Part One - Old Russia Alexander Palace Time Machine
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Part One - Old Russia Chapter IV

The Empress was an early riser. She had six dressers, of whom the chief, Madeleine Zanoty, was an Italian by birth, whose family had long been in the service of the Hesses. Louise Toutelberg, known as "Toutel," the second in authority, came from the Baltic, and there were four others. The dressers had three days' service, but none of them ever saw the Empress undressed or in her bath. She rose and went to her bath unassisted, and slipped on a Japanese kimono of silk or printed cotton over her undergarments when she was ready to have her hair arranged. The Empress was extraordinarily modest in her disarray, and in this the Victorian influence was again discernible, as her conception of the bedroom was a-la-mode de Windsor and Buckingham Palace in 1840. She did not countenance the filmy and theatrical, either in her lingerie or in her sleeping apartment ; her underwear was of the finest linen, beautifully embroidered, but otherwise plain. Her red-gold hair was never touched with curling irons, and it was usually very simply dressed, except when great State functions called for a more elaborate coiffure.

The bedroom of the Emperor and the Empress was a large room with two tall windows opening on to the Park. It was on the ground floor, as, owing to the Empress's heart complaint, she found the exertion of ascending any stairs very exhausting. A lift in the corridor communicated with the nurseries, but during the Revolution the water supply was cut off, and the lift stopped working. Nevertheless the Empress insisted upon mounting the stairs to visit the invalid Grand Duchesses, and I always accompanied her, going behind her, and propping her up at each step. It brought tears to my eyes when I saw how ill she was, but she was determined not to miss a single chance of seeing her beloved children.

A large double bed made of lightish wood was near the windows, between which stood the Empress's dressing-table. At the right of the bed was a little door in the wall, leading to a tiny dark chapel lighted by hanging lamps, where the Empress was wont to pray. This chapel contained a table, and a praying-stand on which were a Bible and an ikon of Christ. This ikon was afterwards given to me by Her Majesty, in memory of the days which we spent together at Tsarkoe Selo, and is one of my most treasured possessions to-day.

The furniture in the Imperial bedroom was in flowered tapestry, and the carpet was a plain coloured soft pile. The Emperor's dressing-room was separated from the bedroom by the corridor, and on the other side were the Empress's dressingroom and bathroombut, alas! for her rumoured extravagances and her "odd" fancies! The bathroom was no luxurious place of silver and marble, but an old-fashioned bath set in a dark recess, and the Empress, with her Victorian love of neatness, insisted that the bath was hidden during the day under a loose cretonne cover. There was a fireplace in the dressing-room, and the dressers waited in the next room until the Empress required their services. The Empress's gowns were kept here, and another room full of large cupboards (half-way up the staircase leading to the nurseries) was given over to the use of those maids whose especial duty it was to iron and renovate Her Majesty's clothes.

The Empress favoured long, pointed footgear with very low heels: she usually wore suede, bronze or white shoes, never satin. "I can't bear satin shoes, they worry me," she would say. Her gowns, except those worn by her on State occasions, were very simple; she liked blouses and skirts, and she was greatly addicted to tea-gowns: her taste in dress was as refined as that of Queen Mary of England; like her she disapproved strongly of exaggerated fashions, and I shall not easily forget her condemnation when I once came to see her wearing a "hobble" skirt.

"Do you really like this skirt, Lili?" asked the Empress.

"Well . . . Madame," I said helplessly, "c'est la mode."

"It is no use whatever as a skirt," she answered. "Now, Lili, prove to me that it is comfortable - run, Lili, run, and let me see how fast you can cover the ground in it."

Needless to say, I never wore a "hobble" skirt again.

The Empress has been accused of a mania for precious stones. I never saw any signs of it: true, she had quantities of magnificent jewels, but these possessions were consequent upon her position as Empress. She was fond of rings and bracelets, and she always wore a certain ring set with one immense pearl, and a jewelled cross. Some writers assert that this cross was set with emeralds, but I do not agree. I am sure that the stones were sapphires, and, as I saw it every day, I fancy I am correct. The Empress had soft, well-shaped hands, but they were neither small nor useless hands, and she never had her nails polished, as the Emperor detested highly polished and super-manicured nails.

At nine o'clock the Empress breakfasted with the Emperor; it was a simple meal A I'Anglaise, and after breakfast she went upstairs to see the children. Then Anna Virouboff arrived, and, if certain interviews were imperative, these were usually given during the morning, but, if the Empress found herself " free," she went to inspect her training college for domestic nurses, which was arranged entirely on English lines. She had great faith in the value of English-trained nurses for children, and she put all her usual "thoroughness" into the working and management of this institution.

Lunch was at one o'clock, and at twelve-thirty on Sundays; but when, as it often happened, the Empress was indisposed, she either lunched in her boudoir or alone with the Tsarevitch. After lunch the Empress walked, or drove herself in a little open carriage. Tea was at five, but sometimes receptions were held between lunch and tea.

The Imperial Family all met at tea, which was quite "en famille"; and dinner, which was at 8 o'clock, was often a movable feast in the literal sense of the word. The Emperor disliked dining in one special room, so a table was carried to whichever room he happened to fancy that evening. Dinner over (and it was a very simple dinner) the Imperial Family spent the remainder of the evening together, and the Grand Duchesses, who had a flair for puzzles, usually indulged in puzzlemaking: sometimes the Emperor read aloud whilst his daughters and their mother worked. It was the homely life of a united family - but a life with which the great world was not in sympathy; in fact a Russian writer did not hesitate to state openly that "it would have been better for Russia's felicity if the Empress had succumbed to the many frailties which were attributed to Catherine II." It is ironical to dwell on such an opinion when one remembers how the newspapers and the general public condemned her association with Rasputin. But had she been Catherine II, it is possible that this "frailty" might have been considered necessary for the "felicity of Russia!"

The Empress's boudoir, known as Le Cabinet Mauve de l'Imperatrice," was a lovely room, in which the Empress's partiality for all shades of mauve was apparent. In spring- time and winter the air was fragrant with masses of lilac and lilies of the valley, which were sent daily from the Riviera. Lovely pictures adorned the walls-and one of the Annunciation, and another of St. Cecilia, faced a portrait of the Empress's mother, the late Princess Alice of England, Grand Duchess of Hesse-Darmstadt.

The furniture was mauve and white, Heppelwaite in style, and there were various "cosy corners." On a large table stood many family photographs, that of Queen Victoria occupying the place of honour.

The other private drawing-room was a large room, decorated and upholstered in shades of green, and the Empress had arranged in one corner a sort of tiny staircase and a balcony, which was always full of violets in the spring. In this room were pictures of herself and the Emperor, and some exquisite miniatures of the Grand Duchesses by Kaulbach, that of Marie being especially beautiful.

Books were everywhere; the Empress was a prolific reader, but she was chiefly addicted to serious literature, and she knew the Bible from cover to cover. The library was next the green drawing-room, and here all the newest books and magazines were placed on a round table, and constantly changed for others in the order of their publication.

The Empress was a great letter-writer, and she wrote her letters wherever she fancied. Her writing-table proper was in the room next her bedroom, but I have often seen her writing letters on a pad in her lap, and she invariably used a fountain-pen. Before the war she wrote daily to a great friend in Germany, and she always read this lady's letters to me. Her stationery, like her lingerie, was plain, but stamped with her cypher and the Imperial Crown.

Apropos of her fondness for lilac and lilies of the valley, I may mention that the Empress loved all flowers, her especial favourites being lilies, magnolias, wistaria, rhododendrons, freesias and violets. A love of flowers is usually akin to a love of perfumes, and the Empress was no exception to the rule. She generally used Atkinson's White Rose; it was, she said, "clean" as a perfume, and "infinitely sweet" - as an eau-de-toilette, she favoured Verveine.

When I first knew the Empress, she did not smoke, but during the Revolution she smoked cigarettes: I fancy they soothed her overwrought nerves.

The Empress always kept a diary, but I shall presently relate how it became my duty to burn her diaries, also those of Princess Sofia Orbeliani and Anna Virouboff; and last, but not least in sentimental interest, all the letters which the Emperor had sent her during their engagement and married life.

Dr. Botkin, the devoted friend and physician to the family, was introduced to me by Anna Virouboff, and I liked him exceedingly. He was a clever, liberal-minded man, and, although his political views were opposed to those of the Imperialists, he became so devoted to the Emperor that his once cherished views mattered little to him.

I think, from my description, which possesses the merit of accuracy, that it will be recognised what simplicity of life surrounded the rulers of one of the greatest Empires the world has ever known. Simplicity characterised all their doings, the simplicity which was to prove their undoing. The Imperial pair wished to lead the lives of private individuals; they imagined that it was possible. In Russia it has never been popular or possible for a Tsar to be human; he was an emblem, a representative of crystallised traditions; he united in himself the roles of the Father of his people and, the splendid, allconquering, unapproachable Tsar, An Emperor or an Empress in mufti, so to speak, never yet appealed to popular imagination, and, just as the English cottager preserved and venerated the horrible "royal" oleographs of Queen Victoria, so did the Russian peasant venerate similar oleographs of the Emperor and his Consort. Neither cottager nor peasant would have understood or cared to possess "family" photographs of their rulers. Popular imagination has ever been appealed to by scarlet and ermine, golden crowns, and kingly sceptres. It doesn't understand or value anything else.

In the March following the birth of Titi, the Empress wrote and told me that she was anxious to see her godson, then nine months old. So I went with him to Tsarkoe Selo, where the Grand Duchesses made much of him, and used to take it in turns to bath him. We took up our quarters in Anna's house, where the Empress had personally superintended the arrangement of the baby's room, and she sent his cot, of which she crocheted the hangings and coverlet herself. She spent hours with the child, playing with him, " snapshotting "him, and, after our first visit, I was constantly "commanded" to "come and bring the baby." I remember that, when I once missed the train, and arrived too late for lunch, the Empress, who was waiting for me, noticed my fatigue, and ordered tea. She took Titi on her lap, and saying, "Well... Lili, you do look hungry and tired," she fed me with pieces of sandwiches, pressing them on me much in the same way that a mother soothes a tired child. But she was ever "plus mere que mere, plus Russe que Russe," but her love of country was only for Russia and England. She had, and I say it with absolute conviction, no love for Germany as her Motherland." She liked Darmstadt, because to her it represented home, but she manifested no interest in any other part of Germany.

My friendship with the Empress increased as the months passed, That autumn the Imperial Family went to Livadia, and I stayed with my uncle, going constantly to and from the Palace. The first day I saw the Empress in Livadia she gave me an entire layette for Titi which she had made herself. I had wondered why she had telegraphed for his measurements - now I knew! She would often call at my uncle's and take the baby with her for a drive. The little thing got to know her well, and one day, looking at her photograph, he said "Baby"; so after this the Empress of Russia was known to Titi by her own wish, tout simplement, in English, as "Aunt Baby." He always called her "Aunt Baby," and in many of her letters she alludes to herself by this pet name, but, needless to say, the favour shown to me and my child by the Imperial Family was the source of much comment at Court.

On one point my mind was made up. I determined never to allow any ideas of preferment or material advantage to spoil what was to me a condition of great happiness. My husband entirely agreed, and he declined to consider any mention of the posts which were from time to time spoken of in connection with him. As for myself, the Empress understood and appreciated my outlook. "You can always be my friend if matters remain as they are," she said. "I don't want to lose my Lili in an official personage." We were very happy in those days. The Grand Duchesses were fast leaving childhood behind them and blossoming into charming girls; they did not greatly resemble one another, each was a type apart, but all were equally lovely in disposition. I cannot believe that any men so inhuman existed as those who, it is said, shot and stabbed those defenceless creatures in the house of death at Ekaterinburg. Apart from their beauty, their sweetness should have pleaded for them, but, if it is true that they have "passed," then surely no better epitaph could be theirs than the immortal words, "Lovely and pleasant were they in their lives, and in their death they were not divided."

The Grand Duchess Olga was the eldest of these four fair sisters. She was a most amiable girl, and people loved her from the moment they set eyes on her. As a child she was plain, at fifteen she was beautiful. She was slightly above middle height, with a fresh complexion, deep blue eyes, quantities of light chestnut hair, and pretty hands and feet. She took life seriously, and she was a clever girl with a sweet disposition. I think she possessed unusual strength of character, and at one time she was mentioned as a possible bride for the Crown Prince of Roumania. But the Grand Duchess did not like him, and, as the Crown Prince liked the Grand Duchess Marie better than her sister, nothing came of the project. The sisters loved each other, and united in a passionate adoration for the Tsarevitch, In a recent book published in England, the Grand Duchesses have been described as Cinderellas, who were entirely subservient in family life owing to the attention paid the Tsarevitch. This is untrue. It is a fact that the Empress ardently desired a son, and that the birth of four daughters in succession was a disappointment to her, but she loved her daughters, they were her inseparable companions, and their plain and rather strict upbringing had nothing whatever of the Cinderella element.

The Grand Duchess Tatiana was as charming as her sister Olga, but in a different way. She has been described as proud, but I never knew anyone less so. With her, as with her mother, shyness and reserve were accounted as pride, but, once you knew her and had gained her affection, this reserve disappeared, and the real Tatiana became apparent. She was a poetical creature, always yearning for the ideal, and dreaming of great friendships which might be hers. The Emperor loved her devotedly, they had much in common, and the sisters used to laugh, and say that, if a favour were required, "Tatiana must ask Papa to grant it." She was very tall, and excessively thin, with a cameolike profile, deep blue eyes, and dark chestnut hair... a lovely Rose maiden, fragile and pure as a flower.

All the Grand Duchesses were innocent children in their souls. Nothing impure was ever allowed to come into their lives - the Empress was very strict over the books which they read, which were mostly by English authors. They had no idea of the ugly side of life, although, poor girls, they were destined to see the worst side of it and to come in contact with the - most debased passions of humanity! And yet it has been stated that the Empress, in her neurotic, religious exaltation, gave each of her daughters to Rasputin. Knowing her, knowing the Emperor, and knowing the daughters as I did, such an assertion savours of the monstrous; it has even been circulated that Mlle. Tutcheff objected to Rasputin being admitted to the Grand Duchesses' bedchamber to give them his nightly blessing after they had retired to bed, and that, as her protest was disregarded, she sent in her resignation. Mlle. Tutcheff was never governess to the Grand Duchesses, and she never witnessed Rasputin's nightly blessing, inasmuch as it never took place. The Emperor would never have permitted such a thing, even had the Empress wished it, and she certainly did not consider such a proceeding necessary for her daughters' salvation. Mle. Tutcheff was the victim of her own spite and jealousy. She was not a very pleasant person, and, whenever the Imperial Family went to Livadia, she usually made herself very disagreeable, as she thoroughly disliked the Crimea. Continual grumbling wears away the patience of most people; the Empress was only human, and Mlle. Tutcheff was first given a holiday and then dismissed by the Grande Maitresse de la Cour.

Mlle. Tutcheff did not hesitate to spread all kinds of vindictive rumours to account for her dismissal. She was too small-minded to state the real facts, and, as l'affaire Rasputin was generally spoken about, she decided to vent her spite on the Empress through this medium. I again assert that there is no truth in the legend of Rasputin's nightly blessing.

When I first knew the Grand Duchess Marie, she was quite a child, but during the Revolution she became very devoted to me, and I to her, and we spent most of our time togethershe was a wonderful girl, possessed of tremendous reserve force, and I never realised her unselfish nature until those dreadful days. She too was exceeding fair, dowered with the classic beauty of the Romanoffs; her eyes were dark blue, shaded by long lashes, and she had masses of dark brown hair. Marie was plump, and the Empress often teased her about this ; she was not so lively as her sisters, but she was much more decided in her outlook. The Grand Duchess Marie knew at once what she wanted, and why she wanted it.

Anastasie, the youngest Grand Duchess, might have been composed of quicksilver, instead of flesh and blood; she was most amusing, and she was a very clever mimic. She saw the humorous side of everything, and she was very fond of acting; indeed, Anastasie would have made an excellent comedy actress. She was always in mischief, a regular tom-boy, but she was not backward in her development, as M. Gilliard once stated. Anastasie was only sixteen at the time of the Revolution - no great age after all. She was pretty, but hers was more of a clever face, and her eyes were wells of intelligence.

All the sisters were utterly devoid of pride, and, when they nursed the wounded during the war, they were known as the Sisters Romanoff, and thus answered to the numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4.

The Grand Duchesses occupied two bedrooms; Olga and Tatiana shared one, Marie and Anastasie the other. These apartments were large and light, decorated and furnished in green and white. The sisters slept on camp beds - a custom dating back to the reign of Alexander I, who decreed that the daughters of the Emperor were not to sleep on more comfortable beds until they married. Ikons hung in the corners of the rooms, and there were pretty dressing-tables, and couches with embroidered cushions. The Grand Duchesses were fond of pictures and photographs - there were endless snapshots taken by themselves, those from their beloved Crimea being especially in evidence.

A large room, divided by a curtain, served as dressing-room and bathroom for the Grand Duchesses. One half of the room was full of cupboards, and in the other half stood the large bath of solid silver. The Grand Duchesses had departed from their mother's simple ideas, and, when they bathed at night, the water was perfumed and softened with almond bran. Like their mother, they were addicted to perfumes, and always used those of Coty. Tatiana. favoured "jasmin de Corse"; Olga, "Rose The" ; Marie constantly changed her perfumes, but was more, or less faithful to lilac, and Anastasie never deviated from violette.

The Grand Duchesses' attendants were a compromise between dressers, maids and nurses. They were all girls of good family, the most favoured being Mlle. Tegeleff, known as Shoura; the other two were "Elizabeth" and "Neouta." The Empress - once again Victorian - was very desirous for these girls to wear caps, but they declined respectfully but firmly to do so, and she did not press the matter. The Grand Duchesses liked their attendants, and often used to help them tidy the rooms and make the beds of the Tsarevitch: he was merely a son, and a brother to his family, although it was sometimes quaint to see him assume "grown up" airs. One day, when he was indulging in a romp with the Grand Duchesses, he was told that some officers of his regiment had arrived at the Palace and begged permission to be received by him.

The Tsarevitch instantly ceased his game, and, calling his sisters, he said very gravely: "Now, girls, run away. I am busy. Someone has just called to see me on business."

He adored his mother, and her passionate devotion to him is world-known, although, like many other things, this devotion has been used as a weapon against her. To the Empress, the Tsarevitch represented the direct result of prayer, the Divine condescension of God, the crowning joy of her marriage. Surely, if she manifested undue anxiety over him, she only did what all mothers have done, and will do until the end of time. There was certainly some subtle sympathy between mother and son : she was all that was lovely and beloved to him, and I especially remember one typical instance of this devotion:

My husband and I had been dining with the Imperial Family, and after dinner the Emperor suggested that we should accompany them to the Tsarevitch's bedroom, as the Empress always went thither to bid him good night and hear him say his prayers. It was a pretty sight to watch the child and his mother, and listen to his simple prayers, but, when the Empress rose to go, we suddenly found ourselves in complete darknessthe Tsarevitch had switched off the electric light over his bed!

"Why have you done this, Baby?" asked the Empress. "Oh," answered the child, "it's only light for me, Mama, when you are here. It's always quite dark when you have gone."

He loved his father, and the Emperor's great wish in the "happy days " was to undertake his son's education himself: this, for many reasons, was impossible, and Mr. Gibbs and M. Gilliard were his first tutors. Later, under very different conditions, the Emperor was enabled to carry out his wish. In the gloomy house at Tobolsk, he taught the Tsarevitch, and in the squalor and misery of Ekaterinburg the lessons still continued; but perhaps the greatest lesson learnt by the Tsarevitch and the other members of the unfortunate family was that of Faith: for faith sustained them, and strengthened them at a time when riches and friends had fled and they found themselves betrayed by the very country which had been all in all to them.

The Tsarevitch had various playmates-all sorts and conditions of boys shared his games : there were the two sons of his sailor-servant, two peasant boys with whom he was on friendly and affectionate terms, and my "Titi," who ran about with him, upsetting everything, and thoroughly enjoying himself. The Heir to the Throne was as courteous as his sisters. One day the Empress and I were sitting in the mauve boudoir, when we heard the excited voices of the Tsarevitch and Titi in the next room.

"I believe they're quarrelling," said the Empress, and she went to the door and listened to what the children were saying. Then she turned to me laughing. " Why they're not quarrelling, Lili. Alexis is insisting that Titi shall come into the mauve room first, and the good Titi won't hear of it ! "

If the Tsarevitch had any peculiarities, I think the most striking was a decided penchant for hoarding. Many descendants of the Coburgs have been unusually thrifty, and perhaps the Tsarevitch inherited this trait. While thrifty he was really a most generous child, although he hoarded his things to such an extent that the Emperor often teased him unmercifully. During the sugar shortage he saved his allowance of sugar, which he gravely distributed among his friends. He was fond of animals, and his spaniel, " Joy" 0 has happily found a home in England: his chief pet at Tsarkoe was an ugly sandy and white kitten, which he once brought from G.H.Q. This kitten he christened Zoubrovka, and bestowed a collar and a bell on it as a signal mark of affection. "Zoubrovka " was no respecter of palaces, and he used to wage war with the Grand Duchess Tatiana's bulldog "Artipo," and light-heartedly overthrow all the family photographs in the Tsaritsa's boudoir. But "Zoubrovka" was a privileged kitten, and I have often wondered what became of him when the Imperial Family were taken to Tobolsk.

All the children were fond of animals. The Grand Duchess Tatiana's pet was a bulldog called "Artipo," who slept in her bedroom, much to the annoyance of the Grand Duchess Olga, who disliked its propensity for snoring. The Grand Duchess Marie favoured a Siamese cat, and, the year before the Revolution, Anna Virouboff gave a little Pekinese dog to the Grand Duchess Anastasie.

This little creature had a tragic history. Curiously enough many people said that "Jimmi" seemed an unlucky dog; but he was a sweet little creature, whose tiny legs were so short that he could not walk up or down stairs. The Grand Duchess Anastasie always carried him, and "Jimmi" lavished a Pekinese devotion on her and her sisters.

"Jimmi" went with the family to Tobolsk, and he is now identified in history with their fate. According to one account, his corpse was found, preserved in ice, at the top of the disused mine shaft; another writer has it that "Jimmi" defended his friends in the cellar at Ekaterinburg, barking defiance at the murderers, and guarding Tatiana's fainting body until they were both killed. His skeleton is said to have been discovered later in a clump of undergrowth, and subsequently identified by its size and by a bullet hole in the skull.

He was a dear little dog, and probably, could he have spoken, he would have desired no better fate than to perish with those in whose fortunes and affections he had equally participated.

The Emperor greatly resembled King George V in appearance, but his eyes were unforgettable; and those of his cousin, although fine, do not possess the expression peculiar to the eyes of the Emperor. It was a combination of melancholy, sweetness, resignation and tragedy: Nicholas II seemed as if he saw into the tragic future, but he also seemed to see the Heaven that lies beyond this earth. He was " God's good man." I can give no higher praise, render him no more fitting homage.

He was essentially charming: when you were with him you forgot the Emperor in the individual; he made formality impossible. He loved to tease people, and I came in for my full share of this propensity. One day when I was out walking at Livadia, several carriages passed me, but I did riot especially notice their occupants. The next evening when I was dining at the Palace, the Emperor addressed me in grave tones: "Lili - ce n'est pas bien, vous comprenez, mais ne pas reconnaitre vos amis."

"Mais, Votre Majeste, qu'est que vous voulez dire?"

"Well," said the Emperor, "you cut me yesterday." "Votre Majeste, it's impossible."

"Ah . . . it's quite possible, Lili. I drove past you, and bowed to you many times, but you wouldn't recognise me. Tell me in what I've offended you." And he continued to tease me until I felt ready to die with confusion. He loved his wife: no one has ever dared dispute the quality of the affection which existed between them; theirs was an ideal love-marriage, and when their love was tried in the furnace of affliction it was not found wanting.

Nicholas II had been reproached for his weakness of character, but this weakness was not weakness in the literal sense. The Empress, who was fully aware of what was said concerning the Emperor and herself, once told me how utterly people misunderstood her husband. "He is accused of weakness," she said bitterly. "He is the strongest-not the weakest. I assure you, Lili, that it cost the Emperor a tremendous effort to subdue the attacks of rage to which the Romanoffs are subject. He has learnt the hard lesson of self-control, only to be called weak ; people forget that the greatest conqueror is he who conquers himself."

On another occasion she remarked that she knew that the Emperor and herself were blamed for not surrounding themselves with genuine people.

"It's an extraordinary thing, Lili," she said, it we've tried to find genuine advisers for the last twenty years, but we've never found them. I wonder whether any exist!"

The Empress always resented the cruel slanders which were circulated about the Emperor.

"I wonder they don't accuse him of being too good: that, at least, would be true! " she cried. As for herself, she troubled little.

"Why do people want to discuss me," she said. "Why can't they leave me alone !" Again: "Why will people insist that I am pro-German? I have spent twenty years in Germany, and twenty years in Russia. My interests, and my son's future lie in Russia: how, therefore, can I be anything but Russian?"

The Empress has been censured for exerting undue influence over her husband, and this "pernicious" influence has made her the scapegoat for all the ills which have befallen Russia. But her "influence" was merely that of a good woman over a man. If she influenced the Emperor in any other way, it was done unconsciously. I will never believe otherwise, although, in making this assertion, I shall perhaps be confronted with all kinds of hostile criticism. It will be asked by what right I dare defend a woman who has been tried and found guilty. But I dare to do so. True, I am a person whose name is entirely unknown to the general public, but it cannot be disputed by those who knew life at Tsarkoe Selo and Petrograd that I was honoured by the Empress's friendship and confidence.

The Emperor shared his wife's "thoroughness"; he never believed anything until (were it possible) he had tried it for himself. During the war, a new uniform was submitted for the Emperor's approval; he determined to test its qualities, and he walked for twenty miles wearing it, in order to see what weight was possible to carry with it. The sentinels failed to recognise the Emperor when he passed them wearing the sample "Tommy's" kit, a fact which greatly amused him; but, as a result of his practical experiment, the uniform (with certain alterations suggested by the Emperor) was "passed."

The Empress put her husband first in everything - it was always "The Emperor wishes it," "The Emperor says so"; she was very tender towards him, the maternal element was apparent in her love even for her husband: she took care of him, but perhaps this arose chiefly from a feeling that he suffered by reason of his love for her.

As husband and wife they were indeed one. They only asked happiness of life. The Emperor's tastes were of the simplest, the Empress was shy and retiring-both their dispositions were similar -and this similarity of tastes, ideal in the usual walks of life, was fatal to both of them as rulers. By this I do not for one moment wish to infer that they shirked their responsibilities: far from it, they were always ready to assume them, but they forgot that the times were out of joint, that it was their duty always to live in the fierce light that beats upon a throne. I do not think that by so doing they could have saved Russia. The case of Nicholas II and Alexandra of Russia is almost parallel with that of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The Russian monarchs, like their French prototypes, were called upon to reign over a country ripe for Revolution, whose dragon's teeth had been sown by the vicious hands of their predecessors. France boasted as extravagant and exotic a society as that of Russia: the writing was already to be seen on the walls of Versailles and the Winter Palace, but the Sovereigns of Then and Now heeded it not. Louis XVI wanted to be left alone in his workroom, to make locks and to mend watches, and Marie Antoinette sighed for the simple pleasures of the Trianon and the pastoral joys of a farmer's wife.

Nicholas II did not care to be a locksmith, he merely wished to live the quiet life of a well-bred gentleman: chivalrous by nature, he (and here an English writer is correct) came nearer the British public-school idea than any other. The Empress did not require a Trianon, she wanted a home; but, although she loved Russia, Russia was always antagonistic to her. This she never realised, any more than she recognised the fact that the peasant class never wanted her to try and understand them.

The Emperor was a clever man, and he possessed that wonderful memory for faces peculiar to his uncle, King Edward VII. On one occasion when my husband was presented to the Emperor after receiving some special decoration, a colonel of a Siberian regiment also attended the Levee. The Emperor stretched out his hand to the colonel. "Surely I've seen you before?" he enquired. "Yes, Your Majesty." "Well, but where?" continued the Emperor, in puzzled tones; then brightening, "Ah, I know," he said, "I met you twelve years ago when I passed through Saratof."

The chief pleasures of the Emperor were those appertaining to an outdoor life. He was a good shot, fond of all kinds of sport, and his hands were exceptionally powerful. Boating was a favourite amusement; he liked to row in a small boat, or paddle a canoe, and the Emperor passed hours and hours on the water when the Imperial Family were staying at Shker, in Finland.

Both the Emperor and the Empress disliked the Kaiser. I say this with perfect sincerity, and in all truth. They rarely mentioned his name before the war, and I know that his love of theatrical displays appealed to neither of them. In 1903 the Emperor William arrived in his yacht at Reval to witness a military review. The "Standart" with the Emperor of Russia aboard was also at Reval. After the Kaiser had paid a formal call on the Emperor, signals passed between the two yachts. "What's all this?" asked the Emperor. An officer enlightened him.

"Your Majesty," said he, "the signal from the 'Hohenzollern' says: 'The Emperor of the Atlantic salutes the Emperor of the Pacific.' The Emperor looked cross.

"Oh, that's it - well reply 'Thank you that's quite enough."

The Kaiser did not shine as a visitor to the "Standart"; the first thing he did was to shake hands indiscriminately, a proceeding which caused much amusement and confusion, and everyone was heartily glad when the "Emperor of the Atlantic" took his departure.

The Grand Duchesses disliked any mention of the Kaiser, but some of the officers used to tease them about him. The usual question of any privileged arrival at Tsarkoe Selo was: "Well, how is Uncle Willie to-day?" And the invariable answer was: "No - no he's not our Uncle Willie - we don't want to hear his name."

Russia has been described as a country of tears and misery during the war, but this is incorrect. The peasants were never so rich as at this time, and there was no discontent in the country districts; the wives received big allowances, and they earned extra money for themselves without any difficulty. Every boy indulged in high patent-leather boots, every girl spent money on dress. There were certainly tears for the fallen, but there was no material misery in Russia.

The Emperor had made great plans to help those disabled in the service of their country. His idea was to give all wounded, disabled or decorated soldiers gifts of Crown Lands at the end of the war. He planned various land reforms, but the Revolutionaries incited the landlords against him by telling them that the Emperor was going to be generous at their expense, and not at his own!

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Hagia Sophia - the Church of Holy Wisdom

Learn about the history and discover the mosaics of this monument of world architecture

The Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos

See the beautiful mosaics and learn about this Byzantine Church with its jewel like chapel.

Introduction by Bob Atchison

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