Last Days at Tsarskoe Selo

Part One

Last days at Tsarskoe Selo, being the personal notes and memories of Count Paul Benckendorff; telling of the last sojourn of the Emperor & Empress of Russia at Tsarskoe Selo from March 1 to August 1, 1917

translated by Maurice Baring

An Account of the last days spent by the Emperor of Russia and his Family, at the Alexander Palace, at Tsarskoe Selo, during the time they were detained there, from the 1st of March to the 1st of August, 1917.

Written at St. Petersburg , in the summer of 1919.

In the course of Sunday, February 27, 1917, the revolution, which for some days had raged in St. Petersburg, spread through the whole city; the troops, reserve battalions, ill-recruited and ill-led, had nearly all of them gone over to the side of the revolution., and towards evening only a few battalions remained faithful to the Emperor and to their oath. These occupied the Winter Palace and the Admiralty. The revolutionaries were victorious in the town.

At Tsarskoe Selo everything was quiet.

Towards 10 o'clock in the evening, General Grooten, Assistant Commandant of the Palaces, came to tell me that the Minister of War, General Belyaev, had just telephoned him that, at a meeting of the Council of Ministers which had been held at the Palace, at which Rodzianko (President of the Duma) had assisted, the latter had warned the ministers that the Empress was in danger, that she should start as soon as possible, for nobody could answer for her safety on the morrow.

Right: Nicholas II at General Headquarters

We went with Grooten to the telephone and got on to Voeykov, who was at Mohilev (General Headquarters of the Army). After having told him that the whole town of St. Petersburg was in the, hands of the revolutionaries and having communicated what Belyaev had said, I begged him to ask the Emperor for orders about the departure of the Empress and her children, who were nearly all of them at that time ill with measles. The Emperor, in answer, gave orders that the train should be ready and that the Empress should be told nothing until the next morning, but he himself would start in the night for Tsarskoe Selo, where he would arrive early on the 1st of March. Voeykov asked me to get the Minister of War to communicate with him by special line. I rang up General Belyaev on the telephone to transmit this order, and he repeated to me what he had already told Grooten, that the danger was very serious, and that he was about to give Voeykov fun details. We arranged with Grooten that everything should be ready for starting the next day, and that we should present ourselves to the Empress the next morning at 10 o'clock.

During the night of the 27th-28th February towards 5 o'clock in the morning, General Khabalov (In command of the military district of St. Petersburg) telephoned to me that he was holding the Winter Palace with such troops as had remained faithful, that these troops were dying of hunger, and he implored me to help them in providing him with Court provisions which be thought were at the Palace. I told him that there was very little left, and that I would give orders for all that there was to be given to him. The despairing attitude of the General, the panic which was plain in all his words, proved to me that there was no more hope and that resistance could only last a few more hours. Shortly afterwards, when I rang up General Komarov on the telephone in order to tell him to give General Khabalov and General Anichkov all the provisions that they could collect which belonged to the Court, or to the hospital, which was established in the Palace, he told me that the troops had just evacuated the Palace and had entrenched themselves in the Admiralty.

The 28th of February, at 9 o'clock in the morning, Apraksin, whom I had told to come to Tsarskoe the night before, telephoned me that he had arrived at the station on foot and that the town was entirely in the hands of the revolutionaries.

Left: Empress Alexandra

The Empress received us at 10 o'clock in the morning. After we had informed H.M. of what had happened on the eve and had told her that the whole town was in the hands of the rebels, and that the Emperor had left Mohilev and expected to be at Tsarskoe the next morning at 6 o'clock, the Empress told us that in no case would she consent to leave by herself, and that owing to the state of her children's health, especially that of the Heir-Apparent, departure with them was completely out of the question. Consequently, it was decided that they should not start, but await the arrival of the Emperor.

Towards 11 o'clock, Apraksin arrived and had luncheon with us and told us what had happened in the city during the last days. At 11:30 Grooten came to tell us that the managers of the railways had informed him that in two hours all the railway lines would be cut, and that if there was any idea of starting, it should be done at once. As it was impossible to start so hurriedly, we decided not even to make the proposal.

The day of the 28th was spent quietly at Tsarskoe. Many motor-cars, however, arrived from St. Petersburg carrying soldiers, evidently with the object of making propaganda in the garrison.

After dinner, towards 8 o'clock, they came to tell us that rifle shots and even salvos had been heard in the barracks and garrison. Later we heard music and songs. I cross questioned Putyatin I as to what was happening, and he told me that a contingent of the regiment of the Guards of Petersburg, which had refused to surrender to the rebels, had arrived in the barracks, that quarrels and brawls had arisen; but since they had received orders to start for Gatchina he thought that order would be restored afterwards. Shortly afterwards we heard that the whole garrison had left the barracks armed, without their officers, and that the Emperor's escort, the combined regiment, and all the troops who were under the Commandant of the Palace, had been mobilized and assembled in the courtyard of the Alexander Palace. My wife and I then started in Putyatin's sledge for the Alexander Palace.

Left: Soldiers demonstrating in Petrograd (St. Petersburg)

In the courtyard of the Palace we found the following troops: two battalions of the combined regiment, one battalion of the Guards, 1200 strong, two squadrons of the Cossacks of the Emperor's escort, one company of the 1st railway regiment and one heavy field battery. These troops had been under the orders of the General on duty, Grooten, who had replaced General Voeykov, Commandant of the Palace, and who was on the General Staff of the Emperor. Shouts were heard the whole time, songs, music and shots in the direction of the barracks and of the garrison. We knew that reserve battalions of three regiments of Guard Rifles had left the Palace, armed, had released the prisoners from the prisons, shouted seditious sentiments and had joined the mutineers of St. Petersburg. They would sometimes approach the guarded enclosure of the Palace and then withdraw. The night was spent awaiting an attack, but happily this was limited to a skirmish between a patrol and some hooligans. Nevertheless, the officers were very anxious, as the moral of the Guard and of the Artillery and of the railway troops was not good. The Cossacks and the combined regiment were all of them loyal and ready to do their duty. The Emperor was expected to arrive at 6 o'clock in the morning. When we arrived at the Palace we found the Empress in the corridor. She took my wife into her sitting-room and suggested that she should spend the night there. The following people were in the Palace: Baroness Buxhoeveden, Mlle. Schneider ("Lectrice" to the Empress.), Count Apraksin, Count Adam Zamoyski, A.D.C. to the Emperor, Prince Putyatin, General Dobrovolsky, Dr. Botkin, Dr. Derevenko, M. Gilliard, the tutor of the Heir-Apparent. General Grooten and the officers in command of the regiment were at the telephone exchange where news was constantly arriving. The Empress consented to inspect the troops who were assembled in the courtyard in order to greet them. She went out, accompanied by the Grand Duchess Marie Nicholaevna, Count Apraksin and myself. Some of the troops answered in a surly fashion which made a bad impression. There were 18 degrees of frost, Reaumur. The troops were suffering greatly and were brought in by groups into the corridor of the basement so that they might get warm, and were given tea. The Empress went through the rooms where her children were ill to the drawing-room where were my wife and Baroness Buxhoeveden. She brought pillows and blankets for the ladies. Tea was brought. At night she slept dressed on her bed and got up constantly to go into the drawing-room to give any news which she had received. Among other things, she told us that the rebels had searched for Count Freedericsz at St. Petersburg and, not being able to find him, had set fire to his house. Countess Freedericsz, who was ill had been transferred to the hospital of the Gardes á Cheval.

Apraksin and myself spent the night in the room of the Emperor's servant. Towards 2 o'clock in the morning the noise from the barracks lessened and some of our troops were sent to their quarters. About 8 o'clock in the morning General Grooten came to tell me that both the Emperor's trains had been stopped at the station of Malaya Vishera, on the Nicholas line, and under the most favorable conditions the Emperor could not arrive until after 12 o'clock. Shortly afterwards, officers of the regiments of the railways announced to us that rebels had arrived from St. Petersburg, and stopped the trains, telling them that they would not be allowed to go to Tsarskoe, but only as far as St. Petersburg.

The Emperor could have travelled from Mohilev to Tsarskoe if his train had followed that of General Ivanov which, with the battalion of the Knights of St. George, had arrived on the 1st of March without difficulty. Unhappily, for technical reasons, the Vyazma/Bologoe route had been chosen. It was longer, but it was chosen so that there should be no interference with the movements of the troop trains. The second train arrived at Malaya Vishera towards 1 o'clock in the morning, and as the news there was bad, the Commandant decided to await the Emperor's train. On its arrival General Voeykov was roused, took the Emperor's orders and decided to go back to Pskov, whence he thought it would be easy to reach Tsarskoe Selo. The choice of this route was fatal. If the Emperor had gone back to the Staff Headquarters, or to Minsk, to the headquarters of General Ewers, or to the army composed of the three groups of the Guard, the unfortunate events which followed would not have taken place. General Ewers had depleted the troops who were already in the train ready to start, to put down the revolution in St. Petersburg and in Moscow. The corps of the Guard had done the same thing. The moral of these troops was still sound and openly monarchical. General Ivanov could, with his troops, easily have put down the mutineers in the capitals. The Emperor would not have fallen under the pernicious influence of General Russki (Commander-in-Chief of the Western Front until November 1915. Killed by the Bolsheviks), who was himself openly republican, and from whose revolutionary propaganda the army had suffered the most. The Emperor, surrounded by faithful troops, would have been able to speak and act quite differently than under the influence of surroundings which were already undermined by revolutionary ideas.

The 1st of March passed quietly enough at the Palace. The Empress understood the whole gravity of the situation, and was anxious because of the lack of news from her husband. No more telegrams arrived; the news from St. Petersburg was vague but, as far as it went, bad. It was already clear that, alongside of the provisional Government, another executive of workmen and soldiers was being constituted, whose activities were very dangerous.

My wife and I returned towards 10 o'clock in the morning to the Lyceum, and we did not get back to the Palace until 3 o'clock in the afternoon. We settled down in Countess Hendrikova's (Lady-in-waiting to the Empress. Murdered at Ekaterinburg) apartment, Apraksin in the little room next door. I spent the first three nights fully dressed on a sofa, for there were alarms every night. Towards 5 o'clock in the afternoon the Grand Duke Paul called on the Empress. He was in a state of violent excitement. He said a few words to the troops assembled in the courtyard which made a painful impression on all of us. The conversation with Her Majesty was extremely heated. Besides the people already mentioned there was at the Palace a Madame Vyrubova. She, too, had measles and was being looked after by a Sister of Charity, by a friend of hers, Madame Dehn and by her relations, M. and Mme. Taneyev. All these people were living in the so-called "English" apartments, in the left wing of the Palace. Their presence was a serious complication. The accusations, only too well-founded, made against them in conse-quence of the events in the month of December, the part which Mme. Vyrubova had played in these events and in those which had brought them about, had excited the hatred and the temper of the populace to a high degree. It was absolutely necessary to get them away as soon as possible, but it was only after a few days' time that I succeeded in getting M. and Mme. Taneyevna to leave. Mme. Vyrubova and Mme. Dehn only left the Palace some weeks later, when they were arrested. The night of the 1st - 2nd March was disturbed, because trains were running without ceasing between St. Petersburg and Srednyaya Rogatka, and the Cossack patrols were continually reporting that revolutionary troops were assembling to attack the Palace. Fortunately nothing of the kind happened. Towards morning we learnt that the company of the regiment of the railways which was in barracks in Srednyaya Rogatka, had assassinated its two officers and had started for St. Petersburg to join the rebels.

The battalion of the Guard left Tsarskoe, according to an order from St. Petersburg (given it was said by the Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich, first cousin of the Emperor), leaving at Tsarskoe its colours and all its officers. The latter remained faithful to their duty up to the Emperor's abdication. The moral of the troops was lowering noticeably. At the end of March the commanding officers arranged a kind of armistice with the garrison of Tsarskoe. It was arranged on both sides that troops wearing a white armlet should not act one against the other, that the Alexander Palace should not be attacked, and that the garrison of the Palace should take no part in the events which were happening in the town.

Towards 11 o'clock in the morning, while I was with the Empress, General Grooten came and presented to her, from the Grand Duke Paul (Grand Duke Paul, younger brother of the Emperor Alexander III. Shot Jan. 27, 1919, in the fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul.), an envelope containing a draft of a manifesto granting a Constitution. This had been drawn up in the night by Prince Putyatin. The Empress even then put aside the idea of making concessions during war time, took the paper after the contents had been communicated to her, and it was never seen again.

No news from the town reached us, because no telephones were working between Tsarskoe and St. Petersburg. General Grooten and the commandants remained permanently in the Palace at the telephone exchange. Disorders had broken out in the town of Tsarskoe. Wine merchants' shops had been looted and a great many drunken people were about.

Right: Demostrators in Petrograd

On the afternoon of the 3rd of March the rumour of the abdication of the Emperor, which was vague at first, began to circulate. Towards 4 o'clock the rumours became so substantial that. I thought it my duty to inform the Empress of them. The Empress could not imagine that the Emperor could have taken so momentous a step so hurriedly, especially since he knew that the Heir-Apparent was so ill. About 5 o'clock we already received in the Palace sheets which had been printed hastily in the city, announcing the abdication of the Emperor in favour of his brother, the Grand Duke Michael, the renunciation of the latter of the throne, until such a time as the Constitution Assembly should have elected him, and the definite establishment of a Provisional Government. Some moments later the Grand Duke Paul reached the Palace to announce this terrible event to the Empress. He was greatly moved; his excitement of the night before had completely left him, and he communicated the news to Her Majesty as delicately as possible. When he left her, he told me that all was lost, that Russia was in the hands of the worst revolutionaries, and that the Emperor and Empress should try to leave as soon as possible for abroad. Consternation was general. The officers had tears in their eyes. After dinner, towards 9 o'clock, Baroness Buxhoeveden, Count Apraksin and myself reported to the Empress. She was very brave and said that the Emperor had preferred to abdicate the crown rather than to break the oath which he had made at his coronation to maintain and to transfer to his heir the autocrat such as he bad inherited it from his father. The illegality of abdicating in favour of his brother and thereby violating the rights of his son did not strike her, and, like the Emperor, she did not face the fact that they would be separated from their son; this must inevitably have happened if the Emperor's brother had ascended the throne. As we went out, I saw that she sat down at the table and burst into tears.

This night again there were disturbances owing to the troops, but the Empress, her children and the staff were able to sleep quietly.

During the next days, the troops of our garrison became more and more downhearted. They began to say that as the Emperor had abdicated, they were absolved from their oath, and that they would make their submission to the Provisional Government. The officers and commanders, after grave consideration, finished by acquiescing in their, wishes, and a deputation consisting of officers and men was formed. It started in the night for St. Petersburg, taking an address containing their act of submission, but also a declaration that they would do their duty to the end in order to protect the Emperor's family and the Alexander Palace. This deputation was received in the night by Rodzianko, who said a few words of approbation to them. When this was over, the moral of the troops was completely restored and routine went on as before. On the next day the police of the palace as well as the servants on duty took the same step with my consent.

These days were extremely agitated owing to the numerous arrests that had been made at Tsarskoe. Prince Putyatin was arrested, General Dobrovolsky, Colonel Gerardi of the Police, N. A. Alexandrov, and, finally, General Grooten, who was summoned treacherously to the town by the newly appointed commandant and arrested. All these were detained for several days in the school-buildings of Tsarskoe, then transferred to the fortress at St. Petersburg. At the station they were insulted in word and in deed by the populace.

Colonel Ressin, who commanded the combined regiments, was made Commandant of the Palace. We had no further communication with the new authorities. I proposed that we should send somebody to the capital, to see Rodzianko, so as to be in touch with the Provisional Government. The Empress chose Captain Linevich, A.D.C. to the Emperor, who was in command of a patrol of Horse Artillery of the Guard at Pavlovsk. It was arranged by telephone that Rodzianko should receive him under the parliamentary colours, that a train should be sent from the town to Srednyaya Rogatka to meet the captain, that he should be considered as a parliamentary envoy, and brought back in the same way to Tsarskoe. He received his orders from the Empress, started, and we never heard of him again. He was never seen again, neither at Tsarskoe nor at Pavlovsk. Dr. Botkin was in an ace of being arrested at St. Petersburg at a patient's house by the soldiers, and he was only saved by the presence of mind of the patient's wife.

Right: Guchov

On the 5th of March, towards 10 o'clock in the evening, I was warned that the Ministers of War and of the Admiralty, A. I. Guchkov and General Kornilov, who had arrived on the same day from the front to take over the duties of Commander-in-Chief of the troops at St. Petersburg, were at Tsarskoe, and that they would come the same evening to the Palace to have an audience with the Empress. Her Majesty at once summoned the Grand Duke Paul, who kept Her Majesty waiting half an hour, for he had already gone to bed. Towards 11 o'clock, Guchkov and Kornilov arrived, accompanied by about twenty persons who formed part of the new municipality of Tsarskoe - officers, soldiers and workmen. Guchkov asked me if we had all that we wanted, especially medical comforts. I told him that, materially, we were in want of nothing, but that we were considerably embarrassed by not being able to communicate with the new Government because all the envoys which we sent to them were arrested, and that it was impossible for us to telephone to any one. Guchkov understood that these objections were well-founded and said that from the next day onwards an officer should be sent by him, that the officer should remain at the Palace, and be at our disposal as an intermediary between us and him.

The Empress received Guchkov, as well as General Kornilov, in the presence of the Grand Duke Paul. Guchkov repeated the same question to Her Majesty which he had made to us, and Her Majesty told him that she had everything that she needed in the way of medical comforts, but that for the well being of her children, who were so ill, she begged him to ensure that order should be maintained around the Palace, that the troops which were guarding the Palace should not be attacked, and she commended to his care the town hospitals of Tsarskoe which she had looked after during the War, so that they should be provided with everything they needed. Guchkov promised that this should be done, and that he would give all the assistance he could. Throughout the audience some of the persons who accompanied the delegates walked about the Palace and spoke reprehensibly to the servants and to the soldiers. Some reproached them with their servile fidelity, others, on the contrary, with abandoning their masters in their hour of trouble. Happily the departure of Guchkov from the reception-room put an end to this scene, which was becoming unbearable.

There were alarms all through the night; there was no news of the Emperor, we knew he was at Mohilev, but we had no communication with him. All we learnt was that Count Freedericsz and Voeykov had been obliged to leave, the former for the Crimea, the latter for his estate at Penza; as soon as he arrived at Moscow he was arrested and taken to St. Petersburg. Count Freedericsz did not get farther than Homel, where he was recognized and insulted by the populace. He was obliged to turn back, and as soon as he arrived at St. Petersburg he was arrested at the station and taken to the Duma, where he remained several days. He was interned at the French "Hospice", and for five months he was ill-treated by the soldiers who were in charge of him.

During the days which preceded the return of the Emperor and the arrest of the Empress on the 7th of March, we received a visit from Madame Voeykova, who told us how the Freedericsz' house had been set on fire, and the terrible state in which old Countess Freedericsz had found herself. She was so ill that she was carried, first of to the hospital of the Gardes ÿ Cheval, where she was only kept one night, and then sent to several houses who would not take her in, and even the English hospital would only keep her for a few days.

On the same day, the 7th of March, D. Dehn came to us and was received by the Empress. He was in a state of appalling depression. He was living with his wife at the house of the Grand Duchess Xenia, and we learnt from him that the Empress-Mother had been to see the Emperor at G.H.Q. When he left us he went for a few moments to the Grand Palace, to his own apartments. He was at once arrested and was not set free until the next day.

Two days after Guchkov's visit he sent us Captain Kotzebue, who was attached to the Ministry of War, and who was to be the intermediary between the Palace and the Provisional Government. Kotzebue had served formerly in the regiment of the Lancers of the Guard, of which the Empress was Colonel. He had left the regiment and had only returned to the army for the War, and had been attached to the Ministry of War. He was an intelligent man, I think well-intentioned, but embarrassed by the false position in which he found himself. I arranged for him to be given an apartment 24 in the Lyceum. This state of things lasted for a few days. During this time the famous "Prikaz No." (Order No. 1) had been published in St. Petersburg, which did such a great deal of harm and led to the complete disorganization of the army. It was necessary that the troops which formed our garrison should at once hold elections for the command of the regiments, the battalions and the companies. The Cossacks of the regiments re-elected their former commanders, and in the two squadrons which were stationed at Tsarskoe everything went on perfectly well. The combined regiment blackballed its commanding officer, Ressin, the A.D.C. of the regiment, and one of the officers commanding a battalion, Colonel Baron de Graevenitz. Colonel Lazarev was elected to command the regiment. The remaining officers blamed his conduct on this occasion and accused him of intrigue. From this moment the moral of the regiment was shaken and discipline suffered. Colonel Ressin deprived of his post, remained at the Palace for some days as an intermediary with the troops of the garrison, but the part he played was negligible.

The A.D.C., General Ivanov, had been sent from G.H.Q. to command the troops which should have restored order at St. Petersburg. After the abdication of the Emperor all these troops had been kept mobilized and were sent back to the front. Ivanov had arrived at Tsarskoe Selo with a battalion of the Knights of St. George. He paid his respects at once to the Empress and explained to her that, deprived of his troops, he had been obliged to go back to G.H.Q., and he painted the situation for her in dark colours. This visit was interpreted in a malicious fashion by those who surrounded Her Majesty and did her great harm. She was accused of supporting Ivanov, whom the revolutionaries represented as a butcher and accused of shedding blood. It was an unfortunate incident.

Revolutionary newspapers containing articles and hateful caricatures arrived at the Palace in quantities, and we had the greatest trouble to prevent their falling into the hands of the Imperial family. We received quantities of anonymous letters which were dangerous, in the sense that they pretended to establish, relations between the Empress and the Germans with the object of bringing about a peace advantageous for Germany and shameful for Russia. This was an infamous calumny which for some time had been circulated in the country. Nothing could have been falser or more malicious. Neither the Emperor nor the Empress had ever dreamed of making a separate peace to the detriment of the Allies. The result of the War has proved only too well that their Majesties had every interest in bringing the War which had been forced upon them to a successful end, and that the fate of the whole dynasty depended on its successful issue. The people and the Army, on the other hand, were disgusted with the War, and, as the Imperial power had disappeared, the Army grumbled and we were brought swiftly to a disgraceful peace and to the distressing state of things in which our country finds itself to-day. Guchkov, during his first visit, had told me that the Emperor's suite which had the honour of wearing his badge on its shoulders, should continue to bear it; that he was himself a partisan of everything that was symbolic, and that everything that could recall the glories of the past was sacred in his eyes. A few days afterwards Colonel Ressin and Count Zamoyski, who were both A.D.C.'s to the Emperor, took off their badges and their shoulder-straps and came to me to ask me to do the same. They said that we had been spoken of at the Municipality of Tsarskoe, that threats had rained and that out obstinacy might be the cause of excesses against the Palace and of violence. I told them that for a change of uniform of this importance we must have either an order from the Emperor or from the Minister of War; that we heard nothing of the town, where the position of the suite must be more difficult than at the Alexander Palace, that the threats of which they spoke would become more and more violent as we submitted to them, and that they would be directed against other things if we took off our badges. The next day I received from St. Petersburg the circular which told us to remove our badges, giving us the right to wear civilian dress, and allowing the A.D.C. generals to hand in their resignations in spite of the War. The Empress then ordered us to change our epaulets on the eve of the return of the Emperor.

Two days before the 7th of March, Madame E. A. Narishkina arrived from St. Petersburg to settle in the Alexander Palace, and occupied the rooms of the late Prince Orbeliani. The same day that the Empress was arrested, Countess Nastinka Hendrikova arrived from Kislovodsk, whence she had started as soon as she had received the news of the revolution and of the abdication of the Emperor. She took up her abode in Colonel Ressin's rooms which he evacuated the same day.

On the morning of the 8th of March I was informed that General Kornilov, Commander-in-Chief, was at Tsarskoe, and that he was expected at the Palace every moment. He arrived, accompanied by the Commandant of the town of Tsarskoe, by Colonel Kobylinsky, Commandant of the garrison of Tsarskoe, Captain de Kotzebue and several officers. He told me that he wished to see the Empress in order to inform her of the decision of the Provisional Government. He gave me the document to read. It was an order for the arrest of the Emperor and as has been said, of his wife.

He added that this was a precautionary measure, and, as soon as the health of the children allowed of it, the Emperor's family would be sent to Murmansk, where a British cruiser would await them and take them to England. I went to inform the Empress of this visit, and she received the deputation in the presence of Count Apraksin and myself. He himself was accompanied by all the persons whom I have named above. He read aloud the order of arrest which had been published the same day in the newspapers, after which he asked us to leave, and he remained alone with the Empress. I learned afterwards that he had given her the same assurances that he had given me, that is to say, that it had been pointed out to him that the arrest was solely a measure of precaution, destined to be a safeguard against excesses which might be feared on the part of the troops. The latter, intoxicated by the order of the day, No. 1, were out of control, disobeyed the officers, and were under the influence of a Council of workmen and soldiers, consisting of socialist elements, which every day were becoming more and more influential and were capable of everything. After having taken leave of the Empress, General Kornilov assembled the commanders of the Escort and of the combined regiments in the Audience Chamber of the Emperor, and declared to them that their duties at the Palace had come to an end, that during the day they would be relieved by troops of the garrison of Tsarskoe, and that Major Kotzebue had been appointed Commandant of the Palace. He indicated on a plan the doors which were to be closed, and gave the necessary orders before all of us. He told us that those persons who expressed a wish to remain at the Palace would be subject to the same order and that henceforth no person would be able to leave or to enter. Being questioned as to my intentions, I declared that I desired to remain, and that I would ask the ladies, the doctors and the tutors what their intentions were. They all declared that they were ready to remain. Count Apraksin said that his duties towards his family did not allow him to stay long. The General did not wish to consent to this, and insisted that he should leave the Palace at once; but ended by giving way to his entreaties. Colonel Ressin having nothing further to do was asked to leave the same day. Count Zamoyski had left in the evening, being called back to his post at G.H.Q.

This being done, the General in our presence, indicated to Captain Kotzebue, the Commandant of the Palace, on the plans of the Palace and of the garden the necessary orders and diagrams of the routine which was to be followed. All the doors of the Palace were locked and sealed with the exception of the kitchen, where a post of entry and exit was established, and that of the main entrance, through which official personages who would have to enter the Palace would be able to arrive and leave.

At first it was laid down that this door should be sealed as well, as the General would not allow their Majesties and other persons remaining in the Palace to go for walks. It was only after strong representations on my part that he consented to have a small portion of the garden set aside, bounded by the canal and different sheets of water, in which it would be possible to take the air and a little exercise. A key of the garden gate, however, had to be kept by the Commandant of the Guard, and the walks had to be taken at fixed hours. The Emperor had during his walk to be accompanied by an officer, and he might never depart from the line of sentries. Those who wished to take the air were to go out and come back at the same time as the Emperor, and often to be accompanied by a soldier. These regulations were often changed and became more and more severe. They were inspired by the Chiefs had of the soldiers. I shall have occasion to speak of them later. The General, too, advised me to curtail as far as possible the number of servants, which I did during the course of the day with the assistance of Quartermaster von Kube, Colonel Gebel, and other persons who did not occupy the Alexander Palace, to whom I was authorized to allow a final visit. This took me the whole day, and the personnel of servants of all kind was curtailed by half. On leaving, General Kornilov warned us to submit absolutely to the orders of the Commandant of the Palace, who was directly responsible to him and through him to the Ministry of War. All our correspondence was to pass through his hands; we were to send him our letters unsealed and he was to unseal those which we received.

All communication by telephone was cut off. We received, later, the right to speak on the telephone from the Orderly room, in Russian, in the presence of an officer and a soldier.

He left the Palace towards mid-day and announced that during the day the Guard and the posts of the combined regiments should be relieved by the reserve battalion of the 1st Regiment of the Rifles of the Guard.

After his departure I went to see the Empress. I found her calm, very brave, but with red eyes; she had wept a good deal. I was able to announce to her the return of the Emperor on the morrow, and to inform her of the arrangements which had been made by the General. She told me that he had behaved well towards her; she had told him that having been a prisoner himself for so long in Austria he should understand the severity of this treatment. He assured her that it was only a measure of precaution, to give satisfaction to the extreme elements, and thereby to prevent them from giving way to excesses; that the duration of the arrest would depend solely on the health of the children, and that a British cruiser was already waiting at Murmansk to take the Imperial family to England. This last news was not true: it is possible that the Provisional Government intended to save the Emperor and his family; but very soon this plan became impracticable. I urged the Empress to make all the necessary preparations for this journey, and picking was begun. It was from this day that our forced sojourn at the Alexander Palace which lasted until the 1st of August 1917 begin. Our company consisted of Madame Narishkina, of my wife, of Baroness Buxhoeveden (Isa), of Countess Hendrikova (Nastinka), of Mlle. Schneider, of Doctors Botkin and Derevenko, of M. Gilliard, of Count Apraksin, who left in about a week, and of myself. The next day my step-son, Prince V. A. Dolgorukov (Valia), arrived with the Emperor. We expected also Cyril Anatolevich Narishkin, Head of the Chancery, Count Alexander Grabbe, Commander of the Escort, and Colonel Mordvinov, A.D.C. to the Emperor. They did not arrive. There were also at the Palace Madame Vyrubova, who was ill, and Madame Dehn, but they lived apart from us. We were all of us established in the left wing of the Palace and took our meals in a reception room which was formerly part of Colonel Ressin's apartments.

The evenings were spent in my wife's drawing-room ; there would be music and sometimes reading aloud, and sometimes their Majesties came to talk. Little by little the material difficulties of life made themselves felt. Wood became scarce, provisions also. Day by day the vexations of the soldiers on duty increased. Wine was rationed, etc. We got on perfectly well together, and to the end we lived in a sad but friendly manner. In the morning at the kitchen entrance I interviewed Colonel Gebel and Olivier, the butler, who was allowed to come in for the requirements of service. In our own rooms we only saw the Commandant.

Click here to visit The Alexander Palace Time Machine

A Portfolio of Pallasart Sites

Find a list of companies we've designed and developed innovative websites for at

Nicopeia Icon of San Marco

This icon was the Imperial standard of Constantinople and was paraded along the walls and carried into battle by emperors. Crusader loot - it's now in Venice

Pallasart Web design in Austin Texas Alexander Palace Discussion Forums
visit the Alexander Palace Time Machinewebsite by Pallasart Austin Web Design
Home Page Introduction Part One Part Two Part Three