au-vents, Nantes duck, vanilla peaches and frozen strawberry puree.

At five o’clock, tea was arranged on the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert. The Tsar arrived without his wife, since the Empress suffered from another attack of sciatica.

PHOTO: Imperial hosts and Royal guests gather for a state banquet in the dining hall of the Imperial Yacht Standart. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna can be seen in the center of the photograph, seated between King Edward VII [on the left], and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales [future King George V, on the right]

At 8 pm, the hosts and guests gathered together for a state banquet on the Imperial Yacht Standart. During dinner, the orchestra played works by Borodin, Wagner, Liszt, Grieg, Glazunov and Gounod, while the monarchs made official speeches, both in English. The King thanked the Emperor for the warm welcome, recalling his previous visit to Russia, when he was still Crown Prince, and expressed hope for the Anglo-Russian alliance to be strengthened: “I believe that this will serve to closer uniting the ties that unite the peoples of our two countries, and I am sure that this will contribute to a satisfactory peaceful settlement of certain important issues in the future. I am convinced that this will not only contribute to a closer rapprochement between our two countries, but will also help maintain peace throughout the world,” Edward VII said. The emperor answered in the same spirit.

Early in the evening, boatloads of German and Russian residents steamed about in the roadstead and serenaded the Imperial and Royal visitors with national folk songs. After the sun set and darkness set in, the warships were all illuminated, and the Imperial Yachts Polar Star and Alexandria displayed special electrical effects.

The following day, the Emperor and Empress received a delegation from Reval, after which they again received British guests at lunch, during which a misunderstanding occurred. The King turned to the Empress and joked about the terrible accent with which the Grand Duchesses spoke English. The criticism hurt the Empress, especially since the King himself spoke English with a clear German accent. But the conclusions were made and soon the Grand Duchesses were appointed a new English tutor – Charles Sidney Gibbes, who after the revolution would follow the Imperial Family into exile to Siberia.

The inevitable exchange of gifts took place that day. The King presented his nephew with a sword made by Wilkinson, on which were engraved the words: “To His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of All Russia from His Loving Uncle Edward, Revel 1908.” The Emperor, in turn, presented his uncle with a jade vase with cabochon moonstones and chalcedony.

PHOTO: King Edward VII and and Emperor Nicholas II, Reval. 1908

That evening, dinner was served on the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert. Shortly after the arrival of the Imperial couple, the King was faced with a dilemma. Who will accompany him to dinner: the Queen or the Dowager Empress? English protocol required that the Sovereign’s wife should precede the Dowager Empress, but this could offend Maria Feodorovna, who was also his wife’s sister. On the other hand, if the Empress was forced to take second place, she might well take the opportunity to leave. The King handled the situation with his usual aplomb. Taking both ladies by the arms, he declared: “Tonight I will enjoy the unique honour of inviting two Empresses to dinner.” After dinner, the King and his Imperial guests sat in comfortable chairs, coffee and liquors were served. There were also dances during which the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna danced with the British Admiral John Fisher (1841-1920). Around midnight, the Imperial couple, having said goodbye to the guests, left the Victoria and Albert and returned to the Standart.

At 3 o’clock in the morning, the Victoria and Albert weighed anchor and arrived in Port Victoria in Kent three days later.

CLICK on the IMAGE above to view an album of photographs of the meeting of the Russian Imperial and British Royal families at Reval, on 9th June 1908

© Paul Gilbert. 9 June 2022

The Rehabilitation of Emperor Nicholas II

In December 2005, Princess Maria Vladimirovna Romanova [who lives in Madrid, Spain] sent an application to the Russian Prosecutor’s Office with a request for the rehabilitation of the murdered ex-emperor Nicholas II and members of his family as victims of political repression.

On 1st October 2008, the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation granted the judicial rehabilitation of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. Ninety years after a Bolshevik execution squad gunned down the last Tsar and his family, the country’s supreme court declared the Imperial family as “victims of political repression.” The regicide was condemned, and that the false accusations against the Tsar, that he was an enemy of the people…were at long last proven to be false.

By finding the Tsar a victim of political terror, the court has completed the remarkable transformation of the discredited man who died with his family in the cellar of the Ipatiev House in the early hours of 17th July, 1918 on the orders of the Ural Soviet.

Throughout the years of the Soviet Union, government propaganda vilified the last Tsar, giving him the derogatory nickname “Bloody Nicholas” and accusing him and his family of a litany of crimes.

It is important to note, that the Supreme Court’s decision overturned a ruling by the same court in November 2007 that the killings did not qualify as political repression, but premeditated murder. The Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation, stated in court that “the requirements for rehabilitation do not comply with the provisions of the law due to the fact that these persons were not arrested for political reasons, and no court decision on execution was made.”

Four weeks later, on 30th October 2008, it was reported that the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation ruled to rehabilitate 52 people from the entourage of Emperor Nicholas II and his family.

Some readers will argue that it was unneccessary because the Tsar had not committed any crime, which of course is true! For the sake of historical justice, however, it was the responsibility of a post-Soviet Court to overturn the Bolshevik’s decision to condemn and justify the murder of Russia’s last Tsar. In addition, his rehabilitation defeats the myths and lies of both the Bolshevik and Soviet regimes.

Up until the Supreme Court’s ruling, Nicholas II remained falsely accused of crimes in which he did not commit. According to the existing code of laws, the Russian Federation is the lawful successor of Soviet Russia and of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics [USSR]. From the purely juridical stand­point, all the criminal charges, incriminations and verdicts of repression pronounced since 7th November 1917 continue to carry legal authority until the government officially rehabilitates the victims. A paradoxical situation thus occurred, where the head of the Russian government has offered up repentance for the bloody violence carried out by representatives of the government on members of the Imperial House and their servants, relatives and friends; where the immediate members of the family of Emperor Nicholas II along with Grand-Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna have been recognized as saints by the Russian Orthodox Church; yet where, from the judicial point of view, they can legally be considered “criminals,” since they were executed as “enemies” of the government.

Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that Nicholas II, was unlawfully killed by Bolshevik authorities. The ruling negates the Bolshevik claims used to instigate the 1917 revolution, and the murder of the Tsar and his family the following year. His rehabilitation reinstates the good name of Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov, and to legally declare that he was innocent and had suffered unjustly.

Georgy Ryabykh, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church said the “decision can only be welcomed. It strengthens the rule of law, restores historical continuity and 1,000 years of state tradition”.

Ivan Artsishevsky (1950-2021), Director of the Romanov Family Association also praised the ruling: “the fact that the Russian state took responsibility for that murder is a step towards repentance … and the rehabilitation of all innocent (Bolshevik) victims.”

It should come as no surprise that the rehabilitation was denounced by the Communists, who said it was “cynical” and would “sooner or later be corrected.” In response, German Lukyanov noted that the ruling was “a final decision that cannot be challenged.” 

“Rehabilitation is necessary for the modern state, so that the image of Russia throughout the world is associated not with basements covered in blood, but with the image of a civilized state that has renounced the Soviet past and condemned it,” he added.

© Paul Gilbert. 4 June 2022

Obituary: German Yuryevich Lukyanov (1961-2022)

On 19th May, the prominent Russian lawyer German Yuryevich Lukyanov, died in Moscow at the age of 60.

Lukyanov was born on 30th October 1961 in Saratov. In 1984 he graduated from the Saratov Law Institute (forensic and prosecutorial department). In 1984-1986 he passed military service in the Armed Forces of the USSR. From 1987 to 1989 he served as an investigator of the Military Prosecutor’s Office of the Moscow Air Defense District (PVO). He retired from the reserve with the rank of Senior Lieutenant of Justice. In 1990 he began practicing law, and in 2001 became a member of the Moscow Bar Association.

In 1995, he was appointed legal representative for Princess Leonida Georgievna (1914-2010) and later her daughter Princess Maria Vladimirovna, the latter of whom he continued to serve to the present day.

Lukyanov’s legacy is worthy of honouring, because he worked for years to achieve the exoneration of Emperor Nicholas II, his family and their four faithful retainers, who were all brutally murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

German Yuryevich Lukyanov died on 19th May 2022, the day marking the 154th anniversary of the birth of Russia’s last Emperor and Tsar. Some time ago Lukyanov had developed a severe form of COVID-19, recovered and returned to work.

It is symbolic that the Lord called German Lukyanov to Himself on the birthday of the Holy-Martyr Tsar Nicholas II, whose memory he sacredly honoured.

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

© Paul Gilbert. 4 June 2022

On this day – 2nd June 1868 – the future Emperor Nicholas II was baptised

PHOTO: the baptism of Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich [future Tsesarevich and Emperor] on 2nd June (O.S. 20th May) 1868, by Mihály Zichy (1827-1906). The watercolour depicts four baptismal scenes, and two of them show Alexander II holding his grandson in his arms.

Two weeks after his birth, on 19th (O.S. 6th) May 1868, His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich was baptised in the Church of the Resurrection of Christ in the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. The baptism was performed by the Imperial family’s confessor Protopresbyter Vasily Bazhanov (1800-1883).

The infant’s grandfather Emperor Alexander II, took a very active role in this historic ceremony. He clearly understood that not only was this his first grandson, but also that a future Emperor was being baptised. It is noteworthy that during the baptism, both Alexander II and his son, Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich [future Alexander III], acted as assistants to the lady of state. The fact that the father, breaking tradition, took an active part in the baptism[1], apparently, was due to its historic significance. Two emperors, current and future, held their successor in their arms, strengthening the foundation of the infant’s legitimacy.[2]

As for the mother [future Empress Maria Feodorovna], she did not have the right to be present at the baptism of her baby at all [in accordance with a tradition that originates in the Old Testament]. However, even if Maria Fedorovna wanted to break the custom, she could not do so, due to the fact that her doctors advised her not to walk following the birth of her son, and instructed her to rest on that eventful the day. [3]

It was Alexander II and Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, who carried the baby to the font for baptism. In addition, Nicholas Alexandrovich’s godparents, his Danish grandmother and uncle, Queen Louise and Crown Prince Friedrich took part.

Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich described the day’s events as follows: “The entrance was magnificent, and there were a lot of people in the palace and also in the garden. The little one was transported in a golden carriage with much pomp and ceremony, accompanied by an escort on horseback. During the ceremonial procession through the halls of the Grand Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, the newborn was carried to the palace church by the lady of state Princess [Alexandra Aleekseevna] Kurakina (1840-1919), supported on the one side by the State Chancellor Prince [Alexander Mikhailovich] Gorchakov (1798-1883), and on the other by Field Marshal Prince Alexander [Ivanovich] Baryatinsky (1815-1879) – both old and lame, but they endured excellently and helped as much as they could. The field marshal walks very decently, although with a cane. Tsarskoye Selo was unrecognizable that day; the streets were full of people and carriages, the whole city is celebrating. At 5 o’clock, a large banquet was held in the Great Hall, which was lit splendidly by the sun. It’s been a very tiring day, and poor Mama [Empress Maria Alexandrovna] is very tired. After the baptism, the entire family gathered at my place [the Alexander Palace] to congratulate Minnie [Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna], and all little ones were there too. An excellent breakfast was served, and then everyone went home.”

Nearly 13 years later, in March 1881, Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich became the Heir Tsesarevich, and in October 1894, he became Russia’s last Emperor and Tsar.

NOTES:

[1] According to Orthodox tradition at that time, the father was required to leave the church at the time of the baptism of his child, giving way to the godfather. Emperor Nicholas II was not in the church when his son Alexei was baptised in August 1904.

[2] Zimin, Igor Viktorovich. Children’s world of imperial residences. Life of monarchs and their environment. Baptism of children. 2010

[3] Ibid.

© Paul Gilbert. 2 June 2022

Why did Nicholas II’s favourite motorcar sport a swastika?

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II’s favourite Delaunay-Belleville motorcar, sporting a left-facing swastika (counter clockwise) on the hood. Tsarskoye Selo 1913

The swastika symbol is an ancient religious symbol in various Eurasian cultures, now also widely recognized for its appropriation by the Nazi Party and by neo-Nazis. It continues to be used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality in Indian religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It generally takes the form of a cross, the arms of which are of equal length and perpendicular to the adjacent arms, each bent midway at a right angle.

In the 1930s the German Nazi Party adopted a right-facing (clockwise) form and used it as an emblem of the Aryan race. As a result of World War II and the Holocaust, in the West it continues to be strongly associated with Nazism, anti-Semitism, white supremacism, or simply evil.

In 19th century Russia, however, the swastika had a completely different meaning. The left-facing swastika (counter clockwise) swastika, best described as a “sacred solar cross”, was adopted as a symbol of the Russian Empire. In the years before the Russian Revolution, it was used on the facades of houses, depicted on icons, clothes and dinner plates, as well as Emperor Nicholas II’s favourite motorcar.

PHOTO: the last diary [1917] of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, was embroidered with a left-facing swastika (counter clockwise)

In addition, the left-facing swastika (counter clockwise) was a favourite symbol of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. She wore a talisman in the form of a swastika, wearing it everywhere for happiness, including on her letters from Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg. In a letter dated 16 December 1917 to Anna Vyrubova, she wrote: “Always to be recognized by my sign 卐.”

According to Vladimir Kozlov & Vladimir Krustalev, in her 1917 diary, Alexandra noted the anniversary of a person’s death with a swastika. In Sanskrit, svastika means “well-being”. When her daughter, Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna gave her mother the little notebook in which the diary was kept, she embroidered a swastika on the cloth cover [depicted in the photo above] she made for it.[1]

In settling in her room in the Ipatiev House at Ekaterinburg, Alexandra inscribed a swastika on a window frame, followed by the date 17 [N.S. 30] April 1917, and another swastika on the wall over her bed.

In addition, investigator Nikolai Sokolov , who investigated the murder of the Imperial family, suggested that persons from the Emperor’s entourage were part of a secret organization. According to him, in their correspondence, among other things, they used the swastika.

NOTES:

[1] Ed. Vladimir Kozlov & Vladimir Krustalev. The Last Diary of Tsarista Alexandra. Yale University Press, 1997

© Paul Gilbert. 2 June 2022