By January of 1897 the young Empress felt movement
in her belly again. The Imperial Household prepared itself for another
addition to the happy little family. This pregnancy was giving Alix
some trouble, she was kept to bed for seven weeks and used a wheelchair
for mobility. Near the end of May the Palace was bustling with excitement
as Alix prepared to give birth to her second child.
second bright happy day in our family: at 10:40 in the morning
the Lord blessed us with a daughter - Tatiana. Poor Alix suffered
all night without shutting her eyes for a moment, and at 8 o'clock
went downstairs to Amama's bedroom. Thank God this time it all
went quickly and safely, and I did not feel nervously exhausted.
Towards one o'clock the little one was bathed and Yanyshev read
some prayers. Mama arrived with Xenia; we lunched together. At
4 o'clock there was a Te Deum. Tatiana weighs 8¾ pounds and
is 54 centimetres long. Our eldest is very funny with her.
Read and wrote telegrams.
~Nicky's Diary, Peterhof,
There was a certain level of disappointment
that Tatiana was not a boy, but the parents were still engulfed
in their happy family life. The disappointment was more in the relatives
Just before the officers' luncheon,
I was informed by telephone from town that their Majesties had been
blessed that morning with a daughter. The news soon spread, everyone
was disappointed as they had been hoping for a son.
~KR's (Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich)
Diary, 29 May~
The birth of Tatiana Nic!
At about 11 o'clock Mama received
a telegram from Nicky to say that labour had begun during the night!
Mama immediately started getting ready to leave, when another telegram
announced the birth of a daughter. Mama's emotion was intense. Thank
God everything went safely, and both are well.
From the station we went straight
to the farm. Nicky and Alix are both delighted and happy that it
all went well! The dear little thing weighs 8¾ pounds, Alix
looks very well.
~Xenia's Diary, Gatchina, 29 May~
2 June, 1897, Abas Tuman
My dear Nicky
I congratulate you and Alix with
all my heart on the birth of your daughter. Of course I was overjoyed
when I received your telegram announcing the event, but forgive
me if I was a little disappointed to learn that it was a daughter,
not a son. I was already preparing to go into retirement, but
it was not to be.
~A letter from Nicky's brother Georgy~
At about 5 o'clock Sandroshka
(Sandro) and I went to the Alexander Palace. Nicky wasn't back
from his walk, so I went in to Alix, who was feeding the baby.
She looks wonderful. The little one is such a darling, and looks
just like her mother! Her mouth is tiny and very beautiful.
~Xenia's Diary, 3 June~
the very start of their relationship, Olga and Tatiana were inseparable
sisters. They played together, went for walks together, and posed
for pictures together. Both were beautiful, bright children, tenderly
devoted to one another.
When they were young Tatiana's sister
fell ill with typhoid fever. The family was supposed to be moving
along to Peterhof as was scheduled. Olga had not been well for a few
days and the weather was unusually hot for that time of year. Everyone
felt that the cool air of the seaside would benefit her, so they left
for Peterhof. When they arrived Olya was very ill and had to be put
right to bed. There she laid for the next five weeks. Her Governess,
Miss Eager, nursed her day and night, and at one time she was so ill
it was feared she would not recover.
Olga longed to see Tatiana, as Tanya
longed to see her Olishka. Both girls were very pleased when the doctor
told them Tatiana might spend five minutes with Olga. Miss Eager fetched
Tatia from the nursery at once to see her sister. Tatia stood by the
sick bed and spoke softly to the poor one laying in it. Soon the five
minutes were up, and Miss Eager had to lead her small charge back
to the nursery. With the door closed behind them Tatiana looked up
at her Governess.
You told me you were bringing me
to see Olga and I have not seen her.
The Governess explained that was indeed Olga, and
Tatiana broke down and started to weep bitterly.
That little pale thin child is my
dear sister Olga! Oh no, no! I cannot believe it!
Tatiana couldn't believe how bad
her sister looked, how much she changed. Miss Eager had the difficult
task of convincing Tatiana that her sister would soon be normal again.
The Grand Duchesses were brought
up to live their lives as normal as possible. They met their French
Tutor together in the late fall of 1905. Olga was almost 10, and Tatiana
had turned 8 that summer. The Swiss Pierre Gilliard waited to meet
his future pupils in the Farm Palace at Peterhof.
was taken up to a small room, soberly furnished in the English style,
on the second storey. The door opened and the Tsarina came in, holding
her daughters Olga and Tatiana by the hand. After a few pleasant remarks
she sat down at the table and invited me to take a place opposite
her. The children sat at each end.
~Pierre Gilliard's Memoirs, 1905~
The meeting went nothing like
Gilliard (whose pupils called him Zhillie or Zhilik) expected. He
was supposed to carry on as if this were their first French lesson.
Alix followed every word he spoke, and Zhillie soon knew it was not
a lesson so much as it was his own audition. He was surprised that
Olya and Tanya were not very advanced in their studies yet. The exercises
he had chosen for them were far too difficult. Relying on impulse
and spontaneity Zhillie stumbled through the first lesson. Finally
the clock struck the top of the hour and the first lesson was over.
Zhilik was to get used to Alix's presence. She oversaw her daughters'
education personally, conferring with their tutors about the best
lesson plan, and methods of teaching. She might have seemed overprotective
of her girls, but her instincts served her well. The tutors were impressed
with her good sense. After a few months of faithfully overseeing her
daughters' lessons Alix's presence was replaced by one of her ladies-in-waiting,
Tanya soon gained an independent
manner that set her ahead of her sister in public. She was more confident
of herself and how she looked to others. Tatiana didn't argue, though
she was sure of her own opinions and expressed herself fluidly. Olga
gladly stepped into the shadows of her little sister.
Tatiana was rather reserved, essentially
well balanced, and had a will of her own, though she was less frank
and spontaneous than her elder sister. She was not so gifted, either,
but this inferiority was compensated by more perseverance and balance.
She was pretty, though she had not quite Olga Nicolaievna's charm.
If the Tsarina made any difference between her children, Tatiana Nicolaievna
was her favourite. It was not that her sisters loved their mother
any less, but Tatiana knew how to surround her with unwearing attentions
and she never gave way to her own capricious impulses. Through her
good looks and her art of self-assertion she put her sister Olga in
the shade in public, as the latter, thoughtless about herself, seemed
to take a back seat. Yet the two sisters were passionately devoted
to each other. There was only eighteen months between them, and that
in itself was a bond of union.
So different in looks and personality, Olga and
Tatiana were perfect compliments of each other.
They each basked in their own exotic
beauty. Olga was the star in the classroom and easily grasped mathematical
and scientific concepts. Tatiana would counter balance with her love
of household responsibilities and her practicality. Olga was stubborn
and yelled for what she wanted. Tatiana found arguing a waste of her
time, and knew how to be much more persuasive with an old fashioned
charm. Both girls loved reading, and while Olga was attached to her
poetry and literature books, Tatiana loved her fashion magazines.
Tanya had a great interest in stories and acting.
She once told Olga a story, the end of which was as follows:
So my little girl and my niece
went into the wood and a big wolf ate my little girl, so she went
The elder sister was horrified. "Oh
no!" Olga cried, and insisted that version
was not correct. The eldest explained:
God does not allow wolves to
go to Heaven.
She is walking about the wood inside the wolf.
Tatiana, of course, accepted this reasoning calmly.
She was reserved, restrained and
independent, with good powers of concentration. She liked needlework,
house-keeping, everyday domestic affairs. Thanks to this straight
character, she was regarded as the eldest daughter rather than Olga.
She was the most like her mother of all the sisters and was her
closest friend and advisor.
~Tutor Gibbes' Memoirs~
Alix taught her girls sewing and
needlework herself, never liking to see their hands idle.
Her best student was Tatiana, who
had the great patience and skill for sewing.
She made beautiful blouses, skirts,
and dresses, as well as embroidered and crocheted.
was highly religious, and had a special spiritual connection with
her mother. She believed faithfully in Rasputin's prophetic gift
and miracles, keeping two notebooks which she copied his letters
and telegrams and recorded his maxims into. She took an interest
in theology and from an early age pondered the Eternal Struggle
between the forces of Good and Evil, also Man's Destiny on Earth,
Her abstract thinking was very developed from
an early age, and by her morals she always appeared older than
she actually was. Yet her seriousness couldn't cover up her overall
inexperience of life. In many ways Tatia remained young and naive.
At 17 she could still be found pulling the pranks of children.
In 1911 she found out her cousin Ioann Konstantinovich was engaged
to Helene of Serbia. Ioann was highly spiritual, the girls thought
he might enter holy orders for the rest of his life, and the thought
of him having a wife was one that sent them into a fit of the
giggles. Tatiana wrote to her Aunt Olga:
How funny if they might have children,
can they be kissing him? What foul, fie!
was almost a perfect reincarnation of her mother. Taller and slenderer
than her sisters, she had the soft, refined features and the gentle,
reserved manners of her English ancestry. Kindly and sympathetic
of disposition, she displayed towards her younger sisters and her
brother such a protecting spirit that they, in fun, nicknamed her
"the governess." Of all the Grand Duchesses Tatiana was
with the people the most popular, and I suspect in their hearts
she was the most dearly loved of her parents. Certainly she was
a different type from the others even in appearance, her hair being
a rich brown and her eyes so darkly gray that in the evening they
seemed quite black. Of all the girls Tatiana was most social in
her tastes. She liked society and she longed pathetically for friends.
But friends for these high born but unfortunate girls were very
difficult to find. The Empress dreaded for her daughters the companionship
of oversophisticated young women of the aristocracy, whose minds,
even in the schoolroom, were fed with the foolish and often vicious
gossip of a decadent society. The Empress even discouraged association
with cousins and near relatives, many of whom were unwholesomely
precocious in their outlook on life.
~Anya Vyrubova's Memoirs~