Coronation of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna

The coronation of Emperor Nicholas II and his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna was the last coronation during the Russian Empire. It took place on Tuesday, 14 May (O.S., 26 May N.S.) 1896, in Dormition Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin. Nicholas II, known in Russian as Nikolai II Aleksandrovich, was the last emperor of Russia.

L. Tuxen. "The coronation of Nicholas II in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin on May 14, 1896". 1898. The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg


On 1 January (O.S., 13 January N.S.) 1896, the manifesto[1] "On the upcoming Holy Coronation of Their Imperial Majesties" was published, according to which the coronation ceremony was to be held in May,[2] and inviting the Government Senate in Moscow, and other representatives of the Russian Empire, to attend.[3] Responsibility for organizing the ceremony was assigned to the Ministry of the Imperial Court, on the basis of which the Coronation Commission and the Coronation Office were organized.[3]

Bolshoi Theater in festive attire

From 6 May to 26 May 1896 was the official coronation period, with 25 May being the birthday of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. On 26 May, a manifesto was published that expressed the gratitude of the monarch to the inhabitants of Moscow.

It was proposed that all persons participating in the 9 May ceremonial entrance of the imperial couple to Moscow arrive in Moscow no later than 5 May. The ceremonial entry was to be from the Petrovsky Palace on Petersburg Highway and further along Tverskaya-Yamskaya and Tverskaya streets.[4]

Preparations for the celebrations were the responsibility of the Minister of the Imperial Court Count I. I. Vorontsov-Dashkov. The High Marshal was Count K. I. Palen; the supreme master of ceremonies was Prince A. S. Dolgorukov. The duties of the herald were performed by E. K. Pribylsky, an official of the Senate. A coronation unit was formed from 82 battalions, 36 squadrons, 9 companies, and 28 batteries, under the command of the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, under whom was a special headquarters with the rights of the General Staff led by Lieutenant General N.I. Bobrikov.[5] Vladimir Alexandrovich arrived in Moscow and took command on 3 May 1896.[6]

Announcement of the Holy Coronation of Emperor Nikolai Alexandrovich (Nicholas II) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (Alexandra Fedorovna (wife of Nicholas II))

In April 1896, more than 8,000 pounds of table settings were brought from St. Petersburg to Moscow, with gold and silver sets alone weighing up to 1,500 pounds. The Kremlin arranged 150 special telegraph wires to connect all the embassies.[7]

Pre-coronation festivitiesEdit

On Sparrow Hills—where the Vorobyov Palace used to be, and where, starting in 1817, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour designed by Karl Whitberg was constructed—a special "royal pavilion" was erected for the newly crowned couple.

On 6 May, the birthday of Nicholas II, the emperor and empress arrived at the Smolensky railway station in Moscow, where they were met by members of the imperial family, dignitaries, imperial officials, and crowds of people. The Governor-General of Moscow—uncle to the emperor and husband of the empress's sister Elizabeth Feodorovna—Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich arrived with the couple, having met the emperor and empress at Wedge station.[8] From the station the imperial couple proceeded in a closed carriage to Petrovsky Palace.

The scale and pomp of the preparations significantly exceeded previous coronations.[9]

"Royal Pavilion" on Sparrow Hills. Postcard of the late 19th century.
Coronation of Alexandra Feodorovna.

On 7 May, the imperial couple held an audience for the Emir of Bukhara Seid-Abdul Ahad Khan and his heir, as well as his excellency Khan Khiva Seid-Mogamet-Rahim-Bogadur-Khan, in the Petrovsky Palace.[10]

On 8 May, Maria Feodorovna, the Empress Dowager, arrived at Smolensky Railway Station, and was met by a large crowd of people.[11]

That same evening, outside Petrovsky Palace, the imperial couple were serenaded by 1,200 people, which included the choir of the Imperial Russian Opera, conservatory students, members of the Russian Choral Society.[12]

On 9 May, the solemn entry into the city took place. A police escort came first, with a platoon of gendarmes, next came the imperial convoy, a string of carriages with dignitaries, followed by the horse guards, imperial personal convoy, one hundred of the Life-Cossacks, His Majesty's regiment, six in a row, and so on.

Coronation ceremonyEdit

The solemn procession in the Kremlin. On the left, in the honor guard of the Life Guards Cavalry Regiment – Gustaf Mannerheim

On 14 May, the day of the Coronation, in all the churches in St. Petersburg, the liturgy was read and prayers of thanksgiving recited. The metropolitan cathedrals could not accommodate all the worshippers, in view of which prayers were also recited in the squares near a number of cathedrals and some churches, as well as in the Horse Guards.[13]

The coronation ceremony began at 10 am[clarification needed], with the emperor, his mother, and his wife seated on thrones on a special raised platform installed in the middle of the cathedral. The emperor sat on the throne of Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich, Empress Maria Feodorovna on the throne of Tsar Alexy Mikhailovich Tishayshy, and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna on the throne of Grand Prince Ivan III of Russia.[14]

The ceremony was presided over by Metropolitan Palladium, of St. Petersburg, the preeminent member of the most Holy Synod (the Synod at the time of the coronation having been transferred to Moscow). During the liturgy, the metropolitan con-celebrated with the metropolitans of Kiev, Ioanikiy (Rudnev), and of Moscow, Sergius (Lyapidevsky). At the end of the liturgy the emperor and empress were anointed and then took communion of the Holy Mysteries at the altar. In the ministry of the liturgy, among others, John of Kronstadt also took part.[15]

Illuminations in the Kremlin on the occasion of the coronation celebrations

Documentary film footageEdit

The French journalist Camille Cerf shot the only documentary movie footage of the coronation.

Post-coronation festivitiesEdit

After the ceremony, on the same day, a royal meal was served in the Palace of Facets, in the Kremlin, which was attended by invited Russian subjects and by foreign representatives; and by tradition food was served in other parts of the palace. The following day, 15 May (O.S.), at 10.30 am, a reception for ambassadors took place. From 11:30 am to 3 pm, the emperor and empress accepted greetings from deputations, from all over Russia, in the Andreevsky throne room.

On the morning of 16 May, the kurtag (masked ball[16]) in the Kremlin Palace was the first ball held, and was the first of a number of celebrations and balls.

In his diary, Nicholas II described what happened during those days:

May 13th. Monday.

We woke up with wonderful weather. Unfortunately I did not have time to take a walk because of the reports of Lobanov and Goremykin. Went to dinner at 11 o'clock. Breakfast with Mom and D. Fredy. We walked with them. We are very sorry to leave Alexandria; exactly that minute when the weather became summer and the green began to grow rapidly. At 3 1/2 we left for Moscow and settled in the Kremlin in our former rooms. I had to take the whole army of retinues of the princes who had come. At 7 o'clock we went with the whole family to the all-night vigil to "I will save for the golden lattice". Dined at 8 1/2 Mom and left early to her. Confessed in the bedroom. May the merciful Lord God help us, may he support us tomorrow and bless on peace-working life !!!

14 May. Tuesday.

Great, solemn, but heavy in a moral sense, for Alix, mom and me, day. From 8 am they were on their feet; and our procession began only in 1/2 10. The weather was fortunately wondrous; the Red Porch represented a radiant look. All this happened in the Assumption Cathedral, although it seems like a real dream, but do not forget all my life !!! Returned to his half past one. At 3 o'clock the same procession went again in the Faceted Chamber to the meal. At 4 o'clock everything ended quite well; a soul full of gratitude to God, i completely rested afterwards. Dined with Mom, which fortunately stood the whole test. At 9 o'clock went to the upper balcony, where did Alix ignite the electric illumination on Ivan the Great and then the towers and walls of the Kremlin were lit up consistently, as well as the opposite embankment and Zamoskvorechye.

We went to bed early.[17]

On 26 May, a commemorative silver medal was struck "In memory of the coronation of Emperor Nicholas II".

The Khodynka tragedyEdit

Early in the morning of 18 May 1896, the day of the "national holiday"[18] public feast on the Khodynka Field in honor of the coronation, a stampede led to 1,389 people being killed and 1,300 left with severe injuries, according to official figures—4,000 according to unofficial figures.[19] On 19 May, an official government agency issued a telegram from Moscow that read: "Moscow, May 18th. The brilliant course of coronation celebrations was darkened by a regrettable event. Today, 18 May, long before the start of the national holiday, a crowd of a few hundred thousand moved so swiftly to the place of distribution of treats on the Khodynka field, that the elemental force crushed a multitude of people ...".[20] Coronation events continued according to schedule: in particular, on the evening of the same day a ball was held at the French embassy.[21] The sovereign was present at all the planned events, including the ball, and that presence was perceived ambivalently in the wake of the tragedy.[22]

The Khodynka tragedy was considered a grim omen for the reign of Nicholas II,[23][24][25][26] and at the end of the twentieth century it was cited by some as one of the arguments against his canonization (2000).[27]



  1. ^ Государство Россійское – О манифестахъ [State of the Russian Empire – About Manifestos]. Russian Portal (in Russian). Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Description of the holy coronation of Their Imperial Majesties, Sovereign Emperor Alexander III and Sovereign Empress Maria Feodorovna of All Russia". RARUS'S. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  3. ^ a b The complete collection of laws of the Russian Empire
  4. ^ The highest approved ceremonial of ceremonial entry into the city of Moscow before the holy coronation of their imperial majesties, the sovereign, Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich, the autocrat of Russia and the sovereign, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. // "The addendum to No. 91 of the newspaper" Government Gazette "on April 24, 1896". page. 1 (a detailed description of the ceremonial entrance ceremony plan); the text is reprinted in No. 92 of the same edition along with the ceremonial of holy coronation.
  5. ^ "Government Gazette". 4 (16) May 1896, № 98, p. 3.
  6. ^ Government Gazette. 5 (17) May 1896, № 99, p. 2.
  7. ^ Preparation for coronation celebrations // "St. Petersburg Vedomosti". 24 April (6 May) 1896, № 111, p. 4.
  8. ^ "St. Petersburg Vedomosti". 8 May 1896, № 125, p. 1.
  9. ^ Moscow before the coronation // "St. Petersburg Vedomosti". 8 May 1896, № 125, p. 2.
  10. ^ "Government Gazette." 9 May 1896, No. 101, p. 3; "Government Gazette." 11 May 1896, No. 102, p. 1. (titles and spelling of names – by source)
  11. ^ Coronation days in Moscow // "St. Petersburg Vedomosti". 10 (22) May 1896, № 127, p. 1.
  12. ^ On the eve of the coronation // "St. Petersburg Vedomosti". 11 (23) May 1896, № 128, p. 1—2.
  13. ^ 14 May in Petersburg // "St. Petersburg Vedomosti". 16 (28) May 1896, № 132, p. 6.
  14. ^ In memory of the holy coronation of their imperial majesties Nikolai Alexandrovich and Alexandra Feodorovna. With many illustrations by top artists.. — SPb .: Publ. Hermann Goppe, 1896, Part II, p. 182.
  15. ^ "Government Gazette". 16 May 1896, No. 105, p. 6.
  16. ^ Keenan, P. (24 June 2013). St Petersburg and the Russian Court, 1703–1761. Springer. p. 50. ISBN 978-113731160-3. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  17. ^ Nicholas II. A diary. М.: «Zakharov» 512p., 2007 ISBN 978-5-8159-0663-1 (The full text of the diary of Nicholas II over the past five and a half years of his life.)
  18. ^ "Folk holiday" — official event name on the Khodynka field on 18 May (30 May, N.S.), 1896: Folk festival on the occasion of the sacred coronation their Imperial Majesties, Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Description of holiday entertainment. М., 1896.
  19. ^ Pushkareva, Irina. "HODYNSKAYA CATASTROPHE". Krugosvet. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  20. ^ Government Gazette, 19 (31) May 1896, № 108, p. 3 (telegrams).
  21. ^ «Government Gazette», 21 May (2 June) 1896, № 109, p. 3.
  22. ^ So, the opposition politician V. P. Obninsky in the early 1910s stated in his book: "[...] The impression was amazing, especially in the common people, spread exaggerated rumors far, in the most remote villages. Everyone was confident that the king would cancel the remaining balls and holidays [...] But Nikolai made only a new series of misses [...]" (Obninsky V. P. The Last Autocrat. Sketch of the life and reign of Russian Emperor Nicholas II. — Eberhard Frowein Verlag, Berlin, [1912], p. 61.)
  23. ^ "Crowd! History Lesson – Hodynka// Journal "National Security"". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  24. ^ In Russian literature: in 1908 Konstantin Balmont wrote: "Who began to reign Khodynka, he will finish, standing on the scaffold", and later Valentin Pikul will remember it in the historical novel "Now I am tormented by the analogy: are these catacombs of the corpses not Hodynki augury for a new revolution — russian, able to re-shake the whole world, and then the crowns will fall on the pavements of Europe, like cheap chestnuts" (The novel "Unclean power")
  25. ^ Ionina N. A., Kubeev M. N. 100 Great Disasters
  26. ^ One day of Nikolai Alexandrovich // Kommersant Power
  27. ^ On the canonization of Nicholas II

Further readingEdit

  • Government Gazette, 16 May 1896, No. 105, pp. 5–7 (detailed description of the ceremony and religious rites on 14 May 1896 in the Kremlin).
  • In memory of the sacred coronation of their imperial majesties Nikolai Alexandrovich and Alexandra Feodorovna. With many illustrations of the best artists. – SPb .: Publishing house Hermann Goppé, 1896, Part I and Part II in a general binding, with separate pagination (a historical sketch by E. E. Golubinsky "Tsar's wedding in pre-Peter Russia"; an essay on the coronations of Russian monarchs from Catherine I to Alexander III; description of regalia, utensils, rooms, ceremonies, receptions, parades, meals, participants, guests and organizers of the celebrations in 1896).
  • Coronation collection with the permission of his imperial Majesty the Emperor was published by the Ministry of the Imperial Court (inscription on the cover: "Crowned in Moscow. May 14, 1896") – Edited by V. S. Krivenko. St. Petersburg, 1899, Tom I and II (illustrations by N. Samokish, E. Samokish-Sudkovskaya, S. Vasilkovsky; original replay application: A. Benoit, V. Vasnetsov, K. Lebedev, V. Makovsky, I. Repin, A. Ryabushkin, V. Serov. Volume I contains 2 parts: "A historical review of Russian coronations" and "Sacred coronation of the sovereign emperor Nikolai Aleksandrovich and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna". Volume II contains: photos with text, government documents, invitations, programs, tickets, full lists of participants and guests of events).
  • Folk festival on the occasion of the sacred coronation of their imperial majesties Emperor Nikolai Alexandrovich and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Description of entertainment for the holiday. 1896 (description of the program of the "national holiday" on the Khodynka field).
  • Inessa Nicholaevna Slyunkova [ru]. Design projects of coronation celebrations in Russia of the XIX century. M., Buxmart. 2013. p. 438. ISBN 978-590619007-9

External linksEdit