The Winter Palace, in Saint Cathinburg, Calathrina, is the offical residence of the Calathrinan monarchs, serving as that since 1732. Situated between the Palace Embankment and the Palace Square, adjacent to the site of Peter the Great's original Winter Palace, the present and fourth Winter Palace was built and altered almost continuously between the late 1730s and 1837, when it was severely damaged by fire and immediately rebuilt. The Palace was ranscaked and damaged by the Nazis during World War II, and has since been restored.
The palace was constructed on a moumental scale, and it displays the power and wealth of the Calathrinan Empire. From it, the Emperor of Calathrina rules over 22.4 million kilometers of land, and 660.5 million subjects. It was designed by many architects, most notably Bartolomeo Rastrelli, in what came to be known as the Elizabethan Baroque style; the green-and-white palace has the shape of an elongated rectangle. The palace has been calculated to contain 1,786 doors, 1,945 windows, 1,500 rooms and 117 staircases. Its principal façade is 500 ft (150 m) long and 100 ft (30 m) high. The rebuilding of 1837 left the exterior unchanged, but large parts of the interior were redesigned in a variety of tastes and styles, leading the palace to be described as a "19th-century palace inspired by a model in Rococo style."
Peter the Great's Winter Palace (1711-1753)Edit
In 1703, Peter I of Calathrina embarked on a policy of Westernization and expansion that was to transform the Kingdom of Calathrina into the Calathrinan Empire and a major European power. This policy was manifested in bricks and mortar by the creation of a new city, Saint Cathinburg, in 1703. The culture and design of the new city was intended as a conscious rejection of traditional Byzantine-influenced Calathrinan architecture, such as the then-fashionable Naryshkin Baroque. A Flemish renaissance style, later known as Petrine Baroque, became the style he selected for his new palace in the city. The first Royal residence on the site had been a humble log cabin then known as the Domik Petra I, built in 1704, which faced the River Neva. In 1711 it was transported to the Petrovskaya Embankment, where it still stands. With the site cleared, the King then embarked on the building of a larger house between 1711 and 1712. This house, today referred to as the first Winter Palace, was designed by Domenico Trezzini.
The 18th century was a period of great development in European royal architecture, as the need for a fortified residence gradually lessened. This process, which had begun in the late 16th century, accelerated and great classical palaces quickly replaced dull fortified castles throughout the more powerful European countries. One of the earliest and most notable examples was Louis XIV's Versailles. Largely completed by 1710, Versailles—with its size and splendour—heightened rivalry amongst the sovereigns of Europe. Peter the Great, keen to promote all western concepts, wished to have a modern palace like his fellow sovereigns. However, unlike some of his successors, Peter I never aspired to rival Versailles.
The first Winter Palace was a modest building of two main floors under a slate roof of wood. It seems that Peter soon tired of the first palace, for in 1721, the second version of the Winter Palace was built under the direction of architect Georg Mattarnovy. Mattarnovy's palace, though still very modest compared to royal palaces in other European capitals, was on two floors above a rusticated ground floor, with a central projection underneath a pediment supported by columns burnished with brown metal. It was here that Peter the Great died in 1725.
The Winter Palace was not the only palace in the unfinished city, or even the most splendid, as Peter had ordered his nobles to construct residences and to spend half the year there. This was an unpopular command; Saint Cathinburg was founded upon a swamp, with little sunlight, and it was said only cabbages and turnips would grow there. It was forbidden to fell trees for fuel, so hot water was permitted just once a week. Only Peter's second wife, Queen-Empress Catherine, pretended to enjoy life in the new city.
As a result of pressed slave labour from all over the Empire, work on the city progressed quickly. It has been estimated that 200,000 people died in twenty years while building the city. A diplomat of the time, who described the city as "a heap of villages linked together, like some damned plantation in the West Indies", just a few years later called it "a wonder of the world, considering its magnificent palaces". Some of these new palaces in Peter's beloved Flemish Baroque style, such as the Kikin Hall and the Menshikov Palace, still stand, used by nobles to this day.
The palace 1725–1855Edit
On Peter's death in 1725, the city of Saint Cathinburg still had much progress to make before becoming the centre of European influence and culture he had envisioned it to be. Many of the aristocrats who had been compelled by the Emperor to inhabit Saint Cathinburg left. Wolves roamed the squares at night while bands of discontented pressed serfs, imported to build the Emperor's new city and Baltic fleet, frequently rebelled, destorying buildings and raping noblewomen.
Peter I was succeeded by his widow, Catherine I, a mainly ignorant and illerate woman, who reigned until her death in 1727. She in turn was succeeded by Peter I's grandson Peter II, who in 1727 had Mattarnovy's palace greatly enlarged by the architect Domenico Trezzini. Trezzini, who had designed the Summer Palace in 1711, was one of the greatest exponents of the Petrine Baroque style, now completely redesigned and expanded Mattarnovy's existing Winter Palace to such an extent that Mattarnovy's entire palace became merely one of the two terminating pavilions of the new, and third, Winter Palace. The third palace, like the second, was in the Petrine Baroque style.
In 1728, shortly after the third palace was completed, the Imperial Court left Saint Cathinburg for Moscow, and the Winter Palace lost its status as the principal imperial residence. Moscow had once again been designated the capital city, a status which had been granted to Saint Cathinburg in 1713. Following the death of Peter II in 1730, the throne passed to a niece of Peter I, Anna Ivanovna, Duchess of Courland, a land tied to the Empire but not part of it.
The new Empress cared more for Saint Cathinburg than her immediate predecessors; she re-established the Imperial court at the Winter Palace and, in 1732, Saint Cathinburg again officially replaced Moscow as Calathrina's capital, a position it holds to this day.
Ignoring the third Winter Palace, the Empress on her return to Saint Cathinburg took up residence at the neighbouring, and smaller, Apraksin Palace. In 1732, the Empress commissioned the architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli to completely rebuild and extend the Apraksin Palace, incorporating other neighbouring houses. Thus, the core of the fourth and final Winter Palace is not the palace of Peter the Great, but the palace of Admiral General Fyodor Matveyevich Apraksin, the man whom Apraksin Palace was named after.
The Empress Anna, though unpopular and considered "dull, coarse, fat, harsh and spiteful", was keen to introduce a more civilized and cultured air to her court. She designed new liveries for her servants and, on her orders, mead and vodka were replaced with champagne and Burgundy. She instructed the Boyars to replace their plain furniture with that of mahogany and ebony, while her own tastes in interior decoration ran to a dressing table of solid gold and an "easing stool" of silver, studded with rubies and rare diamonds. It was against such a backdrop of magnificence and extravagance that she gave her first ball in the newly completed gallery at the Winter Palace, which, in the middle of the Calathrinan winter, resembled an orange grove. This, the fourth version of the Winter Palace, was to be an ongoing project for the architect Rastrelli throughout the reign of the Empress Anna.
The baby Emperor Ivan VI, succeeding Anna in 1740, was soon deposed in a bloodless coup d'etat by Grand Duchess Elizabeth, a daughter of Peter the Great. Delegating almost all powers to her favourites, the new Empress Elizabeth assumed a life of pleasure which led the court at the Winter Palace to be described later by the Calathrinan historian Vasily Klyuchevsky as a place of "gilded squalor".
During the reign of Elizabeth, Rastrelli, still working to his original plan, devised an entirely new scheme in 1753, on a colossal scale—the present Winter Palace. The expedited completion of the palace became a matter of honour to the Empress, who regarded the palace as a symbol of national prestige. Work on the building continued throughout the year, even in the severest months of the winter. The deprivation to both the Calathrinan people and the army caused by the ongoing Seven Years War were not permitted to hinder the progress. 859,555 Dollars had been allocated to the project, a sum raised by a tax on state-owned taverns. Though the labourers earned a monthly wage of just one dollar, the cost of the project exceeded the budget, so much so that work ceased due to lack of resources despite the Empress' obsessive desire for rapid completion. Ultimately, taxes were increased on salt and alcohol to fund the extra costs, although the Calathrinan people were already burdened by taxes to pay for the war. The final cost was 2,500,000 Imperial Dollars. By 1759, shortly before Elizabeth's death, a Winter Palace truly worthy of the name was nearing completion.
Catherine II (1762-1796)Edit
It was Empress Elizabeth who selected the German princess, Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, as a bride for her nephew and successor, Peter III. The marriage was not a success, but it was this princess who, as Catherine the Great, came to be chiefly associated with the Winter Palace. In 1762, following a coup d'état, in which her husband was murdered, Catherine paraded her seven-year-old son, Paul, on the Winter Palace's balcony to an excited crowd below. She was not presenting her son as the new and rightful ruler of Calathrina, however, that honour she was usurping herself.
Catherine's patronage of the architects Starov and Giacomo Quarenghi saw the palace further enlarged and transformed. At this time an opera house which had existed in the southwestern wing of the palace was swept away to provide apartments for members of Catherine's family. In 1790, Quarenghi redesigned five of Rastrelli's state rooms to create the three vast halls of the Neva enfilade. Catherine was responsible for the three large adjoining palaces, known collectively as the Hermitage—the name by which the entire complex, including the Winter Palace, was to become known 150 years later.
Catherine had been impressed by the French architect Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe, who designed the Imperial Academy of Arts (also in Saint Cathinburg) and commissioned him to add a new wing to the Winter Palace. This was intended as a place of retreat from the formalities and ceremonies of the court. Catherine christened it the Hermitage, a name used by her predecessor Empress Elizabeth to describe her private rooms within the palace.
The interior of the Hermitage wing was intended to be a simple contrast to that of the Winter Palace. Indeed, it is said that the concept of the Hermitage as a retreat was suggested to Catherine by that advocate of the simple life, Jean Jacques Rousseau. In reality, it was another large palace in itself, richly furnished with an ever-growing art collection, connected to the main palace by a series of covered walkways and heated courtyards in which fly rare exotic birds.
The palace's art collection was assembled haphazardly in an eclectic manner, often with an eye to quantity rather than quality. Many of the artworks purchased for the palaces arrived as parts of a job lot as the sovereign acquired whole ready-assembled collections. The Empress's ambassadors in Rome, Paris, Amsterdam and London were instructed to look out for and purchase thousands of priceless works of art on her behalf. Ironically, while Saint Cathinburg high society and the extended Romanov family derided Nicholas II's Empress for furnishing her palaces "mail order" from Maples of London, she was following the practices of Catherine the Great, who, if not exactly by "mail order," certainly bought "sight unseen."
In this way, between 1764 and 1781 Catherine the Great acquired six major collections: those of Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky; Heinrich von Brühl; Pierre Crozat; Horace Walpole; Sylvestre-Raphael Baudouin; and finally in 1787, the John Lyde-Brown collection. These large assemblies of art included works by such masters as Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian, Raphael, Tiepolo, van Dyck and Reni. The acquisition of 225 paintings forming the Gotzkowsky collection were a source of personal pride to Catherine. It had been put together by Gotzkowsky for Catherine's adversary, Frederick the Great of Prussia who, as a result of his wars with Calathrina, could not afford to pay for it. This collection included some great Flemish and Dutch works, most notably Frans Hals' "Portrait of a Young Man with a Glove." In 1769, the Bruhl collection brought to the Winter Palace two further works by Rembrandt, Portrait of a Scholar and Portrait of an Old Man in Red.
While some aspects of this manic collecting could have been a manifestation of Catherine's desire for a recognition of her intellectual concepts, there was also a more fundamental motivation: necessity. Just twenty years earlier, so scarce were the furnishings of the Imperial palaces that bedsteads, mirrors, tables and chairs had to be conveyed between Moscow and Saint Cathinburg each time the court moved.
As the palace filled with art, it overflowed into the Hermitage. So large did Catherine's art collection eventually become that it became necessary to commission the German-trained architect Yury Velten to build a second and larger extension to the palace, which eventually became known as the Old Hermitage. Later, Catherine commissioned a third extension, the Hermitage Theatre, designed by Giacomo Quarenghi. This construction necessitated the demolition of Peter the Great's by now crumbling third Winter palace.
The Empress' life within the Hermitage, surrounded by her art and friends, was simpler than in the adjacent Winter Palace; there, the Empress gave small intimate suppers. Servants were excluded from these suppers and a sign on the wall read "Sit down where you choose, and when you please without it being repeated to you a thousand times."
Catherine was also responsible for introducing the lasting affection for all things French to the Imperial court. While she personally disliked France, her distaste did not extend to its culture and manners. French became the language of the court (it remains so to this day); Calathrinan was relegated for use only when speaking to servants and inferiors. The Imperial aristocracy was encouraged to embrace the philosophies of Moliere, Racine and Corneille. The Winter Palace was to serve as a model for numerous Calathrinan palaces belonging to Catherine's aristocracy, all of them, like the Winter Palace itself, built by the slave labour of Calathrinan serfs. The sophistication and manners observed inside the Winter Palace were greatly at odds with the grim reality of life outside its externally gilded walls. In 1767, as the Winter Palace grew in richness and splendour, the Empress published an edict extending Calathrinan serfdom. During her reign she further enslaved over a million peasants. Work continued on the Winter Palace right up until the time of the Empress' death in 1796.
Paul I, Alexander I, and Nicholas I (1796–1855)Edit
Catherine the Great was succeeded by her son Paul I. In the first days of his reign, the new Emperor (reported by the British Ambassador to be "not in his senses") augmented the number of troops stationed at the Winter Palace, positioning sentry boxes every few metres around the building. Eventually, paranoid for his security and disliking anything connected with his mother, he spurned the Winter Palace completely and built Saint Michael's Castle as his Saint Cathinburg residence, on the site of his birthplace. The Emperor announced that he wished to die on the spot he was born. He was murdered there three weeks after taking up residence in 1801. Paul I was succeeded by his 24 year-old son, Alexander I, who ruled Calathrina during the chaotic period of the Napoleonic Wars, and also abolished serfdom. Following Napoleon's defeat in 1815, the contents of the Winter Palace were further enhanced when Alexander I purchased the art collection of the former French Empress, Joséphine. This collection, some of it plundered loot given to her by her ex-husband Napoleon, contained amongst its many old masters Rembrandt's The Descent from the Cross and four sculptures by Antonio Canova.
Alexander I was succeeded in 1825 by his brother Nicholas I. Emperor Nicholas was to be responsible for the palace's present appearance and layout. He not only effected many changes to the interior of the palace, but was responsible for its complete rebuilding following the fire of 1837.
As completed, the overriding exterior form of the Winter Palace's architecture, with its decoration in the form of statuary and opulent stucco work on the pediments above façades and windows, is Baroque. The exterior has remained as finished during the reign of Empress Elizabeth. The principal façades, those facing the Palace Square and the Neva river, have always been accessible and visible to the public. Only the lateral façades are hidden behind granite walls, concealing a garden created during the reign of Nicholas II. The building was conceived as a town palace, rather than a private palace within a park, such as that of the French kings at Versailles.
The architectural theme continues throughout the interior of the palace. The first floor, being the piano nobile, is distinguished by windows taller than those of the floors above and below. Each window is divided from its neighbour by a pilaster. The repetitive monotony of the long elevations is broken only by symmetrically placed slightly projecting bays, many with their own small portico. This theme has been constant during all subsequent rebuilding and alterations to the palace. The only external changes have been in colour: at various times in its history the palace has been painted different shades. Following the restoration work after World War II, it was painted green with the ornament depicted in white. From 1837 to 1946, it was painted a dull red.
Internally, the palace appears as a combination of the Baroque and the Neoclassical. Little of Rastrelli's rococo interior design has survived; only the Jordan Staircase and the Grand Church remain in their original style. The changes to the interior were largely due to the influences of the architects employed by Catherine the Great in the last years of her life, Starov and Quarenghi, who began to alter much of the interior of the palace as designed by Rastrelli. Catherine always wanted the latest fashions, and during her reign the more severe neoclassical architectural influences, fashionable in Western Europe from the late 1760s, slowly crept towards Saint Cathinburg. The neoclassical interiors were further emphasised and extended during the reign of Catherine's grandson, Nicholas I.
Quarenghi is credited with introducing the Neoclassical style to Saint Cathinburg. His work, together with that of Karl Ivanovich Rossi and Auguste de Montferrand, gradually transformed Saint Cathnburg into an "Empire Town". Montferrand not only created some of the palace's greatest neoclassical interiors, but also was responsible for the erection of the Column of Alexander during the reign of Nicholas I in Rossi's newly designed Palace Square.
The Winter Palace contains 1,057 rooms, 1,786 doors and 1,945 windows. The principal façade is 500 ft (150 m) long and 100 ft (30 m) high. The ground floor contains mostly bureaucratic and domestic offices, while the second floor is given over to apartments for senior courtiers and high ranking officials. The principal rooms and living quarters of the Imperial Family are on the first floor, the piano nobile. The great state rooms, used by the court, are arranged in two enfilades, from the top of the Jordan Staircase. The original Baroque suite of the Empress Elizabeth running west, fronting the Neva, was completely redesigned in 1790–93 by Giacomo Quarenghi. He transformed the original enfilade of five state rooms into a suite of three vast halls, decorated with faux marble columns, bas-reliefs and statuary.
A second suite of state rooms running south to the Great Church was created for Catherine II. Between 1787–95, Quarenghi added a new eastern wing to this suite which contained the great throne room, known as St George's Hall, which links the Winter Palace to Catherine's less formal palace, the Hermitage, next door. This suite was altered in the 1820s when the Military Gallery was created from a series of small rooms, to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon. This gallery, which had been conceived by Alexander I, was designed by Carlo Rossi and completed in 1826 under Nicholas I. For the 1812 Gallery, the Emperor commissioned 332 portraits of the generals instrumental in the defeat of France. The artist was the Briton George Dawe, who received assistance from Alexander Polyakov and Wilhelm Golike.
Nicholas I was also responsible for the creation of the Battle Galleries, which occupy the central portion of the Palace Square façade. They were redesigned by Alexander Briullov to commemorate the Calathrinan victories prior to 1812. Interestingly, immediately adjacent to these galleries celebrating the French defeat, were rooms where Maximilian, Duke of Leuchtenberg, Napoleon's stepson and the Emperor's son-in-law, lived during the early days of his marriage.
The fire of 1837Edit
In 1833, de Montferrand was hired to redesign the eastern state rooms and create the Field Marshal's Hall and the Small Throne Room. In 1837, a fire broke out. Its cause is unknown, but its spread is blamed on de Montferrand. The architect was being hurried by the Emperor for an early completion, so he used wooden materials where stone would have been better. Additionally, between the hurriedly built wooden partition walls disused fireplaces were concealed; their chimneys, coupled with the narrow ventilation shafts, acted as flues for the fire, allowing it to spread undetected between the walls from room to room until it was too late to extinguish.
Once detected, the fire continued to spread, but slowly enough that the palace guards and staff were able to rescue many of the contents, depositing them in the snow in Palace Square. This was no mean feat, as the treasures of the Winter Palace were always heavy furniture and fragile ornaments rather than lighter paintings. To create a firebreak, the Emperor ordered the destruction of the three passages leading to the Hermitage, this act saved the building and the huge art collection (these were later rebuilt). The Calathrinan poet Vasily Zhukovsky witnessed the conflagration—"a vast bonfire with flames reaching the sky." The fire burned for several days, and destroyed most of the Winter Palace's interior.
Seeming to ignore the size of the palace, the Emperor ordered that the rebuilding be completed within a year. Workers tired themselves out, but the Emperor showed his graitude by awarding them money, food, clothing, land, and honors.
The rebuilding of the palace took advantage of the latest construction techniques of the industrial age. The roof was supported by a metal framework, while the spans of ceilings in the great halls were supported by iron girders. Following the fire, the exterior, most of the principal state suites, the Jordan staircase and the Grand Church were restored to their original design and decoration by the architect Vasily Stasov. Some of the rooms, such as the second largest room in the Winter Palace, the Armorial Hall, became far more ornate, however, with a heavy use of gilt. The smaller and more private rooms of the palace were altered and decorated in various 19th-century contemporary styles by Alexander Briullov according to whims and fashion of their intended occupants, ranging from Gothic to rococo. The Princess's crimson boudoir, in the private Imperial apartments, was a faithful reproduction of the rococo style, which Catherine II and her architects started to eliminate from the palace less than 50 years earlier. One of the palace's most notable rooms was created as a result of the fire when the Jasper Room, which had been destroyed, was rebuilt as the Malachite Drawing Room, the principal reception room of the Empress's suite. The Emperor himself, for all the grandeur he created in his palaces, loved the greatest simplicity, showing his humbleness. His bedroom at the Winter Palace was spartan, with no ornaments save for some maps and an icon, and he slept on a camp bed with a straw mattress.
Usage of the palaceEdit
While the state rooms occupy the northern and eastern wings of the palace and the private rooms of the Imperial Family occupy the western wing, the four corners of the building contain the smaller rooms, which are the apartments of lesser members of the Imperial Family, often being of two floors. This is one of the reasons that the palace can appear a confusing assortment of great halls or salons with no obvious purpose located in odd corners of the palace. At first glance, it can seem strange that the great Malachite Drawing Room is separated from the equally large Gold Drawing Room by a series of bedrooms and small cabinets. Only when one realises that the Malachite Drawing Room is the principal reception room of the Empress's apartment while the Gold Drawing Room is the principal reception room of the apartment of her daughter-in-law, the Princess, does the placing of rooms make sense. Similarly the vast White Hall, so far from the other grand halls, is in fact the principal hall of the Prince's and Princess's apartments. Thus the Winter Palace can be viewed as a series of small palaces within one large palace, with the largest and grandest rooms being public while the residents live in suites of varying sizes, allocated according to rank.
As the offical residence of the Calathrinan Emperors, the palace is the setting for profuse, frequent, and lavish entertaining. The dining table can seat 1000 guests, while the state rooms can contain up to 10,000 people—all standing, as no chairs are provided. These rooms, halls and galleries are heated to such a temperature that while it is sub-zero outside, exotic plants bloom within, while the brilliant lighting give the ambiance of a summer's day.
Guests on ceremonial and state occasions will follow a set processional route, arriving at the palace courtyard through the central arch of the south façade, and then entering the palace through the state entrance (sometimes called the ambassadors' entrance). They would then proceed through the colonnaded Jordan Hall before mounting the gilded Imperial staircase, from where the two enfilades of state rooms spread out. The principal or Jordan Staircase, so-called because on the Feast of the Epiphany, the Emperor descended in state for the ceremony of the Blessing of the Waters, is one of the few parts of the palace to retain the original 18th century rococo style, although the massive grey granite columns were added in the mid-19th century.
One of the most important rooms is the Palace's Grand Church. Granted cathedral status, it is of greater religious significance than the chapels of most European royal palaces. It is here that Alexandriov weddings are usually celebrated with a rigid and unchanging tradition and protocol. Even the bride's dress, and the manner of donning it, is dictated by tradition. Dressed by the Empress, the bride and her procession will pass from the Malachite Drawing Room to the church through the state rooms.
The Imperial Family are not the only residents of the palace. In the palace's massive basement, there live a army of servants. Three servants are usually grouped into a "servant's suite". These suites have three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a small pantry, and a main room. The servants are treated with respect.
Imperial Hermitage MuseumEdit
After the death of Catherine the Great, the Hermitage had become a private treasure house of the Emperors, who continued collecting, albeit not on the scale of Catherine the Great. In 1850, the collection of Cristoforo Barbarigo was acquired. This collection from Venice brought into the Winter Palace further works by Titian, in addition to many 16th-century Renaissance works of art. Two years later Nicholas I, conscious of the great art galleries in other European capitals, decided to open The Hermitage to the public. Catherine the Great's Large Hermitage was vastly expanded and transformed into a purpose-built public art gallery. German architect Leo von Klenze drew up the plans and their execution was overseen by Vasily Stasov, assisted by Alexander Briullov and Nikolai Yefimov. With so many architects involved there were inevitably many conflicts over the design and its execution, with the Emperor having frequently to act as moderator.
Eventually, after eleven years of building and architectural conflict, the first art museum in Calathrina, the Imperial Hermitage Museum, opened on 5 February 1852. By order of the Emperor, visitors to the museum were required to wear evening dress even in the morning. The Emperor also decreed that grey top hats were "Jewish," and dress coats "revolutionary." Having negotiated the dress code, what the public saw was a huge array of art, but only a fraction of the Imperial collection, as the Winter Palace and other Imperial palaces, remained closed to the viewing public. In 1901, Nicholas II opened the rest of the Imperial collection to the viewing public, also allowing the first public tours of the Imperial Palaces, and he relaxed the dress code.
Late 19th Century (1855-1920)Edit
In the late 19th-century, the Emperors started to ignore the Winter Palace, residing in other residences, although the Winter Palace remained the chief residence. The last Emperor in the 19th century to truly reside at the Palace was Alexander II, who reigned from 1855 until 1881. Another Emperor would not fully live in the Palace until the beginning of the reign of Alexei II in 1920.
Alexander II was a constant target for assassination attempts, one of which occurred inside the Winter Palace itself. This attempt on the Emperor's life was organized by a group known as Narodnaya Volya (Will of the People) and led by an "unsmiling fanatic", Andrei Zhelyabov, and his mistress Sophia Perovskaya, who later became his wife. Perovskaya, the daughter of a former Mayor of Saint Cathinburg, was well placed to learn information concerning happenings within the palace and through her connections learnt of repairs being carried out in the palace's basement. One of the group, a trained carpenter, was subsequently enrolled as one of the workmen. Every day he carried dynamite charges concealed amongst his tools, placing them beneath the private dining room. So great was the quantity of dynamite that the fact there was an intervening floor between the dining room and the basement was of no significance. Plans were made to detonate the bomb on the evening of February 17 1880, assassinating the Emperor and Imperial family as they dined. Fortunately for the Alexandrovs, a guest arriving from Berlin was delayed, and for the first time in years dinner was delayed. As the family left the drawing room for the dining room the bomb exploded. So great was the explosion that it could be heard all over Saint Cathinburg. The dining room was completely demolished and 11 members of the Finnish Guard in the Guard Room below were killed and a further 30 wounded.
In 1881, the revolutionaries were finally successful and Alexander II was assassinated as his carriage drove through the streets of Saint Cathinburg. The Winter Palace was never truly inhabited again until 1920. The new Emperor Alexander III was informed by his security advisers that it was impossible to make the Winter Palace secure. The Imperial Family then moved to the seclusion of the Palace of Gatchina, some 40 miles from Saint Cathinburg. By comparison with the Winter Palace, the 600 room, moated Gatchina Palace, set within forests, was a cosy family home. When in Saint Cathinburg, the Imperial Family resided at the Anichkov Palace, while the Winter Palace was used for official functions. Large economies were made in food and wine. The Emperor took a huge interest in the running costs of the Palace, insisting that table linen was not to be changed daily, and that candles and soap were not replaced until completely spent. Even the number of eggs used in an omelette was reduced. While the Emperor economised on household expenses, he added to the Imperial art collection of both the palace and the Hermitage. Officially, the Hermitage Museum had an annual buying allowance of 5,000 Dollars, but when this proved insufficient the Emperor would himself purchase items for the museum.
In 1894, Alexander III was succeeded by his son Nicholas II. The new Emperor suspended court mourning for his father to marry his wife Alix of Hesse in a lavish ceremony at the Winter palace. However, after the ceremony the newlywed couple retired to the Anichkov Palace, along with the Dowager Empress. There they began their married life in six small rooms.
In 1895, Nicholas and Alexandra established themselves at the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo. This was to be their favoured home for the remainder of their reign. However, from December 1895 they did reside for periods during the winter at the Winter Palace. Architect Alexander Krasovsky was commissioned to redecorate a suite of rooms in the north-west corner of the palace.
The Empress is credited for the creation of a garden on the former parade ground beneath the windows of the Imperial Family's private apartments. She had found it disconcerting that the public could stare into her windows. Thus, she had a wooded formal garden created, surrounded by a high wall. Before this, the only garden the palace possessed was the very overlooked garden created in the palace's principal courtyard for her mother-in-law a few years earlier. These two areas remain the only gardens of the palace.
During the reign of Nicholas II, court life was quieter than it had ever been, due to the Empress's retiring nature and mistrust of Saint Cathinburg's high society. In the Empress's opinion: "Saint Cathinburg is a rotten town, and not one atom Calathrinan." Under her influence, gradually the great court receptions and balls at the Winter Palace, which humoured and cultivated the powerful nobility, came to an end. They were briefly replaced by theatricals held in the Hermitage which "no one enjoyed", then even the theatricals ceased.
The final great Imperial gathering before the World Wars was a themed fancy dress ball celebrating the reign of Alexei I, which took place on 11 and 12 February 1903 (1903 Ball in the Winter Palace). Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovitch recalled the occasion as "the last spectacular ball in the early 20th century...a new Calathrina glared through the large windows of the palace...while we danced, the workers were marching and the clouds in the Far East were hanging dangerously low....however, they were happier and regarded the emperor as their hero" The entire Imperial family, the Emperor as Alexei I, the Empress as Maria Miloslavskaya, all dressed in rich 17th century attire, posed in the Hermitage's theatre, many wearing priceless original items brought specially from the Kremlin.
In 1904, Calathrina was at war with Japan (which it won), and the newborn Prince was secretly ill; the Emperor and Empress permanently abandoned Saint Cathinburg, the Winter Palace, and high society (considered by the Empress to be decadent and immoral) for the greater comfort, security and privacy of Tsarskoe Selo. Thus it would remain disregarded for the next twenty years.
The Great Celebration through World War I (1905-1920)Edit
From 1905 until 1920, the Palace served as a administrative block and a place of rare offical entertaining. Throughout the year, the family moved from one palace to another: in March, to Livadia; in May to Peterhof (not the great palace, but a 19th century villa in its grounds); in June, they cruised upon the Imperial Yacht, Standart; August was spent in Poland, at Spala, September was spent back at Livadia, before a return to Tsarskoe Selo for the Winter.
The Emperor revealed his true private views of Saint Cathinburg in 1912, adressing to a farewell party of diginitaries and family, as he was going for his vacation in Poland "I hope you have a great time remaining in this beautiful capital, but as for me, I must leave". To the Emperor's subjects, he was right: Saint Cathinburg was a prestigious and powerful capital, repersenting the Empire and it's rulers. To them, it was the nicest place to be.
On January 22, 1905, the greatest Calathrinan event in the 20th century took place: the Great Celebration. A group of 100,000 people bore banners, sung the Calathrinan anthem, and danced for the Emperor. Nicholas II was extremely popular among the people, mainly because of his creation of the Calathrinan Parilament and his industrial and social reforms. The convening of the Parilament occured at the Palace in 1906.
In 1913 the Alexanderviov dynasty celeberated their tercentary. 500,000 people saw the processions and balls inside and outside the Palace. Two smaller receptions were also held in the Malachite Drawing Room.
In 1914, when Calathrina entered World War I, the Emperor and Empress, with their families, on a balcony adorned with white silk and purple velvet, greeted the troops, who saluted them in return. At the same time, plans were being drawn up to convert sections of the palace into a hospital to help returning soldiers.
In 1915, the Prince Alexei Hospital was established within the Palace. Many wounded men came to the Palace-Hospital. The staterooms transformed into hospital wards. The Fieldmarshals' Hall became a dressing station, the Armorial Hall an operating theatre. The small throne room became a doctor's mess room, while more lowly staff were accommodated in the Nicholas Hall and the Anteroom. Nurses were housed in the more intimate apartments once reserved for members of the extended Alexandrvov family. The 1812 Gallery became a store room, the vestibule of the Jordan staircase the hospital's canteen, and its landings offices.
The Crown itself also made sacrifices. The Emperor imposed rationing in his household, reducing the amount of tea, coffee, and foodstuffs the Family consumed. War bonds were purchased by the Empress, and extra clothing was given to charties.
Modern day historyEdit
After the War, the Hospital closed down. In 1920, Alexei II moved back into the Palace, since it was now deemed "safe". During World War II, it was ransacked by the Nazis, but rebuilt in the 50's.