Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The Yellow Palace - Det Gule Palæ - in Copenhagen

In monarchical circles King Christian IX and Queen Louise of Denmark were known as ‘the father-in-law and mother-in-law of Europe’. Before inheriting the throne in 1863 and moving to the Amalienborg Palace, the family lived in the Yellow Palace on Ameliegade 18 in Copenhagen.

Photographs (below) of the Yellow Palace c1800s and today

Four of their six children would become two kings, a queen and an empress. Frederick VIII (1843-1912) who inherited the Danish throne in 1906 married Princess Louise of Sweden. Alexandra (1844-1925) was the wife of Edward VII of England. Wilhelm (1845-1913) on his acceptance of the Greek throne in 1863 became King George I of the Hellenes and was married to Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovich. Dagmar (1846-1928) converting to Orthodoxy at her marriage to the future Emperor Alexander III adopted the name Maria Feodorovna. The two youngest children were Thyra (1853-1933) married to the Duke of Cumberland and Valdemar (1859-1939) to Princess Marie d’ Orléans-Bourbon.

Photographs c1861 (below) of the salon, dining room and study in the Yellow Palace

Alexandra was called ‘Beautiful’ by her father, Dagmar ‘Clever’ and Thyra ‘Kind’. Without luxury and excessive wealth, their family life was remembered as idyllic; the children returning with their own families in later years.

Photograph (below) of Christian IX with Dagmar, Wilhelm and Alexandra
Prince Valdemar and his wife Marie lived in the Yellow Palace after their marriage in 1885. During their visit to Denmark, Nicholas II and Alexandra went into Copenhagen for the day on Friday August 27th 1899. ‘We had lunch at Uncle Valdemar’s and Marie’s in their home’.

Photographs (below) of the Valdemar and Marie’s rooms in the Yellow Palace c1897

In 1919 after the revolution, Empress Maria Feodorovna lived in the Amalienborg Palace during the winter and Hvidore in the summer. On Tuesday December 2nd she ‘went by for a little while to the Yellow Palace to Louise’s who is settled in Uncle Hans’ old apartment. Recollections of it flowed over me how in former times I used to visit him there every day. I so miss that … At 7:30 I had dinner at Valdemar’s in the Yellow Palace’.

Photographs (below) of the Dowager Queen Louise’s rooms in the Yellow Palace

The Yellow Palace was shared by family members. Prince Valdemar was the last royal to live here until his death in 1939. Today it is used as offices for the current Queen Margarethe’s royal court. A shame the historical palace is hidden in the shadows.

Photographs (below) of the Yellow Palace in 1931 and Prince Valdemar on the balcony in 1937

Monday, 15 January 2018

A Tank of Mud in the Alexander Palace

In October 1912, the Tsarevich Alexei suffered an injury at the Spala hunting lodge in Poland. Returning to Tsarskoe Selo on November 5th, Nicholas II and Alexandra arranged, on the advice of the doctors, various treatments for their son’s recovery in the Alexander Palace.

Photograph and plans of Alexei's rooms on the 2nd floor (below) of the Alexander Palace

The account documents reveal that from November 1912 to March 1913 there were twenty-seven visits to the palace by Dr. S. Federov, fifteen by Dr. R. Vreden and one hundred and twenty-four by the neurologist Dr. S. Dmitriev.

A special bed was ordered from the Berlin Orthopedic Institute and a desk with an adjustable seat was constructed for his classroom.

Painting (below) of Alexei's classroom with the desk

Among the orthopedic apparatuses for Alexei acquired by Dr. Vreden, the director of the Orthopedic Institute, were an armchair on bicycle wheels for 464 rubles and a walker on wheels for 60 rubles.

Hot mud baths were a part of the therapy. We are familiar with Nicholas II’s diary and photographs of Alexei’s treatment in the Livadia Palace. There were twelve sessions on the left hip, knee and the elbow of the left arm.

Photographs (below) of Alexei’s mud bath treatments in Livadia

Little is known of the fact that he also had mud baths in the Alexander Palace. The medicinal mud from Lake Moynaki near Evpatoria was placed in barrels and shipped to Tsarskoe Selo. It was stored in a tank in the basement of the palace.

Plan (below) of the basement in the Alexander Palace today

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Prince Valdemar of Denmark supporting his sister Empress Marie

Fulfilling a promise to his daughter Empress Marie, King Christian IX and Queen Louise of Denmark visited Saint Petersburg in the late autumn of 1881. He worried about ‘the need to match the imperial extravagance’ writing that he ‘wished to live as close as possible to her but not in the palace’. The king, unable to justify another trip within six months, did not attend Alexander III’s coronation and sent his son Valdemar.

Georges Becker’s painting (below) of The Coronation of Alexander III and Empress Marie Feodorovna

Empress Marie’s letters to her mother reveal private details surrounding the coronation ceremony on May 15th 1883. The evening of May 14th ‘all the family was in the church for a long time.  After the service, Valdemar [her brother] and I had dinner and were together until about 11:30 pm. Then we had confession with Father Yanishev. After that we went to bed. Fortunately I was able to fall asleep but poor Sasha [Alexander III] had not slept all night. We rose at 7:00 am, awakened by cannon shots that ushered in the beginning of the celebrations’.
‘At 9:00 with beating hearts and tears in our eyes we left our chambers. I wore the silver coronation dress with a long train, nothing on the head and a small pearl necklace to not feel naked. We entered the ancient Assumption Cathedral and stopped in the center on the dais before the two thrones. Valdemar stood next to me. Sasha was presented with a crown. He solemnly laid it on his head. Valdemar laid a large velvet pillow at his feet on which I had to kneel. Sasha solemnly put a little crown on my head’.

Engraving of Georges Becker’s Painting (below) of The Anointing of Emperor Alexander III

Nicholas II hung the two paintings above of his father’s coronation in his Reception Room (176) on the 2nd floor of the northwest section of the Winter Palace (below).  The Anointing of Emperor Alexander III is on the right.

 Photograph (below) of the Reception Room in November 1917

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

The Empress Lost in the Shadows

Catherine the Great wanted her fifteen year old grandson Alexander to marry. On October 31st 1792 thirteen year old Princess Louise of Baden and her younger sister Frederika arrived in Saint Petersburg. Alexander chose Louise. She took the name Elizabeth Alexeyevna during her conversion to Orthodoxy on May 9th 1793. Their wedding was held on September 28th in the Cathedral of the Winter Palace. Within three years the empress was dead. Alexander inherited the throne after the death of his father Paul in 1801. Emperor Alexander I’s reign is well-known due to the Napoleonic Wars.

Portrait by Jean-Laurent Mosnier (below) of Empress Elizabeth c1805

Empress Elizabeth Alexeyevna is a stranger to many readers. Her suite of rooms was on the 2nd floor in the northwest section of the Winter Palace. They were dismantled after her death in May 1826 for the new Empress Alexandra, the wife of Nicholas I.

Princess Varvara Golovina (1788-1819) wrote a memoir of her life as a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth. She was also an artist, giving us a glimpse of Alexander I and Elizabeth’s rooms in the Winter Palace. The plan of the 2nd floor from 1801-1826 was reconstructed after the 1837.

Varvara Golovina’s watercolor (below) of Empress Elizabeth’s study [#187 on the 2nd floor plan]
Varvara Golovina’s watercolor (below) of Emperor Alexander I and Elizabeth’s bedroom [#186 on the 2nd floor plan]
Visitors to the Hermitage today rarely recognize portraits of Empress Elizabeth, famous in her time, now hanging in the former Pompeian Gallery [#151-153] and other halls.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Music Hall in Pavlovsk Train Station 1888

On Friday September 2nd 1888 Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich wrote in his diary that ‘last night I listened to Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony in the Pavlovsk train station. I liked it although we were sitting near the copper pipes that interfered with the integrity of the impression’.

Photographs (below) of the Music Hall at Pavlovsk Train Station late 1800s

Plan for its façade (below) approved by Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich on October 8th 1860
Al Charlemagne’s watercolor (below) on its 25th anniversary in 1862
N. Benois drawing (below) c1876
Interiors (below) of the Music Hall

Photograph (below) of the season opening on April 27th 1888

Plan (below) to restore the Pavlovsk Train Station

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

A Grand Duke’s Life in Pavlovsk Palace 1877-1915

The diary of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich from 1877 to 1915 reveals fascinating details of family life in their palaces in Saint Petersburg.

His father Konstantin, the second son of Nicholas I, inherited Pavlovsk after the death of his uncle Mikhail Pavlovich in 1849. A century before in 1779 the palace and park were the creation of Emperor Paul and Maria Feodorovna.  Posterity has lost a vital source when they stipulated after death their diaries and letters were to be destroyed. Fortunately, their great-grandson Konstantin wanted his diary ‘to be read and re-read after my death by those who will be curious to look into my inner life’.

Photographs of Pavlovsk Palace c1872

On Thursday June 30th 1877 before leaving to join Emperor Alexander II’s forces on the Danube, eighteen-year-old Konstantin ‘dined in the Gonzaga gallery. Then I rode with Mama. I sometimes think that may be it is the last time I see lovely Pavlovsk’.

Photographs of the Gonzaga Gallery

Two years later in Pavlovsk on June 19th 1879 ‘in the morning I went upstairs to the storerooms and examined the old stacked things. I found Jacob chairs from the magnificent study. Between all the rubbish I found portraits of Peter the Great and King Charles I of England. I took all this to my room and mama helps me arrange it’.

On June 23rd Professor Laroche of the St. Petersburg Conservatory visited Pavlovsk. Konstantin ‘showed him our palace. I never tire and am not bored to tell for the hundredth time about the different rooms, porcelain, bronzes, tapestries and antique furniture, showing all these delights to guests’.

After the funeral of Empress Marie Alexandrovna on May 28th 1880, Konstantin with his mother, his sister Queen Olga of the Hellenes, children and retinue moved to Pavlovsk on June 4th. ‘Papa met us in the carriage. I have never seen the Pavlovsk garden in such splendor. We traveled almost the entire park; the Rose Pavilion, Konstantinovsky path, Staraya and the farm’.

Photographs of the Rose Pavilion (then and today) and the Farm

On Wednesday the 19th of April 1906 we all had lunch on the covered semi-circular balcony adjoining from the side of the courtyard to the Picture Gallery. The same day we had supper in the Peace Hall’.

Photograph of the Picture Gallery (today). It  had been assembled with sixty-seven of the best paintings – Correggio, Andrea del Sarto, Tintoretto, Veronese – by his father Konstantin Nikolaevich in 1872.

In the late afternoon of Christmas Eve Sunday December 24th 1906 ‘we lit candles on a tiny tree in my study for baby Vera. She was all eyes and opening her toothless mouth stared at the lights. At the end of the all-night vigil service, three year old George was led into the church. Then we all gathered in the dimly lit room of Emperor Paul. I rang the bell, the doors opened and everyone ran into the War Hall. To the right of the window a large lush tree to the ceiling was shining with lights, all hung with glass icicles, covered with cotton for snow and glittered with silver and gold nuts. Along the walls, gifts were laid on the tables’.

Photographs of the Study of Paul I and the War Hall