Recollections of Three Reigns

By Colin Welch; Frederick Ponsonby | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIV
The Empress Marie's valuables

[The outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917 found the Dowager Empress Marie at Kiev. She met her son Nicholas II for the last time at Mohilev later in the year. Though she was given several opportunities of leaving Russia, she lived quietly for a time in the Crimea with other members of the Imperial family. She finally left for England in April 1919, and later settled at Hvidöre, in Denmark, her native land. She died at Copenhagen in October 1928.]

I happened to be in London in November 1919 when the Dowager Empress of Russia's things arrived from Russia. The King, therefore, asked me to receive them from the captain of a British cruiser and store them at Buckingham Palace.

The Bolshevik Government was such a mixture of comic opera and tragedy that anything might happen. I don't know exactly why, but it occurred to me that it would be well to take precautions and to have everything I did witnessed. There was, of course, the British naval officer who had brought the goods from Russia, and there was also the Inspector of Buckingham Palace (Mr. Sands) who could give evidence; but I felt this was not enough. So I wrote to Monsieur Nabokoff1 the Chargé d'Affaires at the so-called Russian Embassy, and asked him to come and help me as my knowledge of Russian was nil. I made very little of it and merely asked for his advice. I also asked Harry Stonor to come and help, and as he was in London, doing nothing in particular, he kindly came along at once.

I left word at the different doors that all these were to be shown up to the Throne Room, and I sent word to the Inspector that the packing-cases were to be brought up just as they were and the cords and seals were to be left intact.

It was a curious scene. The Throne Room, all gold and red damask, with chandeliers; the throne at the end of the room with canopy above and curtains at the side; dust sheets laid over the carpet and fifteen huge packing- cases corded and sealed; myself, Harry Stonor, Nabokoff and Sands, with innumerable workmen who had brought up the packing-cases. I first of all asked the naval officer to examine the cases and tell me if he was prepared to swear they were the same as those handed over to him by the Bolshevik Government, and whether he could say if the cords and seals had been changed. While he was examining them I noticed that Nabokoff was getting very uncomfortable and was edging towards the door, no doubt with a view to hurrying off. I called him back and made him sit down,

____________________
1
An official of the Imperial Russian Embassy who had survived the Revolution.

-335-

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