Two NEW books on the Alexander Palace

I cannot think of a better way to kick off the summer than the release of two NEW titles on the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo: The Empress’s Balcony and the Empress’s Chair.

I have compiled two unique pictorials dedicated to two of the most iconic spots in the former residence of Russia’s last Imperial Family, both of them favourite spots for the rest and relaxation of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

The Empress’s famous balcony and the corner chair in her Mauve Boudoir served as the settings for hundreds of iconic photographs of herself, the Tsar, their children, as well as extended family members and those close to the Imperial Family.

Each of these pictorials feature more than 100 full-page black-and-white photos. The accompanying text explores the history of both the balcony and chair, as well as the history and recreation of the Maple Drawing Room and Mauve Boudoir. While the balcony was demolished during the Soviet years, the Empress’s chair has recently been recreated for the recreated interior of her Mauve Boudoir, which opened to the public in 2021.

Each of these charming pictorials will be a welcome addition to any one who shares an interest in the Alexander Palace and its Imperial residents during the late 19th to early 20th centuries.


*This title is available from AMAZON in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia,
France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and Japan


English. 110 pages, 98 black & white photos

Between 1896-1898 – the Court architect Silvio Danini carried out the reconstruction of the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace, which included the personal apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna.

In addition, he installed the famous L-shaped iron balcony for the Empress, which was accessed via the Maple Drawing Room.

The Empress’s balcony became a favourite setting for taking family photographs, taken by the Empress and her children, all of whom were avid amateur photographers. More than a century later, these iconic images provide us with a rare glimpse into the private world of the Imperial Family.

The photographs presented in this pictorial, have all been selected from the private albums of the Empress and her children, and that of Alexandra’s friend and lady-in-waiting Anna Vyrubova.

The balcony was dismantled between 1947-49, with no plans to restore it. In the meantime, we have to content ourselves with the selection of vintage photographs which have survived to this day, and are presented in this pictorial.

*This title is available from AMAZON in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia,
France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and Japan


English. 120 pages, 107 black & white photos

Between 1896-1898 – the Court architect Silvio Danini carried out the reconstruction of the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace, which included the personal apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna.

Among the Empress’s quarters was the Mauve Boudoir, which would become her favourite room. According to legend, the Empress gave Alexnder Meltzer a lilac branch, her favourite flower, so that he could choose the colour scheme for the decoration of the room.

Among the most notable pieces of furniture in this room was a corner chair, which became a popular spot for family photographs, taken by the Empress and her children, all of whom were avid amateur photographers. More than a century later, these iconic images provide us with a rare glimpse into the private world of the Imperial Family.

Like many other rooms in the Alexander Palace, the Mauve Boudoir suffered a sad fate – the decoration and the interior were lost during the Great Patriotic War. The room has since been reconstructed and restored to its original historic look, as has the Empress’s famous chair.

© Paul Gilbert. 31 May 2023

French Savonnerie carpet in the Corner Reception Room of the Alexander Palace

View of Empress Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, in the Alexander Palace
PHOTO © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum have released some beautiful new photos of the Empress Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace.

The room is decorated with a luxurious 100 square meter woolen carpet. The central includes griffins, dolphins, masks, and cartouches. The carpet was made at the French Savonnerie manufactory at the beginning of the 19th century and purchased specifically for the Billiard Room (later the Corner Reception Room) of the Alexander Palace. At that time, the carpet was spread out only during the Highest Presence of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. The room was sometimes used for family breakfasts and lunches, at which a “waterproof canvas” was placed over the carpet, in order to protect it from spillage.

The pre-history of the Savonnerie manufactory lay in the concerns of King Henri IV to revive the French luxury arts. When Savonnerie appeared in France in the 17th century, it was considered the most prestigious European manufactory of knotted-pile carpets of its time. It was established in a former soap factory (French savon) on the Quai de Chaillot district of Paris in 1615. Under an eighteen year patent, a monopoly was granted by Louis XIII in 1627 to Pierre DuPont and his former apprentice Simon Lourdet, makers of Turkish-style carpets. Until 1768, the products of the manufactory remained exclusively the property of the Crown. Not only did Savonnerie carpets adorn the rooms of the Louvre and Versailles, they were also among the grandest of French diplomatic gifts.

Detail of the Savonnerie carpet in Empress Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room
PHOTO © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum

Detail of the Savonnerie carpet in Empress Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room
PHOTO © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum

The formation of the individual style of the manufactory was influenced by classical oriental patterns and ornaments, to which elements of European art of different eras were added: luxurious baroque, exquisite rococo, and sophisticated classicism. Drawings of carpet products produced by Savonnerie manufactory are full of various floral ornaments, compositions of vignettes, bouquets and wreaths, decorated with images of heraldic medallions, and zoomorphic motifs.

Carpets were made mainly of wool with the addition of natural silk, which emphasized the beauty of a complex, detailed pattern. It took several months to create a sketch, from which some two hundred to four hundred colours and shades were used in the production of a single carpet.

By the end of the 18th century, the Savonnerie manufactory was producing not only carpets, but also screen panels and tapestries. The decline of the manufactory began during the years of the French Revolution. In 1825, the company experienced financial difficulties and became part of the Manufactory of Tapestries (later the Manufactory of National Furnishings), which resulted in the loss of its once privileged status at the French Court and the aristocracy.

View of Empress Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, in the Alexander Palace
PHOTO © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum

It is nothing short of a miracle, that the luxurious woollen carpet in the Corner Reception Room of the Alexander Palace, survived the ravages of 20th century Russia, which included two revolutions, a civil war, two world wars, and more than seventy years of Soviet dogma. We are indeed fortunate, that it is once again on display, for all to see, in the reconstructed and restored interiors of the private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, in the eastern wing of the palace.

© Paul Gilbert. 30 September 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.


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

© Paul Gilbert. 2 June 2022

Haemophilia gene confirms authenticity of Tsesarevich Alexei’s remains

PHOTO: Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, at the bedside of her son Alexei in 1912

In a new documentary aired on Russian television in January 2022, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, stated that the haemophilia gene was found in the remains of Emperor Nicholas II’s only son, discovered at Porosenkov Log in 2007.

“The haemophilia gene made it possible to confirm the authenticity of the remains of the son of Nicholas II, Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich,” said the director of the Scientific Center for Genetics and Life Sciences of Sirius University, and Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Biological Sciences Evgeny Rogaev in the documentary The Romanov Case. The Investigation Established.

DNA examinations were carried out along three lines – female, male and asexual. “We have now determined who was the carrier of the mutation, and who was not. The tests showed that Alexandra Feodorovna carried both a healthy variant and the diseased variant, as expected, because she has two X chromosomes. Sadly, Alexei carried the diseased variant of the X-chromosome.

Tests were also concluded the status of the Empress’s four daughters. “The older sisters Olga and Tatiana were not carriers of haemophilia, however, in one of the younger sisters we found that she was a carrier of the diseased variant. Based on anthropological studies, we have concluded that it was Anastasia who also carried the diseased variant”, said the expert.

In the burial site, in addition to bone fragments, a piece of burnt striped fabric was discovered, which we believe belonged to Tsesarevich Alexei, who was wearing a vest on the day of the murders in the Ipatiev House.

PHOTO: Only 44 pieces of Alexei and Maria’s bones [1] have been found at Porosenkov Log, near Ekaterinburg

On 30 April 2008, Russian forensic scientists announced that DNA testing had proven that the remains belong to the Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister Grand Duchess Maria. DNA information, made public in July 2008, that was obtained from the Ekaterinburg site and repeated independent testing by laboratories such as the University of Massachusetts Medical School revealed that the final two missing Romanov remains were indeed authentic. In March 2009, results of the DNA testing were published, confirming that the two bodies discovered in 2007 were those of Alexei and Maria.

For many years, it has generally been accepted that Alexei began bleeding from his navel at the age of six weeks . . . this has since been proven incorrect. This was based on an entry in Nicholas II’s diary, six weeks after the birth of Alexis . . . Alix and I were very concerned about the bleeding of little Alexei from his umbilical cord . . .”.

Two noted Romanov historians Margarita Nelipa and Helen Rappaport both tell us otherwise, that Alexei’s bleeding was noted the day following his birth. Their claim is based on two separate, yet reliable sources:

[1] “One day after Alexei’s birth, Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich (1854-1931) came to congratulate the sovereign and stayed for lunch. Upon his departure, the sovereign mentioned the presence of “blood on the diapers”. Returning to his Znamenka estate (in Alexandria), he repeated this detail to his wife who telephoned Nikolai II (before visiting Alix later that evening). During their conversation, he said that the doctors had confirmed that the atypical bleeding was indeed due to haemophilia.”

Source: ‘Alexei. Russia’s Last Imperial Heir: A Chronicle of Tragedy’ by Margarita Nelipa. Published by Gilbert’s Books in 2015

[2] Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich and his wife Grand Duchess Militza Nikolaevna (1866-1951) had driven over to the Lower Dacha the day Alexei was born . . . as their son Prince Roman Petrovich (1896-1978) later recalled in his memoirs [published in Danish].

‘When they returned in the evening to Znamenka, my father remembered that . . . the Tsar had told him . . . That the doctors were concerned about the frequent splatters of blood in his swaddling clothes. . . .”

Grand Duke Peter telephoned the palace, “When the Tsar answered that they had hoped that the bleeding would soon stop, my mother took the receiver and asked if the doctors could explain the cause of the bleeding. When the Tsar could not give her a clear answer, she asked him with the calmest of voices she could manage: ‘I beg you, ask them if there is any sign of haemophilia’ . . . The Tsar fell silent on the phone for a long time and then started to question my mother and ended by quietly repeating the word that had staggered him: haemophilia.”

Source: ‘Four Sisters. The Lost Lives of the Romanov Grand Duchesses’ by Helen Rappaport. Published in 2014

In addition, is a letter dated 1st August 1904 – 2 days after Alexei’s birth, in which the Emperor mentions the “unusual bleeding” to Grand Duchess Militza Nikolaevna:

Dear Militza,

I am writing Alix’s words to you: Thank God, the day passed calmly. After having a dressing at 12 o’clock and up to 9:30 in the evening, there was not a drop of blood. The doctors hope this will continue. Korovin stays overnight. Fedorov leaves for the city and will return tomorrow. We both like him immensely! The little “treasure” is surprisingly calm when a bandage is applied, or he sleeps or lies and laughs. The parents now have a little relief in their hearts. Fedorov says that the loss of blood over two days is roughly ⅛ – 1/9 of the total amount of blood.


Source: Alexei: Russia’s Last TsesarevichLetters, diaries and writings by George Hawkins. Independently published in 2022


[1] For years, the boxes containing 44 bone fragments remained on dusty shelves in the Russian State Archives. In December 2015, their remains were transferred to the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow, where they remain to this day.

© Paul Gilbert. 25 February 2022

How a French princess almost became the last Empress of Russia

PHOTO: Princess Hélène of Orleans (1871-1951)

It was Peter the Great who started the tradition of marriages with German princesses, which was continued by his successors. This is explained both by the religious issue – Protestants easily accepted Orthodoxy, unlike Catholic princesses – and by political unions, because the German principalities were the closest neighbours of the Russian Empire. The only exception was Emperor Alexander III, who married a Danish princess.

When Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich – the future Emperor Nicholas II – fell passionately in love with Princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt, he received an unexpected rebuff from his parents, who had their own arguments against such a union. At the end of the 19th century, Russia once again changed its foreign policy ally – France replaced Germany and Austria.

This political union was the main project of Alexander III, who began cordial relations with France, eventually entering into an alliance with the French in 1892. Best of all, an alliance would strengthen a marriage. And although France at that time was already a republic, she could offer Princess Hélène of Orleans (1871-1951), a representative of the Orleans branch of the Bourbon dynasty, as a bride. Hélène was the third of eight children born to Prince Philippe, Count of Paris, and Infanta Maria Isabel of Spain.

Moreover, the fact that the princess did not belong to a ruling house was considered as a plus, because in this case she would not be able to influence her husband in the interests of her family. And Empress Maria Feodorovna, being a Dane, simply did not want to see a German princess as her daughter-in-law. She held strong militant anti-German sentiment because of the annexation of Danish territories by Prussia in 1864.

Therefore, Hélène had long been considered the main contender for the crown of the Russian Empress. Hélène of Orleans was known for her beauty, knew several languages, and she loved sports. Journalists referred to her as a model of women’s health and beauty. Of course, one can only speculate whether Nicholas’s marriage with Hélène would have changed the course of Russia’s history?

For one, Hélène would not have passed on to her children, namely, her son, the haemophilia gene, which played a fatal role in the history of the Russian Imperial Family. It was Alexei’s morbidity that led the odious Rasputin to the pinnacle of power. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, trusting the elder with the most valuable thing – her son. According to some historians, the Empress began to consult with him in those matters where he could not be competent in any way, often influencing her husband. Nicholas adored his wife too much to ignore many of her requests.

Historians believe, that if he had treated his wife more calmly, he could make decisions on his own and remain calm in acute situations. In addition, Hélène was French, and would not have caused such antipathy as the German Alexandra Feodorovna, when in 1914 Russia entered the war against Austria and Germany.

Nicholas, never pursued his parents choice for the French princess as a bride, as he was already in love with Princess Alix of Hesse. It is quite possible, that the strong willed Alexander III could have forced his son to marry Hélène, but his health failed him. Fearing that he would not have time to marry his son personally, and feeling completely ill, he yielded to Nicholas request to marry the woman he loved. The subsequent events are known, but Alexandra Feodorovna was never able to please either the court, or the people, or the relatives of her beloved husband.

Hélène of Orleans eventually married Prince Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy, cousin of King Victor Emmanuel of Italy. In marriage, she gave birth to two sons, was engaged in charity, left many travel notes on her travels in Europe and Africa. She outlived Nicholas II , her husband and both her sons. She died on 21st January 1951 (aged 79), in Castellammare di Stabia, Italy.

© Paul Gilbert. 12 February 2022

Lilacs return to the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: after more than a century, fresh lilacs once again decorate the recently restored interior of the Empress’s Mauve Boudoir in the Alexander Palace. © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum

For the first time in more than a hundred years, the fragrant scent of lilacs once again fill the interiors of the Alexander Palace during the cold winter months. The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum have revived the tradition, by placing lilacs in the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir and the Maple Drawing Room of the Alexander Palace.

It was during the Imperial Family’s residence in the palace [between 1905-1917] that Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, filled her rooms fresh flowers year round. During the winter months, fragrant lilacs were grown in the greenhouses at Tsarskoye Selo. Even during the first few months of their house arrest in 1917, flowers remained in the interiors. Since “prisoners” were not entitled to any luxuries, the flowers were soon removed from the rooms by their captors.

PHOTO: fresh lilacs have also been placed in the recently restored interior of the Maple Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace. © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum

In order to provide fresh lilacs for the palace, the greenhouses at Tsarskoye Selo, as in the beginning of the last century, use a forcing technique, by which plants come out of dormancy, allowing them to bloom throughout the year. In the early 20th century, bushes were planted in greenhouse boxes, and lilacs began to be prepared for awakening in December, with the help of additional light. The interiors of the Alexander Palace were decorated with historical varieties, among them the famous white “Madame Lemoine” lilac, which was on the order lists of Tsarskoye Selo gardeners. It was from this variety that the cult of lilac began.

Empress Alexandra Feodorovna loved flowers – the rooms in her private quarter of the palace were decorated with fresh flowers all year round. Floral themes were also present in the wall upholstery, furniture, stucco reliefs on the walls and ceilings. The Empress was especially fond of lilacs. It is no coincidence that in her Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, that the furniture and walls were decorated with lilac-colored silk, which reflected the Empress’s preferred lilac tones in clothes, and lilac-scented perfumes.

PHOTO: Empress Alexandra Feodorovna admiring a tub of lilacs in the Mauve Boudoir of the Alexander Palace, Tsarskoye Selo. 1909

Lilacs were placed everywhere in the palace: cut branches in a vase on a table by the window and bushes in a jardinière [a decorative flower box or planter] by the sofa in the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir; magnificent lilac compositions decorated the Pallisander (Rosewood) and Maple Drawing Rooms.

In present day, between late spring – early summer, the Catherine and Alexander Parks are filled with lilacs, especially along Lilac Alley in the Catherine Park.

Lilacs first appeared at Tsarskoye Selo in the 18th century. Under Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, trees and shrubs were regularly planted in the parks of Tsarskoye Selo, including lilacs. Under Catherine II, parks and greenhouses were replenished with new species of plants, flowers and shrubs, including lilacs. Under Alexander I in 1817, at the direction of the architect Adam Menelas, the gardener Fyodor Lyamin planted lilacs in front of the palace and the colonnade, where they continued to bloom for over a hundred years. In the middle of the 19th century, the Lilac Alley was created, stretching from the Pink Guardhouse to the Krestovy Canal. In the 19th century, gardeners planted many new varieties of lilacs with various colors: white, mauve, purple and pink.

In the 19th century, many new varieties of lilac appeared with a variety of colors: white, mauve, purple and pink. A rich collection was formed at the end of the century in a small family company Lemoynov from the French city of Nancy. It was founded by Victor Lemoine, a master of ornamental plant breeding. He was not a supplier of the Russian Imperial Court, however, his varieties were purchased for Tsarskoye Selo, among them – “Madame Antoine Buchner” (terry lilac with dark pink buds, large, fragrant flowers from mauve-pink to pale whitish -pink), “Madame Lemoine” (lilac with white, large, double fragrant flowers).

PHOTO: each year, lilacs decorate the interiors of the Alexander Palace on 6th June, in honour of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s birthday. The photo above, shows the Marble (Mountain) Hall

In the years prior to the closing of the Alexander Palace for restoration between 2015-2021 – bouquets of fresh lilacs were placed in the former apartments of the Empress on her birthday: 6th June [O.S. 25th May]. Now that the restoration of the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace has been completed, let us hope that this annual tradition is also revived.

© Paul Gilbert. 12 January 2022

Icon made on the occasion of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna’s wedding sold at auction

On 11th November, the icon “St. Nicholas the Wonderworker and the Martyr Tsarina Alexandra”, sold at an auction held at Literary Fund Auction House in Moscow for 4.3 million rubles [$60 thousand USD].

The icon was made by the Moscow jewellery company I.P. Khlebnikov, Sons and Co. The firm was founded in 1871 and in 1879 was awarded the title of Supplier to the Court of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Alexander II.

The icon was made on the occasion of the wedding of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, held on 27th November [O.S. 14th November] 1894 at the Grand Church – the home church of the Imperial Family – in the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg.

The wood icon made by A.A. Artsibashev, is 30.6 x 25.6 x 2.1 cm. Setting: silver, enamel, filigree, filigree enamel, chasing, gilding, mount; 30.7 x 25 x 3 cm. Good condition. The icon has a museum, artistic, historical and cultural significance.

© Paul Gilbert. 12 November 2021

Furniture moved into the Mauve Boudoir of the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s writing table in the Mauve Boudoir
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

In addition to last week’s post about the recreated chair taking its rightful place in the corner of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room, several additional pieces have since been moved into this iconic interior of the Alexander Palace.

The only original item to have survived from the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir was Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s writing-table, which originally stood in front of the window at an angle. The table entered the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve in 1999. During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), the table had not been evacuated.

PHOTO: the restored writing table of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

Following the war, the table was discovered in a deplorable state in the Alexander Park by the former curator of the Alexander Palace, Anatoly Mikhailovich Kuchumov (1912-1993). In 2018, restorers conducted test clearing of the paint layer of the table, determined the initial colour of its finish and, on the basis of this, made a decision on the colour scheme of the panels, built-in furniture and doors of the Mauve Boudoir. In 2020, the masters of the Tsarskoye Selo Amber Workshop restored the table and recreated the lost details, based on photographs and archival descriptions.

PHOTO: recreated furniture in the Mauve Boudoir of the Alexander Palace
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

PHOTO: early 20th century photo of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna relaxing on her sofa in the Mauve Boudoir. Note the side table piled high with books, letters and other papers, as well as the framed photos of her family on the shelves above.

And just this past week, several other pieces of furniture recreated for this interior were moved into place. The most prominent is the mauve sofa – an exact copy of the original – where the Empress would come to relax, read and write letters. This sofa was her refuge on the days she felt unwell, and often taking her meals during her indispositions.

PHOTO: recreated furniture in the Mauve Boudoir of the Alexander Palace
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

In addition, we see another arm chair with tassels and foot stool, side tables and book cases. But take note of the finer details of the interior, with its white wood panelling, decorated with framed photos set against the background of the mauve silk wall covering. At long last, the once favourite room of the last Empress of Russia is nearing completion.

For more information on the history and recreation of the Empress’s Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, please refer to the following articles below:

Recreation of Furniture for the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace – published on 9th December 2020

The history and restoration of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace – published on 4th November 2020

© Paul Gilbert. 5 July 2021


Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in the Summer of 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Maple Drawing Room, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II, showcasing the private, domestic life of the Russian monarchs who used the palace as an official residence. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family. The multi-museum complex, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.


Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles and updated on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order

Your donation helps support my work in a number of ways, including research, the cost of translations from Russian media and archival sources, the maintenance of my news blog: Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint., the organization of conferences and other events. Thank you for your consideration – PG

FOR SALE: The correspondence of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, 1914-1917

I am pleased to offer two editions of the correspondence of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna from my personal library.

Between 24th April 1914 to 7th March 1917, Emperor Nicholas II and his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna exchanged nearly 1,700 letters . The original correspondence has survived to this day and kept in the Novo-Romanovsky Archives of the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF) in Moscow.

Their letters – all of which were written in English – reveal the enormous love the couple shared against the backdrop of a bloody war and the approaching end of the Russian Empire. In addition, Alexandra offers extensive commentary on hospitals and the wounded (she was a volunteer nurse). Nicholas II reports on the military and the war effort. The growing influence of Rasputin is also thoroughly documented in these texts. The reader sees in detail the crises that led to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the collapse of the tsarist regime.

This historically Important correspondence will serve as a valuable resource for all students of late Imperial Russia and World War I, and essential for those interested in the last Emperor and Empress of Russia.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS AN AUCTION SALE: I am offering each edition to the highest bidder. I have set the bidding price of each at $150 USD. I invite those of you who are interested to send me a private e-mail [], quoting your highest offer. Please ensure that you also note the item number (noted below). The winners will be notified by e-mail on Sunday, 20th June 2021.


This edition includes two volumes in one: The Letters of the Tsar to the Tsaritsa 1914-1917 and The Letters of the Tsaritsa to the Tsar 1914-1916. Published by Academic International Press in 1970, it is a reprint of the original English edition, published in 1923.

Volume I includes an introduction by C. T. Hagberg Wright. Notes by C. E. Vulliamy; Volume II includes a 38-page introduction by Sir Bernard Pares (1867-1949).

Pares was a noted English historian and diplomat. During the First World War, he worked for the Foreign Ministry in Petrograd, Russia, where he reported political events back to London. He returned to London as professor of Russian history. He is best known for his numerous books on Russia,

Hard cover edition. 802 pages. Index. Size: 6-1/2″ x 9″ x 2″.

CONDITION: Near mint!

Opening bids start at $150.00 USD

AUCTION SALE: I am offering each edition to the highest bidder. I have set the bidding price of each at $150 USD. I invite those of you who are interested to send me a private e-mail [], quoting your highest offer. Please ensure that you also note the item number. The winners will be notified by e-mail on Sunday, 20th June 2021. *Shipping, handling and insurance are not included in the price.


Volume I: The Letters of the Tsar to the Tsaritsa 1914-1917

Includes an introduction by Ivan Bydzan. Illustrations. Index. Size: 6″ x 8-3/4″ x 1″. 324 pages. Hard cover.

Volume II: The Letters of the Tsaritsa to the Tsar 1914-1916

Includes an introduction by Ivan Bydzan. Illustrations. Index. Size: 6″ x 8-3/4″ x 1-1/2″. 462 pages. Hard cover.

This 2-volume edition was published by the Hoover Institute Press of Stanford University in 1973, it is a reprint of the original English edition, published in 1923.

each volume contains inscription on inside title page and embossed book mark. Both copies are in excellent condition with solid binding.

Opening bids start at $150.00 USD for this 2-volume set

AUCTION SALE: I am offering each edition to the highest bidder. I have set the bidding price of each at $150 USD. I invite those of you who are interested to send me a private e-mail [], quoting your highest offer. Please ensure that you also note the item number. The winners will be notified by e-mail on Sunday, 20th June 2021. * Shipping, handling and insurance are not included in the price.

© Paul Gilbert. 12 June 2021

Memories of Nicholas and Alexandra’s love that have transcended time

PHOTO: aerial view of Schloss Wolfsgarten, near Darmstadt

Hidden away from the eyes of most visitors to Wolfgarten in Germany and the State Hermitage Museum in Russia, are two haunting mementoes etched into simple window panes of each of the two former royal residences. Despite revolution, two world wars and palace renovations, these glass windows with inscriptions written by Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna have miraculously survived to this day.

Wolfsgarten, Germany

Schloss Wolfsgarten is a former hunting seat of the ruling family of Hesse-Darmstadt, located in the German state of Hessen, situated 15 kilometers south of Frankfurt. The hunting lodge was established between 1722 and 1724 by Landgrave Ernst Ludwig of Hesse-Darmstadt. In 1768, Wolfsgarten was abandoned until the 1830s when the grand ducal family began to restore and expand the property. From 1879, Wolfsgarten became a favourite country retreat for Grand Dukes Ludwig IV and his son Ernst Ludwig, brother of Princess Alix, the future Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

PHOTO: the years marking visits by Nicholas and Alexandra are etched in a window at Schloss Wolfsgarten

In November 1903 Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna visited the *divorced and not yet remarried Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig. It was on this occasion, that the couple updated the record of their visits to Wolfsgarten, by carving the year on a glass window, as they had done on prior visits in 1896 and 1899 respectively. The Imperial couple returned to Wolfsgarten in 1910.

*On 19th April 1894 Ernst Ludwig married his cousin Victoria Melita von Edinburgh, among the European royals and nobility in Coburg. Ernst and Victoria divorced on 21st November 1901. Victoria married Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich on 8th October 1905.

On 9th October 1937, Ernest Louis died after a long illness at Schloß Wolfsgarten. He received what amounted to a state funeral on 16 November 1937 and was buried next to his daughter, Elisabeth, in a new open air burial ground next to the New Mausoleum he had built in the Rosenhöhe park in Darmstadt.

PHOTO: contemporary view of the Winter Palace (State Hermitage Museum)

Winter Palace, St. Petersburg

From December 1895, Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, resided for periods during the winter in the Winter Palace. They extended and redesigned the rooms which had been prepared for Nicholas, as Tsesarevich two years earlier. The architect Alexander Krasovsky was commissioned to redecorate a suite of rooms in the northwest corner of the palace.

Following the events of Bloody Sunday in 1905, Nicholas II and his family abandoned the Winter Palace in favour of the more private Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. From this date until the fall of the monarchy, the Winter Palace was used only for formal state occasions.

PHOTO: Alexandra records a memory from March 1902 on a window in her Study

On 25th October 1917, following the Provisional Government’s arrest in the Small Dining Room of the Winter Palace, an eyewitness account records a systematic destruction of the Imperial apartments by the Bolsheviks. The only original interior to have survived to the present is Nicholas II’s Gothic Library. The remainder of the Imperial couple’s private apartments including the bulk of their contents have been lost.

One tiny memento, however, has survived. Hidden from view by a lace curtain in the former Study of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, a memory was recorded by Alexandra. On 7th March 1902, taking her diamond ring, she etched the following in one of the windows: “Nicky 1902 looking at the Hussars. 7 March”.

In 1926 the former living quarters of the Imperial couple were handed over to the State Hermitage Museum for use as exhibition halls. The same year the décor of the Study was destroyed: the yellow damask wall covering was removed and the vault painting with flowers and garlands was painted over (it has since been restored). The viewing platform in the corner was dismantled, from which the Imperial couple liked to look at the Neva River at different times of the year from “Alix’s window” as Nicholas II used to call it in his diary.

Today, Room 185 houses the exhibition dedicated to the work of the famous St Petersburg furniture maker Heinrich Gambs. On view here are pieces of furniture and objects of decorative and applied art executed in the Classicism style.

CLICK on the VIDEO below, which shows not only the former Study of Alexandra Feodorovna, but also the view from the window, which will give you a better perspective of where the engraved window is exactly:

© Paul Gilbert. 4 May 2021


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If you enjoy my articles, news stories and translations, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. Thank you for your consideration – PG