ROYAL RUSSIA DIRECTORY
The Conspiracy Against Nicholas II with Paul Gilbert
In Episode 5, I discuss the main plots aimed to overthrow Nicholas II from his throne, as well as the myths regarding Nicholas’ II alleged weakness as a ruler.
I often tell people that I love Russia, because I do. I think everybody has a country not their own that they’re powerfully drawn to; Russia is mine.
I was born on 27th October 1956 in Penzance, Cornwall, England. I was a young boy when my family emigrated to Canada in the summer of 1960. We arrived in Toronto, where some 12 years prior, one of the last surviving members of the Russian Imperial family had arrived from Denmark, along with her husband and two sons. It was not until many years later that I discovered that it was HIH Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, the daughter of Emperor Alexander III, and youngest sister to the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II, who had lived out her final days in a tiny, sparsely furnished room above a barber shop, only mere blocks from where I grew up as a child .
I was only 4 years old when the last grand duchess of Russia passed away on 24th November 1960. At such a young age, I had no idea the role in which this family and their legacy would play in my life.
Even though I was baptized into the Church of England, I have always held great interest and respect for the Russian Orthodox Church. While travelling in Russia, I make a point of visiting it's churches, cathedrals and monasteries, returning to personal favourites on each successive visit for prayer and reflection. When I step into a Russian Orthodox Church, I feel transported back in time. The architecture, old world traditions, icons, the smell of incense coupled with divine liturgies, and the angelic choirs never fail to have a very profound spiritual effect on me. It is in the churches of Russia that I find an inner peace that I do not find any where else. I am constantly reminded of the significance with which the Russian Orthodox Church had in Russian history and the day-to-day lives of members of the Russian Imperial family - they are inseparable.
I am often asked “are you Russian?” or “how did you get so interested in this subject?”. To my knowledge, I have no Russian roots and yet, I believe that my interest in the Romanovs and Imperial Russia began with a simple book that I received as a gift many years back.
Books have always been one of my greatest passions, so it only seemed natural that I should pursue a career in the book industry. I have spent more than 40 years in publishing and bookselling in Canada and Great Britain. Today, my full-time occupation has greatly expanded and now includes: independent Romanov researcher, publisher, bookseller, writer and public speaker.
In 1990, I began publishing a simple newsletter dedicated to the Romanov dynasty and Imperial Russia. Four years later, I launched the Imperial Russian Journal, the only publication of its kind dedicated to the Romanovs and Tsarist Russia.
That same year, I launched my own publishing house which has evolved into Gilbert’s Books. My goal was to specialize in the publication of books on the Romanov dynasty and Imperial Russia. These included out-of-print titles, translations and new titles. To date, Gilbert’s Books has published over 40 titles in hard cover and trade paperback editions.
In 2009, Gilbert’s Books published the first English edition of The Diary of Grand Duchess Olga Nicholaievna 1913(Edited by Raegan Baker). The publication of this diary was a joint publishing project in cooperation with the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF). Also in 2009, I published the first English translation of Memories in the Marble Palace by Grand Duke Gavriil Konstantinvoch. In May 2012, I published a new edition of A Romanov Diary: The Autobiography of Grand Duchess Marie Georgievna in cooperation with Prince David Chavchavadze and Alexandra Wynkoop. One publishing project of which I am particularly proud is the first English language edition of Last Years of the Court at Tsarskoe Selo, 1906-1914, in two volumes. General Alexandre Spiridovich's monumental memoirs in the service of Tsar Nicholas II. The first volume was published in 2010, the second in 2017. I am most grateful to General Spiridovich's descendants for permission to translate and publish these memoirs.
Since then I have returned to Russia year after year, always in search of the Romanov legacy. As an independent researcher, these visits have allowed me to see Russia through my own eyes and I have attempted to unravel the mystery of this once vast and proud empire and its rich history and culture which Winston Churchill referred to in his famous quote in 1939: “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.
In the 1990s, I had had the honour of hosting slide and talk presentations on the Romanovs, as well as wine and cheese evenings in Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco and Toronto. These events allowed me to meet many others who shared my passion for the Romanovs and Imperial Russia.
In 1996 I started to offer tours to Russia. I have hosted more than a dozen specialty tours that have allowed others to rediscover the Romanov legacy. Past tours have included St. Petersburg, Moscow, Yalta and the Crimea, Ekaterinburg, and Helsinki and Langinkoski in Finland. It is interesting to note that we were the first group from the West to visit the Alexander Palace in 1997 and the Grand Kremlin Palace in 2000. Through my contacts in Russia, I have taken some of these groups to the Romanov Archives located in the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF) in Moscow, the Russian State Film & Photo Archive at Krasnogorsk, the Russian State Historical Archives (RGIA) and the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg.
I have had the good fortune to have met many fascinating historians, curators, directors, authors, etc who have shared their time and resources on the Romanovs with me. In Moscow and St. Petersburg they have opened doors for me which would have been impossible otherwise. Through them I have personally visited the Romanov Archives in the State Central Archives in Moscow on more than one occasion. It was on one such visit that I held in my hands the personal letters between Nicholas II and Alexandra, the diaries of their children and the numerous personal photo albums of the Russian Imperial family. The photo albums in particular intrigued me, revealing photographs of members of the last Imperial family, including grand dukes and grand duchesses, that to this day have yet to be published in a glossy coffee table book.
In July 1998, I journeyed to St. Petersburg to witness one of the most important historical events to take place in 20th-century Russian history: the burial of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, three of their five children, and four of their faithful servants. It was here that I met many descendants of the Romanov dynasty, including Princes Nicholas and Dimitri Romanovich.
1991 – The remains of Tsar Nicholas II, his family and four retainers are found outside of Ekaterinburg, but two of the children’s remains were still unaccounted for.
In 2004, I launched a new web site, Royal Russia: A Celebration of the Romanov Dynasty & Imperial Russia in Words and Photographs. In 2017, it welcomed more than 5 million visitors from all over the world, making it one of the most popular sites dedicated to the Romanovs. It currently offers full-length articles, videos, photographs, and an online Royal Russia Bookshop offering titles on the Romanovs and Imperial Russia.
In 2011, I launched a blog, Royal Russia Bulletin. It currently features more than 2,200 short news clips and videos on the Romanovs and Imperial Russia.
In January 2018, my news blog was moved to Royal Russia News. It is updated daily, with first English translations of news on the Romanovs and Imperial Russia from Russian media sources.
In October 2011, after nearly two years of planning, I launched a new periodcial, Royal Russia Annual. This publication is now the largest English language periodical of its kind dedicated solely to the study and appreciation of the Romanov Dynasty and Imperial Russian history. It was intended to be published only once a year as an annual, but due to its popularity, Royal Russia Annual is now published twice a year, while still retaining its original name. Annual Winter and Summer editions are issued.
In the autumn of 2015, I launched a second periodical, Sovereign. This publication is dedicated to the study of the life and reign of Emperor Nicholas II. It offers first English translations of works by Russian historians, based on new documents released after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. This publication was featured in a full-page colour advert in the July 2018 issue of Majesty Magazine. Annual Spring and Autumn editions are issued.
In March 2013, I launched a Royal Russia page on Facebook. It currently has more than 150,000 followers from all over the world, and growing by the day! It is truly remarkable that nearly 100 years after the fall of the monarchy in Russia, the world’s fascination with the Romanov dynasty and Imperial Russia endures!
My career as an author is just about to begin with several books in the works. Among these are My Russia. Ekaterinburg (2018)and Nicholas II in Post-Soviet Russia (2019).
In the coming years I shall continue to publish translations and new titles, as well as further issues of my periodicals. I am really enjoying the work that I put into my web site Royal Russia, as it gives me the opportunity to share my interest in the Romanov dynasty and Imperial Russia with people all over the world. I anticipate that my web site will continue to grow in both size and interest, continuing to welcome growing numbers of visitors from all over the world.
My work has been reviewed in numerous magazines and newspapers in Canada, the United States and Russia, including Newsweek Magazine, Paper Magazine, The Toronto Star, The Mississauga News, The Hurontario News, Clarington Weekly, Lake Placid News, the Virginia Gazette and Orthodox Russia. I have also offered my assistance to numerous authors, historians and producers for books and documentaries about the Romanovs and Imperial Russian history.
In recent years I have given talks and power point presentations on such topics as the life of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, the Romanovs in exile and the succession question.
Thanks to the success of an annual calendar published by Royal Russia I was given the opportunity to "give something back to Russia." I have made donations to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve and Peterhof State Museum-Preserve. These donations go towards restoration work and the acquisition of items for the palace-museum collections. I am very proud that I have been given the opportunity to make at least a small contribution to each museum. I am committed to helping to preserve the Romanov legacy when and where I can, and will continue to make ongoing donations in the years ahead.
It is my fervent hope, that through my work that I can leave behind a legacy, one that will in some small way have made a contribution to a better understanding and appreciation for the Romanov dynasty and the immense contribution that they have made to the history of Russia.
As noted at the top of this page, Andrei Psarev wrote an article about me and my fascination with Imperial Russia for Orthodox Russia in 1994. It was in this article that he referred to me as a "son of Old Russia". For me personally, this was an enormous compliment because my goal has always been to keep the memories of Old Russia alive.
In her essays, The Sentimental Traveller, Vernon Lee wrote of her emotion for Italy thus: ”There are moments in all our lives, most often, alas! during childhood, when we possess the mystic gift of consecration, of steeping things in our soul's essence, and making them thereby different from all others, forever sovereign and sacred to us.” So Italy became to her--so Russia is to me.
My personal library is a unique collection that has spanned a lifetime and consists of more than 2,000 books on the Romanovs and Imperial Russia in both English and Russian. For anyone who shares an interest in the Romanovs, I would like to suggest the following list of books. These are some of my current favourites;
Bokhanov, A., The Romanovs: Love, Power and Tragedy (1993)