His Imperial Majesty’s Suite during the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, 1894 to 1917

PHOTO: the retinue of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Nicholas II, Tsarskoye Selo, 1916. From left to right: Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich; Admiral Konstantin Dmitrievich Nilov; Count Alexander Nikolaevich Grabbe; Colonel Anatoly Alexandrovich Mordvinov; Colonel Kirill Anatolievich Naryshkin; Major General Vladimir Nikolaevich Voeikov; Emperor Nicholas II; Count Vladimir Borisovich Frederiks; Prince Vasily Alexandrovich Dolgorukov; and Sergey Petrovich Federov

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His Imperial Majesty’s Suite was a retinue unit of personal aides to Emperor Nicholas II, who reigned for 22+ years, from the death of his father on 2nd November (O.S. 20th October) 1894 to his abdication on 15th (O.S. 2nd) March 1917.


According to the Table of Ranks, established by decree of Emperor Peter I on 24th January 1722, the title of Adjutant General of the Russian Empire was originally a military rank. The title of His (Her) Imperial Majesty ‘s Adjutant Wing, was introduced in 1775 by Empress Catherine II.

In 1827, Emperor Nicholas I formally created the Retinue of His (Her) Imperial Majesty was established. From 1843 it was part of the Imperial Main Headquarters, an organization within the military administration of the Russian Empire that was tasked with carrying out the personal military commands from the Emperor.

The aides to the Tsar generally consisted of officers of the Army or the Guards units. The retinue consisted of persons granted the highest honors, who enjoyed the special confidence of the reigning Emperor. They were assigned the honorary title of Adjutant; used in parallel with the existing personal military, court or civil rank as defined in the Table of Ranks.

Emperor Nicholas I introduced a title of Major General of the His Imperial Majesty’s Suite. In 1841, a special title of Ajdutant General of the Emperor’s Person was created.

His Imperial Majesty’s Suite during the reign of Nicholas II

From 1894 to 1914, His Imperial Majesty’s Suite included the following number of aides:

  • 51 x adjutant generals to His Imperial Majesty;
  • 64 x Retinues of His Majesty Major General and Rear Admiral;
  • 56 x adjutant wing of His Imperial Majesty

Adjutant generals of the Russian Empire in as of 1894-1917 wore the following distinctive insignia on their retinue uniform:

  • gold general’s epaulettes (and later shoulder straps ) with the monogram of the reigning emperor;
  • gold aiguillettes of the adjutant general;
  • a white sheepskin hat with a red bottom and gold galloons located crosswise on the bottom (during the reign of Alexander III and Nicholas II ).

His Imperial Majesty’s Suite also included Grand Dukes and Princes of the Imperial Blood[1] of the Russian Imperial Family, each of whom served as aides to Emperor Nicholas II. Among these, included the Emperor’s brother Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, and his first cousin Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, the latter who committed an act of treason against the Emperor during the February 1917 Revolution.

In addition, His Imperial Majesty’s Suite included notable figures, many of whom will be familar to persons who are more acquainted and well-read on the reign of Nicholas II, including:

Count Pavel (Paul) Konstantinovich Benckendorff; Emir of Bukhara Sayyid Mir Muhammad Alim Khan; Vladimir Nikolaevich Voeikov; Alexander Nikolaevich Grabbe; Vladimir Fyodorovich Dzhunkovsky; Prince Vasily Alexandrovich Dolgorukov; Count Fyodor Arturovich Keller[2]; Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim; Duke Georg Alexander of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; Alexander Alexandrovich Mosolov; Huseyn Khan Nakhchivanski[2]; Konstantin Dmitrievich Nilov; Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg[3]; Prince Vladimir Nikolayevich Orlov; Prince Felix Feliksovich Yusupov, Count Sumarokov-Elston; Count Ilya Leonidovich Tatischev; and Dmitri Feodorovich Trepov; among others.

Their duties included carrying out special assignments of the Emperor (for example, investigating civil unrest), escorting foreign monarchs and delegations, and being on duty with the Emperor. In the middle of the 19th century, each retinue officer had an average of one watch every two months. The retinue title came with a number of privileges: the right of free passage to the Imperial residence, the right to file reports addressed to the Emperor, etc.

The Revolution and the end of His Imperial Majesty’s Suite

The ranks of adjutant generals, generals of the retinue and adjutant wing were abolished by order of the military department of the new Provisional Government on 21st March 1917.

Many of these men were noble and honourable, who remained faithful to Emperor Nicholas II, while others were self serving and traitors. Many of them managed to escape Bolshevik Russia, while others lived out their remaining years in Bolshevik and Soviet Russia. Sadly, for some of these men, their loyalty to their Sovereignwere tortured and subsequently exectuted, their crime in the eyes of their murderers, was .

© Paul Gilbert. 3 October 2022


[1] Under the new Family Law promulgated in 1886 by Emperor Alexander III, only the children and male-line grandchildren of a Tsar would be styled Grand Duke or Grand Duchess with the style of Imperial Highness—great-grandchildren and their descendants would be styled either “Prince” or “Princess of the Imperial Blood” with the style of Highness. The revised Family Law was intended to cut down on the number of persons entitled to salaries from the Imperial treasury.

[2] Commander of the Third Cavalry Corps of the Russian Imperial Army, General Count Fyodor Arturovich Keller (1857-1918) and Commander of the Guard Cavalry Corps Huseyn Khan Nakhchivanski (1863-1919), were the only two Tsarist generals, who remained loyal to the Russian Orthodox emperor Nicholas II and refused to swear allegiance to the Provisional Government.

[3] Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg (1868-1924), was the first husband of Nicholas II’s sister Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960). The couple married on 27th July 1901 in the Gatchina Palace Church. In 1915, the couple separated; Olga had no children from her first marriage. On 27th August 1916, Emperor Nicholas II approved the definition of the Holy Synod, which recognized her marriage to Prince of Oldenburg dissolved