On this day – 22nd March 1917 – Nicholas II and family are placed under house arrest in the Alexander Palace


Iconic image of Emperor Nicholas II in the Alexander Park at Tsarskoye Selo

On this day – 22nd March (O.S. 9th March) 1917 – the Provisional Government decreed that Emperor Nicholas II, his wife and five children should be held under house arrest in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.

At eleven in the morning, the Imperial Train pulled into the Imperial Railway Pavilion at Tsarskoye Selo. Nicholas emerged wearing a Caucasian fur cap and soldier’s greatcoat. Behind him the members of his suite began to jump off the train – like rats abandoning a sinking ship – and run down the platform. Not looking back – they fled.

According to Count Paul Benckendorff (1853-1921), the Emperor’s motorcar arrived at the gate of the Alexander Palace and was stopped by the sentry, who summoned the Commandant. The Commandant went down the steps and asked in a loud voice who was there. The sentry cried out, ‘Nicholas Romanov’. ‘Let him pass,’ said the officer.

During his captivity, the Tsar was subject to constant harassment and humiliation from the soldiers – most of whom were thugs – stationed in and around the Alexander Palace.

According to Pierre Gilliard: “The Emperor accepted all these restraints with extraordinary serenity and moral grandeur. No word of reproach ever passed his lips.”


Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna sitting in the Alexander Park, June 1917

On Alexander Kerensky’s order, Nicholas and Alexandra were kept apart in the palace for a period of 18 days. They were permitted to see each other only during meals, and only in the presence of soldiers. It was during this time that Kerensky conducted an investigation of the Imperial couple’s documents and letters. He failed to find any evidence which would incriminate either of them.

Kerensky interviewed Alexandra regarding her involvement in state affairs and Rasputin’s involvement in them through his influence over her. She answered that as she and her spouse kept no secrets from each other, they often discussed politics and she naturally gave him advice to support him; as for Rasputin, he had been a true holy man of God, and his advice had been only in the interest of the good of Russia and the imperial family. After the interview, Kerensky told the Tsar that he believed that Alexandra had told him the truth and was not lying.


Nicholas II working in the vegetable garden behind the Alexander Palace in 1917

The Imperial Family had total privacy inside the palace, but walks in the grounds were strictly regulated. Members of their domestic staff were allowed to stay if they wished and culinary standards were maintained.

Even in the Alexander Park, their movements were restricted. The photo below, show the prisoners at the frontier of their domain. They were not permitted to cross the bridge which led them to the big park, to the outside world and freedom.

Colonel Eugene Kobylinsky was appointed to command the military garrison at Tsarskoye Selo, which increasingly had to be done through negotiation with the committees or soviets elected by the soldiers.


Nicholas II and his family under guard in the Alexander Park, August 1917

The Imperial Family were held under house arrest until 14th (O.S. 1st) August 1917, it was on this day that Nicholas II and his family left the Alexander Palace for the last time. They exited from the Semicircular Hall of the palace, and travelled by car to the Alexandrovskaya Station where they were sent into exile to Tobolsk. 

For an eye witness account of Nicholas II and his family under house arrest in the Alexander Palace, please refer to the following book The Romanovs Under House Arrest: From the 1917 Diary of a Palace Priest, the memories of Archpriest Afanasy Belyaev, who served as priest and confessor to the Russian Imperial family.

© Paul Gilbert. 22 March 2023

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