Monday, 6 February 2017

Guests in the 1st Spare of the Winter Palace

From 1840 to 1844, Grand Duchess Marie, the eldest daughter of Nicholas I and her new husband, the Duke of Leuchtenberg, lived in the Winter Palace until the completion of the Mariinsky Palace. Their apartments were located on the 2nd floor south side, facing the Large Courtyard.

Hau’s 1867 watercolor (below) of the 1st Spare Bedroom and photographs of the room today

The suite (290 to 301) is known as the 1st Spare and after 1844, is where highest ranking guests stayed. Although the Leuchtenbergs had temporarily resided there, authors continued to describe each of the rooms with captions denoting Grand Duchess Marie and Duke of Leuchtenberg.

I had followed the norm until now. With the turmoil in Grand Duchess Marie’s life after 1854 and archival documents in subsequent reigns naming the 1st Spare, those captions should have been left to history rather than replicated through the decades.

Hau’s watercolors of the 1st Spare interiors were completed in 1866 and 1867. The architectural details remain from 1840; the rooms were redecorated.

Photograph (below) of Grand Duchess Marie

 Hau’s 1867 watercolor (below) of Dressing in the 1st Spare and photograph of the room today

On Thursday, April 10th, 1897 Nicholas II wrote “… At 2:45 we left Tsarskoe with sadness for a whole week [Easter] … It has been exactly four months that we have not been in our rooms in the Winter Palace! …”

On Tuesday April 15th, 1895 he wrote “... At 10 AM we all gathered in the Nicholas Hall to meet the Emperor of Austria …” and on Wednesday April 16th “… At 10 AM the Emperor mounted his horse and I gave him a salute …”

Photograph (below) of Nicholas II and Emperor Franz Josef in Palace Square

On Friday, January 25th, 1902 Nicholas wrote “ … At 3 PM all the male part of the family gathered at the Warsaw terminal to meet Archduke Franz Ferdinand … Alix and the ladies of the family were waiting for him in the 1st Spare, which the Austrian Emperor had occupied previously …”

On Friday, January 3rd, 1903 Nicholas wrote “… At 10 AM, having put on the uniform of the Prussian Alexandrovsky Regiment, I went with Alix to the 1st Spare apartments where young [Crown Prince] Wilhelm soon arrived …”

On Monday January 6th he wrote “… the Crown Prince was not feeling well and that he had a fever … At 8 PM we went to see him. He was already lying in bed in a sweat and was complaining of hurting all over his body. One must hope that this is a slight case of influenza – it is unpleasant to have an ill guest …”

On Tuesday January 7th he wrote “… I sat with Wilhelm from 3 to 4:30 . .. [after dinner] again I sat with our guest …” and on Wednesday January 8th “… Wilhelm slept excellently and got up, remaining naturally in his apartments …”

Photograph (below) of Crown Prince Wilhelm entering the Winter Palace through the small entrance located near the Office of the Empress’ Secretary on the Neva side


  1. These are some of my favorite nineteenth-century d├ęcors from the Winter Palace; very sad that the charming furnishings haven't survived, but very grateful that the architectural detail and ceiling decoration has. : )

  2. The furniture is by Gambs and many pieces remain and are held in the Hermitage Storage facility across the river.

    The furniture from Empress Alexandra's #187 in 1840 prior to its redecoration into the White Drawing Room is shown today in her former boudoir.

  3. Nice. I figured that at least some of the actual furniture still existed, it's just too bad that we can't see it in its original settings.

  4. Great post, Joanna!
    This room is one of my many favourite rooms in the palace, I think because in the painting it's all pink and gold and a bit girly ;).
    Which is what had me wondering, with it looking as feminine as it did, was it shared? I somehow can't imagine the Duke M Leuchtenburg willingly sleeping in such a girlish type of room. Did he sleep on a cot bed like Nicholas I and Alexander II in his study, Hau's watercolour of The Study of Duke M Leuchtenberg looks like it could have doubled as a bedroom considering the curtained off part of the room, would this be possible?
    Ghostie x.

  5. We are seeing Hau's watercolors of 1866/67 and the former Duke's study was next to the valet/wardrobe. I think this room was used as a secondary bedroom for guests and a bed arranged behind the curtain. Emperor Franz Josef's brother Archduke Otto came also and probably used this room as his bedroom.

    The 'rose' bedroom was used by guests as I had described in Nicholas' diary. But also wives also came i.e. Ferdinand of Bulgaria and his wife, a later visit by Crown Prince Wilhem after his marriage to Cecilia, etc. The 'rose' and 'red' dressing room are understandable in that context.