Friday, 17 November 2017

Letters of Queen Olga from the Royal Palace in Athens

Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinova, the eldest daughter of Nicholas I’s son Konstantin, married, at the age of sixteen, the Greek King George I, in 1867.

Aerials (below) of the Royal Palace in 1868

Painting (below) of the Royal Palace in 1867

Her new home was the Royal Palace in Athens. It had been built in the 1830s by Bavarian architects for the deposed King Otto and is today the Greek Parliament. The immense building was comfortable in the spring and autumn, unbearably hot in the summer and very cold in the winter.

Aerial view (below) of the Royal Palace in Athens in the 1800s

Queen Olga’s mother Grand Duchess Alexandra Iosifovna and two brothers arrived in Greece for the birth of her first child Constantine during the summer of 1868. In her July 13th letter to her father, Olga wrote ‘My dear Papa. It struck me so strange to hear familiar voices and see familiar faces that it seemed to me it is like a dream’. The heat exhausted everyone.

Her father Konstantin finally visited Athens in March 1883. Olga had written him on February 10th that ‘I cannot tell you how happy I am that you will finally see my home and live under our roof. I’m just a little upset by the thought that you’ll live upstairs on the third floor and that the stairs will tire you out. However, if you want you can get up by the elevator. There is no place on all the other floors, unfortunately. I hope you will find our daily routine convenient. We drink coffee all together at 9:30, lunch at 1:00 and dinner at 7:00 with the court,then we are alone. Kostya [her brother] and I spend the whole morning in my cozy little library which I hope will please you and which I hope also you will site, drink tea and smoke a pipe’.

In another letter on October 10th 1889 to her brother, the queen describes the arrival of the future Nicholas II. ‘The people crowded around the palace, shouting greetings. Nicky spent the whole day with the children. Early in the morning he went swimming with Tino [Constantine]’. Later on November 29thit was sad to part with our dear Nicky. When he left, I was touched as he told me that he was at home here’.

A year later Nicholas returned to Athens at the start of his trip to Asia. The author and artist E. Ukhtomsky who travelled with the Tsarevich praised the ‘simplicity and calmness of the royal residence. A massive white marble palace with columns rises above the main square bordered by the best hotels and coffee shops. Inside the palace the rooms are connected by long and very high corridors. The size of the rooms is huge everywhere. The silence in the palace is almost undisturbed’.

Photograhs (below) of the Palace Square with ‘hotels and coffee shops’ c1900

The Russian diplomat Y. Soloviev described his farewell audience with Queen Olga in 1905. ‘January was very cold and the palace’s large halls were not heated. In anticipation of the Queen’s reception, I had to run around in the hall to keep warm’.

Photographs (below) of the Royal Palace today

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