The Tsar at Play

9 Apr

This is really pushing this blog’s “culture of WWI” mandate, but these images are too sensational to pass up.

The year is 1899. . Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, in an astounding break from the stern, often exasperated persona that he otherwise emphasized in public, relaxes with friends and members of his extended family.  Confronted with the possibility of photographs being taken, the Tsar and his companions decide to do something… rather odd:

The two-headed eagle in flight

Woah!  One never expects to see images like this coming out of the world of Victorian-era photography, but here they are — and more besides:

Trading places

The Tsar pulls a face with the Princess Ingeborg of Denmark:

An unnamed niece(?) photobombs the pair

The Duchess of Darmstadt makes it clear how happy she is with the proceedings:

Let your smile be your umbrella

The Tsar, Prince Nicholas of Greece, and an unnamed friend do the creep:

Good clean fun

The Princess Ingeborg of Denmark would go on to live a remarkably happy life, dying contentedly in 1958.  Nicholas of Greece would live out his days in Athens, dying more or less untroubled in 1938.  I cannot say what befell the Duchess.  As for Nicholas II, the man you see above would famously go on to lose everything his family had fought to uphold for centuries and would — along with his wife, his children, and several loyal retainers — end up being unceremoniously murdered in a basement in the summer of 1918.  The world can be a merciless place.


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