Corps Des Pages

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Michael HR:
Does anyone know who the gentlemen are in the background of this rather impressive line up? I thought some may be members of the Romonov family but am not sure.



I wonder if anyone knows more about the corps des pages in Russia?

From the little I know it was a military academy for nobles but that is all I have for now.

Michael HR

Daniel Briere:
Hi Michael,

None of these gentlemen are Romanovs : they are all Court Pages in attendance to the Grand Duchesses (and some Foreign Princesses) present at Nicholas II’s Coronation.

More later.

Daniel Briere:
Your photo was taken in Moscow during the Coronation festivities in 1896 and shows some of the Grand Duchesses present along with two foreign princesses who attended the Coronation (the Duchess of Connaught & Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden). It seems a series of photos was taken after the Ladies Congratulory Ceremony on May 17th (O.S.) as former Kamer-Page Englehardt recalled in his memoirs : « Afterwards, several grand duchesses went into the winter garden with their pages for photographs. Every grand duchess was photographed separately with their own personal page standing behind their chair. Then a general group was formed with the grand duchesses seated and the pages standing behind them. The photographer raised his hand for everyone to become quiet for a few seconds. Just when he was ready for the shot, the well-known bass voice of Grand Duke Vladimir Aleksandrovich called out. The duke suddenly appeared from behind some bushes and said : « Well, I didn’t expect it – les grandes duchesses avec leurs pages, les pages aux pieds de leurs grandes duchesses. » (my translation : « the Grand-Duchesses with their Pages, the Pages at the feet of their Grand-Duchesses »). He laughed and continued on, not listening to the rebuke of his wife. » (Memoirs of the Pages to the Tsars, translated by Dr. Thomas E. Berry, Gilbert Royal Books, 2001).

« His Imperial Majesty’s Corps of Pages » was the elite cadet and military school where, except by special imperial permission, admision was reserved to sons or grand-sons of general officers. For the 1st seven years, the curriculum was identical to Cadet Schools. They also did guard duty at the Winter Palace from time to time or escort duty at some Court Processions like imperial funerals. Two « special classes » were added in the late 19th century to teach military science and law. The students of the special classes with high marks were promoted to the rank of « kamer page » (Page of the Imperial Chamber). During their last year, the ones with the highest marks served as personal attendants to the Emperor, the Empresses and Grand Duchesses at various Court functions (balls and various ceremonies). This was a coveted honor as it put those Kamer Pages in close personal contact with members of the Imperial Family and usually helped their career.

After their graduation and promotion to the rank of sub-lieutenant, most pages chose a military career. The ones with the highest marks could pick the Guards’ regiment of their choice. The others were assigned to other Army units.

For more information see :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Page_Corps

And this interesting virtual exhibition prepared for the Corps’ bicentennial :
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/eresources/exhibitions/pages/

The Corps des Pages was located in the Voronzov Palace in St. Petersburg. Since 1955 it is occupied by the St. Petersburg Suvorov Military School. Nowadays, the Corps’ former chapel has reopened and the School’s museum presents some exhibits from the history of the Corps des Pages :
http://spb-svu.nm.ru/museum.html
http://spb-svu.nm.ru/museum-2.html#MMM2

Michael HR:
Thank you so much for the information and links. The article was very intresting and I am very grateful to you.

Do we know if the individual photos of the Grand Duchesses with their pages remain? I would love to see them if possible.

Once again thank you.

Michael

Daniel Briere:
The only other photo of grand duchesses with their kamer-pages I’ve seen is in Jeffrey Finestone's « The Last Courts of Europe; a Royal Family Album, 1860-1914 ». It was certainly taken during the same photo shoot and looks like a botched one as Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna’s face is blurred (maybe that’s when she was distracted by her husband’s remarks!) and her daughter GD Elena Vladimirovna is partially hidden by the Duchess of Connaught’s feathers. Your photo is better! Unfortunately although the grand duchesses and foreign princesses are identified in the book, no kamer-page is. The only one I can identify is Serge Nikolaevich Crichton, the one on the far right, between GD Elizaveta Mavrikevna and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.

I have seen a few photos of kamer-pages reportedly taken during the 1896 Coronation but they were standing alone. My guess is the indvidual photos taken of each grand duchess with her kamer-page weren’t meant to be published and probably only a few copies were made for each grand duchess and page as a Coronation memento. Probably the Corps des Pages got a series too. Some must have survived in Russia (Russian Archives & Suvorov Military School Library in St. Petersburg) and outside Russia in former kamer-pages’ papers and in some collections assembled abroad after the Revolution, such as the Union of Pages’, the émigré alumni organization founded in Paris in 1920 (with branches in many countries – more than 1000 former pages lived outside Russia then). Columbia University’s Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European History and Culture seems to have acquired a good part of the Union’s archives :
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/archival/collections/ldpd_4078122/index.html

Author Marvin Lyons also seemed to have a huge collection of documents related to the Corps des Pages (and Imperial Russia) as ten years ago he was working on a monumental « Bibliographical Dictionary of the Russian Imperial Corps des Pages », due to be published for the Corps’ bicentennial in 2002. His « Vorontsov Palace and Corps of Pages Memorial Trust » had a website years ago but I can’t find anything now. To my knowledge his dictionary has unfortunately never been published. I’ve had no contact with him for years and by now he must very old…if still alive.

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