Memorial plaque to Nicholas II and his mother unveiled in Kostroma

PHOTO: memorial plaque to Emperor Nicholas II and his mother Empress Maria Feodorovna unveiled and consecrated on 15th January 2022, on the facade of the Oncological Dispensary – the former Feodorovskaya Hospital in Kostroma

On 15th January 2022, a memorial plaque bearing the images of Emperor Nicholas II and his mother Empress Maria Feodorovna was officially unveiled and consecrated on the facade of the Oncological Dispensary – the former Feodorovskaya Hospital in Kostroma.

The memorial plaque was officially unveiled by the mayor of Kostroma, Yuri Zhurin, and the chairman of the Society of the Historical Russian Imperial Red Cross, Count Sergei Kapnist. At the end of the ceremony, Metropolitan Ferapont of Kostroma and Nerekhta consecrated the memorial plaque, sprinkling it with holy water.

Constructed in 1911-1913, the hospital fell under the administration of a community of sisters of mercy of the Red Cross in the name of the Feodorovskaya Icon of the Mother of God.

The hospital was considered one of the most advanced in Russia of the time. The hospital was under the patronage of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, who served as president of Russia’s Red Cross during the First World War.

PHOTO: Nicholas II and his daughters visit the Feodorovskaya Hospital in Kostroma, 20th May 1913

During the celebrations marking 300th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty in 1913, Emperor Nicholas II and his four daughters Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia visited the hospital on 20th May.

During the First World War, the hospital was used as an infirmary for wounded Russian soldiers. Currently, it is one of the buildings of the oncological dispensary.

The memorial plaque was made with the support of the Russian Red Cross Society and the Union of Historical and Educational Societies “Heritage of the Empire”, was installed on the building’s façade on 14th November 2021.

Repair and restoration work has been completed on the facade of the architectural monument. Funding was provided by the Kostroma Regional Anti-Cancer Charitable Foundation and the Heritage Charitable Foundation.

The inscription translated reads:

“The hospital building was built by the Russian Red Cross Society and with the personal participation of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. In May 1913, Emperor Nicholas visited the hospital.”

© Paul Gilbert. 16 January 2022

Bolsheviks and atheists oppose installation of a monument to Nicholas II in Vladimir

PHOTO: the clay model of the monument to Nicholas II by sculptor Ilya Shanin

Within 24 hours of the announcement of plans to install a new monument to Emperor Nicholas II this summer in Vladimir, opponents reared their ugly heads in protest. It should come as no surprise, that the statements issued by both communist and atheist opposition groups wreak of historical inaccuracies and hypocrisy.

According to Russian media sources, the initiative was first criticized by the regional branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. The party’s statement says that local communists are “categorically opposed to perpetuating the memory of ‘Nicholas the Bloody‘ because he organized the mass execution of unarmed workers in St. Petersburg and dragged Russia into two unnecessary wars.

“The cynicism of the initiative is further aggravated by the fact that 2022 is the year marking the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the most developed and fairest state in the world, thanks to whose legacy the Russian Federation still exists. The installation of a monument to the unfortunate tsar who denied his people civil rights and the Constitution looks like blasphemy and mockery not only of common sense, but also of the victorious people,” the regional branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation argued in a statement.

It is interesting to note that these same communists themselves work to immortalize the name of Stalin in Vladimir. In 2015, a bust of Stalin was installed near the offices of the Vladimir regional committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. It was later moved to a private property, along with monuments to other Soviet leaders. Recently, they proposed to rename a street in honour of the Soviet dictator, or at least hang a memorial plaque in his honour.

It is interesting – and yet not surprising – that the communists prefer to overlook the fact that Joseph Stalin remains one of the most notorious figures in history, one whose legacy is stained with the blood of millions of innocent Russians, through collectivization, famine, terror campaigns, disease, war and mortality rates in the Gulag. Sadly, we may never know the actual numbers, but the number of victims is estimated to be in the millions.

PHOTO: Metropolitan Tikhon of Vladimir and Suzdal

In addition, the Vladimir branch of the All-Russian public organization “Atheists of Russia” have also voiced their opposition to the monument to Nicholas II in the city. The activists sent an appeal to Metropolitan Tikhon of Vladimir and Suzdal, in which they asked to prohibit the installation of the monument, even though the monument is to be installed on the grounds of the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity.

“In the history of Russia, perhaps, it is impossible to find rulers to whom society treated so negatively as to Nicholas Romanov, who received the nickname “bloody” among the people. The majority associate Nicholas Romanov with the powerlessness and illiteracy of the population of Russia, the shooting of peaceful demonstrators, obscurantism, failed wars, etc. “

Members of the organization believe that the implementation of the project may lead to conflicts on religious grounds in the Vladimir region. What nonsense!

It should be noted, that the installation of the proposed monument to Nicholas II on the grounds of the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity, has not yet been approved by Metropolitan Tikhon. Despite this, the rector of the church announced a fundraising initiative for its construction on 7th November 2021.

© Paul Gilbert. 11 January 2022

New monument to Nicholas II to be installed in Vladimir

PHOTO: the clay model of the monument to Nicholas II by sculptor Ilya Shanin

A new monument to Emperor Nicholas II will be installed later this year on the grounds of the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity in the Russian city of Vladimir.

The monument is created by the famous Vladimir sculptor Ilya Shanin. The pedestal will be created by Nikolai Andrianov, and the memorial plaques by Yuri Tumarkin and artist Olga Rozanova.

The emperor will be presented from the waist up wearing a ceremonial uniform, with a ribbon over his shoulder, crosses, orders and medals. The height of the sculpture without a pedestal is 125 centimeters [app. 4 ft.]. According to Shanin, the sculpture has been completed, the removal of the mould from the clay model will be done next. The monument will be cast from bronze at a plant in Smolensk.

The monument will be erected on the grounds of the Vladimir Trinity Church on Museum Street, to the left of the entrance. A pedestal will be erected for the sculpture, the area around monument will be landscaped.

It is planned that funds for the casting and installation of the monument will be collected with the help of donations. According to Ilya Shanin, the project will cost about 1.5 million rubles [$20,000 USD]. The sculptor estimates that the monument will be unveiled in the summer of 2022.

PHOTO: the wall of the cell of the gatekeeper of the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity in Vladimir, is decorated with a mural of marking the 100th anniversary of the death and martyrdom of the Imperial Family. The Russian caption reads 1918 прости нас государь 2018 / 1918 Forgive us Sovereign 2018

According to Shanin, the idea to install the monument of the Emperor near the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity, belongs to Father Eugene. During divine liturgies, he often prays for Nicholas II and his family, who were murdered in Ekaterinburg on 17th July 1918.

Ilya Shanin is a parishioner of the church. He believes that the numerous troubles and catastrophes of the Russian people during the 20th century are partly a punishment for the bloody murder of the Imperial Family in the Ipatiev House. The sculptor hopes that the monument to the emperor will give people a purpose to delve into history or start discussions about the life and reign of Nicholas II, but will also help people look into themselves, repent and to pray for forgiveness.

The installation of the monument to Nicholas II in Vladimir will be a first for the city. The only monument to a Russian monarch was that of Emperor Alexander II, which was installed in 1913 on Cathedral Square, in front of the bank building. After the February Revolution of 1917, it was removedfrom the pedestal, and replaced with a sculpture of the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin.

Note that Nicholas II visited Vladimir once, on 16th May 1913. Together with members of the Imperial Family, he visited the ancient city in the year marking the 300th anniversary of the House of Romanov. It was on this day, that a solemn meeting was organized on the platform of the Vladimir railway station, after which Nicholas II visited the Assumption Cathedral.

© Paul Gilbert. 10 January 2022

The Romanovs on ‘Seinfeld’?!

PHOTO: “Susan” leafing through an August 1995 issue of The New Yorker, which depicts a photo of Emperor Nicholas II and his family

Last night, I was watching an old 1995 episode of ‘Seinfeld’, when one particular clip grabbed my attention. “Susan Ross” (played by Heidi Swedberg, is seen relaxing on the sofa while flipping through a magazine. As she turned the page, I immediately recognized the photo of Nicholas II and his family walking through a park—possibly Alexandria at Peterhof or Livadia?

PHOTO: pages 72 and 73 of the August 21st, 1995 issue of The New Yorker

As it turns out, she is reading the August 21st, 1995 issue of The New Yorker magazine, which featured an excerpt from The Romanovs: The Final Chapter by Robert K. Massie, published by Random House the same year. The excerpt was titled The Last Romanov Mystery.

I immediately grabbed my iPhone and snapped the photo seen at the top of this article, and then compared it the issue of The New Yorker (seen above). Sure enough, the photo was published on pages 72 and 73.

I am delighted to share this interesting observation and little known television trivia.

© Paul Gilbert. 2 January 2022

The Romanov Restaurant in Tobolsk

PHOTO: entrance to the Romanov Restaurant, Hotel Slavyanskaya, Tobolsk

With the recent opening of the new airport in Tobolsk in September 2021, the popular although remote Siberian city is expecting to attract more visitors.

Founded in 1590, Tobolsk is the second-oldest Russian settlement east of the Ural Mountains in Asian Russia, and is a historic capital of the Siberia region. Tobolsk is rich in history. Aside from the beautiful Kremlin, numerous museums and other historic sights, the Museum of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II, which opened in 2018, has become a popular venue for visitors.

For any one pursuing their interest in the last Tsar and his family, the Hotel Slavyanskaya is the perfect place to stay. Opened in June 1994, the Hotel Slavyanskaya was the first European-level hotel in the region, located in the city center. It offers 177 rooms equipped with Italian handmade furniture in the style of Louis XV.

PHOTO: elegant interior of the Romanov Restaurant, Hotel Slavyanskaya, Tobolsk

The Romanov Restaurant is located on the sixth floor of the Slavyanskaya. As you exit the lift, where guests are greeted by a large equestrian portrait of Emperor Nicholas II, and elegant heraldic symbols thus creating a regal atmosphere.

PHOTO: equestrian portrait of Emperor Nicholas II, outside the entrance to the restaurant

The interior is on two-levels, a grand staircase leading to the upper tier, the railings are covered with gold leaf. The decor of the hall is designed in light golden-beige tones with attributes of a royal theme. The walls are covered with panels draped in noble fabrics. And the exquisite design of the curtains on the windows give the hall the looks of a grand palace. The interior is complemented by Corinthian columns, cornices with gilded brackets.

The stylized monogram of Nicholas II is present in many elements of decor, dishes, serving utensils, napkins, tablecloths, etc. The restaurant is also decorated with a large mirror in a carved gilded frame, and a restored ivory grand piano made by the world famous F. Muhlbach firm.

PHOTO: portrait of Nicholas II and his family by Ekaterina Masyutina

The most striking element of the Romanov Restaurant is the oval-shaped plafond with a group portrait of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, created by the Russian artist Ekaterina Masyutina.

PHOTOS: Artist Ekaterina Masyutina working on her portrait of the Imperial Family

PHOTO: detail of Emperor Nicholas II and his family

PHOTO: portrait of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, created by the Russian artist Ekaterina Masyutina, Romanov Restaurant, Hotel Slavyanskaya, Tobolsk

© Paul Gilbert. 1 January 2022

Nicholas II gifts bell to French parish in 1897

PHOTO: Bell gifted by Emperor Nicholas II to the town of Châtellerault, 1897

For the last 124 years, a tiny French parish has held a secret with a little known connection to Russia’s last emperor and tsar Nicholas II.

In 1891, Russia placed a large order for rifles from the Manufacture de Châtellerault in France. The Manufacture d’Armes de Châtellerault was recognized throughout France for the manufacture of Lebels rifles. From 1891 to 1894, a Russian mission stayed in Châteauneuf, to supervise the manufacture of 500,000 rifles ordered by Emperor Alexander III.

When the Russian garrison came to take possession of the arms, they received a warm welcome by the town and especially, the parish priest of Saint-Jean-l’Évangéliste Church on rue Clément Jannequin in Châteauneuf, who opened the doors of his Catholic church so that a priest could perform an Orthodox Liturgy for their Russian guests.

PHOTO: The brass bell weighed 2600 kg and was covered with a layer of silver

Following Alexander III’s death in 1894, a memorial service was organized in the square in front of the church on 8th November 1894. In gratitude, for their kindness to the memory of his beloved father, Emperor Nicholas II gifted a beautifully ornate bell to the parish of Châteauneuf, a town situated on the Vienne River, located in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of France.

The bronze bell was cast at the V.M. Orlov bell factory in Saint Petersburg, with a diameter of 1.75m, weighing more than 2600 kg and is covered with a layer of silver. It was decorated with four medallions representing two Russian Tsars, Alexander III and Nicholas II, and two French presidents, Sadi Carnot and Félix Faure, in honour of the Franco-Russian Alliance. The inscription in both French and Russian reads: “Ring for the peace and fraternity of all people”.

In 2012, the bell was listed as an historic monument, and thus eligible for funding for its restoration. The bell had been silent for several years, however, in 2017 a decision was made to make repairs. The work was carried out at the Bodet company, located in Maine-et-Loire at a cost of 15,000 euros. One specialist in clocks and bells remarked in admiration: “It is one of the most beautiful bells that I have seen”.

PHOTO: Saint-Jean-l’Évangéliste Church in Châteauneuf,

For 10 days, the workers assembled a wooden easel and installed an electronic system to ring the bell again. But unlike before, it was no longer used solely to indicate the time, it now rings during services: masses, weddings and baptisms. The rare Russian bell rang once again on 11th May 2017, and continues to ring to this day.

© Paul Gilbert. 24 December 2021

How British intelligence tried to get Nicholas II out of Russia

PHOTO: King George V and Emperor Nicholas II

In 1917, British intelligence officers developed several options for evacuating Tsar Nicholas II from Russia without delay, but the British government and King George V did not have enough resolve to carry out this operation. An article published by the BBC News русская служба [Russian Service], by Russian journalist Olga Ivshina, revealed some interesting new details from recently declassified secret service documents and the Royal Archives,

Discussions on the possible evacuation of Nicholas II from Russia began almost immediately after the Tsar’s abdication from the throne on 2nd March 1917. Already on 19th March, British General Sir John Hanbury-Williams met with Nicholas II’s mother, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna.

Britain’s concerns for the Romanov family is explained by the fact that King George V was a cousin of both Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra. The two monarchs were close and often corresponded, calling each other ‘old Nicky’ and ‘dear Georgie’. In addition, Britain and Russia were allies in the First World War.

The British general and the dowager empress agreed that the abdicated tsar should leave Russia as soon as possible. Maria Feodorovna – born in Copenhagen and holding the title of Danish princess before marriage – advocated that her son be evacuated to Denmark. She expressed concern that in the event of a longer sea voyage, that the ship carrying her son could be sunk by a German submarine. The British general assured Maria Feodorovna that he could ensure the safety of the Tsar. He even offered to personally accompany the Imperial Family out of Russia to England. Maria Fedorovna agreed. The British Ambassador to Russia Sir George Buchanan began negotiations with representatives of the Russian interim government on possible evacuation routes.

Several obstacles remained. First, it was necessary to convince Nicholas II of the need to leave, who, judging by his diary entries, still wanted to stay and dreamed of spending the rest of his days in Crimea with some kind of special honourary status. Secondly, it was necessary to obtain the final confirmation of the operation from London. And thirdly, it was necessary to figure out how to get the Romanovs out of Russia by passing the armed detachments of the Bolsheviks.

The fact is that at that moment the Provisional Government did not fully control the volatile situation in the country. It was strongly opposed by the influential Petrograd Soviet of Workers ‘and Soldiers’ Deputies, which were against the departure of Nicholas II and demanded that he be tried.

PHOTO: Oliver Locker-Lampson (1880-1954)
© Imperial War Museum

Plan one – creative

While the politicians were negotiating, intelligence scouts got to work. Some of the documents shedding light on the events of those days remain classified. Researchers Richard Aldrich, Rory Cormac and Andrew Cook managed to piece together the details of several plans.

One of them was proposed by Oliver Locker-Lampson (1880-1954), an officer of the Royal Navy. He was simultaneously the commander of a division of machine-gun armoured vehicles and a member of the British Parliament.

In 1916, the Locker-Lampson[1] division was transferred to Russia, where he immediately took action. According to his memoirs, in 1917 he was instructed to develop a plan for the rescue of Nicholas II.

By this time, Locker-Lampson managed to recruit one of the servants who worked in the Alexander Palace – it was there that the Imperial Family were being held under arrest after the Tsar’s abdication. According to the intelligence plan, on the designated day, the servant was supposed to come, shave off Nicholas II’s beard, change clothes with him and attach himself a false beard, similar to that of the emperor.

Nicholas II then had to calmly leave the palace and walk to the place where British intelligence officers would be waiting for him in a motorcar. Then the Tsar would be transferred to an armoured vehicle, then taken to Arkhangelsk under the protection of the British military and sent to London.

At first glance, the plan looked naive. But, as subsequent events showed, Locker-Lampson had previous experience of evacuation operations. In 1933, he helped Albert Einstein escape from Nazi persecution, and in 1936 he transported Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia to England so that he would not fall into the hands of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. During World War II, Locker-Lampson evacuated dozens of Jewish families from Germany.

The officer’s plan had one weak point – it meant the salvation of only Nicholas II himself. A devout husband and father, the forsaken Emperor had made it very clear, that he would not leave Russia without his beloved wife and children.

There was still one other obstacle to Lampson’s plan: it was necessary to get the approval of London and send a warship to Russia to evacuate the Romanovs. Time was quickly running out for both the Imperial Family and the scouts. General Hanbury-Williams sent an urgent telegram after telegram to Britain, but there was still no answer.

PHOTO: Prime Minister David Lloyd George

Wasteful and bloody

The General’s telegrams reached Downing Street, but the government was in no hurry to make a decision. So, in a note from the King’s secretary, Lord Stamfordham, for example, it is mentioned that Prime Minister David Lloyd George was very interested in the question of how much money Nicholas II would need to live in England. The First World War drained Britain’s budget and the prime minister did not seem to be pleased with the prospect of any additional burden on the treasury.

“Can you find out what private savings the emperor has?” – the prime minister asked the British ambassador to Russia, George Buchanan.

At that time, there were legends in London about the extravagant wealth of the Russian Imperial Family in British and other foreign banks. The British negative perception of the Romanovs was influenced by stories about the adventures of their “friend” Grigory Rasputin.

Lloyd George also expressed concerns about the presence of the Romanovs in Britain. At that time, the socialist movement was gaining popularity in Britain. After the dispersal of the procession of St. Petersburg workers in 1905, left-wing politicians spoke of Nicholas II only in a negative way, often referring to him as “Nikolai the Bloody”. Lloyd George – among others – feared that the arrival of the Tsar would provoke an increase in revolutionary sentiments in Britain itself.

The Provisional Government in Petrograd repeatedly asked London to provide the Tsar and his family with asylum, at least for the duration of the war. Lloyd George paused for a long time, but Petrograd continued to be Britain’s ally in the First World War. As a result, the government still officially invited Nicholas II and his family to London.

By now, King George V was against any plan to bring his cousin to Britain. The monarch’s secretary in his papers notes that when he heard about the government’s decision, the king “fell into a panic.” The fact is that George began to receive more and more information from his personal secretary and acquaintances that the possible evacuation of the Romanov family to Britain is being widely discussed by workers, Labour MPs, and even members of the British nobility in a negative way.

Not only were people worried about Nicholas II, but also by his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, a German by birth. Having married Nicholas, the German princess converted to Orthodoxy and, as far as can be judged, imbued with love and respect for her adopted Russia. However, rumours continued to circulate in society that she secretly sympathized with Germany, her detractors often claiming that she was a Germn spy.

PHOTO: Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin

The second plan was ambitious

In parallel with the development of plans for the evacuation of the Romanov family, British intelligence officers also worked to undermine or overthrow the new Bolshevik order.

“A large scale invasion is the only thing that can save the situation and Russia,” the cavalier of military orders, the captain of the Royal Navy, Francis Cromie, telegraphed to London.

Together with the legendary British intelligence officer Sidney Reilly, they drew up plans for the landing of the Entente military formations in Russia. The head of the British diplomatic mission under the Soviet government, Robert Bruce Lockhart, at first was against such a plan, but later, realizing the inevitability of intervention, agreed.

In parallel, British intelligence officers tried to help the Socialist-Revolutionaries and monarchists organize an uprising against the Bolsheviks in Arkhangelsk [2]. There is one version which claims that the British were secretly organizing the assassination of Lenin, however, despite years of research, any evidence of such a plot has never been found.

Soviet historians write that diplomat Lockhart called the assassination of Lenin “the primary and most important task.” To this they added that the ambassadors of France and the United States were also involved in the conspiracy. However, Lockhart’s own reports say nothing of the kind, only about the arrest, but not the murder of the Bolshevik leader.

PHOTO: polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930)

The third plan was desperate

By August 1917, any opportunity to rescue the Imperial Family was looking more and more dismal. The provisional government, trying to somehow ensure the safety of the Tsar and his family, sent them away from radical revolutionaries in Petrograd into exile to Tobolsk in Siberia. This significantly complicated the task for British military and intelligence officers. Now they not only had to devise a plan to take Nicholas out from under the noses of the Bolsheviks, but to also overcome thousands of kilometres with him along the vast expanse of the Russian land. However, the officers did not give up.

The head of the Secret Service, Mansfield Cumming, began developing a new plan to rescue the Romanovs. This time the stake was made on Norwegian businessmen and travelers.

It is known that the British turned to the Norwegian polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) for help. This scientist attracted the attention of British intelligence because he knew well not only the main Siberian roads, but the waterways along the Yenisei, which could be very useful in the evacuation of the Tsar. The British also brought in the merchant Jonas Leed to develop the new plan. He often traveled to Siberia, representing the interests of Norwegian companies in the wood and coal mining industries.

Very little is known about the details of the plan involving Leed and Nansen. All that is known for certain is that Leed dined several times with representatives of the Secret Service, as well as with the head of intelligence of the British Navy.

Captain Stefan Ellie may also have been one of the participants in this new plan to save the Tsar. He spoke Russian fluently, since his family had lived in Russia since the 1870s. Ellie is one of the few British people who stayed to work in Russia even after the evacuation of the British embassy in late 1917.

Many details of Ellie’s mission remain unknown. But in 2006, his relatives found a notebook among his belongings. One of the spreads showed a hand-drawn map of the area in and around the Ipatiev house in Ekaterinburg, where Nicholas II was transferred in April of 1918, and a description of the house.

According to declassified data, on 24th May 1918, Ellie reported to London about his readiness to carry out an operation, during which “seven important persons” would be taken to Murmansk[3]. In the report, he listed the names of six people who were supposed to take part in the operation. Ellie noted that they were all fluent in Russian and could impersonate local residents. The scout also asked for £1,000[4] “due to increased operating costs.”

Researchers agree that this plan could not have been worked out without the prior approval of the British government and King George V.

PHOTO: Captain Stefan Ellie’s notebook helped learn details of MI6’s latest plan to rescue the Imperial Family

From recently declassified documents, it becomes clear that British intelligence had evidence that Germany was also preparing a plan to take the Imperial Family out of Russia. Technically, the Germans had a chance to do this, since a significant number of their military and equipment were already in Russian territories due to their participation in the First World War.

European royal historian and researcher Karina Urbach, who has access to German archives, confirms that there was a plan to “kidnap Nikolai Romanov” from the German special services. Information about this plan was gradually leaked to British intelligence officers.

Despite the fact that Kaiser Wilhelm II was at war with Russia, but was also the godfather of Tsesarevich Alexei and sincerely wanted to save him. Urbach notes that after the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia, it was Germany that objectively had the best opportunity to rescue the Tsar and his family.

Berlin could have done this with the help of its own spies or, with much more success, through diplomatic negotiations. Researchers believe that Germany could have raised the issue of the “extradition” of the Romanovs as one of the conditions for signing a peace treaty with the Bolsheviks.

Judging by the declassified correspondence of the British Foreign Office, on 28th May 1918, diplomats discussed for the last time whether they should raise the issue of evacuating Nicholas II’s five children during negotiations with Leon Trotsky, who at that time was chairman of the Supreme Military Council. During the discussion, they came to the conclusion that even if Trotsky agrees, the Romanovs will need to be guarded on the way to Murmansk. However, the Bolshevik guard was unreliable, and it was feared that the presence of a British guard could provoke attacks on the Imperial Family along the way. As a result, the British found themselves in a vicious circle – their intervention would only further harm those whom they were trying to save.

Historian Andrew Cook believes that telegrams with details of the evacuation plan for Nicholas II, sent by Major Ellie to London, could have been intercepted by the Bolsheviks. Perhaps this was the reason for the increased security of the Ipatiev House and the Imperial Family in the summer of 1918.

On 17th July 1918, Nicholas II with his wife, their five children and four faithful servants were all brutally murdered in Ekaterinburg—there were no survivors.

Less than a year later, the British battleship Marlborough rescued Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, along with other Romanovs with their families to the British naval base in Malta.


[1] Locker-Lampson became somewhat entangled in Russian politics at this time. He said later that he had been asked to participate in the 1916 assassination of Rasputin. It is also alleged that in September 1917 he was involved in Kornilov’s attempted coup against the provisional government of Alexander Kerensky.

[2] The city resisted Bolshevik rule from 1918 to 1920 and was a stronghold of the anti-Bolshevik White Army supported by the military intervention of British-led Entente forces.

[3] Murmansk, Russia’s first ice free port was founded in 1916 by Nicholas II and named Romanov-on-Murman.

[4] In terms of today’s money, this is approximately 50 thousand British pounds (66 thousand US dollars or 4.9 million rubles).

© Paul Gilbert. 18 December 2021

Bust of Nicholas II planned for Achinsk

On 15-16 [O.S. 2-3] July 1891, Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich [the future Emperor Nicholas II], visited Achinsk on his journey across Siberia to St. Petersburg.

Achinsk is a city in Krasnoyarsk Krai, located on the right bank of the Chulym River near its intersection with the Trans-Siberian Railway, 184 kilometers (114 mi) west of Krasnoyarsk.

On 10th December, a planning committee met to discuss plans to install a bust-memorial of Nicholas Alexandrovich to mark his historic visit to the city 130 years ago.

“Nicholas II was not only a political leader, under which our country became one of the three most advanced countries in industrial production, but also became one of the spiritual centers of the world,” says Viktor Barykin, an Achinsk ethnographer, one of the members of the initiative group. “The bust should become a symbol of our spiritual unity and the reconciliation of all forces in the name of the future of Russia,” he added.

Having considered various options, the participants in the initiative group agreed that the bust must be made of bronze, and the pedestal must be granite. As Achinsk lacks the technical ability to fulfill such an order, specialists from Moscow will be consulted.

According to preliminary calculations, together with the pedestal, the work will cost about 900 thousand rubles [$12,300 USD]. It is unlikely that the city’s budget will be able to allocate that kind of money, therefore bringing the project to fruition will depend on the financial support of patrons and private donations. If every resident of Achinsk contributes at least 10 rubles, this will be enough. In the near future, a special account will be registered to which a person can make a donation for this good cause. The option of participation in the city program, which provides for the financing of initiative projects, is also being considered, but the application cannot be submitted until March of next year.

If all goes according to plan, the bust can be opened for the 340th anniversary of Achinsk, which will be celebrated in 2023. The bust is planned to be installed in Trinity Park, next to the Poklonny Cross on the site of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, where the future Emperor went to pray, and later destroyed by the the Communists in the 1930s.

A preliminary sketch of the proposed bust-monument has already been made: Nicholas II is depicted as a young man – that year when he visited Achinsk, he was only 23 years old.

“It should not be a monument for the sake of a monument,” – said the artist and Honorary Citizen of Achinsk Pavel Batanov, who was unanimously elected as the chairman of the initiative group. “First of all, the bust-monument should combine royalty, humanity, and holiness. The main thing is that it should be created at a high professional level.”

© Paul Gilbert. 13 December 2021

COLOUR Hard cover edition of ‘Nicholas II. Portraits’ now available!





Large format 8-1/2″ x 11″ hard cover and paperback editions, with 178 pages + 200 Colour and black & white photographs


I am pleased to announce the publication of my latest book Nicholas II. Portraits, in both hard cover and paperback editions. This is first hard cover book and my first book featuring full colour photographs.

Originally published in 2019, with 140 pages with 175 black and white photos, this new expanded edition features more pages and more photographs: 180 pages + more than 200 photos, including 185 FULL COLOUR and 30 black & white!

Nicholas II. Portraits explores a century of portraits of Russia’s last emperor and tsar, through the eyes of pre-revolutionary and contemporary Russian, and foreign artists.

This unique title – the first book of its kind ever published on the subject – features an introduction, as well as a series of short articles, and richly illustrated, including many full-page, with detailed and informative captions.

The cover features a portrait of Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich (1889), the future Emperor Nicholas II, by the artist Baron Ernst Friedrich von *Lipgart (1847-1932).

* Lipgart painted a whole gallery of portraits of Nicholas II, my book features 10 of them – all in COLOUR!

The Emperor is depicted in the uniform of the Prussian 8th Hussar Regiment, of which he was appointed an Honourary Chief in 1889, his cape is decorated with the Royal Prussian Order of the Black Eagle.

The painting hung from 1890 to 1995 in the former dining room of Neuhaus Castle, directly opposite the portrait of Elector Clemens August of Bavaria. The officers of the 8th Hussar Regiment established a club for their meetings here and in the adjacent premises. The Prussian regiment was stationed at Neuhaus and Paderborn castle from 1851 to 1919. Following the end of World War I, the regiment was disbanded.

From the Collection of the Museum of the House of Bavarian History in Regensburg, Bavaria.

The articles include: Serov’s Unfinished 1900 Portrait of Nicholas II; A Nun’s Gift to Russia’s New Tsar. The Fate of a Portrait; Galkin’s Ceremonial Portrait of Nicholas II Discovered; among others!

Famous portraits and their respective artists are all represented, including Serov, Repin, Lipgart, Tuxen, Bakmanson, Becker, Bogdanov-Belsky, Kustodiev, and many others.

The last section of the book is dedicated to the works of contemporary Russian artists, who have painted outstanding portraits of Nicholas II since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.


© Paul Gilbert. 10 December 2021

Dispute over the colour of Nicholas II’s eyes


Many people who met Nicholas II, whether friend or foe, testify to his overwhelming charm. “With his usual simplicity and friendliness,” wrote his Prime Minister, Vladimir Kokovtsov. “A rare kindness of heart,” commented Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov. “A charm that attracted all that came near him,” wrote British Ambassador Sir George Buachanan. “Charming in the kindly simplicity of his ways,’ said his niece’s husband Prince Felix Yusupov.

It was Nicholas II’s eyes, in particular, which attracted people to him. His cousin Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich wrote of “that clear, deep, expressive look that cannot fail but charm and enchant.”

Yet it is the colour of Nicholas II’s eyes seems to be in dispute. His early biographer Sergei Oldenburg refers to his “large radiant grey eyes,” which “peered directly into one’s soul and lent power to his words”; Hélène Vacaresco who met Nicholas when he was Tsesarevich, also wrote of his “large grey eyes.” One of his most intimate cousins Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, on the other hand, refers to the “beauty of his frank blue eyes.”

More strangely Count Vladimir Nikolayevich Kokovtsov, who served as as the Prime Minister of Russia from 1911 to 1914, had the chance to stare into those eyes many times, writes that they were “usually of a velvety dark brown.” Perhaps he was colour blind?

The true colour of Nicholas II’s eyes is captured in Serov’s famous portrait, painted in 1900, the eyes are a grey-blue, matching the colour of his uniform. 

Archpriest Lev Lebedev (1935-1998) writes: “The direct gaze of his deep grey-blue eyes, which often flashed with welcoming humour, penetrated into the very soul of his interlocutors, completely captivating people . . .”.

Russian historian Konstantin Gennadievich Kapkov writes in his book Духовный мир Императора Николая II и его семьи [The Spiritual World of Nicholas II and His Family]: “The main thing that he inspired was awe, not fear. I think his eyes were the reason. Yes I’m sure it was his eyes, so beautiful were they. The most delicate blue shade, they looked straight in the face. With the kindest, tender and loving expression. How could you feel fear? His eyes were so clear that he seemed to open his whole soul to your sight.

© Paul Gilbert. 28 November 2021