Tsar Nicholas II’s coronation took place at the Cathedral of the Dormition in Moscow on 26 May, 1896. After the ceremony, the Imperial couple was expected to travel to various Courts on both private and state visits, which they did, first arriving in Vienna on August 27th to meet the Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Empress Elisabeth. After a few days, they left for Kiev in order to tour several institutions, and later for Breslau – in Germany – at the invitation of their cousin Kaiser Wilhem. Nicholas and Alexandra had the opportunity to see other cousins before continuing their journey, this time to Copenhagen, where they spent ten days with the Tsar’s maternal grandparents King Christian IX and Queen Louise of Denmark. In September, the couple went on board the Standart where they reunited with their first-born Olga and sailed to Scotland to visit Queen Victoria. Following a marvelous time spent amongst the British royals, the Romanovs finally arrived in France.
The state visit was a very important one, as Nicholas II was the first Tsar to set foot in French soil since the treaty of alliance had been signed by both countries in 1894. Despite the vast differences in their political structures – a republic and an absolute autocracy – the Franco-Russian entente had very strong ties that began at the end of the 1880’s, when the strained relationships with Germany made for a favorable approach of the two nations. This agreement granted loans of large sums of money to Russia to invest in the army and build railways, and in return, the French would get (and provide, if needed) military aid in face of a German attack.
The Imperial family received the warmest greetings from the crowds as they drove from Cherbourg to Paris, passing through the carefully decorated buildings, streets and chestnut trees that were covered with artificial blooms – Nicholas and Alexandra in the leading carriage – and ten-month-old Olga Nikolaevna with her nanny in another just behind them. Much to the delight of the Tsar, all eyes were on the Grand Duchess, who captured the hearts of the public by graciously waving at them. Wherever she went, one could hear the shouts “Vive le bébé et la nounou”, “Vive la Grande Duchess”.
In Paris, they were welcomed by President Félix Faure at Élysée Palace, and received various gifts from him such as toys for the baby and a Gobelin tapestry to the Tsarina. The number of functions to attend in only five days was enormous, including visits to the Louvre, the Panthéon, the Invalides, Ste. Chapelle and Notre Dame. Nicholas II also laid the foundation stone of Pont Alexandre III, before they left for Mint, Sevres and Versailles. The last one was perhaps the most interesting to Alexandra, where she was assigned Marie Antoinette’s rooms at the Palace for one night, and enjoyed a theatrical performance after the state dinner.
At the end of the tour, a magnificent military review was set up to properly pay farewell to the Romanovs. From there, the family went to visit Ernst Ludwig, Alexandra’s brother, in Germany for nine days before returning to Russia. Both the Tsar and Tsarina would cherish the memories of their wonderful stay in France for the rest of their lives.
Massie, Robert K. (1967) Nicholas and Alexandra
Rappaport, Helen (2014) The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra
Buxhoeveden, Sophie (1928) The Life and Tragedy of Alexandra Feodorovna, Empress of Russia A Briography
Vovk, Justin C. (2014) Imperial Requiem: Four Royal Women and the Fall of the Age of Empires
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia (2018) Franco-Russian Alliance