The Forgotten Tutor: John Epps and the Romanovs Topic: Books
includes 146 pages, with 66 black and white photographs and illustrations
Foreword by Hugh Bett of Maggs Bros. Ltd., London
Use the order button at the bottom of this page to order your copy from the Royal Russia Bookshop
Gilberts Books - the publishing division of Royal Russia - is pleased to present our latest title - The Forgotten Tutor: John Epps and the Romanovs is the first book written about the virtually unknown tutor to the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, between the years 1905-1914.
In December 1914 the eldest daughter of the last Tsar sent her former tutor a photographic portrait of herself. The soulful picture, signed ‘Olga 1914’, was the last communication the devoted tutor received from any of his former pupils. In July 1918 the family of Nicholas II were brutally murdered by a Bolshevik firing squad in the basement of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg.
After his return to England in 1914, John Epps took particular pains to preserve his Imperial mementoes. Over nine years — between 1905 and 1914 — he collected every letter, card and drawing he received from the ill-fated children. About 30 of his papers were discovered more than a decade ago at Maggs Bros. Ltd., an antiquarian book dealer in London, England. They had lain untouched at the bottom of a tin document drawer for nearly 70 years.
The lives of the four daughters of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna have been carefully preserved through the post-Revolution memoirs of Pierre Gilliard, Sydney Gibbs, Margaretta Eagar and Anna Vyrubova. These names recorded for posterity tell the story of their lives and their influence on the Imperial children. Of John Epps, however, there was no mention. He had been totally lost to history. Until now.
Janet Epps - an Australian descendant of the tutor - and Dr. Gabriella Lang tell the story of John Epps, who arrived in Russia in 1880 to take up a post in an English school. From 1900, he was employed as a teacher at the Imperial Lyceum in Tsarskoye Selo.
It was not until 1905, however, that he was offered the position of tutor to the four daughters of Russia's last tsar. On Monday April 25th, 1905, John Epps arrived at the Alexander Palace where he was met by Princess Sonia Orbeliani - the Tsarina’s lady-in-waiting who took him to schoolroom, where he encountered “a tall, slender woman.” He describes this meeting: “Have I the honour of speaking to the Tsarina?” he asked hesitantly. “Yes, you do,” she replied. His new August employer smiled and did her best to make him at ease.
Many of John Epps’ observations of the grand duchesses are now preserved in the pages of this charming book. To John Epps, they had not been historical figures but real people with whom he had a relationship and these historical documents were tangible proof of that.
The highlight of the book are the reproductions of the letters, cards and drawings created by the grand duchesses for their beloved tutor, and published for the first time in The Forgotten Tutor. These childish drawings and sketches - so lovingly prepared and just as lovingly collected and carefully preserved - coupled with Epps' impressions of life in the Alexander Palace, tell of a different age, a magical world that ended so brutally. The stage is now set for John Epps' story to be told, for acknowledgement of his contribution to the rich tapestry of the Romanov saga and - most importantly - to finally bring these poignant personal mementoes of the last tsar and his family into the public arena.
The Forgotten Tutor: John Epps and the Romanovs is the 25th title published by Gilbert's Books - the publishing division of Royal Russia - since 1994.
For more information on the discovery of John Epps papers, please refer to the following news articles published in the Australian press in 2004:
Emperor Nicholas II Memorial Plaque Unveiled in Voronezh Topic: Nicholas II
On December 19 a new memorial plaque dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II was unveiled in the city of Voronezh. The plaque was erected on the Voronezh Musical College in honour of the visit of Nicholas II to the Ladies' Committee of the Red Cross Hospital, which was located in the building before the Revolution. The emperor, his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, their daughters Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana visited the hospital on 19 December (O.S. 6 December) 1914. The solemn ceremony was timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the visit of the Imperial family. The event took place within the framework of events dedicated to the centenary of the First World War. The bronze memorial plaque was made at the Anisimov bell factory.
Bust of Emperor Nicholas II Unveiled in Sevastopol Topic: Nicholas II
A bust of the last Emperor Nicholas II has been unveiled at the Church of the Holy Royal Martyrs in the Russian city of Sevastopol in the Crimea. The bust was consecrated by Archpriest Father Sergius (Halyuta) of the Sevastopol district.
The monument was created by sculptor Alexander Appolonov. The bust is a gift to Sevastopol is through the patronage of entrepreneurs of the Krasnodar Territory. A delegation of Taman (Krasnodar region) attended the consecration ceremony held on December 18th at the Church of the Holy Royal Martyrs, which is still under construction.
"If you take the collective image of Nicholas II, apart from a peacemaker, he was a great family man. And the family - the bulwark of what we stand for,"- said Mikhail Baslovyak, the Chairman of the Board of Deputies of the Taman village settlements of the Krasnodar Territory.
During his 23-year reign, Nicholas II made numerous visits to Sevastopol, met with veterans of the Crimean War, prayed in the city’s churches, visited monuments, inspected the ships of the Black Sea Fleet of the Imperial Russian Navy. It was at Sevastopol that the Imperial family arrived by train, and the imperial yacht Standart.
A Short Summary of My December 2014 Visit to St. Petersburg Topic: Paul Gilbert
I have just returned from my recent working visit to St. Petersburg, one which marked my 25th visit to Russia since 1986. My 8-day visit - December 4th to 11th - was very productive, one in which I met many new Romanov experts.
I have made numerous visits to Russia during the winter months over the years, however, this was my first winter visit to St. Petersburg since 2009. While the thought of icy cold winds and knee deep snow may put many visitors off, it has never deterred me. I should like to note that I have yet to experience a real Russian winter. During this visit, aside from a few snow flurries, there was no snow on the ground, and very little ice on the Neva. There are many advantages to travelling to this beautiful city during the winter months. First, there are few tourists in the city, which mean no line ups and no crowds, and thus making visits to the palaces and museums more enjoyable. Second, hotel prices are considerably less, you can save up to 50% over peak summer rates! Third, cultural events are at a peak, including ballet, opera and symphony performaces. Fourth, there is something simply magical about visiting this city when it is covered in a blanket of white snow - when it does snow, of course!
This was a particularly interesting and productive work visit for me. I was introduced to numerous Romanov experts, several of which have expressed a sincere interest in working together on various projects, including a proposed Romanov conference to be held at a future date in St. Petersburg.
During this visit I once again met with my Russian-based book supplier and ordered several new titles that will be featured in the Royal Russia Bookshop in the coming months ahead.
The highlights of my December 2014 visit to St. Petersburg include:
Tour of the Grand Ducal Mausoleum
I was invited to meet with Dr. Marina Logunova the chief historian for the State Museum of St. Petersburg, and the woman behind the restoration of the Cathedral of Peter and Paul - final resting place for generations of Romanovs, including the last tsar, Nicholas II, and his family. Dr. Logunova provided me with a private tour of the Grand Ducal Mausoleum.
It was during this tour that I took the opportunity to ask her about the popular theory that the Bolsheviks opened and robbed the graves of the Romanovs after the Revolution. "I can confirm that some of the graves were opened by the Bolsheviks, however, an inspection of these graves in 1992-93 failed to show any evidence that they had been tampered with," she said, "I can also add that there are no documents in the archives to support claims that the Bolsheviks had robbed or desecrated them."
The Grand Ducal Mausoleum has been of particular interest to me for many years. Sadly, it has been closed to the public for some years now due to ongoing restoration which is expected to take years to complete due to lack of funding. I was honoured to have had such a distinguished and highly respected expert take the time out of her busy day to provide me with this incredibly interesting tour and commentary. Sadly, the lighting was very poor and many of my photographs did not turn out. I have, however, did manage to take photographs of many of the graves of the grand dukes and grand duchesses buried in the mausoleum. It is interesting to note also that the beautiful Resurrection of Christ stained glass window (recreated in 2006) has been restored to it's original place. Today, it can be seen from the outside of the mausoleum over the rear entrance created during the Soviet years.
Dr. Marina Logunova also took me inside St. Catherine's Chapel, where the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, members of his family, as well as those of their four faithful retainers are interred. When asked why Nicholas II was not buried in the main cathedral alongside his ancestors, she explained that this was due to the fact that "Nicholas had abdicated, thus barring him from burial in the main cathedral," and that "the retainers could not be buried in the cathedral with the Russian sovereigns as they were commoners." She also confirmed that there are no plans to inter the remains of the Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria alongside the rest of the Imperial family any time soon, due to the position of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Imperial Obsession: The West’s Fascination with the Romanov Legacy
Several months ago, I had been invited by Elena Konyukhova, the Director of the Prince George Galitzine Memorial Library to give a talk about my magazine during my visit to St. Petersburg. I proposed that the talk be in two parts: the first would explore the West's fascination with the Romanov legacy, while the second part would focus on my magazine.
This was my first official speaking engagement in Russia. My talk on December 8th was attended by 45-50 people, including Rudy de Casseres, who travelled from Helsinki, Finland to attend my talk. I had the opportunity of meeting with Rudy for coffee on two separate occasions during which he was kind enough to share with me his his vast wealth of knowledge about the Romanovs and St. Petersburg.
The event was also attended by numerous Romanov experts: Igor Zimin, Dr. Marina Logunova, Galina Korneva, Tatiana Cheboksarova, and Zoia Beliakova. Several of these experts expressed an interest in writing articles for future publication in Royal Russia.
At the end of my presentation, Dr. Marina Logunova thanked me and presented me with a copy of her new book on the burial ceremonies of the Russian emperors and empresses. In turn, I donated a full set of Royal Russia Annuals (6 issues) to the Prince George Galitzine Memorial Library, noting that copies of all future issues and books would be donated to the library for their English readers to peruse.
Overall, the evening was a success. I was overwhelmed with the kindness and enthusiasm I received from both the library staff and the guests during and after my presentation. I came away with the assurance that I had made many new friends and acquaintances in St. Petersburg.
State Hermitage Museum 250th Anniversary
The celebrations marking the 250th anniversary of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg took place over the course of three days – from December 7 till 9. On the evening of December 6th, the State Hermitage Museum presented a colourful high-definition 3D mapping projection called the “Dance of History”. A series of videos illustrating the most significant historic events of St. Petersburg and the Hermitage, as well as the museum’s finest pieces of art were projected on to the Winter Palace and the General Staff Building. The display was accompanied by the performance of classical music from different time periods and poetry recitals.
On my last evening in St. Petersburg I decided to return to the Faberge Museum. During my previous visit back in June, one had to join a group tour in order to view the Faberge treasures housed in the beautifully restored Shuvalov Palace, however, this has since changed.
The Faberge Museum is open daily (except Fridays) from 10:00 am to 8:45 pm. The ticket office is open from 9:30 am to 8:15 pm. Admission is 300 Rubles - a bargain!
Guided tours are offered from 10:00 am to 4:50 pm in both Russian or English. Duration of the guided tour is about one hour.
Individual visitors are admitted from 6:00 pm to 8:45 pm. Hand held audio guides in various languages (including English) are available to rent. I was delighted to have had the opportunity to purchase a ticket and spend a couple of hours browsing the numerous display cases filled with Faberge treasures at my leisure.
I would also like to note that the museum also has a gift shop on the ground floor, which offers a selection of souvernirs and books. I purchased 3 new Faberge books - all published by the Faberge Museum - to add to my library, including a 170-page Exhibit Index. For those visiting the museum independently, I would suggest purchasing a copy of this helpful little guide prior to visit. The price is only 150 Rubles.
Overall, my recent working visit to St. Petersburg was most productive. During my stay, I did a tremendous amount of research, compiling pages of notes, and took about 200 more photographs, some of which are shown above. I look forward to sharing the fruits of my research with Royal Russia subscribers and followers on my web site and blog, as well as the pages of Royal Russia Annual in the coming weeks and months ahead.
Romanov Legacy: The Palaces and Residences of the Russian Imperial Family 2015 Calendar Topic: Royal Russia
A peek inside our 2015 calendar (above) features vintage photos of 12 palaces and residences of the Romanov dynasty as they looked before the Revolution
Royal Russia is pleased to present it's 2015 calendar. For a third year in a row, the calendar's theme showcases the palaces and residences of the Russian Imperial family.
Our new Romanov Legacy 2015 Calendar features a dozen additional Romanov palaces and residences. Each residence featured includes a short history, complete with unique vintage photographs as they looked before 1917 - including historic interiors.
Cover: Likani Palace, the summer residence of Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich (1859-1919), located near the town of Borjomi, Georgia.
Photo: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky
The following palaces and residences are featured in this years calendar:
- Alexander Palace (Tsarskoye Selo)
- Mikhailovka (near St. Petersburg)
- Palace of Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievich, Jr (St. Petersburg)
- Sergievsky Palace (St. Petersburg)
- Gatchina (near St. Petersburg)
- Znamenka Palace (near St. Petersburg)
- Massandra (Crimea)
- Sergievka (near Peterhof)
- Marble Palace (St. Petersburg)
- Cottage Palace (Peterhof)
- Alexandria Palace (Moscow)
- Mikhailovksy Palace (St. Petersburg)
Your purchase is helping to preserve Russia's rich Romanov legacy
Once again, the net profits from the sale of the calendar will not only help Royal Russia, but a donation will be made to the Tsarskoye Selo and Peterhof State Museum Palace Preserves. These donations are part of Royal Russia's 'Giving Back to Russia' campaign, and assist the palace museum's with ongoing and future restoration projects and the acquisition of items for the palace museum collections.
In the last two years, a total of 40,000 Rubles ($1,200 USD) was donated to the two palace-museums from the sale of the 2013 and 2014 Romanov Legacy calendars.
Empress Anna Ioannovna's Ice Palace Topic: Anna Ioannovna, Empress
In this 1878 painting by Valery Jacobi, the scared newly-weds sit on the icy bed to the left; the jocular woman in golden dress is Empress Anna herself.
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the December 10th, 2014 edition of the St. Petersburg Times. The author Gus Peters, owns the copyright of the work presented below.
While absolute power can corrupt absolutely, as British historian and politician John Dalberg-Acton once noted, it can also allow the indulgence of certain quirks in a way that would otherwise be impossible. Take for instance the Romanov family: standard-bearers of the autocracy for over 300 years in Russia, they produced a number of rulers with some strange interests.
Peter the Great, for example, was fond of midgets and giants, and the Kunstkamera remains a testament to the man’s endless curiosity for all things strange and unusual in the natural world. Anna Ioannovna, Peter’s niece, used her unchallenged authority to do some strange things as well.
Her accession to the Russian throne was somewhat accidental. When Peter II, then only 14, died on the eve of his wedding, he left no heir, leading to a succession crisis. The Supreme Privy Council, which had been established several years before as an advisory body for Catherine I, named Anna empress and forced her to agree to a variety of restrictions, including not being able to marry or choose a successor upon her death. On Mar. 8, 1730, Anna turned against the council and established herself as Empress of Russia, consolidating her power and persecuting the noblemen who had tried to control her.
The empress had a renowned passion for luxurious things and enjoyed a wide variety of entertainment. She gambled recklessly, ordered her jesters to fight and wrestle with one another, and paraded dwarves, seers, fools and other odd folk through her court. She released hundreds of animals onto the grounds of Peterhof in order to hunt them. She rang fire bells around the city so she could watch the ensuing panic.
Yet her favorite entertainment was arranging (or re-arranging) marriages. Freud would likely have a field day explaining why exactly this delighted her so much, but it became a habit that paired nicely with her lust for the finer things in life.
The winter of 1739-40 was an especially cold one throughout Europe. It was during this harshest of the seasons that Anna was smitten by the idea of marrying a Kalmyk hunchback, Avdotia Buzheninova, to Prince Michael Golitsyn-Kvasnik, who had fallen from grace along with much of the old nobility after Anna’s turn against the Supreme Privy Council and was then a jester in her court. His worst crime though was not related to the Supreme Privy Council but to his marriage to an Italian Catholic, which undoubtedly irked the Orthodox empress’ sensibilities.
For the wedding, which was held on Feb. 6, 1740, Anna commissioned the building of a palace of ice on the frozen Neva. Peter Eropkin, an architect in the city, supervised the construction of the palace and the wedding coincided with the 10th anniversary of Anna’s rise to the throne.
The wedding itself was an exercise in humiliation. The unwilling bride and groom rode carriages around the city drawn by farm animals and rode an elephant as well; they were even forced to dress as clowns at one point. To top off their misery, Anna made the betrothed couple spend their wedding night in the House of Ice she had specially constructed for the event.
The house itself was remarkable for its time: it was 80 feet long and nearly three stories high, and it contained a variety of statues all constructed out of ice. It even had a stove, although during the dreadful cold of that winter, it was of little help. Both Golitsyn-Kvasnik and Buzheninova nearly died from the cold after spending their first night together in Anna’s palace on the river.
Peterhof Announces Reconstruction of Lower Dacha of Nicholas II Topic: Peterhof
A view of the Lower Dacha at Peterhof as it looked in the early 20th century
The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation have approved a plan for the reconstruction of the Lower Dacha of Emperor Nicholas II at Peterhof. The announcement was made during a press conference held on December 12th, by the General Director of the Peterhof State Museum Preserve, Elena Kalnitskaya.
In 2013, a local research team were hired by the museum, whose task was to conduct a comprehensive research and development study of the architectural concept of reconstruction and rebuilding of the architectural and surrounding landscape complex. Earlier this year the Peterhof State Museum Preserve presented three options for the restoration of the building - the first of these involved the complete reconstruction of the dacha, the second - the conservation of the surviving fragments of the ruins, and the third option combined the preservation of the surviving fragments of the ruins to become incorporated into the partial reconstruction of the dacha.
The head of the Ministry of Culture, Vladimir Medina has approved the third version of restoration. The Minister announced that 70% of the funds (730 million Rubles) for the reconstruction will be provided from the federal budget. The remaining funds will be provided by private investors.
Situated on the shore of the Gulf of Finland in the Alexandria Park, the Lower Dacha was built on the orders of Emperor Alexander III. The architect Antonio Tomishko created a four-story building resembling an Italian villa in the neo-Renaissance style, complete with a high tower and observation deck. It was here that Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna spent the first year of their marriage. "The main beauty of the whole house is it’s proximity of the sea" - the Emperor wrote in his diary. It was here that the Tsesarevich Alexei was born in 1904, and in 1914, Nicholas II signed the Manifesto of Russia's entry into the First World War.
Artist's concept of the newly constructed Lower Dacha to be completed by 2025
During the Soviet years, the Lower Dacha served as a museum, and then as a Holiday House for members of the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs). The furniture was later distributed to various museums around the country. In the 1960s the building was blown up, leaving nothing but ruins. All that survived were the guardhouse gates, part of the fence, the Swiss house, and fragments of the breakwaters. Every year on August 12th, the birthday of Tsesarevich Alexei, local Orthodox Christians and monarchists conduct a liturgy at the ruins of the Lower Dacha.
"The reconstruction of the Lower Dacha, will serve as a multifunctional museum and cultural center that will host exhibitions, concerts and lectures,” says Elena Kalnitskaya, “the reconstruction will allow visitors to imagine how this place looked in the early 20th century. A permanent exhibition devoted to the family of Nicholas II during their residency at the Lower Dacha will also be created.”
According to Kalnitskaya, the reconstruction project of the Lower Dacha is expected to take up to 10 years to complete. Design work is expected to be completed next year, while the construction would begin as early as 2016. Kalnitskaya notes that construction will be implemented in stages, with full completion of the historical complex by 2025.
In the past year and a half, I have followed this project with great interest, and published three other articles:
A Russian Moment No. 54 - Hanging Garden, Small Hermitage Topic: A Russian Moment
The Hanging Garden of the Small Hermitage was laid out by the order of Empress Catherine II on the first floor over the imperial stables. It's intricate irrigation system provided water for growing trees and shrubs on the stables' roof. Placed amidst its luxuriant vegetation were white marble statues and a fountain.
In May of 1942 the lilac bushes no longer flourished in the Hanging Garden. After the previous winter when many citizens of Leningrad had suffered terribly from starvation, the Hermitage staff dug vegetable beds in place of flower beds, lilac and honeysuckle shrubs.
In recent years the Hanging Garden has been beautifully restored and now offers an oasis of colour and fragrance amidst the hustle and bustle of the busy museum.
Winter Palace Church Reopens After Restoration Topic: Winter Palace
The State Hermitage Museum have completed the restoration of the Great Church in the former Winter Palace. The opening of the church took place on December 9th, as part of the celebrations marking the 250th anniversary of the State Hermitage Museum.
Restoration work on the interiors and objects of arts and crafts took about one year to complete. Restorers have tried to reproduce the interior and the individual elements of the church’s historic original, an area of some 525 square meters.
Specialists repaired the walls, windows and doors, parquet floor, restored stucco elements on the walls and ceiling, gilded sculptures made of papier-mache, and recreated the ceiling paintings. The iconostasis has also been beautifully restored. Some of the icons have been preserved, while black canvas covers those still missing. Restorers will create copies of the missing icons based on historic photographs and watercolours.
The Great Church was constructed by the famous architect, Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli in 1753-1762 in the style of a magnificent Elizabethan Baroque. The church was destroyed during a fire in the Winter Palace in 1837 and was rebuilt in 1838-1839 by the architect Vasily Stasov.
For many years the church served as the home church of the Russian Imperial family. Archpriest Alexander Vasiliev served as the last priest and confessor of the Imperial family in 1914-1918. The church was closed in 1918, and transferred to the State Hermitage Museum in 1922. From 1917 the cathedral was used for museum purposes, it was during this period that many elements of the decoration of the cathedral were lost. In 1938-1939, it was decided to dismantle all the design elements of the church, including the iconostasis. Several fragments survived and stored in the collections of the Hermitage.
The main source for the restoration of the Great Church was the collection of photographs, taken in 1938-1939, just before and during the disassembly of the iconostasis. The monumental task of specialists, including the reconstruction of the interior of the Great Church to its original historic form, was only possible thanks to the surviving original parts of the iconostasis and photographs held in the collections and archives of the State Hermitage Museum.
The Great Church will host a permanent exhibition of Russian religious art from the State Hermitage Museum collections.
For more information on the restoration of the Great Church in the Winter Palace, please refer to the following article:
Exhibition: Grand Duke Paul Petrovich to Open in St. Petersburg Topic: Paul I, Emperor
The Moscow Kremlin Museums will take part in the exhibition project carried out by the State Russian Museum, which is dedicated to the childhood and adolescence of the future Emperor Paul I. The St. Michael's Castle, built by the order of the Emperor Paul I at the turn of the 18th century, houses the exposition. The castle tragically became the place of the Emperor’s murder on the night of March 12, 1801.
Precious items, relating to the life and activities of the Grand Duke, are being exposed for the first time. The exhibition is held within a large-scale project of the Russian Museum, The Romanov Family Saga. It incorporates articles from the Russian Museum’s and other collections, such as portraits of Paul Petrovich and members of his family, paintings representing the Grand Duke’s life events, graphic works, pieces of arts and craft, interior furnishings and utensils of that epoch.
At the exhibition the Moscow Kremlin Museums present an amazing masterpiece from its collection. The gold snuffbox, covered with purple enamel, is decorated with graphic works designed by Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna in 1790. Four pencil drawings are mounted into a large lid of the snuffbox. The images depict profiles of six older children of Emperor Paul I and Maria Feodorovna – Alexander (1777-1825), Konstantin (1779-1831), Alexandra (1783-1801), Elena (1784-1803), Maria (1786-1859), Ekaterina (1788-1819). The portraits are placed under glass and edged with a narrow white enamel frame with gold rims. A round carved gold rosette is placed in the center of the lid, among the portraits. The snuffbox bears a stamp of the well-known engraver Georges-François Amey. The very fact of the existence of this stamp is of interest as jewellers of that time never used to put personal stamps on their works.
The exhibition allows visitors to learn about the life of Grand Duke Paul Petrovich, and gives the opportunity to reconsider the still prevailing prejudiced attitude towards his personality.
The exhibition Grand Duke Paul Petrovich opens at the Engineer’s Castle in St. Petersburg on December 24, 2014 and runs till February 28, 2015.