Portrait of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, from the series of pictures taken to mark the Romanov tercentenary in 1913. The pictures were produced by the
Imperial family's favourite photographers, Boissonas & Eggler of St. Petersburg and sold as postcards, the money raised was donated to various charities.

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Tercentenary of the Accession of the House of Romanov (1913). This film was released to commemorate the
300th anniversary of Romanov rule in Russia, and is said to have had the blessing of Tsar Nicholas II himself.

Note: The last part of the film offers vintage film footage of Emperor Nicholas II and his family

The House of Romanov was the second and last imperial dynasty to rule over Russia,
reigning from 1613 until the February Revolution abolished the crown in 1917

On 11 December, 1912, on the first page of his lined exercise-book, the eight-year-old boy, who was the heir to the Russian throne, started his records, his hand unsteadily forming letters: "The Romanova House, Mikhail Feodorovitch. 32 years." Tsar Mikhail Feodorovitch became the first tsar of the Romanov dynasty, and his ascendancy to power in 1613 would put an end to the Time of Troubles, one of the most distressful periods in Russian history. The death of the cruel and powerful Tsar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) resulted in the Russian crown being fought over by numerous claimants, all implacable rivals.

The ascendant boyar (aristocracy in old Russia) parties of the Godunovs, Shuiskiys, Vorotynskiys and Trubetskoys exhausted one another in political and military tussles, and they eventually abandoned the battlefield, leaving it to countless rogues who vied to be successors to the Russian throne. They were all replaced and superseded by the Poles. On 27 August, 1610, Moscow swore allegiance to Wladislaw, son of Sigsmund III of Poland. There seemed to be no power able to rescue this vast country from devastating internal dissension, popular disorder, plunder and violence.

The Russian Imperial family in Moscow during the tercentenary celebrations.

From the abyss of chaos there emerged a great hope for the unity of the Russian people. It was given a tremendous impetus by the necessity of safeguarding the Orthodox faith from encroachement by the Roman Catholic Poles. Prince Dimitri Pozharskiy and a citizen of Nizhni Novgorod, Kozma Minin, stood at the head of the anti-Polish movement. It was not only a struggle against religious oppression that inspired the uprising--Pozharskiy dreamed of a Russian tsar who would rule out all discord and soothe internal dissension. That was the most cherished aspiration of the long suffering Russian people who had to bear the ravages of the Tumult. "Without a sovereign we will not survive for long, for there is no one to care for the realm and no one to provide for God's servants," the people of Rus (name of ancient Russia) used to say.

Hetman Gonsevski, having been defeated in the battle of Moscow, soon afterwards the Poles were driven away from Russia. Now the main problem had to be faced. In January 1613, the Zemsky Sobor, the Russia's national assembly, convened to elect the tsar. First and foremost, it was resolved not to elect any bogus foreigners. Then the contenders were to be nominated. The claims by Princes Shuiskiys, Trubetskoys and Vorotynskiys, the surviving descendants of the Rurik dynasty, which had been ruling Russia hitherto, were rejected in the fear that their candidates may have led to a recurrence of the dreaded Time of Troubles.

In 1913, the first postage stamps depicting Russian tsars were issued.

After endless disputes suddenly the name of Mikhail Romanov came up. He was a sixteen year-old youngster who had lived together with his mother in the village of Domnino not far from Kostroma. The Romanovs had been separated and exiled by Tsar Boris Godunov. The baby Mikhail had lived with aunts for several years before the mother and son were allowed to live together. The nomination of the young boyar whose family had not been involved in the disreputable turmoil that had wracked Russia, won the sympathies of the entire assembly.

The eight year-old Tsarevich Alexei recorded this event in his history exercises: "Before he was elected to reign Mikhail Feodorovich had lived with his mother in the village of Domnino. At that time a band of Poles was scouring about the countryside. They wanted to ruin Mikhail. The Poles wanted to get to the village, but they did not know the way. There was a thick forest around. So they demanded that the village elder show them the way. Ivan Susanin saw what they were after. He sent his son-in-law Sabinin to Domnino to warn Sister Martha of the danger. And he himself led the Poles through the forest. He brought them to a thicket in the very heart of the forest so that it was impossible to find a way out. Susanin stopped and said: 'Nobody will get out of here.' So the Poles sabred him to death . . . but they, too, all perished."

Invitation to Gala Dinner and Ball at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, 23 February, 1913.

Meanwhile Sister Martha and her son moved to the Ipatyev monastery near Kostroma, where they would find refuge. In March 1613 a deputation arrived "to notify them of the election and to submit a humble petition to Mikhail Feodorovitch and his mother, Sister Martha." It was not an easy task to persuade the young boy to accept the proposal. Both Sister Martha and her son were against it, and "the youngster responded to the deputies with great ire and tears". Fearing for the future of her son, Martha reproved the deputites that in a time when "a chain of treasons around the throne" were being committed, it was difficult even for a born sovereign to rule the Muscovite State". But the deputies assured her that the people of the Muscovite State had been "punished" and had "come to a union". After much persuasion, Mikhail relented, and Sister Martha blessed him with the icon of Our Lady of Feodor. Ever since, the icon was considered patrimonial, and in 1912 Nicholas II would erect a cathedral dedicated to the icon n Tsarskoe Selo, near the Alexander Palace. Inside the cathedral there was a "grotto chapel" where Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna used to pray in private.

In 1613, within the walls of the Ipatyev monastery, the reign of the Romanov dynasty began and was to last for three centuries. The dreadful Tumult was over, and gradually, order was established and consolidated. It took an incredible effort for Russia to overcome the grim times which had seemed insurmountable, and now the realm was striving towards grandeur. There were many more great challenges to be met and glorious pursuits to accomplish. That was what this little boy with big sad eyes may have been thinking about, while he painstakingly traced every letter in the names of his ancestors, the Russian monarchs.

There were two jubilee dinners held in Moscow, one for 700 persons at the Kremlin on May 25,
another - on May 26 at the Noble Gathering of Moscow (about 2,000 persons were invited).

"The 15th tsar of the Romanov dynasty, Nikolai Pavlovitch, reigned for 30 years; Alexander II Nikolayevitch, 26 years; and Alexander III Alexandrovitch, 13 years." On 21 December, 1912, this exercise in history would be concluded with the record: "XVIII. Daddy. Nikolai II Alexandrovitch."And the tutor, Petrov, would give his pupil a mark: "Good". The Tsarevich's next exercise was the story of Tsar Mikhail Feodorovitch's accession to the throne . . .

The celebrations for the Terecentary of the Romanov House were coming and Russia was preparing for the festivities while Tsarevich Alexei was assiduously learning the history of his forefathers. He was to continue the succession of the Russian monarchs and become the 19th Tsar. But the boy was most likely to have been thinking about that. "Dear Daddy" would be governing Russia for many years to come. Even in a nightmare, he could not have dreamt of the fatal events of a July night in 1918.

Silver 1 Rouble coin, minted 1913, Tsar Nicholas II and Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich, 300th Anniversary of Romanov Dynasty

The festivities began on Thursday, 21 February, 1913, a day of celebrations all over Russia. At 8 a.m., a 21-gun salute from the towers of the Fortress of Sts. Peter and Paul heralded the beginning of the celebrations. The weather favoured the occasion; the day was fine and sunny. The services in the churches were followed by the declaration of the Manifesto issued by His Imperial Majesty to mark the Tercentenary of the Romanov House. The closing phrases of the Manifesto appealed to the Lord: "May the Lord's benediction upon us and our dear subjects not grow scantier than it is now. May our Lord the Omnipotent, strengthen and glorify the Russian Land and grant us strength to hold high and steady the glorious banner of our Fatherland".

The Imperial procession to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan was a lavish, picturesque sight. Ahead of the procession rode the Sotnia (Cossack squadron) of His Imperial Majesty's Own Escort, the horsemen dressed in red Circassian coats. Behind them, in an open carriage, travelled His Majesty the Tsar with the Heir Tsarevich, Grand Duke Alexei Nikolayevitch seated next to him. Alongside rode the Escort Commander, Prince Trubetskoi. The Dowager Empress and the Tsarina travelled in a luxurious carriage with a high coach-box, drawn by four white horses in traditional Russian harness, a postilion and Chamber Cossacks standing on the footboard. The four Grand Duchesses came in a barouche drawn by a pair of horses. Another Cossack Sotnia brought up the rear of the procession. The noise in the streets was unabating--coach wheels rumbled, horses' hoofs clattered, banners dipped and fluttered, music played, church bells peeled and people exultantly cheered their Tsar.

Poster proclaiming the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty

The service in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan was held at midday. Anna Vyrubova remembered that the cathedral was jammed with courtiers and invited guests. "I saw from a distance the kneeling Tsar and the Heir who would time and again look at something above. Later they told me that they were watching the doves hovering in the dome".

Later that day there was a great reception in the Winter Palace. The ladies were wearing traditional Russian gowns. "Though she was very tired", recollected Vyroubova, Her Majesty looked amazingly beautiful in her blue velvet Russian gown, wearing a tall kokoshnik (a traditional tiara-shaped headdress for married women in old Russia) and a veil beaded with pearls and diamonds. There was a pale blue ribbon of the Order of St. Andrew across her breast, and the Grand Duchesses were wearing the Order of St. Catherine on a scarlet ribbon". The ball was magnificent and crowded. The following evening Their Imperial Majesties and Her Imperial Highness Olga Nikolayevna graced the Mariinsky Theatre's opera performance of Glinka's A Life for the Tsar with their presence. The opulence of the evening dresses and the pageantry of the theatre decorations were dazzling. Among those present were the Emir of Bokhara and the Khan of Khiva, wearing their national costumes, and accompanied by their replendent entourages. Starring in the performance were the leading ballerinas Pavlova, Preobrazhenskaya, Kschessinska and Gerdt, singers Nezhdanova, Zbruyeva, Kotorski, Yershov, Sobinov and Figner. Napravnik conducted the orchestra.

The four days of celebrations in St. Petersburg were a dense schedule of receptions, meetings and balls. Summing up his impressions, Nicholas II wrote in his diary: “Thank Lord God who shed his grace upon Russia and us all so that we could decently and joyously celebrate the days of the tercentenary of the Romanov's accession".

The Easter of 1913 saw the continuation of the celebrations. On 15 May, 1913, the Imperial Family started on a tour of old Russian towns to trace the route taken by the first Romanov Tsar three centuries before. The family visited Vladimir and Suzdal (where they went to see the burial place of Prince Dmitriy Pozharskiy in the Spasso-Yefimovsky monastery). On 16 May, Nicholas admitted in his diary: "With delight and interest I inspected the wonderful treasures kept in the vestries, and the churches of ancient Russian architecture. On our way there and back people came out from villages with icons. I was not tired at all. The impressions were so strong and good." The next stops on their pilgrimmage were Bogolyubovo and the town of Nizhniy Nogorod, where they visited the burial place of Kozma Minin, the other hero of the anti-Polish liberation movement. The Tsar was present at the ceremony of laying the foundation for the monument to Minin and Pozharskiy. All along the route of the Imperial Family's jourey, people of all classes came out with bread and salt, the traditional Russian welcome, to salute the Tsar.

The Romanov Tercentenary Egg by the Russian jeweller Peter Carl Fabergé in 1913. It was presented by Nicolas II as an Easter gift to his wife,
the Czarina Alexandra Fyodorovna. It is currently held in the Kremlin Armoury Museum in Moscow.

In Nizhny Novgorod the Romanovs boarded the steamer Mezhen to sail down the Volga river. From the deck the passengers were to see a marvellous sight--the town and steamers on the river were brightly illuminated, and in the fields bonfires blazed. Music was playing constantly, and shouts of "hurrah" resounded from the banks of the river. As the steamer put out, the church bells rang out, and a polyphonic chorus broke spontaneously into the Russian fold son, "Down the Mother Volga River."

On 19 May, they reached Kostroma, the memorial place of the Romanovs. The streets were crowded with people and Archbishop Tikhon welcomed the Imperial Family with the renowned icon of Our Lady of Feodor. The days were crowded with meeting delegations and sightseeing: they visited cathedrals, the Romanov chambers in the Ipatyev moanstery; and the New Romanov Museum. One of the ceremonies was dedicated to laying the foundation of the Romanov House Memorial. Then they sailed to Yaroslavl, where they took a train for the next part of their itinerary--the old Russian towns of Rostov the Great, Pereyaslavl-Zalesskiy and Sergiev Posad, the seat of the Troitse-Sergievskaya Lavra (of St. Sergius and St. Trinity), the Orthodox monastery of the highest rank.

A number of monuments were built to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, including Moscow and Kostroma.

The celebrations came to a climax in Moscow, where the Tsar's train arrived at the Alexander Station on 24 May. Moscow looked particularly magnificent in those days. “People's greetings in the streets were reminiscent of the Coronation ceremonial entries", Nicholas II noted in his diary. The church bells were booming as they had three centuries before when Mikhail Feodorovitch entered the capital. One side of the route was lined by troops, glamorous in their full dress uniforms, the other by crowds of cheering people. The head of the procession was the Cossack Sotnia of His Imperial Majesty's Own Escort; then, astride on a golden chestnut horse, rode the Tsar, followed by the brilliant Court entourage. The Tsarina and the Heir Tsarevich travelled in a carriage, and the Grand Duchesses came in an open barouche. The Czarevich was sick in those days and whenever the family had to walk, a robust, strong Cossack carried the boy in his arms.

The terse entries in Nicholas II's diary were a minutely detailed report of the crowded schedule of receptions, ceremonial meals, services, worship of the relics and sightseeing. On the last day of the celebrations in Moscow, Monday, 27 May, the exhausted, yet very happy Tsar admitted in his diary: "Finally I sat on my feet because of tiredness."

The fortnight of the celebratory journey was over. Russia seemed to have recovered after the upheavals of 1905-1907, and it looked as though the Romanov dynasty was to reign for centuries. But Fate decreed otherwise. Like a mortally sick patient who sometimes seems revived for a short period before he relapses into agony, the feasting empire irretrievably approached its collapse. The Dynasty would manage to make only five more steps towards their quadricentenary and the progress would be tragically cut short in the dirty basement of the Ipatyev house in Yekaterinburg . . . What a macabre coincidence of the names: the Ipatyev monastery saw the birth of the Romanov dynasty and the Ipatyev house saw its annihilation.

Emperor Nicholas II and his family in Nizhny Novgorod

Emperor Nicholas II in Nizhny Novgorod

Emperor Nicholas II and his family in Nizhny Novgorod

Emperor Nicholas II and his family in Nizhny Novgorod

The marina in Nizhny Novgorod, which hosted a reception in honour of Emperor Nicholas II

Emperor Nicholas II visits the new building of the State Bank in Nizhny Novgorod in 1913

The Imperial Family travelled on steamer 'Mezhen' to visit towns and cities along the Volga River

Emperor Nicholas II inspecting the troops

Emperor Nicholas II meeting with local officials in Kostroma

Emperor Nicholas II visits the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma

Emperor Nicholas II and family at the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma

The Romanovs regarded Kostroma as their special protectorate

Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna with their family in Kostroma

Parade of troops after the laying of the monument marking the tercentenary of the Romanov dynasty

Emperor Nicholas II in Kostroma

Emperor Nicholas II in Kostroma, 20 May, 1913

Emperor Nicholas II in Yaroslavl

Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna arrive in Yaroslavl with their children

Yaroslavl during the visit of the Russian Imperial Family in 1913

Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna with their children in Rostov

Emperor Nicholas II in Moscow

Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and the Tsarevich Alexei crossing Red Square enroute to the Kremlin in Moscow

Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna with their children visit the Moscow Kremlin

The Russian Imperial Family descending the Red Staircase of the Faceted Palace in Moscow

The People's House, St. Petersburg