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Diaries and Letters - Letters of Nicholas II

A Snapshot of Daily Life

Extracts from the letters of Nicholas II


These extracts have been chosen to provide an idea of daily life for the Tsar and his family and specifically to give a picture of life in the Alexander Palace. They were translated by Jsenya Dyakova.

Fund 642, doc.2322, March 13, 1895,p.33.
"...On the next day after your departure, we moved here to Tsarskoe. The weather was awful and there was a terrible snowstorm. We settled down very comfortably in the rooms that were quite new to us - Alex in the apartment that faced the garden and I am going to live in the apartment of Princess Kurakina which I had occupied during the war! At first we had an impression that we had moved to a hotel as the furniture and the interior were quite new!... We live a quiet life here. We go for a walk and drive in a sledge in the mornings and in the afternoons. I have more free time here - not so many people arrive here. So it appears that one can have a good rest only in the country..."

March 21,1895,pp.35,36.
"...You know quite well that I usually finish working on the papers in the late evening and it's very bad to work at night! Alix has schooled me to go to bed early; here at Tsarskoe Selo we go to bed at 11.30 p.m.... We usually have someone of the family for breakfast almost every day - so we are very seldom alone at meals even here..."

Sept.16,1895, Ts.S.,p.74.
"...We came here on the 12th with Irene. We were very sad to leave Peterhof and especially our small house at the sea-shore where we had spent our first summer so well together! But when we entered Alix's rooms which had been redecorated and nothing was left there to remind us of their former disgusting look, our mood changed for the better and we felt a great surprise at what we saw. And now we feel absolutely delighted to to live in such beautiful rooms. Sometimes we just sit in one of them silently and enjoy watching the walls, fireplaces and the furniture. The Mauve Room is charming. It's hard to say when it is more beautiful - in the evening or in the day time. The bedroom looks very merry and cosy. The sitting-room "Chippendale" is also very nice. It's light green in colour. But it's difficult to make a final judgement about it as it hasn't got all its furniture yet which is still being made. In my room and in the dining-room they have re- built the stoves and changed the curtains. Two times we went upstairs to see the future nursery. These rooms also look very clean, light and cosy. The other day they brought from England part of a small trousseau and a small bed as it was at Ksenia's... In the evenings I read aloud to Alix Countess Golovina's notes which are very exciting. You know what I mean. We are finishing the second volume now..."

642,2322, Sept.28, 1895,p.78.
"...I've just received your telegram which you sent in answer to mine about the death of poor Voron which upset me very much. I buried him on the Children's Island but not where Ayaks and Beauty had been buried. I'm going to have a tombstone made for him. So I have to walk alone when Alex doesn't go out with me. I feel so lonely and sad..."

642,2324, Ts.S.,Nov.3, 1897,p.56.
"...Cossacks, soldiers and negroes are Olga's best friends and she says "hello" to everyone when she goes along the passage. Little Maria and Dmitry often cometo see our children and play with them for hours on end.
Instead of listening to the reports I've decided to start small sittings with 3 or 4 ministers to discuss different problems. I think discussion and exchange of opinions may be more useful for our work and for myself..."

Ts.S.,Nov.19, 1897,p.59.
"...On the 14th of November I felt very sad that you were not with us. And it seemed very strange to celebrate that day without you in Tsarskoe. We decidedto invite all the ladies and gentlemen who used to come to Gatchina on that day, so quite a lot of people were present at breakfast... p.61.

I feel fine and it's much easier to work here. I think, it's because of the wonderful fresh air which is really very healthy here..."

642,2326, March 20, 1899,pp.4,5.
"...It's been 3 days since our arrival and we were both happy to leave the town. We were not very happy there this winter as Alex and the children were ill almost all the time... Dear Mother, do you understand how delighted I am to to live here and to feel free at least when I go out. The sledge track is very good in Tsarskoe Selo and every day we go for a drive in a sporting sledge. I drive myself and enjoy it. Alix feels rather well now but she can't walk as it hurts very much. She moves in a wheel-chair when she wants to get to our field church. In the evening we were present at the night service dedicated to the Worship of the Cross. It reminded us of the service at the beginning of the Fast two years ago..."

642,2327, March 14, 1902, Petersburg, p.37.
"...Yesterday night we went to see the play "Three Sisters" in Michailovsky Theatre. An amateur company from Moscow with Alexeyev as the director played very well but the performance left a depressing impression. It seemed to be taken from our real life. Tonight (he writes about the Stanislavsky Art Theatre) there'll be a charity performance organized by Sonia Orbeliani for the injured in Shemakha. The company from Vienna will play again..."

642,2327, p.68., Ts.S., March 12, 1903.
"...We spent our last days in the town visiting different places including the exhibition of costumes in the Taurida Palace. Ksenia had pestered us with suggestions that we should visit that exhibition but it was not so interesting as everybody had said, except for the Russian department. Finally, on the 9th of March after the service and breakfast and after the visit to the Hermitage to see the collection of the Archeological Commission, we left for Tsarskoe Selo. You can understand my joy to be here again. Peace and fresh air!..."

642,2327, March 26, 1903,p.73.
"...I am writing to you on the day of Apapa's birthday. We had breakfast with the Danish Embassy Corps today and in my thoughts I was in Copenhagen..."

642,2327, Moscow, Apr.3,1903, p.78.
"...I am sending you a Faberge Easter present. I hope it'll arrive safely. It has no secrets, the egg can be easily opened on top..."

642,2327, p.2, March 7, 1900, Ts.S.
"...Here, in Tsarskoe Selo, unlike anywhere else, I have time to work, to think and to rest. The weather is fine and warm. We often go for sledge-drives. We drive ourselves and stay outside for a long time. We are so happy to have Misha and Olga with us. Petya comes here from the town every day. All the children are well but Tatiana who has fever occasionally..."

642,2327, p.4,March 14, 1901, Ts.S.
"... We go on enjoying ourselves here...

642,2327, Ts.S.,pp.6-8, March 21, 1901.
"...Yesterday we had a gala ceremony of the reception of the Duke of Abercorn and his retinue. They are all very nice people. We have just had a big dinner in their honour. They told us about their stay in Denmark and that they had been happy to see you there. I had to wear the Scots Grey uniform!!! There were 44 people present at the dinner. From the family there were Misha and Olga... On the 19th Misha and I went to the town to be present at the concert for the disabled soldiers which was long and dull as usual. Only Andreev's balalaika-players cheered us up a little bit by their wonderful music. (300 people of all the regiments)... In the evenings we often listen to our beautiful music. Nothing can move my heart as deeply as music. Not long ago I heard a French boy of 14 play the cello and the piano remarkably well. A cute boy with plump red cheeks and very long hair. On the eve of Apapa's birthday we (he means the Danish king Hans Christian) shall have dinner in his honour..."

642,2328, p.66.,Ts.S., Dec.8,1905.
"...The horse-guardsmen have arrived and they are going to have dinner now. Tomorrow there'll be a military review of them mounted, of course..."

Ts.S.,Dec.29, 1905,p.32.
"...We had a big breakfast with the officers' wives (of the horse-guardsmen) and all the retired officers. That evening there was a dinner in the Officers' Club and I boozed up to 6 a.m.! We enjoyed ourselves to the full! It's been a long time since I gave myself a chance to relax in a pleasant company..."

P.34,Ts.S., Jan.12,1906.
"...The Semyonovsky Regiment returned on December 31. Min came from time to time to have breakfast with us and told us a lot of interesting and sad things. He was in a good mood and on the Regiment's behalf he thanked me for sending their regiment to Moscow to put down the mutiny...
All the children have recovered - they had got cold all at the same time and on the holiday they all lay in beds around the fir-tree..."

642,2329, pp.22,23, Ts.S.,Oct.26, 1906.
"...It's been a week today since we moved here and left Peterhof though we wished to stay there very much... We have to receive more visitor here. Sorry to say but the Erentals are leaving. There'll be a dinner in their honour tomorrow. Then I'll have to receive the diplomats as the diplomatic corps is changing. I wish I could spend time on something more useful. Nevertheless I manage to hunt once or twice a week which I enjoy. Some days ago Aunt Olga and Aunt Vera had breakfast with us. Aunt Vera put everybody in delight by her business-like manner when she was eating with a napkin round her neck..."

Ts.S.,Nov.10, 1906,p.26.
"...After real winter-time the weather suddenly became warm, all the snow melted and even the buds on the bushes began to grow. This autumn is amazing! A series of regiment holidays has begun. On the 6th there was a remarkably beautiful parade of the Hussars. I had dinner with them, then stayed for the supper, listened to the gipsies' songs the whole night through and came back home at 9.30 very fresh and happy. I listened to three reports, then had breakfast and went to bed at 3 p.m.. I got up at dinner-time, at 8 p.m.. Fantastic! On the 8th there was a wonerful parade in honour of theMoscow Regiment. I go on hunting once a week... I usually have many papers to read but sometimes I have free evenings when I have an opportunity to read for pleasure..."

642,2330, Ts.S.,Apr.5, 1907, pp.13,14.
"...After two weeks of real spring the weather has become very bad and cold. It snowed once and now it is raining which is good for the plants though. I wished the weather changed for the better in where you live. Today I am in an especially good mood. There was a military review of the Naval School in the Manege in the morning which I was very much pleased with. The cadets looked brave, smart, merry and healthy. We can only be thankful for all that to our good man Voyevodsky who set the School into such a good state. I congratulated him by awarding him the title of rear-admiral. Then we had a Swedish breakfast for the cadets and a big one for the chiefs. I told the cadets to pass though our garden by the house on their way to the station so that we could look at them standing in the entrance..."

Ts.S.,Oct.31, 1907,p.31.
"...We came here on the 27th of October having left the sea behind which we very much regretted! The sea reminded us of the successful voyage that we had had! We had several dinners with the officers of both yachts. All the people from "The Polar Star" have already arrived but only half of the "Standard" crew came.These evenings are very merry and "cosy" as Olga (sister) says.

642,2330, Ys.S.,Nov.22, 1907, pp.37,38.
"...Alix has recovered after the flu but there are some after-effects left - she feels very weak and her heart does not work very well which was for me a very sad surprise, as you can understand. It comes from undernutrition because she eats so little that it's impossible to imagine anyone eating less. That's why we decided to call Eugene Botkin whom she prefers to other doctors, so now she'll have to follow his regimen. Ella, Maria and Dmitry will probably stay with us up to the 6th of December. Uncle Pavel often comes to vi- sit us. He behaves as he used to before..."

642,2330, Ts.S.,Feb.28, 1908,p.40
"...Every day I read in "Daily Graphic" about what you do in London..."

March 6,1908, pp.42,43.
"...Poor Aleksey played with his sisters a week ago, fell down and hit himself against the table's leg. He got a big bump and a black eye which is better now. The days are sunny and beautiful. I try to be out-of- doors as long as I can and work on the snow as I used to do..."

March 13, 1908.
"...Irene went back home via Moscow. Ernie and his wife are going to stay with her soon before coming to us on a short visit..."

642,2330, Ts.S., March 20, 1908,p.46.
"...Spring is coming quietly but there is no doubt that it's really coming. I've loved nature since my childhood and each year in this period of time I feel excited and cheerful. I'd like to spend more time outdoors in fresh air but numerous receptions and reports are always in the way. April is going to be the busiest month of the year. This week we are Expecting Prince Chernogorsky to come...
> p.48.
Not long ago a meeting of the Historical Society was held here. Besides many other things that happened there, Vladimir and Nickolai read several letters of Alexander Pavlovich and Yelizaveta Alexeyevna..."

Ts.S., March 27, 1908, pp.50,51.
"...You are asking about little Aleksey. Thank God, his bump and the black eye disappeared completely. He is merry and healthy as well as all his sisters. I often work in the garden with them. We clear the paths of the remains of the snow. It melts very fast. There is some of it left in the shady places in the forest. The weather has been fine this week, sunny and a little frosty at nights. The days are gradually becoming warmer, birds are singing, the first flowers have come out. It's really poetic!"

642,2330, March 4, 1909,p.73.

"...Every day we read "court circular" in "Daily Graphic" and learn what you do there... We live quietly and well here. Thanks God, Alix is much better this week, so I feel more relieved now...
...Friday evening the Council of Ministers is gathering here. We are going to discuss the measures to be taken in this country in case there is a war between Austria and Serbia..."

Ts.S., March 26, 1909, p.82.
"...We decided to have the prime in our field church with only the members of the family present as it on the would have been difficult for Alix to stand a very long Easter's eve, service in the Grand Palace..."

Ts.S., Apr.1,1909, p.84.
"...The Easter holiday was quiet and pleasant. Fortunately, Alix was able to bear long services and didn't get tired of exchanging triple kisses. The weather was awful - on the Good Friday it snowed heavily and it was frosty throughout the holiday. Today we have the first warm day at last. We received a small Japanese Prince Cuni here. He is a real avorton - he travels around Europe incognito. We had a small celebration in his honour..."

6429,2331, Jan.7,1910, PP.1-4.
"...The New Year holiday also turned out to be very unusual - we had Maria and William, Dmitry and Henry here, so they all got their presents together. Alex got very tired of all those things - she began to feel pain in her heart again, she could neither stand nor sit and had to lie in bed half a day and on the couch the other half. Unfortunately, she lost part of the physical strength she had been lucky to gather in the Crimea. It's sad beyond expression..." (note: The family had just returned from the Crimea and Nickolas had to get back to business and do a lot of work. The ministers began to "press" Nickolas - "you see that I had more than enough to do" (p.2). A lot of relatives came to attend the funeral of Uncle Michail Nickolayevich and stayed, then quite soon Christmas came).

642,2331, May 13, 1910,Ts.S., pp.13,14.
"...We are right in the middle of the anniversary celebrations and are very busy now... On May 8 a new beautiful banner of the Guards' Crew was hoisted and on that day all the officers had dinner with us. On the 9th of May we celebrated your Cuirassiers holiday in Tsarskoe Selo. In the evening Irene left. On May 10 there was the anniversary parade of the Guards' Crew. It was very solemn and beautiful. On the same day at about 6 p.m. the standard of the Cavalry Officers School was raised. Unfortunately, Alix's heart could not stand all those celebrations and Botkin insisted on her staying at home. He forbode her to visit any other events of the kind. It was such a pity! On May 11 there was the anniversary parade of the Cavalry School. It was very beautiful as all the variety of different kinds of Cavalry was presented there.. Now I am going to the town to the Preobrazhensky Regiment to be present at the ceremony of the consecration of the monument to Peter the Great which they had built themselves. Tomorrow evening in the Cavalry School there'll be a great historical roundabout. I was not invited but I am going to arrive there unexpectedly as a surprise. In the morning the Novocherkassky Regiment will arrive. It'll get silver trumpets for its achievements in the last war; I am going to give them myself! That will be the last event of the famous celebrations week. Even I myself got tired as all the days were very busy though the reports went on coming in as usual. For several days I didn't go for a walk which tells now. Aleksey is angry when I don't go to the garden to go boating with him. After very hot days the weather changed and became cold since May 7 but the lilacs and other flowers are blossoming. The park looks beautiful..."

642,2332, Ts.S., Nov.21,1912.
"...We live a quiet life here, thanks God. Alix is rather tired because of Alexey's illness. He feels well but cannot yet stand on his leg because his knee cannot straighten. He goes for a drive in a little charaban in the garden and has begun to eat with appetite at last..."

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