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, May 26, 1896, in Dormition Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin.
On January 13, 1896, the manifesto “On the upcoming Holy Coronation of Their Imperial Majesties” was published, according to which the coronation ceremony was to be held in May, and inviting the Government Senate in Moscow, and other representatives of the Russian Empire, to attend. 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.
From May 6 to May 26, 1896 was the official coronation period, with May 25 being the birthday of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. On May 26, a manifesto was published that expressed the gratitude of the monarch to the inhabitants of Moscow.
“The plan of the city of Moscow with the designation of the places of residence of the HIGHEST Special Representatives, Representatives of Foreign States, Commanders and Senior Officials who have arrived in Moscow during the Holy Day. Coronations of Their Imperial Majesties in May 1896.
For the leadership of the Moscow Post Office officials assigned to different duties during the Holy Coronation, compiled by the Moscow Post-Director Art. Council K. Radchenko.
It was proposed that all persons participating in the May 9 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.
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. Vladimir Alexandrovich arrived in Moscow and took command on May 3, 1896.
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.
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 May 6 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. 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.
On May 7 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.
On May 8 Maria Feodorovna, the Dowager Empress, arrived at Smolensky Railway Station, and was met by a large crowd of people.
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.
On May 9, 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.
On May 26, 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.
The coronation ceremony began at 10 am 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.
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.
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, May 27, 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 May 28, the kurtag (masked ball) 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 25th. 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 !!! ✙
May 26, 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.
On May 26, commemorative silver medal was struck “In memory of the coronation of Emperor Nicholas II”.
The Khodynka tragedy (tomorrow)