New additions to the interiors of the Alexander Palace

Photo © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

It has been almost two years since the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo opened its doors to visitors after an extensive restoration and reconstruction which began in the autumn of 2015. This extensive and costly project brought new life to the former private apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, situated in the eastern wing of the palace.

Since that time, additional interiors – the Marble (Mountain) Hall – have opened while recreated furniture and other decorations continue to be added to the interiors.

In late March, new additions were added to the Maple Drawing Room and the Working Study of Nicholas II:

PHOTO: a large stand for palm tree and other large plants is the latest addition to the Maple Drawing Room

Photo © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

In the Maple Drawing Room, one of several large stands or tubs has been recreated. Empress Alexandra Feodorovna would have them filled year-round with palm trees and other large plants – as seen in the photo below taken shortly after the Imperial Family were sent into exile in August 1914. 

PHOTO: colour autochrome of the Maple Drawing Room. 1917

PHOTO: the Tsar’s desk and ottoman have been recreated for the Working Study of Nicholas II

Photo © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

In the Working Study of Nicholas II, an L-shaped desk and ottoman have been recreated.

The Working Study of Emperor Nicholas II was decorated in 1896-1897 in the English Style by Roman Meltzer (1860-1943) and furniture master Karl Grinberg. It was in this room that the Emperor read papers, including numerous correspondence, received foreign ministers and dignitaries and listened to reports.

PHOTO: Emperor Nicholas II with his brother-in-law Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse, in the Tsar’s Working Study. 1901

© Paul Gilbert. 5 May 2023


Dear Reader: I have written more than 100 articles and news updates on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. If you have enjoyed all my updates, then please help support my research by making a donation in US dollars – donations can be made by PayPal or credit card. Click HERE to make a donation. Thank you for your consideration – PG

The truth about Russia’s much slandered Tsar

This year marks the 155th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Nicholas II on 19th May [O.S. 6th May] 1868 and the105th anniversary of his death and martyrdom on 17th July 1918.

In recognition of these historic dates, I am reaching out to friends and supporters for donations to help support my research on the life and reign of Nicholas II, and in aid of my personal mission to clear the name of Russia’s much slandered Tsar.

There are many web sites, blogs and Facebook pages dedicated to the Romanovs, however, I work very hard searching Russian archival and media sources to bring something new to the table every day, including news on Nicholas II and his family, the Romanov dynasty, their palaces, exhibitions + photos, videos and more.

Every dollar collected goes toward the acquisition and translation of documents, letters and diaries from Russian archival sources. In addition are the first English translations of articles researched by a new generation of Russian historians, which challenge the popular negative assessment of Nicholas II, which prevails to this day.

Your donation also helps offset the cost of maintenance of my blog: Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint, and the organization and promotion of Romanov themed events, such as the 2nd International Nicholas II Conference.

If you enjoy all the articles, news, photos, and videos, please help support my work in the coming year ahead by making a donation.

Click HERE to make a donation in US Dollars by CREDIT CARD or PAYPAL

Donations as little as $5 are much appreciated, and there is NO obligation!

Thank you for your consideration.

© Paul Gilbert. 1 May 2023

State Hermitage Museum to host OTMAA exhibition next month

A new exhibition OTMA and Alexei. The Children of the Last Russian Emperor will open next month at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

The exhibition which will open on 19th May [Nicholas II’s birthday] in the Manege of the Small Hermitage is a joint project of the State Hermitage Museum, the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum and the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF).

The exhibition will cover the period from the birth of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna’s first child Olga in 1895 to August 1914, and the Imperial Family’s house arrest in the Alexander Palace and their subsequent exile to Siberia.

Among the more than 300 exhibits, are Court dresses and other accessories worn by the Grand Duchesses from the State Hermitage Museum’s Costume Collection, as well as toys and other personal items of the Imperial Children from the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum.

Of particular interest to visitors will be the military uniforms of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich, who from childhood wore the uniforms of the regiments under his patronage. Many of these uniforms will be displayed for the first time following the completion of their restoration.

A richly illustrated Russian language catalogue has been prepared for the exhibition (State Hermitage Publishing House, 2023), which includes an introduction by Mikhail Piotrovsky, General Director of the State Hermitage Museum. The authors of the articles are Y.V. Plotnikova, A.V. Sabenina (State Archives of the Russian Federation), M.P. Filiptseva (Tsarskoye Selo State Museum).

“This is a very touching exhibition”, said Mikhail Piotrovsky, general director of the museum. Piotrovsky noted that the exhibition was originally planned to premiere at the Hermitage Amsterdam (Netherlands), however, the exhibit has been cancelled, due to current EU sanctions on Russia.

OTMA was an acronym used by the four daughters – Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia – of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, as a group nickname for themselves, built from the first letter of each girl’s name in the order of their births. It was with this acronym that they signed their letters to their parents. Alexei’s initial is an addition made in the late 20th century.

The Children of the Last Russian Emperor. OTMA and Alexei exhibition will run from 19th May 2023 to 10th September 2023 at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

Click HERE to read about other exhibitions dedicated to OTMAA

© Paul Gilbert. 28 April 2023

Blue Line route marks places associated with Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg

The city of Ekaterinburg is already making preparation for ‘Tsar’s Days‘, the annual event held in July, marking the deaths and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family.

Over the past few years, a blue line has been painted on the streets in Ekaterinburg. The blue line is a 6.3 km pedestrian route for pilgrims and tourists, which connects a dozen places associated with the final days Nicholas II and his family in the Ural city.

This year participants can make use of a printed guidebook or download a special app to their mobile phone, both of which provide details about the Holy Royal Martyrs, and the places highlighted along the Holy Route.

Five of the places on the route are churches and cathedrals – such as the Church on the Blood (built on the site of the Ipatiev House) seen in the photo above.

The idea was implemented jointly with the Ekaterinburg diocese and the city administration in 2018. It is a wonderful idea, and I found it very helpful during my visit to the city in July 2018.

This year (2023) marks the 300th anniversary of the founding of Ekaterinburg in 1723; the 155th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Nicholas II in 1868; and and the 105th anniversary of the death and martyrdom of the Imperial Family in 1918.

© Paul Gilbert. 27 April 2023

Nicholas II. Family and Throne exhibition opens in Tula

On Friday 21st April, a new exhibition “Nicholas II. Family and Throne”, opened in the Tula branch of the State Historical Museum.

The exhibit marks the 155th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Nicholas II on 19th May [O.S. 6th May] 1868 and the105th anniversary of the death and martyrdom [17th July 1918].

The exhibition will give visitors an opportunity to “look” at the life of the Russian ruler and his family through the impartial lens of the camera. The exposition is emphatically documentary: rare photographs from the collection of the State Historical Museum which depict the private life of the Russian monarch.

PHOTOS: the director of the State Historical Museum (Moscow) and curator of the exhibition Evgeny Lukyanov discusses watercolours (above) and photographs (below) depicting the Coronation of Emperor Nicholas II in Moscow, May 1896

The Emperor and members of his family were all avid photographers: they all had cameras and took pictures of each other, family events and their relatives. The Emperor was almost always accompanied by professional Court photographers who photographed the Emperor almost every day of his reign (among the most notable being “K. E. von Hahn and Co.” and its owner, and the Court photographer A. K. Yagelsky). The museum’s collection contains more than 750 photographs from the life of Nicholas II. A number of photographs come from the Tsar’s favourite residences: the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, the Lower Dacha at Peterhof, and Livadia Palace in Crimea, depicting the private world of the Imperial Family.

The exhibit focuses on two topics: “Nicholas II as the head of the Russian Empire” and “Nicholas II as the head of the Imperial Family”.

The first – official – section shows photographs depicting the Emperor during meetings with foreign heads of state (King Edward VII of Great Britain, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, French Presidents Felix Faure and Armand Falier); celebrations on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of St. Petersburg and the 100th anniversary of the Patriotic War of 1812; parades, reviews and regimental holidays; consecration of churches and monuments; as well as during the Russo-Japanese War and the First World War. A significant place is given to the display of two major dynastic events – the coronation of Emperor Nicholas II (1896) and the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the House of Romanov (1913).

The second – family – section of the exhibition presents photographs related to the personal life of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. The central place is given to the August children – Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Tsesarevich Alexei. Of particular note in this section, are unique photographs depicting the stay of Emperor Nicholas II and his family in Livadia in 1911, 1912 and 1913 respectively.

In addition to the hundreds of photographs, are portraits of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, watercolours depicting episodes from the life of the Imperial Family, drawings of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, unique historical documents, including autographs of the last Romanovs, are all on display.

The exhibition also includes uniforms worn by Nicholas II and his son Tsesarevich Alexei, as well as precious orders presented to Nicholas II from the collection of the State Historical Museum in Moscow. “These precious orders from European and Asian countries, stored in the collection of the numismatics department of the museum, rarely leave the walls of the fund,” said Director Alexey Levykin.

The exhibition presents Russian Orders awarded to Nicholas II[1], in addition to those given by Great Britain, Prussia, France, Austria-Hungary, Japan, Thailand and other European and Asian countries[2]. Many orders are being exhibited for the first time.

“The orders were made of silver and gold and decorated with precious stones. Each exhibit outstanding craftsmanship, utilizing various jewelry techniques: gold embroidery, filigree, various types of enameling, engraving, and casting,” he added.

PHOTOS: memorial hall (above) to Emperor Nicholas II and his family. On display in the foreground is a reliquary frame with a portrait of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich and a lock of his hair (below).

The last hall of the exhibition resembles a basement or crypt, where there are seven stelae each depicting photographic portraits of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and their five children, who were murdered in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg on the night of 16/17 July 1918. In the center of this miniature memorial hall is a unique item – a reliquary frame with a portrait of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich and a lock of his hair.

The exhibition is supplemented by excerpts from the diary of Emperor Nicholas II and quotes from contemporaries who knew the Emperor and his family closely: Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, the Swiss tutor Pierre Gilliard, Prince Felix Yusupov, French Ambassador to Russia Maurice Paléologue, Chief Hofmeisterina of the Imperial Court E.A. Naryshkina, Head of the Chancellery of the Ministry of the Imperial Court A.A. Mosolov, Minister of Foreign Affairs S.D. Sazonov, maid of honour of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna Anna Vyrubova.

The director of the Tula branch of the State Historical Museum notes: “Understanding all the inconsistency and ambiguity of the personality of Emperor Nicholas II, we do not presume to judge his role and place in the history of our country, but provide such an opportunity for visitors to the exhibition, who will be able to “look” at the life of the Russian monarch and his family through the lens of a camera. We hope that the exposition in the branch of the Historical Museum in Tula will be a worthy occasion to honour the memory of the last Russian sovereign, who was martyred more than a century ago.”

The State Historical Museum in Moscow, opened the first regional branch in Tula at the end of September 2020 as part of the celebration marking the 500th anniversary of the Tula Kremlin.

The “Nicholas II. Family and Throne” Exhibition runs until 11th September 2023 at the Tula branch of the State Historical Museum. A Russian-language illustrated catalogue has been prepared for the exhibition.


[1] Nicholas II was the recipient of 7 national honours

[2] Nicholas II was the recipient of 51 foreign honours from 35 countries, duchies, etc

©  Paul Gilbert. 22 April 2023

Tsarskoye Selo publishes rare Romanov Family Archive

NOTE: the source of the this article is from the web site of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum, it has been edited and updated with additional information by Paul Gilbert. ALL the photographs are © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum.

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum has composed and published a new research catalogue based on an archive of materials of Romanov family members. This priceless archive was purchased for over ₽ 5,300,000 [$65,000 USD] from a private collector in London in 2017, thanks to financial support from Sberbank, also the sponsor of the catalogue’s publication.

The new Russian language catalogue includes private correspondence, drawings and photographs of members of the Imperial Family. The catalogue is authored by researchers Irina Raspopova and Victoria Plaude of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum.

The presentation of the catalogue was held on 7th April 2023 [see poster above] by the Director of the Tsarskoye Selo Olga Taratynova and the Chairman of Sberbank’s North-Western Office Viktor Ventimilla Alonso. The museum’s deputy director for research and education Dr Iraida Bott, delivered a talk on the Alexander Palace after the Romanovs. 

The archive includes more than 200 previously unpublished private correspondence, drawings and photographs spans over half a century, of the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century, from 1866 to 1922.

The catalogue contains full texts with detailed comments to all the letters, telegrams and notes, as well as detailed descriptions of the photographs. An annotated name index includes 215 names mentioned in the texts. 

Most of the documents relate to Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna (1875-1960), Emperor Alexander III’s daughter and Emperor Nicholas II’s sister, and to Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich (1878-1918), Nicholas II’s brother, as well as to George Vladimirovitch Shervashidze (1894-1978), titular Prince of Abkhazia, who was close to members of the Imperial Family.

Xenia’s letters to her brother Michael, whom she always affectionately addresses as “my darling Misha”, date from the early 1880s to 1914. She wrote them on her monogrammed paper and on the headed paper of the palaces and hotels where she stayed. Her letters include those penned by her children, decorated with vignettes and drawings.

In a letter dated 23rd November 1916. Michael writes to Xenia from Ai-Todor in the Crimea. All their family quarrels settled by then, he ends the letter saying, “Natalya Sergeevna [known as Countess Natalya Brasova, from May 1911] thanks you very much and also sends her greetings, and I hug you tightly. Loving you heartily, Your Misha.”

Of particularly great  interest are three letters of 1917-18 and a postcard dated 25th February 1918 to George Shervashidze from Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich, a first cousin of Alexander III and an eminent historian. The author describes in detail the situation in Petrograd during the days of the October Revolution and mentions Trotsky, Kerensky, Lunacharsky and Lenin. The envelopes have no postage stamps because the grand duke’s  letters were delivered by trusted individuals. His postcard of 25th February 1918 ends with somewhat prophetic words: “Little by little, all our acquaintances move to where there is no sadness or joy.”

Of great value to the Museum is Nicholas II’s autograph in his laconic note of 1899 to his sister, Grand Duchess Xenia. Also valuable are Empress Alexandra Fiodorovna’s short English messages to her sister-in-law, funnily addressed “Darling Chicken” and signed “Your old Hen”.

Taken away from Russia by Romanov family members, the archive was partially kept by Xenia and later inherited by her descendants.

Besides the Romanovs’ correspondence, Sberbank helped the Museum purchase twenty-three photographs taken by General Alexander Nasvetevich (1837-1911), an aide-de-camp to Emperor Alexander II. The shots include the photographer’s self-portrait, Alexander III and his son Nicholas at a parade in Krasnoe Selo, Empress Maria Feodorovna at Gatchina, and other important events at the imperial court.

The materials in the catalogue will be of interest to historians, archive specialists, museum workers, and anyone interested in the history of the Romanov dynasty and their last representatives in particular. The catalogue is currently only available at the Tsarskoye Selo Museum Shop in the Catherine Palace and at Dom Knigi in St Petersburg.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum. 21 April 2023

Odessa city council orders removal of icon of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

On Monday 3rd April, Ukrainian nationalists hung a large black banner denouncing the Moscow Patriarchate [photo above], across the facade of the Chapel in Honour of the Miraculous Image of the Lord Jesus Christ in Odessa. In addition, two icons depicting Fyodor Fyodorovich Ushakov (1745-1817) [1] and the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II were dismantled.

Up until recently a sculpture of the famous Russian general Alexander Suvorov (1730-1800) stood in front of the chapel. The sculpture is a copy of the historical original made in 1911. The current monument was opened in 2012.

Behind the monument is a semicircular wall depicting six mosaic icons of Orthodox saints.

On 30th November 2022, deputies of the Odessa City Council ordered that the monument to the “Founders of the City”, better known as the “Monument to Catherine II”[2], as well as the monument to Suvorov be dismantled. As a result, in December 2022, the monument to Catherine II was dismantled, and the monument to Suvorov was removed and transferred to the art museum in Odessa.

PHOTO: mosaic icon of the Holy Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II has been dismantled from the façade of the chapel – it’s whereabouts unknown

In addition, the deputies ordered the dismantling of the icons of Ushakov and Nicholas II, the latter of whom they referred to as “Nicholas the Bloody”.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Ukrainian authorities have been going to great lengths to destroy their Imperial Russian past. In July 2022, vandals destroyed a monument to Emperor Alexander III in the village of Pershotravneve, located in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine. The bust of the “Tsar-Peacemaker” was knocked to the ground, while the plaque, which included Putin’s name was also removed from the front of the pedestal. The bust-monument was erected in 2013 on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty and the 125th anniversary of the Borki Train Disaster[3] in October 1888.

Heaven forbid that Crimea should ever fall into the hands of Ukraine again, where numerous monuments to Emperors Nicholas II and Alexander III would surely suffer the same fate, not to mention that of Livadia Palace.

PHOTO: the places where the icons of Ushakov (left) and Tsar-Martyr (right) originally hung are now empty


[1] Fyodor Fyodorovich Ushakov (1745-1817) served as commander of the Black Sea Fleet. On 7th August 2001 the Russian Orthodox Church glorified him as a Saint and declared him the patron of the Russian Navy. His relics are enshrined in Sanaksar Monastery, Temnikov, Russia.

[2] The original monument was installed in Odessa in 1900, dismantled by the Bolsheviks in 1920, and restored in 2007.

[3] On 29th October 1888, the Imperial Train carrying Tsar Alexander III and his family from Crimea to St Petersburg derailed at high speed at Borki.

© Paul Gilbert. 3 April 2023

Nicholas II in the news – Winter 2023

PHOTO: framed photograph of Emperor Nicholas II from the Collection of the Museum of Emperor Nicholas II in Moscow

Russia’s last Emperor and Tsar continues to be the subject of news in Western media. For the benefit of those who do not follow me on my Facebook page, I am pleased to present the following 9 full length articles, news stories and videos published by American and British media services, in addition, are several articles about Nicholas II’s family and faithful retainers.

Below, are the articles published in January, February and March 2023. Click on the title [highlighted in red] and follow the link to read each respective article:

What did Nicholas II’s children wear? + 22 PHOTOS

The children of the last emperor were raised modestly and the same could be said about their wardrobe. The younger daughters sometimes wore the clothing of the older ones, while Alexei almost always wore a military uniform.

Source: Russia Beyond. 20 March 2023

Joy, the last dog of the Romanovs + PHOTOS

This dog is the only one that survived the murders of the Imperial Family. Joy ended his days as a pet of Edward VIII’s riding instructor.

Source: Russia Beyond. 15 March 2023

Why do the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards consider the Russian Tsar Nicholas II their guardian angel? + PHOTOS

An icon depicting the monarch hangs in the regiment headquarters in Edinburgh and accompanies it during military operations, while the band of this military unit plays the anthem of the Russian Empire, ‘God Save the Tsar!’, at ceremonial events. So, what is the connection between the Russian tsar and the elite British soldiers?

Source: Russia Beyond. 27 February 2023

PHOTOS of the last ball hosted by the Romanov royal family + 17 PHOTOS

One hundred and twenty years ago, the Romanov royal dynasty hosted the most extravagant and eccentric costume ball in the history of the Russian Empire. It was also the last. This article features beautiful photos colourized by KLIMBIM.

Source: Russia Beyond. 24 February 2023

How tsar Nicholas II and his family were murdered + 11 PHOTOS

Tsar Nicholas II and his family were massacred on July 17, 1918, in Yekaterinburg. There was no formal trial and the Bolsheviks tried to cover up their gruesome crime.

Georgy Manaev writes in ‘Russia Beyond’ about the 10 most important things one should know about the murder of the Russian royal family.

Source: Russia Beyond. 21 February 2023

Tsar Nicholas II’s children: What we know about them + 34 PHOTOS

The last Russian tsar had five children. All of them were assassinated along with their father and mother in July 1918 and, later, canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church. This article features 34 PHOTOS, including many colourized by KLIMBIM.

Source: Russia Beyond. 7 February 2023

What Russia was like in 1913 + 34 VINTAGE PHOTOS!!

Take a look at Imperial Russia in 1913, the year which the Romanov Dynasty celebrated it’s 300th anniversary.

Source: Russia Beyond. 23 January 2023

The Last Russian Emperor: Archival Footage of Nicholas II, a Canonized Saint + VIDEO

I am pleased to see this article – based largely on an article I wrote – published today on the Global Orthodox web site. Thank you to the editors!

Source: Global Orthodox. 14 January 2023

What Russia was like in 1903 + 24 PHOTOS

MORE vintage photos of Imperial Russia! Let’s take a look at the absolutely stunning photos depicting the country that no longer exists – the life of the tsar, peasants, horse traffic and many more!

Source: Russia Beyond. 12 January 2023


For MORE articles, please refer to the following links:

Nicholas II in the news – Autumn 2022
7 articles published in October, November and December 2022

Nicholas II in the news – Summer 2022
12 articles published in July, August and September 2022

Nicholas II in the news – Spring 2022
7 articles published in April, May and June 2022

Nicholas II in the news – Winter 2022
6 articles published in January, February and March 2022

Paul Gilbert’s Romanov Bookshop on AMAZON – UPDATED with NEW titles!!

I have published more than 30 titles to date through AMAZON – featuring one of the largest selections of books on Nicholas II, the Romanov dynasty and the history of Imperial Russia.

Please CLICK on the BANNER or LINK above to review my current selection of titles in hardcover, paperback and ebook editions. Listings provide a full description for each title, pricing and a Look inside feature.

© Paul Gilbert. 31 March 2023

Russia after Putin: would he restore the monarchy?

PHOTO: Russian president Vladimir Putin holding a replica of the of Imperial Crown of Russia

In the late 1960s, the aging Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco (1892-1975) decided to name a monarch to succeed him. In 1969, Franco formally nominated as his heir-apparent Prince Juan Carlos de Borbón [the grandson of King Alfonso XIII, the last king of Spain], who had been educated by him in Spain, with the new title of Prince of Spain. This designation came as a surprise to the Carlist pretender to the throne, Prince Xavier of Bourbon-Parma, as well as to Juan Carlos’s father, Juan de Borbón, the Count of Barcelona, who had a better claim to the throne, but whom Franco feared to be too liberal.

By 1973, Franco had surrendered the function of prime minister (Presidente del Gobierno), remaining only as head of state and commander in chief of the military.

Due to Franco’s declining health, Juan Carlos first began periodically acting as Spain’s head of state in the summer of 1974. Franco died in November the following year and Juan Carlos became king on 22 November 1975, two days after Franco’s death, the first reigning monarch since 1931, although his exiled father did not formally renounce his claims to the throne in favor of his son until 1977.

Is it at all possible that a similar shift of power would occur in a post-Putin Russia? How popular is the idea of a restoration of the monarchy in Russia in the 21st century? Who are the contenders? Let’s take a closer look . . .

Russia after Putin

During the past year, Western media have fuelled speculation about President Vladimir Putin’s alleged declining health. Rumours of his physical well-being have been rife, with a range of theories from cancer to Parkinson’s. Some Western news outlets have even gone so far as to state that he will be dead by the end of 2024.

Given the current political situation between Russia and the West, coupled with stealth efforts to protect Putin, and a lack of reliable sources for these news reports, one must take them with a grain of salt, treating them as nothing more than propaganda.

Despite Western predictions of Russia’s pending economic collapse, the country appears to be adapting to sanctions imposed by the United States, Great Britain, and European Union. Growing demand for Russian energy imports has helped keep the country’s besieged economy afloat. China and India, Asia’s biggest and third-biggest economies, respectively, have been the biggest drivers of the trend. This includes crude oil, pipeline gas, liquefied natural gas and coal

According to Fareed Zakaria: “Russia’s performance in the war has been poor, but it is doing better, especially at holding territory. Russia has also been able to stabilize its economy, which the IMF projects will do better this year than the UK’s or Germany’s. Russia is trading freely with such economic behemoths as China, and India, as well as neighbors like Turkey and Iran. Because of these countries and many more, outside of the advanced technology sector, it has access to all the goods and capital it lost through the Western boycott. There is now a huge world economy that does not include the West, and Russia can swim in those waters freely.”

In addition, the Russian ruble has gained against the dollar after collapsing immediately after the Ukraine invasion.

While Putin remains unpopular in the West, his popularity among his own people remains high. In January 2023, over 80 percent of Russians approved of activities of the Russian President Vladimir Putin. The popularity level saw an increase compared to September 2022, when it stood at 77 percent.

Contrary to Western media hype, President Vladimir Putin, now 70, looks remarkably healthy and shows no sign of stepping down any time soon . . . but, “what if” he decided to step down as president, “what if” he was forced from office or “what if” he died in office, who would succeed him? Would Putin repeat Franco’s historic decision, and restore the monarchy in modern day Russia?

Who are the contenders?

There are currently more than 50 Romanov descendants scattered around the world, however, only three of them are seeking to wear the Russian crown: the Spanish born Princess Maria Vladimirovna, her son Prince George Mikhailovich, and the German born Prince Karl Emich of Leiningen.

Princess Maria Vladimirovna (b. 1953)

PHOTO: Princess Maria Vladimirovna at St Isaac’s Cathedral, St Petersburg. September 2021

Princess Maria Vladimirovna Romanova was born in Madrid, Spain on 23rd December 1953, the only child of Prince Vladimir Kirillovich (1917-1992) and Princess Leonida Bagration-Mukhrani (1914-2010). She is a granddaughter of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich (1876-1938) and Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna (1876-1936). She is a great-great-granddaughter in the male line of Emperor Alexander II (1818-1881).

Maria “Masha” Vladimirovna styles herself as a “Grand Duchess,” however, this is incorrect. The last grand duchess of Russia was Nicholas II’s younger sister Olga Alexandrovna, who died on 24th November 1960, in Toronto, Canada. Masha’s supporters style her as “Empress de Jure”.

On 23rd December 1969, Maria swore an oath of loyalty to her father, to Russia, and to uphold the Fundamental Laws of Russia which governed succession to the defunct throne. At the same time, her father issued a controversial decree recognising her as heiress presumptive and declaring that, in the event he predeceased other dynastic Romanov males, then Maria would become the “Curatrix of the Imperial Throne” until the death of the last male dynast. This has been viewed as an attempt by her father to ensure the succession remained in the Kirillovich branch of the Imperial Family, while the heads of the other branches of the Imperial Family, the Princes Vsevolod Ioannovich of the Konstantinovichi, Roman Petrovich of the Nikolaevichi and Prince Andrei Alexandrovich of the Mihailovichi declared that her father’s actions were illegal.

On 4th September 1976 (civil) in Dinard, France and at the Russian Orthodox Chapel in Madrid, Spain on 22nd September 1976 (religious), Maria married Prince Franz Wilhelm of Prussia [born 1943], of the defunct House of Hohenzollern. Franz Wilhelm is a great-grandson of Emperor Wilhelm II. Franz Wilhelm converted to the Eastern Orthodox faith prior to the wedding, taking the name Michael Pavlovich and receiving the title of a Grand Duke of Russia from Maria’s father.

The couple separated in 1982, a year after the birth of their only child, George Mikhailovich. Following the divorce on 19th June 1985, Franz Wilhelm reverted to his Prussian name and style, and converted back to his Catholic faith.

Upon the death of her father on 21st April 1992, Maria “succeeded” him as head of the Russian Imperial Family, a move which was vehemently opposed by ALL the other living descendants of the Romanov family.

The Romanov Family Associations two successive presidents said of Maria’s claims: Prince Nicholas Romanovich, who maintained his own claims to dynastic status and to headship of the Romanov family, “Strictly applying the Pauline Laws as amended in 1911 to all marriages of Equal Rank, the situation is very clear. At the present time, not one of the Emperors or Grand Dukes of Russia has left living descendants with unchallengeable rights to the Throne of Russia,” and his younger brother, Prince Dimitri Romanovich, said of Maria’s assumption of titles, including “de jure Empress of all the Russias”, “It seems that there are no limits to this charade”.

Despite all the fuss over morganatic marriages within the Imperial Family – made by both herself and her father in the 20th and 21st centuries – in January 2021, Masha announced the morganatic engagement of her son to Rebecca Virginia Bettarini from Italy. Bettarini converted to Russian Orthodoxy and took the name Victoria Romanovna [named after Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna, wife of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich]. Masha granted permission for the couple to marry. She decreed that Bettarini will have the title Princess, with the predicate “Her Serene Highness” and the right to use the surname Romanov.

It is important to emphasize, that Maria Vladimirovna never had or has any authority to hand out titles or awards as she is not and never has been a ruling monarch. Despite this, Maria actively, and completely illegally distributes orders, medals and even titles of the Russian Empire. While many orders and awards of the Russian Empire have been officially restored in the modern Russian Federation, an ordinary civilian, and not a representative of the state, distributes the same order in appearance and name to her supporters on behalf of the “Imperial House”.

Prince George Mikhailovich-Hohenzollern (b. 1981)

PHOTO: Gosha is an honourary member of the Brotherhood in Christ Motorcycle Association

Prince George “Gosha” Mikhailovich was born in Madrid, Spain on 13th March 1981, he is the only child of Princess Maria Vladimirovna and Prince Franz Wilhelm of Prussia.

Gosha styles himself as a “Grand Duke,” however, this is incorrect. The last grand duke of Russia was Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich, who died on 30th October 1956, in Paris, France. His mother attributes to him the title of Tsesarevich: heir apparent or presumptive in the Russian Empire, a title which no longer exists. 

As the son of a cadet member of the branch of the House of Hohenzollern which formerly ruled the German Empire and Kingdom of Prussia, Gosha is legitimately a German prince, and has much more rights to the German throne than that of Russia. His father, who stopped using his Russian title after his separation, has said of his son, “I have his German passport right here; I always carry it with me. It says he is Prince George of Prussia”.

In 2013, Gosha established the Russian Imperial Foundation, whose director he later married. In 2019, George moved to Moscow, he is the only Romanov descendant currently living in Russia. He is a successful and wealthy businessman, and while thousands of his countrymen are being sent home in body bags, George and Victoria live in the lap of luxury in their sumptuous home in Moscow.

Despite all the fuss over morganatic marriages within the Imperial Family – made by both herself and her father in the 20th and 21st centuries – in January 2021, Masha announced the morganatic engagement of her son to Rebecca Virginia Bettarini from Italy. Bettarini converted to Russian Orthodoxy and took the name Victoria Romanovna [named after Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna, wife of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich]. Masha decreed that her future daughter-in-law would have the title of Princess, with the predicate “Her Serene Highness” and the right to use the surname Romanova

The couple married on 24th September 2021 in a civil ceremony in Moscow. The religious wedding took place on 1st October at Saint Isaac’s Cathedral in St Petersburg. The Russian and some Western media outlets hailed the event as both the Romanov “wedding of the century” and the “first Romanov to marry in Russia”, since the fall of the Romanov dynasty in 1917. Neither are correct. Around 1500 guests attended the lavish ceremony, including numerous members of various defunct royal houses of Europe. 

In May 2022, the couple announced that Princess Victoria was expecting their first child. On 21st October 2022, a son was born in Moscow. Once again, Masha issued yet another title: her first grandchild would be called “His Serene Highness Prince Alexander Georgievich Romanov”.

On 1st November 2022, the Romanov Family Association issued a statement claiming that the new Romanov baby “cannot rightfully be considered a member of the Russian Imperial Family”.

Prince Karl Emich of Leiningen (b. 1952)

The German-born 70-year-old Prince Karl Emich of Leiningen, has an even more ridiculous claim to the non-existent Russian throne. Prince Karl is a grandson of Grand Duchess Maria Kirillovna (1907–1951), eldest child of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, who claimed the Russian crown while in exile in 1924. He is a great-great-grandson of Emperor Alexander II of Russia and grandnephew of Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich – father of Princess Maria Vladimirovna.

 In 2013, the Monarchist Party of Russia declared him the primary heir to the Russian throne upon his conversion from Lutheranism to Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and in 2014 announced the formation of the Imperial Throne, wherein Karl Emich had agreed to assume imperial dignity as Emperor Nicholas III.

Prince Karl married three times: He married Princess Margarita of Hohenlohe-Öhringen on 8 June 1984. Princess Margarita died in 1989 in a car accident. His second marriage took place on 24 May 1991, whereby he married morganatically Gabriele Renate Thyssen. The couple divorced in 1998. On 8 September 2007, Prince Karl married his third wife Countess Isabelle von und zu Egloffstein. On 12 April 2010, they had a son, Prince Emich of Leiningen. The family lives at Kunreuth castle in Bavaria.

Karl Emich and his supporters argue that the marriage of Maria Vladimirovna’s parents was in contravention of the Pauline Laws. They maintain that the House of Bragation-Mukhrani – to whom her mother was born – did not possess sovereign status and was not recognized as equal by Nicholas II for the purpose of dynastic marriages at the time of the union of Princess Tatiana Konstantinovna and Prince Constantine Bragation-Mukhransky in 1911, thirty seven years prior to that of Princess Leonida and Prince Vladimir Kirillovich. Therefore, as the next of kin to Vladimir (in the exclusion of his daughter), the Russian Monarchist Party recognises Karl Emich as the heir to the Russian throne, since he and his wife converted on 1st June 2013, from Lutheranism to Eastern Orthodoxy, enabling his accession. The couple received Orthodox names of Nikolai Kirillovich and Ekaterina Fyodorovna.

Russian Monarchist Groups

Russian Monarchist Party

The Russian Monarchist Party was established in 2012, by Russian businessman and politician Anton Alekseyevich Bakov (born 29 December 1965), and its current Chairman. It is the largest of numerous monarchist organizations founded since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, which supports a return of monarchy in Russia, ousted in 1917. In 2013 the Russian Monarchist Party declared German Prince Karl Emich of Leiningen as heir to the Russian throne.

In 2015 Bakov announced the Party’s plans to run for the upcoming 2016 Russian State Duma elections. In early 2016 in an interview with RBK news agency, he confirmed this intention and stated that Anastasia would again become the front person of the planned campaign, and he personally would not run. However, the party did not end up participating, and has since failed to garner much support for a restoration of monarchy in Russia.

In early 2016 Bakov announced the Monarchist Party plans to organize a public trial for Lenin and Stalin, accusing them of killing millions of Russians and thus significantly slowing down the normal evolution of society and state.

Konstantin Malofeev (b. 1974)

PHOTO: Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev (right) with his “good old friend” Prince George Mikhailovich (left)

Konstantin Valeryevich Malofeev (b. 1974) is a Russian businessman and chairman of non-government pro-monarchism organisation Society for the Development of Russian Historical Education Double-Headed Eagle. He is chairman of the board of directors of the media group Tsargrad dedicated to Russian Orthodox Christianity and support of President Vladimir Putin.

The Orthodox billionaire and philanthropist Konstantin Malofeev, a long-time friend of Princess Maria Vladimirovna and her son Prince George Mikhailovich. Malofeev served as “Guest of Honour” at the wedding of his “good old friend” George Mikhailovich, and Rebecca Bettarini, held in St. Petersburg on 1st October 2021.

PHOTO: Malofeev attended the wedding of Prince George Mikhailovich-Hohenzollern and Rebecca Bettarini in St. Petersburg

Since 2014, Malofeev and his companies are designated to the lists of individuals sanctioned by the European Union, United States, and Canada, during the 2014 pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine, accusing Malofeev of trying to destabilize and financing separatism in Ukraine.

In September 2019, the Bulgarian government banned him from entering the country for ten years over an alleged spying conspiracy aimed at turning the country away from its pro-Western orientation and further toward Moscow. In April 2022, the United States Department of Justice indicted Malofeyev on the charge of evading IEEPA sanctions.

While all of Malofeev’s initiatives in Ukraine were, formally, privately organized and funded, intercepted phone calls between him and his lieutenants on the ground in Ukraine, as well as hacked email correspondence, showed that he closely coordinated his actions with the Kremlin, at times via the powerful Orthodox priest Bishop Tikhon whom Malofeev and Putin (in their own words) share as spiritual adviser; at other times via direct coordination between Malofeev and Putin’s advisers, but also via Malofeev’s close collaboration with the Kremlin-owned Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RIIS), chaired by former KGB/SVR General Leonid Reshetnikov.

Zemsky Sobor

The Zemsky Sobor of 1613 was a meeting of representatives of the Estates of the realm of the Tsardom of Russia, held for the election of a Tsar after the expulsion of the Polish-Lithuanian Occupiers at the end of the Time of Troubles. It was opened on 16th January 1613 in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. On 3rd March 1613, the Sobor elected Mikhail Feodorovich Romanov (1596-1645) as Tsar, establishing the House of Romanov. The coronation of Michael I is widely considered to be the end of the time of troubles.

In modern times, the Zemsky Sobor called itself the Congress of White Monarchists. They met in Vladivostok in the summer of 1922, issuing a proclaimation for the restoration of the Romanov Dynasty on the Russian throne. It was the only attempt to restore the monarchy in Russia during the civil war.

On 23rd July 1922, the Zemsky Sobor of the Amur region of the Provisional Priamurye Government was convened in Vladivostok, by Mikhail Konstantinovich Diterikhs (1874-1937). Diterikhs was a general of the White Army in the Russian Far East, who convened the assembly four years after the murder of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. He issued a proclaimation for a new monarchy, naming Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich [1856-1929] as the Tsar of Russia, with Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow [1865-1925] as the honourary chairman of the Zemsky Sobor. Neither Nikolai or Tikhon were present at the assembly, and the plan was cancelled when the region fell to the Bolsheviks two months later.

Does the monarchy have a future in Russia?

It is Maria and George’s claims which garner the most publicity. They are supported by the Legitimists – a small group of zealots – most of whom are American, and have no say whatsoever in the monarchist debate in modern day Russia. They work tirelessly to promote their agenda to any one who will listen to them.

Despite what the Legitimists claim on their blog and social media, neither Maria Vladimirovna nor her pompous arrogant son George Mikhailovich, are very popular in post-Soviet Russia. This prompted Maria Vladimirovna to utilize a public relations firm to make her son more familiar and “likeable” to the Russian people. Most Russians – including monarchists – dismiss their claims as “pretenders” to the non-existent Russian throne

It is interesting to note that Maria and her son George DO NOT recognize the Ekaterinburg Remains as those of Emperor Nicholas II and his family; nor did either one of them attended the Tsar’s interment in St Petersburg on 17th July 1998; both continue to “maintain good relations with Vladimir Putin”.

The idea of restoring monarchy in post-Soviet Russia is not popular with most Russians. In the summer of 2019, a poll conducted by REGNUM of some 35,000 Russian citizens showed that only 28% supported the idea of restoring the monarchy, more than half (52%) of which would NOT support placing a “Romanov” on the throne!

The latter is supported by the abbot of the Archangel Michael Monastery of the Alexander Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, Father Afanasy Selichev, who said: “If we carefully read the latest edition of the laws on succession to the throne, it becomes absolutely clear that the current Romanovs have no right to occupy the Russian throne.”

And even if Russia opted to restore the monarchy, why would the Russian people want a European princess or prince to rule over them? A Zemsky Sobor would be the only logical option, whereby a new Tsar would be Russian born.

On a more personal note, while this author is 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.

© Paul Gilbert. 23 March 2023

On this day – 22nd March 1917 – Nicholas II and family are placed under house arrest in the Alexander Palace


Iconic image of Emperor Nicholas II in the Alexander Park at Tsarskoye Selo

On this day – 22nd March (O.S. 9th March) 1917 – the Provisional Government decreed that Emperor Nicholas II, his wife and five children should be held under house arrest in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.

At eleven in the morning, the Imperial Train pulled into the Imperial Railway Pavilion at Tsarskoye Selo. Nicholas emerged wearing a Caucasian fur cap and soldier’s greatcoat. Behind him the members of his suite began to jump off the train – like rats abandoning a sinking ship – and run down the platform. Not looking back – they fled.

According to Count Paul Benckendorff (1853-1921), the Emperor’s motorcar arrived at the gate of the Alexander Palace and was stopped by the sentry, who summoned the Commandant. The Commandant went down the steps and asked in a loud voice who was there. The sentry cried out, ‘Nicholas Romanov’. ‘Let him pass,’ said the officer.

During his captivity, the Tsar was subject to constant harassment and humiliation from the soldiers – most of whom were thugs – stationed in and around the Alexander Palace.

According to Pierre Gilliard: “The Emperor accepted all these restraints with extraordinary serenity and moral grandeur. No word of reproach ever passed his lips.”


Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna sitting in the Alexander Park, June 1917

On Alexander Kerensky’s order, Nicholas and Alexandra were kept apart in the palace for a period of 18 days. They were permitted to see each other only during meals, and only in the presence of soldiers. It was during this time that Kerensky conducted an investigation of the Imperial couple’s documents and letters. He failed to find any evidence which would incriminate either of them.

Kerensky interviewed Alexandra regarding her involvement in state affairs and Rasputin’s involvement in them through his influence over her. She answered that as she and her spouse kept no secrets from each other, they often discussed politics and she naturally gave him advice to support him; as for Rasputin, he had been a true holy man of God, and his advice had been only in the interest of the good of Russia and the imperial family. After the interview, Kerensky told the Tsar that he believed that Alexandra had told him the truth and was not lying.


Nicholas II working in the vegetable garden behind the Alexander Palace in 1917

The Imperial Family had total privacy inside the palace, but walks in the grounds were strictly regulated. Members of their domestic staff were allowed to stay if they wished and culinary standards were maintained.

Even in the Alexander Park, their movements were restricted. The photo below, show the prisoners at the frontier of their domain. They were not permitted to cross the bridge which led them to the big park, to the outside world and freedom.

Colonel Eugene Kobylinsky was appointed to command the military garrison at Tsarskoye Selo, which increasingly had to be done through negotiation with the committees or soviets elected by the soldiers.


Nicholas II and his family under guard in the Alexander Park, August 1917

The Imperial Family were held under house arrest until 14th (O.S. 1st) August 1917, it was on this day that Nicholas II and his family left the Alexander Palace for the last time. They exited from the Semicircular Hall of the palace, and travelled by car to the Alexandrovskaya Station where they were sent into exile to Tobolsk. 

For an eye witness account of Nicholas II and his family under house arrest in the Alexander Palace, please refer to the following book The Romanovs Under House Arrest: From the 1917 Diary of a Palace Priest, the memories of Archpriest Afanasy Belyaev, who served as priest and confessor to the Russian Imperial family.

© Paul Gilbert. 22 March 2023