Personal Belongings of the Family of Nicholas II



The Berlin Royal Porcelain Manufacture, 1824:
the Bronze Factory of Verner and Neffen Factory, 1830s;
St. Petersburg, F. Shopen factory, 1850s
Porcelain, bronze; painting on enamel, gilded metal, cast metal
From the Oval Hall, Alexander Palace

A beautiful vase shaped as a crater and decorated with paintings was manufactured by the prominent court architect, K.F. Schinkel. The bronze vase pedestal was cast at the Verner and Neffen factory from the models by the sculptors, I.K.F. Reise and L. Wichman in the 1930s.

In 1840 the vase was presented to the Russian court by Friedrich Wilhelm III, father of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, wife of Nicholas I, and accomodated in the Alexander Palace since 1843. A bouquet made of bronze serves as candlesticks, which changed the purpose of the item, was manufactured in St. Petersburg in the middle of the 19th century at the factory of F. Shopen.

In the days of the last owners of the Palace, the vase-candelabrum was in the Oval Hall, which was in the center of the suite of state rooms created by G. Quarenghi at the end of the 18th century and which have remained unchanged for two hundred years. At the beginning of the 20th century, Nicholas II used this room for the reception of different delegations, and on Sundays the family and their close friends were served breakfast here.

In the Oval Hall, the family of Nicholas II spent their last restless night in the Palace, and early in the morning in August 1917, they left through the doors leading to the park, the Alexander Palace for the last time.

Cossacks of the Ataman Regiment

Artist: E. Deteil (1842-1912)
St. Petersburg, 1889
From the Corner Living- Room of Empress Alexandra, Alexander Palace

A French painter, who executed in Paris, a number of murals and paintings depicting the events of the French-Prussian War of 1870-71, worked in St. Petersburg from 1888-89 , where he created a number of battle scenes commissioned by the Emperor’s court. Nicholas II highly appraised his works: his paintings were in the Reception and the Corner Rooms of the Alexander Palace.

On the canvas displayed in the Empress’s room, the painter depicted the Cossacks returning at sunset to the barracks in Krasnoe Selo (the Red Village), a traditional place for the army camps in summer and the grounds were manoeuvres for the guard and army regiments were held. In the suburbs of the capital, the Cossacks practiced in the fields, woods and hills, and in the evening came back to the camps. This scene is portrayed on the canvas: the horses tired from the exercises move slowly, and the horseman sing their favourite songs: Talking With a Soul Mate, Late at Night From a Wood, and You, Vanka, Come in Vain.

Seal of Emperor Nicholas II

Peterhof Lapidary Works, 1900s
Bronze, rhodonite; carved stone; wood, silk, velvet
From the Working (Old) Study of Nicholas II , Alexander Palace

According to the memoirs of people who were familiar with Nicholas II, the Emperor worked in the Alexander Palace on a very tight schedule. The Tsar woke up at 8.30 a.m. and had tea by himself in his study, after which he had an hour walk in the park. Before lunch, which started at 1 p.m., Nicholas II listened to reports and read documents, and after lunch worked for some time in the study. At 5 p.m., the whole family assembled for tea after which they did not meet until dinner which began at 8 p.m. In the evening, Nicholas II worked with documents for about an hour in his study and then read or talked with the Empress in her rooms.

In the afternoon, Nicholas II usually worked in a small cozy study called the Working or Old Cabinet (this was before the new State Cabinet was built). The desk in this study was full of family photographs and various writing utensils. Among them were a miniature seal in the form of the Hat of Monomakh, a box of long matches, blue and red pencils used by Nicholas II for writing resolutions, ashtrays, pipes, dominoes, pen wipers, and writing pads. Almost all these things were related to some memorable event and were given as presents by his children and other members of the family, or presented by the troop units, etc.

One of the seals of the Emperor had the initials NA, which represented a monogram of Nicholas Alexandrovich as a Grand Duke, known from the ex-libris of the Grand Duke in the books from the library in the Alexander Palace.

Uniform (collar, cuirass, helmet) of the Chief of the Prussian Royal 6th Cuirassiers’
Regiment of Brandenburg, presented to Emperor Nicholas I.

Germany, 1890s
Broadcloth, twill, cashmere, silk, galloon, metal, leather, tomback
From the Garderobe of Nicholas II, Alexander Palace

In April 1817, in connection with the coming wedding of Grand Duke Nicholas Pavlovich and Prussian Princess Charlotte, the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III appointed the future Emperor Nicholas I the Chief of the Prussian Royal 6th Cuirassier Brandenburg Regiment. Several days later in Potsdam at a special ceremony the king transferred the royal cuirassiers to their new commander. Since then, all Russian emperors were traditionally appointed chiefs of the Prussian Brandenburg Regiment.

The cuirassier dress-coat belonging to Nicholas II was stored in the Alexander Palace together with other tunics and clothes in a special Garderobe – a small room located next to the Emperor’s Restroom. The wardrobe of Nicholas II numbered several hundred military uniforms and civil clothes. Among them were: surtouts, dress-coats of the guard and army regiments, a greatcoat, a deer fur coat worn for hunting, a Caucasian overcoat, fur coats, shirts and underwear manufactured in the atelier of Nordenstrem in the capital, footwear manufactured and supplied to the imperial household by Veis from St. Petersburg and Sitnov in Moscow, and a hussar pelisse and a dolman worn by Nicholas II for his wedding which took place on November 14, 1894 in the church of the Winter Palace.

Cuirassier Officer’s Broadsword (right)
Germany, Berlin, Made by the craftsman M. Neumann, 1890-1900s
Steel, brass, shark skin, damascene, gilding, etching, engraving
From the collection of Nicholas II

Admiral’s Dirk (2nd from right)
Germany, Made by the craftsman Echter, 1901
Steel, brass, bone, silver thread, damascene, forging, etching, gilding, casting, stamping, carving.
From the collection of Nicholas II

Officer’s Sabre, 1881 Model (3rd from right)
Russia, St. Petersburg, the workshop of Schaff and Sons, 1907
Damask, steel, brass, ebony, gold inlay.
From the collection of Tsesarevich Alexis Nikolaevich

Cossack Officer’s Sabre, 1909 Model (4th from right)
Russia, St. Petersburg, the workshop of Schaff and Sons, 1914
Steel, brass, ebony, leather, silver gimp, etching, gilding, carving
From the collection of Tsesarevich Alexis Nikolaevich

The arms kept in the Alexander Palace were stored in the Emperor’s Restroom where there was a stand with rifles manufactured at the Tula works. On the wall there were pistols, hunting knifes and sabres, and in the Drawing Room in the right wing of the first floor a collection of armoury of Nicholas II and his son, Alexis Nikolaevich was housed. The armour was presented to them by different troop units of the Russian army and navy, and by grand guests and relatives. Here was a cuirassier backsword manufactured by the order of Wilhelm II and presented to Nicholas II during one of the meetings of the two emperors. The admiral’s dirk was also a gift of the Prussian King. It bears a sign: Wilhelm II Deutsher Kaiser Koenig von Preussen, seinem lieben Freund und Vetter Nicholaus II.

The heir-tsesarevich was the owner of the officer’s sabre, presented to him by officers of the 13th Alexander Hussar Regiment of Her Majesty Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in 1907, and owner of the Cossack’s sabre, that was presented to him by officers of the 1st Orenburg Cossack Regiment of His Imperial Highness Heir Tsesarevich in 1914.

Nicholas II wore this armoury during the parades and fetes as a general and admiral of European armies and navies, and the heir-Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich – as the chief of Russian regiments.

Marie-Antoinette and Her Children

Tapestry from a painting by M.L.E. Vigee-Lebrun
France, 1900s.
Wood, linen; spinning, weaving

The enthronement of Nicholas II did not change the external policies set during the last years of the reign of his father, Alexander III. The adherence of the young Emperor to the traditions set by his father was proved by the recognition of a political and military alliance between Russia and the Republic of France, which was stressed by a formal visit of the Russian Emperor to Paris in the autumn of 1896. Since then, regular French-Russian summits had become an ordinary event for Europe.

In the spring of 1902, the French president, E. Loubet visited Russia and brought as a present for the Russian Empress a tapestry made from a painting Marie-Antoinette and Her Children by Vigee-Lebrun. The tapestry was hung in the Corner Living Room of the Alexander Palace opposite the bureau at which Alexandra Feodorovna used to work. There was also a bronze statuette of a woman holding a branch of myrtle, the embodiment of France, presented to Nicholas II by the city of Paris.

K. Isenberg (1859-1911)
A Model of the Monument to he Steregushchy Man-ofWar

St. Petersburg, 1908-1911
Cast bronze

The monument is devoted to one of the heroic events of the Russian-Japanese War of 1904-1905 – a feat of Russian sailors from the crew of the frigate, Steregushchy. When the frigate, damaged during battle was surrounded by enemy ships, two sailors who survived opted to die rather than to surrender to the enemy: they opened the Kingston valves and perished together with the ship.

A high-relief composition on a huge cross is mounted on a grey granite rock with a fragment of the ship and depicts the most tragic moment when the sailors open the Kingston valves and a hatch. On the backside of the monument there is a detailed description of the sailors’ feat.

The monument was opened on May 10, 1911 at the place where Kamennoostovsky Prospect began and can be seen there to this day. Emperor Nicholas II was present at the formal opening ceremony.

A model of the Steregushchy monument made of gesso was placed in the State (New) Cabinet of the Emperor, and a bronze casting was exhibited in the Drawing Room in the right wing. It was accompanied by other personal armoury of Nicholas II and his son.

Books from the Library of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

“There was an abundance of books; Her Majesty was an avid reader, although she was mainly interested in serious literature. She knew the Bible inside and out. The library was next to the Green Dining Room, and new releases and publications were always placed on the round table there, and as newer ones appeared they replaced the former”, recalls Lili Dehn.

At leisure, Nicholas enjoyed reading to Alix and the children. Books have always been a welcome gift in the household. Family members presented books to each other on different occasions and that can be seen in autographs and inscriptions in different volumes. For instance, the title page of Omar Khayyam’s Poetry (Khayyam Omar. Rubayat. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1912) bears an inscription in pencil: “For my darling Alix, Xmas 1912, fr. Nicky”. The volume of English Sacred Poetry (London, George Routledge & Sons, 1877) bears an inscription by Queen Victoria: “Alix fr. Grandmama, Xmas”. The collection of lithographs, entitled Heavenly Dew (London, not dated) is inscribed by Princess Maud, daughter of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra: “For dearful Alicky for her confirmation, March 1888, from her mail-loving cousin, Maudy”.

Uniform of the Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna,
8th Uhlan Voznesensky Regiment

St. Petersburg, the workshop of A. Kitayev, 1911
Broadcloth, silk, lace with silver, lacing, metal, leather

The history of the Ascension Uhlans dates back to the 4th Ukrainian Cossack Regiment formed on October 8, 1812 and renamed Uhlan in 1815. The name Ascension was given to the Regiment in 1830. Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna was appointed chief of the Regiment in 1911.

The people who were familiar with the Imperial family, remembered Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna as an enchanting and a mature person “with a completely set character – direct, pure and honest”. She liked order and had a very developed sense of duty. It was Tatiana who looked after her mother when she was unwell, was in charge of the family daily routines, took care of Alexei Nikolaevich. She was quick-minded, liked homemaking and was very close to the Empress. As Alexandra Feodorovna’s valet, Alexei Andreevich Volkov recollected, “they were two friends”.

It is known that the Empress chose and ordered dresses for her daughters herself in order not to spoil them. The only liberty in her daughters’ clothes allowed by Alexandra Feodorovna were dress-coats with skirts matching the uniforms of the regiments of whom they were the chiefs of. “The Grand Duchesses were very proud of their dress-coats and regiments named after them”, wrote Lili Dehn. “They were always present at the parades dressed in uniforms of their regiments, which they would do with great pleasure”.

The Icon Vera (Faith),Nadezhda ( Hope),Lyubov ( Love) and Their Mother Sophia

Vologda (?), 1900s
Oil on Wood

“Faith, Hope, Love – that is what really matters – Her Majesty used to say,” recalls Lily Dehn, a close friend of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

The icon depicting St. Martyr sisters Vera, Nadezhda, Lyubov and their mother Sophia were executed by pagans for the Christian faith in Rome in 137, was presented to the heir to the Russian throne, Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich by a resident of the Vologda region. On the backside of the board the following text is burned: “To glorify the birthday of our dear heir to the throne, Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Alexei Nikolaevich , given on 30 July, 1904 by a peasant woman who will pray to God and ask Him to give him all creature comforts and salvation and good health for many years to be. 1908, from a loyal subject of the monarchy, Nadezhda Shestakova from the village of Mazovka, the Chuchkovsky district of the Totminsk area of the Vologda region”.

The icon hung in the heir’s bedroom until 1917. Religion played a significant role in his upbringing and education. In the tsesarevich’s bedroom alone there were over 50 icons presented to him my his sisters and relatives.

Christening Clothes of the Tsesarevich Alexis Nikolaevich

St. Petersburg, 1904
Silver and gold brocade, lace, silk

On July 30, 1904 a long-awaited heir was born into the Emperor’s family who was named Alexei after the Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich (the Quiet), who lived in the 17th century and was the favourite tsar of Nicholas II. According to tradition, this happy event was announced in the capital by 301 cannon shots fired from the Peter and Paul Fortress.

The baby boy was christened in the church of the Grand Palace in Peterhof on August 11, 1904. “A memorable day of our dearest son’s christening”, wrote Nicholas II in his diary. “The morning was sunny and warm. Before 9.30 am in front of our house along the sea road there stood gilded carriages and platoons of the Guards, the Hussars and the Cossack chieftains. At five minutes to 10 the procession started . . . The christening began at 11 o’clock. Learned later that little Alexei was perfectly calm. [ . . . ] Mama and Uncle Alexei were sponsors”.

The ceremony was opulent and magnificent. The State Carriage, in which Alexei was carried was driven by eight horses in pairs, the cortege was also impressive. Numerous grand relatives and guests arrived for the christening.

According to tradition, on the christening day the signs of the orders of Andrei Pervozvany, Alexander Nevsky, the White Eagle, Anna and Stanislav were carried into the church on a gold plate and set on a the tsaesarevich.

Upon the completion of the christening ceremony, again 301 cannon shots were fired and the bells of all the churches in Peterhof and the capital rang. A formal breakfast for 396 persons was served in the Grand Palace.

At night, St. Petersburg, Moscow and Peterhof were decorated with illuminations.

Uniform of Tsesarevich Alexis Nikolaevich
2nd Lieutenant, 12th Eastern Siberian Infantry Regiment

Russia, 1910s
Broadcloth, silk, leather, fur, gilded lace, silver threads, metal, bone, wood

At his birth, the heir-tsesarevich was awarded the rank of a cornet, and new-born Alexei Nikolaevich was appointed the chief of the 12th East-Siberian Rifle Regiment of His Highness Heir-Tsesarevich. It was the first army unit that was honoured to have the heir to the Russian throne as the chief.

On July 30, 1904 Emperor Nicholas II reported to the commander-in-chief of the Manchurian army Lieutenant-General Kurapatkin: “Today our Lord gave to Her Majesty and me a son, Alexei. I am happy to report to you about the grace of God to Russia and to us. I appoint the new-born Heir-Tsesarevich Alexei as colonel-in-chief of the 12the East-Siberian Rifle Regiment in order to share our joy with the various troops of the acting army.

Tsarskoe Selo Red Service

St. Petersburg, Imperial Porcelain Factory, 1900s
Porcelain, painting over enamel, gilding

In 1903 a contest was announced to manufacture a state service for Tsarskoe Selo. The contest required that the china should match the Catherine Palace architecture and be designed in “the style of Rastrelli, the pattern should be plain but opulent.” The designs of two artists A.F. Maximov and V.S. Stepanov were awarded prizes. The head of the painting studio of the Imperial Porcelain Works, E.Y. Kremer elaborated the final designs according to which in 1904 the production of the service began. The service contained 1690 pieces: five types of plates, cups with saucers, bowls. All china was decorated with monochrome landscapes painted in purple and a gilded ornament finished with polishing.

The Red Tsarskoe Selo Service was the last state service manufactured by the Imperial Porcelain Factory.

There was no special dining room in the Alexander Palace: “the sovereign did not like to dine in one special room, and the dining table was lain in the room which was chosen for dinner on a particular evening”. On week days, dinner was usually served in the Empress’s Pallisander Room and formal dinners were given in the Oval Hall.

Easter Eggs With the Monograms of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

St. Petersburg, Imperial Porcelain Factory, 1900s
Porcelain, painting over enamel, gilding

Traditionally, during the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, about 5,000 porcelain eggs from the stores of the Imperial Porcelain Factory were supplied to the Imperial household annually and distributed as gifts at Easter.

The last Easter spent by the Imperial family in the Alexander Palace, while under house arrest was on April 2, 1917. Nicholas II, who had already abdicated, recorded in his diary: “a joyful day of Christ’s Resurrection. Before breakfast exchanged traditional kisses with all the staff. And Alix presented them with china eggs saved from the old stock. All in all, there were 135 people.

At the bottom of each egg was the Empress’s cipher and a Red Cross which signified that since 1899 Alexandra Feodorovna was a patron of the Tsarskoe Selo Committee of the Red Cross Community where she worked as a nurse between 1914 and 1917.

For the last Easter celebrations the Empress, with the help of her daughters, put on the Easter eggs, the red crosses – symbols of Mercy.

“They all are like one person in their souls” (from the letter of A.F. to J.A. Den. Tobolsk, March 2/15 1918)

Authors: L. Bardovskaya & I. Bott ~ Авторы-составители: Л. Бардовская, И. Ботт
© The State Museum - Tsarskoye Selo ~ © ГМЗ ~ Царское Село