Monday, 1 August 2016

‘Chamber Pots’ in the Winter Palace

In Diana Mandache’s ‘Dearest Missy’, Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna in her letter on June 8th, 1888 wrote “… Seville … Our guide took us one day to a china manufactory where the principal articles seemed to be, des pots de chambres. At first we behaved very well but when we saw rows and rows of them surrounding us in every direction Lady Mary and myself went into terrible fits of laughter …”

Water Closets (toilets) were common in the palaces after Nicholas I had seen one in Munich in the 1820s.
Alexander II’s restored toilet (below) in the Farm Palace, Peterhof



However, ‘night cupboards’ (chamber pots) continued to be used by the Imperial Family and new ones made i.e. Empress Marie A.’s train in the 1870s. It is difficult to comprehend when reading their medical records - the dreadful dysentery, etc.
In Nicholas I’s 1840 wardrobe accounts, the tinsmith Ricken was paid to repair Nicholas’ tin chamber pot.

In Alexander II’s mezzanine above his valet’s room in the Winter Palace, there was a mahogany cabinet with drawers for a washstand and a chamber pot.
In Empress Marie A.’s bedroom in the Winter Palace, there was a small rosewood cabinet with one door for her chamber pot.

Premazzi’s 1852 watercolor (below) of the Empress’ bedroom shows the cabinet on the left between the door and fireplace.
The Empress had a ‘mobile’ toilet that was preserved in the Gatchina Palace until 1941. It was a folding chair of green leather, with a copper pot and lid and fitted with a removable suede seat.

The 1888 inventory of Alexander III’s toilet room on the 3rd floor of the Winter Palace lists a mahogany table with two drawers containing a large quadrangular chamber pot on rollers.
Alexander III was dismissive of his doctors. To subvert the need to supply Dr. Hirsch with a daily urine sample, he ‘...would throw cigarette butts in his chamber pot...’.

Alexei Orshnikov, unpacking Nicholas II’s crates in the Kremlin, wrote on March 10th, 1922 “… silver chamber pots of all his [Nicholas II] daughters, silver bidet of the Empress …”

We are amused!

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