Monday, 27 February 2017
A Tunnel to the Winter Palace?
On Sunday, February 13th, 1911 Nicholas II wrote “… At 7:15PM I departed for St. Petersburg, had dinner with Mama, and then I went with her to see Kshesinskaya’s jubilee performance. There were lengthy greetings and a mass of gifts …”
Matilda Kshesinskaya’s fame was not only as a ballerina but for her ménage à trois of Grand Dukes: mistress to Nicholas, Sergei Mikhailovich and Andrei Vladimirovich. Discarded by the first for his marriage to Alexandra and later married to the third, Sergei is the enigma.
In 1904-06, the architect Alexander von Hohen built an Art Nouveau (Style Moderne) mansion for Matilda on the Petrogradsky Island near the Peter and Paul Fortress.
Photograph (below) of Ksheskinskaya’s Mansion c1906
Sergei financially supported Matilda’s opulent lifestyle in St. Petersburg, including a villa in Strelna. The Mikhailovich were the richest branch of the Romanov family. Alexander Polovtsov was amused by Olga Feodorovna, Sergei’s mother, pleading poverty. On Monday, January 28th, 1885 he wrote “… [Olga] said if the Empress Marie asked her to give a ball, she will answer that she has no means to do so because she has to save for her grandchildren …”
Gossip within all classes of society was widespread regarding Matilda for over thirty years before the revolution. A persistent rumor, then and after, was that Nicholas II had a tunnel built connecting Matilda’s mansion to the Winter Palace. It is beyond absurd. By 1906, Nicholas had long departed the Winter Palace and the mansion was in direct sight of Sergei’s New-Mikhailovsky Palace across the Neva.
Drawings (below) of Ksheskinskaya’s Mansion: Plan, Façade 1, Façade 2, Interior Drawing Room, Interior Hall, Interior Staircase, Interior Dining Room and Interior Nursery
On Wednesday, February 29th, 1912 Nicholas wrote “… went to Sergei Mikhailovich’s and had lunch …”
Nicholas and Sergei were members of the ‘potato’ club formed in the 1880s with the Vorontsovs and Sheremetevs. Grand Duchess Xenia had Fabergé design small gold brooches for the ladies and pendants for the men with an image of a potato. In c1920, Xenia sent from England Sergei’s pendant to Matilda. Nicholas had used his potato pendant as a keychain. On Friday, April 28th, 1900 he wrote “… After dinner I sorted out a sea of papers from St. Petersburg, which came in an old Danish suitcase for safekeeping …”
On Tuesday, May 12th, 1915 Empress Marie wrote “… I visited Sergei, who is not well at all [rheumatism] … It stinks in his bedroom, where the air is awfully warm and unhealthy …”
Photograph (below) of Sergei Mikhailovich
Photograph (below) of Sergei Mikhailovich on Khodynka Field during the coronation in 1896