First iconostasis in Russia dedicated to the Tsar’s family

PHOTO: Russia’s first iconostasis to the Holy Royal Martyrs
© Вести / Vesti News Agency

The first iconostasis in Russia dedicated to the Holy Royal Martyrs is being erected in the church of the St. Elisabeth Convent in the village of Priozerye, situated 120 km from Kaliningrad.

Within the walls of the church of the convent, preparations are underway for the installation of an icon depicting Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich. A prayer is said as the image takes its place in the iconostasis.

The convent is dedicated to the Holy Royal Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, but Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and his family are especially revered in the convent.

PHOTO: Entrance to St. Elisabeth Convent ;
monument to Holy Royal Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth

Nun Anastasia, Sister of the St. Elizabeth Convent, spoke to the Vesti News Agency this week, and stated the following:

“The iconostasis that is installed in our convent is dedicated to the Imperial Family and all the royal martyrs. It is unique in its kind for the whole of Russia. There is no such iconostasis anywhere else in Russia, only in our church.

“Once completed, the iconostasis will be in the shape of a cross. The images are distinguished by a special subtlety of writing. The colours of the elements: red, blue and gold stand out. The works were specially made for the convent by an artist from Kaliningrad.

“The top of the iconostasis will feature an icon of the Archangel Michael, then the icon of the Alapaevsk Martyrs, then Job the Long-Suffering. In the center are Tsarina Alexandra, Tsesarevich Alexei, and Tsar Nicholas II.

Once assembled, this unique iconostasis will stand as tall as a three-story building. It will become one of the main decorations of the convent cathedral.

At the base of the royal iconostasis will be an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos Theodorova, patroness of the Romanov family.”

© Paul Gilbert. 14 February 2021

Commission created to preserve memory of Imperial Family in Sverdlovsk region

Earlier this week, a new commission to preserve the historical memory of members of the Russian Imperial Family, who were murdered in the Urals was initiated in Ekaterinburg.

The decree was signed by the Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region Yevgeny Kuyvashev. The 22-member commission headed by the vice-governor of the Sverdlovsk region Sergey Bidonko, includes the heads of regional ministries and municipalities, representatives of universities, museums and the Russian Orthodox Church.

The commission will be engaged in preserving the memory of those members of the Russian Imperial Family, who were murdered in the Urals, through excursions, lectures, exhibitions and other events, as well as the promotion of the “Imperial Route” project, which is being implemented by the Elisabeth-Sergius Educational Society Foundation. The route includes Tyumen, Tobolsk, Ekaterinburg and Alapaevsk, among numerous other cities in Russia – see below.

Let us hope and pray that the commission will make changing the name of regional name “Sverdlovsk” their first order of business!

***

In 2019, plans were announced for the “Imperial Route” project in 20 regions of Russia. The aim of the route is to unite the historic places related to the life of Emperor Nicholas II and his family.

The route includes St. Petersburg, Moscow, Omsk, Tyumen, Tobolsk, Sverdlovsk / Ekaterinburg, Tomsk, Kostroma, Kaluga, Novgorod, Pskov, Kirov, Bryansk, Orel, Voronezh regions, Perm, Novosibirsk, Stavropol territories, Tatarstan and Crimea.

The project includes palaces, museums, churches, and other places, is a wonderful opportunity for both Russians and foreigners to learn the truth about the private world of Russia’s Imperial family.

© Paul Gilbert. 13 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

On this day in 1919: Nikolai Sokolov launched his investigation into the deaths of the Imperial Family

PHOTO: Nikolai Alekseevich Sokolov (1882-1924)

On this day – 7th February 1919 – Nikolai Alekseevich Sokolov (1882-1924) launched his investigation into the deaths of Emperor Nicholas II and his family in Ekaterinburg.

Sokolov was a lawyer, and investigator for important cases of the Omsk District Court. It was the Supreme Ruler Admiral Alexander Kolchak (1874-1920), who appointed Sokolov with the task of investigating the murder of members of the Russian Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg and Alapaevsk.

Sokolov loved Russia and would not accept the changes brought about by the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. As a staunch Orthodox monarchist, he accepted his appointment with a deep sense of reverence and responsibility.

Between May and July of 1919, working without rest from morning until late at night, Sokolov managed to collect a vast amount of material evidence, conducted dozens of examinations and interviewed hundreds of witnesses, including several members of the Romanov entourage in February 1919, notably the Swiss tutor, Pierre Gilliard (1879-1962), his wife and nanny to Grand Duchess Anastasia, Alexandra Tegleva (1884-1955) and the English tutor to the Tsesarevich Alexei, Charles Sydney Gibbes (1876-1963).

Sokolov discovered a large number of the Imperial Family’s’ belongings and valuables that were overlooked by the chief executioner of the Imperial Family Yakov Yurovsky (1878-1938) and his men in and around the mineshaft where the bodies were initially disposed of in the Four Brothers Mine, at what is today known as Ganina Yama.

The impending return of Bolshevik forces on 15th July 1919, forced Sokolov to abandon his investigation, thus failing to find the concealed second burial site on the Koptyaki Road. He evacuated Ekaterinburg, bringing with him the box containing the relics he recovered. Today, the box is stored in the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Job in Uccle, Brussels.

PHOTO: French edition of Sokolov’s investigation, published in 1924

Sokolov fled from Russia to Harbin, China, where in 1920, with the help of the head of the Commander of the Czechoslovak Legion, the French General Maurice Janin (1862-1946), Sokolov left Harbin for France, taking with him the material evidence and documents, which consisted of eight volumes of photographic and eyewitness accounts. Sokolov continued his work on interviewing witnesses and examining materials in exile, until his death.

The French edition of his investigation Enquête judiciaire sur l’assassinat de la famille impériale russe [Judicial investigation into the assassination of the Russian imperial family], was published by Payot (Paris) in 1924, and reissued in 1926 and 1929. It was published in Russian in 1998. No full English translation of Sokolov’s investigation has yet been published.

Sadly, Nikolai Sokolov did not live to bring his investigation to an end – he was found dead in the garden of his house on 23 November 1924, having suffered a heart attack at the age of 42. He died leaving a widow aged 23 and two young children, a daughter Nathalie (1920-2002) and a son Alexis (1923-1980). He is buried in the cemetery of Salbris, France.

PHOTO: Sokolov’s grave in the cemetery of Salbris, France

To this day, the Russian Orthodox Church still officially adheres to Sokolov’s theory that the bodies of the Imperial Family were completely destroyed at the Four Brothers Mine. A century later, we now know that this was not so.

Sokolov was a man who made an enormous contribution in gathering evidence about the last days of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg, and no one should belittle the significance of his works for history.

PHOTO: memorial plaque to Nikolai Sokolov in Mokshan, 2018

On 25th December 2018, a memorial plaque honouring Nikolai Sokolov was unveiled in Mokshan, the town where he was born on 21st May 1882.

The plaque was mounted on the wall of the Mokshan Administration Building. It was here – from 1908 to 1910 – that Sokolov worked as an investigator at the Mokshan District Court.

© Paul Gilbert. 7 February 2021

Paul Gilbert cuts ties with Russian Imperial House

PHOTO: Maria Vladimirovna and her son George Mikhailovich

NOTE: this article was updated with additional information on 12th February 2021 – PG

For the record, I hereby announce that I am cutting all ties with the Russian Imperial House. I no longer support Maria Vladimirovna and her son George Mikhailovich. Further, I am severing all ties with the Russian Legitimists and their cause.

Today, I have returned by mail the Order of St. Stanislaus 3rd Class (2013), and the Order of St. Anna 3rd Class (2016), and also withdraw my oath of allegiance to Maria and her son, dated and signed 03/14/16.

During the February Revolution of 1917, Maria’s grandfather Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich (1876-1938), marched to the Tauride Palace in Petrograd at the head of the Naval Guards bearing a red armband and swore allegiance to the Russian Provisional Government. In 1926, Kirill proclaimed himself emperor-in-exile, but his claims were contested by a number of grand dukes, grand duchesses, princes and princesses of the Imperial Blood in exile, as well as monarchists in a division that continues to this day.

Many monarchists (including myself) and those faithful to the memory of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, believe that Kirill’s act of treason in 1917, should eliminate the Vladimir branch of the Russian Imperial Family from any further consideration.  

I no longer wish to involve myself in the dynastic squabbles which continue to this day between Legitimists and those monarchists who dispute Maria’s claim as Head of the Russian Imperial House.

While I am a devout monarchist, I do not recognize any person as the claimant to the now defunct throne of Russia. I believe that the Russian monarchy ceased to exist upon the abdication of the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II on 15th (O.S. 2nd) March 1917 and the murder of both the Tsar and his family on 17th July 1918. If the monarchy is ever to be restored in 21st century Russia, it is up to the citizens of Russia to make that decision, no one else.

I will continue to devote my time to researching and writing about the life and reign of Nicholas II, and committing myself to clearing his much slandered name.

© Paul Gilbert. 5 February 2021

Paul Gilbert’s Royal Library for Sale

PHOTO: a partial view of my collection of books on the life, reign and era of Nicholas II

Four years ago, I decided that I would move back to England to take up permanent residence. Having been born in England, and lived and worked in London in the 1980s, my love for my homeland has never waned. I continue to go back “home” each year to explore new regions of this beautiful country. I recently received my new British passport, so that is one more item checked off my list of things to do before I retire in the UK..

Many of you have asked “when” I will be moving back to England, and “where” I will live once I get there. I just want to clarify that my move is still 3-4 years away, as I still have much that needs to be attended to here in Canada. I can, however, safely say that my move back home to England will be before the next US presidential election!

I will be making my new home in Northumberland, England’s most northern and least populated county, which lies on the Scottish border. This way, I have the best of two beautiful countries at my doorstep!

In preparation for my move, I am forced to sell the bulk of my personal library, which consists of more than 2,000 new, rare and second-hand titles on the royal houses of Britain, Europe and Russia, among other topics: history, art, biographies, travel, photography, etc.

The ONLY books that I will be taking with me to England, are my collection of titles on the life, reign and era of Nicholas II.

I have created a separate online bookshop for the sale of my collection. The titles listed are all one-of-a-kind, there are no duplicates! Books will be sold on a first come, first serve basis. The condition of each book varies and is noted with each listing. Titles are available in a variety of languages: English, French, German and Russian. Please check individual listings before ordering.

In addition, I will be selling off the remaining stock from my other online shop, which opened for business in 1994. These include books and back issues of Royal Russia and Sovereign, published by the publishing division of Royal Russia, published between 1994 to 2020. 

Please NOTE, that ALL prices are in US dollars! Payment can be made securely online with a credit card or PayPal. I will also accept payment by personal check or money order in USD. Shipping rates are for Canada and United States order ONLY. Please contact me by email – royalrussia@yahoo.com – for details about bulk shipping and ALL overseas orders. ALL sales are FINAL.

I have already begun listing the titles for sale, which include beautiful pictorials, biographies, historical studies, guidebooks, and much more. My collection is so vast that it is going to take me a couple of years to select, scan and list all of them.

New books will be added every week, so please bookmark or check back for new listings. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me by email – royalrussia@yahoo.com

© Paul Gilbert. 3 February 2021

The fate of Nicholas II’s favourite motorcar

PHOTO: Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich posing at the wheel of the Delaunay Belleville 40CV

Russia’s last emperor and tsar Nicholas II was the first (and, alas, the last) Russian monarch to have appreciated and enjoyed the use of the motorcar. The first motorcar in the Imperial Family, however, belonged to his mother – Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928) – a phaeton with an electric motor of the American company Columbia – a gift from her sister – Queen Alexandra of Great Britain.

Thanks to his aide-de-camp, Prince Vladimir Nikolayevich Orlov (1868-1927), it was he who introduced the Emperor to this new mode of transport which was sweeping across Britain and Europe. An avid motorist himself, Orlov often drove the Tsar in his personal Delaunay Belleville. Nicholas II, impressed by the capabilities of this new technology, decided to exchange the horse and carriage for a motorcar.

In the fall of 1905, he ordered Orlov to buy him “two or three cars,” leaving the choice of models to the discretion of his trusted aide-de-camp. Orlov, without hesitation, ordered the Tsar a Delaunay Belleville:  a 40CV, six-seater phaeton with a convertible top was purchased for 13,416 rubles (about 20 million rubles in today’s money).

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II seated on horseback at at the side of his first “motor” – the Delaunay Belleville 40CV triple phaeton. In the back seat are the Montenegrin princesses Milica and Stana, in front of the car is Prince V.N. Orlov (in white) and chauffeur Adolphe Kégresse. Krasnoe Selo, Summer 1908

Today the name Delaunay Belleville is known only to auto enthusiasts. But at the beginning of the 20th century, it was a well-known name among those who could afford luxury. Initially, the French company produced ship steam boilers. Having become rich on orders from the British Admiralty, the owner of the company, Louis Belleville, decided to try his hand in the automotive business.

In 1903, he enlisted the services of the designer Maurice Barbara. He was only 28 years old, and already had experience in the Benz & Cie and Lorraine-Dietrich automobile companies. Maurice’s talent and diligence, coupled with solid start-up capital, quickly paid off.

The Delaunay Belleville debuted at the Paris Motor Show in December 1904 and became an instant sensation. Solid, well-built motorcars featured with a number of new innovations – for example, lubrication of camshafts under pressure and liquid-cooling brakes!

Almost instantly the steam boiler manufactory acquired a solid clientele, with Prince Orlov among the first buyers.

PHOTO: the arrival of Emperor Nicholas II in his Delaunay Belleville 70CV, at the Fourth
International Automobile Exhibition, held at the Mikhailovsky Manege. St. Petersburg, 1913

After the four-cylinder 40CV, Orlov ordered the more powerful six-cylinder Delaunay Belleville-70CV for His Imperial Majesty’s Own Garage. This motorcar, which is often called the SMT – Sa Majeste le Tsar, meaning “His Majesty the Tsar”, was ordered in 1909.

The Delaunay Belleville-70CV was one of the most sophisticated motorcars of its time. The level of its equipment was impressive. For example, the optional system for starting the engine was from the driver’s seat – without the driver having to make use of the handle of the curve starter. For this, an electric starter was not used, but a cunning pneumatic system. Starting off did not require ignition – the pistons and, accordingly, the crankshaft rotated under the action of compressed air, which was supplied directly to the engine. Once the motorcar had picked up speed, it was necessary to turn off the pneumatics, and activate the ignition and fuel supply. The Delaunay was now running on gasoline like that of a traditional internal combustion engine.

The pneumatic device – a clear reference to the steam past of the company – also provided remote pumping of the wheels, the operation of the pneumatic jack, as well as the engine braking function when decelerating. A miracle of technology!

The interior decoration of the Delaunay Belleville-70CV was a merit of Cologner & Sons. The French body shop craftsmen decorated the salon with rosewood, provided a locker for a travel kit, installed a glass roof and a double floor that completely eliminated vibrations from the exhaust system. The roof was so high that Nicholas II could stand inside at full height. Fortunately, he was not tall – according to various sources, he stood 170 cm (5′ 6″) to 174 cm (5′ 7″) in height.

While the Emperor’s first Delaunay Belleville 40CV cost a relatively modest 13.5 thousand rubles, the  Delaunay Belleville 70CV cost over 20 thousand rubles(more than 30 million rubles today). And this is not counting the modifications which were made during operation: dual tires were installed on the rear wheels, acetylene headlights were replaced with brighter electric ones from Bosch-Licht.


PHOTO: In addition to his Delaunay Belleville 40CV, the Emperor also had a Delaunay Belleville 70CV (SMT) with a Landaulet body. This photo was taken in Krasnoe Selo in 1909. Driving is Prince V.N. Orlov, next to him – Adolphe Kégresse (1879-1943).

The Tsar was very pleased with his Delaunay Belleville. Although he never felt the urge to master the intricacies of driving – with nine pedals, the motorcar was too difficult to handle – therefore, Nicholas II preferred to ride as a passenger, always occuping the rear left seat.

According to some reports, the Delaunay Belleville 70CV (SMT), could accelerate to 120 km / h. In the event of an emergency, such as a threat to the Tsar’s life, the motorcar would thus prove to be an effective getaway car.

There were other motorcars in His Imperial Majesty’s Own Garage. Among the French models were German brands, such as the Mercedes-Simplex and the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft. The garage also housed a Russo-Balt C 24/40 (seen below), a unique all-terrain vehicle, designed by Adolphe Kégresse, while working for Nicholas II between 1906 and 1916. He applied it to several cars in the imperial garage at Tsarskoye Selo, including Rolls-Royce cars and Packard trucks. 

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II (in the back seat), riding in a semi-tracked vehicle
Russo-Balt C 24/40. Adolphe Kégresse – the inventor, is the driver. 1915

After the February Revolution of 1917, the Tsar’s motorcars were seized, and transferred to the garage of the Provisional Government. After the tragic events of July 1918, and the murder of the Emperor and his family, Nicholas II’s motorcars ended up on the balance sheet of the “Automobile base of the workers ‘and peasants’ government.”

The structurally complex Delaunay Belleville’s required regular professional maintenance and high-quality spare parts, something which the Soviet government could ill afford at the time. In the early 1920s, the luxurious French motorcars which once transported the Tsar and his family around the Imperial capital sat idle, becoming a burden for the “government” garage. In 1928, the decision was made to scrap “His Majesty the Tsar SMT” favourite motorcar.

The fate of the Delaunay Belleville firm is also unfortunate. After a meteoric rise at the turn of the 20th century, the company faced an equally rapid decline after World War I. By the mid-1920s, only memories of Delaunay’s status as one of the most prestigious brands in the world remained. Based in Saint-Denis, France, the firm switched to the production of trucks and military equipment.

© Paul Gilbert. 3 February 2021

Winter Views of the Alexander Palace and Park

PHOTO: western (foreground) and eastern (background) wings of the Alexander Palace

The former Imperial palaces of the Russian Imperial Family take on a whole new beauty in the winter months when they are covered and surrounded with a fresh blanket of snow. The favourite residence of Nicholas II and his family, the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo in particular. The elegant Neo-Classical edifice, painted a soft pastel yellow, blend perfectly with the surrounding winter landscape. A glorious sense of peace and tranquility are felt while walking around the palace and park at this time of year.

I have assembled the following collection of photos of the Alexander Palace and Park, all of which evoke a breathtaking Russian winter wonderland. After viewing these images, I am sure that you will agree that it is quite understandable why the Imperial Family so loved this place – PG

PHOTO: The main gate leading into the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. The gate was installed in 1898, based on the design of the Russian architect (of Italian origin) Silvio Amvrosievich Danini (1867-1942). The view from the street has remained virtually unchanged since the early 20th century.

Following his abdication on 15 March (O.S. 2 March) 1917,”Colonel Romanov” passed through these gates to be reunited with his family. Together, they lived here under house arrest, until their exile to Tobolsk on 1st August of the same year.

PHOTO:  A lovely panoramic view which shows the expanse of the Alexander Palace from the opposite side of the pond.

The Alexander Palace was constructed in the town of Tsarskoye Selo, 30 miles south of St. Petersburg. It was commissioned by Empress Catherine II, who reigned 1762–1796, for her favourite grandson, Grand Duke Alexander Pavlovich, the future Emperor Alexander, who reigned 1801–1825), on the occasion of his marriage to Grand Duchess Elizaveta Alexeievna (1779-1826), born Princess Luise Marie Augusta of Baden in 1793.

The edifice was constructed between 1792 and 1796, by the foremost and most prolific practitioner of Neoclassical architecture in Imperial Russia, Giacomo Quarenghi (1744-1817). It was agreed that the architect had excelled himself in creating a masterpiece. In 1821, a quarter of a century later, the architect’s son wrote:

“An elegant building which looks over the beautiful new garden in Tsarskoye Selo, was designed and built by my father at the request of Catherine II, who shaped it with greatest simplicity, combining both functionality with beauty. Its dignified façade, harmonic proportions, and moderate ornamentation are also manifested in its interiors without compromising comfort in striving for magnificence and elegance.”

Emperor Nicholas II and his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna always loved this palace. After the events of Bloody Sunday in 1905, the August Coupled decided to make it their permanent residence.

During the reign of Nicholas II, the palace underwent many modern upgrades: it was wired for electricity and equipped with a telephone system. In 1899, a hydraulic lift was installed connecting the Empress’ suite with the children’s rooms on the second floor. With the advent of motion pictures in the early 20th century, a screening booth was built in the Semicircular Hall where the family gathered to watch films.

PHOTO: The eastern wing (left) is where the former private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna are located. The wing was closed in autumn 2015 for an extensive restoration.

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. This wing of the palace will become known as the ‘Museum of the Russian Imperial Family’.

PHOTO:  Situated facing the Alexander Park are the windows of the Semi-Circular Hall. It is through these doors on 1st August 1917, that the Imperial Family and their retinue departed the Alexander Palace for the last time. They were transported to the Alexandrovsky Station, where an awaiting train took them into exile to Tobolsk in Siberia. It was in Tobolsk that the Imperial Family were held under house arrest in the former Governor’s Mansion – renamed the “House of Freedom” until April 1918, when they were transferred to Ekaterinburg and subsequently murdered by the Bolsheviks on 17th July 1918.

PHOTO: The warm glow from a winter sun simply adds to the beauty of the Alexander Palace surrounded by snow. During the winter months, Nicholas II took time to enjoy outdoor activities with his family. Together, they build snow fortresses, went skating on the ice covered ponds, and partook of sleigh rides through the park, a pastime in which the Empress also participated. In his zest for physical activity, the Tsar was often seen shoveling snow from the paths, chopped ice for the cellar, cut dry branches or old trees, storing firewood for the long, dark and cold winter months. 

PHOTO: This aerial view of the Alexander Palace, taken by a drone, shows the size of the building. The photo was taken last year, during the ongoing restoration of the palace. The surrounding park offers pathways leading to the parks numerous pavilions, as well as ponds and canals, which were often used during the summer months by Nicholas II and his children for boating.

The Alexander Palace is within walking distance of the nearby Catherine Palace, which can be seen in the upper left hand corner of the photo above.

PHOTO: The Kitchen Building of the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. Meals were prepared in this building, and taken to the palace through an underground tunnel.

When the restoration of the palace is completed in 2024, the former Kitchen Building will serve as the main entrance to the multi-museum Alexander Palace complex.

PHOTO: the Children’s Island, which features a tiny house built for the children of Emperor Nicholas I, and later enjoyed by the children of three successive monarchs: Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II. To the left of the house is a small cemetery, where the Tsar buried his favourite dogs. The cemetery has survived to this day.

The island was reached by a pull-ferry, whereby sailors would pull ropes sending the ferry over to the island and back from the park’s shore.

During two winter visits to the Alexander Palace, the author of this article managed to walk across the frozen pond to explore the island, and photograph both the house and the cemetery at close hand.

According to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum, there are plans to eventually restore the Children’s Island and Pavilion, once funding has been secured.

PHOTO: Just a short walk from the Alexander Palace is the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral, with its beautiful Russian national-style edifice and magnificent interiors, including the Cave Church.

On 2 September (O.S. 20 August) 1909, Emperor Nicholas II laid the first foundation stone for the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral, which later served as the household church of the Imperial Family.

After the 1917 Revolution, the cathedral was closed, it was badly damaged during the Great Patriotic War (1941-44). In 1991 the cathedral was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church, restoration of the Cathedral lasted nearly 20 years.. 

On 17th July 1993, hundreds of Orthodox Christians and monarchists gathered for the official opening and consecration of the first monument to Emperor Nicholas II (seen on the left in the photo) to be established in post-Soviet Russia.

The monument was consecrated on the day marking the 75th anniversary of the murder of Nicholas II, on the grounds of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral. The monument is the work of St. Petersburg sculptor Victor Vladimirovich Zaiko (born 1944).

PHOTO: A walk through the snow covered Alexander Park at Tsarskoye Selo offers many surprises for visitors. Over the course of the past decade, numerous pavilions have been beautifully restored, including the Sovereign’s Martial Chamber, the Arsenal, the Chapelle, and the White Tower.

In addition, some people may want to visit the gravesite of Grigorii Rasputin (1869-1916). His body was buried on 2 January (O.S. 21 December) 1916, at a small church (has not survived) that Anna Vyrubova (1884-1964) had been building in the Alexander Park. His body was exhumed and burned by a detachment of soldiers shortly after the Tsar abdicated the throne in March 1917.

There are future plans to restore the Children’s Pavilion and Island, the Chinese Theater, the Pension Stable, the Farm as well as the reclamation of the Alexander Park. There are plans to charge for entry to the park, the funds of which will help restore these historic buildings and maintain the grounds, however, this additional cost has yet to be implemented.

© Paul Gilbert. 1 February 2021