Thirteen Years at the Russian Court Thirteen Years at the Russian Court Thirteen Years at the Russian Court

End of Captivity at Tobolsk - Pierre Gilliard - Thirteen Years at the Russian Court


On January 1st/14th, 1914, I resumed the diary I had given up when we were transferred to Tobolsk. I shall give a extracts from it as I did when describing our captivity Tsarskoe-Selo.

Monday, January 14th (January 1st O.S.) - This morning we went to church, where the new priest officiated for the first time. Father Vassiliev (the cause of the incident mentioned in the preceding chapter) has been transferred by Archbishop Hermogenes to the monastery of Abalatsky.

Tuesday, January 15th - At 2 p.m. there was a meeting of the committee of our garrison. It was decided by 100 votes to 85 to prohibit the wearing of epaulettes by officers and men.

Thursday, January 17th - Colonel Kobylinsky came this morning. He wore mufti rather than wear his uniform without epaulettes.

Friday, January 18th -The priest and choir (The four nuns who used to come to sing at first hid been replaced by Choir of one of the Tobolsk churches) arrived at 3 o'clock. Today is the Blessing of the Waters and the first time the new priest has officiated in the house. When it was Aleksey Nicolaievich's turn to kiss the cross held out by the priest the latter bent down and kissed his forehead. After dinner General Tatichtchev and Prince Dolgorouky came to beg the Tsar to remove his epaulettes in order to avoid a hostile demonstration by the soldiers. At first it seemed as though the Tsar would refuse, but, after exchanging a look and a few words with the Tsarina, he recovered his self-control and yielded for the sake of his family.

Saturday, January 19th - We went to church this morning. The Tsar was wearing a Caucasian cloak, which is always worn without epaulettes. Aleksey Nicolaievich had hidden his under his "bachelik" (a sort of Caucasian muffler). Today the Tsarina, on behalf of the Tsar and herself, invited me to take evening tea with them in future, when I don't feel too tired after my lessons. I did not withdraw therefore at 10 o'clock when the Grand-Duchesses retired (Aleksey Nicolaievich always goes to bed at nine o'clock).

GILLIARD NOTE: For this tea, which the Tsarina poured out herself, Their Majesties were attended by Countess Hendrikova, lady-in-waiting, General Tatichtchev, Prince Dolgorouky, and, when their duties permitted, Mlle. Schneider and Doctor Botkin. I am now the sole survivor of these evening tea parties at Tobolsk.

Monday, January 21st - A heavy fall of snow last night. We began to build a "snow mountain."

Friday,January 25th (January 12th O.S.) - Tatiana Nicolaievna's birthday. Te Deum in the house. Fine winter's day; sunshine; 15š Reaumur. Went on building the snow mountain as usual. The soldiers of the guard came to help us.

Wednesday, January 30th - Today the friendly section of the 4th Regiment was on duty. The Tsar and children spent several hours with the soldiers in the guard-house.

Saturday, February 2nd - 23š R. below zero. Prince Dolgorouky and I watered the snow mountain. We carried thirty buckets of water. It was so cold that the water froze on the way from the kitchen tap to the mountain. Our buckets and the snow mountain "steamed." Tomorrow the children can begin tobogganing.

Monday, February 4th - The thermometer is said to have dropped last night below 30š Reaumur (37š Centigrade). Terrible wind. The Grand-Duchesses' bedroom is a real ice-house.

Wednesday, February 6th - It appears that on the initiative of the 2nd Regiment the soldiers have decided that Commissary Pankratov and his deputy, Nikolsky, must resign.

Friday, February 8th - The soldiers' committee has today decided to replace Pankratov by a Bolshevik commissary from Moscow. Things are going from bad to worse. It appears that there is no longer a state of war between Soviet Russia and Germany, Austria, and Bulgaria. The army is to be disbanded, but Lenin and Trotsky have not yet signed the peace.

Wednesday, February 13th - The Tsar tells me that the demobilization of the army has begun, several classes having already been disbanded. All the old soldiers (the most friendly) are to leave us. The Tsar seems very depressed at this prospect; the change may have disastrous results for us.

Friday, February 15th - A certain number of soldiers have already left. They came secretly to take leave of the Tsar and his family.

At tea in the evening with Their Majesties, General Tatichtchev, with a frankness justified by the circumstances, expressed his surprise at finding how intimate and affectionate was the family life of the Tsar and Tsarina and their children. The Tsar, smiling at the Tsarina, said, "You hear what Tatichtchev says?"

Then, with his usual good-humour tinged with a touch of irony, he added:

"You have been my aide-de-camp, Tatichtchev, and had ever so many opportunities of observing us. If you knew so little about us, how can you expect us to blame the newspapers for what they say about us?"

Wednesday, February 20th - The Tsar tells me the Germans have taken Reval, Rovno, etc., and are still advancing along the whole front. It is obvious that he is deeply affected.

Monday, February 25th - Colonel Kobylinsky has received a telegram informing him that, from March 1st, "Nicholas Romanov and his family must be put on soldiers' rations and that each member of the family will receive 600 roubles per month drawn from the interest of their personal estate." Hitherto their expenses have been paid by the state. As the family consists of seven persons, the whole household will have to be run on 4,200 roubles a month (At that time the value of the rouble was about one-fifth of the normal)."

Tuesday, February 26th - His Majesty asked me to help him to do his accounts and draw up a family budget. He has saved a little from his "toilet allowance."

Wednesday, February 27th - The Tsar said jokingly that, since everyone is appointing committees, he is going to appoint one to look after the welfare of his own community. It is to consist of General Tatichtchev, Prince Dolgorouky, and myself. We held a "sitting" this afternoon and came to the conclusion that the personnel must be reduced. This is a wrench; we shall have to dismiss ten servants, several of whom have their families with them in Tobolsk. When we informed Their Majesties we could see the grief it caused them. They must part with servants whose very devotion will reduce them to beggary.

Friday, March 1st - The new regime comes into force. From today butter and coffee are excluded from the table as luxuries.

Monday, March 4th - The soldiers' committee has decided to abolish the snow mountain we have built (it was such a source of amusement to the children!) because the Tsar and Tsarina mounted it to watch the departure of the men of the 4th Regiment. Every day now brings fresh vexations to the Tsar's family and their suite. For a long time we have only been allowed to go out when accompanied by a soldier; it is probable that even this last privilege will soon be taken from us.

Tuesday, March 5th - Yesterday the soldiers, with a hang-dog look (for they felt it was a mean task), began to destroy the snow mountain with picks. The children are disconsolate.

Friday, March 15th - The townspeople, hearing of our situation, find various ways of sending us eggs, sweetmeats, and delicacies.

Sunday, March 17th. - Today is Carnival Sunday, Everyone is merry. The sledges pass to and fro under our windows; sound of bells, mouth-organs, and singing... The children wistfully watch the fun. They have begun to grow bored and find their captivity irksome. They walk round the courtyard, fenced in by its high paling through which they can see nothing. Since the destruction of their snow mountain their only distraction is sawing and cutting wood.

The arrogance of the soldiers is inconceivable; those who have left have been replaced by a pack of blackguardly-looking young men.

In spite of the daily increase of their sufferings, Their Majesties still cherish hope that among their loyal friends some may be found to attempt their release. Never was the situation more favorable for escape, for there is as yet no representative of the Bolshevik Government at Tobolsk. With the complicity of Colonel Kobylinsky, already on our side, it would be easy to trick the insolent but careless vigilance of our guards. All that is required is the organized and resolute efforts of a few bold spirits outside. We have repeatedly urged upon the Tsar the necessity of being prepared for any turn of events. He insists on two conditions which greatly complicate matters: he will not hear of the family being separated or leaving Russian territory.

One day the Tsarina said to me in this connection: "I wouldn't leave Russia on any consideration, for it seems to me that to go abroad would be to break our last link with the past, which would then be dead for ever"

Monday, March 18th - During the first week of Lent the family will perform its devotions as usual. There is a service morning and evening. As their different occupations prevent the attendance of the choir, the Tsarina and Grand-Duchesses sing with the deacon.

Tuesday, March 19th - After lunch the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was discussed. It has just been signed. The Tsar was very depressed, saying: "It is such a disgrace for Russia and amounts to suicide. I should never have thought the Emperor William and the German Government could stoop to shake hands with these miserable traitors. But I'm sure they will get no good from it; it won't save them from ruin!"

A little later, when Prince Dolgorouky remarked that the newspapers were discussing a clause in which the Germans demanded that the Imperial family should be handed over to them unharmed, the Tsar cried: "This is either a manoeuvre to discredit me or an insult."

The Tsarina added in a low voice: "After what they have done to the Tsar, I would rather die in Russia than be saved by the Germans!"

Friday, March 22nd - At a quarter past nine, after the evening service, everyone went to Confession - children, servants, suite, and finally Their Majesties.

Saturday, March 23rd - A detachment of over a hundred Red Guards has arrived from Omsk; they are the first Maximalist soldiers to take up garrison duty at Tobolsk. Our last chance of escape has been snatched from us. His Majesty, however, tells me he has reason to believe that there are among these men many officers who have enlisted in the ranks; he also asserts, without telling me definitely the source of his information, that there are three hundred officers at Tyumen.

Tuesday, April 9th - The Bolshevik commissary, who has come with the detachment from Omsk, has insisted on being allowed to inspect the house. The soldiers of our guard have refused permission. Colonel Kobylinsky is very uneasy and fears a conflict. Precautionary measures; patrols, sentries doubled. A very disturbed night.

Wednesday, April 10th - A "full sitting" of our guard, at which the Bolshevik commissary reveals the extent of his powers. He has the right to have anyone opposing his orders shot within twenty-four hours and without trial. The soldiers let him enter the house.

Friday, April 11th - Aleksey Nicolaievich confined to bed, as since yesterday he has had a violent pain in the groin caused by a strain. He has been so well this winter. It is to be hoped it is nothing serious.

A soldier of our detachment who had been sent to Moscow has returned today and brought Colonel Kobylinsky a memorandum from the Central Executive Committee of the Bolshevik Government, ordering him to be much stricter with us. General Tatichtchev, Prince Dolgorouky, and Countess Hendrikova are to be transferred to our house and treated as prisoners. The arrival is also announced of a commissary with extraordinary powers, accompanied by a detachment of soldiers.

Saturday, April 13th - All who have been living in Kornilov's house, Countess Hendrikova, Mile. Schneider, General Tatichtchev, Prince Dolgorouky, and Mr. Gibbes (my colleague Mr. Gibbes had joined us at Tobolsk during September) move to our house. Only Doctors Botkin and Derevenko are left at liberty. Aleksey Nicolaievich's pains have increased since yesterday.

Monday, April 15th - Aleksey Nicolaievich in great pain yesterday and today. It is one of his severe attacks of haemophilia.

Tuesday, April 16th - Colonel Kobylinsky, officer of the guard, and some soldiers have been to search the house. They have taken away the Tsar's dagger which he wore with his Cossack uniform.

Monday, April 22nd - The commissary from Moscow arrived today with a small detachment; his name is Yakovlev. He has shown his papers to the commandant and soldiers' committee. In the evening he took tea with Their Majesties. Everyone is restless and distraught. The commissary's arrival is felt to be an evil portent, vague but real.

Tuesday, April 23rd - Commissary Yakovlev came at eleven o'clock. After an inspection of the whole house he went to see the Tsar, who accompanied him to the room of Aleksey Nicolaievich who is in bed. Not having been able to see the Tsarina, who was not ready to receive him, he came again a little later with the regimental doctor and paid a second visit to Aleksey Nicolaievich (He wanted to be assured by his doctor that the boy was really ill). As he was going away he asked the commandant whether we had much luggage. Can this mean we are to move?

Wednesday, April 24th - We are all in a state of mental anguish. We feel we are forgotten by everyone, abandoned to our own resources and at the mercy of this man. Is it possible that no one will raise a finger to save the Imperial family? Where are those who have remained loyal to the Tsar? Why do they delay?

Thursday, April 25th - Shortly before three o'clock, as I was going along the passage, I met two servants sobbing. They told me that Yakovlev has come to tell the Tsar that he is taking him away. What can be happening? I dare not go up without being summoned, and went back to my room. Almost immediately Tatiana Nicolaievna knocked at my door. She was in tears, and told me Her Majesty was asking for me. I followed her. The Tsarina was alone, greatly upset. She confirmed what I had heard, that Yakovlev has been sent from Moscow to take the Tsar away and is to leave tonight.

"The commissary says that no harm will come to the Tsar, and that if anyone wishes to accompany him there will be no objection. I can't let the Tsar go alone. They want to separate him from his family as they did before (the Tsarina was alluding to the Tsar's abdication)...'

"They're going to try to force his hand by making him anxious about his family... The Tsar is necessary to them; they feel that he alone represents Russia... Together we shall be in a better position to resist them, and I ought to be at his side in the time of trial... But the boy is still so ill... Suppose some complication sets in.... Oh, God, what ghastly torture!... For the first time in my life I don't know what I ought to do; I've always felt inspired whenever I've had to take a decision, and now I can't think..."

"But God won't allow the Tsar's departure; it can't, it must not be, I'm sure the thaw will begin tonight (When the thaw set in the river was impassable for several days; it was time before the ferry could be re-started)..."

Tatiana Nicolaievna here intervened:

"But mother, if father has to go, whatever we say, something must be decided ..."

I took up the cudgels on Tatiana Nicolaievna's behalf, remarking that Aleksey Nicolaievich was better, and that we should take great care of him.

Her Majesty was obviously tortured by indecision; she paced up and down the room, and went on talking, rather to herself than to us. At last she came up to me and said:

"Yes, that will be best; I'll go with the Tsar; I shall trust Aleksey to you..."

A moment later the Tsar came in. The Tsarina walked towards him, saying:

"It's settled; I'll go with you, and Marie will come too."

The Tsar replied: "Very well, if you wish it."

I came down to my room, and the whole day has been spent in getting ready. Prince Dolgorouky and Doctor Botkin will accompany Their Majesties, as also will Chemadurov (the Tsar's valet), Anna Demidova (the Tsarina's maid), and Sedniev (footman to the Grand-Duchesses). It has been decided that eight officers and men of our guard are to go with them.

The family have spent the whole afternoon at the bedside of Aleksey Nicolaievich.

This evening at half-past ten we went up to take tea. The Tsarina was seated on the divan with two of her daughters beside her. Their faces were swollen with crying. We all did our best to bide our grief and to maintain outward calm. We felt that for one to give way would cause all to break down. The Tsar and Tsarina were calm and collected. It is apparent that they are prepared for any sacrifices, even of their lives, if God in his inscrutable wisdom should require it for the country's welfare. They have never shown greater kindness or solicitude.

This splendid serenity of theirs, this wonderful faith, proved infectious.

At half-past eleven the servants were assembled in the large hall. Their Majesties and Marie Nicolaievna took leave of them. The Tsar embraced every man, the Tsarina every woman. Almost all were in tears. Their Majesties withdrew; we all went down to my room.


Above; the waiting carriages in Tobolsk.

At half-past three the conveyances drew up in the courtyard. They were the horrible tarantass (vehicles used by the peasants, and consisting of a large wicker basket hung from two long poles which take the place of springs. There are no seats; the passengers sit or lie on the floor). Only one was covered. We found a little straw in the backyard and spread it on the floor of the carriages. We put a mattress in the one to be used by the Tsarina.

At four o'clock we went up to see Their Majesties and found them just leaving Aleksey Nicolaievich's room. The Tsar and Tsarina and Marie Nicolaievna took leave of us. The Tsarina and the Grand-Duchesses were in tears. The Tsar seemed calm and had a word of encouragement for each of us; he embraced us. The Tsarina, when saying good-bye, begged me to stay upstairs with Aleksey Nicolaievich. I went to the boy's room and found him in bed, crying.

A few minutes later we heard the rumbling of wheels. The Grand-Duchesses passed their brother's door on their way to their rooms, and I could hear them sobbing...

Saturday, April 27th - The man who drove the Tsarina for the first stage has brought a note from Marie Nicolaievna; the roads are founderous, travelling conditions terrible. How will the Tsarina be able to stand the journey? How heartrending it all is!

Sunday, April 28th - Colonel Kobylinsky has received a telegram saying that the whole party arrived safely at Tyumen at half-past nine on Saturday evening.

The "field chapel" has been moved to the large hall, where the priest will be able to celebrate mass, as there is a consecrated altar.

In the evening a second telegram arrived, sent after leaving Tyumen: "Travelling in comfort. How is the boy? God be with you."

Monday, April 29th - The children have received a letter from the Tsarina from Tyumen. The journey has been very trying. Horses up to their chests in water crossing the rivers. Wheels broken several times.

Monday, April 29th - The children have received a letter from the Tsarina from Tyumen The journey has been very trying. Horses up to their chests in water crossing the rivers. Wheels broken several times.



Above; lunch in Tobolsk - from left - Olga, Tatischev, Gilliard, Hendrikova, Tatiana and Schneider.

Wednesday, May 1st - Aleksey Nicolaievich is up. Nagorny carried him to his wheeled chair; he was wheeled about in the sun.

Thursday, May 2nd - Still no news since they left Tyumen. Where are they? They could have reached Moscow by Tuesday!

Friday, May 3rd - Colonel Kobylinsky has received a telegram saying that the travellers have been detained at Ekaterinburg. What has happened?

Saturday, May 4th - A sad Easter eve. We are in low spirits.

Sunday, May 5th - Easter Day. Still no news.

Tuesday, May 7th - At last the children have had a letter from Ekaterinburg saying that all are well but not explaining why they are held up. What agony can be read between the lines!

Wednesday, May 8th - The officers and men of our guard who accompanied Their Majesties have returned from Ekaterinburg. They say that on arrival at Ekaterinburg the Tsar's train was surrounded by Red Guards and that the Tsar, Tsarina, and Marie Nicolaievna have been incarcerated in Ipatiev's house (house belonging to a rich merchant of the town). Prince Dolgorouky is in prison, and they themselves were only released after two days' detention.

Saturday, May 11th - Colonel Kobylinsky has been removed and we are left to the Tobolsk Soviet.

Friday, May 17th - The soldiers of our guard have been replaced by Red Guards brought from Ekaterinburg by commissary Rodionov, who has come to fetch us. General Tatichtchev and I both feel we ought to delay our departure as long as possible; but the Grand-Duchesses are so eager to see their parents again that we don't feel morally justified in opposing their wishes.

Saturday, May 18th - Vespers. The priest and nuns have been stripped and searched by order of the commissary.

Sunday, May 19th (May 6th O.S.) - The Tsar's birthday... Our departure is fixed for tomorrow. The commissary refuses to allow the priest to come; he has forbidden the Grand-Duchesses to lock their doors at night.

Monday, May 20th - At half-past eleven we left the went on board the Russ. It is the boat which brought us here with the Tsar and Tsarina eight months ago. Baroness Buxhoeveden has been granted permission to rejoin us. We left Tobolsk at five o'clock.

Commissary Rodionov has shut Aleksey Nicolaievich in his cabin with Nagorny. We protested: the child is ill and the doctor ought to have access to him at any lime.

Wednesday, May 22nd - We reached Tyumen this morning.

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