Pascha With the Russian Royal Family

Christ is risen! With these words, the hearts of all Orthodox Christians are filled with a feeling of ineffable joy and spiritual warmth. The same was true for the Russian royal family, which is now a family of saints. They endured a great deal, but in all periods of their lives we see that they unwaveringly followed the Lord and managed to preserve the light of faith. Tsar Nicholas’s diaries enlighten us as to how they spent this holy day.

The Pascha of 1895 was the first for the newly wedded couple. Tsar Alexander III peacefully reposed in the autumn of 1894. His son, the twenty-six year-old Nicholas, immediately ascended the Russian throne and married the German princess Alice on November 14. The young emperor was on the threshold of a different life. A new page of Russian history was unfolding.


April 1, Saturday

It significantly froze tonight, though the day was sunny. I have not sensed such freedom for a long time, as today I did not have any reports and had nothing sent to me for reading. We went to the Liturgy at 11:30. <…> Alix set about coloring eggs with Misha [Grand Duke Mikhail] and Olga [Grand Duchess]. We all sat down to dinner at 8 o’clock. Presents and various surprises for one another in the eggs came in the evening. At 11:50 we headed for Paschal Matins, which was celebrated in our home church for the first time.

April 2, Sunday

The service ended at 1:45. We broke the Lenten fast at Mama’s: Alix, Xenia [Grand Duchess], Sandro [Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich] and uncle Alexei [Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich]. We slept until 9 o’clock in the morning. I had to deal with the eggs—that was a burdensome and fatiguing waste of time. Alix was distributing the gifts. At breakfast were uncle Vladimir [Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich] and aunt Mikhen [Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna the elder] with the children, and George. We set out to pay visits to the entire family. The day was bright, though cold. We drank tea at home. Alix was so exhausted that she did not go to the Vigil service. We had supper at 8 o’clock. I devoted myself to reading, as usual.


March 21, Thursday

The girls received Holy Communion at the Liturgy. Ours was perfectly serene, but Irina [Grand Duchess Irina Alexandrovna] cried a little. <…> The Service of the Twelve Passion Gospels lasted 1 1/2 h.

March 23, Saturday

We attended the Liturgy at 11:30. After it was over, we had breakfast at Xenia’s place. She did not feel well and did not attend Paschal Matins, which was a pity! Benckendorff and I were sorting the eggs of glass and porcelain. <…> We set out for the Bolshaya Church at 11:45. Before the Liturgy began, I greeted 288 people. We came back to the Malachite [room] at 2:30 to break the fast.

March 24, Bright Sunday

We went to bed at about four o’clock, when the dawn was breaking. We got up by 8:30. Finally, the morning was free from all business. Khristosovanie [the Paschal triple kiss] with all the people began at 11:30 in the Malachite room; nearly five hundred people received eggs. <…> We set about paying visits to the whole family; we saw aunt Sany [Grand Duchess Alexandra Josiphovna]. After taking a horse ride along the embankment, we came back home by teatime. I did some reading after we bathed our daughter. At 7:15 we went to the Vigil service; we had dinner with uncle Misha afterward at Xenia and Sandro’s place. We gave her our presents. We took another ride to breathe some fresh air.

The year of 1905 was one of the most troublesome for Russia. It had already waged war with Japan, and was then hit by the storm of a revolution that was to be a forerunner of the imminent catastrophe. The royal family was together anyway, supporting one another and praying to Lord for intercession.


April 14, Great Thursday

In the morning, we all received Holy Communion. Our Little Treasure behaved decently at the church. Then we took a walk. The weather was wonderful; the sun was burning fiercely. <…>

April 17, the Bright Resurrection of Christ

We got up at about 10 o’clock in the scorching morning. I had been greeting nearly six hundred people for an hour. We had breakfast at its time. It rained. <…> The weather was perfect. I was reading. A 7:00 we went to the Vigil service.


March 30, Great Thursday,

In the morning, we and all the children received the Holy Communion. Spiritual comfort embraced me for some hours. The Matins of the Twelve Passion Gospels lasted from 7 till 8:40.      

April 2, the Bright Resurrection of Christ

The Matins began early, at midnight. I greeted the Tsarskoye Selo garrison, including the officers. The service ended at 2:30. We came back home to break the fast at a family dinner. I slept soundly until 10. The morning was sunny, but later it started to rain. A large khristosovanie went from 11:30 till 12:45, I greeted over six hundred people. I took a stroll after breakfast. The weather got better by 4 o’clock in the afternoon, though it got a bit cooler. At 7:30 we went to the Vigil service. <…>



April 21, the Bright Resurrection of Christ

The Matins began at 12, and the Liturgy was over at 2:15. After coming back home, we broke the fast in the Round Hall. We slept until 9:30. It was pouring rain the whole morning; the weather was chilly. I greeted seven hundred people. We listened to three numbers that the choir sang to us. We had a family breakfast. I took a stroll with Dmitry [probably Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich] and broke the ice in the pond. The weather got better. I was reading. We went to the Vigil service at 7:30. <…>


April 11, Great Thursday

At 9 o’clock we came to the Liturgy in the cave church and received the Holy Communion. We returned home at 11.

I took a walk after having some tea.

The day was radiant. All the bushes are beginning to show green buds. After breakfast the children and I broke the last blocks of ice. We had tea a bit earlier, at 4, and at 6 o’clock we headed for the Matins of the Twelve Gospels. It was in the Main church. We sat to dinner at 8:15. I devoted a lot of time to reading aloud afterward.

April 12, Friday

I had almost no work to do in the morning and took a little boat trip with Maria and Anastasia around our pond. At 2 o’clock we all went to the Vespers and came back home at 3:30. <…>

April 13, Saturday

I woke up at 4:15 in the morning; by 5 o’clock I was at the Matins in the regiment church with Olga, Tatiana and Maria. The procession around the church at a magnificent dawn reminded me of Moscow, the Dormition Cathedral and the same service! We went home on foot and arrived at 6. I slept until 9:30. Had a walk. We all went to the Liturgy, which was over at one o’clock in the afternoon. <…> The children were coloring eggs with the yacht officers. I was reading until 8 o’clock. We gave presents to one another. At 11:30 we set out to the church for the Midnight Office. This was the first service for Alexei, he went back home with Anastasia after the Matins.


The service in our nice church was festive and marvelously beautiful. <…> We returned home at 2.

We broke the fast with the elder daughters.

April 14, Pascha

I went to bed at 3:30 and got up 9:30.

The morning was gray, but the sun came out in the afternoon. The Khristosovanie took place before breakfast; I greeted 720 people. <…>

Then the First World War ensued. It was most tragic for the Russian nation—the country lost millions of people and moved closer to the revolution.


April 6, the Bright Resurrection of Christ

I greeted everyone in the church after the Matins. The Liturgy was over at 1:45, and we went to the dining room to break the fast. We came home at about 3. I slept until 9 o’clock. <…> Khristosovanie began downstairs at 11:30, 512 people. The whole family was together at breakfast. Alix was tired and lay down to have some rest until 5. I walked with the children and the officers to the Krestovaya hill in Oreanda, where we sat for a while and had some rest, admiring the view. We drank tea with a delicious paskha, butter and milk. I answered telegrams. The Vespers was at 7:30. <…>


April 19, Great Thursday

We all received Holy Communion. Alexei had to commune after the Liturgy lying in bed, since he had swollen lymph nodes. I went for a walk after drinking tea in his playroom. <…> Received Count Friederichs at 6 and went to the Matins of the Twelve Gospels, which was over at 8:15. I was reading for the entire evening.

April 22, the Bright Resurrection of Christ

The cathedral was beautifully lit by sparklers during the procession. It was slightly cold; the night was cloudless.

The Liturgy ended at 2 o’clock. We had festive dinner with all the daughters. I slept until 9:30. The day was sunny and bright. I greeted the court from 11 till 12:30. After breakfast I had a long walk and worked. <…>


April 7, Great Thursday

A very tough day. I went to the Liturgy at 9:20, where Alexeyev and many staff officers received the Holy Communion. Took a walk in the garden and listened to a report at 11. Few people were at breakfast and dinner. I was reading. I took a car ride along the Gomel highway and a stroll at the same place; I had walked with Alix and the children where we had made a fire. The Matins of the Twelve Gospels took an hour and a half. I devoted the evening to the work.

April 8, Friday

The twenty-second anniversary of our engagement, the second year that we have not spend this day together. <…>

April 10, the Bright Resurrection of Christ

The Liturgy ended at 1:50. They all came to my place, I greeted everyone and we broke the fast. The night was chilly and cloudless. I slept until 9:30. In an hour began khristosovanie with the staff, the managers, the clergy, the police and the locals of higher ranks.

Pascha of 1917 was preceded by the February revolution that struck the country nearly two months before, and the air of revolution and disaster permeated the Tsar’s journal entries. On March 2, Tsar Nicholas was forced to abdicate the throne and celebrated the holy feast as the ordinary “Colonel Romanov”. The entire family was together, as usual.


March 30, Great Thursday

<…> At 10 o’clock we went to the Liturgy, where many of our people received Holy Communion. I took a short stroll with Tatiana. Today the ‘victims of the revolution’ were buried in our park, in front of the middle of the Alexander Palace. We could hear the sounds of a funeral march and “La Marseillaise”. Everything was over by 5:30. At 6 o’clock we went to the Matins of the Twelve Gospels. <…>


April 2, the Bright Resurrection of Christ

The Matins and Liturgy ended at 1:40. We broke the fast altogether; there sixteen of us. I did not go to bed soon as I had eaten substantially. I got up at about 10. The day was bright and truly festive. I took a short walk in the morning. I greeted all the servants before breakfast, and Alix gave out porcelain eggs that we had managed to keep from past reserves. Overall, there were 135 people. <…> Alexei and Anastasia went outdoors for the first time. <…>

April 3, Monday

A wonderful spring day. <…> I went to the Liturgy with Tatiana and Anastasia at 11 o’clock. After breakfast we went out to the park with Alexei, I was breaking ice for the whole time by our summer embankment <…>.

In 1918, the Romanov family was separated; the Tsar, Alexandra Feodorovna and Maria we’re transferred to Yekaterinburg, while the rest of the children remained in the Siberian town of Tobolsk. Some three months before the notorious murder, that Pascha was the last in their lives.


April 19, Great Thursday,

The day was beautiful, windy, dust was rushing around the town and the sun was shining brightly, penetrating through the windows. In the morning I was reading the book La Sagasse et la destinée to Alix. Later I continued to read the Bible. The breakfast was served late, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Then we were allowed to go out to the garden for an hour, and we all, except Alix, took the opportunity. The weather turned cooler, some drops of rain fell upon the earth. It was pleasant to breathe some fresh air. When the bells rang, a sense of sadness imbued me—it is now Passion Week, and we are deprived of any possibility to attend its magnificent services, and moreover, cannot observe the fast! I had the joy of bath before tea. Dinner was served at 9. In the evening we, all the people dwelling in the four rooms, gathered in the hall, where Botkin read aloud the twelve Gospels. We all went to bed afterward.

April 21, Great Saturday

I woke up quite late; the day was grey, cold, with snowstorms. I spent the whole morning reading, writing a couple of lines in each letter from Alix and Maria to the daughters, and drawing a plan of this [Ipatiev] house. We had lunch at 1:30. At Botkin’s request, a priest and a deacon were allowed to come to our place at 8 o’clock. They served the Matins quickly and well. It was a great comfort to pray in such an atmosphere and hear “Christ is Risen!’ Ukraintsev, the commandant’s assistant, and the soldiers of the watch were present. We had dinner after the service and went to bed early.

April 22, the Bright Resurrection of Christ

For the whole evening and partly in the night we could hear cracks of fireworks that people set off in the different parts of the city. It was 3° c. in the afternoon, and the weather was grey. We greeted one other at tea and ate kulichi and eggs; we failed to get paskhas.

We had lunch and dinner at their respective times. We took a half an hour stroll. In the evening we spent a lot of time talking to Ukraintsev at Botkin’s place.

Maria Litzman


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