Chapter Thirteen - Waiting for the Emperor
They brought the Icon of the Virgin from the Znamenskaia Church to comfort the children and relieve their suffering. The procession had just reached the Palace when they met a soldier who looked at the Icon, then the priest, and rudely said to the priest: "you are always deceiving the people; you always carry idols." This was the first manifestation of the new spirit born of the Revolution, which had even taken over Tsarskoe Selo.
The divine service was held in the sick childrens' bedroom, where they were suffering terribly. It was attended by dignitaries of the Court and the men in service, filled with their sad thoughts, who prayed with tears in their eyes. After the service, the priest blessed the sick ones and, at the Empress's request, went through the entire Palace as well making the blessing. At the same time the Revolution began, aide-de-camp General N.J. Ivanov had arrived in Tsarskoe Selo, sent by the Emperor, and he met with the Empress for a long time.
We waited for the Emperor's arrival, having gotten certain word that the Emperor had left Stavka.
Aide-de-camp Count Zamoiski came from Petrograd to meet the Emperor. He waited for the Emperor to arrive and was with me on the night guard, sitting in an armchair in the Guard room.
During one of those nights, Count Zamoiski learned from an officer of the guard that a group of armed workers and other people were coming from Petrograd on a special train to attack the Palace. Zamoiski told me and asked if it was necessary to warn the Empress. We thought about it and decided to say nothing to the Empress. Some time later Zamoiski spoke on the telephone with someone informed on the situation who told him that the special train in question had passed on by without stopping in Tsarskoie Selo. So we were not worried any more.
At the very beginning of the Revolution, before the Emperor arrived, Rodzianko telephoned Count Benkendorf one day, recommending that the Empress and children should leave the Palace immediately as they were under threat of great danger.
Count Benkendorf said that the children were sick. Rodzianko still insisted: "Go anywhere, and hurry, the danger is very great. While the house burns you must evacuate the children even if they are sick."
The Empress sent for me and told me about the call, very upset, but she said: "We are not going to leave. They may do what they want, but I will not go away and I will not lose the children."
Shortly after Rodzianko's call the troops arrived. They said expressly that they were going to defend the Palace against any attack. First came the Guardsmen and Imperial Family's Infantry. At the Empress's request they were deployed near the Palace, and the Empress, accompanied by Grand Duchess Maria Nicholaievna, who was no longer sick, walked in front of the soldiers. Countess Arpaxine said, after this first impromptu review:
"You were most brave Your Majesty! How did the soldiers greet you?"
"These sailors know us. They have also served aboard the Standart" was the Empress's simple reply.
Having gotten a chill during the "review" in the strong icy wind, Grand Duchess Maria soon had to return to her bed.
The Palace learned about the Emperor's abdication by the courier of the cabinet who had been sent by General Alexeiev with papers addressed to the Emperor at Tsarskoe before his abdication. The courier gave me the papers as I was on duty as guard, and I in turn took them to the Empress and asked her her orders, and saw to it that I put the papers in the Emperor's study as the most appropriate place where no one would disturb them. The next day it was the same courier who had brought them who told us that the Emperor had abdicated, but at that time we did not have any accurate news.
Several hours later the Commander in Chief of the Infantry appeared at the Palace asking for the return of all the folders delivered from Stavka. I warned the Empress about this. Her Majesty, tears in her eyes, confirmed the news of the abdication and ordered me to turn over the papers to the Colonel. No one mentioned the Soverign's abdication to the sick children.
No one came to see us from Petrograd. One day, General Kornilov came out with several officers, including Kozebue, officer of the Uhlans of the Guard and Col. Kobilinski. At the time, both Marshall of the Court Count Benkendorf and Master of Ceremonies Count Apraxine were both in the Palace.
Kornilov was announced to the Empress who received him in the presence of Count Benkendorf.
Kornilov announced that the had been charged with a difficult mission. he had come to inform her that she was being placed under arrest. He asked her to remain calm. He said that nothing serious would happen and that nothing would cause her embarassment. Kornilov asked permission to present the Empress to the officers who had accompanied him.
After he left the Empress, he announced that the entire household of the Imperial Family were authorized to stay with her, but those who did not wish to remain were quite free to leave. We were given two days to decide. Those who wished to remain with the Imperial Family would have to share their arrest. Kozebue was named Commandant of the Palace and Col. Kobilinski took command of the Guard.
The Empress was very upset and ordered a telephone call be placed to Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich, who she had ceased to receive for so long a time.
"Tell Her Majesty that I am coming very soon" the Grand Duke told me on the telephone.
"It is nothing, we are going to straighten everything out" the Grand Duke told me after I asked him his opinion of the situation.
"I have not slept all night," he added.
The Grand Duke told me that he had been working on a draft for the Constitution.
Two officers were sent to Stavka with a draft of the Constitution for signature, probably along with other documents). The officers left dressed in civilian clothes. One was the son of Stoessel, the unfortunate head of defense for Port Arthur. Their trip was futile. They were not even able to see the Emperor.
Gen. Kornilov went again a second time accompanied by A.I. Goutchkov and his suite. Under the Empress's order, we again asked Grand Duke Paul to come. He came immediately. I announced him. The Empress asked they go into her rooms, where they stayed for ten or fifteen minutes.
Leaving the Empress' rooms, the Grand Duke asked Kornilov: "The guard troops...are they loyal?" Kornilov assured them completely that they were.
The Grand Duke then spoke to Goutchkov, explaining to him that he had not asked him for his opinion, seeing as a civilian could not see such things as well as a military man could when it came to the mood and spirit of the troops.
We all waited for the Emperor to come. We tried whatever we could to get some news, but could not get even the smallest bit of accurate information.
Goutchkov came again and toured the Palace, passing by the Empress's apartments, where there were many people in service, including me. One of the officers with Goutchkov who was clearly drunk, spoke to us and said: "You are our enemies and we are yours. You have been betrayed." I answered "You are mistaken on our account, Sir..."
Goutchkov did not even turn away and pretended not to notice the drunken ensign leave.
We finally got definite news that the Emperor was en route and that he would arrive at the Palace soon.
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