The history of the Imperial Romanov Family is part of Russian history, with its several pages devoted to Tsarskoe Selo. After Peter the Great became the first Russian emperor in 1721, Russia was the empire and absolute monarchy until the last Russian emperor Nicholas II’s abdication in 1917. For nearly two centuries, nine emperors and four empresses succeeded one another on the Russian throne. Biographies of many of them were closely related to Tsarskoe Selo, where the Russian imperial court lived in summer. Catherine I gave the imperial summer residence its birth, Catherine II gave it its prime. Tsarskoe Selo was a family home with plenty of happy days to many Russian emperors.
Emperor Peter I
Peter I the Great (1672–1725), Russia’s first emperor and the most celebrated one of the Romanov dynasty. The world history knew not many brilliant reformers like Peter. His sweeping reform modernized all sides of Russia including legislation, courts, finances, cities, church, army and social life. The Great Northern War of 1700–1721, during which Russia with its allies Denmark and Saxony opposed Sweden to seize the Baltic coast, became the engine of Peter’s reform. In order to win, Peter needed a strong, trained army well provided with ammunition, uniform, money, etc. That was the period when Russian industry was born and administration and financial systems were changed.
In 1703, after Russia re-captured the Neva River mouth during the Northern War, the new capital Saint Petersburg was founded. From its first day, Peter had the idea of surrounding it with a number of luxurious suburban estates and palaces. One of the remote estates was Saarskaya Myza, which was to become the famous Tsarskoe Selo. After the Northern War, Peter was proclaimed Emperor of All the Russias. Russia became an empire. Peter the Great died on 28 January 1725 (Old Style) without naming a successor.
The site that would become Tsarskoe Selo had since ancient times been Russian territory. These old Novgorodian lands were occupied by the Swedes in the seventeenth century and then re-taken by Russia during the Great Northern War of 1700–1721. A small Finnish estate “Saarismoisio” (“the manor on an elevated spot”) was subsequently Russianized as “Sarskoye Selo”. It became “Tsarskoe Selo” (i.e. “the royal village”) when Peter the Great presented the estate to his future wife Catherine in 1710 and the construction of a wooden summer cottage with service buildings was started on the hill.
In 1717, while St Petersburg was being created on the banks of the Neva, the architect Johann Friedrich Braunstein started supervising the construction of the first masonry royal residence at Tsarskoe Selo - “the stone chambers” of Catherine I. In August 1724, to mark the completion of building work, a celebration was held at the palace that included “three salutes fired from thirteen cannon”. The event was attended by the Tsar and major figures in the state, who found “lots of taste and exquisiteness in Catherine’s house”. According to legend, the housewifely empress spent hours working in her vegetable garden. About that time, the regular garden was laid out, with terraces upon the slopes before the palace, and with canals, alleys and parterres. The Menagerie in the nearby woods contained game animals for hunting. Thus was the foundation of the Tsarskoe Selo architectural ensemble laid during Peter the Great’s epoch.
Empress Catherine I
The life of Empress Catherine I (1684–1727) was like a Cinderella story. A commoner doing laundry and kitchen work, she took her lucky chance to ascend the Russian throne. An orphan early, Martha Skavronska was a servant at the Lutheran pastor Ernst Glück’s house in Marienburg (now Alūksne, Latvia). At the age of seventeen, she was married off to a Swedish dragoon, but only for eight days until the town was captured by Russian forces during the Northern War. In 1705, while visiting his favourite Menshikov’s house, Peter the Great met Martha, and shortly after, he took her as his own mistress. She converted to Orthodoxy, changed her name to Yekaterina Alexeyevna, and soon became Peter’s closest partner. They officially married in 1712. Catherine became Peter’s second wife, while his first one, Eudoxia Lopukhina, who did not understand his reforms and rejected them, had been forced by Peter to become a nun back in 1698. After Peter’s death in 1725, Catherine was the first woman to rule Imperial Russia. The real power, however, lay with His Serene Highness Prince Menshikov, who dominated the Supreme Privy Council, an executive innovation. Catherine I’s reign did not last long. She died in 1727, just two years after Peter.
Catherine I owned Tsarskoe Selo for 16 years and turned this small farmstead into a comfortable estate.
Emperor Peter II
Peter II Alexeyevich (1715-1730), the only son of Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich (1690-1718) and Princess Charlotte of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1694-1715) and the only male-line grandson of Peter I (1672-1725) and his first wife Eudoxia Lopukhina (1669-1731). He succeeded the throne after Catherine I, Peter I’s second wife, in 1727 and was Emperor of Russia until his death of smallpox.
After Catherine I’s death, her daughter Elizabeth Petrovna, the future Empress of Russia, inherited Tsarskoe Selo and expanded the palace and park.
Empress Anna Ivanovna (Ioannovna)
Anna Ivanovna (1693-1740), daughter of Peter the Great’s half-brother and co-ruler, Ivan V (1666-1696), and his wife, Praskovia Saltykova (1664-1723). She became Empress of Russia in 1730 after the death of her first cousin once removed, Emperor Peter II (1715-1730).
During Empress Anna’s reign, Tsarskoe Selo belonged to Peter I’s daughter, Elizabeth Petrovna, the future Empress of Russia. She used it as her suburban residence and hunting castle.
Emperor Ivan VI
Ivan VI Antonovich (1740-1764) was born in St Petersburg to Prince Antony Ulrich of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Duchess Anna Leopoldovna of Mecklenburg, niece of Empress Anna of Russia and grand-daughter of Tsar Ivan V. He was proclaimed Emperor as an infant in October 1740, according to the last will of his great-aunt, Empress Anna. On 9 November 1940, his mother declared herself Empress of Russia. Within less than a year, she and Ivan were overthrown by Peter the Great’s daughter, Elizabeth. Ivan spent his life as a prisoner since 1741 to 1764 and was killed by his guards during an attempt made to free him.
During the short reign of Ivan VI, Tsarskoe (then Sarskoe) Selo underwent no significant changes.
Empress Elizabeth Petrovna
Elizabeth (1709–1761), the second-oldest daughter of Peter the Great and Catherine I of Russia, was born during the period of Peter’s military victories. In autumn 1741, she overthrew Tsar Ivan VI of Russia, arrested and exiled the Brunswick-Lüneburg family, and usurped the throne. Her reign was one of the calmest, with no natural disasters or social riots. Even the European Seven Years’ War, which started in 1756, lasted only four years for Russia, and was victorious for the Russian army. Not one person was executed on Elizabeth’s orders during her reign. She continued Peter the Great's policies in modernizing Russia, repealed all acts enabled after her father’s death, enhanced the importance of the Senate, established first Russian loan banks for the merchant class, etc. However, she did not trouble about affairs too often. Extraordinarily beautiful and fashion-conscious, Elizabeth adored fineries, balls, masquerades, concerts and other entertainments. Her life of endless enjoyment required luxurious scenery. The brilliant Italian architect Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli built for the Empress about twenty grandiose baroque palaces. At one of them, the Winter Palace, she died.
After her mother’s death, Elizabeth inherited Tsarskoe Selo where she had spent her carefree childhood and youth. The estate was her place of hiding from Empress Anna whose main concern was to exclude descendants of Peter the Great and Catherine I from inheriting the throne. After she seized power, Elizabeth was set on revamping her way-too-simple-and-modest rural patrimony. In memory of the Empress’s mother, the old building was preserved as the central part of a spacious new edifice in the Baroque style resembling a resplendent fairyland setting, constructed by the Italian architect Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli in 1748-1756. Rastrelli finished the work started by Mikhail Zemtsov, Andrei Kvasov and Savva Chevakinsky. The palace’s rich, festive appearance and just as luxuriously decorated apartments became a dazzling and awe-inspiring setting for formal receptions, dinners, balls and masquerades. Elizabeth brought new practices to Russian court life, types of entertainment and ways of doing things that were borrowed from Western Europe, but interacted with traditional Russian customs. The Catherine Park was expanded and embellished with marble sculptures and various architectural fancies. Elizabeth turned her mother’s country house at Tsarskoe Selo into a splendid imperial residence.
Emperor Peter III
Peter III Fiodorovich (1728- 1762), or Karl Peter Ulrich before his conversion to Russian Orthodoxy, was Emperor of Russia for six months within 1761-62. His parents were Duke Karl Friedrich of Holstein-Gottorp (nephew of Charles XII of Sweden) and Anna Petrovna (1708-1728), a daughter of Emperor Peter the Great of Russia and his second wife, Catherine I of Russia. He was the first of the Romanov-Holstein-Gottorp line which ruled Russia until 1917. In 1745, Empress Elizabeth Petrovna arranged Peter’s marriage with Sophia Augusta Frederica of Anhalt-Zerbst (later Catherine the Great), by whom he had two children: Paul (1754-1801), later Emperor Paul I of Russia, and Anna (1757-59). As a result of the 1726 palace coup led by his wife, Peter III was dethroned and assassinated.
During the short reign of Peter III, Tsarskoe Selo underwent no significant changes.
Empress Catherine II
Catherine II (1729–1796) went down in Russian history as the Great: her reign became Russia’s Golden Age, the time of great reforms and glorious victories. Born Princess Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst, she was settled on by the Empress Elizabeth of Russia as a bride for her nephew. The young Princess was brought to Russia in 1744, given the name Cathrine Alexeyevna on her conversion to the Russian Orthodox Church, and married off to the future Emperor Peter III of Russia in 1745. In 1762, Catherine’s loyal Leib Guard (Imperial Russian Guard) revolted, deposed Peter, and proclaimed her the ruler of Russia. Catherine II had a remarkable way with people and knew how to be liked and surrounded with outstanding and loyal companions. During her 34 years reign, Russia gained several glorious victories in the Russo-Turkish Wars (1768–1774 and 1787–1791), defeated the Ottoman Empire forces, annexed the Crimea and obtained access to the Black Sea shores, where the Russians founded many new cities, including Sevastopol. Russia expanded south and west and become a multinational empire. In spite of Catherine’s image as an “enlightened despot”, in the last years the degree of her growing intolerance and conservatism became evident in her harsh treatment of such social writers as Alexander Radischev, Nikolai Novikov, and others. Baneful was also the influence of Catherine’s last favourites, especially Prince Platon Zubov. The Empress suffered a sudden stroke in 1796 and died intestate.
Called by her contemporaries Minerva of Tsarskoe Selo, Catherine II preferred this place to all the other imperial suburban residences. From here, on 28 July 1763, she made her ceremonial entry into St Petersburg after the coronation in Moscow. Catherine’s imperial court arrived here each spring, spent the whole summer and left when the weather turned cold in autumn. Herewasherhideawayattimesofillness. As Catherine’s rule began, a capriciously intricate Baroque was replaced by a lucidly harmonious Classicism, congenial to the Empress. She spent enormous amounts of money on her favourite residence. At her wish, in the 1770s the architect Yury Velten added a wing, named after Catherine’s last lover Platon Zubov, on the southern side of the palace. The Empress’s private apartments in the new wing, just as her son Paul’s (afterwards Emperor Paul I) in the northern side of the palace, were designed by her favourite architect Charles Cameron. In the park, the talented Scotsman built a gallery named after him and an adjacent complex. The highest point of Classicism at Tsarskoe Selo is represented by Giacomo Quarenghi’s Alexander Palace. During Catherine II’s epoch, Tsarskoe Selo became a “Pantheon of the Glory of Russia”, with many triumphal monuments to victories of the Russian army and navy. The 34 years of her reign became the prime of the Tsarskoe Selo palaces and parks.
Emperor Paul I
Paul I (1754–1801), the only legitimate son of Catherine II, should have become emperor right after his father Peter III’s death, but he ascended the throne only after the death of his mother. While she ruled, he resided in Gatchina at an estate which Catherine had granted to her favourite Grigory Orlov first, and then, after Orlov’s death in 1781, to Paul. There, far from the always intriguing court, he tried to build his own “regular kingdom” based on strict discipline – a prototype of his future empire. When he became emperor, Paul attempted to extend his estate’s order to the whole country. His reforms were meant to “heal” Russia: he fought embezzlement of state funds, tried to restrain serfdom, and established the strict principle of primogeniture in the House of Romanov. Paul I’s reign lasted only for 4 years, 4 months and 6 days. Most of his policies were viewed as a great annoyance to the losing their privileges nobility and army brass, and induced a conspiracy against him. On the night of 23 March 1801, a band of conspirators headed by St.Petersburg Military Governor Count Peter Pahlen charged into Paul’s bedroom in the newly built St Michael's Castle and strangled him. According to another version of the story, Paul’s death resulted from a stroke at his temple with a golden snuffbox.
Paul I spent 42 of his 47 years of life in the Tsarskoe Selo palace, first with his great-aunt, Empress Elizabeth, and then with his mother, Catherine II. In the summer the boy was moved to Tsarskoe Selo in a special carriage. His clothing, toys, tableware and schoolbooks were delivered separately. When Paul was 19, his first bride Wilhelmina Louisa came to Tsarskoe Selo on 15 June 1773. The German princess took the name Natalia Alexeievna before their marriage. After the wedding, the young couple stayed at Tsarskoe until late in the autumn. Three years later Paul’s wife died at childbirth. On 31 August 1776 another bride, the beautiful Sophia Dorothea of Württemberg, the future Empress Maria Fiodorovna, appeared at Tsarskoe Selo. The light and exquisite apartments for the newlyweds – the Green Dining-Room, the Bedchamber, the State Blue Drawing-Room and personal rooms – were decorated by the architect Charles Cameron. Soon after his second marriage, Paul began to be involved in intrigues. He believed he was the target of assassination and suspected his mother of intending to kill him like she, as he was sure, had done to his father, Emperor Peter III. After Catherine’s death, Paul I visited Tsarskoe Selo only once in July 1880. He wrought genuine havoc with the furnishings of his mother’s palaces and parks. On his orders, the furniture, porcelain services, sculptures and architectural details were transferred from Tsarskoe Selo to St Michael’s Castle, Paul I’s main residence in St Petersburg.
Emperor Alexander I
Alexander I was Catherine II’s eldest grandson whom she greatly favoured and intended to leave the crown to, instead of her son Paul. Alexander succeeded to the throne after his father Emperor Paul I’s assassination by noble conspirators. Russian liberals had high hopes for the young Emperor Alexander I. One of the first acts of his reign was to appoint the Private Committee, comprising young and enthusiastic friends of his own, to draw up a scheme of internal reform, which was supposed to result in an establishing of constitutional monarchy. But he did not venture to restrict autocracy, and in time lost interest in reform. His reign was also marked by the French invasion of Russia in 1812, when the Russian army routed Napoleon’s considered invincible Grande Armée. After the war, Alexander incredibly raised his meticulous will-follower Count Alexey Arakcheyev, who managed army supplies and organized military-agricultural colonies.
In his last years, the Emperor became very devout and dreamed of solitude. He died in 1825 on the way to Taganrog in the south of Russia, where the Emperor undertook a voyage due to the increasing illness of his wife. However, legend has it that Alexander I’s death was staged, while the Emperor allegedly hid his identity as a mysterious hermit Feodor Kuzmich and spent the rest of his life in pilgrimages.
Alexander I loved Tsarskoe Selo ever since childhood and came here every summer. He occupied Catherine II’s former rooms when she moved to her new ones designed by Ch. Cameron. In September 1793, when he was 15, Alexander was betrothed to a bride chosen by his grandmother –14 year old Louise of Baden, a German princess who was given the name Yelizaveta (Elizabeth) at her Orthodox baptism. The newlyweds moved into the new, Alexander Palace, a wedding present from Catherine II that was built to the design of the architect Giacomo Quarenghi in 1792-96. The palace was surrounded by the new (Alexander) park.
After he became Emperor in 1801, Alexander I spent much time in his study at the Catherine Palace where he and Mikhail Speransky (1772-1839) worked together on plans to restructure the state. Particular attention was devoted to the cause of education: on the Emperor’s orders, the Tsarskoe Selo Lyceum, then one of the best educational institutions in Russia, was opened in the Grand Ducal wing of the Catherine Palace. After Russia’s victory over Napoleon, the Emperor spent every summer since 1914 at home, in Tsarskoe Selo. His State Study, together with adjacent rooms, was decorated by the architect Vasily Stasov who filled it with magnificent works of art commemorating remarkable victories in the Patriotic War of 1812. The Catherine Park was embellished with the Granite Terrace, the Girl-with-a-Pitcher Fountain and other structures; the Alexander Park was beautified as well.
In his last years, Alexander showed signs of exhaustion and depression and took to withdrawing to Tsarskoe Selo even in winter. It was back here, in early spring 1826, that his mortal remains were brought from Taganrog, where he died from typhus a few months earlier, and then a quiet funeral service was held in the Palace Church.
Emperor Nicholas I
Nicholas I (1796–1855) was not brought up to be the Emperor of Russia as he had two elder brothers before him, Emperor Alexander I and Grand Duke Constantine, both childless. He had to accept the throne after his first-eldest brother’s sudden death and his second-eldest brother’s refusal. His reign started with the bloody suppressing of the Decembrist Revolt in December 14, 1825. Nicholas sincerely whished to do a lot of good for Russia but didn’t know how. Nicholas was called “Don Quixote of autocracy” because he saw his main role in keeping the existing social system firm. The guiding principle of his regime was the program of “autocracy, Orthodoxy, and nationality” devised by the minister of education, Sergey Uvarov. Nicholas I’s 30 years reign left his contemporaries with a feeling of regret for neglected opportunities. However, those were the years when the expanding Russian Empire included Georgia and almost all Transcaucasia, and Russian culture rose extraordinarily and saw the success of poets Alexander Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov, writers Nikolai Gogol and Aleksey Khomyakov, artists Karl Briullov and Orest Kiprensky, composers Mikhail Glinka and Alexander Dargomyzhsky, and many others.
A grandson of Catherine II, the future Emperor Nicholas I was born on 25 June 1796, in the Bedchamber of Maria Fiodorovna. At age 21, his wedding with Princess Charlotte (later Empress Alexandra Fiodorovna), the eldest daughter of King Frederick William III of Prussia, was celebrated at the Hermitage pavilion of Tsarskoe Selo. The young couple settled in the new, Alexander Palace, while the Catherine Palace was the place for official ceremonies. After the alarming summer of 1831, when the imperial family took refuge from St Petersburg’s cholera epidemic at their Tsarskoe Selo residence, hardly leaving the place at all, in 1834 Nicholas I emphasized the importance of this residence by giving it the status of the reigning monarch’s property: it could be neither bequeathed nor sold nor presented; the residence passed to the new monarch on his ascent to the throne. Life was changing swiftly in the 1800s. On 31 October 1837, Russia’s first railway was opened, linking St Petersburg to Tsarskoe Selo. In 1843 the first electric telegraph apparatus in the Empire was installed in Nicholas I’s study at the Alexander Palace. Besides many happy events in the life of the imperial family, the residence was also associated with a great sorrow – the loss in 1844 of Grand Duchess Alexandra, the Emperor’s eldest daughter, who did not live to see her twentieth birthday. After that death, Nicholas I abandoned Tsarskoe Selo for ever, while his wife and other daughters traveled here only on the anniversary of their bereavement.
Emperor Alexander II
Alexander II became known as Tsar the Liberator able to implement the most challenging reforms undertaken in Russia since the reign of Peter the Great. During his reign, Russia continued its expansion into Central Asia. Alexander II’s most important reform was the abolition of serfdom with the Tsar's Emancipation Manifesto of February 19, 1861. Then other reforms followed: jury trial; local self-government for rural districts and larger towns possessing restricted rights; more or less independent printed media; higher education available to the lower classes, etc.
In the 1860s, a Russian revolutionary organization of Narodniki (“close to the people”, populists) appeared, lead by a party called Land and Liberty. Its supporters of the political struggle against autocracysplit off as a party called Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will) and were keen to kill the Emperor. They made seven thwarted attempts on his life, but the eighths one of March 1, 1881 resulted in Alexander’s fatal wounding. His consequent death was taken by many as a national catastrophe.
In his childhood, Grand Duke Alexander Nikolayevich, the future Emperor Alexander II, lived in the Alexander Palace from early spring till late autumn. His rooms were on the ground floor with windows facing the park: from them he could see the pond and the Children’s Island within it – a place for Alexander and his brothers and sister to play. To complete his education he traveled in Europe where he met and fell in love with the 15-year-old Princess Marie of Hesse, thereafter known as Empress Maria Alexandrovna, to whom he became engaged in 1840. The wedding was celebrated in 1841; then the young couple moved to Tsarskoe Selo, which became their favourite place. They were installed in the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace, where they continued to live after becoming Emperor and Empress. Maria occupied the rooms of Catherine II, Alexander the rooms below on the lower floor, with access directly to the garden. Their children’s rooms were located next to the Empress’s. Like his predecessors, Alexander II took good care of the imperial summer residence, being the first who tried to make it comfortable rather than luxurious. Thanks to technical progress, the palace halls were electrified for the first time, a barometer was mounted at the Main Staircase (designed by Alexander’s court architect Ippolito Monighetti), a telegraph station and plumbed water supply with taps were installed; a photographic study was created in the Llama Pavilion. Because of several attempts made on the Emperor since 1866, unprecedented security measures were taken, including armour-plated iron doors in the basement and attics of the Catherine Palace. Tsarskoe Selo preserved Alexander II’s life that was cut short in St Petersburg in 1881 as a result of another terrorist act.
Emperor Alexander III
Alexander III (1845–1894) was a born conservator; his father’s assassination by terrorists only assured him that Russia was not ready for a more liberal society. He turned Russia back to the old ideals of patriotism and populism protected by autocracy. Under the reign of Alexander III, Russia’s prestige was enormously high, and the country lived peacefully and orderly. Keeping Russia from war conflicts, he went down in Russian history as Tsar the Peacemaker whose reign gave the country a powerful upsurge in economic and cultural activity at the turn of the twentieth century.
An enthusiastic art lover and one of the major patrons of Peredvizhniki (The Wanderers or The Itinerants, a group of Russian realist artists), Alexander III gathered a remarkable collection of Russian paintings which formed the nucleus of fine art holdings of Alexander III’s visual arts museum at the Mikhailovsky Palace (now the State Russian Museum). Noted for his immense height and physical strength, the nearly 50-year-old Emperor died of nephritis at his favourite Livadia Palace in the Crimea, amongst his loving wife and children.
Emperor Alexander III spent his childhood and youth at Tsarskoe Selo. He and his brothers liked to play on the Children’s Island or in the Private Garden: they planted flowers and vegetables, exercised upon the net with ladders and ropes, stormed and defended by turns a toy fortress. In 1848 the whole imperial family spent the summer interruptedly at Tsarskoe Selo to avoid the cholera epidemic that was raging in St Petersburg. While the Grand Duke, he always celebrated his name-day – 30 August, St Alexander’s Day – in the Catherine Palace. On the year he turned sixteen the celebration was held in the Chinese Hall. It was Alexander’s first grown-up reception.
In 1866 he had to marry Princess Dagmar of Denmark (later Empress Maria Fiodorovna), the fiancée of his elder brother Nicholas who suddenly died young. After the wedding the couple moved into the Anichkov Palace in St Petersburg, but in the summer they always followed the tradition of living at Tsarskoe Selo where they were given personal apartments in the Alexander Palace. It is to Alexander III that we owe the appearance of brass bands in Russia; he himself played helicon. In 1872 a professional band was formed and the famous Thursday musical soirees began in the palace. The Emperor took great interest in Russian art: he bough only Russian artists’ works and hung them on the walls in his rooms. Maria Fiodorovna made cigarette-cases, then a novelty, a fashionable accessory. Alexander III, Maria Fiodorovna and their elder son, later Emperor Nicholas II, were keen collectors of cigarette-cases, lighters and cigarette-holders, which were a permanent feature of their studies in the palaces.
Deeply saddened by the death of his mother and the secret marriage of his father and Catherine Dolgorukova (Princess Yurievskaya) in June-July 1880, Alexander III and his family immediately left Tsarskoe Selo, moving to Peterhof for the remainder of the summer. They never returned to the Alexander Palace.
Emperor Nicholas II
Nicholas II (1868–1918) saw his monarchic duty in protecting autocracy. The early years of his reign were distinguished by Russian industrial unprecedented growth rate, exceeding that of all other countries in the world. The House of Romanov’s tercentennial anniversary in 1913 saw Russia on the rise. The outbreak of World War I in summer 1914 revealed Russia’s lack of modern military technology. By 1916, Russia was on the verge of collapse. Acute food shortages made life in cities unbearable. Revolutionaries agitated the troops against the Tsar. In February 1917, the Petrograd garrison mutinied. The Provisional Government, formed by members of the Parliament (Duma), failed to stop the revolution and save the monarchy. Nicholas II was forced to abdicate. The Russian monarchy fell. The last Russian emperor was arrested on March 8, 1917 and in July moved together with his family to Tobolsk in the Urals, and then to Yekaterinburg in May 1918, where they were shot on the order of the Bolsheviks.
The last Russian emperor, Nicholas II, was born at Tsarskoe Selo, in the Alexander Palace. The great building with its refined interiors and collections had a distinct effect on him: the history of the palace was a part of the history of his family. On 14 November 1894 Nicholas married Princess Alix of Hesse (later Empress Alexandra Fiodorovna) and moved to the Alexander Palace – the favourite residence of the imperial family. “Words cannot express how delightful it is to live as a couple in such a fine place as Tsarskoe”, Nicholas wrote in his diary. He decided to have the left wing of the palace refurbished as private apartments. The Palisander Drawing-Room, Lilac Study, Dressing Room, Emperor’s Study and other rooms were designed by the court architect Robert (Roman) Melzer. The latest technical innovations were used, such as electric heaters, telephones, a hydraulic lift, movie and slide projectors, etc. The first garage for the Emperor’s automobiles was built nearby.
During Nicholas II’s reign, all the notable anniversaries of the new century were celebrated at Tsarskoe Selo: the bicentenary of St Petersburg (1903); the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Poltava (1909); 200 years of the Tsarskoe Selo imperial residence (1910); the tercentenary of the House of Romanov (1913). The last architectural complex constructed in Nicholas II’s time was the Sovereign’s Cathedral of St Theodore and associated Fiodorov (Fiodorovsky) Gorodok not far from the Alexander Palace.
Early in the morning on August 1, 1917 Nicholas II’s family left Tsarskoe Selo to meet their death from the Bolsheviks in July 1918.