The Golden Gates to the Catherine Palace Return in Full Splendour


© The Tsarskoe Selo State Museum

The 18th-century Golden Gates to the Catherine Palace have been unveiled after eight-month restoration.

The central gates of the palace courtyard were designed by Savva Ivanovich Chevakinsky (1713-1780) and Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli (1700-1771) and constructed between 1748-56. Severely damaged in World War Two and rebuilt in the 1960s, the gates have undergone their first major restoration in more than 50 years.

The restoration was organized by the Russian Ministry of Culture’s North West Administration for Construction, Reconstruction and Restoration under the federal target program Culture of Russia (2012–2018) and completed by the Slaviansky Project Group.


© The Tsarskoe Selo State Museum


© The Tsarskoe Selo State Museum

The restorers had to deal with 3,500 decorative elements and over 12,000 rivets on the wrought-iron openwork with gilded embellishments. The attachable details had to be removed, numbered and cleaned. After removing old gilt with a special tool, some of the 18th-century elements were found preserved. As well as later ones from the 1960s, those elements were straightened and their missing parts remade. Elements that did not survive were recreated by art blacksmiths.   

The most difficult was the process of coating the embellishments with the thinnest (0.1 micron) sheets of gold leaf using 19th-century technology and a special varnish Mordan. The overall gilding required more than 300 sixty-sheet gold leaf books containing 4 grams of gold each. The double-headed eagle on the gates was the largest element which required 6 gold leaf books.

Also restored were the gates’ brickwork, fence basements, stucco work decorations and natural stone details.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum. 17 April 2019

Will the Alexander Palace Open in 2019?


The left (eastern) wing of the Alexander Palace

There are rising doubts that the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo will open in 2019, as was previously planned. According to the Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Olga Taratynova: “It all depends on the timing of the allocation of funds from the federal budget. The palace-museum is waiting for the 300 million rubles required for the completion of the first stage of restoration work.”

The Alexander Palace has been closed to visitors since 2015. It was originally planned to complete the first part of the work in the beloved residence of the last Russian emperor by July 2018 – timed to the 100th anniversary of the murder of the Imperial Family. The opening date of a partial reopening of the palace to visitors was then postponed to the end of 2019. 

Now, according to Olga Taratynova, these plans are in doubt. “If the money arrives within the next month, then by the end of the year we will open the first eight rooms of the left (eastern) wing of the palace to visitors,” she said. “If the funds are delayed, the opening of the restored and reconstructed apartments will take place in the first quarter of 2020. And in the same year we hope to open 7 additional rooms. Thus, the restoration of the entire left wing of the palace will be complete.” 

Of particular interest to visitors will be the Tsar’s Moorish-style Bathroom. The main feature is a giant heated swimming tub with a capacity of 1000 buckets of water – where the Tsar, and Tsesarevich Alexei liked to swim. “This was all lost, but now the restorers, have completely recreated the interior, based on pieces of ceramics from the walls, and photos from the palace-museum archives,” added Olga Taratynova. On the second floor of the palace, where the children’s rooms were located, the museum plans to hold temporary exhibition facilities. 

“We really want to make everyone happy for the new year. But in any case, the recovery process is underway and has already progressed significantly. So if not at the end of December, then in the first quarter of 2020, the Alexander Palace will open its doors,” says the Director of the Tsarskoye Selo Palace Museum.

Click HERE to read 5 additional articles on the restoration of the Alexander Palace

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 17 April 2019

NEW BOOK: ‘The Last Romanovs – Archival and Museum Discoveries in Great Britain and Russia’


The Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov Society (UK) have published a high quality book The Last Romanovs – Archival and Museum Discoveries in Great Britain and Russia.

This English language publication is an illustrated collection of contributions to the British-Russian Symposium, held in Windsor in June 2017 and organised by the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov Society. The articles cover various aspects of the lives of the last members of the Imperial House of Romanov and also present new information about documents and exhibits from various collections in Russia and the United Kingdom.

The book (edited by Dr Maria Harwood) was released by the prestigious British publishing house PINDAR PRESS. The Foreword has been written by the President of the Romanov Family Association Princess Olga Andreevna, and Introduction by the Chairman of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov Society (UK) Dr. Maria Harwood. 

Below, is a list of the articles and their respective authors: 


The Decoration of the Kremlin as a Sacred Space for the Last Coronation in 1896: Tradition and Innovation
by Dr. Inessa Slyunkova

Rare Photographs of the Romanovs’ Russia During the Time of the Coronation, 1856
by Stephen Patterson


The Romanovs at Osbourne
by Michael Hunter

The Rescue of the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna from the Crimea
by Coryne Hall

The Letters of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, Duchess of Edinburgh and of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, in the National Archives of Romania in Bucharest
by Charlotte Zeepvat


The Art Collection of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna: New Discoveries
by Dmitry Grishin

New Documents for the Biography of Grand Duchess Elizabeth: Police Reports 1909-1917
by Olga Kopylova

The Question of Giving the Title of Deaconess to the Sisters of Saints Martha and Mary Convent: Discoveries in St. Petersburg’s Archives
by Priest Andrei Posternak and Elena Kozlovseva

Journey to the East of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna (Letters to Princess S.N. Golitsyna, 1888)
by Olga Trofimova

The Collection of the ‘Tsar Nicholas II Museum’ in Belgrade Within the State Historical Museum, Moscow
by Nikolai Misko and Marina Falaleeva

Father Nicholas Gibbes: Teacher to the Royal Children and Orthodox Monk. The Romanov Collection and the Issue of Creating a Romanov Museum in Oxford
by Archpriest Stephen Platt

During the past three years, the work of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov Society has included pilgrimages to Russia by Orthodox Christians, holding historical exhibitions and educational events in the UK – including the Nicholas II Conference held in Colchester, England on 27th October 2018 – as well as the unveiling of the memorial Cross to the Holy Royal Passion-bearers and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, on the Isle of Wight near the Palace of Queen Victoria.

This English language title is a large soft-cover (9½” x 12″), with 120 pages, richly illustrated with more than 140 colour and black & white photographs and illustrations. Price: £25 + postage. 

For information on how to order your copy, please contact Mr David Gilchrist at the following email

Click HERE for more information about the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov Society (UK)

© The Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov Society (UK). 13 April 2019 

Russian President Visits Restored Catherine Palace Chapel

On 11th April, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Catherine Palace’s Church of the Resurrection and praised the quality of its restoration work, which became possible thanks to financial support from Gazprom.

The president was accompanied by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller, and the permanent members of Russia’s Security Council.

The VIP guests of the Museum had a tour of the Chapel led by Director Olga Taratynova, who showed them the revived masterpiece of eighteenth century architecture designed by Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli.

The Church of the Resurrection of Christ in Tsarskoye Selo was founded in August 1746. The palace chapel was designed by the Italian architect Francesco Rastrelli, (1700-1771)construction lasted 10 years. It was consecrated in the presence of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna and impressed her contemporaries by it’s unique beauty and splendour.

Specialists of the Amber Workshop of Tsarskoye Selo, who spent four years restoring the Palace Chapel, followed the Museum’s requirements of maximal conservation of extant details and minimal re-creation of lost ones.

The Chapel of the Catherine Palace will open to visitors on 13 April 2019.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 12 April 2019

At the Empress’s Fireside. The Fireplace Screen of the Grand Peterhof Palace


On 1st April 2019 the exhibition At the Empress’s FireplaceFireplace Screen of the Grand Peterhof Palace, opened in the Ball Room of the Grand Peterhof Palace.

The screen’s completion is the first stage of work on the reconstruction of the lost porcelain fireplace ensemble in the Empress’s Cabinet. The project was carried out by Pallada LLC, and is part of the revival program of the Grand Palace’s historical collection.

Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855), who was particularly fond of Peterhof, invested a lot of time and resources in maintaining the grandeur of this Imperial residence. In the 1840s, under the Emperor’s direct supervision, the famous Russian architect Andrei Shtakenshneider (1802-1865) carried out large-scale repair and restoration work in the Grand Palace, during which the old marble fireplace was replaced with a new Rococo Style porcelain mirror fireplace in the Empress’s Cabinet. Executed at the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg, by the personal order of Nicholas I, it immediately became the central motive in the decoration of the interior. 


A distinctive feature of the fireplace was the amazing design and execution of the screen, made of bronze in the form of a fan with porcelain inlays, painted with flowers.

Unique in its beauty and artistic creation, this work of art of Russian porcelain masters decorated the interior of the Great Peterhof Palace until 1941. During World War II, the fireplace with screen was destroyed during a devastating fire. Only a few fragments, extracted after the war from the ruins of the palace were left. But, it was enough for artists and restorers to recreate his exquisite work of art beginning in 2016. 

The exhibition At the Empress’s Fireplace.  Fireplace Screen of the Grand Peterhof Palace runs from 1st April to 31st December 2019

© Paul Gilbert. 12 April 2019


Russian Museum presents more than 500 works in Nicholas I exhibition


An exhibition dedicated to the Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855) opened on 13th February 2019, in St. Michael’s Castle (also known as Mikhailovsky Castle or the Engineers’ Castle), a branch of the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg

The sixth exhibition from the cycle “The Romanovs Family Saga” covers the personality and state affairs of Emperor Nicholas I, his foreign policy, the life of society, the imperial court and the Imperial family, as reflected in the works of painting, graphics, numismatics and decorative and applied arts. The exhibition is intended to designate how the key ideologeme of the epoch, proclaimed by the Minister of Public Education S. S. Uvarov, was realized in a fruitful and contradictory unity in artistic practice — “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality,” for a long time considered an absolutely reactionary thesis.

Nicholas’s reign was a multifaceted and controversial era in which total ideological and political control, the establishment of censorship and the strengthening of the police in a seemingly paradoxical way, are combined with the flourishing of arts, architecture, journalism, art criticism, and literature. The emperor himself was keen on drawing — portraits and caricatures drawn by him have survived until the present day.

The exhibition includes a series of ceremonial portraits of Emperor Nicholas I, his associates (A. Menshikov, A. Benkendorf, I. Paskevich, and others) and members of the royal family, made by such artists and sculptors as George Dow, Franz Kruеger, Orest Kiprensky, Fyodor Tolstoy and others). Paintings and drawings, vases, porcelain sets, furniture, bronze, numismatic curiosities included in the exhibition give an idea of the panorama of the artistic life of a prosperous country, of the refined interiors of the royal residences and the peculiarities of the life of the highest court.

The dramatic problems of the historical path of Russia, which were designated at this time, are not ignored. Separate sections of the exhibition are devoted to operations on the fronts of the Russian-Turkish and Crimean Wars, and the journeys of the emperor and his family.

The exhibition features more than 500 works. It has been organized by the Russian Museum, whose rich collections comprise its most part. It also includes works provided by the State Hermitage Museum, the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Historical Museum, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Peterhof, Tsarskoye Selo, Pavlovsk, Gatchina Museum Reserves, the Military Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineering and Communications, the State Archives of the Russian Federation, and a number of other state museums and archives of Russia, as well as private collections.

Nicholas I exhibition in St. Petersburg

The exhibition Nicholas I runs until 20 May 2019 in St. Michael’s Castle in St. Petersburg

© The State Russian Museum. 29 March 2019

On This Day: the Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III Opens in St. Petersburg


Artist: Karl Osipovich Broz

On This Day: 19th [O.S. 7th] March 1898, the Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III officially opened in St. Petersburg.

The museum was established in the Mikhailovsky Palace, a splendid Neoclassical residence of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich (1798-1849).

The museum was established on 13th April 1895, upon enthronement of Nicholas II to commemorate his father, Alexander III. Its original collection was composed of artworks taken from the Hermitage Museum, Alexander Palace, and the Imperial Academy of Arts.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the museum and its collection were nationalized and renamed the State Russian Museum. Today, the museum is the world’s largest depository of Russian art with more than 400,000 items.


Bust of Alexander III on the main staircase of the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

The portrait (above) depicts Emperor Nicholas II and his mother the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, standing before the bust of Alexander III, located on the main staircase of the museum. Several years ago, the bust was returned to its original place on the staircase of the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

© Paul Gilbert. 18 March 2019


Former Service Building of the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg to be Auctioned


The Russian Auction House (Росси́йский аукцио́нный до́м РАД) have announced plans to auction the former service building of the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg.

The former service building or service wing, is situated on the opposite side of the courtyard of the Marble Palace, where Paolo Troubetzkoy’s famous equestrian monument of Emperor Alexander III (1909) is located. The Marble Palace complex is situated on Ulitsa Millionnaya, backing the Neva River.

The service wing was built in the early classicism style by the Russian architect Pyotr Egorovich Egorov in 1780-1787. simultaneously with the Marble Palace (1768–1785). The original appearance of the building is best represented in the paintings of the time, including “View of the Palace Embankment” by F. Ya. Alekseyev in 1794 (photo below) or in the painting by B. Patersen in 1806.

At first the building was two-story, painted yellow. The second floor of the building housed the apartments of courtiers, kitchens, workshops, and various ancillary services. There were also apartments for guests, and rooms for hosting luncheons and tea parties. The first floor housed horse stables and carriages, as well as a saddle shop (for repairing the harness), and a blacksmith workshop.


View of the Palace Embankment. 1794. Artist: Fyodor Yakovlevich Alekseyev (1753-1824)

The redevelopment of the service wing was conceived for the marriage of the new owner of the Marble Palace – Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich (1827-1892), the second son of Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855). The Russian architect Alexander Pavlovich Bryullov (1798-1877) added a third floor, and a frieze, which consisted of battle scenes on historical subjects involving horses. The model was the frieze of the Greek Parthenon, and depicted 39 human figures dressed in the uniforms of ancient Greece and 33 figures of horses.

The last owner of the Marble Palace complex was Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich (1858-1915). 

In 1917 the Marble Palace and the Service building became state property. After 1917 the building was converted into a hostel for scientists. From 1919 to 1926, the famous Russian poet Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) with her second husband, Assyriologist Vladimir Kazimirovich Shileyko (1891-1930) lived in a room facing the Field of Mars and Suvorov Square.

In 1932-1933 a fourth floor was added to the former Service Building. During the Soviet years, it was used for educational purposes, and from 2011, the North-West State Correspondence Technical University.

The current owner has suggested that the building would be suitable as a luxury 5-star hotel.

© Paul Gilbert. 18 March 2019

This Week in the News – The Romanovs and Imperial Russia


PHOTO: The entrance to the Last Days of the Last Tsar exhibition evokes the Ipatiev House, site of the imperial family’s death, enclosed by a tall fence. The exhibition at the Russian History Museum on the grounds of Holy Trinity Monastery, has been extended to 17th May 2019

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This Week in the News includes a link and brief summary to full-length articles published in the past week from English language media and internet sources.

This initiative is a courtesy to those who do not have a Facebook account, or for some reason cannot view the Royal Russia and Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint. Facebook pages.

Royal Russia is pleased to offer our dedicated followers with the following 5 new posts, on a variety of topics covering the Romanov dynasty, their legacy, monarchy, and the history of Imperial and Holy Russia, for the week ending 24 February 2019:


Russian historian Peter Multatuli, Ph.D. speaking in Ekaterinburg

THIS WEEKS’ ARTICLES – click on the red headline text below to read the respective articles

New web site dedicated to the era of Nicholas II launched in Ekaterinburg + PHOTOS

On 16th February 2019, historian Peter Multatuli, Ph.D., arrived in the Urals to present a unique project: the presentation of the new web site “The Russian Empire in the Era of the Reign of Emperor Nicholas II ” («Российская империя в эпоху правления императора Николая Второго»). Read more about this new Russian language site, and my notes on the importance of an English language version.

The Atmosphere of Love in the Russian Royal Family

Nowadays, more than 100 years after the Russian Revolution, the Russian royal family is venerated all over the world.

Amazingly enough, Nicholas II kept diaries for almost forty years, which unveil a great deal of what seemed hidden. What an ineffable joy it is to read the entries and spend each day of the Tsar’s day-to-day life with him and his family: during his multitudinous receptions, work, and gentle strolls with friends in St. Petersburg, Tsarskoye Selo, or in Moscow.

On the Canonization of the Royal Martyrs

Never forget that when the Church glorifies a saint, the act itself does not create the saint, it only declares to the people that this person or this group of people have been glorified in God.

Billboards depicting Nicholas II in Novosibrisk

In February 2019, a billboard bearing a portrait of Nicholas II and family and the inscription “Holy royal passion-bearers pray for us” was established on Karl Marx Square, in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

Old Ladoga: The way of the Vikings + PHOTOS

Architectural historian and photographer William Brumfield writes in RBTH, about the ancient Rus town which inspired Nicholas Roerich, whose paintings colorfully recreated visions of Viking boats here.

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dubai january 2019

PHOTO: Head of the Russian Imperial House HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, during a visit to Dubai, January 2019

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Disclaimer: the links published on this page are for information purposes only,
and may not reflect the opinions of Paul Gilbert and/or Royal Russia

Russia through the lens of Prokudin-Gorsky – a century later


Sergei Mikailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863 – 1944)

Sergei Mikailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863 – 1944) is best known for his pioneering work in colour photography and his effort to document early 20th-century Imperial Russia.

Using a railroad-car darkroom provided by Tsar Nicholas II, Prokudin-Gorskii traveled the Russian Empire from around 1909 to 1915 using his three-image colour photography to record its many aspects. While some of his negatives were lost, the majority ended up in the U.S. Library of Congress after his death. Starting in 2000, the negatives were digitised and the colour triples for each subject digitally combined to produce hundreds of high-quality colour images of century-ago Russia.

In recent years, a group of ambitious Russian photographers revisited the places documented a century earlier by Prokudin-Gorskii and photographed them as they look today. The 14 photographs shown below, depict churches, monasteries, monuments, and other buildings which have been separated by a century of wars, revolution and changes of borders. They are remarkable, for they show how little some of them have changed in a hundred years.

Note: the photos on the left were taken by Produkin-Gorskii more than 100 years ago, while the photos on the right were taken recently be contemporary Russian photographers:


Click HERE to browse the The Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection in the collection of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

Click HERE to read my article Old Ekaterinburg through the lens of Prokudin-Gorsky featuring 22 colour photos.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 19 February 2019