Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Doctors in the Winter Palace (1)

Who was Dr. Horne? Little is known beyond the x-rays of Nicholas and Alexandra’s hands.

His life is a mystery. Was he American since the x-rays are now held at Harvard? Or German, as the name Maximilian was used in a document? Is it Horne or Gorne since there is no ‘H’ in cyrillic?

The archives reveal a little more information in the ‘Wardrobe Accounts’ of Nicholas and Alexandra.

Dr. Horne, Court Counselor of Doctor of Medicine and hospital consultant, was an attending physician to the Imperial court. He specialized in the treatment of feet.

In 1896 the accounts show he was paid 120 rubles for two gymnastic apparatus for Alexandra.

In 1898 Dr. Horne visited Alexandra twenty-nine times in the Winter Palace (25 rubles per visit) and forty-eight times in Tsarskoe and Peterhof (50 rubles). The double payment was due to travel costs to the suburban palaces.

Nicholas II in his diary on March 23rd, 1898 wrote “… Dr. Horne who massages Alix every morning, showed us with his wife interesting experiments of the way x-rays work. He immortalized our hands with a translucent photograph on a glass record …”

How the x-rays ended up in Boston is sketchy. The Harvard Library Bulletin in 1970 quoted Lloyd Hawes’ tale of Lilly Hoffmann’s meeting with Mrs. Horne in Lapland:

“… She had carried the X-rays out of Czarist Russia and presented them to Miss Hoffmann. Mrs. Horne vividly recalled the details of the royal X-ray session. The Czar had commanded the Hornes to bring their apparatus into the St. Petersburg palace to take one of the new X-ray photographs. The apparatus was heavy and bulky. The initial energy came from the palace's electrical system. The exposure must have been made at night, for the room was plunged into darkness when the apparatus was plugged in. In the dark Mrs. Horne bumped into the Czar and apologized profusely. The Czar remarked that he would help find the trouble, and that getting the power back on was more important than apologies. To develop the plates, a clothes closet may well have been used. It was necessary to tilt the trays back and forth to wash the plates with the chemical solutions…” 


  1. Was one of the gymnastic apparatus installed in 1896 a rowing machine ("Ruderapparat" in German)? Alexandra mentioned such a machine in her letter of 14/26 January 1897 to her brother; it had been recommended to her for her leg.

  2. Thank you very much. I hadn't connected the rowing machine to gymnastic apparatus! Since 2 were bought in 1896, was the second one part of the 'luggage' when moving residence. It is like the dental chair, which room it was in, still to discover!