Gilbert's Books (the publishing division of Royal Russia) is pleased to announce that Memories in the Marble Palace by Grand Duke Gabriel Constantinovich is once again available from our online bookshop. Originally published in 1955 in French and Russian, this is a reprint of the first ENGLISH edition of his memoirs published in 2009.
Born at Pavlovsk on 15 July, 1887, Gabriel Constantinovich was the second son of the Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovich and the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mavrikievna. He was a great-grandson of Emperor Nicholas I.
Born into a privileged world, he lived in lavish luxury growing up in some of the most magnificent of the Romanov palaces: the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg, the Constantine Palace at Strelna, Pavlovsk and the family’s country estate at Ostashevo.
His memoirs, published here for the first time in English, paint a magnificent portrait of the beauty and splendour of the Russian Court in its twilight years before the First World War.
This is the story of a member of the Romanov dynasty who lived to tell his story of life at the Russian Court. Now, after more than half a century, his story may finally be read and appreciated in the English language.
This English edition features a Note from the Publisher and an Introduction about Grand Duke Gabriel Constantinovich, 356 pages, plus a 56-page supplement of rare photographs. The price is $35.00 CAD + shipping.
Over a Quarter of Russians Would Welcome New Monarchy Topic: Russian Monarchy
28 percent of Russians say they would not mind a revival of the monarchy in the country, a poll has revealed, noting however that people don’t know anyone who could fill such a position.
Meanwhile, four percent of the population both want the Tsar back and do know who could come to the throne, a survey by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) discovered.
Almost a century after the February 1917 revolution put an end to the rule of Romanov dynasty and the Russian Empire, one in ten Russians still believes that being a monarchy would be better for Russia. Notably, in Moscow and St Petersburg such a view is shared by 19 percent of residents.
However, the vast majority of respondents (82 percent) are happy with the current – republican - form of the government, where the head of the country is chosen through elections. Only 7 percent of people could not decide which of the two they would actually prefer.
Two thirds of Russians are confident that autocracy is a closed chapter for Russia. This opinion is particularly common for supporters of the Communist party and the elderly, pollsters found.
When asked who could hypothetically become a new Russian tsar, 70 percent of people stated that the revival of monarchic rule would simply be “impossible and wrong.”
At the same, time 13 percent of those questioned suggested that a possible ruler could be a politician or a public activist elected either directly by people through a referendum or – alternatively – by parliament.
Only six percent of respondents would want to see the descendants of the Romanov Family on the Russian throne.
2013 marks 400 years after the Romanov dynasty ascended to the Russian throne in 1613, reigning for over three centuries, until the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917. In July 1918, Nicholas and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks.
Editor's Note: This is just one of many polls conducted in Russia over the past decade asking the same question: "Should the monarchy be restored?" The results have been varied, one poll stating 35% support of a restoration. Even this statistic is remarkable given Russia's turbulent history over the last century. Who would have predicted the fall of the Soviet Union and Communism in 1991, or finding the remains of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, followed by their burial at St. Petersburg in 1998 and their canonisation by the Moscow Patriarchate in 2000. The poll fails to acknowledge the fact that many Orthodox Christians support the monarchy, and that the Russian Orthodox Church recognizes HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna as Head of the Russian Imperial House. So, will the monarchy return? Let's wait and see. Winston Churchill once said: "Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." -- Paul Gilbert
The Romanov Murders at Alapaevsk Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 14 minutes, 52 seconds Topic: Alapaevsk
Note: the video depicts places associated with the final days of Grand Duchess Elizabeth, and other members of the Russian Imperial family at Alapaevsk. Included are the Grammar school where they were imprisoned, and the Monastery to the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. Later in the video you will see the Holy Trinity Cathedral at Alapaevsk.
In 1918 the small Ural town of Alapaevsk hosted very unusual prisoners. Among them were members of the Russian Imperial family and their faithful retainers: Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna with her sister in Christ Varvara, Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich and his secretary Fedor Ramez, Princes Ioann, Constantin and Igor Konstatinovich, and Prince Vladimir Paley.
Here, in a Grammar School on the outskirts of Alapaevsk, the prisoners spent several trying months full of horror and suffering. On the night of 17-18th of July they were taken outside the town towards the Verkhne-Siniachikhinsky Factory, and their bodies were thrown in to the abandoned Staroselimskaia Shaft 12 miles away from Alapaevsk.
The White Army started an investigation of the murders immediately after they took Alapaevsk on September 28, 1918. On October 9-11, 1918 the bodies of the martyrs were taken out of the shaft, and on October 19, 1918 they were buried in a crypt of the Holy Trinity Cathedral with great honor. In July 1919, as the Red troops were advancing to the city Hiegumen Seraphim (Kuznetsov) transferred the coffins with the relics first to Chita, and later to Beijing (China). In January 1921 the relics of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth and nun Varvara were transferred to Jerusalem and buried in the crypt of the Church of Mary Magdalene of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission, where they remain now.
Today at Alapaevsk there is a Veneration Cross and a small chapel dedicated to Grand Duchess Elizabeth built near the old shaft. In 1996 a monastery dedicated to the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia was built nearby.
The classroom of the Grammar School, where Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Sister Varvara were held captive is now a memorial museum.
Grand Prince of all Rus Ivan III Topic: Exhibitions
The Kremlin Museums is hosting a new exhibition, being held in the One-Pillar Chamber of the Patriarch's Palace, which covers the time under the Grand Prince of Moscow Ivan III (1462-1505). His reign was marked by the overthrow of the dominance of the Golden Horde over the Rus and the gathering of Russian lands around Moscow as a political centre, which laid the foundations of the Russian state. However, the personality of Ivan III and his contribution to the development of Russia was not fully appreciated by his descendants.
Through presenting historical masterpieces, including icons and archival documents, the exhibition is intended to reveal the search for an ideology of the emerging Moscow state and show how the new images and symbols reflected the most significant deeds of the Grand Prince and Sovereign, who had turned the Moscow Principality into a Tsardom and Moscow - into a new capital, that had taken over the glory of the fallen Constantinople. The exposition is based mostly on the artifacts, which are closely related to the Kremlin as the Grand Prince’s residence. Artworks, lent by the leading museums of Russia, serve as a vivid illustration of the new tendencies and intentions of the epoch, which have been spread all over the territories, subordinated to Moscow, and demonstrate the influence of the new capital.
The exhibit covers a remarkable period within the history of Russia, introducing the figure of Ivan III to visitors and reveals his contribution to the development of the Russian state and culture as well. The exhibition runs until July 14th, 2013.
Photo: Ivan III depicted in the Monument of Russia at Veliky Novgorod
On April 3rd, Olivier Coutau-Begarie in Paris, France, will auction yet another selection of photographs and letters of the Russian Imperial family.
The collection of photographs is exceptional, including the private photo albums of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (1857-1905) containing photos taken at Ilyinskoe, and more than 200 photographs from the private collection of Pierre Gilliard. There are also many individual photographs, and cabinet cards depiciting members of the various branches of the family: Alexandrovichi, Vladimirovichi, Constantinovichi, Nikolayevichi and Mikhailovichi. Overall, an outstanding collection of images!
Of particular interest with this collection are letters from Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich (1859-1919) to Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich (1878-1918); letters from Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960) to Ferdinand Thormeyer written between 1926-1939; and letters from Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna (1860-1922) to her brothers and parents dating from 1887-1921.
*Note: The full catalogue consists of 124 pages. I have only included the pages from the catalogue which reflect the Romanov letters and photographs being offered in the auction.
Lenin's Rolls Royce - An Example of Bolshevik Hypocrisy Topic: Bolsheviks
Why did Vladimir Lenin drive the ultimate rich man's car?
Did he not vow to create a classless state?
Communist revolutionary Vladmir Ilyich Lenin declared that revolutionaries must guard against bourgeois tendencies. And yet, Moscow’s State Historical Museum contains something Lenin owned that is one of the ultimate examples of bourgeois conveyance - a Rolls Royce car, Silver Ghost model complete with fog lamps and all-leather interiors.
What business did the leader of the Communist party have owning such a luxury automobile? How did he come to own it – and why did he keep it?
Early in the Revolution, the Bolsheviks had seized the Tsar's gold, and the Tsar's collection of fine automobiles. There were about 40 motor vehicles in the Tsarist garages and even the Communist leaders could not resist taking a liking to these cars.
So perhaps Lenin owned this Rolls Royce because he got it for free? To be certain, proof was needed to confirm that Tsar Nicholas II was the original owner.
Unfortunately the original documents do not exist. However, when researchers took a closer look at the auto itself, they looked more closely at the chassis number. The chassis number is fixed to the front of the dashboard under the bonnet. With a car this old, it would be surprising if the chassis number could be traced. Or maybe not? Rolls Royce keeps records of all the cars it has manufactured and sold. A request was made to the Rolls Royce head office in London. Incredibly, the original bill of sale was elicited. The purchaser was not Tsar Nicholas II, but an emissary of Vladimir Lenin. The date is 1922.
In the years following the bloody revolution, all industrial nations imposed an embargo, forbidding trade with the Russian Communist State. So how did Lenin manage to do business with a British car maker? A clue lies not in cars, but in planes. Rolls Royce made the best engines for bomber planes and Lenin needed them for his war machine. Lenin asked the British to break the embargo. He knew that Britain was mired in depression, with idle factories and hungry workers. British leaders held their noses and allowed the Bolshevik government to buy several of their most advanced airplane engines. To sweeten the deal, Lenin was given a 15% discount on something else . . . . . a Rolls Royce automobile, a luxury in which he paid £1850.
The Rolls Royce engines helped Lenin and his Bolsheviks win the civil war and impose a brutal totalitarian state.
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 3 Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches
Situated near the edge of Gutuevsky Island, near Ekateringof Park, this small, late 19th century church is still undergoing large-scale restoration after the ravages it suffered in the Soviet period. The parish church for St. Petersburg's main sea port, which was moved from Kronshtadt to Gutuevsky Island in the mid 19th century, the Church of the Epiphany of Our Lord was designed by Vasiliy Kosyakov, Director of the Petersburg Institute of Engineering and Construction, and funded mostly by Ivan Boronin, a wealthy textiles manufacturer who wished to establish a family mausoleum at the church.
The church was built to glorify the miraculous escape of Emperor Alexander III and his family following the Borki rail disaster on October 17th, 1888. Construction began in 1889, and is copied from the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour at Borki.
The red-brick church had an intricately decorated facade, featuring tiled mosaics, gilded reliefs, and "kokoshniki" - medieval Russian decorations in the shape of a traditional headdress like a tiara. With its large arched windows, single gold dome and slender belltower, the church, standing right on the banks of the Ekateringofka River, recalls a ship in full sail.
The church's interior was also richly decorated, with a marble alter and ivory iconostasis, as well as bright frescoes covering all the walls. Sadly, all theses precious decorations were plundered or destroyed after the Revolution.
The church was closed in May 1935. It was used variously as a warehouse, a soap factory, a garage, and a morgue. A concrete wall was erected around the church. Due to its proximity along the waterfront, the church was heavily shelled along with nearby port buildings during the Second World War.
In 1991, the ruined building was returned to the Orthodox Church. The first service was held on January 19th, 1992, and restoration work began later that year. On May 4th, 1995 a cross was erected on the central dome of the church. The massive restoration program is finally nearing completion and the Church of the Epihany of Our Lord in St. Petersburg will once again bask in all its bygone splendour.
My first visit to the Alexander Palace was on September 5th, 1997. I have returned every year to discover new aquisitions, speak with the curators and staff, and to soak up the ambiance of this historic residence, its adjoining park and numerous pavilions. In the past few years my interest has been piqued even further with interesting new exhibitions and the initiation of long awaited restoration work on the palace.
After the departure of the Russian navy in 2009 the palace was officially handed over to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. The palace's new custodians wasted no time implenting their plans to convert the neglected monument into a multi-use museum and exhibition complex. They restored the 3 State Rooms in six months, and turned the former children's rooms of Tsar Nicholas II into exhibition rooms. This was only the beginning!
My Russia is a series of articles which I write for Royal Russia, a unique publication that celebrates the Romanov dynasty and Imperial Russia in words and photographs. In the current issue I write about the history of the Alexander Palace as a museum since 1917, including restorations since World War II. Further, I provide details on the restorations which will continue through to 2018. I also offer a two-page study of the Restoration of the Alexander Palace Master Plan by Studio 44, the architectural studio in charge of the restoration of the Alexander Palace.
My Russia: The Rebirth of the Alexander Palace appears in Royal Russia Annual No. 3 (2013). The article is 11 pages in length and illustrated with numerous black and white photographs which I took myself during my visit to the Alexander Palace last summer. It is one of nine articles on the Romanovs, monarchy and Imperial Russia that appear in this issue.
The Alexander Palace captures the interest and imagination of Russophiles and Romanovphiles around the world. My article is the most current and up-to-date on the restoration and future of the last residence of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.
Faberge at the Yale Center for British Art Topic: Faberge
A Fabergé bell push, in exhibit at the Yale Center for British Art. Photo Credit: The Royal Collection/Queen Elizabeth II
The three sumptuous objects, studded with gemstones and embellished with gold, are too large to be worn as jewelry; they’re too small to serve as display pieces. If they were boxes, they might hold stamps or face powder; but they don’t open. Their exquisite workmanship implies instead that they exist only to be beautiful.
But the labels at the Yale Center for British Art reveal them to be bell pushes, fashioned by Carl Fabergé at the turn of the 20th century for the newly electrified system for summoning servants at Buckingham Palace. That an item so utterly utilitarian, and so emblematic of modernity, would also represent the height of handmade luxury is one of the many contradictions that ripple through the center’s splendid new show, “Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the 20th Century.”
“Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the 20th Century” consists of 170 items arrayed on two floors at the Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel Street, New Haven, through June 2. Information: britishart.yale.edu or (203) 432-2800.
Dallas Auction Gallery to Sell Imperial Porcelain Vases Topic: Auctions
On April 17, the Dallas Auction Gallery in Texas will sell a pair of extremely rare and exquisite 19th century vases made by the Imperial Porcelain Factory for the Russian czar. The vases will sell as a pair, and their estimate is $1 million to $1.5 million.
The precious vases mysteriously disappeared after the communists seized power in 1917 and plunged Russia into civil war, but a decade later they found their way to an American collection. In circumstances not fully clear, the 1.3-meter high vases probably left Russia during the sell-off of Imperial treasures that was the policy of the new Soviet government. In the mid 1920s the vases appeared for sale at the famous Bernheimer Gallery in Munich, Germany, and were subsequently purchased by American oil magnate, Frank Buttram, and his wife, who were touring Europe. The couple’s travel diary clearly lists their purchase of the Russian vases.
Mr Buttram (1886-1966) was born into a family of native American famers from the Chickasaw Nation. He eventually became one of Oklahoma’s famous “oil kings,” creating Buttram Petroleum Company, one of America’s largest oil companies before World War II. His heirs, who also reside in Oklahoma, are selling the vases.
Russian Imperial vases are some of the most valuable porcelain items ever made, selling for as much as $5 million for a pair. Their great value owes to the fact that they were made for the Czar and the empire’s most powerful aristocrats. The vases are large and difficult to produce, and they were made by the leading porcelain artists and craftsmen of the period.
"The rediscovery of these two Imperial vases is very exciting, first and foremost because they are of extremely high quality and date from the reign of Nicholas I, the golden era of Russian porcelain production" said Ekaterina Khmelnitskaya, curator of Russian porcelain at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, the former Imperial capital where the vases were made. "In addition, it’s an incredible surprise to find Russian Imperial vases in the heart of the American "Wild" West, which Soviet propaganda told us was a brutal and lawless place."
In September Ms Khmelnitskaya studied the vases in an independent private capacity, and confirmed their authenticity.
The bodies of both bandeau shaped vases have a rich plum colored ground, and are decorated with handles shaped as acanthus scrolls. The superb execution of the raised ornamentation creates an illusion of gilded chased metal or bronze. One vase is decorated with a copy of a painting from the collection of the Hermitage Museum -- "The Concert" by Dutch painter, A. Palamedes (1600-1673).
"Based on archival records, we know that this painting was sent from the Hermitage to the Imperial Porcelain Factory in 1832 in order to make a copy on a vase," said Ms. Khmelnitskaya. "The painting on this vase was created by Semyon Golov (1783-1849), who was one of the best copyists, specializing in historical paintings and painting figures."
The painting that was copied on the second vase cannot be identified. According to Hermitage experts, we know that this 17th century Dutch painting is no longer in the Hermitage. It probably was sold abroad with other artworks in the 1920s. But we do know that Vasily Meshcheriakov (1781-?) was the author of the porcelain copy of this painting. He was one of the factory’s best copyists, who frequently reproduced pictures on vases, many of which can still be seen in the Hermitage porcelain collection, and in other major Russian museums.
Experts are very excited by the fact that the Imperial vases in Dallas are close relatives of a pair that is still in the Hermitage Museum.
"The Hermitage has a pair of the same bandeau-shaped vases with a blue background and with the same gilded décor," said Ms Khmelnitskaya. "They were created in 1831 and based on our archival research they were presented to Emperor Nicholas I as an Easter gift. The paintings on these vases were also made by the artists Golov and Meshcheriakov. Most likely after they finished the pair still in the Hermitage they began to paint the pair of vases at the Dallas Auction Gallery."
Russian Imperial porcelain – a brief history
The Imperial Porcelain Factory was founded in 1744 by Empress Elizabeth I, the daughter of Peter the Great. It is one of oldest porcelain factories in the West, and was the personal property of the Russian royal family, primarily working to outfit imperial palaces with the finest tableware and items for interior decoration.
During the reign of Nicholas I (1796 - 1855, emperor since 1825), the Imperial Porcelain Factory achieved an unprecedented level of production. Professional masters, benefitting from an improved production cycle, perfected the artistic quality of the factory’s output. Large porcelain vases were the most prized items, and they were given the best spots in palace interiors: placed above fireplaces, rested on special pedestals in the center or corners of rooms, and flanked grand staircases.
The IPF has survived revolution, nationalizaton, and war, and today it still produces porcelain, owned by Moscow businessman, Nikolai Tsvetkov and his wife, Galina. The factory’s museum, however, is owned by the State Hermitage Museum, and thus we have a near complete history of Russian Imperial porcelain.