|Laurits Tuxen's painting of Nicholas II's coronation (Image: Wikimedia Commons)|
"The Czar's Costly Jewels"
(originally appeared in the New York Times on 26 May 1896)
Moscow, May 25 -- At 3:15 PM today the gorgeous regalia, which will be used at the ceremony tomorrow , was transferred with great pomp from the Treasury to the throne room, the hall of St. Andrew, in the Kremlin Palace .
|The Russian imperial regalia (Image: Wikimedia Commons)|
|The Imperial Sceptre, set with the Orlov Diamond (Image: Elkan Wijnberg for Wikimedia Commons)|
The Czar will also don the collar, star, and jewel of the Order of St. Andrew , valued at over 100,000 rubles. This order is never worn save on the day of a coronation, and is adorned with five pink diamonds and two Siberian aquamarines, one blue and the other green, set in diamonds.
|Detail of Makovsky's coronation portrait of Alexandra Feodorovna (Image: Wikimedia Commons)|
|The Russian regalia guarded in the Kremlin during the coronation of 1896 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)|
This afternoon the Emperor and Empress left the Palace of Alexandrina and took up their quarters in the Kremlin. Their chief devotions were paid today in the Cathedral of the Redeemer, a small chapel upon the Gold Court, surmounted by twelve gilded cupolas. This private chapel of the palace contains a miracle-working image of the saviour, and here, before the golden Ikonostas, the imperial couple perform their acts of preparation for the morrow's sacred ceremony.
|R.C. Woodville's illustration of Nicholas II crowning himself during the 1896 coronation (Image: Wikimedia Commons)|
A rehearsal of the grand gala performance which will be given at the Grand Theatre, or Opera House, of Moscow, was held tonight.
|From the 1896 Coronation Book: an illustration of Emperor Nicholas II crowning Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (Image: Wikimedia Commons)|
General McCook, who is the special representative of the American government, his wife and daughter, and Admiral Selfridge were among the guests at a dinner given by the German ambassador last night.
At the reception given at the Kremlin on Friday last, the Czar conversed for a long time with General McCook. His Majesty asked many questions about the United States, which showed that he had much knowledge of that country.
1. The ceremony in question was the coronation of Nicholas II, the last emperor of Russia. He was crowned more than a year after becoming emperor; the official period of mourning for his father, Emperor Alexander III, did not end until November 1895, and the coronation was scheduled for the following spring. In the time between his accession and his coronation, Nicholas became a husband (marrying Princess Alix of Hesse) and a father (to his first daughter, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna).
2. Russian monarchs were traditionally crowned in Moscow, and Nicholas II followed that tradition, even though Saint Petersburg was the capital city at the time. The word "kremlin" means something like "citadel" in Russian; the Moscow Kremlin is a complex of buildings that includes a number of palaces and cathedrals. Nicholas was crowned in the Cathedral of the Dormition within the complex walls. His was the last coronation to be held in the cathedral; all monarchs since Ivan the Terrible (in 1547) had been crowned there.
3. The Imperial State Crown of Russia, made in 1762 and set with nearly five thousand diamonds. The crown is owned today by the Moscow Kremlin Diamond Fund and is on display in the museum in the Kremlin Armoury in Moscow.
4. The crown was made by Georg Friedrich Ekart and Jérémie Pauzié, Swiss jewelers working at the Russian court.
5. Catherine the Great (1729-1796), the German princess who seized the Russian throne in a coup d'etat following the assassination of her husband, Emperor Peter III. Her reign is considered an important "golden age" of imperial Russia.
6. Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear that this "ruby" is actually a spinel. But it's an impressive one: it weighs nearly 400 carats and is probably the second-largest spinel in the world. (The largest spinel is the 500 carat Samarian spinel, which is part of the Iranian crown jewel collection.)
7. The Imperial Sceptre (and the Orlov Diamond) are both owned by the Diamond Fund today and are housed in the Armoury museum at the Kremlin in Moscow. The diamond originated in India; it came into the Russian crown jewel collection when Count Orlov, a former lover of Catherine the Great (and the father of her youngest child, Count Bobrinsky), offered it as a gift to the empress. The diamond reportedly weighs around 190 carats.
8. The Imperial Orb is also owned by the Diamond Fund and is also on display at the Armoury in the Kremlin.
9. The Order of St. Andrew the Apostle is the highest-ranking order of Russian chivalry. Inaugurated in 1698, it was abolished following the 1917 revolution but reestablished in 1998.
10. Bertha Palmer (1849-1918) was the wife of the millionaire Chicago developer Potter Palmer; you may recognize their name from the city's famous Palmer House Hotel. Why was she at this coronation? Some scholars have posited that the Russian trip was somehow connection to her desire to have her husband appointed as ambassador to Germany (and her disappointment when that didn't happen).