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

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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.

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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 [royalrussia@yahoo.com], 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.

Item No. 0576 – THE NICKY-SUNNY CORRESPONDENCE 1914-1917

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 [royalrussia@yahoo.com], 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.

Item No. 0577 – THE LETTERS OF THE TSAR TO THE TSARITSA 1914-1917 and THE LETTERS OF THE TSARITSA TO THE TSAR 1914-1916 – 2 Volume Set

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 [royalrussia@yahoo.com], 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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Dear Reader

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

The favourite tunes of Nicholas II and his Family – Part 1

This video features a tune, which was apparently a favourite of Nicholas II and his Family. Click on the image above to listen to this haunting melody, performed by the popular Russian singer Valentina Ponomareva [Duration: 3 minutes, 28 seconds]

The romance “Утро туманное” (Misty Morning) is based on the poem by the famous Russian writer Ivan Sergeivich Turgenev (1818-1883), written in 1843. The music was composed by Erast Ageevich Abaza (1819-1855), a gifted amateur musician, guard officer, and hero of the Crimean War.

Misty morning, gray morning,

Sad fields, covered with snow,

Reluctantly remember the times of the past,

Remember the faces long forgotten.

You will remember the frequent passionate talks,

Glances so eagerly and tenderly caught,

First meetings, last meetings,

Favorite sounds of a quiet voice.

You will remember parting with a strange smile,

You will remember a lot of your dear distant past,

Listening to the ceaseless murmur of the wheels,

Looking thoughtfully into the wide sky.

Set against the background of this soulful performances are touching images, which reflect the love story of Nicholas Alexandrovich and Alexandra Feodorovna, the last Emperor and Empress of Russia. The romance is performed by the popular Russian singer Valentina Ponomareva. The video was created by Irina Koroteeva and Elena Illyina..

NOTE: Stay tuned for additional videos, featuring more favourite tunes of Nicholas II and his family – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 16 January 2021

Romanov Book of the Year for 2020: ‘Empress Alexandra’ by Melanie Clegg

Based on her comprehensive research from primary sources, ‘Empress Alexandra’ by Melanie Clegg is my personal choice for the Romanov Book of the Year for 2020 – Paul Gilbert

NOTE: This book is now available in the UK and North America, and can be ordered from your favourite bookseller. As a courtesy to those who have not yet read the book, I did not want to give anything away, or publish any spoilers, therefore, I have used material from the publishers web page and added my own additional comments and notes to this review – PG

* * *

My love of reading has helped me navigate, what turned out to be a rather dreadful year for most this year. There were several noteworthy Romanov titles published in 2020, however, it was ‘Empress Alexandra: The Special Relationship Between Russia’s Last Tsarina and Queen Victoria’ by Melanie Clegg which I enjoyed the most.

In her new book, British historian and author Melanie Clegg takes a fresh and intimate look at the close relationship that existed between the last Empress of Russia and her grandmother Queen Victoria.

The story begins with the birth of Alexandra’s mother Princess Alice, who was the third child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Alice was betrothed to Prince Louis of Hesse and by Rhine shortly before her father’s death in 1861 and their wedding was described by her mother as ‘more of a funeral than a wedding’.

Alexandra was just six years old when her mother died of diphtheria in 1878 at which point both she and her elder sisters were taken immediately under the wing of their grandmother, Queen Victoria, who oversaw their education, cared for them and tried to arrange their future.

It was Victoria’s dearest wish that Alexandra should marry her first cousin Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, who was second in line to the British throne. However, Alexandra had already fallen in love with the Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich [future Emperor Nicholas II] of Russia – a match that horrified her formidable and Rusophobic grandmother.

Although Victoria was disappointed by Alexandra’s decision to marry Nicholas, the two continued to correspond until the end of her life in 1901.

What I enjoyed so much about this particular title is how the author captured the essence of Queen Victoria’s relationship with her granddaughter Princess Alix of Hesse, later Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, into one volume. The relationship between the two female rulers, who were so different in ability and personality but bound together by blood and genuine affection makes this a fascinating read!

Clegg intended this book to simply be a study of the relationship of Queen Victoria and her granddaughter, but after some reflection, she decided to begin with the birth of Alexandra’s mother Princess Alice, believing that her relationship with her mother shaped that between Victoria and Alexandra, and was highly relevant to the events that occurred later on.

The author draws from the vast collection of Queen Victoria’s letters and diaries from the Royal Archives (RAVIC/MAIN/QVJ), and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s letters edited by Sergei Mironenko and Andrei Maylunas.

Published by Pen and Sword Books (UK). Hard cover. 216 pages with more than 40 high quality black and white photographs from the Royal Collection Trust. 

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My previous selections for Romanov Book of the Year include the following titles:

(2019) The Romanov Royal Martyrs: What Silence Could Not Conceal

(2018) The Race to Save the Romanovs: The Truth Behind the Secret Plans to Rescue the Russian Imperial Family by Helen Rappaport [*my review was lost after I closed down my Royal Russia blog, on 1st January 2020 – PG]

© Paul Gilbert. 31 December 2020

The history and restoration of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: View of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace, as it looked in 1917
Popillon’s painting “The Dream of the Virgin” can be seen hanging on the wall 

The favourite room of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace was the Mauve (aka Lilac) Boudoir. This interior was designed by Roman Feodorovich Meltser (1860-1943). According to legend, the empress gave him a lilac branch, her favourite flower, so that the architect could choose the colour scheme for the decoration of the room.

As a result, the walls were upholstered in mauve silk and crowned with a frieze decorated with an iris styled pattern. An ornamental Louis XV style painting decorated the ceiling of the room.

PHOTOS: views of the Mauve (Liliac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace, as it looked in 1917

The furniture and upright piano by J. Becker were been painted with ivory enamel paint. Some of the furniture items were included in the composition of the walls and fastened to the wall panels. On the shelves, cabinets and fireplace were glass vases, mainly produced by the workshop of Emile Gallé, porcelain figurines and handmade souvenirs presented as gifts to the Empress, as well as family photographs. The room was decorated year-round with fresh flowers from the gardens or hothouses at Tsarskoye Selo.

Alexandra Feodorovna spent a lot of time in the Mauve Boudoir: it was here that she rested, read, and carried out her correspondence. In the evening, the whole family gathered here. The cabinets contained books from the empress’s personal library, sheet music, drawing supplies, and board games.

Thus, at the beginning of the 20th century, the room personified the comfort of a home.

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 (1941-45).

PHOTO: the current look of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir after an extensive restoration

PHOTO: Recreated doors of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace

During the current restoration, fabric upholstery for the walls and curtains (fragments of fabric had been preserved in the Pavlovsk State Museum-Reserve), furniture, carpets, wood panels, a fireplace, and a picturesque frieze were recreated, based on historical samples, archival documents and photographs.

A huge amount of work has been done to recreate the doors: first, models were made, then the doors were recreated from wood.

The collection of the Alexander Palace Museum contains Alexandra’s writing table from the Mauve Boudoir, found in the park in a ruined state after the war. In 2018, test cleanings of a paint layer of the writing table were carried out, thanks to which the initial colour of the finishing of the entire interior was determined, as well as the colour scheme for the panels, built-in furniture and cabinet doors. The museum plans to restore Alexandra’s writing table to its original, thanks to descriptions and old photographs.

A painting (see first photo above in this article) by the French artist Edouard Jerome Popillon “The Dream of the Virgin” which once hung in the Mauve Boudoir will be returned to the Alexander Palace from the Pavlovsk Museum-Reserve, where it has been held for many decades. Upon the reopening of the palace next year, the painting will be on display in the room for visitors to enjoy.

PHOTO: Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna seated in the corner of the Mauve Boudoir

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The Mauve Boudoir is now one of 15 interiors in the eastern wing of the palace, scheduled to open in 2021. Among the other 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, 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 all my updates on the restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars – donations can be made by GoFundMe, PayPal, credit card, personal check or money order. Click HERE to make a donation. Thank you for your consideration – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 4 November 2020

Monument to the meeting of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna in Russia unveiled in Crimea

PHOTO: Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich,
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt and Rhine

On 30th October, a monument dedicated to the first meeting of Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (future Emperor Nicholas II) and his future bride Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt and Rhine (future Empress Alexandra Feodorovna) on Russian soil (1894) was unveiled and consecrated in the courtyard of the Central Library in the Crimean city of Alushta, .

Sculptors Irina Makarova and her husband Maxim Bataev, began work on the monument in February. Together, they created a composition consisting of four bronze sculptures. each a little over two meters high, a granite pedestal and an arch.

The funds for the monument were allocated by the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation and the Double-Headed Eagle Society for the Development of Russian Historical Education.

“Our composition was not easy. The arch unites two loving hearts – Nicholas and Alix, and is also crowned with an Orthodox cross,” said the sculptor Irina Makarova. – “In addition, there are other persons – Nicholas’ uncle Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, and his wife, the sister of the bride, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, who helped unite the two loving hearts. They were all together in Alushta on that day in 1894.”

PHOTO: The consecration of the monument to Nicholas and Alexandra in Alushta

“We decided to portray Nicholas Alexandrovich in a Hussar uniform – it was in this outfit that he got married,” added Irina Makarova. “In her hands Elizabeth Feodorovna is depicted holding a small icon of the Saviour as the personification of spirituality. After all, she supported her sister when Alix doubted whether to change her faith The arch is also a symbol of Orthodoxy and Holy Russia.”

“My husband and I worked together on every detail,” – said Irina Makarova. – “We argued for a long time over the likeness of the future Emperor. We took the advice of Konstantin Valerievich, slightly changing the shape of the eyes and nose so that Nicholas II would become recognizable in his youth. After that we managed to achieve maximum realism.”

According to local residents, this monument will immortalize not only the meeting of two loving hearts, but also their loyalty for one another.

“I kiss and caress you endlessly, I want to show you all the power of my love for you,” wrote Alexandra Feodorovna to her husband. “Always yours to death and beyond …”

Click HERE to read 3 additional articles (with photos) about the Monument to Nicholas and Alexandra in Alushta

© Paul Gilbert. 30 October 2020

The History and Restoration of the Imperial Bedchamber in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom as it looked in the 1930s

The Imperial Bedroom or Bedchamber was among one of the first apartments prepared for the arrival of the Imperial couple to the Alexander Palace.

Nicholas was very fond of their new home at Tsarskoye Selo, On first seeing the newly decorated apartments in September 1895 he wrote to his mother:

“our mood . . . changed to utter delight when we settled ourselves into these marvellous rooms: sometimes we simply sit in silence wherever we happen to be and admire the walls, the fireplaces, the furniture… .”

Between 1894-1895, the bedchamber was redesigned from the bedroom furnished for the wedding in 1874 of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna (daughter of Alexander II) to Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh. The interior was renovated according to the project of Roman Melzer. The furniture, which had been preserved from the previous decoration, was repainted in white and covered with an English chintz pattern in the form of wreaths of small pink flowers and ribbons. The same fabric was used to make the drapes and alcove curtains for the room.

To carry out the finishing work, the furniture manufacturer Karl Greenberg was invited, who had designed the interior for the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh. In addition, Greenberg designed the dressing room adjacent to the Bedchamber and the Empress’s small Dressing Room.

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom as it looked in the 1930s

Gradually, in the autumn of 1895, the furniture began to be replaced. In 1897, the double walnut bed was replaced by two gilded copper beds made by the Moscow firm Tyapunov and Son.

In September 1901, “a thick raspberry velvet carpet which covered the entire floor,” was purchased for the Bedchamber from the merchants Korovins, suppliers of the Imperial Court, for the sum of 747 rubles 50 kopecks.

As can be seen in photographs from the early 20th century, the alcove wall was filled with icons. Over the years, the number of icons steadily increased, many of them gifted to the Imperial family. Among them were many unique images: an icon made by craftsmen on a cut of a tree, or an icon depicting Christ blessing Nicholas II, Alexandra Feodorovna and Tsesarevich Alexei with the inscription: “The Lord Himself blesses and has mercy on them.” Unfortunately, many of these icons were lost: having been sold in the 1930s or disappeared during the war and occupation of the palace by the Nazis. The museum funds preserved the icon “St. Nicholas the Wonderworker”, presented to Nicholas II on the day of his coronation by the abbess of the Seraphim-Ponetaevsky monastery in the Nizhny Novgorod province, as well as two icons presented to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, among several others.

After the completion of the current restoration work, several hundred icons will once again appear in the alcove of the Bedchamber interior. Unfortunately, due to the numerous losses of the original icons which once hung here, the historic recreation of this collection will never be fully restored.

During the Great Patriotic War, the interior of the Bedchamber was seriously damaged. The alcove had collapsed, the wall decorations and the furniture were all lost. Only one chair survived, which is now in the collection of the Pavlovsk State Museum-Reserve.

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom as it looks today

Reliable reconstruction of the original historic look of the Bedchamber, structural elements and furniture finishing details became possible thanks to preserved historical photographs from the collections of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve, the Pavlovsk State Museum-Reserve, the Central State Archive of Film and Photo Documents (St. Petersburg) and the State Archive of the Russian Federation  (Moscow). In these pictures, the interior is presented from different angles. Fragments of chintz and silk twill from the collection from the museum collection, as well as the one chair from the Bedchamber, have been miraculously been preserved, thus becoming invaluable resources for the reconstruction of furniture.

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom as it looks today

Since the beginning of the restoration work in the Bedchamber, in addition to architectural elements (alcove, frieze), fabrics on the walls, carpeting, curtains have all been recreated. The project for the production of furniture for this interior has already been completed and work will soon begin on the production of items for the Bedchamber on the Empress’s half of the room.

PHOTO: detail of the Imperial Bedroom as it looks today

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The Imperial Bedroom of Nicholas II is now one of 15 interiors in the eastern wing of the palace, scheduled to open in 2021. Among the other interiors are the Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, and the New Study of Nicholas II.

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.

© Paul Gilbert. 14 October 2020

“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