Author Topic: The Imperial Family and servants - everyday life  (Read 39399 times)

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Offline Almedingen

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The Imperial Family and servants - everyday life
« on: July 02, 2004, 09:29:28 AM »
I was watching Manor House on television last night and it got me to thinking about the Alexander Palace servants.

Did the lower level servants, such as parlor maids, scullery maids, cooks, etc., live in the palace or did they tend to have their own homes and would come to work every morning?  Also too, did they have to follow many of the same rules as their British counterparts?

Is the basement in Alexander Palace similar to that of a British country house with its many work rooms?

Since the Alexander Palace doesn't seem to have a third floor, it would seem hard to believe that all of the lower-level servants would have lived in the basement.

Any information will be much appreciated. ;)


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Re: The Imperial Family and servants - everyday life
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2004, 01:58:34 PM »
Almedigen,

As far as I know, the servants would most likely have stayed in the compound (a bit like Manor House) and I know that any fraterization between the sexes was discouraged... I read in Massie (I think) that if any servant wished to entertain or socialize with guests, they were obliged to pay for everything out of their own pocket. The staff were all incoraged to be thrifty, as there was no pension system for ex servants.It might have been a bit like the Edwardian style examined in MH.... But I'm not sure . ::)

Offline Sasta33

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Re: The Imperial Family and servants - everyday life
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2005, 03:28:00 PM »
Hi everybody, I'm new here.   :)
 I didn't find another topic like this, but if one exists here, please forgive me.

Does anyone know exactly what the servants were paid? Any servants-- personal maids, footmen, etc.

Offline matushka

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Re: The Imperial Family and servants - everyday life
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2005, 03:37:54 PM »
I don't know their exact salary. I remember some passages of Radzinsky'book, based on the relation of a maid's relative. According to this testimony, the servant receive a good salary but was said that they have to do some economies, because they won't receive any pension later. The empress, according to this woman, was quite avare. An other detail: when someone came to visit the servants, these had to paid the refreshments and tee on their own money.
I hope someone had study this question.

Offline Janet_W.

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Re: The Imperial Family and servants - everyday life
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2005, 09:38:14 PM »
As I recall reading, I don't think they were paid terribly well . . . well enough, but not on the scale we might suspect. The honor of serving the Tsar probably would be an unacknowledged part of the pay, as well as whatever "perks" might come their way in terms of accomodations, gifts, opportunities, etc. If you'll pardon the comparison, sort of like working at Disneyland; the excitement and status, plus knowing that you had been among the "chosen," would be a considerable portion of the compensation!

Offline Forum Admin

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Re: The Imperial Family and servants - everyday life
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2005, 11:20:38 PM »
You forget that there were substantial "non-monetary" perks. The average wage of a housemaid or similar servant was not huge, about 50-100 rubles per month depending on status and duties, BUT they were provided with free lodging, three free meals per day, clothes (depending on duties) etc. and a lifetime pension if they served for many years.

Offline Janet_W.

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Re: The Imperial Family and servants - everyday life
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2005, 08:27:16 PM »
Quite right, FA, although sometimes there's no compensation like cold hard rubles! Tho' certainly a pension would have been of tremendous value.

And now I'm wondering if this response will bring the date box back up to date?!

Offline Janet_W.

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Re: The Imperial Family and servants - everyday life
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2005, 08:28:37 PM »
P.S. It did!

Offline Sasta33

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Re: The Imperial Family and servants - everyday life
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2005, 03:48:53 PM »
Thank you for all your help, everyone...I had always wondered what kind of salary the servants of the Imperial Family would receive. On initial thought, you'd think it would be a decent sum, but as a couple of people have mentioned, working for the Tsar was probably considered enough of a perk.

Thanks!

Offline seamus_o_brien

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Re: The Imperial Family and servants - everyday life
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2006, 03:12:43 PM »
Although some servants took revenge on their former masters during the revolutionary period and occupied the best rooms in the house does anyone have any stories relating to the reaction of those household servants who remained loyal to their masters when their paliatial homes were being robbed and later turned into communal apatments. Did they try and force the intruders out?  

Offline josl1

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Re: The Imperial Family and servants - everyday life
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2006, 08:10:14 AM »
I have a number of questions, which I feel very greedy about asking, so I hope you can indulge me.
1) How did servants address their "employers" - was it by their title or "your majesty / highness" or just "sir" or "madame" etc
2) and vice versa - would a Grand Duchess call a servant by their full name /first name / patronym?
3) was serving a czar a lifetime job, or did servants come and go
4) was service to the czar handed down through families - "my father and his father / mother before him ...."
4) were royal servants ever serfs - with no or hardly any rights
5) did other royals in the palaces eg the grand dukes employ or have their own servants, which came and left with them or did they make use of the palace servants?
6) finally can anyone point me at any sites or material that describe the service functions within a palace eg - kitchens / stables / stores etc

many thanks

Offline Mike

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Re: The Imperial Family and servants - everyday life
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2006, 10:05:59 AM »
Question by question:
1. Most palace servants never communicated with their employers directly, only through court officials. Those very few who did (e.g. tzar's personal valet and empress' personal maids) addressed them "Your Majesty".
2. Normally by first name, by first name + patronymic for a few senior and distinguished servants.
3. Normally it was a lifetime job.
4. There were many servant "dynasties", from which vacancies were filled.
4a. Palace servants never were serfs.
5. Other dignitaries used the services of palace servants, not their own's.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Mike »

Offline Johnny

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Re: The Imperial Family and servants - everyday life
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2006, 08:18:59 PM »
I am not sure whether there were thousands of servants at the Winter Palace. Besides, the Tsar and the Empress lived at the Alexander Palace. I believe they had about 100 people serving them, perhaps not counting the security guards. None of the people who lived in the palace were allowed to get married. If they did they were let go. One reason for it probably was that the IF would have had to pay higher salaries to them to maintain their families. Of course there were married people among the people who served or worked in the palace, but they lived in their own houses. Given those conditions, it sounds like fun if you had no family to worry about, had your meals, got decent clothes, medical attention, and lived in such fabulous surroundings. The servants also got real nice presents on religious hollidays or their name-days, etc. So it was not all that bad. Besides, once you got bored with your job, no one would keep you there by force!
Татьяна: Кто ты - мой ангел ли хранитель?

Offline CHRISinUSA

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Re: The Imperial Family and servants - everyday life
« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2006, 03:47:11 PM »
When discussing servants, you certainly do have to put this in the context of the world at that time.  Much of the Russian population were of the peasant classes - working fingers ot the bone yet barely able to do anything more than put put a roof over their heads, food on the table and clothes on their backs.  Many had no money at all - living off food they raised themselves and wearing clothing they made themselves.

If a person was able to secure work "in service" to a wealthy family, they still worked extremely hard but probably considered it heaven - security, a bed to sleep in, regular meals and baths, the chance at rising to a level where a pension was obtained.  The money received as pay would probably have been simply a bonus - and often helped support other family members unable to find paying work.

In that context, being a servant to the Tsar must have been considered an enormous leap in social standing and security.

meant having a roof over your head, a bed to sleep in, good meals, clothing, and of course the various perks mentioned above. 

Offline James1941

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Re: The Imperial Family and servants - everyday life
« Reply #14 on: November 29, 2006, 01:51:33 PM »
Among the perks servants got was the sale of food and other items that were not used by the family. And since this was traditional large quantities were ordered, knowing full well that there would be a lot of left overs. These items brought an additional income. Also, servants were able to influence which suppliers would be used to provide the palace with provisions. They received a kick back for this influence.
Security at the Winter Palace was terrible. Servants could come and go with little hinderance. So I imagine there was a lot of, shall we say, "breakage". That is, a perfectly good item would be declared damaged and unusable. The servant would then take it and sell it on the market.  When an inspection was made it was discovered that in the bowels of the basements of the palace there were whole colonies of families of servants living in these spaces. This lax sercurity was one reason that the terrorist was able to get a job working in the palace as, I think, a carpenter or mason, and smuggle in huge quantities of dynamite.