Alexander Palace Forum

Discussions about the Alexander Palace => The Alexander Palace => Topic started by: RobMoshein on January 23, 2004, 01:09:18 PM

Title: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: RobMoshein on January 23, 2004, 01:09:18 PM
Use this thread to discuss questions about daily life in the Palace.
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: Moiraine on February 03, 2004, 04:54:21 PM
This is one area I am very curious about... but not in a mundane, chart reading, way...more-so the perceptions of what the Family thought about, and dealt with, routine life, in Tsarkoe Selo, in particular.
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: Robert_Hall on February 03, 2004, 11:50:53 PM
From what I gather in the various books [far too many to mention, but they all seem to say the same thing], life was pretty boring at least for the children. Classes, some walks in the gardens.  A very formal Victorian relatioship with their parents- at least with their mother. The Emperor was,of course head of the gouvernment as well as State, so he had duties, but historical perspective  seems to indicate he was fairly dis-insterested in the workings & functions.
The Empress, of course, has been variously descibed as an aloof bitch, over protective mother [Alexei] religous fantatic and everything in bewteen. Greg King & Penny Wilson give what I consider a fair description of the relationships in THE FATE OF THE ROMANVS. Naturally, there will be other opinions about this.
They were not overly educated & were quite prejudiced in their outlook towards others.
Ceremonies, while giving the children a diversion, were looked on as tiresome by the Empress, & duty by the Emperor, with little thought to meaning behind them.
Family meals were boring & predictable, unless guests were present.
Considering the era, family activities were pasting photos in albums, reading aloud  to each other, card games and [not sure about this-] jigsaw puzzels.
We must remember there was no radio or tv entertainment. Live entertainment "at home" might be recitals of the latest popular music from London or France. This seems to have been fairly rare though, and only at a tea. The Imperial couple did not entertain  at night, from all that I have read. It seems they were practically forced to go to other's balls, dinners, whatever and the Empress often did not go. The Emperor usually had  his 2 eldest daughters with him on such occaisions.
In all, a very isolated, insular life, which left them unprepared for what was to come.
I do not pretend to be an expert on all this, but I am culling from reading almost 400 books on the last Imperial Family. I welcome any further comments, indeed, contradictions.
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: Forum Admin on February 04, 2004, 11:28:04 AM
Robert,
While alot of what you said is correct, it isn't necessarily "accurate" in your interpretations. Many people reading history forget to put what they read back into the context of the time.  Remember that Victorian women were usually educated only in  learning domestic and household activities. Queen Victoria advocated Anglo-German standards, and she raised and influenced all of her children and grandchildren in that same way: "Kitchen, Children and Church" were the most important education.  Given the limitation of those standards, the Imperial children were well educated, learning four languages simultaneously, art, music, literature and dance, not to mention Romanov family history, Russian history and world history.  Olga was an accomplished pianist who was said by some who had met her that she could play any song she heard once perfectly. Don't forget that each Grand Duchess would lead her own military Regiment, and Olga and Tatiana loved to learn the history and exploits and traditions of their Regiments.

To be fair, they could all be, to some extent, lazy students however. Remember that virtually from birth, each had a staff and appointment calendar and fully scheduled day. From getting up until going to bed they were watched, guarded, tended and supervised. There was no time in the day for unsupervised and unstructured play and interaction together so in the classroom they tended to be unruly. Outside the classroom, they would rather try to play or do nothing, instead study when they had the time.

To say that  "In all, a very isolated, insular life, which left them unprepared for what was to come" misses an important point: They were under constant threat of harm daily by the Revolutionary terrorists. We must remember the incredible stress that had to have created.  They knew about Uncle Serge being blown to bits as well as their Great Grandfather. They were all in the theater when Stolypin was murdered, and it was Tatiana who saw the shooting and slammed the door to the box to protect her father. Their travel schedule was often erraticly changed without notice by the Secret Police learning of threats and assassination attempts, and the children all knew full well of what was going on.  They were watched 24/7 by police guards when outside Palace walls.

The Family travelled extensively together, Finland, Livadia, England, Denmark, Moscow, and all over Russia and elsewhere.  The Children were attending many events and meeting many people.  However, they sometimes appeared to act immature and childish in public, which lead some people to assume they were less intelligent than they were.

Alexandra expected the girls to always stay busy with something productive, like sewing, needlwork, painting or reading.  In the evenings when together as a family they did play games, they loved the board games of the period, a game called "Lotto", played music and yes had jigsaw puzzles.  They loved photography and had cameras and albums full of their photos.  They had records and a gramophone, and watched the latest silent movies from Europe and the US.  They read books, magazines and newspapers from all over Europe and the US, and even had a subscription to National Geographic Magazine.

Nicholas took many of the official ceremonies quite seriously, but don't forget that any public official forced to attend some ceremony almost daily will not always be at full attention all the time.  As for Alexandra, she found many such events tiresome because she was often sick and they literally tired her out too much or she was staying behind to care for a sick child or two. Also, she had five pregnancies all with long and difficult recoveries, and so was out of public sight for long times and she insisted on nursing each child herself.  She was long faulted for not being social and public like Marie Feodrovna, but to her, her husband and family came before everything else, and she strove to create a warm, stable and secure environment for them to combat the stresses and strains of their life.
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: Almedingen on February 07, 2004, 07:27:18 PM
Here are some rare photographs which I believe were taken in the Alexander Palace:

Tsarina Alexandra dark dressed

http://www.etnshops.com/romanovphotoarchive/listings/50.html

Alexandra with her daughters and others in her boudoir

http://www.etnshops.com/romanovphotoarchive/listings/79.html

Tsarina Alexander in her boudoir

http://www.etnshops.com/romanovphotoarchive/listings/91.html

Alexandra in her Boudoir dressed in white

http://www.etnshops.com/romanovphotoarchive/listings/101.html

Alexandra in her boudoir

http://www.etnshops.com/romanovphotoarchive/listings/120.html
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: Almedingen on February 07, 2004, 07:29:19 PM
Where do you think these photos were taken?

http://www.etnshops.com/romanovphotoarchive/listings/107.html

http://www.etnshops.com/romanovphotoarchive/listings/118.html

http://www.etnshops.com/romanovphotoarchive/listings/129.html
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: pers on February 08, 2004, 04:33:52 AM
Photo 107 was taken in the Maple Drawingroom.  The door behind her in the distance gives access to the corridor.
The next photo where she stands directly in front of the door in furs, is taken in the Mauve Boudoir.  The door behind her gives access to the Pallisander Room.
I'm not sure of the photo taken on the couch.
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: Lanie on February 08, 2004, 01:53:31 PM
All of those "postcards" were actually taken from Yale University's Beinecke Library Romanov Photo Albums -- http://highway49.library.yale.edu/romanov/default.htm.  Many pictures of the rooms!
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: BobAtchison on February 09, 2004, 10:07:36 AM
129 is of Alexandra sitting on a sofa in the Maple Room.  Behind her and the plants is a big cabinet with curtained glass doors.  The way out to the outside balcony is behind the Empress to the right.  The sculpture of the woman to the left of the Empress is "Ondine" by M. Antokolsky, it survives and was at Pavlovsk the last time I was there.

Bob
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: BobAtchison on February 09, 2004, 10:13:01 AM
118 shows the Empress standing next to a big planter of flowers that stood behind her mauve couch and a screen there.  You can just see the ivy-latice design of the carpet.  This was a good place to take pictures because there were two huge windows on the left.  One had an arched top frame.  There were only thin silk blinds here so the Mauve Room was flooded with light.  That's one reason so many pictures were taken here - it was a bright space.

Bob
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: BobAtchison on February 09, 2004, 10:23:43 AM
107 shows Alexandra standing at the planter behind the couch in the earlier picture in the Maple Room.  You can see the flowers and plants are almost six feet high!  They were brought in from the palace greenhouses that were nearby (built by Quarenghi).  These greenhouses were able to supply most of the needs of the palace.  Fruits, such as strawberries and pineapples were grown there as well.  In the basement was a room for the flower arranger.

People sent Alexandra flowers all the time and it was a present she enjoyed.  They arrived with beautiful ribbons with hand-painted messages on them.  The Empress collected these ribbons and kept them tied to her bedroom door.

Straight ahead of the Empress is the door to the outside balcony.  The floor was covered with a grey carpet, the walls were pale green with white plaster-carved cabbage roses.

The Empress is wearing her famous pearl and diamond earrings.  She wore these in the daytime.  They were part of the pearl set given her by Alexander III.  They were found in Yekaterinburg, one pearl was burned.  Obviously they were concealed in one of the family's clothing at the time of the murder.
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: NickNicholson on February 09, 2004, 12:55:39 PM
Hi Bob!

It is entirely possible that the empress was wearing these pearls when she was assassiated.  She seems to have wprn them every day, and I see no reason why she wouldn't have continued to do so, even in captivity.

Don't you think?

Nick
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: BobAtchison on February 09, 2004, 03:19:55 PM
Nick:

In the Ipatiev House all of their jewelry (that they wore) was removed and put in a sealed box.  The only thing left on Alexandra was the gold hoop bracelet given to her by her Uncle Leopold when she was a young woman.  This bracelet would not come off.

Nicholas's sapphire ring (his wedding ring) could also not be removed.  Splinters of the sapphire were found at the mine.  I has always thought the finger found at the mine was Nicholas's (not Alexandra's as supposed by Sokolov) since they must have cut it off to try and get at the ring.  Unfortunately for the Bolshevik butchers they smashed the ring and its stone in the process...

Getting back to the pearl earrings - they must have been sewn into something.  Since one was burned they might have been in the clothes that were torn up and burned - rather than in the corsets - since they seemed to get all of the gems in there.  Who can know for sure.

Bob
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: pers on February 12, 2004, 05:03:05 PM
Bob, you say above that the walls of the Maple room were covered in green.  On the website under the Maple room you say it was dusty pink.  I suspect you meant pink...?
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: BobAtchison on February 14, 2004, 10:21:29 AM
The walls, cornice and ceiling were pink and green.  It was a nice, subtle combination.
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: Sarai on February 14, 2004, 04:16:50 PM
In response to Robert_Hall's statement that the children "were quite prejudiced in their outlook towards others," this is at least partly true from what I have read. I have read accounts that in their early childhoods they were prejudiced towards Asians, referring to them as "monkeys," but this seems to have been a product of their resentment towards them during the Russo-Japanese War, as well as them being a product of their times, when people were very racist towards Asians, Jews, and anyone else who was different in race or religion.

In her book, "Six Years at the Russian Court," Miss Eagar recounts a few different times when the little Grand Duchesses displayed prejudiced streaks:

1) Tatiana: This was regarding a visit from the young Prince of Siam to the court: "The Empress came to the Grand Duchess Tatiana, 'Come, shake hands with this gentleman, Tatiana.' She laughed, and said, 'That is not a gentleman, mama; that's only a monkey.' The Empress, covered with confusion, said, 'You are a monkey yourself, Tatiana,' but the prince laughed heartily."

2) Olga: During the Russo-Japanese War: "Olga was working very diligently one day and said to me, 'I hope the Russian soldiers will kill all the Japanese; not leave even one alive.'" After an explanation from her nurse that there were many innocent little children and women in Japan who did not deserve to be killed, that they also had an Emperor, and various other sympathetic points, little Olga said, "I did not know that the Japs were people like ourselves. I thought that they were only like monkeys." Fortunately, Miss Eager tells us that "She never said again anything about being pleased to hear of the deaths of the Japanese."

3) Maria: This occured when the little girl saw a picture of the baby children of the Crown Prince of Japan: "...and with a look of hatred coming into her sweet little face Marie slapped the picture with her open hand. 'Horrid little people,' said she; 'they came and destroyed our poor ships and drowned our sailors.' I explained to her that it was not these little children, who were only babies younger than Anastasie. So she said, 'Yes; those little babies did it. Mama told me the Japs were all only little people.'"

So at least as very little children they could be considered prejudiced, but it seems that it was mostly due to the result of the war they experienced so early on. These kinds of comments were of course also repeated about the Japanese during WWII. And it was also a product of hearing what their parents and other people said, as since everyone knows children absorb everything. They were a product of their times. But I would like to think that they grew out of that as, like Olga, they all eventually realized that we were all just human beings.
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: Janet Whitcomb on February 17, 2004, 09:27:33 PM
I'd first like to say that I am very much enjoying this forum.  My own Internet is currently not working--tho' my e-mail and word processing remain, knock wood, functional!--and I stop by the library on my way home from work to see what other people are saying about the Romanovs.

I think Mr. King's analysis of the Romanov family in his latest book is startling but well-drawn.  I don't find any tremendous conflicts with the other accounts I have read--rather, it's like that old story of the seven blind men and the elephant . . . each were correct in relaying what they touched, but only when their viewpoints were compiled would a person get a true picture of what an elephant was really like!  I know from experiences in my own family that family members and their relationships evolve, and nothing that Mr. King has stated really conflicts with what we already know about OTMA, Alexei and their parents, especially given the stressful situation and the transformation of the girls into young women.

I think Alexandra was, as much as she could possibly be, a good mother, but that various situations--cultural, as well as her own personal limitations--sometimes caused her to be a less-than-satisfactory parent. The children were fortunate to have a father who, when possible, played with and listened to them.

I am curious to know where the reference to Tatiana slamming the door of their theater box at Kiev was found.  Until this time the only account I have found is Nicholas's own letter to his mother, mentioning that Tatiana cried a great deal.  I would imagine Olga did so as well, but later; it must have been shocking for her to see her normally reserved, in-charge sister show so much emotion.  

As for their intellectual development, these children lived under tremendous stress and a great deal of rigidity, and I think we can forgive them their "laziness" with regard to studies . . . after all, even those of us who excelled in school needed "time-outs" now and then! Olga, with her penchant for reading and poetry, was perhaps the most intellectually minded of the children, but it's important to remember that Winston Churchill was considered a dunce at his studies, and that many people do not hit their stride, intellectually or otherwise, until later in life.

Thanks for the opportunity to participate in this forum!
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: Forum Admin on February 18, 2004, 09:55:57 AM
Janet:
Alexander Spiridovitch was Nicholas II's Chief of Personal Security (the early equivalent of our own Secret Service) and was in the Theater in Kiev guarding the Imperial Family. From his book "Les Dernieres Annees de la Cour de Tsarzkoe Selo", Vol 2, Ch. 4 "The Year 1911"...
[The Imperial Family had gone from the outer room (facing the stage) into the inner room, opening out to the corridor, for refreshements during the intermission. Spiridovitch himself was in the corridor]:

"This is what he [Nicholas II] himself later recounted several days later to the officers of the Standardt, the Emperor had heard the gunshots,  but thought they were to signal the rising of the curtain, he went toward the door of the outer box room.  Grand Duchess Tatiana had had the time to look out the door and for her to see and understand what was happening in the theater, she had shut the door on the Emperor.
     "Papa, don't come in, they are shooting" she yelled to him, crying."

The translation from the French is mine. Spridovitch has never been published in English that I am aware of.
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: Antonio_P.Caballer on March 21, 2004, 07:56:35 PM
Hello Janet:
I´ve read that Greg King and Penny Wilson are plannig a translation of this and other very interesting books for publishing. You can learn about it in their web page of the Atlantis Magazine. I´m eager to read it in english!
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: elisa_1872 on April 18, 2004, 11:19:15 AM
Forum Admin!

Thanks very much for translating that passage from the French from the Spirodovitch book! Ive been after a copy of it for such a long time, so its really great to read extracts. Thanks for posting!

Any idea whether this book was reprinted? I've no idea where to locate it, as ive never seen it anywhere, save in bibliographies.

Elisa :)
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: Forum Admin on April 18, 2004, 11:24:36 AM
Elisa,
Spirdivotch has never been reprinted nor translated into English. We spent ten years searching for a copy before we could find one...Very rare, and usually very expensive when they turn up.
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: La_Mashka on March 09, 2005, 01:24:06 PM
Does anyone know how they kept clean?

I know Nicholas had a huge bathtub, which looks more like a small swimming pool.

I believe  Alexandra had her own bathroom next to her bedroom... what did it have?  a bathtub? a shower?

and also the GD, I think I read they had a bathroom in between the rooms... with a shower...

Would they have hot water???

Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: leanora on March 13, 2005, 12:11:44 PM
Alexandra had a bathtub. As childs, the children were allowed to take only cold showers  :o... and hot baths in the evenings as teenagers.. some entries in their diaries shows that  sometimes they were allowed by their father to use his swimming pool....  
Quote
Does anyone know how they kept clean?

I know Nicholas had a huge bathtub, which looks more like a small swimming pool.

I believe  Alexandra had her own bathroom next to her bedroom... what did it have?  a bathtub? a shower?

and also the GD, I think I read they had a bathroom in between the rooms... with a shower...

Would they have hot water???


Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: Ortino on March 13, 2005, 12:17:31 PM
Quote
Alexandra had a bathtub. As childs, the children were allowed to take only cold showers  :o... and hot baths in the evenings as teenagers.. some entries in their diaries shows that  sometimes they were allowed by their father to use his swimming pool....  


Nicholas didn't have a swimming pool. His bath was just very deep and wide so they liked to go swimming in it. They didn't have showers back then really. Everyone took baths. Yes, the girls did take take cold baths in the morning and warm in the evening, but I think they had been doing it since they were young (about the time that Anastasia was around 11). I remember reading that Alexandra wrote to Nicholas about this when the girls complained about it. Alexandra had a bathtub undoubtedly, but since that part of the interior was destroyed, it is unlikely we will ever know what it looked like.
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: Ming on May 12, 2005, 11:34:26 PM
This is a very interesting topic to me.  I appreciate all who have contributed so far.

I have always wondered about how some of the ordinary things were done at the palace if one is a Grand Duchess.  For example:

Who did the girls' hair?
Did they almost always wear white? Even for "playclothes"?

The rooms were so very large...how were they filled?

Were there guards at all the doors to all the rooms?  Were they in colorful uniforms?

Did the young girls run and race down the long hallways, etc.?

I once read that their aunt Olga held "children's parties" fairly often on Sundays, so the little Grand Duchesses could play with other children and have a little fun and freedom.  Was this true?

Thank you all for your very interesting information!
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: Sarai on May 14, 2005, 03:33:07 PM
Quote
This is a very interesting topic to me.  I appreciate all who have contributed so far.

I have always wondered about how some of the ordinary things were done at the palace if one is a Grand Duchess.  For example:

Who did the girls' hair?
Did they almost always wear white? Even for "playclothes"?

The rooms were so very large...how were they filled?

Were there guards at all the doors to all the rooms?  Were they in colorful uniforms?

Did the young girls run and race down the long hallways, etc.?

I once read that their aunt Olga held "children's parties" fairly often on Sundays, so the little Grand Duchesses could play with other children and have a little fun and freedom.  Was this true?

Thank you all for your very interesting information!


Ming,
These little questions about the homely day to day life of the children are interesting to me as well. The only question that I can answer is the one about the children's parties with their aunt Olga. This is indeed true. It is described by Olga herself in the book The Last Grand Duchess by Ian Vorres. It says, in part, "Beginning with the end of 1906, every Sunday in the winter meant a day with Tyotya Olga, who spent the Saturday night at Tsarskoe Selo. In the morning, four excited girls and their equally excited aunt boarded the train for St. Petersburg. [...] The glory of the day broke upon the young people once they were under their aunt's roof. Tea was followed by games and dancing, the Grand Duchess having collected quite a number of equally youthful 'eligibles' to share her nieces' fun. [...] Those red-letter Sundays continued until 1914, the Grand Duchess having come to look on them as one of her most important tasks."
Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: Ortino on May 14, 2005, 06:52:55 PM
Quote
This is a very interesting topic to me.  I appreciate all who have contributed so far.

I have always wondered about how some of the ordinary things were done at the palace if one is a Grand Duchess.  For example:

Who did the girls' hair?
Did they almost always wear white? Even for "playclothes"?

The rooms were so very large...how were they filled?

Were there guards at all the doors to all the rooms?  Were they in colorful uniforms?

Did the young girls run and race down the long hallways, etc.?

I once read that their aunt Olga held "children's parties" fairly often on Sundays, so the little Grand Duchesses could play with other children and have a little fun and freedom.  Was this true?

Thank you all for your very interesting information!



I don't think anyone can answer all these for sure, as Sarai pointed out, but I'll try what I can.

1. I'm almost positive that the girls had maids to do their hair or they did each other's. I know that Tatiana did her mother's hair, which leads me to believe that they didn't just have other hands helping out with that.

2. They seemed to wear white frequently in the summer, which makes sense. White is light and airy, which would be appropriate in areas like the Crimea or even at Peterhof during the summer months. These white dresses would have made the heat more comfortable for the girls. It is clear though that their overall wardrobe contained many other colors as well. The girls wore pinafores I'm sure when they played and kept on their regular clothes.

3. From what I know, the girls filled their rooms with personal items (pictures, drawings, photos, momentos from trips, sewn pillows) and their furniture was an assortment of mismatched pieces generally in green, white, and a light lemonwood. And of course, Alexandra had chintz incorporated into the rooms.

4. I know that the state/formal rooms in the center of the palace had servants and dooropeners, whose costumes varied according to the room they were stationed in. I doubt that the left wing possessed guards inside for privacy's sake, but guards patrolled the grounds.

5. I'm sure they did race and run around the halls like other rambunctous children. Maybe they even skated down them.



Title: Re: Life in the Alexander Palace
Post by: Holly on May 26, 2005, 02:57:27 PM
A letter written by Olga even described Marie and Anstasia taking their bicycles into the hallways and rooms, making alot of noise and racing.