Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Nicholas II’s State Visit to France in 1901

Empress Alexandra hung one of Francois Flameng’s Napoleonic theme paintings ‘Reception Compiègne in 1810’ in her Empire Drawing Room (187) in the Winter Palace in 1896.

Nicholas II and Alexandra had sailed on the Standart to Dunkirk on Wednesday September 5th 1901 for a three-day state visit to France. At 4:00 pm they boarded Loubert’s presidential train, arriving at 8:00 pm in Compiègne. Nicholas wrote that ‘along the entire railroad line people from the surrounding towns stood and touchingly greeted our train. Madame Loubert met us in the palace. We stayed in the beautiful rooms of Napoleon I and Marie Louise. We had dinner fortunately by ourselves’.

Aerials, photographs and plans (below) of Compiègne Palace


Photographs (below) of Compiegne

The next day they attended maneuvers near Rheims and visited the cathedral. Returning to Compiègne, they had dinner together again.

On Friday, the troops had the day off according to the program. Nicholas wrote it ‘was a peaceful day for us as well. In the morning we walked to the nearby sections of the park. We were walking the entire time in front of the guards and a string of watchmen. It is unimaginable what precautions they took everywhere here. At 11:00 am ‘our friend’ [Philippe] showed up. At 7:00 pm there was a big dinner with educated people of lesser birth and a show. Everything was over at 11:00’.

The doctor and artist Pavel Piasetsky, a friend of Nicholas, accompanied them on their visit to France.

Piastsky’s painting (below) of the imperial couple in the Compiègne Park

Dinner menu (below) on September 7th (OS) / 20th (NS) by the artist from l’Ecole des Arts Deoratifs in Paris

They left Compiègne to return to Kiel at 4:00 pm on Saturday September 8th after a review of four divisions of 10,000 troops and lunch.

The diarist Alexandra Bodganovich held a salon in her mansion on St. Isaac’s Square where opinions, criticisms, secrets and rumors spread among Saint Petersburg Society. She wrote on September 10th that the day before there were interesting talks with the Russian naval agent Yepanchin who had been in Dunkirk. He found there was little enthusiasm and warmth of feeling for the state visit. All the festivities were colorless. During dinner in Compiègne chaos reigned. When presenting, Mme. Deshanell kissed the Empress’ hand while all the other ladies and men shook her hand. Near the end, the Empress only bowed as she had lost feeling in her hand, leaving the impression of coldness and haughtiness among the guests.


  1. Fantastic post!
    Poor Alexandra I think I'd refuse to shake hands too if my hand had gone numb!
    Ghostie x

  2. Thank you! When noting the large amounts spent on gloves in the imperial wardrobe ledgers, you realize the number of people they shook hands with.

  3. Dear Joanna,

    What an amazing post!! Love to see the aerial views of Compiègne and the dinner menu. Piasetsky's watercolours are really beautiful. I have to ask where you get the floor plans of Compiègne, would love to see them in a higher resolution :)

    Best regards,

  4. Thank you very much. Were you aware how close the city is to the palace today? I am curious now of the area c1800 during the Napoleonic years and c1901.

    The plans are from the French site to enquire for enlargements:

    1. Well, as far as I know, since the Early Middle Age the town has always been very close to the palace, the château was actually inside the city walls. However, at the end of the XVIII century a wider Place d’Armes was cleared in front of the palace. The city obviously grew, mostly after the railway line came during the Second Empire, nevertheless the neighborhood to the right of the palace (first picture) was only established in the mid XX century.

      Thanks! I asked for an enlargement, but unfortunately wasn't not free (50 Euros per picture…) so I cancelled my order.

  5. How sad for researchers. 50 Euros is not what I expected to read.