The Alexander Palace - Tsarskoe Selo, RussiaEditThe Alexander Palace (Russian: Александровский дворец) which is a Neo-Classical structure, is located around 30 minutes by train from the former Imperial Capital of Sankt. Petersbourg (Saint Petersburg) in Russia. The Palace itself, is located in the quaint town of Tsarskoe Selo, which means Tsar's Village. It is located 24 kilometres (15 miles) south from the former Imperial Capital at Sankt. Petersbourg. Today, it is now part of the town of Pushkin, and of the World Heritage Site
The Palace, is most recognised as being the former and favoured permanent residence of the last Russian Imperial Family; Their Imperial Majesties, Tsar Nicholas II, and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and their five children; Their Imperial Highnesses, Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaievich and his four elder sisters; Grand Duchesses Olga-Tatiana-Maria-Anastasia Nikolaievna.
The Alexander Palace, is situated itself in the Alexander Park (Russian: Александровский парк) which is the name given to the huge expanse of gardens, and pavilions, etc doting a very large area of land. The Palace is not very far from the neighbouring Catherine Palace (Russian: Екатерининский дворец) which is a far more larger structure built and styled in the Rococo Style situated in the sprawling Catherine Park (Russian: Екатерининский парк).
Construction of the Palace (1792 - 1796)Edit
The Alexander Palace was constructed and built between 1792 and 1796. Its Neo-Classical edifice was drafted out by the Italian architect, Giacomo Quarenghi who also supervised other architectural masterpieces such as; The Hermitage Theatre, The Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens and many, many others. It was first commissioned by Her Imperial Majesty, Empress Catherine II or otherwise known as Catherine the Great, for her favourite grandson, the future Emperor Alexander I on the ocassion of his marriage to Princess Luise Maria Auguste of Baden. The Palace, was used primarily as a Summer residence through the remainder of his grandmother's and his father's reign. (Paul I of Russia)
Reign of Alexander I, and Nicholas IEdit
When Alexander became the Emperor, it was decided the larger neighbouring Catherine Palace was more suitable then the Alexander Palace. During his reign over Imperial Russia, Tsar Alexander I gave the Palace to his younger brother; the future Emperor Nicholas I for summer usage, from that time on it was primarily used as the Summer residence for the Heir to the Throne. Extensive remodeling commenced from 1830-1850, carried out according to the designs by D.Cerfolio, A.Thon, D.Yefimov, A. Stakenschneider and others to keep up with the rapidly-changing tastes in interior decorating etc...
One of the most infamous rooms built during this time was the Mountain Hall, which was formerly an Ante-Chamber, but was then re-configured and had a large wooden slide built in it for the children of Nicholas I. The Palace also beared witness to the deaths of his favourite daughter, Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaievna (1825 - 1844) and his consort, Charlotte of Prussia (Empress Alexandra Feodorovna) (1798 - 1860) Nicholas I's daughter's bed-chamber was re-decorated as a memorial chapel after she had died in 1844, as well as a special shrine which was erected in the Alexander Park, where the Emperor would go visit and mourn his cherished memories of his favourite daughter.
Reign of Alexander II, and Alexander IIIEdit
The Alexander Palace, under the rule of Tsar Alexander II saw redecorations, one room being the Crimson Sitting Room, which was used by his consort, Empress Maria Alexandrovna (Prinzessin Marie von Hessen und bei Rhein) This same room, was converted during the reign of the last Emperor of Imperial Russia (Tsar Nicholas II) into a Private Chapel, for the reasonings of the Imperial Family not wishing to pray in public settings, the Empress herself (Empress Alexandra Feodorovna) particularly for this reason had the Chapel built in the former sitting room.
Under the rule of Alexander II's son, Tsar Alexander III the Palace was used primarily as a summer retreat, more so then a permanent residence for the Russian Imperial Family. On the 18th of May, in 1868 the future Tsar Nicholas II was born at the Alexander Palace, giving great joy to his parents; the then Tsesarevich Alexander Alexandrovich, and his wife who would become the future Empress Maria Feodorovna, Princess Dagmar of Denmark.
Reign of Nicholas IIEdit
Of course, the Alexander Palace is most recognised as being the favoured and permanent residence of the last Russian Imperial Family, Tsar Nicholas II and his wife the German-born Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (Prinzessin Alix Victoria Helena Luise Beatrice von Hessen und bei Rhein) and their five children; Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaievich and his four elder sisters; Grand Duchesses Olga-Tatiana-Maria-Anastasia Nikolaievna. Tsar Nicholas II, and his new wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna found the Palace to be the most charming and most beautiful of all the palaces in Imperial Russia.
They chose it to be their permanent home, a decision made at the behest of their Imperial Majesties after the events of Bloody Sunday in 1905, which made the City residence at the Winter Palace, in Sankt. Petersbourg very dangerous for them to live there. When the Imperial Family, moved into the Alexander Palace, it was extensively re-decorated. During the years 1902 and 1903, the Palace saw the largest re-decorations of the interiors. The Palace formerly had a two-story Concert Hall/Ball Room which took up a huge swath from side to side of the East Wing of the building, and separated the private apartments of the Imperial Family, from the State and Ceremonial Halls of the Palace. During 1902 - 1903, two very cavernous interiors were built in the former Concert Hall. The Maple Drawing Room, which was part of the private enfilade of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna's apartments, and the New Study, which was on the opposite side of the wing, across from the Maple Drawing Room, separated by a corridor extending from the Entrance Hall, to the Empress' Formal Reception Room. It was used by the Emperor in his private enfilade as his Formal Study. Both of these legendary interiors were executed in the Jugendstil or Art Nouveau style, which the Empress particularly favoured though the Tsar disliked the more extreme styles of the Art Nouveau/Jugendstil.During Emperor Nicholas II's reign the Palace had for the first time ever, electricity and a telephone system installed, as well as a lift (elevator) which was installed in 1899, connecting the Empress' suite to the rooms of her children above on the second floor. From 1905, to the over-throw of Russian Imperial Empire in 1917, the Palace was always and foremost the permanent and prefered residence of the last Russian Imperial Family.
Abdication of Nicholas II, and Over-throw of the Russian EmpireEdit
In 1917, the Tsar was forced to abdicate by the Bolsheviks who were gaining power in the former Russian Empire, and he and his family were put under house-arrest at the Palace. Because of the unrest in the capital, and the pre-carious situation of the Imperial Family still living in their home, Alexander Kerensky the second Prime Minister of the Russian Provisional Government had them moved by train on the 1st of August, 1917 into exile to the town of Tobolsk in far-off Siberia, where they took up residence at the Governor's Mansion until they were then moved to the Ipatiev House, in the city of Ekaterinburg, in Siberia.
On the 17th of July, in the early morning hours the former Imperial couple, and their five children including four retainers (the Court Physician: Dr. Yvgeny Botkin, the Empress's Parlour-maid: Anna Demidova, the Tsar's Valet: Alexei Trupp, and the Palace Cook: Ivan Kharitonov) and Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaievna's pet dog, Jemmy were quickly told to dress, and get ready because of unrest in the city. They were told to wait in a cellar-basement room of the Ipatiev House where they would be moved to a new location, unfortunately this was not the case. That night the former Imperial Family and the four faithful retainers were brutally murdered, and then buried quickly without proper ceremony and rites in a forest near the city.
Not long after the Imperial Family's departure from Tsarskoe Selo, the Alexander Palace became a museum honouring the former Imperial Family. The interiors were kept as close as possible to how they were left when the family departed their home in August of 1917. The museum operated up until the beginning of the Second World War (World War II) which saw the evacuation of priceless treasures and very valuable furnishings and objects from the Palace. The ones that could not be evacuated were hidden in the basement in hopes they would not be found.
Occupation by Nazi Germany, Second World WarEdit
During the Second World War, Nazi Germany occupied Tsarskoe Selo, and used the Alexander Palace as its headquarters for the German Military Command. The Courtyard infront of the Palace was used as a cemetery for SS soldiers. During this period priceless objects, including clothing and artistically significant pieces were partially destroyed, and used or stolen by the Nazi's and their Spanish allies. As the Nazi forces moved out of the then Soviet Union many of the former Imperial residences were set ablaze, and recieved heavy damage from aerial attacks by Allied forces, some how the Alexander Palace was the least-damaged and most well-preserved of the residences.
After the destruction, the Palace was used as a warehouse for artworks and the like, being moved back to the area. Palaces such as the neighbouring Catherine Palace, Pavlovsk Palace, Peterhof Palace, and others were hopelessly destroyed and looted heavily during the Nazi occupation of parts of Russia. The treasures that could be saved from these residences were sent to the Alexander Palace, making it a depository of all artworks, and valuable pieces etc...
With Josef Stalin still in power at the time, the former museum was stripped of it's remaining interiors and made into a generic museum, all of the former period interiors such as the former Maple Drawing Room, and the Empress' Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir were destroyed completely by Stalin's behest to remove anything pertaining to the old regime of Tsar Nicholas II. The Palace itself was given over for the exclusive use of the of the Soviet Navy, and for a time was used as a children's orphanage, which resulted in the second-floor of the palace being destroyed and ruined having been the former floor of the children of Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.
After the Fall of the Soviet UnionEdit
After the demise of the Soviet Union, the Palace had been sitting in it's over-grown gardens and park purposely having been left forgotten by the Soviet Union, and was still in the use and ownership of the Soviet Navy. When it appeared that the Navy was going to vacate the building, the Alexander Palace was included in the 1996 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund (WMF). That very same year, roof renovations were done, to the East Wing which once housed the former private home of the Russian Imperial Family. During the Summer of 1997 a permanent exhibition was set up in the former interiors of the East Wing.
Today it is now a dedicated exhibition space, with future plans for a full-on museum to the last Russian Imperial Family. Restorations have recently been completed at the Alexander Palace, such as the re-opening of the three-part enfilade of Parade Halls (The Semi-Circular, Portrait and Marble-Billiard Halls) and the complete restoring of the exterior facades, and front courtyards etc... Some of the former legendary spaces, such as the Empress' Formal Reception Room, the Tsar's New Study, and the Tsar's Reception Room have stood the test of time, though badly in-need of re-furbishment and renovations, and are now part of the permanent exhibition display at the Palace.