Memories of Rasputin and Empress Alexandra by an Englishman in Russia

These excerpts are from the 1925 book, The Speckled Domes - Episodes of an Englishman's Life in Russia, by Gerard Shelley. The book chronicles the author's incredible experiences in Russia prior to, and during the revolution. The book is out of copyright and can be downloaded from the Internet Archive here in ebook format, and is also available in reprints and used book sellers on the big online bookstores. Shelly was brought up Catholic and went on to become a Catholic archbishop. His observations of revolutionary Russia clearly reveal a spiritual awareness. Wikipedia has an informative article about him.

Shelley's reports of the true state of affairs in Russia before and during the revolution are refreshingly accurate, unlike the left-leaning academic interpretations which became mainstream during the 20th century. Following are some excerpts pertaining to his several interactions with Rasputin.

Rasputin has become a hero among conservative Russian Orthodox, particularly monarchists. He has not been canonized by the Russian church but many people believe him to be a saint and a martyr, and pray to him and venerate icons to him, some examples of which we present in this article.

(The author's first meeting with Rasputin)

As we stood admiring the artist’s achievements, including 
a bust of Princess Gaisin’s beautiful daughter, we were 
startled by a voice behind us saying “ Peace to the servants 
of God ! ” It was a voice that once heard could never be 
forgotten. Deep and melodious like the velvet tone of a 
cathedral bell, it vibrated with gentle power and manly 
pathos. The very sound was a poem, a lyric that needed 
no words. It is true that every Russian deacon strives to 
acquire a deep resounding voice, for Society used to pay a 
higher price for a deacon with a deeper voice at the church 
and home services which were so frequent before the Revo- 
lution. Visitors to the leading Russian churches marvelled 
at the organ-like tone of the bass voices of the choirs. But 
in this case, the spoken word was as rich and sonorous as 
that of a full-throated deacon intoning at a Moscow 

In the frame of the door stood the tall, huge shape of a 
man, clad in a peasant's garb. He advanced towards us 
with calm, easy strides, full of natural grace. When he had 
greeted his friends he looked at me. There was a leer on 
the sculptor's face, for he detested the peasant, and at Prin- 
cess Gaisin's house had spent more than an hour on hearty 
abuse of him. For which his hostess had been indulgent, 
owing to her suspicion that the artist was a Jew. Rasputin 
wished to rid Russia of the Jews, whom he considered to be 
the enemies of the Russian throne and religion, the plotters 
of revolution.

The author, Gerard Shelley

The artist looked at me with scorn in his eyes. 

“ Voulez vous server la main & ce cochon-lk ? " he asked, 
knowing that Rasputin could not understand French, and 
concluding that I shared his own contempt for the famous 

“ With pleasure ! " I answered to his astonishment. 
But before I could move, Rasputin seized my hand and 
rested it on his breast in the middle of his silky, black beard. 

" You are the Ally ? " he asked, exchanging glances with 
Princess Gaisin. 

At my reply, he smiled at me with his great eyes. They 
seemed to emit soft, velvety rays, caressing one almost as 
one feels the caress of a melodious voice. The power and 
charm of such eyes, combined with that deep, fluted voice, 
those massive shoulders and giant frame was obvious. 
Rasputin was the superman of body and soul. What he 
would have been if he had been an Intelligent, cannot be 
imagined. Perhaps he would have lost the secret force 
that made him what he was. Nature is deeper than 

Meanwhile he held my hand against his beard and said 
in a rythmic manner: “ Utrennaya rossa na nyejhnoy 
travye raduga radosti, no vyechernaya vlaga slyozy soodby l " 
(The morning dew on the tender grass is a rainbow of joy, 
but the evening damp is the weeping of fate I ) 

I had been warned he was accustomed to make cryptic 
remarks so I took this with the proper respect. 

It was impossible to have any conversation with him at 
that time, because the artist was weary of his presence and 
too hostile to see any good in him. I was lucky enough, 
however, to receive Rasputin’s invitation to visit him 
whenever I pleased. 

Princess Gaisin's daughter insisted on taking a snapshot 
of the Staretz. For this purpose he stood before the sculp- 
tured tomb, saying these prophetic words : 

“ I stand by this tomb in order that I may bear witness 
to the source of Russia’s greatness and the defender of the 
holy Orthodox Church. I fight for the Tsar, the Faith and 
Fatherland. While I am alive no harm shall ruin them, but 
if I perish, so shall they ! ’’ 

I thought at the time that he was striving to ensure his 
position at the Court and to warn off assassination. Since 
the day he was stabbed by a fanatical woman, he had had 
no peace of mind on that score. 

By startling coincidence his words have proved all too true. 


(Rasputin shows up at a party in Moscow given by a Moscow society heiress)

While a song was in progress the footman ushered in a 
tall form. In the excitement and dim light no one noticed 
him, but as he came across the room after the conclusion of 
the song, I was startled to recognise Gregory Rasputin ! 

The surprise that fell on the revellers left them speechless 
for a few moments. Then, as Marya Mlozov rose to greet 
the Staretz with a look of triumph beaming in her eyes, a 
burst of applause broke spontaneously from the onlookers. 
The sensation was enormous. Young officers shouted 
“ Bravo ! ” and " Urra ! " with that short clipping of the 
“ a ” which makes the sound rather comical to British 

In response to this show of enthusiasm, Rasputin bowed, 
and said in his deep resounding voice : 

" Zviozny vyecher Boja riza. Tikhim khorovodom plashoot 
zvyozdy do zolotoy zari. Raby Bojhy, vyesyeleetyes ! ” 

(‘ The starry evening is the chasuble of God. In a gentle 
rondo, the stars dance till the golden dawn. Servants of 
God, make merry ! ’) 

The gipsy woman took this for a hint that she should 
offer Rasputin the customary toast, and came forward with 
a glass of champagne. Marya Mlozov, however, briskly 
ordered her to retire. 

A footman came in with a small table, which he placed 
at one end of the room and covered with a white cloth. 
Marya Mlozov's gold marriage ikon was brought and placed 
on the table, together with some wax tapers. 

A bearded priest and deacon, who had evidently arrived 
with Rasputin, waddled in, and took up their stand before 
the improvised altar. The priest was robed in a gorgeous 
cape, while the deacon swung a fuming thurible. Together 
they chanted some prayers and intoned the “ Lord have 
mercy," with sepulchral rumblings. I believe the priest 
was one of the Old Believers, for he intoned forty “ Lord 
have mercy's ” and crossed himself forty times in succes- 
sion. The officers performed the ceremony with proper 
reverence, and congregated in a lump before the priest 
while he read a chapter of the Gospel over their bowed 
heads. When the ceremony was at an end, they filed past 
the priest, and kissed the painted cross he held out to them. 
A few minutes afterwards some of them told me they did 
not believe in any faith. 

“ Then why do you perform these actions ? ” I asked. 

“ Tak pologaetsa ,” they replied. (It is the rule.) 

The unexpected arrival of Rasputin filled them with 
delight. One of them, a young fair-haired officer with 
great powers of loquacity and a know-all manner, began 
to detail all the horrible things that Rasputin would presently 
accomplish. With cool cynicism they discussed the amount 
of intoxicating liquor necessary to set Rasputin going. 
Ghastly details of supposed incidents, which they could not 
possibly have verified, were related with ardent enthusiasm, 
interspersed with genial execrations. Mentally finding a 
least common multiple of all the lurid assertions, I found 
that nothing less than a gallon of vodka would overpower 
Rasputin's gigantic frame. 

Like true conspirators, they settled among themselves 
by what means they were to induce him to consume the 
necessary amount, should he have no desire for an orgy. 
They were all to feign conversion and beg him to pledge 
their new bom faith in champagne. Each one was to 
demand a separate pledge. 

To me their minds, so typical of the Russian Intelligentsia, 
were a source of wonder. They knew quite well that the 
sale of intoxicating drinks was forbidden by the Tsar, yet 
here they were looking forward to an orgy of drinking, and 
its shameful results, without the slightest scruple. It was 
characteristic that they gave so much credit to the fabrica- 
tions of malicious gossip, and expected to get their share of 
fun from its victim. Like most Intelligents, they took so 
morbid a pleasure in the weaknesses of human nature, that 
they had no faith or will for the sterner qualities. 

When the priest and deacon had gone, Marya Mlozov 
invited Rasputin and the guests to the banqueting hall where over a hundred wax tapers were alight on the gilt 
chandeliers at both ends of the table. 

Here, while the gipsy band twanged the balalaikas and 
sang in low, mysterious tones like a far-off hidden choir, 
the revellers began to devour the dainties. It was a real 
old Russian Pir-Goroy, a " mountain rout,” the table being 
piled mountain high with food. 

As for myself, I made half a dozen mortal enemies in 
ten minutes. Dishes of caviare and sturgeon, smoked 
herring and onion, all sorts of oily things, were brought to 
me, and literally forced down my throat. When I could 
stand it no longer, and protested against eating beyond 
my digestive powers, the hostess and her friends raised a 
terrible wail about my “ bad manners.” 

Mary a Mlozov told me that when in Rome one must do 
as Rome does. This, however, failed to make room in my 
stomach for the great dish of oily caviare — it had such a 
fishy taste — which she ordered me to consume. 

Not wishing to be a killjoy or to upset them any further, 
I answered with a look of appeal : 

” And kiss the Pope's toe ? ” I knew this was a standing 
horror to Russia. 

Rasputin, who had come round to my side of the table, 
heard this remark, and was delighted. 

" There ! there ! ” he said, tapping me on the back. “ A 
true son of the Catholic Church ! Christ is the Head of 
the Catholic Church. The Pope of Rome is a heretic, a 
Latin monster, giving his toe to be kissed I ” 

This little outburst turned the tables for me. I was 
allowed to be judge of my own appetite and eating capacities. 
Latin heresy has its uses. 

The Staretz, however, was the despair of the dare-devil 
officers. He refused, absolutely, to take any wine or spirit, 
saying that the Little Father had forbidden its sale, that 
his faithful subjects should try to make Russia a sober 
country. The officers imagined they would have to deal 
with a simple-minded, ignorant, tame moujhik, but found 
themselves confronted by a spirit superior to theirs in its 
firm adhesion to principle. Nevertheless, they decided 
Rasputin was “ off drink ” and playing the hypocrite. 

I gathered from a young man who had been talking 
ardently with Marya Mlozov, that she was endeavouring 
to secure Rasputin as a sort of priest for her Temple of Art. 
It was well known that she had visions and strange visitants, 
one of whom had directed her to send her husband about 
his business. She appeared to have estimated Rasputin 
on the strength of the stories invented about him by the 
perfervid imagination of the " emancipated ” class. 

In this midst of the festive hubbub, a shriek rent the air. 
The clatter of the busy tongues ceased abruptly. Looking 
round, we discovered Marya Mlozov lying in the arms of 
Rasputin. The eyes of the officers beamed with pleasure. 

Rasputin lifted the helpless form in his strong arms and 
went into the dimly-lighted hall, where he laid her on a 
divan. With a jingling of spurs and laughter, the revellers 

The great Staretz was as kind and gentle as a father to 
his infant. His deep-toned voice took on subtle intonations 
of pacifying power. 

“ Lie still, little dove ! (golubchik) ” he murmured. “ Do 
not be excited ! You need some cold water.” 

This chaste beverage was not at hand, so Rasputin 
requested a footman to bring some. 

This was soon done. When Marya Mlozov recovered 
from her flush of excitement, due, I suspected, to overeating, 
she told every one to be seated. 

Rasputin sat by her side in the place of honour. In the 
midst of all the hectic proceedings he retained his cool 

Marya Mlozov clapped her hands for silence. 

" You all know what my great surprise was? she said. 
“ We have the Mystic Master in our midst. It is the seal 
of consecration on this Temple of Art and mysticism, which 
I wish to make a centre of life. We shall now see the dance 
of the mystic maidens I have trained." 

She clapped her hands. 

The gipsy band started a lithe, lulling tune, exquisitely 
cadenced and softened ; the voices of the hidden singers 
were mysterious and subdued, with that soft whispering of 
the words from the top of the throat which Russian singers 
love to affect. 


When the Staretz refused to drink, Marya Mlozov entreated 
him with wringing hands and tearful eyes. Her appeals 
were in vain. He declared time was getting late, and he 
did not wish to disturb the feast with his presence any 
longer. The officers crowded round him and begged him 
to stay, treating him with brotherly affection, which I 
knew was mere acting. Russians can act any mood to 
perfection, and pass themselves off for the gentlest and 
kindest creatures on earth till they get what they want. 
They will press their hands to their hearts, let their voices ring with " feeling/' soften the gaze with perfect loving- 
kindness, and swear by heaven they are telling you the 
truth, even crossing themselves, and giving their word of 
honour with tenfold force. If you believe one word or 
“ feeling ” you are doomed. Russians are born actors. 
They boast that they are not hypocrites like Westerners. 
The truth is they have nothing to be hypocritical about. 
Virtue and honour are non-existent, except among 
“ fanatics," while public opinion was never strong enough 
to give virtue a leg to stand on. Moral strength was a 
monster to be hated. 

So it was with Rasputin. His refusal to taste the Thibetan 
potion was finally attributed to hypocrisy. The sham was 
immediately shown up by the irate officers' rabid imagina- 
tions. The gentle words of brotherly persuasion gave place 
to fearful epithets. Some of them were already flushed 
with unwholesome, hectic hues. I realised that disaster, 
possibly a Skan-dall with all its riot of noise and violence, 
was inevitable. The atmosphere was heavily charged with 
the elements of those fierce social storms, so beloved of the 
Russians, with blows, foul language, smash-up and horrors, 
to be followed by heart-softenings, tears, repentance, 
vowings, embracings, pardonings, and universal forgiveness 
and brotherhood — in preparation for the next. 

I slipped out with Rasputin, through the domestics who 
stood about the open door. 

Outside in the cool night air, Rasputin allowed me to 
walk with him. He was desolate and aggrieved. 

" What is the matter ? " I asked. “ Have you not enjoyed 
the evening ? ” 

" Mister ! ” he replied, squeezing my arm in his powerful 
grip. " Groostno ! It is sad! I am sad for Russia. Faith 
and piety have forsaken the soul. It howls like a wolf 
at the gate of a pest-stricken village, frightening honest 
folk. Russia perishes! PoggibuyUl Poggibuyit / ” (It 
perishes !) 

I asked him how be had come to Maiya Mlozov's house. 

“ She has visions/' he replied. “ She came to me in 
Petrograd and begged me to explain them for her. She 
wished me to be present at the farewell party at her lazaret. 
The soldiers were returning to the front to fight for Faith, 
Tsar and Fatherland. ‘ In the name of God, do me this 
favour/ she said. ' You will have friends among the officers 
when they return to the front ! ' Well, I come, like a thief 

in the night I come. And I see ” 

He held out his large white hands, as though powerless 
to express his feelings. The moonlight revealed the sadness 
of his eyes. 

“ I see ' A Banquet during the Plague.' " 
This was an opera which Rasputin delighted to witness. 
It was evident Marya Mlozov had lured Rasputin to her 
house under specious pretences. I discovered later that 
her example was followed by numerous other people, and it 
was under pretext of strengthening his cause for the regenera- 
tion of Russia, that his murderers lured him to Prince 
Yusoopov's house, and foully assassinated him. 

We chatted on Russia and the War for a while. He had 
firm ideas on this subject. I suspected they were not 
entirely his own, for it seemed impossible that a man of 
his antecedents could have such a grasp of political matters. 

I gathered he wished for the triumph of Russia above all 
things, the occupation of Constantinople by the Little 
Father, and the restoration of the cross to Saint Sophia. 
In Russia he wished to have a Peasant Tsar, one who would 
defend the interests of the Orthodox peasantry against the 
Atheistic, riotous-living landlords and bourgeois, who spent 
most of their life abroad or bullying their peasants. 

He did not wish Germany to be absolutely defeated for 
fear the monarchy should be overthrown. 

In the summer of 1918, Marya Mlozov, whose extravagances had long agitated 
Moscow society, went off her head, declaring she was are-incarnation of the Holy 
Virgin, and about to give birth to a new saviour of the world, who would deliver 
the people from their woes. The Bolshevists had her shut up in an asylum. 

" The Kaiser is the Lord's Anointed for the Germans," 
he said naively. " We must not upset the Lord's Anointed, 
for all power is from God." 

I promised to call and see him in Petrograd. As we 
parted, the beautiful chimes of the Kremlin bells rang out in 
the still night air. Rasputin's stalwart figure passed across 
the deserted Red Square into the shadow of the motley 
domes of St. Basil’s cathedral, looking like a grim, squatting 
hydra in the pale moonlight. Before the ikon of the Saviour 
over the Spassky Gates, the sacred red light flickered and 
glowed. A squad of soldiers, crossing Moscow on their way 
to the front, passed across the chill cobbles like grim, 
voiceless ghouls, leaving a pungent odour of leather and 
stale clothing in their wake. As they descended the hill, 
they suddenly broke into song, a jaunty, rythmic tune, 
full of strong accents, now bursting with volume, now sinking 
to a gentle hum. They crossed the river with a swinging 
shout of exultant defiance. Russia seemed safe, the Kremlin 
rich and calm in its ancient dreams.


(The author meets the Empress at Rasputin's apartment)

On my return to Petrograd, I soon heard lurid accounts of 
Rasputin's visit to the house of Marya Mlozov. There had 
been a terrible orgy. ... I felt happy to be able to relate 
what had really occurred during the time the Staretz was 
present, but the thirsty souls of the scandalmongers, and the 
crafty minds of the political workers, refused to face the 
facts. It appeared to be true that Marya Mlozov's party 
soon degenerated into the customary Russian kootyosh , 
but neither I nor Rasputin was present. A kootyosh is a 
regular Russian riot of gastronomic, bibular, and Bac- 
chanalian delights. The gross bourgeois society of Moscow 
vied with the “ fine " aristocratic society of Petrograd in 
these savage rites. Grand Dukes were not above driving 
out to those mysterious villas on the “ Islands 99 across the 
Kamenny Bridge, and lending an Imperial hand in letting 
hell loose. The Moscow bourgeois followed the grand ducal 
lead, and were whisked in fast-flying sledges over the 
glistening snow to the mysterious villas beyond Petrovsky 

To such people, the asceticism taught by Rasputin was 
a mortal offence. It must be remembered that although 
Russia abounds in princes and counts, they are in no way 
connected with the ancient traditions of Western chivalry. 
Their ideal is to wear fine raiments, eat fine food, enjoy 
sensual delights and parade at fashionable watering places. 
The idea of a lady or gentleman is completely absent in Russia. Its lurid substitutes the grande dame and the 
grand seigneur are all too conspicuous. I once heard a 
French lady in Petrograd complain that the Russian aristo- 
cracy was similar to the French bourgeoisie. In fact, I 
think it was worse. It had mentally, and with regard to 
manners, all the characteristics of Ethel M. Dell's men and 
women, without their virtues, in an Oriental setting. 

There was a lavish wealth of hand-kissing and bowing, 
a glitter of surface manners, which never survived the show, 
A Russian family will act the kindest of hosts, the politest 
of manners, and when the ill-liked visitor has gone, huge 
father, pretty mother, and all the little counts and countesses 
will join hands and romp round the tables, skip upstairs and 
down, in a feverish whirl of rejoicing for the visitor's depar- 
ture. I have witnessed this performance time after time. 
I have also heard the assertion that the British are 

I realised that the fearful things attributed to Rasputin 
were, in many cases, the actual doings of his accusers. Per- 
haps no man in history has been so furiously calumniated. 
This hatred of the Russian " aristocracy " and intelligentsia 
for the devout peasant, did not even spare the Empress and 
her daughters. Atrocious stories passed up and down 
Russia. I hardly found more than a dozen Russians, who 
had decency enough, not to say loyalty, to refuse credence 
to or actively discredit these evil inventions. Some of 
them actually thought they were doing a service to the 
Tsar by making a scapegoat of his “ German " wife. They 
thought the Tsar would be safe if popular malice was turned 
against the Empress, to whom all the evils of the country 
were ruthlessly attributed. 

The publication of Artzibashov's “ Sania " knocked the 
last prop from beneath a very superficial structure of con- 
vention. Depravity became a token of civilisation," 
free from the “ prejudices ” of the dark ages. Truly 
religious minds, such as those of Rasputin and many of the 
so-called “ Black Hundred/' looked at this overwhelming 
wave of corruption with horror and alarm. 

Small wonder that the Empress and her followers looked 
for the salvation of Russia to the closer union of the throne 
with the peasantry, to whom the old traditions of Orthodoxy, 
religion and morality were still living realities. The intel- 
ligentsia had gone astray into the putrid wilderness of 
materialism, looking only for the establishment of a society 
of mere comfortable conditions, idealising sensual orgies 
as the Paradise of the system. Just as virtue and sacrifice 
were the goal of the religious system, so the orgy and a 
merry life, were the natural ideal and point of gravitation of 
the Russian materialist mind. Apart from a few acid, 
faith-fired idealists of revolution, the general result of the 
eclipse of religious idealism was a hideous nightmare of gross 
sensuality. Every restraint was flung away as a 
" prejudice." Just as Lenin scorned truth and honesty as 
“ capitalistic prejudices," so the intelligentsia despised 
virtue as a “ prejudice of religious mythology." 

The average Russian intelligent has an incurable love for 
dismissing whole centuries of human experience with a 
pontifical wave of the hand as “ prejudice." He does not 
care to penetrate their mystery. " Science " has explained 
everything for him. Perhaps no country in the world had 
so many mental parrots as Russia. Religion is a “ peasant 
prejudice." Yet it is curious that the Russian intelligent, 
having no desire to explore the higher forms of religious 
consciousness, goes down into the depths of materialism to 
explore the horrors of hell. Perhaps that is due to his 
nature. He gravitates towards the appeals of his lower 
nature, and shuns everything that demands a lasting effort 
and perseverance. Cardinal virtues he abhors. 

In this atmosphere, Rasputin tried to work for the old 
ideals. In order to have an intimate talk with him, I called 
one day at his flat, after having much difficulty in making 
an appointment over the telephone. His servants had grown suspicious of all except known visitors. Besides 
a host of people, ready to commit the noble deed of assassina- 
tion for the glory of a political cause, there were hordes of 
sycophants, anxious to secure appointments for themselves 
or their prot^g^s ; depraved " converts* lured by horrible 
stories, and mistaking Rasputin's movement for a sort of 
sect after the “ Scoptsi " style ; ribald intelligents of the 
type of Dostoyevski's Karamasiev, anxious to scoff and 
condemn ; and social climbers, feigning an attachment to 
religion and Rasputin, in order to get an entry into the 
Empress's most select coterie. Even Church dignitaries 
would stoop to the pretence of friendship in order to secure 
personal ends. 

In spite of the difficulties, I managed to receive the 
message that the Staretz would be glad to see me at a tea 
party he was having that afternoon. 

“ To-day is a special meeting," the man-servant told me. 
“ Only very special visitors are being received. High- 
placed persons are expected." 

With this remark ringing in my ears, I considered myself 
particularly fortunate. I took an izvozshchik and visited 
St. Isaac's Cathedral in order to while away the time. The 
wonderful building was filled with mellow sunshine, setting 
the golden ikons and mosaics aglow. A crowd of pious 
worshippers stood before one of the ikons, where a priest, 
in a pink cope, was holding a droning service. His deep, 
guttural voice filled the lofty vaults and dome with weird 
echoes. The litany he was intoning must have been a 
weary one, for occasionally he took a small comb from his 
cassock pocket and passed it deftly through his flowing, 
well-greased locks towards the nape, drawling most placidly 
“ Gospodi molimsa ! " (Let us pray the Lord !) 

It was not the first time I had witnessed this unconven- 
tional act in church. In churches with a mechanical liturgy 
in a dead or obsolete language, the droning priests often 
lapse into similar irreverences out of tedium. I once saw a 

deacon come out of the sanctuary of a Moscow church with 
a tea-kettle, pass through the prayer-mumbling peasants 
and fill up the tea-glass of the verger, selling candles at a 
desk near the entrance. It all seemed so natural that no 
one noticed any irreverence. 

In St. Isaac's an attempt had been made to lift the Eastern 
Church out of the rut of peasant, rustic worship. The 
building was Western, but the inevitable Russian spirit 
still gravitated towards lethargy, and a thinly veneered 
nihilism. The Mongol never dies in Russia. 

Rasputin's flat was in the neighbourhood. About four 
o'clock I drove there, finding a few smart carriages waiting 
outside. I was surprised to see the fat coachman of Countess 
Klinmel, a notorious pro-German woman, whose sumptuous 
house on the Serguievska was a hot-bed of German propa- 
ganda. She was a great gambler and had a malicious wit, 
delighting in saying the nastiest things in the fewest words 
about all who crossed her path. This form of amusement 
was very popular in Petrograd society, and passed for 
witticism. She was said to have invented the notorious 
“ Last drop of blood " story which the poor parrots of 
Russia repeated to their heart's content. That was when 
Mr. Lloyd George made a speech at the Guildhall, in which he 
declared that “ Britain would fight to the last drop of blood." 

The Russian pro-Germans immediately turned it into a 
malicious joke. I never heard the last of it. It was still 
going strong when the Revolution broke out. People 
would say : “ Have you heard Lloyd George's speech ? The 
British will fight to the last drop of blood . . . ( sotto voce) 
of the Russian soldier I " Loyalty of spirit is a rare bird 
in Russia. 

Even now the same mentality prevails there, except that 
the place of the “ poor exploited Russian soldier " is taken 
by the “ poor exploited proletarian," and the putrescence 
which was kept in check somehow by autocracy has now 
assumed the role of king. 

I found a few ladies in the reception room. Rasputin 
was standing against the window, reading out of an old book. 
I noticed that his hands were perfectly clean, and his nails 
well cared for. The myth about his dirty finger-nails was 
just part of the campaign of the Aristocracy against him ; 
their own idea of their position was so exalted that they 
almost believed they were bom under supernatural laws. 
A peasant or a bourgeois was something vastly inferior, to 
be told so on every possible occasion, and made to feel the 
elevating superiority of the nobles' boot. This vulgar 
arrogance of the Russian nobles had perhaps no equal in any 
European country. Aristocracy being for the Russian no- 
thing but a matter of caste and outward show, it was natural 
Petrograd society should attach enormous importance 
to manicure. Manual labour was held in the greatest horror. 
Even during the war no Petrograd “ lady ” ever stooped to 
do work that would soil her hands. So it was natural that 
the horror of Rasputin the peasant could not be complete 
without painting his finger-nails black. 

The Staretz wore a peasant robe of fine silk. About his 
waist was a curious girdle, which, I was told, he only wore 
on very special occasions. It was made of different kinds 
of human hair. Devoted ladies had insisted on weaving a 
girdle of locks of hair sacrificed by pious women as a snub 
to vanity. The dark, fair, golden and white locks showed 
up all round the girdle. They were loosely spun and woven, 
while pearls and rubies in gold repouss^ settings formed 
panels at intervals. I suppose the devoted spirit which 
induced these ardent souls to weave this girdle was akin to 
that of pious ladies who embroider slippers for their curates. 

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the girdle was 
the lock of the Empress, which was enclosed in a sort of 
escutcheon, like a relic. The case was richly ornamented, 
and formed a cover for the buckle. It was stated that 
people were expected to kiss this " relic ” of the Empress on 
greeting the Staretz, but no such ceremony ever occurred 
in my presence, nor do I believe it existed outside the strange 
imaginations of her enemies. 

The Staretz did not interrupt his reading on account of 
my entrance. He was reading the life of St. Seraphim, a 
Russian saint whose cult was in great vogue. When he 
came to a passage about a dream, he closed the book and 
began to tell us of a vision he had recently received while 
praying before the tomb of St. Alexander Nevski. 

He had fallen into ecstasy and he seemed to be walking 
along a narrow road across which dark figures flitted and 
whirled, their huge wings suddenly flashing with silver and 
red gleams. He was cold, hungry and footsore. As his 
hopes of safety began to sink he caught the glint of golden 
church-domes and, rushing forward, was overjoyed to see the 
massive white walls of a monastery rise up before his eyes. 

A white monastery on a green hillock. He had spent half 
his life journeying as a pilgrim from the gate of one monastery 
to another, up and down the tremendous plains of Holy 

While he was climbing the hill a Russian bogatyr (a sort 
of Russian Knight of the Round Table), all jingling with 
“ an iron shirt,” rode through the gateway on a white horse. 
The monastery bells were ringing, and the monks stood in 
the doorway, with a gold cross uplifted in blessing. In 
their midst stood the Little Father, clad in his coronation 
robes, and holding a tabernacle shaped like the church of 
St. Sophia at Tsargrad (Constantinople). The pilgrims and 
worshippers were singing " Kol slaven ” (How glorious is the 
Lord), the brotherhood hymn of the Slavs. Suddenly a 
band of Turks and Germans dashed up the hillside to slay 
the bogatyr . After a great struggle the bogatyr con- 
quered, and returned in triumph to the monastery. Here, 
however, in the very hour of victory, a company of visitors, 
kindly housed by the good monks in the pilgrims* hostel, 
drugged the victory wine and tried to poison the Tsar and 
his holy people. The plot was discovered by Rasputin himself. He was moved to give some wine to a couple of 
dogs who had followed the bogatyr and were trampled on in 
the fray. They no sooner tasted the wine than they fell 
down dead. 

The Staretz related this vision with wonderful simplicity, 
yet with such fine, deep intonations and imagery that he 
seemed to me like a medieval figure from the pages of 

Countess Klinmel immediately began to interpret the 
vision. It meant that the Turks and Germans were not 
the real foes of Russia, but that it was necessary to drive out 
the foreign plotters — “ the English and French,” she 
declared, ignoring my presence, or delighting to get a cheap 
thrust home against the hated Allies. 

“ Lloyd George is the man who will poison the victory 
wine,” she proclaimed. “ Don’t believe promises. We shall 
never get Constantinople. A box of Turkish delight is all 
we shall get for all our ocean of Russian blood." 

This Baltic-German lady always showed a remarkable 
love for the poor Russian fighting man, and never ceased 
defending him against “ exploitation " by the Allies. With 
the Army Staffs, bureaucracy, and society overrun by 
Baltic-Germans, the Tsar had a whole army of pro-German 
agents to contend with at home. 

Countess Klinmel did not stay long. Her purpose had 
probably been fulfilled, and she left with one of the ladies. 
The two remaining set about preparing tea. They went into 
an outer room, and insisted on relieving the servant of the 
task of heating the charcoal for the samovar and laying 
the cloth. 

Their willing service, reminiscent of Martha in the Gospel 
story, gave me a chance to question Rasputin on several 

As the protector of Orthodox interests, Russia could not 
help being in conflict with those of the Roman Church, 
especially in Poland and Galicia. The question of the 
bishoprics of Lemberg, Kholm and Lyublin was a burning 
one. English Romanists were using the weight of British 
prestige and diplomacy to further the interests of the Roman 

With a deprecating ring in his voice, he told me that the 
Empress had been “ abused ’’ (rugalt) by the British Foreign 
Office on account of Archbishop Szepticky of Lemberg, a 
notorious anti-Russian, Ukrainian Austrian Pole, who had 
been deported from Galicia by the Russian Army Staff on 
account of his inflammatory political speeches. It appeared 
that influential British Roman Catholics resented 

The Empress was greatly annoyed at this interference in 
Russian affairs, especially on behalf of a man who was 
Russia’s avowed enemy and determined to raise difficulties 
in the rear of the victorious Russian Army. She could not 
understand why England should voice the claims of 
the Roman Curia when the Catholic countries were 

With regard to religion, Rasputin declared that science 
was a failure, because it had finite means and ways and 
could not deal " with the Endless Great and the Endless 
Snjall. People thought of God too much like a scholar’s 
sum. They were always looking for the tiniest atom or 
the greatest world. They forgot that God was the Endless 
Small as well as the Endless Great, and could not be 

Apart from his saga-like eloquence and rich, poetic visions, 
his stalwart physique and velvet toned “ breasty " voice, 
he did not strike me as being more mystic than other 
Startzy I had met. At times he struck me as being very 
much like an Old Testament prophet. I think the secret 
of his power lay in the sense of calm, gentle strength and 
shining warmth of conviction. He considered the Russian 
nation as God’s chosen people and the Tsar as God’s Anointed, 
whose task was to restore the Cross to St. Sophia. 

The samovar was brought in by Countess Rusov and 
placed on the end of the dining table. The chairs were being 
drawn up in readiness for the guests when the door bell rang. 
Two veiled ladies entered. They were both modestly 
attired in simple black dresses, a fur toque covering their 
heads. The Staretz moved forward to greet them, saying 
gently : 

“ Greeting to Alexandra, the servant of God.” 

Throwing off her dark veil, the tall lady stood revealed. 
It was the Empress. I was astonished beyond words. 
With her was the Grand Duchess Tatiana, tall, elegant and 
beautiful in her simple black dress. 

I could not help noticing the reverence the Empress 
showed towards the Staretz. There was a look of religious 
peace and happiness in her eyes as she returned the Staretz' 
greeting and, lifting the gold cross he wore on a chain, 
pressed her lips to it with tender piety. I felt dreadfully 
embarrassed, and hardly knew what to do. My first thoughts 
were of flight. I felt sure my presence must be irksome to 
the Empress, who had probably come to the flat under the 
impression that only the two ladies in waiting would be 

The Empress, however, put me at ease immediately. 
I had already had the honour of being presented to her 
during her visit to Kharkov in the early days of the war, 
when she visited the Red Cross Depot at the House of the 
Nobility. Furthermore, she was aware of my association 
with the Grand Duke Oleg, who was killed at the front. 
Her Majesty had taken a personal interest in the projects 
of her young relation. 

" I feel sure you will appreciate the beauty of our friend's 
character,” she said, taking the hard chair I drew up for 
her convenience (there was no sign of luxury in the flat. 
Nothing but bare, painted boards, hard deal chairs and a 
simple table). “ It is so refreshing to me. If we are true 
Christians we must love simplicity. Our friend takes one 
back to the simple faith of the early Christians, when high 
and low met together to hear the Word of God from a poor 
fisherman. The Spirit breathes where it will." 

I ventured to state the platitude that God was no respecter 
of persons. 

“ If people would only bear that in mind ! " she exclaimed. 
I could not help noticing the sad look that crossed her face, 
as though she saw before her mind’s eye some disheartening 
tragedy. Her skin was very red, the complexion begin- 
ning to get streaky. 

I was very much startled when, with blunt directness and 
forceful emphasis, she declared : 

“ Petrograd society is rotten 1 There is hardly a soul to be 
relied upon." 

The Staretz was busy talking to the Grand Duchess 
Tatiana. I caught snatches of their conversation about 
helping the soldiers with clothing and comforts. 

Finding my views reasonable, and probably because of 
my connection with the political and other projects of the 
Grand Duke Oleg, the Empress told me some of her views 
about the great problem she had at heart. After the 1905 
Revolution she had come to realise that the security of the 
Throne and Russia could only be assured by a closer knitting 
together of Tsar and peasantry. The work of past em- 
perors had been too Western, imposing a culture which 
had merely led to nihilism and atheism. The nobles 
and merchants were “ rotten." They had lost faith and 
worshipped materialism. They were untrustworthy, 
anarchical, evil-living. 

I was aware of a deep meaning when she said : “ Even 
the highest and nearest are full of revolt and schemes." 

Rasputin was to tell me afterwards that the Tsar lived in 
daily dread of being the victim of a plot to dethrone him by 
several of the more ambitious Grand Dukes. Russian history, no doubt, furnished him with plenty of cause for 
anxiety. The world had been openly talking of the chances 
of the Grand Duke Nicholas. He was the idol of the Army, 
and was credited with a strong dislike of the Emperor's 
pro-peasant policy. Rasputin actually attributed half the 
propaganda against himself to him. 

The Empress appeared to be very earnest in her desire 
to secure for her son a firm place in the hearts of the people. 

“ All my thoughts are for him,” she assured me. “ He 
is to be the Autocrat of Russia and defender of the Orthodox 
religion. He must be the leader of those who are faithful 
to the Church and Throne. The middle class is rotten. 
It is in love with revolution. That is all bad blood. It can 
never be got out of the body. It is doomed to die. The 
upper classes are rotten, too. There is hardly anyone who 
can be relied on. If Russia is to be saved we must look to 
the simple peasants.” 

Her Majesty paid a compliment to the English language. 

“ All my sweetest thoughts are in my mother’s tongue. 
Nothing can equal the beautiful English books for children. 
I always read to my son in English. He adores English 
story books.” 

By this time tea was prepared. The Staretz begged the 
Empress to sit at table next to the bright, hissing samovar. 
Princess Olensky, one of the ladies in waiting, poured a few 
drops of weak tea into a glass fixed in a silver holder. The 
Empress took the glass and filled it with hot water from the 
spout of the samovar. Rasputin passed to her a bowl of 
mountain ash jam. Of this syrup the Empress took a 
spoonful and plunged it into the pale tea. On a hardware 
plate in the centre of the table was a small pile of rusks. 
The Empress took one and dipped it in her tea before 
eating it. 

I could not imagine anything more democratic and withal 
so full of simple dignity and grace. The Empress seemed 
infinitely happy, calm and restful in those plain, quiet surroundings. It occurred to me at the time that there was 
indeed an atmosphere of the catacombs of early Christian 
days. The Empress seemed to enjoy the same sense of 
refreshment, joy and renewal that must have come to some 
new convert of Imperial Rome seeking relief from the stress 
of barren Court life among the homely secret assemblies of 
the Christians beneath the floor of Rome. I thought, too, 
of Marie Antoinette and her milkmaid's life at the Trianon, 
though the Empress was stirred by a mystic passion to 
serve God and Russia. In conversation with my neigh- 
bour, Princess Olensky, I learnt that there was going to be a 
little private conference between the Empress and Rasputin, 
so I took this as a hint that my presence was awkward. 
Needless to say, I soon found an excuse for leaving. 

The Empress was so kind as to invite me to go to the 
Hospital in Tsarskoe Selo, where I should have an oppor- 
tunity of seeing her work for the wounded. 

" The people must know that the Throne also has a heart 
and can share their sufferings," was her last remark. 

It was typical of that gentle soul. Yet all the reward 
she received from the " aristocrats ” of Petrograd was a 
constant stream of reviling. 

“ That horrible German ! ” they would say. " She is 
degrading Autocracy in the eyes of the people. Imagine 
an Empress nursing wounded soldiers with her own hands ! " 
This parrot cry was heard day after day. 

Likewise her desire to reach the religious soul of the 
Russian people was reviled and deluged by these pretentious 
nobles with an orgy of calumnies. No doubt they felt they 
were being passed by, and that their position as knout- 
wielders to the populace was being undermined. 

Living in the neighbourhood of Rasputin, I had ample 
means for studying his views and observing his manners. 
Very often I accepted an invitation to tea at his flat or at 
the house of a fashionable lady who admired him. 

Of all the wretched stories that were told about him, I 
could believe none, for there was not the slightest evidence 
in the man’s behaviour either at the Court or in the houses 
of his admirers to justify any suspicion of evil-doing. One 
has only to recall the base, disloyal, and abominably lurid 
stories about the Empress and her beautiful daughters — 
which the degenerate bureaucratic classes invented out of 
sheer malice and rank imaginativeness, to realise how low 
society had sunk. 

In a land of bribe-takers, robbers of State funds, and 
corrupt officials, Rasputin stood out like the giant figure 
of a saint moulded in rugged iron. He, of all men in Russia, 
was immaculate. Not even his worst enemies could accuse 
him of taking bribes, although he was besieged by men and 
women with glittering offerings in their hands. He lived 
a poor and simple life. Such virtue was almost unknown 
in Russia. Besides, Russians would never have admitted 
it. They had no belief in any virtue, no will even to believe. 

Rasputin’s life in the midst of a horde of howling, snarling 
enemies was both dangerous and burdensome. The in- 
furiated aristocrats longed to have him assassinated, while 
a Grand Duke openly declared he would hang him if he 
got the chance. 

One day I met Rasputin in the park at Tsarskoe Selo. 
He was hurrying along, looking rather gloomy and pre- 
occupied. I called out to him. He turned and looked 
anxiously in my direction. Recognising me, he seemed 
relieved and came forward to meet me. 

“ The sun is going down on the golden domes of Holy 
Russia," he said dismally. 

As the sun had not reached midday, I realised he was 
parabolic as usual. 

He explained to me that a plot had been set afoot by 
some Grand Dukes to have him removed from the Court. 
He repeated his assurance that the throne would be ruined 
if he was sent away. 

“ Already the Tsarevitch has sickened," he said. " I 
fear lest he should get dangerously ill and die. The Empress 
has shed many tears over her seraphim-pure child. Wicked 
enemies are plotting to bring death upon him. The Grand 
Duke Nicholas and the Grand Duke Michael are plotting 
to remove the Tsar and his son and take the throne. The 
Romanoffs ! They talk of keeping Russia for the Romanoffs. 
They say the Tsar is too weak to rule Holy Russia. They 
hate the Tsarina. They say the Tsarevitch is a sick child 
and will never be fit to rule, and that he should not live to 
marry and pass on his illness to coming Tsars." 

He told me that the Tsar and Tsarina were very much 
disturbed by the insulting behaviour of one of the Grand 
Dukes. The Empress had done all she could to allay her 
husband's fears. Nevertheless, they were certain a plot 
was being formed to remove them from the throne. They 
had received news that the Grand Dukes Nicholas and 
Michael were in communication with certain influential 
Constitutional Democrats, who were anxious to set up a 
constitutional monarchy. The plotters considered the 
reputation of the Grand Duke Nicholas with the army 
sufficient to assure its adhesion. The Tsar and his wife 
were being accused of planning a separate peace with Germany. This was also part of the campaign to turn 
popular sentiment against them. They were to be deposed, 
and the army and country rallied to a successful prosecu- 
tion of the war under a Constitutional Monarch. The 
Tsar had received information that the British and French 
ambassadors were aware of the plot, and had assured the 
schemers of their moral and financial support. 

Some days later I saw Rasputin at the house of a princess 
in Tsarskoe Selo. He seemed quite re-assured, and with- 
drew after a chat with the visitors into a small room, where 
he received people privately, and listened to their pleas for 
help. When the audience was finished, he returned and 
sat down with the rest of the guests at the tea-table. 

In conversation with him, I gathered his mind was no 
longer exercised by the danger of a plot. It had evidently 
failed for the present. He told me, instead, about his wife 
and children. He had a great love for them and wished to 
bring them to Petrograd. One of his daughters was very 
clever and wished to be educated. The Empress wished 
to send her to the Smolny Institute for young ladies, but 
the directress, a Princess Leven, was such a snob that she 
refused to accede to the Empress's request. 

Rasputin did not seem to mind. He took the refusal 

“ These people will ruin Russia/' he said. “ They hate 
the Russian peasant like cattle. They are not Russians. 
They are Germans. They speak our tongue and cross 
themselves in the orthodox manner, but their hearts are 

Perhaps the trouble of Rasputin's life was the stupid 
manner of certain neurotic women. They sang his praises 
in a strident chorus, and thought no act of admiration too 
trivial. At the Imperial chapel in Tsarskoe, I once saw 
a lean hysterical princess reverently pick up a clod of dry 
mud that had fallen from the Staretz's boot as he walked 
in. She placed it in a scented silk handkerchief and kissed it like a relic. The legend of its powers grew among the 
cooks and housemaids of the neighbourhood, and various 
people claimed to have been restored to health through its 

There was also a Roman Catholic Polish Countess who 
took up the cult of the Staretz with all the traditional 
exuberance and elegance of her race. She set up an altar 
in her house, embroidering the frontal with her own hand. 
Red lights in silver lamps lavishly adorned with scintillating 
gems hung before a gilt shrine with painted carvings of 
plump-cheeked cherubs and curling leaves. 

Inside the shrine lay a dirty shirt and some rusty, blood- 
stained iron bands which Rasputin was said to have worn 
in the early days of his quest for miraculous sanctity. The 
enthusiastic Countess loved to relate how she journeyed 
to Rasputin’s native village in Siberia, and spent three days 
begging his wife to part with the precious relics. 

At first the fanatical woman kept a consecrated wafer 
in the shrine. She got it from the local Roman Catholic 
church, having gone to communion and taken the host 
from her mouth with her handkerchief. To satisfy her 
Rococo religiosity, she used to bake small wafers stamped 
with a crude image of Rasputin. She would give them 
to peasants and superstitious people, telling them they 
would receive a great joy if they consumed a wafer with 
prayer and fasting on nine consecutive days. 

Her joy was unbounded when she discovered a suspended 
Polish Roman Catholic priest, whom she paid generously 
to celebrate Mass at the altar before her shrine. 

Many of the doings attributed to her reminded one of 
the Messes Noires of the French Abbes of the eighteenth 
century. Of such things I had no personal knowledge, 
while Rasputin seems to have been unaware even of the 
extravagances I have just mentioned. The stories of the 
occult attaching to him naturally attracted a good number 
of weird individuals, with whom he had nothing in common.

On the whole, I found him a pleasant man to converse 
with. Although a peasant, he had clear, well defined ideas 
on a host of matters. No doubt they sprang more from 
a deep intuition and instinct rather than from a reasoned, 
scientific knowledge. There was so much of the Old Testa- 
ment prophet in Rasputin that it may not be wrong to 
compare him to one of those strange, rugged seers who 
played so great a rfile at the courts of the kings of Israel. 
He had a wealth of pleasant imagery, taken chiefly from 
nature and rich lore of the Eastern church. It was at 
least strange that this man should be able to impress the 
Empress and a good number of highly educated people 
with his personality. What his conduct was outside their 
circle, it is impossible to judge, for the men who were ordered 
to draw up a report to the Tsar contradicted their own 

How, then, did Rasputin come to hold such a position in 
the eyes of the Tsar and Tsarina ? The answer is quite 
simple. He fitted in with their creed and plan for the 
regeneration and salvation of Russia. 

More than once I was privileged to talk with the Tsarina. 
Princess Gaisin took me many times to the hospital in 
Tsarskoe where the Empress delighted to perform the 
simple and arduous tasks of a sister of charity. God alone 
knows the amount of abuse that was heaped upon her poor 
head for rendering these simple offices. The selfish, in- 
triguing courtiers and aristocrats could not find words strong 
enough to express their outraged feelings. How often I 
heard pampered, overfed Counts and Princes relieve their 
feelings on the subject. 

“ Isn’t it wicked of that German Alice to betray the 
Russian autocrat in this vulgar manner ? ” they would say. 
" She doesn’t understand what the Russian peasant or worker is like. They have to look up to the throne as 
something glorious and powerful, but the Tsarina is degrad- 
ing it and dragging it down to their level. Just think ! 
She even dares to bind the wounds of the soldiers in the 
hospital with her own hands! She is ruining the reputa- 
tion of the throne!” 

Of course I knew nothing was more horrible and degrading 
in the eyes of the Petrograd Russian aristocracy than 
manual work. Even during the worst days of the war, 
when wounded soliders were pouring into Petrograd, few 
women of the aristocracy were courageous enough to take 
on the actual work of nursing. Most of them had private 
hospitals where " middle class ” sisters did the work, while 
they contented themselves with sewing gas masks and 
garments, and carrying on the old gay life. Even the motor 
car of the British Red Cross Mission was used by a Russian 
Princess, and secured the reputation of being more in the 
service of the revellers than of the wounded. When Russian 
women of the upper classes saw photographs of English 
noblewomen doing hard manual labour they were filled 
with contempt. 

Such an attitude was due to the extravagantly exalted 
and pretentious views the Russian aristocracy held concern- 
ing its own value and position. No wonder that some noble 
souls among them are occasionally driven to adopt Revolu- 
tion as a creed and disillusioned, surfeited souls like Tolstoy 
to embrace the simple, despised life of the peasant ! 

With such intolerant and selfish views prevailing among 
the upper classes, the creed and plan of the Sovereigns was 
sure to meet with the most hostile and vindictive 

Certain Grand Dukes, well aware of Russia's past history 
and the opportunities of the present, lent their support to the 
campaign against the Tsar and Tsarina. There was a 
chance to ascend the throne if the Tsar was deposed. The 
past century and a half had witnessed more than one instance. The revolutionary intelligentsia were glad of any 
chance to undermine the throne. They lived entirely for 
Revolution, if only as an idea. 

By their opposition to the Tsar's new policy, the nobles 
were digging their own grave. They little realised what 
they were doing. At the time they imagined they were 
bolstering up their position as the mainstay of the autocratic 
regime, which had given them and assured their possession 
of the land. 

In the Tsar's rapproachement with the peasantry, they 
descried a menace to their hold on the land. Moreover, by 
identifying themselves personally with the peasants' re- 
ligion, the Sovereigns appeared to be turning aside from the 
materialism and spiritual nihilism of the nobles and 

From my acquaintance with Prince Oleg, the Empress 
knew I took a lively interest in Russian ethical and political 
matters. Once at a little gathering in Tsarskoe, at which 
the Staretz presided, the Tsarina unfolded to me her hopes 
and fears for the future and safety of Russia. She told me 
that since the revolution of 1905, she and her Imperial 
husband had come to realise that the cause of all Russia's 
misfortunes, lay in the apostasy of the educated classes from 
the ideals of religion and morality. They were unfit to 
lead the peasants who formed the overwhelming majority 
of the nation. They were Voltairians, who were unconsciously 
perverting the moral sense of the nation. 

It was necessary that the peasants and workers should 
know the throne stood for them as Russians, and not as an 
armed power, to secure the dominations of landowners and 
bureaucrats of foreign extraction, who despised the 

With a peculiar tone of indignation which may have been 
due to her German upbringing, the Empress told me how 
difficult it had been for the Emperor to get the aristocracy 
to accept his Pan-Russian policy. The Grand Dukes clung to the old Prussian tradition and resented any com- 
promise with “ the Moscow spirit.” Most of all the Empress 
was indignant with the Baltic barons, who were practically 
supreme in Court circles and the offices of Government. 

" They are Russian subjects,” the Empress declared. 
" But you can hardly imagine how intensely they hate 
everything that is really Russian. I, myself, am very proud 
my dear mother was an English princess, but I have grown 
to love my adopted country with all my heart. It is the 
land my darling son will rule one day by God's will, and I 
want him to be a ruler after the heart of the people.” 

She related how the Emperor was determined to make 
himself one with the Russian people. An incident, which 
had given him great pain, took place at Riga just before the 
outbreak of the War. He had gone there to unveil a monu- 
ment to Peter the Great. In his speech he begged his 
Baltic subjects not only to be actual subjects of Russia, but 
to feel themselves to be Russians. 

The same night the Baltic barons held a meeting in the 
Hall of the Nobility, and Baron Manteufel declared that, for 
the Tsar of Russia to ask them to feel themselves to be 
Russians, was almost the same as asking a man, who had 
spent a night in a stable, to feel himself to be a horse. 

The Tsarina could not suppress her indignation. She 
felt sure the Russians would never get better if they were 
made constantly to feel how inferior they were, and never 
given a chance to be guided in the right manner. She was 
certain there was a wealth of goodness lying dormant and 
neglected in the Russian religion, and also in the Russian 
character. She spoke with admiration of the good work 
which the Grand Duchess Elizabeth was carrying on at her 
convent of mercy in Moscow. 

" It is just such work that Russia needs,” she said. 
“ With our knowledge of Western character and our prestige 
we shall be able to infuse a new and freshening spirit into the 
Russian church. The educated classes neglect these things for the material conquests of science. They are quite 
wrong. Russia’s soul is sick to death. They forget the 
West has kept pace spiritually, and in its religion, with the 
advance of science. The Russian intelligentsia makes a 
god of materialism and science, and despises the secrets of 
religion. It is false ! Their science will only lead to the 
shedding of oceans of blood, if they despise God.” 

I could not help remarking how thoroughly convinced the 
Empress was in the rightness of her mission, although I 
sympathised with Baron Manteufel. To my mind the 
Empress might have fared better if she had recognised the 
realistic truth of his words. 

It is curious to note that the Tsarina, who was accused of 
being haughtily contemptuous of Russians at the time of 
her marriage, owed much of her later woe to her sincere 
desire to be Russian through and through. The same 
voices accused her each time. 

Rasputin entered her life because she wished to be one 
with the religion of the peasants. She cared for the wounded 
with her own hands, because she wished to share the suffer- 
ings of her people in the War. With her husband she was 
zealous in celebrating the historical triumphs of the Russian 
nation, and strengthening it in its consciousness and belief 
in itself. 

But on all these counts her efforts were met with an 
ocean of calumny, hatred and abuse. 

Why ? Partly because the cleavage between the political 
groups was too vast and diametrically opposed. The nobles 
stood for a system of autocracy, that should oppose all 
progress at their expense and rule the land in the old tradi- 
tional tyranny of Tsardom. “ The Russians are not fit 
for freedom or a constitution. The Tsardom is the only 
government fit for Russia.” Such was the usual plea of 
the nobles. 

The intelligentsia lived only for Revolution and Socialism. 
In their childish, " scientific ” way of thinking, with no practical experience of political freedom, they expected to 
transplant the most highly developed Western system to 
the bleak steppes of Russia. The Tsardom must go at all 

It was between these two wooden stools that the Empress 
was doomed to fall. The more daring and ambitious of 
the Grand Dukes saw their opportunity to gain the throne. 
They, too, lent their aid to the campaign against the Tsarina. 

The intelligentsia wanted the Revolution at all costs ; 
the nobles wanted the throne to uphold its prestige, and 
their position as batteners on the land. Nothing was too 
bad or wicked to attribute to the Tsarina. All the evils 
that afflicted Russia were laid at her door. The nobles 
endeavoured to turn popular anger, due to their own corrup- 
tion and mismanagement, against the Empress, in order 
that the Tsar might not be affected. The defeats in the 
War were attributed to her. The story was put about, 
up and down the whole length of Russia, that the Tsarina 
had a special wire from Tsarskoe to the Kaiser in Potsdam. 
The whole thing was an utter impossibility, since even 
the generals at the front couldn’t maintain their telegraphic 
communications with one another, but millions believed 
the story. 

In a like manner the troubles of the country were attri- 
buted to Rasputin. Perhaps none was more pleased with 
the presence of the Staretz at Court than the Revolu- 
tionaries. They revelled in the most hideous stories about 
him, maliciously enjoying the political profit they derived 
from them. Anything was lawful in order to bring about 
the downfall of the throne, and bring about that glorious, 
long sighed for illusion, the Revolution. 

There was but a handful of loyal people in Russia. The 
millions of peasants were voiceless, although the Empress 
received many thousands of letters from those at least who 
could write, thanking her for her personal care for the 

When I heard the Empress use the phrase " Russia is 
rotten/' I was somewhat startled, but it soon became 
evident her words were literally true. The Grand Dukes 
and the rich factory owners were intriguing for a " bloodless 
Revolution/' The Empress knew of it and was full of 
anxiety. The most constant phrase that came to her lips 
was, “ Can we trust anybody ? " 

The constant changes of ministers was largely due to this 
fear. Were they working with the plotters ? The Emperor 
especially feared the influence of the Grand Duke Nicholas, 
who was very popular with the army, and was being 
represented as a martyr to Rasputin and the Empress. 
The army was said to adore him and to be willing to die 
for him. The Grand Duke had resented his removal from 
the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army. 
Realising his value as a political asset, some influential, 
wealthy men of the Constitutional Democratic Party, asked 
him whether it would not be possible to bring about a 
bloodless revolution, by using his influence with the army. 

I do not know what the Grand Duke thought of this. 
The plot, however, seems to have grown and entered upon 
more daring lines. 

Rasputin was aware of the intrigue, but he mentioned 
to me the names of the Grand Duke Michael, Goutchkoff, 
several factory owners, and the Jewish banker, Rubenstein. 
He did not trouble much about the matter. What pleased 
him most was the fact that Prince Usoupoff, and several 
other well known people, had promised him their support, 
declaring that they realised the regeneration and safety of 
Russia could only come through the renewal of its religious 

I was surprised at this announcement, because I knew 
a good deal about the mode of life of these princely indi- 
viduals. Rasputin, however, seemed flattered, and thought 
that he was at last beating down the fierce opposition, 
which he had braved so powerfully at the risk of his life. 

I last saw him in the beginning of December 1916. I 
was leaving for England for a few weeks. When I took 
leave of him he made me a strange request. He asked me to 
bring back a lock of Queen Mary and her daughter's hair. 
He wanted to add these royal locks to those of the Tsarina 
and her daughters, in the girdle of woven hair he wore on 
great festivals. He was dismally disappointed when I 
told him it was beyond all hopes. He then asked me to 
bring him back an ikon from the most famous monastery 
in England. Thinking of a picture of St. Edward of 
Westminster, I promised to do so. 

When I returned in January 1917, the Staretz was no 
more. His princely “ converts ” had lured him to his 
death, and talk of Revolution was in the air. 

I cannot help reflecting how futile the Russians were. 
The nobles, who feared the Tsar's rapprochement with the 
peasants, have had their land taken from them, while the 
Revolutionary intelligentsia, whose dream of the downfall 
of Tsardom was so glorious and stirring, have bitten the dust 
under the blows of a bloodier knout, or are scattered over 
the face of their loveless West.


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