The Life and Tragedy of Alexandra Feodorovna Alexandra Feodorovna - The Life And Tragedy Of Alexandra Feodorovna
A Biography By Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden

Chapter XXIX

Five Weary Months, March-August 1917

During the first months after the Revolution, the dread of the Emperor's being transferred to some prison, or of some violence against his person, was uppermost in the minds of all in the Palace, and though the Empress never spoke of it, she, too, realised the danger. All disturbing rumours seemed, mysteriously, to reach her. Whenever there was any talk on subjects that would distress her, she always happened to come into the room. The Household tried to hide the papers, which contained the most violent attacks on the Emperor and Empress, but she always seemed to pick up the very worst. The illustrated press, in particular, was full of dreadful, often obscene, caricatures, and though the commander had the decency not to send these upstairs, the soldiers took care that they should be seen. The revolutionary press was giving vent to an orgy of abuse and calumny. What pained the Empress most in the accusations hurled against both of them were the utterly unfounded attacks made on the Emperor by the extremists, in their search for something which might give them a handle for starting legal proceedings against him. He who had renounced everything for his country and whose fidelity to her allies was proved by his every action was openly accused of disloyalty! Words were attributed to him that he could never have uttered. These attacks were so monstrous that the Empress was forced to realise that there were no lengths to which their enemies would not go. As to the Emperor, he gave onlookers the impression that, if there were danger, it concerned, not him, but some one else. When he did mention the incidents that so much alarmed his gentlemen, it was with a half smile of pity for the worry given to those about him. For months, every shot fired in the garden, every heated discussion in the guard-room, might have been the first step towards disaster. On the whole, the local soldiers' Soviet gave its support to the Commander of the Palace, but no one knew how long this would last. The Empress, like the Emperor, never showed any fears she may have felt. She was heroic, as she had been through all the early days of the Revolution when she and her children were in imminent danger. Her fortitude never deserted her, and she would cheer up any of those in the Household whom she saw to be depressed and anxious. She had put those she loved into the hands of the Supreme Power, feeling the hopelessness of human help, and in her constant prayers found the wonderful serenity and courage that she kept to the end.


Above: Alexandra sewing in her wheelchair in the park of the Alexander Palace during their imprisonment in the palace.

At first neither the Emperor nor the Empress had any communication with people outside the Palace. No one dared write to them. After a few days, however, some of the Empress's friends in the hospitals sent short notes to her and her daughters, with the Commander's permission. He read all letters addressed to people in the Palace and all replies had to be sent to him open. The soldiers generally read everything, too, and though, of course, only the barest commonplaces could be written, even these were often misunderstood, and the most innocent words twisted by the soldiers into quite different meanings, so that many of the notes were not posted at all. The few letters she got from her friends were rays of light to the Empress. They gave her the feeling of human sympathy that she longed for. She always believed that the people who, after the Revolution, never sent a line or took any notice of her, did this because they were afraid that their loyalty would harm her or the Emperor. Naturally those who wrote had to be careful of the wording of their letters, and many were really prevented from writing by the fear of causing additional trouble. It was pitiful to see the gratitude that a few kind words could elicit from both the Emperor and Empress. Her Majesty was quite cheerful for a whole day after she had received a small ikon sent by a lady to the Emperor, on the back of which was written a short prayer and her name. To balance these few words of sympathy came hundreds of insulting letters, reviling the Emperor and Empress, and accusing them of the most fantastic crimes.

The Emperor never wrote to anyone, so fearful was he of compromising his correspondents, except once to the Dowager-Empress (who had been moved by the Government to the Crimea), when the Commander told him that she was anxious about him, and that Kerensky had wished her to be pacified by the sight of a letter written in the Emperor's own hand. The greatest anxiety the Empress Alexandra had was to know the fate of her friends, and of all those in whom she had taken interest, and who might for that reason be in danger. She anxiously scanned the papers for details of Mme. Vyrubova's arrest, for she knew that she was hated, and dared not think what might happen to her. The fact that they had become a danger to their friends was brought home to the Imperial Family by the effect of any chance words spoken to officers of the guard. One of these was spoken to by one of the Grand Duchesses, and was at once looked on with suspicion. Another kissed the hand of one of the girls in greeting, as was the usual Russian custom. The men wanted him imprisoned for his anti-revolutionary conduct! For hours shouts were heard from the guardroom, where the soldiers held a meeting to discuss the Matter, and the officer in question, who had before this been quite unknown to the Imperial Family, was never seen. again. He was "pardoned," and escaped actual imprisonment, but was removed from the Palace Guard and sent to the front.

Little by little the Empress began to realise the passionate animosity that was felt against her personally. it did not make her angry. "Poor creatures!" she used to say, "they have been misled it is an illness like measles." An insight into the Empress's mental attitude at the time can be gained by the following letter to Mme. Dehn:

June 5th, 1917

Oh, how pleased I am that they have appointed a new Commander-in-Chief of the Baltic fleet [Admiral Rostosov]. I hope to God it will be better now. He is a real sailor, and I hope he will succeed in restoring order now. The heart of a soldier's daughter and wife is suffering terribly in seeing what is going on. Cannot get accustomed and do not wish to. They were such hero soldiers, and how they were spoilt just at a time when it was necessary to start to get rid of the enemy [Germans]. It will take many years to fight yet. You will understand how he [the Emperor] must suffer. He reads and tears stand in his eyes [newspapers] but I believe they will yet win [the war]. We have so many friends in the fighting line. I can imagine how terribly they must suffer. Of course nobody can write. Yesterday we saw quite new people [new guard] - such a difference. It was at last quite a pleasure to see them. Am writing again what I ought not to, but this does not go by post or you would not have received it. Of course I have nothing of interest to write. Today is a prayer at 12 o'clock. Anastasia is today 16 years old - how the time flies. . . . I am remembering the past. It is necessary to look more calmly on everything. What is to be done? Once He sent us such trials, evidently He thinks we are sufficiently prepared for it. It is a sort of examination-it is necessary to prove that we did not go through it in vain. One can find in everything something good and useful. Whatever sufferings we go through - let it be. He will give us force and patience and will not leave us. He is merciful. It is only necessary to bow to His wish without murmur and await there, on the other side. He is preparing to all who love Him undescribable joy. You are young and so are our children - how many I have besides my own. You will see better times yet here. I believe strongly the bad will pass and there will be clear and cloudless sky. But the thunderstorm has not passed yet and therefore it is stifling - but I know it will be better afterwards. One must only have a little patience-and is it really so difficult? For every day that passes quietly I thank God. . . .

Three months have passed now [since Revolution]!! The people were promised that they would have more food and fuel, but all has become worse and more expensive. They have deceived everybody - I am so sorry for them. How many we have helped, but now it is all finished. . . . It is terrible to think about it! How many people depended on us. But now? But one does not speak about such things, but I am writing about it, because I feel so sadly about those who will have it more difficult now to live. But it is God's will! My dear own, I must finish now. Am kissing you and Titi most tenderly. Christ be with you.

Most hearty greetings [from the Emperor].

Your loving

Aunt BABY.

In our long tete-a-tete talks she often spoke to me about the events that had preceded the Revolution. Neither she nor the Emperor ever said a bitter word about all those who had abandoned them so heartlessly, or about the Ministers whose mismanagement of affairs had led to the Revolution, or even about the Generals who, like Russki, had played such a dark and fatal part in the drama. When their names were mentioned, they were passed over in silence.

When he left Mohileff, the Emperor had ordered all his suite to give their faithful service to the Provisional Government. This seemed to him the only way to save Russia. He himself reverently made the sign of the cross when the Provisional Government was prayed for in church. He wanted to inculcate this spirit into all those around him, and noticing that I did not follow his example, he remarked upon it, saying that I should not forget that it was Russia for which I was praying. Both the Emperor and Empress anxiously followed the trend of political events. They read the papers, no matter how painful they were to them personally, and the impression he gained of the helplessness and indecision of the Government filled the Emperor with anxiety. He dreaded the effect of the disorganization and demoralization of the army on the prosecution of the war. Taking the Palace Guard as specimens of what the army had become, its condition was the greatest anxiety to them both. The Emperor realised the mistaken judgments on his own part that had led in some measure to the cataclysm. For some time, however, the Empress continued to believe that all the harm had arisen from revolutionary propaganda, and from the fact that the Duma, had not supported the Government and had allowed sedition to work undisturbed. She was constantly thinking about these things, turning events over in her mind; and by degrees I think she began to see that she and the Emperor had made many political mistakes, and given their confidence to people who had mismanaged affairs. This thought was only an additional source of distress to her, and she was never completely disillusioned about the Ministers who had given such fatal advice. For many years she had believed that bad luck pursued the Emperor and herself. For Alexei Nicholaevich, on the other hand, she had the greatest hopes. She was ready to bear everything in order that he might come into his inheritance. His reign should be glorious; he should institute the reforms for which his parents would slowly prepare. She believed, with a fatalism that she shared with the Emperor, that they were the scapegoats for all the errors committed in previous reigns. Perhaps the lives of all princes were too easy; they had to suffer as an expiation for the good things taken without thought by preceding generations.

The Empress longed for church services, and it was a comfort to her when in Holy Week they were allowed in the Palace chapel. The first service was held on Palm Sunday, April 8th. Father Vassilieff was prevented by illness from coming, so the Cathedral priest, Father Beliaev, came with a deacon and four singers. The priest was an old man, and there were tears in his eyes all the time he celebrated his first Mass in these conditions. It was a poignant moment when he brought out the Blessed Sacrament. This was the point in the service when he would have prayed for the Emperor. His emotion was so great that he could not utter the words of the new ritual, and turned away in silence. He was a kindly man, and the short morning sermon he preached every Sunday always contained a few words of consolation. The clergy stayed in the Palace all through Holy Week, but were not allowed to see or speak to anyone between the services. The singers whiled away the time between Mass and Vespers by singing the saddest dirges which resounded all through the Palace. The Imperial Family were prayed for in church by their names and patronymics, but in order not to irritate the guard their titles were not used.

The Imperial Family and the whole Household went to church twice daily during Holy Week preparatory to receiving the Sacrament. On Good Friday all went to confession and I happened to go first. To my astonishment, a soldier followed me into the chapel, and I waited for him to go before beginning my confession. The priest was waiting, but the man showed no intention of departing. The idea then flashed through my mind that the soldier meant to listen to the confessions of the Emperor and Empress and was beginning with me. This was too much. 1 turned politely to the man and told him that, as I was going to confess, he had better leave. As I expected, he refused to do so. A lively debate ensued, from which I emerged triumphant. I pointed out to the man that no order had been given by the Government for such an unheard-of thing as a public confession. Even condemned criminals had the right of seeing the priest without witnesses. I asked him to call his chief, as I wished to ask him to telephone to Kerensky. Sweating loudly, the man brought his officer, who decided the matter in my favour without ringing up Petrograd, and I secured at least the privilege of undisturbed confession for their Majesties. But the whole guard was pacified with difficulty, and their suspicion of the clergy was so great that during Mass a soldier stood all the time behind the altar screen watching the priest. The inhabitants of the Palace were indeed never able to forget the presence of hostile soldiers in the town, for detachments marched past the gates once or twice every day, stopping before the Palace to play the "Marseillaise" or a particularly melancholy funeral march.

On Maundy Thursday the usual Holy Communion might not be celebrated, as the funeral of the Tsarskoe Selo victims of the Revolution had been arranged for that day. The Communion service was postponed until Saturday, and though Mass was said on Thursday, it was at the same moment as the funeral, and the voice of the priest was often drowned by the "Marseillaise" and "Internationale," played by brass bands outside. The victims were buried with great state in the Park in the centre of a broad avenue leading to the Palace. The original idea had been to dig the graves under the Palace windows, but this had to be abandoned owing to lack of space. The civic funeral ceremony lasted the best part of the morning and afternoon. Thousands of workmen and soldiers came to the function carrying banners and placards on which were mottoes of every shade of socialistic and communistic thought. They made incendiary speeches in front of the red coffins, the bands playing appropriate music, varied from time to time by a funeral match. This was the only concession to old-time prejudice, for every sign of anything reminiscent of a religious ceremony was carefully avoided. As the speeches became more and more heated, the commander and officers of the Palace Guard grew alarmed. They saw the increasing hostility of the crowd, and feared an onslaught on the Palace. As the roars of the mourners grew louder and louder, the elements intervened, and very probably saved the Imperial Family's lives. A wind arose which developed in the course of half an hour into a hurricane. The sky grew black, and a tremendous snowstorm descended. The army of red banners fluttered desperately in the wind, many were torn from their staves, and the old trees swayed and creaked. The orators were blinded by the snow, and obliged to cling to their caps and comforters in the ever-increasing blast, so the flow of eloquence stopped, and one detachment after another tramped away, till the vast park was empty, leaving only a few torn red flags flapping in the wind on the site of the "civic graves."

On Good Friday the solemn procession of " The Holy Winding-Sheet " took place in the Palace with nearly all the usual ceremonies. The servants in the black liveries of full court mourning headed the procession, the Emperor and his family, with the Household, followed the priest, the ladies in long black dresses , the lighted tapers they carried throwing fantastic shadows on the dimly lighted walls. A less militant detachment than usual was on guard, and some of the men stood about in the big empty halls and watched the procession pass, without comment or interruption. The customary night service was held on Easter Eve, and the authorities allowed their Majesties to attend this and the usual Easter meal that followed it. It was a concession, as it was at a time when there might be no meeting between the Emperor and Empress, and was allowed only on condition that they should stand at some distance from each other in church, and that the commander and officers on guard should be present at the supper. This was a dismal repast, like a meal in a house of mourning. The Empress could scarcely bring herself to exchange a few words with Count Benckendorff who sat beside her, her other neighbour being Father Beliaeff, to whom she dared not talk for fear it might compromise him. The Emperor and the Grand Duchesses Tatiana and Anastasia, who alone of the children were present, were quite silent, and only the commander, Colonel Korovitchenko, and Mme. Narishkin kept up a strained conversation. The officer of the guard - quite a youth - seemed to choke at every morsel, and was so ill at ease that he could scarcely manage to say a couple of words. Before sitting down to the Easter repast, the Emperor had kissed all the gentlemen of the Household and the officers and men three times, according to Russian custom. The Empress did the same to the ladies, and, as she had always done, presented the gentlemen of the Household, the commander and the officers with china Easter eggs. The commander accepted his, but even here he emphasised the changed circumstances by ostentatiously brushing past the Empress, who had stepped towards him, to greet her ladies first, turning to her casually as an afterthought.

After Easter the tedium of the long days was a little relieved by the whole Household's taking a share in the Imperial children's lessons. Only M. Gilliard was left of their regular teachers, and their parents did not want their education to lapse. The Emperor undertook to teach his son history, of which he himself had always been a student, the Empress taught him the Catechism, Mlle. Schneider mathematics, and Dr. Botkin Russian. Countess Hendrikov started art lessons with the Grand Duchess Tatiana, and I was entrusted with piano lessons for all the three younger Grand Duchesses and English lessons for them and Alexei Nicholaevich. It helped to while away the time, and in this way the whole day could be occupied. In April, as the spring advanced, the Imperial Family were allowed to stay out longer in the garden. They had all suffered greatly from want of air and exercise. Every day, from three till four-thirty or five, the Imperial Family, with their suite and any servants who wished, were allowed to go into the garden set apart for their use. Sentries were posted round it at short distances from one another, and in addition a detachment of soldiers, with one or two officers in command, kept close to them during the whole time they were out. It would have been a pleasant change, if it had not been for the conduct of many of the soldiers. Notwithstanding this their Majesties went out every day, the Empress being wheeled in her bath-chair. She was not allowed to use her balcony, the door leading to which was sealed by order of the soldiers. The men seemed to be particularly irritated by her chair and her sad face, and swore loudly at her for not being made to walk. They always insulted the servant who pushed her chair, and once when he was replaced by the Tsarevich's sailor attendant, Nagorni, the men were so incensed at his serving "the Tyrant's wife" that he got letters from the men of his company, condemning him to death. All the inhabitants of the Palace assembled before these outings in the semi-circular hall. The guard and officers arrived, and, after unlocking the doors with much ceremony, made the Imperial party and the servants file out before them, the soldiers bringing up the rear. There was often deliberate delay with the key. Once it could not be found, the officer of the preceding guard having gone away with it, and the Emperor and Empress were ordered back to their rooms. When they went out there was generally a band of soldiers loitering about, who made insulting remarks, gibing at the family as they passed. All the benches and the walls were scribbled over with the coarsest insults. The officers tried to get the men back into the guard- room, but usually with little success. When the party came back, they were again standing to watch them pass. The Emperor and Empress pretended neither to see not hear, but often, when the Empress's chair was drawn up under some shady tree, the lines on her face and her flushed cheek would show that she had heard what was said. It hurt her beyond words to see the men's disrespect to the Emperor. Some would scarcely even answer his polite greeting with their usual "Good morning, Colonel." Once, at the beginning of his imprisonment, the Emperor got his bicycle, and started to ride along the path. When he passed the sentry, the man put his bayonet through the wheel and it was only his extreme agility that saved the Emperor from a bad accident, while the men burst into loud guffaws. No one ever bicycled after that. The garden was very small, and as walking or running round and round it for two hours was very dull, the idea was started of making a kitchen garden in which all could work. This was allowed, and the Emperor and his daughters worked vigorously in the garden with the servants' help. The soldiers looked on, and sometimes one or other of them would give the young Grand Duchesses advice about their work. On the whole they were better disposed towards the children than to their parents, and the little Tsarevich was often looked at kindly by the soldiers, though they always called him by his name, "Alexei," for fear their comrades should think them undemocratic.

Above: Building a kitchen garden; Sophie Buxhoeveden and Tatiana carry clods of earth in the palace park while Nicholas looks on from the right.

Exercise in the garden did the Emperor a great deal of good. At the beginning the soldiers had taken him for walks in the park, but while the trees were bare he could be seen, and the public began to assemble outside the railings whence they could catch sight of him. Some came out of loyalty, but the majority out of curiosity, and these walks were discontinued at the Emperor's request. While the others gardened, the Empress sat by with her needlework. The soldiers always kept close to her, listening to her talk (We were only allowed to speak Russian). They often smoked their vile tobacco straight into her face, or exchanged gross jokes to see their effect on her. Once when the Empress was sitting on a rug under a tree, I got up from my seat beside her to pick up something she had dropped. A soldier immediately took my place, remarking in reply to my protests that " now it was turn about." The Empress edged a little bit away, making a sign to me to be silent, for she was afraid that the whole family would be taken home, and the children robbed of an hour's fresh air. The man seemed to her not to have a bad face, and she was soon engaged in conversation with him. At first he cross-questioned her, accusing her of "despising" the people, of showing by not travelling about that she did not want to know Russia. Alexandra Feodorovna quietly explained to him that, as in her young days she had had five children and nursed them all herself, she had not had time to go about the country, and that, afterwards, her health had prevented her. He seemed to be struck by this reasoning and, little by little, he grew more friendly. He asked the Empress about her life, about her children, her attitude towards Germany, etc. She answered in simple words that she had been a German in her youth, but that was long past. Her husband and her children were Russians, and she was a Russian too, now, with all her heart. When I came back with the officer, who seemed a decent man, and to whom I had risked appealing, fearing that the soldier might annoy the Empress, I found them peacefully discussing questions of religion. The soldier got up on our approach, and took the Empress's hand, saying "Do you know, Alexandra Feodorovna, I had quite a different idea of you? I was mistaken about you." It was the more striking because this man was the deputy of the Soviet. When he came on guard the next time he was quite polite.

It generally happened that when the soldiers talked to the Emperor or the children their hostility disappeared. They saw they were not the cruel monsters they had been taught to believe. But they were always more hostile to the Empress, and showed by their conduct the sort of propaganda that had been at work among them.

The Soviets feared that the guard might relax their vigilance, and nearly always deputed a "sovietsky" soldier to spy on the others and on the officers. This deputy was a much more important personage than the rest of the guard. At one time a whole detachment was entirely composed of members of the Soviet. They began in a very aggressive way, and at once laid down new rules, but on the next day, for some unknown reason, they were more amenable and did not give any trouble. As a rule, the guard were always suspicious of their prisoners. Late one evening they created a great disturbance in the children's rooms, as one of the men had raised a scare of " signalling."It turned out that one of the Grand Duchesses had inadvertently moved a lampshade which had seemed to give flashes of light from the window. The Tsarevich's little model rifle excited the greatest suspicion. It was taken away, and long discussions and shouts were heard from the guardroom, the soldiers maintaining that "they were armed." There were spies everywhere, and some of the underservants spied upon us, repeating what we said in the guardroom. We once found a footman kneeling at a door, listening to the conversation inside, so even in our rooms we had to be careful not to say anything that could be misinterpreted. In the garden the soldiers were continually on the watch. A word in French to M. Gilliard, whose Russian was very bad at that time, would be followed by great unpleasantness. Towards the end of the time at Tsarskoe, an assistant commander, Damadianz, was always hiding in the bushes when the Empress was in the garden, listening to everything she said. Neither parents nor children complained of all this. "Funny, isn't it ?" was all the Grand Duchesses said. Their one idea was not to make things harder for their parents.

The Emperor had always hoped through everything that his great sacrifice for his country would bear fruit, and that the war would be won. Now nothing was heard of the great Russian advance that the Staff had planned for the spring. In spite of high-sounding phrases the war had become a secondary matter and the only thing spoken of was the glorious Revolution. Great was the Emperor's joy when at last, after numerous appeals to the army, Kerensky, now Minister for War, succeeded in making a small advance in June. The Empress and the children were equally delighted, and the Emperor begged to be allowed to have a thanksgiving service at the Palace. His face seemed to light up during this service. It was the only time since the Revolution that he looked like his former self. This was really Kerensky's victory. He had gone all through the country, haranguing the soldiers, and he certainly had the talent of moving the masses by his oratory. The Emperor and Empress began to think he might be the man to save the country. During the interviews they had with him Kerensky had impressed them with his patriotism. " That man loves Russia," the Emperor said, when Kerensky had spoken to him of the war. He had gained his respect, and the Emperor used to say that, if they had met before, he believed that, notwithstanding their very different political ideas, Kerensky could have been of great use to him in the Government. The Empress, also, gradually veered round towards Kerensky, looking at him from an impersonal point of view. She, too, hoped that he would be able to master the situation. In his dealings with the Emperor and herself, she had believed him to be honest and, as she said, "straight," and she believed that he meant to act with justice and equity towards the Emperor. As she said, he had always been a Socialist, with the courage of his opinions, and had not changed his views to meet the fashion of the moment.

Their Majesties never breathed a word of resentment when the members of the Provisional Government took up their residence in the Imperial apartments in the Winter Palace, using the Emperor's own car and their various private possessions. If the Government in power could get the country out of its difficulties, it was welcome to anything. The Empress heard that Kerensky's health was bad, and always spoke pityingly of him, hoping that "the poor man would not break down before he had put things right."

Though the Bolshevik rising in July had been put down, the Government felt insecure, and were uneasy at having the Emperor so near the capital, where the extreme elements were always clamouring for stricter measures to be taken with the Imperial Family. On the other hand, they were in continual fear of attempts being made to release them. They, therefore, decided to remove the whole family to some out-of-the-way place, from which escape would be impossible and where attacks by the extremists could not be carried out. Doctor Botkin had spoken to Kerensky, on the occasion of one of his visits, of the necessity of a change of air for both the Empress and the children, and had suggested their being taken to Livadia. The Emperor also had proposed this when Kerensky had spoken to him about the necessity for a move from Tsarskoe; he seemed to have nothing against Livadia, though he had mentioned the alternative of some landed gentleman's country seat in the interior of the country, far from factories and large towns. He said that the removal would be "for their good," asking the Emperor if he believed him. The Emperor replied that he did.

The whole family rejoiced at the idea of Livadia, the Empress in particular, for she hoped that they would be left there for good, and that gradually they would be given more liberty. The mild climate would prevent them from suffering from the cold in winter as they had done at Tsarskoe, for the new administration had cut off supplies of fuel, and the rooms were insufficiently heated. She began to plan how she would settle the house, for her ladies and Prince Dolgorukov were to accompany them.

They were to be bitterly disappointed. Kerensky had sent Makarov, an engineer, accompanied by Count Benckendorff's assistant, to discuss details of the actual journey, but the destination to which they would be taken was not mentioned. It was only said that the ladies should take their furs. It was clear from this that they were not going to Livadia. Though the five months spent at Tsarskoe Selo had been filled with disappointment and humiliation, the contrast between their past life and their present one being always before them, the move meant to the Empress the drawing of a line between old happy days and an unknown future. Still, removal to another place in Russia meant a further deferring of the exile abroad that was so much dreaded by them all.

At Makarov's order, packing was begun very discreetly, so as not to suggest to the soldiers that there was any idea of departure. As August 12th was the Grand Duke Alexei's thirteenth birthday, a Te Deum was sung before the ikon of "Our Lady of Znamenie," which was specially brought to the Palace. Prayers for the success of the journey were added to the usual ones. The Emperor and Empress took leave of all the servants who were not going with them, and thanked -them for their faithful service. The Empress sorted out her dresses, and sent parcels of them to humble friends and Polish refugees, who were living at Tsarskoe Selo. The departure was fixed for the night of August 13th, but owing to some mistake on the part of the authorities it was delayed for hours. There were not enough men to move the luggage, which was to be taken at the last moment, and in the meantime the soldiers had got wind of the departure, and held meetings in all the barracks to discuss whether or not it should be allowed. The Emperor and Empress waited patiently for many hours till they were told they could leave. No one knew yet where they were being taken, and they only heard their actual destination when they were in the train.

At 11:30PM Kerensky arrived with the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich to see the Emperor. He was present at the interview between the brothers, who had not met since the abdication of the Emperor. Kerensky sat at the far end of the room, and, as the Emperor told me, tried not to listen to the conversation, but the brothers were so much upset that they could exchange only commonplace remarks. The Grand Duke asked to see the Empress, but this was not permitted. Neither was Alexei Nicholaevich allowed to say goodbye to his uncle whom he saw only through a chink in the doorway. By this time the departure was fixed for midnight and the whole Imperial Family went down ready dressed to the semi-circular hall. Here they sat for hours, a false alarm being raised about every thirty minutes. The luggage was being taken away. There were quantities of it, mostly bedding or things belonging to the kitchen and pantry. All the doors were open, and officers and men were continually coming in and out. The Empress and her children sat about , the poor little boy, green with fatigue, perched on a box, and holding his favorite spaniel "Joy " by a leash. The Emperor talked to his gentlemen through the long weary wait. Once or twice they went back to their rooms to rest, but were immediately recalled by news that the cars were coming. All the delay was really caused by Kerensky's endeavors to get the soldiers' Soviets to agree to the departure. He spent nearly the whole night haranguing the men, and finally reappeared about six in the morning to say that they could now start.

All through that sad night the Empress had seen her life at Tsarskoe passing before her. She left a letter for me with a few piteous words of farewell. In this, for the first time, she spoke of her feelings. "What shall the future bring to my poor children?" she wrote, "My heart breaks thinking of them."

Kerensky and Colonel Kuzmin, the commander of the Petrograd military district, a dark-faced, sinister looking man, watched the departure from the background. Kerensky's naval A.D.C. looked on with mild interest, alert, however, for the slightest sign from his chief. The "State prisoners" were hurried into the waiting cars, a mounted escort riding beside them at top speed to the station. The Empress's face was ashy white as she went out of the door of her home for the last time. Count Benckendorff and I were left alone on the steps to see them drive away: all the others went with them. The Empress wrote to me later that she felt the whole force of their them. The Empress wrote to me later that she felt the whole force of their desolation when she saw our lonely figures and the expression of our faces. We were so much overcome by the tragedy we were watching that we both leant against the wall, unable even to wave a hand or make a sign of farewell.

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Alexandra Feodorovna was the last Romanov Empress of Imperial Russia. This online book - The Life and Tragedy of Alexandra Feororvna was written by Countess Sophie Buxhoeveden, Lady-in-Waiting to the Empress, who served the Empress for many years and followed the Imperial family into exile.
Table Of Contents
  1. Early Surroundings
  2. Childhood
  3. A Young Princess
  4. Engagement
  5. Marriage
  6. Her New Home
  7. Coronation
  8. Journeys
  9. Charities and Life
  10. Queen Victoria
  11. Foreign Trips
  12. Birth of Alexis
  13. Gathering Clouds
  14. On the Standart
  15. Rasputin
  16. Her Family
  17. Empress at Home
  18. Last Years of Peace
  19. Wartime 1914
  20. War Work
  21. Without the Emperor
  22. Visits to Headquarters
  23. Before the Storm
  24. Warning Voices
  25. Rasputin's Murder
  26. Revolution 1917
  27. Abdication of the Emperor
  28. Prisoners
  29. Five Weary Months
  30. Tobolsk
  31. Ekaterinburg 1918
Alexander Palace Time Machine   Empress of Russia