Portrait of Alexander II’s daughter donated to Peterhof


PHOTO © Государственный музей-заповедник Петергоф

On 23rd April, the Farm Palace (situated in the Alexandria Park at Peterhof) hosted a ceremonial transfer of a portrait of Countess Olga Alexandrovna von Merenberg, born Yuryevskaya (1873-1925). The portrait was presented to the collection of the Peterhof State Museum by the Countess’s granddaughter, Baroness Clotilde von Rintelen. This is the third gift that the great-granddaughter of Emperor Alexander II (1818-1891) and his morganatic wife Princess Ekaterina Dolgorukova (1847-1922) have presented to the palace-museum.

Nine years ago,  60 rose bushes of old varieties, were donated by the Baroness, to decorate the flower gardens of the Farm Palace and Tsaritsyn Island in Peterhof. Last year, Clotilde von Rintelen donated to the museum a unique album “Chassesdanslaforêt de Białowieźa” (Hunting in Belovezhskaya Pushcha), marking the Imperial hunt in Belovezhskaya Pushcha in October 1860.

This year, the Baroness, arrived in St. Petersburg as part of a delegation of the press club of the German city of Wiesbaden, where she presented the palace-museum with the portrait of Olga Alexandrovna, the daughter of Emperor Alexander II and Princess Ekaterina Dolgorukova, which had been kept in her family.


PHOTO © Государственный музей-заповедник Петергоф

The oval-shaped portrait is painted in gouache and signed by the artist: “Countess Olga Hasselman Kurt, 1917. Wiesbaden”. The portrait was always kept in the family of her heirs. According to the Baroness, this family heirloom survived numerous family relocations, fires, and even a bomb that hit her grandfather’s house during the Second World War. “Now the portrait has returned home,” said Clotilde von Rintelen.

After the ceremonial transfer, the portrait of Olga Alexandrovna, accompanied by the museum staff and the donor, went to the St. Petersburg “House of Journalists”, where it  was presented to the media.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 8 May 2019

Christie’s Offers Portraits from the Princess Paley Collection


An upcoming auction of Russian art will be offered at Christie’s (London) on 26th November 2018. The auction features two youthful ceremonial portraits of the future Emperor Alexander II, from the collection of Princess Olga Valerianovna Paley (1865-1929).

Princess Olga Paley, the morganatic second wife of the Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich (1860-1919), having endured the arrest and execution of both her husband and son Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley (1897-1918) by the Bolsheviks, escaped to Finland in 1920, and later settled in Paris.

She had long legal proceedings against the Soviet government who had actively been trading in artworks which belonged to her family, but had been nationalized by the government after the Revolution. These two portraits were part of the lawsuit, despite the fact that they were copies of the originals. She died in exile in Paris on 2 November 1929, at the age of 64.


Lot 22. After George Dawe, R.A.
Portrait of Tsesarevich Alexander Nikolaevich in the uniform of the Leib Guard Black Sea Cossack squadron
Estimate: GBP 50,000 – GBP 60,000 (USD 64,300 – USD 77,160)


By repute, Empress Maria Alexandrovna (1824-1880), Gatchina Palace, until 1880.
Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich (1860-1919), Grand Duke Paul’s Palace, English embankment, St Petersburg.

Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich and Princess Olga Paley (1865-1929), The Paley Palace, Tsarskoe Selo, until 1919.

Pictures & Drawings formed by Her Highness Princess Paley removed from The Paley Palace, Tsarskoye selo; Christie’s, London, 21 June 1929, lot 21, sold as ‘George Dawe, R. A., Portrait of Alexander II, when a boy in military uniform standing in a landscape’.
Acquired by the present owner in Rueil-Malmaison, France circa 1965.


LOT 23. After Franz Krüger
Portrait of the Tsesarevitch Alexander Nikolaevich in the uniform of the Atamansky Cossack regiment of His Imperial Highness the Heir the Tsesarevitch
Estimate: GBP 40,000 – GBP 50,000 (USD 51,440 – USD 64,300)


Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich (1860-1919), Grand Duke Paul’s Palace, English embankment, St Petersburg.

Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich and Princess Olga Paley (1865-1929), The Paley Palace, Tsarskoe Selo, until 1919.

Pictures & Drawings formed by Her Highness Princess Paley removed from The Paley Palace, Tsarskoye selo; Christie’s, London, 21 June 1929, lot 33, sold as ‘F. Krüger, Portrait of Alexander II, in blue military uniform with silver epaulettes, holding his shako’.
Acquired by the present owner in Rueil-Malmaison, France circa 1965.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia / Christie’s (London). 14 November 2018

Blood-stained shirt of Emperor Alexander II Returned to Russia


The blood-stained shirt of Alexander II has been returned to Russia

Earlier this week, personal items belonging to Emperor Alexander II were handed over to Russian Ambassador Alexey Meshkov, during a solemn ceremony which took place in Paris as part of an evening carried out by the Franco-Russian Alliance.

Among the items is a shirt and vest with the remains of the emperor’s blood which he wore during the final hours of his life after his assassination on 13th March 1881. “These relics are part of our history, it is important to preserve them,” said Bishop Nestor of the Diocese of Korsun of the Russian Orthodox Church.

According to the head of the Franco-Russian Alliance Prince Alexander Trubetskoy, after the emperor’s assassination his widow Princess Ekaterina Dolgorukova (1847-1922) settled in Nice and carefully preserved the late tsar’s shirt and other belongings until her death. She bequeathed to the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Nice a few personal things of the emperor. In addition to the shirt and vest there were three scarves with his initials, a portrait of the emperor and his uniform.


Princess Ekaterina Dolgorukova and Emperor Alexander II

After the Russian Revolution, the Russian Cultural Orthodox Association in Nice (Association Culturelle Orthodoxe Russe Nice – ACOR) seized the cathedral and all Imperial relics stored there. After a long legal process, the Russian side confirmed its property rights for the St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Nice, but ACOR refused to give up the relics. However, with the help of the French government, Russia was able to return them. Alexander Trubetskoy called the return of the relics a historical moment.

The Russian embassy noted that our country has very good friends in France. Moreover, the French Cultural Ministry is very serious about the problems of the historical values protection.

Alexey Meshkov recalled that the work on the historical heritage return lasted for several years. He thanked once again the official authorities for the support and promised that in the shortest time the relics would take their place in the cathedral in Nice.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 13 November 2018


4 New Romanov Monuments Established in Russia


Monument to Emperor Peter I (1672-1725) in Rostov-on-Don

While more and more statues and busts of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin continue to be erased from the Russian landscape, no less than four new monuments to Russian monarchs were established in various cities across Russia during the past week.

On 11th September, a monument to Emperor Peter I (1672-1725) was established in the city of Rostov-on-Don. The bronze monument depicts the figure of a Cossack giving the emperor a cup of spring water. Peter the Great is depicted in the clothes of the Preobrazhensky Regiment. 

The composition – which weighs 2 tons – was created by the famous Rostov sculptor Sergei Oleshnya, the author of the famous monument to Empress Elizabeth Petrovna in Pokrovsky Square and many other sculptures in the city. 


Monument to the Emperor Alexander II (1818-1881) in Bernovo

On 12th September, a monument to the Emperor Alexander II (1818-1881) was established in Bernovo, a village in the Staritsky district of the Tver region.

The establishment of a monument to the Tsar-Liberator, has been a long-standing dream of Alexander Yakovlevich Volnukhin – local historian, honorary citizen Tver region, a true patriot and faithful son of old Russia.  

In 1912, residents of the Bernovo district established a bronze bust of the emperor in the center of the village, showing their gratitude for liberation from serfdom. The bust was removed during the Soviet years, leaving just a pedestal, however, drawings and documents have been preserved in the archives.

The initiators of the restoration of the monument were Alexander Volnukhin, patron Pavel Shidlovsky with the support of the administration of the Staritssky district, the administration of the Bernovo village, the association of the Tver country communities, and the Bernovo orthodox parish.

The dean of the Torzhok and Staritsa districts, Protopriest Nikolai, performed the ceremony of consecration of the newly restored monument.


Monument to the Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894) in Korenovsk

On 14th September, a monument to the Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894) was established in Korenovsk, a town  located in the North Caucasus region in southern Russia. 

Documents in the State Archives of the Krasnodar Region, show that Emperor Alexander III and his family visited Korenovsk on 21 September 1888. The emperor’s journey was dedicated to the opening of the new rail line connecting Tikhoretsk to Novorossiysk, stopping at Korenovskaya Station, where he met with local Cossacks.

130 years later, a monument in honour of Alexander III’s visit was established on the square in front of the Korenovsk Station. The initiator of the project was the hereditary Cossack and ataman (1997-2011) of the Korenovsky RKO Mikhail Sergeevich Timchenko. The bust was made by the sculptor Emil Mazmanyan, the pedestal was made in the workshop of Mikhail Serdyukov. 

The monument carries a famous quote that it attributes to Emperor Alexander III: “Russia has two allies — its army and the navy.”


Monument to the Empress Catherine II (1729-1796), in Morshansk,

On 16th September, a monument to the Empress Catherine II (1729-1796), was established in Morshansk, a town in the Tambov region. 

The monument was established by the Russian Military Historical Society. The tablet on the pedestal reads “Mother Empress Catherine II – the founder of the city of Morshansk.” The bust itself, made by the sculptor Denis Stritovich, is an exact copy of the work of the sculpture academician of the Petersburg Academy of Arts Samuel Halberg, which was presented to the city in 1879. The original bust, which was saved in the post-revolutionary years, is today part of the permanent collection of the Morshansk Historical and Art Museum. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 18 September 2018


Exhibition: Alexander II at Tsarskoe Selo. ‘Home at last…’


The exhibition Alexander II at Tsarskoye Selo. ‘Home at last …’ dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Alexander II opened on 1st August.

The exhibition occupies the former private apartments of Alexander II on the first floor in the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace.

Unfortunately, the interiors of these rooms – as well as the apartments of Empress Maria Alexandrovna, situated on the second floor – were lost during the Great Patriotic War. Today, the interiors have survived only in the watercolours by Luigi Premazzi and Eduard Hau, as well as in illuminated works by photographer Steinmueller and other photographs from the 1930s. The exhibit attempts to “reconstruct”  a few of the rooms with some of their original furnishings and personal items of the Tsar-Liberator.

PHOTOS © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve

About 200 artifacts such as paintings, furniture and porcelain pieces, weapons, bronzes and uniforms which belonged to the emperor and members of his family when they were in residence at Tsarskoe Selo. The Ostankino Estate Museum in Moscow has loaned 25 pieces of furniture from Alexander’s Office in the Ostankino Palace.

The highlights include the arms from the non-restored Asiatic Room of the Catherine Palace, some personal effects – his clock, briefcase and portraits of his grandchildren – from Alexander’s desk, and some pieces of the famous Lyons furniture set from the sitting room of Alexander’s wife, Empress Maria Alexandrovna.

The exhibition Alexander II at Tsarskoye Selo. ‘Home at last …’ runs until 31st December 2018, in the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. 

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 3 August 2018

Monument to Emperor Alexander II Divides Bulgarian City


Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli (left), stands beside the controversial monument to Alexander II

Controversy over a proposal to install a monument to Emperor Alexander II has divided the Bulgarian city of Svishtov for over a year now.

In February 2017, public opinion in Svishtov was aggravated by a decision of the city council to erect a monument to the Russian Emperor Alexander II. The monument, created by the famous Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli, was presented to the city on the initiative of the Balkan Center for Development and Restoration.

Almost immediately two groups: “for” and “against” the monument were established. The “for” group includes Russophiles – a recent poll shows that 78% of the Bulgarian population consider themselves Russophiles – who recognize Alexander II as a hero, while the “against” group includes many Russophobes – a group of radical nationalists who are vehemently anti-Russian. 


The Monument to the Tsar Liberator, Sofia, Bulgaria

Emperor Alexander II is considered a legendary figure in the history of Bulgaria. The Bulgarians refer to him as the “Tsar Liberator” not for the same reason that the Russians do for the emancipation of serfs; but because of the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78.

An equestrian statue of Alexander II stands in the center of the capital, opposite the parliament buildings. This is the most famous monument in Bulgaria, immortalized in numerous photographs, postcards, posters, and postage stamps. Any visit to Sofia would be incomplete, if one did not include this monument in one’s itinerary. The commemorative plaque reads “Tsar Liberator / Grateful Bulgaria” in gold lettering. The height of the emperor’s figure is 4.5 meters. 

In many Bulgarian cities there are streets and boulevards named after the “Tsar Liberator”. So on this issue there is no dispute that Alexander II of Russia is a historical figure who deserves a monument in Bulgaria to perpetuate his memory.

Organizers acknowledge that there are only two possible places for the new monument in Svishtov – the Central Square or, the City Garden. 

Tsereteli’s statue is made of bronze. It stands 8.5 meters high and is over 2.5 meters wide, making it the world’s largest monument to Tsar Alexander II. The sculpture is valued at 1 million leva ($600,000 USD).  

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 15 May 2018

Monument to Alexander II Vandalized in Odessa


Monument to Alexander II smeared with black paint by vandals in Odessa 

Vandals from the radical right-wing group C14 have defaced a monument to Emperor Alexander II in the Ukrainian resort of Odessa.
The inscription “Alexander II, grateful to Odessa” was smeared with black paint, and “C14” scrawled across the the plate.
The perpetrators have demanded that the Alexander Column be demolished, because, in their opinion, it is “a reminder of the nation’s former occupation by Russia and the Soviet Union”.
C14 (the name refers to a 14-word slogan popular among white supremacists) began its activities in 2009, and declares its commitment to Ukrainian nationalism.

Early 20th century postcard of the Alexander II Column in Odessa

The Alexander II Column, also known as Alexander’s column or Monument to Alexander II of Russia, is a triumphal column located in Shevchenko Park, Odessa and is commemorated to the visit of Russian Emperor Alexander II to the city in 1875.

The monument was built on remnants of the Saint Andrew bastion (fortification motte) of Odessa Fortress that was built in 1793-1794 for border control and was declared inefficient for defence in 1811 as the borders of Russia moved further southwest.

The monument was built in May 1891, by the Russian architect Alexander Alexandrovich Bernardazzi (1871-1931). It consists of a 13 ton column made of Labradorite on a high red granite pedestal. On the red sandstone plaque was inscribed: “Alexander II grateful to Odessa.” Above this was a medallion of white marble with a portrait of Alexander II. Above it – a bronze crown, a scepter, a sword and a staff, and below the inscription was the emblem of the city made of dark bronze in a wreath of oak and laurel leaves; on the other side of the commemorative plaque (on the eastern side) was engraved: “In this place, the Tsar Liberator granted the park in His Name on 7 September 1875, and planted the first tree.” 

The column was crowned with a bronze “Cap of Monomakh”, which lay on a bronze pillow with hanging tassels. The bronze decorations were made at the Parfel Factory in St. Petersburg by the sculptor-ornamentalist Lapin, based on the drawings of the academician V. Tokarev. The decoration of the stone elements were made by the Labradorite factory in Gorodische. The granite steps at the base of the monument was decorated with four bronze eagles. 


Early 20th century postcard of the oak tree planted by Alexander II in September 1875

During Alexander II’s visit to Odessa, a Tsar’s pavilion was constructed. It was here that the monarch gave permission on establishing here a park named after him. The park was officially opened on 7 September 1875 and on 10 September was named the “Alexander Park” after the emperor, who planted an oak tree during the park’s opening ceremony. The tree was fenced with a patterned cast-iron lattice. The park was renamed in honour of the famous Ukrainian writer Taras Shevchenko in 1954.


The Alexander II Column as it looked in 1931, bearing the image of Stalin

After the Bolsheviks came to power, the monument was repeatedly altered. The Cap of Monomakh was removed along with the symbols of the monarchy and tsarist Russia – including a double-headed eagle, crown, sword, scepter, and the dedicatory inscriptions, including the name of the sculptor. The column was draped with a red cloth, and a red flag was raised on a flagpole next to it. The monument was dedicated to the Third International (Communist International or Comintern), in which a bas-relief of Karl Marx was established on the monument. The grand opening and dedication were held on 18 June 1920.

In 1954, the oak tree planted by Alexander II and the patterned cast-iron lattice fence were demolished and replaced with a concrete monument to Bohdan Khmelnytsky (1595-1697). The column itself was not subjected to any alterations at that time. After some time, the concrete hetman disappeared.

In the 1970s there were talks about the dismantling of the monument, but nothing came of that. In the 1990s, all the bronze elements of the monument were stolen.


Dedication ceremony of the restored Alexander Column in Odessa, on 2 September 2012

In the summer of 2011, Odessa and the regional authorities declared that the monument, which was considered a part of the city’s cultural and historical heritage, “must be saved from destruction.”  At the initiative of the city authorities, a special charitable foundation “Alexandrovskaya Column” was created to oversee the project.  The column was restored to its historic original. Thanks to the efforts of city residents and patrons of art, the reconstruction of the monument was completed and timed to coincide with City Day, celebrated in Odessa on 2 September 2012.


An 1892 visitor guide to Odessa noted:

The beauty of its monument to the Tsar Liberator in Odessa can be regarded as one of the most elegant monuments in Russia. Due to its elevated location, one can view both the city and the sea perfectly for several miles.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 4 May 2018

Baroness von Rintelen donates personal items of Alexander II to Peterhof


This article was researched from Russian media sources and written by Paul Gilbert, Founder of Royal Russia © 2018

On 14th April, a ceremonial transfer of memorial items from the collection of Baroness Clotilde von Rintelen, the great-great-granddaughter of the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, to the collection of the Peterhof State Museum-Preserve took place in the Farm Palace of the Alexandria Park. 

The Baroness brought a unique album Chasses dans la forte de Białowieźa (Hunting in Białowieźa Forest), which highlights one of the important events that took place during the reign of Emperor Alexander II – the royal hunt in Białowieźa Forest in October 1860.

Hunting in Białowieźa Forest, organized in October 1860 on the initiative of the Russian monarch, became an unofficial meeting of the heads of European states and was the beginning of the gradual withdrawal of the Russian Empire from the isolation in which it found itself after the Crimean War of 1853-1856. The Hungarian-Russian artist Mikhail Alexandrovich (Mihai) Zichy (in 1859, Zichy was appointed court painter and held this post until his death in 1906) was commissioned to create watercolours of Białowieźa Forest. Alexander II approved the watercolours, and ordered that an album be published. Only 50 copies of the album were published in Russian, and was intended exclusively as gifts for the participants of the hunt. But even more rare was the publication of a French album, issued specifically for diplomatic gifts.


In addition to the album Chasses dans la forte de Białowieźa, a framed picture of Alexander II and a brass snuff-box were presented to the museum-preserve. According to the Baroness, the photograph of the emperor-liberator up to the last days adorned the bedside table of her grandmother, the daughter of A.S. Pushkin – Natalia Alexandrovna, later Countess von Merenberg (1836-1913). The brass snuff-box with a medallion image of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780).

According to the baroness, the memorial items “have finally returned home to Russia, where they will be studied, preserved and displayed.” Deputy Director General of the Peterhof State Museum Tamara Nikolaevna Nosovich, welcomed Clotilde von Rintelen and thanked her on behalf of all employees of the museum, noting that this is not her first gift to Peterhof. In 2005, to the 60th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, the Baroness gifted the museum with 60 specimens of ancient varieties of roses for the garden on Tsaritsyn Island, while another 15 rose bushes gifted for the garden of the Farm Palace in 2010. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 19 April 2018

Exhibition Dedicated to Emperor Alexander II Opens in Moscow


This article was researched from Russian media sources and written by Paul Gilbert, Founder of Royal Russia © 2018

An exhibition marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Alexander II, opened on 3rd April in the State Historical Museum in Moscow.

The exhibition Alexander II. The Liberator, was attended by the Head of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation Vladimir Medinsky. The aim of the project is to present the milestones during the Emperor’s reign from 1855 to 1881, and his tragic fate.


“Today we have a very important and joyful event, because we are opening one of our most important exhibition projects this year – an exhibition dedicated to the Emperor Alexander II Liberator,” said the Director of the Historical Museum Alexei Levykin at the opening. “Very soon we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the most outstanding statesmen in Russia.”

Chairman of the Russian Historical Society Sergei Naryshkin noted that Alexander II’s reforms “rightfully placed him in the forefront of outstanding rulers of Russia. The exhibition today in the State Historical Museum reflects the contribution of Alexander II to the development and strengthening of our fatherland,” he said.


Sergei Naryshkin recalled that the emperor established both the Imperial Russian Historical Society and the State Historical Museum, thereby laying the foundations for historical enlightenment. The 25 years of Emperor Alexander II’s reign have become for Russia “a powerful symbol in all spheres of Russia’s political, economic and social life. He left behind a powerful advanced country with an unquestioned international authority – a country that was really looking to the future,” he concluded.

The exhibition presents a vast array of exhibits associated with the era of the reign of Alexander II, from the collection of the State Historical Museum. Among these are the Emperor’s personal belongings, portraits of the Monarch and members of the Imperial Family, paintings and graphics, as well as documents of his great reforms and the emergence of secret revolutionary organizations.


The exhibition also includes items from the State Hermitage Museum, the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve, the Egorievsky Historical and Art Museum, and the State Archives of the Russian Federation.

Emperor Alexander II is recognized as an outstanding reformer, initiating a series of reforms which affected all spheres of public life in the country, the main of which was the abolition of serfdom. In addition to his domestic reforms, the reign of the Sovereign was marked by achievements in foreign policy, victorious wars and large territorial acquisitions. There was, however, one territorial concession: in 1867, Russia sold Alaska to the United States. 


Click HERE to watch a video (in Russian) of the advance viewing for the media, which features many of the items on display.

The exhibition Alexander II. The Liberator runs from 4 April to 15 October 2018 at the State Historical Museum in Moscow 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 5 April 2018