During the year the Imperial family moved between various palaces in the St. Petersburg area. In earlier times this was done not only to enjoy the countryside and for a change in scenery, but also for reasons of health. An 18th century palace may look beautiful on the outside, but their plumbing was very primitive. A few months of occupation of a palace by an royal court and its attendants and the dirt and filth build-up made the place virtually uninhabitable. Up until the late 1800's Russian palaces had virtually no indoor plumbing and indoor flush toilets were a rare novelties until the reign of Nicholas II. Until then portable devices were used for the Imperial family and everybody else used outdoor privies nearby. Some of these buildings were beautifully designed as classical pavilions or Moorish kiosks.
So, when palaces became excessively untidy or odorous the court would move on to the next one. When they moved many thinsg followed them. Elizabeth I had little furnture and travelled from palace to palace with her priceless pieces of inlaid marquetry and gilt silk-covered furniture in tow. The damage to the furniture in transport was terrible and they could look really beat up by the time they arrived at their destination.
Right: Desk of Alexander I from Tsarskoe Selo.
Catherine II purchased a great deal of furniture from foreign craftsmen, word that Catherine had money to spend sent encouraged many French furniture makesers to turn to the Empress of Russia when their sales dropped off during the French revolution. At least one of them, David Roentgen, a German craftsman travelled to Petersburg in a great barge loaded with magnificent - and costly - pieces in magogany and other rare woods. Catherine was delighted with what she saw. Everything he brought was sold and this success resulted in several other shipments being made by sea to the embankment in front of the Winter Palace.
By 1900 when the Tsar and his family traveled to a new palace they mostly carried personal items. When Nicholas II went from one place to another all of his desk items and personal toiletries went with him. His valet had already packed his clothes. Some things, such as underwear and sheets, were marked with the palace they belonged too. This was essential when things were sent out to be washed at the Imperial Laundry and were all mixed up.
Alexandra's maids packed up her favorite books, knick-knacks and icons. her jewels went too along with a select group of her Fabergé collection. The Empress's clothes all went as well along with all of her children's things. Adding to the the caravan were the Imperial pets and all of the things needed to care for them.
On the day of departure maids and valets would have eveything packed up in crates and wicker hampers. They would be loaded onto wagons and taken to the next destination. While the Imperial family was a breakfast the wagons had already left. When they arrived at their destination everything was quickly put in its exact place. Everything had its location. Valets and maids had diagrams to show them where each item was supposed to go. Finally, when the Tsar and his family arrived all was ready and waiting for them.
This remained a slow process until the Tsar made the purchase of motor trucks to carry everything around 1910.
Thos picture was hard for American tourists to take - photographing wagons carrying the Tsar's things was supposedly forbidden due to fears of terrorists.
Next photograph: Peterhof Palace - The Grand Cascade
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