Romanovs: ‘Like Kings and Queens, like Princes and Princesses’ — Part One

Seraphima Bogomolova
Personal stories and investigations
22 min readMar 22, 2024

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On the colourised photograph: from left to right: Olga Nikolaevna, Maria Nikolaevna, Alexandra Feodorovna, Anastasia Nikolaevna, Aleksei Nikolaevich, Tatyana Nikolaevna; in the middle Nicolas II. Place: Livadia Palace, 1913

In October last year, I received an email from a certain ‘Georg’, a Russian man, who approached me in regards to my partial Family Tree on Geni.com which displays some connections to Russian aristocratic families.

Not wasting any time on pleasantries, ‘Georg’, in an assertive and determined manner, presented himself to me as a descendant of Maria Nikolaevna — the third daughter of Nicolas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, the last Emperor and Empress of the Russian Empire. I was taken aback. Not that I am not open towards any possibilities or outcomes of a hundred or so year mystery but his approach was way too blunt.

Pretending I did not get what he put across to me, I enquired how I can help him. Ignoring my question, he started telling stories of how his sister had always behaved like a princess, right from her birth that she must be of royal blood and that her behaving like a princess is already a sure sign of her royal ancestry. Never mind it still had to be proven.

Despite my attempts to talk sense into him, ‘Georg’ was adamant that he was a new ‘Messiah’ who came to announce the truth to the world. He showered me with dozens of emails per day and kept saying that he is the one and only. I did not really know how to get rid of him. He kept sending videos and links in regards to the ‘murder’ of the Royal Family and was vigorously defending his point of view. Then he told me that he is bored and that is why he wants to solve a hundred year old mystery, as, according to him, all other mysteries had already been solved by others.

Personally, I was never interested in solving the mystery of the Romanovs ‘murder’, as I felt an unexplainable resentment towards the subject and a sense of deep dread. But ‘Georg’ was so insistent that I decided to look into the topic and see what I can discover. My initial intention was to prove him wrong so he would leave me in peace. But little did I know that unknowingly ‘Georg’ had set me on a journey of great discoveries, shocking truths, revelations, white lies, intrigues, twists, and finally ‘a happy end’.

As the saying goes ‘sometimes it takes an idiot to show the right way.’ In ‘Georg’ I found my ‘idiot’. And so, I set on an investigative journey. But an independent from Georg’s one, as his story still did not convince me.

Photo: BluOltreMare/shutterstock.com

I decided to approach the investigation with an open mind and assume I know nothing. For this reason, I dismissed all previous opinions, conclusions, points of view and ‘memoirs’ of political and creative ‘gurus’ of the past, that is of 20th century. I was willing to look only at bare facts. But what were the bare facts in the case of a supposed ‘murder’ of Nicolas II and his Family?

The definition of the word ‘fact’ offered by Merriam Webster is ‘something that has actual existence’, ‘an actual occurrence’, ‘a piece of information as having objective reality’. In addition, an archaic meaning of the word is ‘action.’

The question though was what ‘actual existence’, ‘actual occurrence’ and ‘objective reality’ in the Nicolas II ‘murder’ mystery really were. In order to understand this, I needed to look at the evidence. As per the definition of Oxford Dictionary ‘an evidence’ is a collection of facts, documents, objects, etc that gives reason to believe something is true.

So, I decided to start with photographs, as they capture reality. And what is important, they do so through the eye of the beholder, the beholder of the camera that is. The ‘beholders’ in this case were the daughters of Nicolas II. They were avid photographers and carried their camera everywhere they went. In addition to capturing the reality, photographs taken of the family by the family members also present a valuable insight that otherwise would not be possible to obtain.

I began my investigative journey by searching for the photographs of the Family dated March 1917- July 1918. I mentally divided the photographs into three periods — Tsarskoe Selo (9 March — 31 July 1917), Tobolsk (August 1917- April/May 1918), and Ekaterinburg (April/May-July 1918). Soon, I realised that most of the available online photographs of the Family were digitised copies coming from the following sources:

· GARF (The State Archive of the Russian Federation) — fund N 601

· Presidential Library — few assorted photos of different years

· Yale University Library — 7 albums

· 900 photographs from the collection of Pierre Gilliard (16 May 1879–30 May 1962), the French tutor to the children of the Family- kept after his immigration in the Library of the University, in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he use to read lectures

Bulls Eye Eastman by Kodak — the camera of Pierre Gilliard

The photographs that interested me the most seemed to come from the collection of Pierre Gilliard. Being the French language tutor to the children, he was with the Family in Tsarskoe Selo and Tobolsk. Why it was Gilliard, and not Elizaveta Nikolaevna Ersberg (18 September 1882–12 March 1942) assistant to nanny, or Charles Sydney Gibbs (19 January 1876–24 March 1963), the English language tutor, or Alexandra Alexandrovna Tegleva (2 May 1884–21 March 1955) nanny to children, who had such a number of photographs of the Family, is hard to say. Most likely for the reason of him, like the Family, also having in his possession a camera.

The Gilliard’s collection was first brought into focus in the summer of 1919 by an investigator N.A. Sokolov (1882–1924) who was appointed by the General of the white movement in Siberia, and a military dictator, Alexander Vasilievich Kolchak (1874–1920), to investigate the supposed murder of the Family:

‘Based on the existing case of the pending murder investigation of the abdicated Sovereign Emperor Nikolai Alekseevich and His Family I have an absolutely accurate information that the former French language tutor of the late Tsesarevich Aleksei Nikolaevich, Mr Gilliard, has hundreds of negatives and prints (around 900) that are of great importance to the mentioned above case.’ — N.A. Sokolov, 2 June 1919, Ekaterinburg, letter N99 to the general-lieutenant, Mikhail Konstantinovich Diterichs (May 17, 1874 — September 9, 1937).

How many of the mentioned in the above excerpt photographs were really examined by the investigator N.A. Sokolov is not clear but some of them can be found online.

Photo-realities of Tsarskoe Selo — 9 March — 31 July 1917

Alexandrovsky Palace, Nicolas II and his Family residence, in Tsarskoe Selo (current name is Pushkin)

While examining the photographs of the period, I noticed three major themes or rather facts: 1) the changed looks and appearance of the four daughters, 2) the new ‘hobby’ of Nicolas II — such as cutting and sawing the wood, working in the garden, and 3) the absence of Alexandra Feodorovna on the pictures, except two of them.

Let’s have a look at each of the three facts.

The changed looks and appearance of the daughters

The physical appearance of the four daughters was of the most interest to me, for it denotes changes in one’s character, challenges overcome, adaptation to the change of circumstances and a new life style.

In their Tsarskoe Selo period of 1917, the former Grand Duchesses seemed slimmer, somewhat taller, and, most of all, had a different ‘hairstyle’ — their heads were shaved. For those who are not familiar with the course of the events concerning the Family in 1917 this can look horrifying — ‘starving mistreated royals.’ Some people are even convinced that these were not the daughters of the Tsar but soldiers dressed as them. The last point has its merit, so remember it.

The Grand Duchesses, from left to right: Anastasia Nikolaevna, Tatyana Nikolaevna, Olga Nikolaevna, and Maria Nikolaevna in Tsarskoe Selo, July 1917.

The reason for the changed looks of the daughters in the spring-summer of 1917 can be found in the testimony of Charles Sydney Gibbs and the diary entries of Nicolas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. The change was due to measles all of the children had in the period of February — March 1917.

The illness not only affected their physical looks — the daughters lost weight — but, in the case of Anastasia Nikolaevna, as per words of the English language tutor, Charles Sydney Gibbs, also her abilities: ‘The illness did not do Her any good. She, sort of, stopped in Her self-development, and Her abilities somewhat faded.’ (testimony given to the investigator N.A. Sokolov on 1 July 1919)

As there is no one else to testify and confirm his words it can be just Gibbs’ personal opinion. But, nonetheless, there might be some grain of truth in it. However, the fact of the illnesses of the daughters are quite well recorded in the diaries of Nicolas II, and also mentioned in the diary entries of Alexandra Feodorovna.

Nicolas II and Tatyana Nikolaevna, Alexandrovsky Palace, in Tsarskoe Selo, March 1917

As per Alexandra Feodorovna’s diary entry of 23 February 1917, first got sick Olga and Aleksei: ‘O.[lga] and A.[leksei] got measles’, then Tatyana and Anastasia around 27–28 February, and then a bit later Maria. The measles would be followed by other sicknesses that the four daughters had throughout the whole of March 1917. Here is a time line of their illnesses as recorded by Nicolas II in his diary of 1917:

11 March. Saturday

[…] The ears of Anastasia started hurting — the same as with the rest. […]

12 March. Sunday

[…] Alexei got up today. Olga and Tatyana feeling much better today, and Maria and Anastasia — worse, headaches, ears hurting, and vomiting. […]

13 March. Monday

[…] Maria continues to have high temperature 40,6; and Anastasia’s ears are hurting. The rest were feeling well. […]

14 March. Tuesday

[…] Maria still has high temperature — 40,6. Anastasia has a complication with her ears, although she had her right ear pierced yesterday. […]

15 March. Wednesday

[..] Maria and Anastasia are in the same state as yesterday, didn’t sleep well, and Maria’s high temperature broke the record, because during the day her temperature was 40.9. The rest have completely recovered. […]

16 March. Thursday

[…] Maria and Anastasia are in the same state, lying in a dark room and coughing heavily; they have pneumonia. […]

17 March. Friday

[…] Maria and Anastasia’s temperatures alternately rose high, then dropped, and there was also vomiting. Maria had 40.9 during the day and was delirious at times, by the evening it dropped to 39.; Anastasia’s during the day — 37.8, in the evening — 39.3. […]

18 March. Saturday

[…] Maria had 40.9 during the day and was delirious at times, in the evening she dropped to 39.3, Anastasia during the day — 37.8, in the evening — 39.3. […]

19 March. Sunday

[…] Maria and Anastasia’s temperature dropped to normal, only in the evening, Maria’s temperature rose slightly. […]

20 March. Monday

[…] Maria and Anastasia apparently had a turning point; the temperature remained normal; they are weak and slept all day, of course, intermittently. […]

22 March. Wednesday

[…] Olga and Tatyana went out into the air for the first time and sat on the round balcony while I walked.[…]

27 March. Monday

[…] Olga fell ill again, her throat aches. The rest are doing well. […]

28 March. Tuesday

[…] Olga’s throat continues to ache, temp. reached 39.4, it’s so boring as measles just ended recently. […]

10 April. Monday

[…] Alexei had a slight sore throat and was put to bed. Olga is still lying down, and Maria gets up for several hours. […]

19 April. Wednesday

[…] For the first time, the whole family dined at the same table — Olga and Maria were the last to recover. […]

The complications of having had measles was reflected in the daughters having heavily thinning hair. So, on 3 July 1917, they shaved their heads to allow the hair to regrow in a healthy way. This event was recorded by Nicolas II in his diary:

3 July. Monday

[…] All four daughters shaved off their hair because it was thinning badly after measles.[…]

Surprisingly, such an important change in the looks of her four daughters was not commented on by Alexandra Feodorovna in her diary. In fact, she did not have any diary entries on these days.

The Grand Duchesses in the park in Tsarskoe Selo — on the left: Tatyana Nikolaevna, on the right: Anastasia Nikolaevna pretending to be smoking, on her left wrist a watch with leather band is visible, spring 1917

Another very important detail concerning the daughters’ appearances that I was able to gather by examining the photographs taken in Tsarskoe Selo was the amount of jewellery or rather absence of jewellery on them. It is worth noting that the Romanov Family had two types of jewellery to be worn. Crown jewellery for grand occasions — not the property of the Family but of the state, and personal jewellery for everyday wear such as rings, bracelets, brooches, earrings, watches etc.

The jewellery in question is, of course, the personal jewellery of each member of the Family: Nicolas II, Alexandra Feodorovna, Olga, Tatyana, Maria, and Anastasia. Alexei being too young for having any important wearable pieces of jewellery yet.

Being under home arrest in Tsarskoe Selo meant that all activities of the Family were home based and home related. For this reason, they did not need to wear jewellery to beautify themselves. The photographs of the period illustrate it quite well.

The Grand Duchesses Tatyana Nikolaevna (on the left) Nicolas II (in the middle) and Anastasia Nikolaevna (sitting at the feet of Nicolas II) with the guards, posing for a photo, July 1917

Nicolas II was the modest one in this sense as he did lots of heavy work outside such as sawing and cutting wood, clearing snow, and digging in the garden. Due to this, the only pieces of jewellery he wore were his two rings — an engagement and wedding ones. They are visible on his right hand on most of the photographs of the period.

The daughters did not happen to wear much jewellery either, as at first, they were sick, spending time inside, lying in their beds, and then, in the summer being outside, helping Nicolas II saw and cut wood and working in the vegetable garden, as well as doing some sports. Obviously, such preoccupations did not require to be adorned with jewels, and the photographs confirm this.

The Grand Duchesses: from the left Maria Nikolaevna, Olga Nikolaevna, Anastasia Nikolaevna, and Tatyana Nikolaevna, in the vegetable garden in Tsarskoe Selo, spring 1917

However, even though the amount of jewellery on the four daughters was minimal there were some pieces present and are quite visible on each photograph. These pieces are: the gold non-removable bracelets, and three watches — worn by Olga Nikolaevna, Tatyana Nikolaevna, and Anastasia Nikolaevna. The gold non-removable bracelets were worn by the daughters on their right wrists. They are not only visible on the photographs of the Tsarskoe Selo period but also on earlier ones.

The information about the gold bracelets can be found in the diary of Alexandra Feodorovna dated 4 July 1918 (new style date): ‘and a bracelet per child which we had given them as presents.’ As per the same dairy entry, Alexandra Feodorovna herself had two similar bracelets: ‘they only left me the two bracelets from uncle Leo, which are non-removable’. They in the last quote refers to the commandant of the Ipatievsky house, Yakov Mikhailovich Yurovsky (7 June 1878–2 August 1938), and his assistant Georgi Petrovich Nikulin (27 December 1894–22 September 1965).

In his notes, Yurovsky gives more details about the bracelets in question: ‘Alexandra Feodorovna, however, expressed her displeasure when I was going to remove a gold bracelet from her hand; it was locked and it was not possible to remove it without a special tool. She proclaimed that she had been wearing the bracelet for 20 years and now it was being attempted to be removed. Taking into consideration that similar bracelets were worn by her daughters and that they were not of particular value, I decided to leave them.’ (Notes by Yurovsky Y.M. P.109, 1934)

The Grand Duchesses: on the left Tatyana Nikolaevna with her dog, and Anastasia Nikolaevna. On the wrists of Tatyana Nikolaevna a bracelet and a watch are visible. Tsarskoe Selo, Spring, 1917

The two watches — Tatyana’s and Olga’s — that are visible on the photographs of Tsarsko Selo period are also mentioned but not as separate items in the diaries of Nicolas II or Alexandra Feodorovna, but on the list of the gold items that was made by Yurovsky on 4–5 July 1918:

1. A lady’s gold watch, covered, N 242085, by Dubois Pesse. The glass is missing. The watch is smooth.

2. A lady’s gold watch, half open, with two dials, by Paul Buhre, N 28387. The chain is made up from the flat oval filigree segments.

These watches were in the Box № 1 of the precious items found by the whites who entered Ekaterinburg on 25 July 1918, in the vault of the Volgsko-Kamsky Bank, where the Local Council was located, at the Gold-Melting. (Source: investigative materials in the case led by the investigator, N.A. Sokolov.)

The watch of Anastasia Nikolaevna does not seem to be included on the list of the gold items belonging to the Family. Perhaps her watch was not regarded as valuable enough to remove or perhaps she was not wearing it at the moment of the items being listed and it was not included on the list. What is visible on the photographs is that it was a watch with a leather band. There is a mention of the red watch box that was listed as number 70 on the list. It might have been the box for the watch of Anastasia Nikolaevna, but this is just a guess based on an assumption and cannot be really proved.

On the left: Nicolas II and Anastasia Nikolaevna; on the right: Nicolas II and Olga Nikolaevna on the bridge with the guards, Tsarskoe Selo, summer 1917

How the box that had been given by Yurovsky to Nicolas II and was in his possession happened to be in the bank and not with the rest of the Family’s possessions is not known, as neither the whites nor the investigator N.A. Sokolov cast light on this. Instead, what is known is how the watches of Olga and Tatyana got into the mentioned above box.

The evidence confirming the fact of Nicolas II and his Family’s gold items of jewellery being put into the box are recorded in the diaries of Alexandra Feodorovna and Nicolas II as well as in the notes of Yurovsky:

‘While acquainting myself with the arrested my attention was caught by the jewels that Nicolas II and members of his Family as well as their servants were wearing on their hands. […] Thinking that to leave the jewels as they were was dangerous, as they could tempt some of the guards, I decided at my own risk to take those jewels away. For that, I had invited an assistant commandant, the comrade Nikulin, and ordered him to list the jewels; Nicolas II as well as his children did not seem to mind, at least did not voice their concerns aloud. He only asked to leave the watch as Aleksei would be bored without it. Alexandra Feodorovna, however, expressed her displeasure when I was going to remove a gold bracelet from her hand; it was locked and it was not possible to remove it without a special tool.

She proclaimed that she had been wearing the bracelet for 20 years and now it was being attempted to be removed. Taking into consideration that similar bracelets were worn by her daughters and that they were not of particular value, I decided to leave them. Having listed all those items, I asked them to provide me with a box, which Nicolas II gave me, then I put the items inside the box, sealed it with the seal of the commandant and gave the box for safekeeping to Nicolas II. Every time I came to do the check-up that I had set, Nicolas II would show me the box saying: Your box is intact. (Notes by Yurovsky Y.M. P.109, 1934)

The truthfulness of the Yurovsky’s notes in this regard is proven by similar notes in the diaries of Nicolas II and Alexandra Feodorovna:

Nicolas II — diary entries (1918):

21 June. Thursday (4 July new style — note of the author)

Today we had a change of commandants — as we were having dinner Beloborodov and others came and announced that instead of Avdeev, the one whom we thought of as a doctor, would be appointed — Yurovsky. In the afternoon, before tea, he and his assistant made a list of the gold items — ours and children’s; the majority of them (rings, bracelets and etc) they took with them. They explained it by an unpleasant incident that took place in the house, and mentioned that some things were missing. […]

23 June. Saturday. (6 July new style — note of the author)

Yesterday, the commandant Yurovsky brought the box with all taken jewels, asked us to check the contents and in our presence sealed it, leaving the box with us for safekeeping. […]

Alexandra Feodorovna — the diary entries (1918):

Ekaterinburg

21 (4 [July]). June

As we were having dinner the Chief of the Local Committee with some people came, Avdeev was changed, we have now a new commandant […] with a young assistant who looks decent, unlike others who are vulgar and unpleasant.

They both made us show them all our jewels, the ones that were on us; and the youngest of them meticulously listed them, and then they took them away (where to, for how long, what for??, I don’t know), they only left me the two bracelets from uncle Leo, which are non-removable, and a bracelet per child which we had given them as presents, as well as engagement rings of Nikolai, all non-removable.

Ekaterinburg

22 (5[July]). June

Friday.

[…] Commandant came and brought our jewels, sealed them in our presence and left them on our table; he will come every day to check if the seal is intact.

Collage of the three group photographs of Olga Nickolaevna, Tatyana Nikolaevna, Maria Nikolaevna, and Anastasia Nikolaevna, Tsarskoe Selo, spring-summer 1917

The observations gathered about the four daughters by examining the photographs of the spring-summer 1917 reveal important clues to the future fate of the young women. The most important conclusion that can be drawn is that the four young women of spring-summer 1917 were not the same Grand Duchesses whom people used to know and observe before the abdication of Nicolas II. These were the women without royal regalia, without official titles, without even clear future, who changed not only externally but also internally. The Grand Duchesses of the prior life were a mirage, a dream like image that had nothing to do with their new reality. Yet, it is exactly this ‘mirage’ that would be used in July 1918 to create a certain needed impression. The world would be stuck with the ‘mirage’, the former Grand Duchess would move on.

The new ‘hobby’ of Nicolas II

Nicolas II and a rifleman carrying the wood, Tsarskoe Selo, summer 1917

The Family’s photographs of the Tsarskoe Selo period also revealed a new ‘hobby’ of Nicolas II which sprang out of the changed routine. Being limited in his personal freedom of movement and not having his usual status related preoccupations he must have had a real urge for action, achievement, and activities outside of his royal home e.g. Alexandrovsky Palace. This urge transformed into activities of pure physical nature — cutting and sawing wood, breaking ice, working in the garden, and doing some sports such as kayaking, walking, riding a bike. Whilst walking, kayaking, and riding a bike were not new to him, cutting and sawing wood certainly was, as previously he, as a crowned head of state, did not engage in such activities.

Nicolas II breaking the ice on one of the canals in Tsarskoe Selo, April 1917

According to his diary, Nicolas II started his new ‘hobby’ on the 1 of April: ‘In the afternoon, started breaking ice the old way by the bridge with a little stream; Tatyana, Valya and Nagornui worked with me’. This activity lasted till 27 April: From 2.20pm to 4.30pm we walked and at the same place broke the last ice floes.’

Right after, on 28 April, Nicolas II started his work in the vegetable garden: ‘began work on setting up a vegetable garden in the park opposite the windows of the house. T.[atyana], M.[aria], Anast.[asiya] and Valya [Dolgorukov] were actively digging up the ground, and the commandant and guard officers watched and sometimes gave advice.’ The work of digging and preparing the ground continued throughout May. On the 19 of May, there were already 65 beds in the vegetable garden noted in the diary of Nicolas II: ‘During the day I diligently dug the beds with others, of which we now have 65 in total.’

Nicolas II working in the garden, Tsarskoe Selo, April 1917

In parallel, on 21 May, Nicolas II stared cutting and sewing wood, and also doing sports: ‘sawed down a fallen tree in the garden for firewood, went kayaking and riding a bicycle.’ On 30 May, he mentions his usual working team: ‘The constants who worked with me, sawed and chopped wood: Valya D., Volkov — chamberlain of Alix, Teteryatnikov, Martyshkin, Korneev, and today a fireman was added. Present, and carrying wood were: T.[atyana], M.[aria] and An.[astasia], two officers and four riflemen of the 1st battalion.’

Nicolas II and the footman, Franz Gurovsky, sawing the tree, June 1917

The sawing and cutting of the wood would continue until the Family’s departure to Tobolsk. In addition, on 18 June, Nicolas II would add to the usual sawing and cutting, also watering of the vegetable garden: ‘Before dinner, we helped the gardener water the beds.’

On the left: Tatyana Nikolaevna and Nicolas II in the vegetable garden; on the right: Tatyana Nikolaevna and Anastasia Nikolaevna with a water barrel, Tsarskoe Selo, spring-summer 1917

All the outside activities of Nicolas II are reflected and recorded in the available photographs of the period. Similarly, to the four daughters, the conclusion that can be drawn is that in the period between March and July 1917 Nicolas II underwent a personal transformation from within which translated into new behavioral patterns and interests. He was no longer a mere crowned figure out of reach, but a down to earth, practical, hard-working, and a humble individual. The gap between him and the people who surrounded and served him narrowed down. His working team of people of different social status is a great example of this — soldiers, officers, servants, aristocracy.

Nicolas II and his working team. On the right from Nicolas II — Tatyana Nikolaevna, Tsarskoe Selo, July 1917

This transformation would continue and by the time Nicolas II would have arrived to Ekaterinburg, he would be a different person — someone, who if placed in the plain site, would not be even recognized as a former Emperor anymore. And this is a crucial point in connection to the events that took place in July 1918 in Ekaterinburg in Ipatievsky house.

The ‘absence’ of Alexandra Feodorovna

One of the striking observations I made while studying the photographs of the Family for the period of March-July 1917 was the obvious and clear absence of Alexandra Feodorovna on them. Those couple of photographs where she did appear picture her motionless, a sort of frozen. She was not only absent from the photographs and took very little part in the outside activities but she also was absent from her own diary. In the period of March-July 1917, she made just a handful of diary entries on the following dates:

March 1917, Tsarskoe Selo

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 21, 22, 23, 27

April 1917, Tsarskoe Selo

1, 2, 8, 11, 12, 14, 15, 18, 23, 29, 30

May 1917, Tsarskoe Selo

6, 25, 26

June 1917, Tsarskoe Selo

3, 9, 10, 20

July 1917, Tsarskoe Selo

11, 13, 25, 29, 30, 31

On the left: Nicolas II working in the vegetable garden; on the right: Alexandra Feodorovna in her wheel chair outside in the vegetable garden, embroidering, Tsarskoe Selo, April 1917

The first time Alexandra Feodorovna made an appearance in ‘public’, e.g. went outside and sat in the garden was on the 11 of April. This occasion was captured by the camera and found a reflection in the diary entry of Nicolas II: ‘In the afternoon, Alix finally went for a walk with us. Nagorny pushed her in a wheel chair. She watched us work with the ice.’ In her own dairy, Alexandra Feodorovna described her appearance as follows: ‘In my wheel chair [was] in the garden with the others who were working with ice.’

Her next appearance in the garden would be in a month time — on the 5 of May, Nicolas II made an entry in his diary: ‘We continued working in the garden; Alix went out for an hour.’ Alexandra Feodorovna, however, does not have an entry in the diary for the same date, but on the 6 of May she wrote: ‘We worked in the garden. I embroidered as usual.’ Most likely, she went out on both dates but did not record the 5th of May ‘appearance’.

Interesting to note that Alexandra Feodorovna while saying ‘we worked in the garden’ at the same time clarifies that she herself was embroidering, making sure it was not associated with digging in the garden. This is where it appears that she started drawing a line between herself and the rest of the Family, yet still saying ‘we’.

In ten days from the mentioned date — on the 15th of May — Nicolas II wrote: ‘Alix and the daughters planted various vegetables in ready-made beds.’ Yet, she herself makes no diary entry on that day. While the daughters very clearly depicted on the photographs working in the garden, it is difficult to imagine Alexandra Feodorovna digging anything or even planting. Most likely she was directing the process of planting as usual from her ‘chair’. In this and previous entries of the Nicolas II diary, it is clear that he includes her in the activities, wanting to see her join in.

The contrast in the diary entries and the inclusion-exclusion continues as on 25th of May Nicolas II noted: ‘In the afternoon, Alix came out with us into the garden.’ In contrast, on the same day, Alexandra Feodorovna made the following note — a very short line — in regards to this: ‘2–4.30pm -in the garden.’

On the 28 of May, which, for some reason, Nicolas II marked as 25th of May, he wrote: ‘Alix as always sat by the water opposite the ‘children’s island’.’ The wording Nicolas II had chosen to describe the state of his wife is very telling — ‘as always sat’. It seems that the sitting and being present were the two descriptive states that were associated with Alexandra Feodorovna during the Tsarskoe selo period.

Nicolas II and Alexandra Feodorovna sitting in the vegetable garden, Tsarskoe Selo, July 1917

In June and July 1917, Alexandra Feodorovna made several more appearances, all recorded in her husband’s diary and not a word in hers — on the 2nd of June: ‘In the afternoon, Alix was present during our working at yesterday’s place’; on the 14th of June: ‘In the morning I walked with all the children in the park. The weather was great. At 12 o’clock went to the prayer service. In the afternoon, Alix came out with us’; On the 21st of June: ‘During the working in the park, Alix was present in her chair’; and finally, the 23rd of July: ‘During the day we worked on a narrow path, cut down and sawed two spruce trees. Alix was sitting there in the forest.’

From the above it appears that the activities of Nicolas II and others outside did not interest Alexandra Feodorovna much. At least, she did not wish to be directly associated with them. It seems that her intentional withdrawal manifested the dislike and disagreement with her changed status, — she was not the wife of the Emperor anymore, but the wife of the abdicated Emperor who was under home arrest and to add to this was doing the activities of a simple ‘peasant’. Hence, her resistance.

By the time the Family was leaving Tsarskoe Selo, they were a ‘divided’ family — Alexandra Feodorovna still clinging to the regal status, if only in her habits, whilst the rest of the members having already moved on from that point.

And so, in the early morning on the 1st August 1917, the Family, physically and mentally changed and challenged, left Tsarskoe Selo for good:

The sunrise was beautiful, at which we set off on the road to Petrograd and along the connecting branch continued to the Severnaya railway line. We left Ts.[arskoe] S.[elo] at 6.10 am.’ — Nicolas II, diary entry 31 July 1917

To be continued…

Seraphima Bogomolova

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