Sunday, 15 December 2019

The Christenings of two Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovichs in the Catherine Palace Church

Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich, the eldest son of Alexander II and Maria Alexandrovna, was born in Tsarskoe Selo on September 8th 1843. A month later on October 10th the christening was held in the Catherine Palace Church.

E. Hau’s Watercolor c1860s (below) of the Catherine Palace Church in Tsarskoe Selo
The godparents were his grandfather Nicholas I, aunt Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, grandfather Grand Duke Ludwig of Hesse-Darmstadt, and great-aunts Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Weimar and Anna Pavlovna of the Netherlands. ‘During the whole ceremony in the gallery the young painter Hau was sketching the entire brilliant picture’. [Baron Korf diary October 11th 1843]
The baby as heir would one day ascend the throne as Emperor Nicholas II. It was not to be. With his death at twenty-one on April 12th 1865, his brother Alexander became Tsarevich.

Twenty-five years later his namesake and nephew Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich was born on May 6th 1868 in Tsarskoe Selo who did ascend the throne as Nicholas II. The christening in the Catherine Palace Church on May 20th was sketched by Zichy (below).
Photographs (below) from the destruction in the 1940s to the magnificent restoration of the Catherine Palace Church by the Tsarskoe Selo Museum today



Monday, 9 December 2019

Where in the Catherine Palace were the rooms of Grand Duke Dmitry and his sister Grand Duchess Maria?

In the Alexander Palace on Wednesday February 1st 1906 Nicholas II’s diary reveals that Maria and Dmitry had dinner with him and Alexandra. ‘We went for a ride and took them back to the [Catherine] Palace’.

Photographs c1906 (below) of Grand Duchess Maria and Grand Duke Dmitry in the Catherine Palace from Empress Alexandra’s Album [GARF]
Why did Maria and Dmitry live separately while under the care of Nicholas and Alexandra? My curiosity has finally been answered in an article by Vladimir Vekshin of the Tsarskoe Selo Museum on the origins of the Catherine Palace Hospital in 1915-1917.

The youngest son of Alexander II Grand Duke Paul lived in the former apartment of his brother Tsarevich Nicholas who died in 1865. After the tragic death of his wife Alexandra the former Greek princess, their children Maria and Dmitry occupied the rooms next to Paul.

Plan (below) of the former rooms of Grand Paul and his children on the 1st floor of the Catherine Palace with the Zubov Wing on the right [GMZ Tsarskoe Selo Museum]
A – GD Paul’s rooms; B – Childrens Rooms – 1 entrance hall, 2 dining room, 3 drawing room, 4 study, 5 – bedroom; C – Vacant Rooms; D – Princess Yurievskaya, morganatic wife of Alexander II in the Zubov Wing

‘In February 1914, Alexandra Fedorovna expressed a desire that the premises in the Grand Tsarskoye Selo Palace, engaged in His Highness the Grand Duke Pavel Alexandrovich and the children of His Highness were overhauled and furnished, for the appointment of these premises in the future for the highest foreign persons’.

Plans (below) for the infirmary reconstruction of Grand Duke Paul’s apartment (upper) and childrens rooms (lower) [GMZ Tsarskoe Selo Museum]
Photograph c1900s (below) of the Catherine Palace

Thursday, 5 December 2019

The Grand Dukes in the Arsenal Hall of Gatchina Palace

The interiors of the imperial family’s private apartments in Gatchina Palace are known through watercolors, photographs and inventories from 1850 to 1917.

E. Hau’s Watercolor c1860s (below) of the Arsenal Hall in Gatchina Palace

Nicholas I and Alexandra Feodorovna extended their stay in Gatchina from the autumn of 1854 to January 1855 for the empress to recover from an illness. The youngest sons Grand Duke Nikolai and Mikhail arrived for Christmas to surprise their mother. Lady-in-waiting Baroness Maria Fredericks, childhood friend of the grand dukes, noted in her diary that ‘later a photograph of the group of us was made in memory of this joyful moment’.

Photograph (below) of the family group with Grand Duke Nikolai and Mikhail on January 2nd 1855 in the Arsenal Hall from an album published in 1911. A month later their father Emperor Nicholas I died in the Winter Palace.

The above is the earliest known photograph of an interior in Gatchina Palace. Alexander II would stay only a few weeks each year at Gatchina during the hunting season. From 1881 to 1894 it was the family home of Alexander III and until 1917 the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna.

Archival documents from the 1920s-1930s note that numerous photograph in boxes and albums were transferred from Gatchina to other archive funds. Fifteen inventory books were devoted to photographs as well as a special section in one of the books listing negatives’. The fate of a further seventeen albums from Gatchina including a ‘leather-bound album with pre-revolutionary photographs of Gatchina Palace’ looted during the war are unknown. 

Aerial (below) of Gatchina Palace (Arsenal Wing on the right)

Photographs (below) of the Staircase leading to the Arsenal Hall (currently being restored) in Gatchina Palace