The splendor of the House of Romanov’s final ball

Archive image / CGACPPD
The two-day ball in 1903 was the most opulent ever held during the reign of Nicolas II.
A grand fancy-dress ball took place at the end of February 1903 in the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg (today’s Hermitage Museum), which was to be the last ball of tsarist Russia.
The last emperor of Russia Nicolas II (pictured) was robed in the golden brocade of 17th century Russian tsar Alexey Mikhailovich.
The empress Alexandra Fedorovna (pictured) appeared in the raiments of the first wife of Alexey Mikhailovich, Empress Maria Ilinichna - a brocade dress decorated with silver satin and pearls topped by a diamond and emerald-studded crown. Empress Alexandra Fedorovna wore a huge emerald. All the jewelry was chosen by court jeweler Carl Faberge. Today such a dress would cost approximately 10 million euros.
The two-day ball was the most opulent ever held during the reign of Nicolas II. It was dedicated to the 290th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. / Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna.
The first day featured feasting and dancing, and a masked ball was held on the second day. Everything was captured in a photo album that continues to inspire artists to this today. / Grand Duchess Elisaveta Feodorovna.
All 390 guests were requested to come in traditional Russian 17th century dress. This grand event was remarkable for its luxurious Russian-style costumes. Court ladies were attired in sundresses embroidered with precious stones and kokoshniks (head-dresses) adorned with the finest family jewels, while gentlemen boasted richly decorated caftans and boyar-style fur hats. / Grand Duke Andrey Vladimirovich.
The ballrooms of the Winter Palace never saw such splendor again. “While we were dancing,” later recalled Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, “workers’ strikes were happening in St. Petersburg, and clouds were gathering over the Russian Far East.” / Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich.
"... I was wearing the clothes of a falconer, which consisted of a white and gold caftan with back golden eagles sewn on the chest and the back with a pink silk blouse, light-blue wide trousers and morocco boots.” / Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich.
The Russian-Japanese War broke out a year later, followed by the 1905 Russian Revolution. The global economic crisis marked the beginning of the end for the Russian Empire, and the court ceased to hold balls. / Grand Duke, Heir to the Throne Mikhail Alexandrovich.
Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich wrote about the dress pictured: “Ksenia [his spouse — RBTH] was dressed as a boyar’s wife, her costume was richly decorated and sparkling with jewels that suited her well... / Grand Duchess Ksenia Alexandrovna.
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