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400th Anniversary
A Russian Moment
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Saturday, 27 October 2012
Tour of the State Halls and Private Rooms of the Grand Kremlin Palace
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 23 minutes, 50 seconds.
Topic: Kremlin

Aside from visiting heads of state, few foreigners ever get to see the beautiful interiors of the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow. Today it serves as the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation.

Before the Russian Revolution, the palace served as the official residence of the reigning sovereign and family while they were visiting the city. The palace is rich in Romanov history and was the venue for magnificent balls, sumptuous state dinners, and more.

Paul Gilbert, Founder of Royal Russia standing in St. Andrew's Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace, 27th October, 2000 

I was very fortunate to visit this historic palace on my 44th birthday on October 27th, 2000. I had organized a tour that year to Moscow and the Crimea, in which a group of 15 people from Canada and the United States took part. I had been negotiating with the Kremlin administration for several years prior to allow me to include the Grand Kremlin Palace as part of one of my group tours. Permission was finally granted that year and it was well worth all the red tape that went with it. 

This video comes from a Russian media source and offers views of the State Halls which were restored to their original during the Yeltsin years, as well as the former private apartments of the Romanovs.

© Paul Gilbert. 27 October, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 1:01 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 27 October 2012 1:40 PM EDT
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Nicholas II Exhibition Opens at the Hermitage-Vyborg Center
Topic: Exhibitions


A new exhibition, The Last Emperor of Russia: Family and Court of Nicholas II at the Turn of the Century opened yesterday at the Hermitage in Vyborg, Russia.

The exhibition will feature nearly 300 items from a variety of museums in St. Petersburg: The State Hermitage Museum, Anichkov Palace, Novo-Mikhailovksy Palace (New Michael Palace), the Yusupov Palace; the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, and from private Russian collections.

The exhibition is arranged in choronological order covering the life and reign of Tsar Nicholas II and his family up until 1917.

The opening ceremony was attended by the Vice-Governor of the Leningrad region, Konstantin Patraev and the Director of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Mikhail Piotrovsky.

The Hermitage-Vyborg Center was opened in June, 2010, and regularly hosts exhibitions from the State Hermitage funds in St. Petersburg since that time.

Vyborg is situated 130 km (81 miles) northwest of St. Petersburg, and 38 km (24 miles) south of the Russian-Finnish border.

The exhibion runs until March 2013.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 27 October, 2012



Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:42 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 27 October 2012 1:01 PM EDT
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Friday, 26 October 2012
Prince Michael of Kent Visits Martha and Mary Convent in Moscow
Topic: Prince Michael of Kent


During a visit to Moscow this week, Prince Michael of Kent stopped at the Martha and Mary Convent where he was met by Panteleimon, Bishop of Smolensk and Vyazma who provided the Prince with a tour of the convent and explained its activities within the community.

Prince Michael was met at the entrance of the convent's historic Holy Protection Cathedral  by the prioress, Sister Catherine, who offered him bread and salt, a traditional Russian custom that dates back centuries.

He visited the cathedral which has been restored including the frescoes painted by Russian artist Mikhail Nesterov.

He then visited the orphanage at the Martha and Mary Convent where he met the children, who performed songs in his presence.

Prince Michael also visited the memorial museum, now housed in the former rooms of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, and restored to their original thanks to old photographs that survived. It was here that Prince Michael became interested in the photographs of his ancestor, each of which was explained by Sister Catherine. Among the exhibits is the former grand piano of the grand duchess. Miraculously preserved, the piano has never left the monastery.

The Martha and Mary Convent is one of the few places in Moscow that is directly associated with the Russian Imperial family. It offers two guided tours each day of the convent and memorial rooms.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 26 October, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 1:36 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 26 October 2012 2:01 PM EDT
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Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna and Prince Nicholas of Greece
Topic: Elena Vladimirovna, GD


Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna (1882-1957) was the only daughter of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (1847-1909) and Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, nee Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1854-1920). 

Elena inherited her mother's beauty, but she also inherited her mother's fiery temper. "Poor little thing, I feel sorry for her," wrote the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, "for she is really quite sweet, but vain and pretty grandiose."

She was initially engaged to Prince Max of Baden, however, the engagement was broken off. It was generally believed that it was Max who broke off the engagement, however, we now know thanks to surviving correspondence of Nicholas II and Maria, Duchess of Coburg, that it was Elena who broke off the engagement.

Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark (1872-1938) first proposed to Elena in 1900, but Maria Pavlovna was indignant that her only daughter should marry a younger son with no real fortune or prospects of inheriting a throne. Two years later, Elena's mother agreed to the engagement. Their wedding took place in the palatial church of the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo on 16th August 1902, attended by members of the Russian and Greek royal famililes.  

Prince Nicholas was known in the family as "Greek Nicky" to distinguish himself from his cousin Tsar Nicholas II.

The daughters of Elena and Nicholas: Olga, Elizabeth and Marina 

Grand Duchess Elena and Prince Nicholas had three daughters: 

Princess Olga of Greece and Denmark (1903-1997), later Princess Paul of Yugoslavia

Princess Elizabeth of Greece and Denmark (1904-1955), later Countess of Toerring-Jettenbach

Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark (1906-1968), later Princess Maria, Duchess of Kent, and mother to the current Prince Michael of Kent (1942-present).

The family was greatly affected by turmoil of the Russian Revolution of 1917, and later by the turmoil in Greece which became a republic. The latter resulted in the family of Prince and Princess Nicholas living in exile in France for a while.

During their years in France, Grand Duchess Elena became deeply involved in charity work for Russian exiles, particularly children. Short of money due to their exile from Greece and the loss of their Russian income, the family lived in reduced, but elegant circumstances. Grand Duchess Elena's fabulous jewel collection, as well as Prince Nicholas' own artwork provided them with an income. It is interesting to note that Nicholas was a talented painter, often signing his works as "Nicholas Leprince."

They returned to Greece where Prince Nicholas died of a heart attack at Athens on 8th February, 1938. Grand Duchess Elena remained in Greece throughout the Second World War, where she died on 13th March, 1957.

In November 2009, a dress belonging to Grand Duchess Elena was sold for £6000, and a photograph album sold for over £8125 at an auction held at Christie's.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 26 October, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:31 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 26 October 2012 6:43 AM EDT
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Thursday, 25 October 2012
Sotheby's Offers Icon Commemorating Survival of Imperial Family at Borki
Topic: Antiques


Sotheby's London will offer an important Imperial Silver-Gilt and Cloisonne Enamel Icon of Christ Pantocrator, (Ovchinnikov, Moscow, 1884) – commemorating the miraculous survival of Emperor Alexander III and his family when the Imperial train derailed disastrously near Borki in 1888. Twenty-one members of the Imperial retinue died and in the richly-appointed dining car, the Emperor’s dog Kamchatka was killed instantly at his master’s feet. The Emperor, who held up the collapsing roof of the car to allow his family to escape, was later presented with this Icon by his elite guards. Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna recalled the terrible scene of the aftermath in her memoirs: “I found myself at the bottom of a steep slope which the carriage had rolled down. I got up onto my feet and looked back. I saw bleeding people tumbling and falling down after me … It was dreadful … I thought all my loved ones had been killed.” In both state decrees and church sermons this event was presented as proof of God’s divine intervention. Inscribed ‘[From the] Guards [to] Their Imperial Majesties’ and ‘On the Occasion of the Miraculous Rescue during the Imperial Train’s Accident’, the Icon speaks potently of devotion and of the bond between Tsar and people.

Hung in the chapel at Gatchina – the Emperor’s favourite imperial residence – the icon was kept as an important family relic of deep personal significance. Exquisitely enamelled with floral detailing, this rare and richly historical work displays the most filigree craftsmanship and is saturated in Romanov history. After the Revolution this powerfully emotive Icon was believed to be among many of the Imperial family’s belongings that were dispersed on the European antiquarian market. The sale will take place at Sotheby's in London on November 28th, and carries an estimate of £180,000-250,000.

© Sotheby's and Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 25 October, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:50 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 26 October 2012 10:32 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 24 October 2012
Pskov-Caves Monastery
Topic: Russian Church


Photo: Restoration of the frescoes in the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos. Photo Credit: Elena Patria 

The Pskov-Caves Monastery, also known as the Monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, is a male monastery located near the town of Pechory, west of the city of Pskov, Russia, near the Estonian border.

The monastery was founded around caves that were used by hermits before the monastery was formally established and that are now the resting place for the relics of reposed monastics, in a manner similar to that at the Kiev Caves Monastery.

The caves at Pechersky were used by monks looking for solitude long before St. Jonah (Shesnik) built the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos into the hillside near the caves. The church was consecrated on August 15, 1473, which is considered the date of the founding of the monastery.

For almost three hundred years the monastery was an important outpost of the Russian nation, defending its western border against attack from the west. The area was involved in almost constant warfare during these centuries.

Photo: Tsar Ivan IV asks St. Cornelius to admit him into the monks. Artist: Klavdiy Vasilevich Lebedev (1852-1916) 

During the middle of the sixteenth century Pskov-Caves monastery rose to its greatest level of prominence under the leadership of St. Cornelius, abbot of the Pskov Caves. In 1529, the monk Cornelius became an igumen and abbot of the monastery, at the age of twenty-eight. In addition to expanding the intellectual and spiritual efforts of the monastery, that included missionary work, the Pskov chronicles, and books that he wrote, he sponsored many physical changes to the monastery. He enlarged the monastery caves, moved older churches, built the Church of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos in 1541, and the Church of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos in 1559. Between 1558 and 1565, St Cornelius had the stone wall built around the monastery including a stone church dedicated to St. Nicholas over the gates of the monastery. He also encourage the preaching of Christianity to the pagans in the occupied cities of the area during the Livonian wars. During his tenure as abbot the monastic population of the monastery increased from 15 to 200, a number that has not been surpassed since.

Even in his death, St. Cornelius left his mark on the monastery. On February 20, 1570, Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible), arrived at the Pskov Monastery in a raging anger over a false slander. St. Cornelius met him with a cross at the monastery gates, where upon Ivan attacked the sainted abbot, beheading Cornelius with his own hands. Ivan immediately became remorseful and repented his deed. Ivan then picked up Cornelius’ body and carried it down the path from the gates to the Dormition Cathedral, making a pathway scarlet with the Saint’s blood, a pathway that became known as the Bloody Path.

During the peace negotiations after the Bolshevik ascendency after World War I, the drawing of the borderline for Estonia placed the monastery in Estonia. As a result the Pskov-Caves monastery escaped the destruction meted out to the Orthodox monasteries and churches in the Soviet Union before World War II. The area of the monastery became part of the Soviet Union only after the Baltic States, including Estonia, were occupied by the Bolsheviks in 1939.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union the monastery has flourished.

© 24 October, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:58 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 October 2012 7:16 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 23 October 2012
Great Hall of the Agate Pavilion Opens at Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


The Great Hall of the Agate Pavilion at Tsarskoye Selo opened today after an extensive restoration that now showcases the beauty of this room to visitors once again.

The Great Hall is the main room of the pavilion and once served as a place of entertainment and grand feasts during the reign of Empress Catherine II.

It was Catherine who commissioned her favourite architect, Charles Cameron to construction of the pavilion. The hall is made of artificial pink marble walls and columns, and highlighted with fireplaces, decorative carvings and parquet floors.

The restoration of three additional rooms in the Agate Pavilion are underway, and the building is expected to open as a museum once again in the spring of 2013.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 October, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:35 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 October 2012 10:04 AM EDT
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Orangery at Tsarskoye Selo to be Restored
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


The Large Orangery at Tsarskoye Selo.  

The restoration of the large orangery at Tsarskoye Selo is now underway. The 18th-century greenhouse is considered to be one of the finest examples of Russian architecture in the city.

Originally constructed in 1751, historians still debate over who was  the original architect of the building: Sawa Chevakinsky or Francesco Rastrelli. It was rebuilt in 1820 by Vasily Stasov and lost some of its original Baroque features at the time. 

The orangery was severely damaged during the Second World War, but was later restored. In 2010, the facade was repainted, so the current restoration is the first major work on the building since the 1950s. The building is currently under the administration of the St. Petersburg Agricultural University.

Local preservation groups have concerns about saving the building and that it may in fact be too late as the building is is in a terrible state of disrepair. The roof leaks, and the plaster work done in the 1950s was so poorly done that the walls still have traces of where the building was struck by shells during the last war. There are fears that the ceilings could collapse at any time. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 October, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:54 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 October 2012 12:00 PM EDT
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Russian Magazine, Palaces and Estates
Topic: Books

Palaces and Estates is a monthly magazine published by De Agostini Ltd. since 2010. To date, there have been 44 issues published, complete with handsome collectors albums to store them in.

Published as a collector's series, each issue is dedicated to a particular palace or estate, its history, architects, its Imperial or noble residents, filled with interesting facts and information. 

Each issue is 32-pages, richly illustrated in full colour with Russian text by A. Zharkova. There is NO English edition of this magazine available.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 October, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:36 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 October 2012 9:26 AM EDT
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Monday, 22 October 2012
New Romanov Auction in Geneva, 10-13 December, 2012
Topic: Auctions



Bernard Piguet, director and chief auctioneer of the Hôtel des Ventes Geneva, announces forthcoming sales of exceptional importance. From 10 to 13 December, emperors, kings, queens and princes will be the virtual guests of the Geneva based auction house, revealing a remarkable set of objects that have never before appeared on the market: Prince Romanov, Prince Youssoupov, Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain, King Boris III of Bulgarie, King Farouk of Egypt, Ferdinand Thormeyer (tutor to the children of Tsar Alexander III), Serge de Diaghilev, Serge Lifar… This is a unique opportunity to plunge into the world of these great names of history thanks to these many objects of prestigious provenance.

The special Russia auction which will be held at the Hôtel des Ventes of Geneva from Monday 10 December will give the general public an opportunity to immerse themselves in the lives of the last Tsars of Russia, in their private lives at court as well as their political and military roles. The collection includes unpublished personal photographs of the Russian imperial family, including a photo album – showing Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovitch trying out the trapeze in a room in the imperial palace and playing croquet with his sister Olga Alexandrovna – and photographs of  Tsarevitch Alexei, who was assassinated at the age of 14. These photographs as well as the unpublished autographed letters of the last Tsar Nicholas II to the head of the army Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaïevich, supreme commander of the land and sea armies at the beginning of the First World War will undoubtedly be the outstanding items on the opening evening of the auction. Other items of Russian military history in the period before the Revolution will also be offered for sale at this exceptional auction: shoulder decorations, officers’ helmets, medals… Books about the treasures of the Emperors of Russia, from Catherine II to Nicholas II, complete this prestigious collection. Most of these unpublished documents, that have never been displayed to the public before, come from the collection of the Romanov family.

The Hôtel des Ventes will also be offering for sale a collection of precious objects, family souvenirs and photographs that have never before appeared on the market from the estate of Her Majesty Queen  Victoria-Eugenia of Spain, who died in Lausanne in 1969. One of the top lots is undoubtedly a Russian decoration in gold and red enamel of the order of Saint Alexander Nevski.

The jewellery sale will include a cigarette box and two gold and diamond pins, offered by His Majesty King Boris III of Bulgaria to his prime minister. They have remained in the same family to this day.

© Hotel des Ventes. 22 October, 2012



Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:11 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 24 April 2014 12:23 PM EDT
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