Discussions about the Imperial Family and European Royalty > Servants, Friends and Retainers

Jim Hercules

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 In Mr. Massie's book, about Nicholas and Alexandra, he mentions the court "Ethiopians" and that one of them was an African American named Jim Hercules (pg.123 of my copy of the book). Does anyone what happened to Mr. Hercules?

Kyra K

I have wondered the same about the fate of the Ethiopians too. I guess they quit when the family was imprisoned at the palace.

Just when I think we're running low on new topics,  someone comes up with yet another great question! Wouldn't it be wonderful if one of his descendants, or a relative of one of his descendants, came forward to tell us more? Wishful thinking, but then we've already heard from the great-granddaughter of Lili Dehn, and probably one or two other Romanov-related folks I'm not yet aware of . . .

Chezarie Borgia:
Id read in Robert Massies book,that when Jim came back from his holidays , from his home country of the USA,he would bring the children small gifts.So,he must have been close to the family.It funny in a sad way,that a family that was not overly social,did have many people that were special to them;andthat  they were special to.

There were black "Nubian Guards" (also sometimes called Abyssinians, Mameluks or Ethiopians) employed by Romanov Emperors all the way back to Peter the Great. In 1809, two black Americans served among the Nubian Guard, Alexander Gabriel --who had been a cook in the US Navy and deserted while in port in Russia -- and one known only as Nelson.  There were eight Nubian Guards in the procession at Alexander II's coronation.  By the end, at the Court of Nicholas II, there were four black men employed in this capacity (Christopher of Greece says eight, but I can only find that there were four), two of whom were Americans:  Jim Hercules (pronounced "Her-kuh-luss") was one of them.  Jim and the other American, Sam, seem to have ventured abroad for employment simply because more money could be made there -- especially by children of former slaves.

I have been working off and on for about ten years on collecting information on these men.  The project moves in fits and starts, dependent on my available time and cash for research -- but with the assistance of Howard University's library and black history department, things are moving forward.  My most recent development is a lead on the plantation in Georgia where one of these men was born shortly after the end of the Civil War.  I'm not sure what will happen with my research -- perhaps a book, if not, then something for Howard's Special Collections and maybe some articles.

As for what happened to these men:  Jim H was apparently at the Stavka with Nicholas right up to the day he abdicated.  A few years later on -- in the early twenties -- an American visitor to Russia was stunned to see a tall black man walking through the streets of Moscow, dressed poorly, but with a tattered Imperial uniform coat.  This visitor was told that this man, along with several other "lost souls" of the Imperial period, were common enough sights in the city, and that the authorities treated them as harmless eccentrics.  I don't know yet which of the Nubian Guard this was -- Jim, Sam, Apty or the other African -- and the visitor was unable to find the man again during his limited time in Moscow.


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