Furniture recreated for the Corner Reception Room in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: Colour autochrome of the Corner Reception Room, taken in 1917

The restoration of the gilded furniture set (armchairs, chairs and sofas), which will decorate the Corner Reception Room of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace has been completed.

The Corner Reception Room was originally connected to the Concert Hall by a door located along its central wall. In 1895, a fundamental restructuring of the eastern wing of the palace began, whereby the private apartments for Nicholas II and his family would be created. In 1902–1904, when the Maple Drawing Room and the New Study of Nicholas II were created on the site, the Corner Reception Room was connected to the corridor, becoming part of the personal imperial apartments, but at the same time retained its ceremonial function.

PHOTO: recreated chairs, armchairs and sofas for the Corner Reception Room

The furniture of the Corner Reception Room was almost completely lost during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). For the new recreated interior set, the selected items were made in the classic style, since most of the gilded furniture that adorned this interior at the beginning of the 20th century – until 1941 – was executed in this style.

The set was restored by specialists from the Tsarskoye Selo Amber Workshop. The restored gilded chairs and armchairs with oval backs and seats were made in the 1770s. Before World War II, these items decorated interiors of the Catherine Palace, in the foyer of the Chinese Theater (in the Alexander Park) and in the White Hall of Gatchina Palace. Two sofas from the second half of the 19th century, also included in the furniture set, were transferred to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum from the State Hermitage in 1959.

PHOTO: original upholstery sample for the furniture in the Corner Reception Room

In the process of restoration, the craftsmen removed all types of dirt, restored the gesso and gilding, recreated the lost carved details with the subsequent summing up of gesso, diverging and gilding, and upholstery works. In the seat cushion of one of the sofas, the craftsmen found fragments of the original  horsehair, used to fill it. Due to the fact that one of the fragments clearly reads the date – 1865, as well as the fact that the sofa was upholstered once, the object can be dated to that year.

The chairs, armchairs and sofas share the same stylistic unity, as well as the upholstery fabric. In the an old 1917 brochure which describes the Alexander Palace, the furniture of the Corner Reception Room is described: “Furniture of the Louis XVI style of the Russian slave. late 18th century, re-gilded and upholstered in silk. the work of the Sapozhnikov factory in Moscow. / In the style of striped fabrics of the era of Louis XVI.” A fragment of the original upholstery fabric for the furniture of the Corner Reception Room, made in 1903, which had been preserved in the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum, served as a model for recreating the upholstery fabric of the restored items. A pattern of alternating light stripes and stripes of various shades of pink with small ornaments of roses, flower garlands and wavy lines is clearly visible on the silk fabric.

PHOTO: recreated chairs, armchairs and sofas for the Corner Reception Room

NOTE: all photos © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve

© Paul Gilbert. 3 March 2021


Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in 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 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. The net proceeds help fund my work, including research, translations, etc. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Elena Tretyakova’s gift to Nicholas II in 1911

PHOTO: Elena Andreevna Tretyakova. Paris, 1875. 

In 1911, the famous Russian collector and philanthropist Elena Andreevna Tretyakova (1846-after 1917) presented as a gift to Emperor Nicholas II: her vast collection of paintings, icons, weapons and historical documents which documented Russia’s military history from ancient times. In addition, she donated a significant amount for the construction of the Госуда́рева Ра́тная пала́та [Sovereign Military Chamber] at Tsarskoye Selo. Due to the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the construction of the war museum was not completed. At the height of the First World War, and in anticipation of impending hard times, Elena Tretyakova wrote: “Probably, if not during my lifetime, then afterwards others will appreciate my idea and work.”

It would be another century before the Sovereign Military [aka Martial] Chamber would become a museum. The building was transferred to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve in 2010. Between 2011-2014. the building underwent restoration, at a cost of 292,000,000 rubles ($8 million USD). The building is now home to the ‘Russia in the Great War’ Museum, which was inaugurated on 4th August 2014 , marking the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War One. The museum has been visited by more than 120 thousand people.

The Sovereign Military Chamber at Tsarskoye Selo is the first museum in Russia dedicated entirely to Russia’s participation in the First World War. The history of the museum has its roots in the era of Nicholas II. Today, the museum is a rich repository of military uniforms, weapons, and items used in military life, as well as photographs and documents.

PHOTO: portraits of Elena Tretyakova and Nicholas II in the Sovereign Military Chamber

This year marks the 175th anniversary of the birth of Elena Andreevna Tretyakova (1846-after 1917). 

She was born on 26th February (O.S. 14th) February 1846 in Moscow in the family of the hereditary honorary merchant Andrei Matveyev. In 1868 she married Sergei Mikhailovich Tretyakov (1834-1892), brother of the founder of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov (1832-1898).

According to her contemporaries, Elena was “educated, and distinguished by her natural beauty, with beautiful curved shoulders, a pale, slightly puffy face, a heavy plait of hair on the back of her head and tiny hands, which she was very proud”. She dressed very luxuriously, ordered dresses from Paris and rented a large summer dacha in Peterhof for the summer. Her neighbour at Peterhof was the Russian pianist, conductor, and composer. Nikolai Grigoryevich Rubinstein (1835-1881), with whom she was in love (he died in her arms in 1881 in Paris). Every day she received guests at her home, where an exquisite choir of gypsies sang, which was then in great fashion. The Tretyakovs’ marriage was childless. After the death of her husband she lived in St. Petersburg. Elena Andreevna Tretyakova died after 1917, the exact date is unknown.

Elena Tretyakova’s idea came true more than a hundred years later. Today, her portrait hangs in the Sovereign Military Chamber at Tsarskoye Selo.

PHOTO: the restored Sovereign Martial Chamber at Tsarskoye Selo

© Paul Gilbert. 2 March 2021

Family Disloyalty: Nicholas II and the Vladimirovichi

During the final years of his reign, Emperor Nicholas II was more than aware that the various branches of his family were creating a politically dangerous situation by their open hostility towards him. Among them were his cousin Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich (1856-1929) and uncle Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich (1859-1919), however, it was the hostility which simmered from the Vladimirovich branch of the family which posed the greatest threat to him. 

The Vladimirovichi are inextricably linked to the many myths and lies which have been allowed to germinate for more than a century, and continue to overshadow the life and reign of the Holy Tsar Nicholas II to this day. Some members of the Vladimirovichi were, devoid of principle. They embodied the “treason, cowardice and deceit” that Nicholas II recorded in his diary.

Over the past year, I have researching for my forthcoming article ‘Family Disloyalty: Nicholas II and the Vladimirovichi’, Iwhich will be published in two parts this spring. Below, is a short summary of some of the issues which will be discussed:

In part one, Uncle Vladimir and Aunt Miechen (April 2021), I discuss the often hostile relationship between Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich and his wife Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna towards Emperor Nicholas II. During the last years of Vladimir’s life, the rift between his family and that of Nicholas II widened.

Vladimir’s German born wife, Maria Pavlovna (née Duchess Marie Alexandrine Elisabeth Eleonore of Mecklenburg-Schwerin), a vile opportunist with an over inflated ego, carried the family’s anti-Nicholas agenda to the end of her days. Known as “Miechen” or “Maria Pavlovna the Elder,” she was well known for her acid tongue and spiteful demeanour. The power hungry Maria Pavlovna had an open rivalry with her sister-in-law the Empress Maria Feodorovna (wife of Emperor Alexander III) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (wife of Emperor Nicholas II), the latter of which Maria Pavlovna was notorious for plotting against and spreading malicious gossip. She was also very crafty. Maria remained Lutheran throughout most of her marriage, but converted to Orthodoxy in April 1908, believing it would give her son Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich a better chance at the throne. 

The treachery and deceit which emanated from the Vladimir Palace was not restricted to the senior grand ducal couple, but also to their eldest son and his wife Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich and Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna. In part two, Kirill and Ducky (June 2021), I discuss Kirill marring his paternal first cousin, Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1905, both defying Nicholas II by not obtaining his consent prior. But it was Kirill’s traitorous act during the February Revolution of 1917, in which he is most famous for. It was in Petrograd, that Kirill marched to the Tauride Palace at the head of the Garde Equipage (Marine Guard) to swear allegiance to the Russian Provisional Government, wearing a red band on his uniform. He then authorized the flying of a red flag over his palace on Glinka Street in Petrograd. In 1926, Kirill pompously proclaimed himself “emperor-in-exile”, I also discuss Kirill and Ducky’s alleged Nazi affiliations during their years in exile, Kirill’s infidelity.

It is ironic that following the 1917 Revolution, ALL the members of the Vladimirovich branch of the family managed to get out of Russia, with the exception of Grand Duke Vladimir who had died in 1909

My two-part study will feature excerpts from letters by Nicholas II, his mother Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, and information from new documents sourced from Russian media and archive sources.

Why is this story relevant?

During the Nicholas II Conference, held in Colchester, England on 27th October 2018, I announced that I would be committing myself to researching and writing about the life and reign of Nicholas II. In addition, my personal mission to clear the name of Russia’s much slandered emperor and tsar. As part of the latter, I believe that a comprehensive study of the relationship between the Vladimirovich branch of the Imperial Family and Nicholas II, was an issue which had to be addressed.

As a result, I severed all ties with Maria Vladimirovna and her son George Mikhailovich, as well as the Russian Legitimist cause. My main reason being that this branch of the Imperial Family must be held accountable for their hostility and treachery towards the Holy Tsar Nicholas II.

Many monarchists (myself included) and those faithful to the memory of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, believe that Maria Pavlovna’s malicious gossip and intrigues against Nicholas II, and her son Kirill’s act of treason in 1917, should eliminate the Vladimir branch of the Russian Imperial Family from any further consideration.

In 2011, I interviewed Maria asking her the following two questions on Nicholas II:

“For nearly a century, the last Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II, has been maligned and slandered by Western historians and biographers. In your opinion, how have these historians and authors been mistaken about Nicholas II?”

and . . . 

“In your view, why is the rehabilitation of the Tsar-Martyr Emperor Nicholas II by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation so important for a proper understanding of Russian history?”

Her responses were indeed admirable, however, her refusal to acknowledge the open hostility and treachery of her ancestors towards Nicholas II, in which she remains defensive.

On 2nd September 2020, Maria Vladimirovna, stated the following on her web site:

“She [Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna] was critical of some aspects of the official political course, but she always retained her loyalty and love for Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. She was subjected to slanderous persecution by the court intriguers, who sought to sow discord within the Imperial Family.”

Maria Vladimirovna’s attempt to whitewash the truth about her power hungry great-grandmother and her traitorous grandfather, eluding that she was the victim of “slanderous persecution” is utter nonsense! One cannot sweep history under the rug. Maria and her supporters do not want her ancestors exposed for what they are: traitors! Maria might just gain some respect if she simply spoke honestly, and admitted that her grandfather and great-grandmother were a rotten pair.

In addition, I like many others, believe that the Russian Imperial House ended with the death of Nicholas II, on 17th July 1918. The “Russian Imperial House” – as it exists today – consists of no more than two people: one, a woman who is Russian only because Yeltsin gave her family Russian passports, she failed Russian at Oxford University, and currently lives in Spain; her son, is a Hohenzollern prince and nothing more. Their claim to the now defunct Russian throne is disputed by many Russians.

© Paul Gilbert. 1 March 2021

The birth of the future Emperor Nicholas II in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: the Blue Boudoir in the Alexander Palace, where Nicholas II was born

At 4 o’clock in the morning of 19th May (O.S. 6th May) 1868, Tsarevna Maria Feodorovna began having contractions. The future Empress Maria Feodorovna was about to give birth to her first child. Immediately, the midwife Mikhailova was summoned and instructed to rush to the nearby Catherine Palace, to inform Maria’s father-in-law Emperor Alexander II, that his grandchild’s entry into the world was imminent. The Emperor rushed to the Alexander Palace from his apartments located in the Zubov Wing of the palace, followed shortly thereafter by his wife, Empress Maria Alexandrovna.

At 12:50 p.m., Maria Feodorovna was taken into the bedroom [the Blue Boudoir, situated in the west wing of the palace – has not survived], which had been specially prepared for the pending birth. Lying down on the sofa, she was surrounded by her father-in-law, Emperor Alexander II, her mother-in-law, Empress Maria Alexandrovna, and her husband, the Heir-Tsesarevich Alexander Alexandrovich [future Emperor Alexander III]. Her father-in-law and her husband kneeled on either side of the sofa, holding Maria Feodorovna’s hands when she gave birth – at 2.30 p.m. to her first child, a son – His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich – the future Emperor Nicholas II.

PHOTO: Maria Feodorovna with her first son Nicholas Alexandrovich. 1868

The happy young father wrote in his diary that day: “At long last, the final minute arrived and all suffering ceased at once. God has sent us a son whom we named Nicholas. What a joy it is, it is impossible to imagine, I rushed to hug my darling wife, who at once cheered up and was terribly happy. I cried like a child, it was so pleasant and easy on my soul. I hugged dear Papa and Mama heartily.”

The happy parents decided to name their son in memory of Alexander’s brother Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, who died from cerebro-spinal meningitis in 1865. Had he lived, he would have ascended the throne as Emperor Nicholas II.

Emperor Nicholas II was born on 19th May (O.S. 6th May) 1868, the day of St. Job of the Long Suffering.

© Paul Gilbert. 26 February 2021

Home Church of the Imperial Family in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: the home church of the Imperial Family in the Alexander Palace in the 1930s

On 9th March (O.S. 24th February) 1897, the first liturgy was performed in the home church of the Alexander Palace. “We went to the service in the red corner living room, where the camp church was set up – it is very convenient and pleasant,” Nicholas II wrote in his diary that day.

Initially, a house church had not been built in the New Palace (as the Alexander Palace was called until 1856), Following the tragic death of his beloved daughter Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna (Adini) on 10th August (29th July) 1844, Emperor Nicholas I, ordered a small chapel (see photo below) to be organized in the western wing of the building, decorated in the Old Russian style.

Russian historian and author Igor Zimin describes the room: “there was a little door in the wall, leading to a tiny dark chapel lighted by hanging lamps, where the Empress [Alexandra Feodorovna, wife of Nicholas I] was wont to pray.”

PHOTO: chapel in the west wing of the Alexander Palace [not survived] in the 1930s

Since the wife of Nicholas II, Alexandra Feodorovna, due to poor health, could not always attend the service in the church of the nearby Catherine Palace, the emperor decided to create a comfortable and simple house church in one of the ceremonial halls of the Alexander Palace: the Crimson Drawing Room was redesigned for these needs. The Travelling Iconostasis of Emperor Alexander I, made by Vasily Shebuev, was installed.

The Travelling Iconostasis of Emperor Alexander I was created for the emperor’s use during his travels. Very simple by imperial standards, it reflected simplicity, convenience and ease of use, and adaptable for moving from place to place. It could be quickly and easily disassembled, easily stowed in crates with all accessories and just as quickly reassembled. Nicholas II sometimes took this iconostasis with him on his travels.

PHOTO: Red and “Crimson” Drawing Rooms. Artist: Luigi Premazzi (1814-1891)
From the Collection of the State Hermitage Museum

In the photos, the iconostasis of Alexander I can be seen stretched across the center of the chapel. This screen followed the Emperor from Russia to Paris and back as part of the furnishing of Alexander’s travelling camp church. The iconostasis is now in the General Staff Building [part of the State Hermitage Museum] in St. Petersburg.

In addition, a small prayer room was installed for Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, where a lectern and a sofa were added for her convenience. The church was consecrated in honour of the Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky.

Divine liturgies were held here for more than 15 years, right up until 1913, when the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral was consecrated in Tsarskoye Selo, which from then on served as the family church of Nicholas II and his family.

PHOTOS: View (above) of the Travelling Iconostasis of Emperor Alexander I. 1930s.
The iconostasis (below) is now in the General Staff Building in St. Petersburg. 1930s

On 12th August (O.S. 30th July) 1917, the last divine liturgy was held in the home church of the Alexander Palace. In his diary, Archpriest Alexander Belyaev recalled this day: “After arriving at the palace at 10 o’clock in the morning, we immediately went, under guard, straight to the church. The valet came from the former empress, bringing a small bunch of carnations and said: “Her Majesty asks that you put these flowers on the icon of the Znamensky Mother of God, which will be brought at two o’clock, into the palace church. These flowers are to remain on the icon during the moleben, and then returned to Her Majesty. She wishes to take them with her on her journey <…> The liturgy began at 11 o’clock. Somehow, I could not help but feel that this was the last Divine Liturgy to be served in the former Tsar’s dwelling . . .”,

The home church existed in the Alexander Palace for exactly 20 years. During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), its interiors were damaged, but the iconostasis had been evacuated and after the war it was transferred to the Central repository of museum funds of suburban palaces-museums. In 1956, it was transferred to the State Hermitage Museum in Leningrad. Today, it is exhibited in the former interiors of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the General Staff Building, which is now a branch of the State Hermitage Museum.

PHOTO: the home church of the Imperial Family in the Alexander Palace is circled in RED

© Paul Gilbert. 26 February 2021


Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles 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. The net proceeds help fund my work, including research, translations, etc. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Nicholas II at the 1903 Ball in the Winter Palace

In February, 1903, a grand party was held in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, followed two days later by a grandiose fancy dress ball, whereby guests dressed in bejeweled 17th-century style costumes. The ball, timed to coincide with the 290th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, took place at the end of the Nativity Fast. 

Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna saw the ball as a first step towards the restoration of the rituals and costumes of the Moscow court, continuing the traditions bequeathed by the glorious ancestors of the Romanov dynasty of the distant pre-Petrine times.

Gathering in the Romanov Gallery on 24th (O.S. 11th) February, guests followed in pairs to the Nicholas Hall of the Winter Palace to give their hosts a “Russian bow”. The party’s central event was a concert in the Hermitage Theater with scenes from Modest Musorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov (key parts were performed by Feodor Chaliapin and Nina Figner), Minkus’ ballet La Bayadère and Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake directed by Marius Petipa (performed by the prima ballerina Anna Pavlova). The performance was followed by a Russian dance in the Pavilion Hall. Dinner was given in the Spanish, Italian and Flemish Rooms of the Hermitage. Thereupon Their Majesties and the guests proceeded to the Pavilion Hall where the party culminated in dancing.

PHOTO: Guests pose for a photograph in the Hermitage Theater

The second part of the ball took place two nights later, on 26th (O.S. 13th) February: all the guests dressed in 17th-century style costumes, made from designs by the artist Sergey Solomko, in collaboration with historical experts. Among the 390 guests, were 65 “dancing officers” – all dressed as 17th century archers or falconers – and personally appointed by the Empress . Members of the Imperial Family gathered in the Malachite Room, others in the adjacent areas. When ten o’clock struck, the guests went to the Concert Hall to dance. The court orchestra, wearing costumes of trumpet-players of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich performed behind a gilt grating, while 34 round tables were arranged in the Nicholas Hall for dinner. The Concert Hall and Small Dining Room accommodated bars, the Malachite Room, tables with tea and wine.

When dinner was over, the August hosts and their guests returned to the Concert Hall to dance till one in the morning. After three specially prepared dances were performed (Russian dance, round dance and plyasovaya), directed by chief ballet director Aistov and Kshesinsky, waltzes, quadrilles and mazurkas were enjoyed. Young officers of Guards Regiments, Horse-guardsmen, Life-guardsmen and Lancers, acted as male partners in the dances. Participants had received some training: at the dress rehearsal held in the Pavilion Hall on 10 February, 1903, ladies wore sarafans and kokoshniks, while men sported dresses of streletses, falconers, etc. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna acted as “judges”.

Despite all the doubts, disputes and gossip, leading up to the luxurious and memorable event, the ball went wonderfully well. Impressed by the ball, Nicholas II wrote in his diary:

“The hall, filled with ancient Russian people, looked very beautiful.”

The palace commandant, Major General Vladimir Nikolaevich Voeikov noted:

“The impression was fabulous – from the mass of old national costumes, richly decorated with rare furs, magnificent diamonds, pearls and semi-precious stones, mostly in old frames. On this day, family jewels appeared in such an abundance that exceeded all expectations.”

After the balls of 11th and 13th February, 1903, the Empress commissioned the best photographers of St. Petersburg: L. Levitsky, D.M. Asikritov, D.S. Zdobnov, Yves. Voino-Oransky, F.G. Boasson, E.L. Mrozovskaya and many others, to take individual and collective photographs of the participants in their costumes. In 1904, a limited edition album containing the photographs was released, consisting of ten large-format files (folders). 21 heliogravures and 174 phototypes. The album was sold primarily among the participants of the ball, and the proceeds from the sale went to charity.

The 1903 Bal, remains the most celebrated festivity arranged in St. Petersburg during the reign of Emperor Nicholas II (1894-1917). More than a century later, it remains an event of an enduring historical significance.

Official Portraits of Nicholas II taken in the Concert Hall of the Winter Palace

PHOTO: For the background, photographers utilized a stand imitating the walls of a 17th century chamber of the Terem Palace in the Moscow Kremlin was installed in the Concert Hall of the Winter Palace – as seen in the photo above. The throne chair, is a prop, from the storeroom of the Hermitage Theater.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II wearing the costume of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich (1629-1676); the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the costume of his first wife Tsarina Maria Ilyinichna Miloslavskaya (1624-1669). Photo by L.S. Levitsky, 1903


Nicholas II’s 17th Century Costume

Emperor Nicholas II was dressed in an exact copy of the 17th century clothes, worn by his beloved ancestor, Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich (1629-1676. :

The costume sketch for Nicholas II was developed by the Director of the Hermitage, Ivan Alexandrovich Vsevolozhsky (1835-1909) and the artist of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theaters, Yevgeny Petrovich Ponomarev (1852-1906). Two types of velvet and gold brocade were ordered from the Supplier of the Imperial Court – the Sapozhnikovs firm. The fancy dress for Emperor Nicholas II, called “The Small Tsar’s Attire”, was sewn by the theatrical costume designer of the Imperial Theaters Ivan Osipovich Kaffi (1860-19 ??). He was assisted by two dressmakers, whose names have not survived. The tsar’s hat was created in the hat workshop of the brothers “Bruno”, suppliers of the Imperial Court since 1872..

The 17th century-style costume worn by Emperor Nicholas II at the ball held in the 1903 Ball in the Winter Palace, has been preserved to this day in the State Armoury Museum of the Moscow Kremlin. It is on display in Room 6 of the museum, which houses a rich collection of secular and ceremonial costume. The tsar’s 1903 costume can be seen in Showcase 45 (see photo above)

His costume and shashka (hat) were made from the finest materials and design: “velvet, brocade, silk, satin, leather, sable, gilded thread braid, gold, precious stones, pearls, weaving, braiding, casting, chasing, engravings, carving and enamel.”

Opal worn by Emperor Nicholas II (left). Manufactured: Russia, 1903, cufflinks and buttons – Constantinople 2nd half of the 17th century. Materials: Damask, brocade, gold. Work: Sewing, weaving.

Kaftan worn by Emperor Nicholas II (right). Manufactured: Russia, 1903, cufflinks and buttons – Constantinople 2nd half of the 17th century. Materials: Golden velvet, silk, satin. Work: Sewing, casting, chasing.

Rod (staff) of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. Istanbul, mid-17th century Gold, precious stones, pearls, iron; casting, chasing, carving, enamel. Collection of the the State Armoury Museum.

Zapona-pendant of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. Istanbul, second half of the 17th century. Gold, precious stones; chasing, carving, enamel. Collection of the the State Armoury Museum.


The Costume Ball in the Winter Palace. Luxury 2-Volume Edition

In 2003 the Russian publishing company Русский Антиквариат issued a limited luxury edition printing of The Costume Ball in the Winter Palace in a handsome 2-volume set with slipcase. The publication was a joint project of the State Hermitage Museum, the Moscow Kremlin State Museum, with the participation of researchers, genealogists and descendants of relatives of the nobility who attended the historic event.

The publishing firm offered two variations of the 2-volume set. The first featured one volume in Russian, the second volume in English, however, the firm also issued 100 copies featuring both volumes in English. In 2009, I managed to acquire a number of copies of the 2-volume English edition, and sold them through my bookshop.

Volume I featuredall the documentary and research material, including preserved costumes, unique photos and archival documents, most of which are published for the first time. 128 pages, 50 black and white illustrations, 20 tables with colour images, and introductory article by the Director of the State Hermitage Museum Mikhail Piotrovsky. The cover is made from high quality dark brown leather substitute with gold lettering.

Volume II – showcases the Ball participants. 464 sepia-colour pages, 198 photos of the Ball participants. The cover is made from high quality dark green leather substitute, with gold lettering. More than half of prints made from the original photos. Each image is accompanied by a biographical article.

Sadly, the publisher of these fine books has since gone out of business. Copies of the rare all English edition set, which are highly sought after by collectors in Britain and North America, are occasionally offered through rare book auctions.

© Paul Gilbert. 21 February 2021


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 Russian Imperial House ended with the murder of Nicholas II”

Earlier this month, I announced that I was severing ties with the Russian Imperial House. My post on Facebook generated nearly 700 “LIKES” and more than 200 comments, and remains the No. 1 most widely read post on my Nicholas II blog for 2021. In addition, I received dozens of emails in support of my decision. One letter in particular stood out amongst all the rest. It came from a descendant of the Galitzine family, one of the largest princely of the noble houses of Russia. 

Dear Mr. Gilbert,

I always admired your many articles and pictures that you have shared over the years with your readers, but it was a problem for me for a long time in regard to your former stance on Princess Maria Vladimirovna. The whole Kirillichivi line committed acts of treason against the late Emperor Nicholas II from the start. Even during the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, that branch of the family was malicious and constantly fetching plots to undermine the Emperor. After the revolution, the disgraceful actions of the Kyrillichi continued. My mother’s great uncle, Prince Dimitri Galitzine Mouravline who was very close to Emperor Nicholas II, initially supported Grand Duke Kirill, but eventually broke all ties with this family line. In the European emigration, the larger half of the Russian emigrants did not support the Kirillichi. No other Grand Duke or Prince pretended to be heir to the Russian throne. They lived their lives humbly and normally.

You are absolutely correct to say that the Russian Imperial House ended with the murder of Emperor Nicholas II, and there are absolutely no eligible candidates alive today to ascend to the non-existent Russian throne. Should Russia decide to elect a new monarch, they will need to convene a new Zemsky Sobor as was done in 1613 and find a suitable candidate. Emperor Nicholas II had the authority to change the Pauline Laws of Succession, but he chose not to. Thus, to recognize these self serving nobodies as claimants to the throne is like casting a stone against the sainted Emperor Nicholas II. This is a bad farce that is being perpetuated by simple con artists, and it is so sad to say that Maria Vladimirovna was nee a Romanova.

Maria Vladimirovna never had or has any authority to give out titles or awards as she is not and never was a ruling monarch. According to the Pauline Laws, no woman could ascend to the throne in Russia. After Emperor Peter the Great, the Romanov line ended. The Holstein-Gottrop line commenced with Emperor Peter III, and annexed the Romanov name to continue the “legitimate claim” for the throne. However, due to the disputed paternal identities of who fathered who in those days, the only thing that can be ascertained for sure is that the DNA indicates a direct descendant relationship from Emperor Nicholas I to Emperor Nicholas II.

According to stories of those who witnessed the trip of Emperor Nicholas II and his family to Diveevo, the Emperor received a letter from St. Seraphim of Sarov that was written over a 100 years before the last Imperial Family’s visit. The letter foretold of the demise of Russia and of their fate. The family was very saddened and depressed after having read the letter. They lived in fear for many years prior to the revolution, but Emperor Nicholas II (regardless of his short comings or what people said of him) never left Russia or abandoned his post. He met his fate head on and died for his people. He demonstrated great strength and courage to be martyred as did his family. He was a very kind person and I know of things that he did for people near him that showed his compassion and love for them. He also viewed himself as being morally responsible for his family and relatives and as such he exiled and or punished his relatives periodically, but eventually forgave them. This was perceived to be a “weakness” for which certain family members and people mocked him. He was a fun loving, gentle soul who feared God. He did not possess a personality that would have rendered him a despot, so he stayed true to his faith while others took advantage of him.

Being Orthodox and having knowledge about the rulers of Russia, I can say that the 2 key words that best describe the last Russian monarch are “atonement” and “forgiveness”. Emperor Nicholas II believed he had a responsibility to atone to God for the sins of his people and forgive those who would bring harm to him and his people. Most people do not understand this. There could not be a better last Emperor who will remain a Russian Emperor in Eternity other than St. Emperor Nicholas II. This is not to say that he was perfect or was loved by all, or accepted as a martyr, because he like all of us, was a sinner and had many weaknesses. However, God chose him to show His favor on him. God allowed him to be martyred and that says it all.

People are delusional and short-sighted. This is the sad case of Maria Vladimirovna. May God have mercy on her! All must be done for the Glory of God, not for self-serving purposes. Her actions reveal who she really is. Congratulations to you on seeing the Truth.

For privacy reasons, I have withheld the writer’s name – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 17 February 2021

The History and Restoration of the New Study of Nicholas II in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: view of the New Study of Nicholas II, as it looked in 1917

In 1902–1904, Roman Feodorovich Meltser’s (1860-1943) firm carried out the construction, decoration and furnishing of the New Study of Emperor Nicholas II in the Alexander Palace. The work had to be carried out according to precise calculations and drawings, which were submitted for consideration by the Technical Committee organized under the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty.

The emperor’s spacious four-window study had a mezzanine with marble columns, made by the German company Duckerhoff & Neumann (Nassau, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany), which was connected to the mezzanine of the Maple Drawing Room on the opposite side of the eastern wing of the palace. The interior was heated by fireplaces ordered from Vienna. Several types of electric lamps were specially made to illuminate the office, based on the best technological achievements of Russian scientists Alexander Ladygin and Werner von Bolton, as well as the developments of General Electric. Meltzer decorated the lamps with Tiffany style shades with variegated glass. These cylindrical coloured glass “tulip lanterns” have not survived, but are clearly visible in historic photographs, which will allow restorers to recreate them exactly to their original.

PHOTO: view of the staircase leading to the mezzanine, which connected the New Study of
Nicholas II with the Maple Drawing Room, as it looked in 1917 (above); and in 1944 (below)

The ceiling in the Emperor’s study was made of mahogany, including the trim. The walls were painted with a deep blue-green mastic paint and stencilled with ornamental friezes around the tile cladding above the fireplace and a niche behind the table. The walls of the mezzanine were painted in light yellow tones with the same stencil ornament.

An important decorative element of the decoration of the rooms of the Alexander Palace during the late 19th to early 20th centuries, including the New Study were the beautiful oriental carpets. The New Study of Nicholas II, was decorated with large Persian carpets, on top of a seamed crimson carpet.

A pool table occupied the space along the northern wall of the New Study, with a fireplace decorated with blue relief tiles. The pool table was made according to Russian standards, developed and produced by the St. Petersburg manufacturer Adolf Freiberg. A large corner sofa was placed next to the table.

Near the opposite wall was a large desk with an upper shelf and an attached electric lamp on a block. The desk, was covered with many family photographs, writing instruments and other accessories and small memorabilia. Near the window on a high mahogany curb stone stood a plaster bust of Emperor Alexander II by the Italian sculptor Pietro Canonica (1869-1959). It is known that Canonica made a modified bronze copy of the sculpture, which was approved by Nicholas II. A copy of this bust is preserved in the collection of the Museum of Pietro Canonica in Rome, therefore, it will be possible to recreate the lost sculpture based on a historical analogue.

In the central part of the New Study was a large round table, armchairs and chairs, a soft sofa and an armchair with an oval tea table between them. The table, armchair and chair have been preserved and are today in the collection of the Pavlovsk Museum-Reserve. The first meeting in the New Study is noted in the diary of Nicholas II on 3rd May 1903.

The New Study of Nicholas II was filled with works of Danish and Russian porcelain, family photographs, books, and memorabilia. In the bookcases, in addition to works on history, politics and religion, there were the collected works of Shakespeare and Tennyson, works of Byron, Merimee, Gaultier, Hugo, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Merezhkovsky among many others.

The New Study is one of the few interiors of the Alexander Palace, the decoration of which partially survived the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45: the ceiling lining with brass overlays, a mahogany door, two fireplaces, and columns on the mezzanine have all been preserved.

PHOTO: the New Study of Emperor Nicholas II, as it looked between 1997-2015

The interior of the New Study of Emperor Nicholas II was partially restored in 1997 for the opening of the Memories in the Alexander Palace exhibition. Several years later, the interior decoration was reconstructed, which included built-in wardrobes, sofas, chairs, a desk, lighting fixtures, draperies on the windows, made from photographs of the 1930s and inventory drawings of the Tsarskoye Selo Artistic and Historical Commission of 1918. These items were made in 2000 for the filming of Gleb Panfilov’s film The Romanovs. Crowned Family

The current restoration of the interior began in 2015. In 2019, restorers discovered the original color and a fragment of the stencil painting that framed the fireplace portal, which made it possible to restore the historic color of the cabinet walls. The discovery of surviving samples of English tiles made it possible to recreate the cladding of the fireplace inserts and fireplaces.

PHOTO: the restored fireplace in the New Study (above); and a detail of the tile (below)

Furniture lost during the war will be recreated for the New Study. A corner sofa for the billiard table has already been made, a display cabinet, bookcases, wall sconces with Tiffany lanterns and other lighting fixtures are being recreated; work is underway to restore the writing table and billiards, matched by analogy. One future project, is a plan to restore the window frames with cathedral (stained-glass) glass based on information from archival sources.

The Russian company “Tissura” together with the Swiss company Fabric Frontlain, have recreated the silk fabric decorated with hyacinths for the window decoration based on historical samples preserved in the Collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum. The window curtains will be made by the St. Petersburg firm “Le Lux”.

PHOTO: the current look of the restored New Study of Emperor Nicholas II

Specialists from the Studio 44 architectural bureau, will soon begin work on the reconstruction of the lost pieces of furniture and lighting fixtures for the New Study.

Paintings, porcelain, and interior sculptures which have been preserved in the Pavlovsk State Museum-Reserve, will be returned to the Alexander Palace. Among them – paintings, sculptures, busts, Danish porcelain, etc. Following the completion of the restoration of the New Study, these items will be returned to their historical places in the Alexander Palace.

© Paul Gilbert. 10 February 2021


Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in 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, 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 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. The net proceeds help fund my work, including research, translations, etc. Thank you for your consideration – PG


Nicholas II visits Gagra, 1912

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II and Prince Alexander Petrovich Oldenburg, Gagra 1912

During his visit to Crimea in the spring of 1912, Emperor Nicholas II visited Abkhazia, at the insistence of Prince Alexander Petrovich Oldenburg (1844-1932).

While visiting the region In 1904, Prince Alexander Oldenburg, saw the potential of the region’s sub-tropical climate and decided to build a magnificent high-class resort and the Gagripsh Restaurant there. Having raised a large sum of money – 100 thousand gold rubles – from the government, he constructed a number of other buildings in an eclectic variety of architectural styles from around Europe. A park was laid out with tropical trees and even parrots and monkeys imported to give it an exotic feel.

Prince Oldenbrug also built a palace for himself and his wife Princess Eugenia Maximilianovna of Leuchtenberg (1845-1925) who was paralyzed and therefore moved in a large three-wheeled chair with a white donkey harnessed to it, led by a Cossack. In August 1901, their only son Duke Peter Alexandrovich Oldenburg (1868-1924) married Nicholas II’s younger sister Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960).

PHOTO: early 20th-century postcard depicting Oldenburg’s resort and restaurant

On Tuesday, 15th May 1912, Nicholas II departed Yalta on the Imperial Yacht Standart, and sailed towards the Caucasian coast. The sea was calm and the weather warm. The Tsar’s yacht was escorted by the Russian cruiser Almaz and four destroyers of the Russian Imperial Navy.

During his voyage along the coast, the Tsar wrote in his diary: “before and after breakfast I admired the panorama of the mountains passing by”. On 16th May, the Standart arrived in Gagra Bay at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II and Prince Alexander Petrovich Oldenburg,
on the deck of the Imperial Yacht Standart. 1912

Prince Oldenburg, dressed in full military uniform and orders, arrived at the imperial yacht on a launch and climbed up the steps onto the deck, where he was greeted by the commander-in-chief in the way befitting an officer. Nicholas II, his four daughters, and Oldenburg travelled by launch to the pier, where the Imperial Family and their entourage were met by the prince’s wife, Princess Eugenia Maximilianovna.

The streets were lined with hundreds and hundreds of people, all of whom had long awaited the appearance of the sovereign emperor. The distinguished guests, led by the Prince Oldenburg, went to the ancient church, where a solemn liturgy was held in honour of the arrival of the Imperial Family in Gagra.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II with his four daughters and retinue in Gagra. 1912

In honour of the Tsar’s visit to the region, the Church of St. Hypatius – situated in Abaata Fortress – was restored, at the expense of the Princess Eugenia Maximilianovna. The restoration strictly preserved the buildings’ original appearance, including the decoration of the roof of the church with stone crosses. The famous Russian artist Mikhail Nesterov (1862-1942), was invited to Abkhazia from St. Petersburg, to decorate the walls of the church interior with icons.

Representatives of the Abkhaz aristocracy, together with Alexander Grigorievich Shervashidze- Chachba, the mayor of the city of Sukhum, who took an active part in the preparation of these celebrations, met the emperor with the traditional bread and salt.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II is greeted with the traditional bread and salt. 1912

The guests proceeded to the Gagripsh Restaurant [the restaurant has survived to the present day, its interiors virtually unchanged from the Tsarist period-PG], where they talked over tea with the prince and representatives of the Abkhaz nobility. They then drove in cars and went out into the park, where a grandiose dinner was held. A large regimental orchestra dressed in white Circassians and the same white hats, was playing in the park.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II arriving at the Gagripsh Restaurant in Gagra. 1912

Roasted bulls and lambs, were brought to long tables, covered with white tablecloths, set amongst a vast clearing. Prince Alexander Petrovich Oldenburg proclaimed a toast in honour of Tsar Nicholas II, welcoming him, on behalf of himself and local residents. In response, Nicholas II also raised a toast to the owner of the estate and to the health of the residents of Gagra. Here, at an impromptu concert, the Abkhaz dance was performed for the emperor.

PHOTO: The Tsar raises a toast to Prince Oldenburg and the people of Gagara. 1912

Towards evening, the emperor, his daughters and their retinue bid farewell to the prince and the townspeople, and returned to Crimea on the Imperial Yacht. “It was raining in Gagra,” Nicholas II wrote that evening in his diary.

© Paul Gilbert. 9 February 2021

1896 Coronation uniform of Emperor Nicholas II

PHOTO: The 1896 Coronation uniform of Emperor Nicholas II 

During his coronation, which took place on 27th May (O.S. 14th) May, 1896, the last Russian emperor Nicholas II appeared before his subjects in the uniform of a colonel of the Preobrazhensky Life Guards Regiment – the first of the two oldest regiments of the Russian Imperial Guard, founded by Tsar Peter I in 1691.

Like his grandfather Alexander II (1818-1881) and great-grandfather Nicholas I (1796-1855), Nicholas II preferred the uniform of this regiment – in which he served in military service – to all others.

By the time of his accession to the throne, he served in the rank of colonel of the Preobrazhensky Regiment, and when he became emperor, he felt a special sense of pride from the fact that “he remained a simple colonel”.

His coronation uniform was made of dark green cashmere; with silk trimming, red collar with white piping and cuffs; embroidered with gilded threads with a pattern that is complex in composition and virtuoso in technique of execution, distinguishing the shape of the Preobrazhensky Regiment. The uniform is adorned with epaulettes bearing the monogram of his father Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894) and gilded aiguillettes, a flap on the chest, which the emperor himself unfastened during the coronation ceremony to perform the sacrament of Chrismation. Nordenstrem ordered the buttons for the uniform from a well-known supplier in the capital.

PHOTO: brothers Nikolai and Karl Nordenshtrem

It is known that the entire uniform for Nicholas II’s coronation was ordered from the workshop of N.I. Nordenstrem – the famous “king of Russian military tailors,” who specialized in military dress. Nikolai Ivanovich Nordenshtrem (1838-1903) was “a true artist in his field,” and the uniforms cut by him “bore the imprint of strict grace and good taste.” Nordenstrem was appointed Supplier to the Imperial Court, and for eighty years, he served four Russian emperors – Nicholas I, Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II.

Nicholas II placed orders for all his military uniforms from Nordenstrem, whose shop was located at 46 Nevsky Prospect in St. Petersburg. The famous atelier also received orders from Their Imperial Highnesses the Grand Dukes Alexei, Sergei and Pavel Alexandrovich; Konstantin and Dmitry Konstavtinovich; Nikolai and Peter Nikolaevich; George and Alexander Mikhailovich; Kirill, Boris and Andrey Vladimirovich; Alexander and Konstantin Petrovich Oldenburgsky; Prince Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg; Duke Eugene Maximilianovich Leuchtenberg; as well as many Russian and foreign dignitaries.

PHOTO: Coronation uniform of Emperor Nicholas II and Coronation dress of Empress Alexandra, on display in the Armoury Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin

The Coronation regalia – the textiles, religious vestments and court livery – were preserved in the Moscow Armoury, they survived the upheaval of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The Coronation uniform of Emperor Nicholas II is on permanent display in the Armoury Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin – Hall 6, Showcase 45.

© Paul Gilbert. 8 February 2021