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Unlucky 13 (Plus 100): The Coronation of the Last Russian Tsar

  May 29, 2009 at 9:31 am by

The last Tsar of Russia, His Imperial Majesty Nicholas II The Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russians, was official crowned in an elaborate coronation which took place 113 years ago this past Tuesday in Moscow. After a suitable period of mourning for his father, the Late Tsar Alexander III (who died in 1894), the festivities celebrating the new Tsar could begin. And begin they did.

View the image at Angel Fire

The coronation celebration lasted for around two weeks, beginning with the Tsar and his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna, arriving at the Petrovsky Palace outside of Moscow on May 19. Preperations for the Ceremonial Entry to the Kremlin, an event which would take place three days later, then began in greater detail.

On May 22, thousands lined the streets of Moscow for the grand procession of the Tsar and Tsarina from the Petrovsky Palace to the Kremlin Palace, where they would remain until the coronation. The crowds waited for a gun salute to signal their departure from the Palace, and when it rang out across the streets of Moscow, the crowds cheered. The elaborate procession saw Nicholas riding a grey dapple mare named Norma, dressed in a new outfit befitting the occasion. Tsar Nicholas II’s mother, Dowager Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, followed him in a gold carriage topped by an Imperial Crown encrusted with priceless stones. A golden carriage carrying Tsarina Alexandra came next.

As they journeyed to the Kremlin, the priests of all the churches the procession passed stepped outside, bearing crosses and icons, to bless the Tsar on a long and successful reign. Upon the trio’s arrival to the Kremlin, they participated in the traditional ritual of worship to the Blessed Virgin of Iver icon, a replica of the original brought to Russia in 1648.

The day of the coronation arrived, and Nicholas and Alexandra travelled to the Assumption Cathedral for the ceremony. They were greeted by Palladius, the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg, who offered them Holy Crosses. Ioannakius, the Metropolitan of Kiev, sprinkled them with holy water. Entering the Cathedral, the pair ascended the dias in the Cathedral’s centre, where the thrones of Tsar Michael Feodorovich, the first Romanov dynast, and Tsar Ivan III, Moscow’s Grand Duke since 1462 who created the title “Tsar of all the Russias”, sat.

The coronation ritual bgan, and before long the Tsar was wearing the Imperial Crown as the leader of Russia. He then called his wife to come to him. Alexandra knelt on a crimson cushion before him, and Nicholas II touched her head lightly with the Crown. Prayers and songs are sung, before the newly crowned Tsar and Tsarina leave the Cathedral. A celebratory banquet was held at the Kremlin Palace that evening, and the Tsar wrote in his diary that night, “All that happened in the Assumption Cathedral, though it seems but a dream, is not to be forgotten for life!”


The Tsar’s disaster of a reign was cursed from the beginning. Four days after the coronation, a banquet for the people of Russia was to be held at the Khodynka Field. The people gathered were to receive food and gifts from the Tsar, and in the late afternoon a rumour began to quickly spread that there would not be enough beer for all. People began to panic, and began rushing towards the beer tables. Over 1300 were trampled to death, with another 1300 injured. Nicholas was informed of the incident, and did not want to attend a banquet which was being held that night at the French Embassy in Moscow. He was convinced otherwise by his unfortunately largely influential uncles, the brothers of his father.

The coronation on May 26 was the beginning of a reign that would see Nicholas II face the failure of the Russo-Japanese War, large public disapproval in 1905 with the Bloody Sunday Massacre on peaceful protestors, the creation of the Duma which was dismissed three times by the Tsar, the illness of his son Tsarevich Alexei (the boy suffered from haemophilia inherited from his mother through her grandmother Queen Victoria), and the final blow of the First World War.

Nicholas’ disastourous choice to go to the war front to led the Russian army was the final nail in his coffin as Tsar, as he left Tsarina Alexandra in charge in St Petersburg. During a war against Germany, the Russians had grown to dislike, and even hate, Alexandra due to her German heritage (she was born HGDH Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine). The Tsar was at the front for approximately eighteen months before the February Revolutiom saw his Generals advise him to abdicate the throne, which he did for himself and his son. Grand Duke Mikhail, Nicholas’ brother, declined the throne, bringing an end to the 304 year old Romanov dynasty.

This thread provides discussion and detail about the Tsar’s coronation.

Filed under Historical Royals, Russia
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