“Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged” – in Defence of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

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Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918)

In a letter to his mother dated 8th June 1910, Nicholas II reflects his deep concern and anxiety about his wife’s condition . . .

“I am completely run down mentally by worrying over her health.”

Over the past 5 years, I have posted many photos of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna on my personal Facebook page, but I am sadly disheartened by the numerous bitter, nasty comments often left by people. This poor woman has been criticized for everything from “never smiling”, “looking miserable” or depicting a “sour face” – just to name a few.

Just last week I received a nasty email from a Facebook troll who noted how much Alexandra is “hated” by “noted historians”.

During her life, Alexandra carried much grief, worry and sorrow on her shoulders, all of which began at an early age. She lost her brother Friedrich to haemophilia in May 1873; her sister Marie died of diphtheria in November 1878; and the following month, her beloved mother Princess Alice also died of diphtheria in December 1878.

After her mother and sister’s deaths, Alix became more reserved and withdrawn. She described her childhood before her mother and sister’s death as “unclouded, happy babyhood, of perpetual sunshine, then of a great cloud.”

In March 1892, her father Grand Duke Louis IV, died of a heart attack. According to Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden, Alix regarded the death of her father as perhaps “the greatest sorrow of her life”. Buxhoeveden recalled in her 1928 biography [The Life and Tragedy of Alexandra Feodorovna] that “for years she could not speak of him, and long after when she was in Russia, anything that reminded her of him would bring her to the verge of tears”. This loss was probably so much greater for Alix because Grand Duke Louis IV had been Alix’s only remaining parent since she was six years of age.

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In later years, the Empress’s immobility forced her to use a wheelchair

Alexandra’s health was never robust and her five pregnancies, wreaked havoc on her body. Some historians attribute the semi-invalidism of her later years to nervous exhaustion from obsessive worry over the fragile health of her son. She spent most of her time in bed or reclining on a chaise in her boudoir or on a veranda. This immobility enabled her to avoid the social occasions that she found distasteful. Alexandra regularly took a herbal medicine known as Adonis Vernalis in order to regulate her pulse. She was constantly tired, slept badly, and complained of swollen feet. She ate little, but never lost weight – she had become a vegetarian. She may have suffered from Graves Disease (hyperthyroidism), a condition resulting in high levels of the thyroid hormone, which can also result in atrial fibrillation, poor heartbeat and lack of energy.

After the birth of Alexei, the long awaited heir to the Russian throne, Alexandra felt guilt for having passed haemophilia to her son. Most historians believe that she had a breakdown due to the constant worry for her son’s health, and later perhaps suffered from mental health issues.

From the day which she arrived in St. Petersburg, members of the Imperial Family, along with the ladies of the aristocracy took a particular dislike to Russia’s new Empress. Alexandra was a deeply religious woman, and she took great lengths to keep both herself and later he children at a distance from the debauchery of the capital.

Alexandra was also isolated for being foreign. Increasingly, she became an even more unpopular figure with the Imperial Family, the aristocracy, and the Russian people for numerous reasons, including her association with Rasputin and Anna Vyrubova. During the Great War, she became unpopular because of her German birth and upbringing, when that country was an enemy of the Russian Empire. Alexandra became a primary focus for the increasing unrest associated with opposition to the monarchy.

Whatever her shortcomings as Empress, let us be more careful in the words we choose before we pass judgement on this poor woman.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 July 2020

Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. Words of Love

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One of the project’s billboards in Moscow

In the days leading up to the 102nd anniversary (17th July) marking the death and martyrdom of the Imperial Family, the Orthodox magazine “Фома” has once again launched their “Nicholas II and Alexandra Fedorovna. Words of Love” project. It uses quotes (in Russian) from Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna from their letters to each other and personal diaries on love, marriage and family happiness.

The project is aimed at confirming family values, as well as conveying truthful information about the life of the Holy Royal Martyr family to a new generation of post-Soviet Russians.

Initially launched in Moscow in 2017 in a series of billboards placed around the city, the project has expanded to other Russian cities. Last year the images were made available in a series of postcards, the proceeds of which help raise funds for the project.

© Paul Gilbert. 9 July 2020

UPDATE: Monument to Nicholas and Alexandra in Crimea

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Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (left), Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich,
Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna (right)

On 20th February 2020, I published an article Monument to Nicholas and Alexandra to be established in Crimea, a new monument marking a unique day, to be installed in the Russian city of Alushta, (situated 36 km from Yalta in Crimea) in the autumn of this year.

The photographs depicted in this update, show the progress on the monument, which features Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (future Emperor Nicholas II, Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine (future Empress Alexandra Feodorovna), Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich and his wife Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna.

It was in the autumn of 1894, that Tsar Alexander III’s health began to further deteriorate. Nicholas obtained the permission of his dying father to summon Alix to the Imperial family’s Crimean palace of Livadia.

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Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich and Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine

The monument will be established in the Crimean town of Alushta on 10th October 2020, the same date in which the meeting of Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich and his future wife Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine took place in 1894. The cost of the monument will be 18,500,000 rubles ($242,000 USD).

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Meeting of the Tsesarevich and his bride in Alushta. 10 October 1894

Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich wrote in his diary that day:

At 9.30 I set out with Uncle Sergei to Alushta, where we arrived at one o’clock in the afternoon. Ten minutes later my beloved Alix arrived from Simferopol with Ella. After luncheon I got into the carriage with Alix and we drove together to Livadia.

My God! What a joy to meet her here at home and to have her near to me—half my cares and worries have been lifted from my shoulders. I was overcome with emotion when we went in to the dear Parents. Papa was weaker today, and Alix’s arrival, together with his talk with Father Ioann [John of Kronstadt], have worn him out!

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Memorial plaque marking the spot where the monument will be installed in Alushta

On 20th October 2019. a memorial plaque was solemnly opened in Alushta, at the site of the historical meeting between Tsesarevich Nikolai Alexandrovich and his future wife, Princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt, on 10th October 1894.

© Paul Gilbert. 5 April 2020

Monument to Nicholas and Alexandra to be established in Crimea

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The above image is an artist drawing of a monument that will be established in the Crimean town of Alushta later this year, in honour of the meeting of Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich and his future wife Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine on 10th October 1894, the date that will be inscribed on the monument.

In April 1894, Nicholas’s engagement to Alix was announced. When it became clear that the health of the Tsesarevich’s father Emperor Alexander III was serious, Alix was invited to the Crimea. The couple met at the Dove Cottage, where Alix stopped on the way to Livadia. Princess Alix travelled with her sister Ella to Livadia to receive the blessing of the dying emperor. Nicholas was accompanied by his uncle Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (Governor of Moscow). It is this historic moment – the meeting of four people – that will be depicted by sculptors.

According to the project manager, vice president of the St. Basil the Great Foundation, Mikhail Wilter, “the cost is estimated at about 18.5 million rubles. This includes four bronze sculptures, a granite pedestal, and an arch. The height of the monument is five meters, the length of the stone is about four meters, and the height of the figures themselves is more than two meters. We expect this project to be implemented in 2020. Part of the funds will come from the Saint Basil the Great Charitable Foundation, and we hope that Crimeans will also contribute to this important project,” said Wilter.

“The composition will consist of four figures – the couple themselves – Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, her sister Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and her husband Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, both of whom were present at the meeting of the future Imperial Couple. The arch unites two loving hearts – Nicholas and Alexandra, and is also crowned with an Orthodox cross. I would like the monument to be consecrated so that you can approach, even baptize, as they are saints. Newlyweds can come to the monument to have their wedding photos taken, ”said Irina Makarova, one of the sculptors participating in the project.

“The uniqueness of the sculpture is that all four people died tragically, three of them canonized by the Orthodox Church: Nicholas II, Alexandra Fedorovna and Elizaveta Fedorovna. This is a real human story,” said the author of the project Maxim Batayev, the other sculptor participating in the project.

The bronze and granite monument will be installed in the garden of the city library in October, while the territory surrounding it will be improved and planted with cypress trees.

Click HERE to read my article Love of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna to be immortalized in Crimea, published on 27th September 2019

© Paul Gilbert. 20 February 2020

Order of the Holy Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

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For caring for the Russian people

The International Church and Public Women’s Award (hereinafter referred to as the Order) ‘The Holy Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’ is a non-state award established by the Military Orthodox Mission with the blessing of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Eastern Metropolitan Hilarion of America.

The Order is awarded to ladies who honour the memory of the Holy Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, representatives of aristocratic families, abbess of monasteries, members of the Russian monarchist movement, writers and historians, scientists and civil servants, military and civil servants, as well as female foreign citizens, for strengthening traditional spiritual values, acts of mercy and charity, patriotism, as well as in connection with the 400th anniversary of the accession of the Romanov Dynasty in Russia.

The Order was established on 2nd February 2015 by the Military Orthodox Mission. The Order has one degree.

Badge of the Order: a medallion with rays diverging in 4 directions in the form of lilac coloured lilies and the Empress’s personal monogram located between the rays.

On the front side in an enamel circle there is an icon painting of the Holy Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, on the edges of the circle on a red background there is an inscription: “For caring for the Russian people

Order bow: lilac with a black-yellow-white stripe in the center – colors of the Russian Imperial flag.

Cervical ribbon of the Order: lilac with a black-yellow-white stripe in the center – colors of the Russian Imperial flag, 32 mm wide.

© Paul Gilbert. 16 January 2020

New photos of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

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Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve have released these new photos of the progress of recreating the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace.

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Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

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Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

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Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

Over the two decades of Alexandra Fedorovna’s life in Russia, the Mauve or Lilac Boudoir – her favorite room in the Alexander Palace, created by Roman Meltzer – has never been redesigned, despite the change in artistic fashion at the turn of the century. To decorate the interior, silk – mauve with a pattern of interwoven vertical threads – was ordered from the Parisian company Charles Bourget. The wood panels at the bottom of the walls and the furniture designed by Meltzer in imitation of the Rococo style were painted in two colors resembling ivory. Many furnishings, a corner sofa, half cabinets are built-in and connected with wall panels. Here the emperor and the empress with their children often drank coffee after breakfast, gathered for evening tea, and it was in this room where Alexandra Feodorovna spent many hours working and reading.

Works in the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir: according to historical patterns, fabric upholstery of walls, curtains, built-in furniture, carpet, wood panels, fireplace, picturesque frieze were recreated.

© Paul Gilbert. 26 November 2019

Love of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna to be immortalized in Crimea

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Tsesarevich Nikolai Alexandrovich and Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine

In 2020, a monument will be established in Alushta (situated 36 km from Yalta), at the site of the historic meeting between Tsesarevich Nikolai Alexandrovich and his future wife, Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine.

The St. Basil the Great Foundation has announced a competition for the best monument project commemorating the meeting of the future Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in Alushta on 10th October 1894.

It was in the autumn of 1894, that Emperor Alexander III’s health began to further deteriorate. Nicholas obtained the permission of his dying father to summon Alix to the Imperial family’s Crimean palace of Livadia.

A stone laying ceremony will be held at the end of October, at the site of the future monument with a sign on which the historical background of the event 125 years ago will be indicated.

According to the organizer of the contest, the creation of such a monument should be a great cultural event for the Crimea and for the whole of Russia, bearing educational and moral significance, reflecting the of love of the August couple.

The results of the competition for the best design of the monument will be announced on 15th December 2019. The winner of the competition will be determined by a competition committee, headed by Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich.

© Paul Gilbert. 27 September 2019