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Messages - Russian Art Lover

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Palaces in St. Petersburg / Re: Private rooms of the Winter Palace
« on: September 07, 2012, 01:34:39 PM »
Interesting that many of the tsars actually died in the Winter Palace - Alexander II after the bomb attack on the Catherine Canal, Catherine the Great on the toilet seat or in a corridor, whichever version you want to believe.

There were also many unfortunate incidents linked to the place - the bomb attack of 1880, the fire of 1837, Alexander I watching the flood of 1824 from the windows of the Winter Palace, Nicholas I holed up in the Winter Palace on the morning of the Decembrist revolt...

Incidentally, Nicholas I also died in the Winter Palace (18 February 1855). But the modest folding bed on which he died is no longer there - it was moved to the Cottage at Alexandria.

Rulers Prior to Nicholas II / Re: Where was Alexander III born?
« on: July 26, 2012, 03:04:38 PM »
Many thanks. Alexander was born on 26 February 1845, so I did not think his parents would be at any dacha!

Rulers Prior to Nicholas II / Where was Alexander III born?
« on: July 26, 2012, 01:57:16 PM »
Does anyone know exactly where Alexander III was born?

My information gives me the Anichkov Palace, but when I once visited the Own Dacha near Peterhof, I was told by the custodian that he was born there?

Any definitive sources out there?

I believe Alexander III gave Miechen a good dressing-down when he heard she had been feeding information to Bismark, no?
She certainly had access to state secrets - she was sleeping with the man who was number two in the empire!
While Dagmar certainly did all she could for Danish firms and businesses in Russia, there is no denying that, I do not think that she was responsible for the move away from Germany. It was Alexander II alone who followed a pro-Prussian foreign policy (which brought Russia nothing, by the way!) - everyone else was against it, including the Empress (a Hessian princess) and the heir himself, the future Alexander III. During the Franco-Prussian War, everyone was aghast when Alexander II seemed so pleased at the Prussian victories. But the move away from Germany towards France was very much the fault of Prussia herself - and it was Alexander III who made all the decisions. Yes, Dagmar was incredibly anti-Prussian, but at that stage she did not dare to try and influence her husband. If Alexander III had been pro-German, she could certainly not have been able to make him change his mind! Alexander III was a very astute tsar - he took capital from everyone to build up Russian industry, and kept Russia out of wars. If anything, it was Kaiser Willie and all his games and intrigues that turned Alexander III (and Edward VII) against him, far more than any influence from their wives.
I do agree, of course, that Miechen was a strong woman and a notable host. It sometimes happens that the most unpleasant people make the best politicians and rulers!
I wonder what feelings Miechen secretly harboured about being empress herself? After Nixa died, Alexander only wanted to marry "Dusenka" Mescherskaya and had to be forced by his father to go to Copenhagen and propose to Dagmar. Ideally, he would have been allowed to make a morganatic marriage to Mescherskaya and the throne would have passed to Vladimir and Miechen..... Both would have loved that, I feel.... Funny how close they also came in the next generation, with Kirill and Ducky.... To be honest, I have never understand why Miechen kept her Lutheranism for so long. Was she so religious? All other German princesses dropped it like a hot cake, even Alix, if it meant marrying a tsar or a grand duke!

I wish I could add to this interesting discussion, but all I can say about Maria Pavlovna is that she became close to Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna after the revolution, as both were more or less the sole survivors from the older generation.

I have to say that I am not drawn to Miechen at all. Give me Alix, Ella, Zinaida, Minny any day, with all their faults and flaws. At least that makes them seem more "human." In my book, being a superb hostess (when you have millions in the bank and an army of servants) or fleeing the revolution in style does not really endear me to her. I find Miechen cold, ambitious and somewhat one-dimensional. For most of her life, she was rather an ugly woman, and her spectacular jewels seem to somehow make her to me more ugly, strangely. For all her ambitions in Russia, I think her determination to cling to Lutheranism shows that she was more prepared to "take" from Russia, but not really give back anything in turn. Minny really was involved in countless acts of charity and introduced many small innovations from liberal Denmark. Ella and Alix threw themselves into the religion, went on pilgrimages, studied the history. But all Miechen seemed to do was host grand parties and take on similar public roles such as president of the Imperial Academy of Arts after her husband's death. Ella and Alix did less fashionable things, like open schools of traditional handicraft, that sort of thing. I just feel Miechen was insincere and her ambitions leave me cold.

I wonder why the assassins just didn't shoot Alexandra.

I know that killing women was not thought about the way it is today and that it was the men who were thought to be in charge, but there were attempts of Queen Victoria's life a few times.

Alexandra was certainly unpopular, first with the Rasputin scandal and then with the war leading to rumours that she was on the side of the enemy.

Towards the end, the rest of the family certainly wanted Alexandra removed one way or another, after she started having Romanovs arrested (Dmitry Pavlovich) after the murder of Rasputin and banished from Petrograd (Felix, Uncle Bimbo).

When Sandro visited Maria Fyodorovna in Kiev and told her what was going on, she wrote in her diary: "It is simply a madhouse, headed by this fury... His story made Olga and I shudder... She has evidently gone completely off her head with madness and desire for revenge."

Slightly later, Grand Duke Nikolai Mikhailovich wrote to Maria Fyodorovna about the logical follow-up to the removal of Rasputin: "After we have removed the hypnotist, we must try to incapacitate the hypnotised. No matter how hard it is, she must be sent as far away as possible, either to a sanatorium or to a convent. We are talking about saving the throne -- not the dynasty, which is still secure, but the current sovereign. Otherwise, it will be too late... The whole of Russia knows that the late Rasputin and A. F. are the one and the same. The first has been killed, now the other must also disappear…" [Source: GA RF, F. 642, Op. 1, D. 2350, L. 34 (verso), 35]

Imperial Russian History / Re: Borodino 1912
« on: July 01, 2012, 01:38:35 AM »
I'm fascinated by this supposedly 122-year old veteran of the war that the Tsar was introduced to, spoke with, and was quite emotionally overwhelmed by on the hundredth anniversary of the battle. Do we know anything more about this person?

All I know is that his surname was supposedly Vintonuik (source: Nicholas's letter to his mother on 10 September 1912).

Apparently, Nicholas was also introduced to "several other old men" who recalled the French invasion - now, they would have to be at least 105!

What I meant by "healthy parliament" is that in England the parliament could not be prorogued or stripped of its power by the monarch - see Edward VIII and Mrs. Simpson - but in Russia, Nicholas did just that.

I know that Edward VII did not have the problem of WWI and that a lot of the upheaval took place under Victoria - Khartoum, Crimean War, Boer War so he did not have to tend to a country at war as Nicholas did. But Nicholas decided to go to war against the Japanese (who knows for what reason as we have been given several) and his "small victorious war" didn't pan out.

My only comparison was that both Edward VII and Nicholas II were raised without the confidence of their parents. It has even been said that Empress Marie would have picked Michael over Nicholas. Prince Albert extolled the virtues of Princess Vicky over all of his children.

What they did with that role and how they handled the changes that came after the death of the monarch is what I was comparing. Edward - always said to be likable and Nicholas also said to be likable personally, both handled their new roles quite differently. Of course Nicholas was mildly impressed by Kaiser Wilhelm and Edward VIII detested him but that, I think, was because of the age difference and the fact that Edward was an uncle not a cousin.

Even had Edward VII wanted to change the parliament, he couldn't have, but Nicholas chose not to work within the boundaries set by the general election and only after Grand Duke Nicholas threatened to shoot himself if he didn't. Then Nicholas set about trying to undermine (and he succeeded quite well) the whole process.

So did Edward succeed because of the solid background of a public Parliament and Nicholas fail because he didn't have one?

Edward was actually involved in quite a serious constitutional crisis. It was over the passing of the Parliament Bill in 1910. Basically, he was required to create hundreds of new Liberal peers in order to overcome the Tory majority in the unelected House of Lords vetoing important welfare reforms passed by the elected House of Commons. But he refused. It was only after he died and was succeeded by George, who was prepared to create the peers (his reasons were another matter), that the crisis was resolved.

PS. I know it has been said that Empress Marie would have picked Michael over Nicholas, but I am not sure where that information comes from. I sometimes think it may be from Massie, who has been responsible for a lot of misinformation. But Sergei Witte mentions the following conversation over Nicholas's abilities with the dowager empress in his memoirs: "Do you mean to say that His Majesty does not have the character to be an emperor?" "That is correct," Marie Feodorovna replied, "but should anything happen, he would be replaced by Misha, who has even less will and character." Source: Witte, Vospominaniya, Moscow, 1960, Vol. 3, p. 43.

The Yussupovs / Re: Was Prince Felix a closeted gay man?
« on: June 25, 2012, 04:51:02 PM »

The term 'homosexual' in legal parlance has certainly been around since the early 19th century and could be applied in Tsarist Russia.  More unpleasantly the terms 'sodomy' and catamite were used to describe males involved in same gender sex.

I know that the term "bugger" was definitely used at that time, because when GD Sergei Alexandrovich was governor of Moscow, they used to have a play on words based on the Russian word for a small hill (bugr).

They said that Rome stood on seven hills ("bugrs"), but Moscow stood on only one "bugger" (i.e. Sergei!).

Congratulations, I enjoy visiting your website very much and reading all your work.

A shame Olga did not marry Dmitry Pavlovich, as she might have then also been banished to Persia in the aftermath of Rasputin's murder, and hence saved.

I wonder if Olga's succession prospects had been more prominent or definite, would that have made certain circles within the family more pro-active in removing N&A circa 1916? I am not suggesting Olga would have wanted this at all in any way, I am thinking more along the lines of Alexander I in 1801 or Ekaterina Pavlovna in 1812... If Olga had married Dmitry Pavlovich before WWI, I think that would have made a very convincing case for an alternative to N&A as Russia lurched from one disaster to another with N away at the front as commander-in-chief presiding over a disintegrating front and A at Tsarskoe Selo firing ministers and spending all her time with "Grisha" and "Anya."

Rulers Prior to Nicholas II / Re: Empress Catherine II
« on: April 29, 2012, 05:18:46 PM »
Thanks very much for your interest.  There is a family genealogy for the Bobrinskoy family in a footnote in the Bobrinsky Wikipedia site.  I am listed there near the bottom (George Shepherd).  My grandfather was George Bobrinskoy, and he grew up on an estate near Toula.

Any further ideas on how tall Catherine was?  My daughter, Sophie, is somewhat short, and she wants to know whether Catherine was short too.

Thanks for the help.


How interesting! Unfortunately, I have no information on her height. But I do know that she was tone deaf!

Are you sure ? The term Great Patriotic War generally refers to the war of 1941 to 1945 between Russia and Germany.  I appeared in Pravda in 1941.

Yes, but there was the Patriotic War first in 1812, right? So what did they decide to do when a war started in 1914? Of course they called it the "Great Patriotic War" at the time. But now everyone has forgotten that, because when the Soviets took over, the Great War was known as the "German War" or the "Imperialist War" and the 1941-45 is now the Great Patriotic War. But back in the years 1914-17, WWI was known in Imperial Russia as the "Great Patriotic War"!

You're correct about "Great Patriotic War".

Despite the violence of the 20th century, when people talk about "the war", there's usually no question that they're referring to WWII.

What is interesting is that, during WWI itself, it was known in Russia as.... the Great Patriotic War!

The Hohenzollern / Re: Mecklenburg-Schwerin
« on: January 08, 2012, 05:03:31 PM »
Yes, good call, that's who it must be. I had actually overlooked Helen, silly me! Thank you!!!

The Hohenzollern / Re: Mecklenburg-Schwerin
« on: January 08, 2012, 03:19:54 PM »
On the subject of the Mecklenburgs, I was walking today in Settignano near Florence, and I passed by the castle of Vincigliata, a wonderful neo-Gothic building up in the hills, which was once owned by a British member of parliament. There are stone tablets on the walls listing all the royal guests who went there in the 19th century, including Queen Victoria, who liked to paint in watercolor in the surrounding park of cypress and pine.

One of them mentions the visit in 1890 (MDCCCXC) of "Caterina, grand duchess of Russia and duchess of Mecklenburg, and Elena, princess of Mecklenburg."

I cannot work out who this would be. I would go for Grand Duchess Ekaterina Mikhailovna (who married Duke Georg August of Mecklenburg-Strelitz), but who is Elena?

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