Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

St. Petersburg: The Romanovs

 "Wedding of Nicholas II and Grand Princess Alexandra Fyodorovna"
(1895 Tuxen, Laurits) 
source - Hermitage Museum
I have always had a major fascination with Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra Romanov - Russia's last Imperial family.  So one place I knew I had to visit during our trip to St. Petersburg was the Tsarkoe Selo (Tsar's Village) estates, in Pushkin, which include Great Palace - or "Catherine Palace" - and Alexander Palace, home of Nicholas and Alexandra and their children.

You can read my past post about them here, where you will also find several books about the Romanovs - for teens and children - that I highly recommend.  Also check out Tskarko Selo in 1910, an online book (commemorating the 200th anniversary of the founding of the town) with everything you'd want to know about the history of this town and the Romanovs who lived there.

No Fairy Tale Ending:
The Romanov Dynasty had ruled in Russia for just over 300 years, when this royal family was put under house arrest at the Alexander Palace during the Bolshevik Revolution before being taken to Yekaterinburg, where they were brutally executed in 1918.
From Left back: Princesses Maria, Tatiana, Olga,
Czarina Alexandra, Nicholas II, Princess Anastasia,
Tsarevitch Alexei (1914). 
Great Palace:  
Our visit  to Tsarko Selo started at "Catherine Palace", originally built by Catherine I, Peter the Great's (second) wife.  I won't include too many photos, because I'd like to focus on the Alexander Palace.  Great Palace was very ostentatious - reminiscent of the Palace of Versailles, in France.  You can read about Catherine Palace and see beautiful photos, here.
My husband and I outside the Great Palace.
From where we started in the Great Hall upstairs, we went through doorways after doorway, each gold gilded and leading into beautifully appointed rooms.
This is one we had heard a lot about:  The Amber Room 

Downstairs was an area dedicated to the Romanovs.  By the way, the Romanov Dynasty (1613-1917) just had its 400th Anniversary this year!! Go here to see the Romanov Dynasty Family Tree.  In the portrait gallery I even found a case with the ex-libris bookplates of Nicholas II and Alexandra!
Side-by-side portraits of Nicholas and Alexandra.
Alexandra's Ex Libris
Tsar Nicholas' Ex Libris
Just outside the grounds of Catherine Palace, we saw this church and went inside (I've linked to information about it in the caption, if you're interested).
The Church of Our Lady of the Sign

I hope you'll visit the incredible website, Alexander Palace Time Machine - this website is a virtual tour of the palace and has tons of old photos, resources, and links about the Romanovs.  You can also visit this lovely blog, "The Love That Ended An Empire", to see archived photos of the last Imperial family.

Alexander Palace:
I held my breath as we went through the gate and walked up the driveway to Alexander Palace...

The inside was not at all what I expected...much of the interior has not been restored to its original beauty.  It was actually quite a shock after seeing the Catherine Palace. Most of the valuables from Alexander Palace have not been returned since before WWII, when the Russians had to pack up as much as they could before the Germans invaded and ransacked the palace (you can read a short history here). 

Imperial Bedroom:
Seeing this room made me cry.  It's what's left of the Imperial Bedroom.  The royal family had many icons. From what I could understand from our interpreter, the museum guide said that many of the original icons that had been in this room (gifts to the Imperial family from monasteries and churches) were packed up and sent away, but during Soviet times, when the palace was turned into a museum, curators moved other icons belonging to the family here from the children's rooms, and more icons showed up at the Palace from all over St. Petersburg...from palaces such as the Winter Palace, where Romanov rooms had been destroyed.

Alexandra's Mauve Bedroom
The above photo shows a "mock up" of Alexandra's famous "Mauve Boudoir". You can see at the back of the room, how they have mounted a blown up photograph of the original room to help you imagine how they looked when Nicholas and Alexandra lived at the Alexander Palace.  Some of the furnishings are being slowly returned from places they had been sent or sold off to.  Some are gone forever, looted or destroyed by the Nazis during WWII.

Children's blackboard from their school room.
Aleksey's Bedroom:
Tsarevitch Alexy's  icon cabinet
 Close-up of another beautiful portrait of Alexandra:
The palace collection of uniforms was amazing 
and in wonderful condition.

Feodorovsky Cathedral:
I could see this church across the grounds as we left.  Dedicated in 1912, the Cathedral was a part of the complex of the Alexander Palace.  It was built by Tsar Nicholas and Alexandra and many famous Russian architects and artists took part in its planning and decoration. We did not go inside, but it is in great disrepair.

You can see more photo tours of how the Alexander Palace looks today - here.

Remember to leave a comment, to be entered in my May Giveaways.  My next post will be "St. Petersburg: Saints of Russia" (and guess who it will include...)


  1. This is a wonderful post! I've always had a fascination with Russia and the Romanovs too. Their story just captured my heart. I love seeing your photos of the palaces as they are today! And the beautiful art and icons!
    Last week I received my Romanov Saints icon that you told me about on eBay :D cant wait to get it hung up, and looking forward to your next post!
    Man, I want to go to Russia now, what an amazing trip!

    1. I know you would love St. Petersburg - there is SO much to see there! We missed many of the museums! But this was on my list, and I'm so happy we saw it!!! I'd love to make a trip in the spring or summer and visit Peterhof!

  2. Loved this Wendy! Ever since I read about them years ago, I have loved them. These pictures are amazing!

    1. It was truly an amazing experience to walk where they walked and lived and loved and worshipped!

  3. I ♥ that painting...what a magnificent wedding it must've been. They were so old fashioned and romantic. I read a book of letters that they wrote each other. I pray that Tsarina Alexandra help those I know who are not strong in their faith, and myself, to embrace it as she did so well, even though she was not sure she wanted to become an Orthodox Christian initially. The Imperial bedroom is lovely...SO many icons and that pretty white bedspread. I didn't see it when I went to Russia, but that was now 14 years ago. Thanks for making me feel like I went with you!

    1. Martha - I love that painting too. I know what you are saying about Alexandra - Elizabeth the Grand Duchess also embraced Orthodoxy so fully. Such horrible endings for such truly devoted Christians and pious people...

  4. Wonderful! It piqued my interest to learn more.

  5. I also love reading about them! How wonderful to see some of these places in person. I might be a tad bit jealous ;)