Friday, 4 November 2016

Empress Alexandra’s Baise-Main (hand-kissing) Reception

On January 1st, the Empress would hold a baise-main (hand-kissing) reception in the Concert Hall in the Winter Palace. Ladies of the nobility, officials and others were presented to the Empress to kiss her hand.

I have read numerous diaries and memoirs describing the baise-main ceremonies, held on different dates in the Winter Palace, but have never seen photographs. It was a dream to have discovered rare photographs of a baise-main held in the Great Palace in the Kremlin in 1900.

On Monday, April 10th, 1900 Nicholas II wrote “… At 2:30 in the St. Andrew Hall, Alix gave her hand to all the Moscow ladies – the traditional custom called the baise-main …”

Photographs (below) of the Empress Alexandra’s baise-main in the St. Andrew Hall in Kremlin Palace on April 10th, 1900



On Thursday, March 31st, 1900 Nicholas II and Alexandra left the Winter Palace for Moscow to celebrate Easter on April 9th. Most days they would leave the Kremlin to spend the afternoon walking in the Alexander (Neskuchne) Palace gardens.

Photographs (below) of the entrance to the Alexander (Neskuchne) Palace in April 1900





On Saturday, April 8th, 1900 Nicholas wrote “… We went with the children to Uncle Sergei’s and Ella’s to color Easter eggs …”

Photographs (below) of the family arriving at Grand Duke Sergei’s residence on Tverskaya Ulitsa in April 1900



On Tuesday, April 11th, 1900 Nicholas wrote “… At 1 PM we went to the Nobles’ Assembly for a huge lunch given by the Moscow Nobility. The look of the hall with multiple round tables and an enormous long table in the centre of the room, set up with a countless assortment of dishes with swans, peacocks, marvelous old silver was strikingly effective …”


Photographs (below) of the Banquet on April 11th (note Nicholas II sat on the left, Alexandra on the right, and the swans)




10 comments:

  1. I recently discovered these wonderful images, too. (And did a blog post in August featuring the first three.) The source - a reputable one - identified the activities as occurring during the coronation ceremonies. But your extracts from the Emperor's diaries easily refute that; one can never be too careful.... Thank you! (And here I go to update my post.)

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    1. Stephilius, I would love to read your blog. Can you share the link for us?

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  2. Thank you for these wonderful photos, especially the ones of the baise-main ceremony, which were new to me.

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  4. I'm curious because I own the book "A Lifelong Passion" which I'm sure you know, is full of Nicholas and Alexandra's diary entries, letters etc. On January 22nd 1895, Nicholas wrote in his diary saying, "At 2 o'clock in the Winter Palace the ladies' baise-main took place -- 550 ladies! My dear Alix looked remarkably beautiful in Russian costume. The whole ceremony lasted 3/4 of an hour. On returning home we went skating. After tea I read aloud from a new book about Napoleon's life on the island of St. Helena. Went for a drive with Alix after dinner. It was very windy."
    So I'm just curious on why the dates on your pictures are completely different from his diary entry. I also skipped to April 10th 1900 in the book and it had no entries at all of that day.

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  5. Also, no entries in his diary or letters at all on the dates of March 31st, April 8th and April 11th of 1900.

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  6. "A Lifelong Passion" includes only excerpts from diaries/letters, so many letters/diary entries are missing.

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    1. I read "A Lifelong Passion" some years ago. There over 600 pages in that book and I believe there are letters in their entirety, not just excerpts. It was a very interesting read. One can glen a lot about Nicholas and Alexandra through their letters/diaries

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    2. Excuse me, glean

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  7. Thank you all very much for your comments. I am in awe to have finally seen photos of the baise-main rather than just reading of the ceremony. 'A Lifelong Passion' is a marvelous book, one of the first to share many diaries and letters in English. I did use Nicholas II's diary entries for the Easter in Moscow to link to the photograph album of 1900. There are probably photos of baise-main's in the Winter Palace that are in the archives photo albums especially for instance the one for Xenia in 1894. Hopefully, more albums will be released soon.

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