Tsar Nicholas II's visit to Cowes

The is the Russian Imperial Yacht Standart which visited Cowes in 1909.

In August 1909, Tsar Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, and his family visited the Isle of Wight aboard the Russian Imperial Yacht Standart (pictured) for four nights. - The Russian and British royal families were closely related, as both Tsar Nicholas and the Tsarina were first cousins of King George V. The King’s grandsons David and Bertie (the future Edward VIII and George VI) were cadets at the naval college at Osborne in East Cowes, although Bertie was ill during the royal visit. The Tsarina, granddaughter of Queen Victoria had spent holidays at Osborne as a young child, and had taken Nicolas to visit before they were married. The occasion for the visit in 1909, was Cowes Week the annual sailing regatta, and thus the town and harbour were extremely busy. The Russian royal family, which included Nicholas, the Tsarina Alexandra, their four daughters and young son Alexei all stayed onboard the Royal Yacht Standart, which was guarded by two Russian cruisers, three destroyers and the ships of the British Fleet. On their first night, they boarded the British Royal Yacht, the Victoria and Albert for a reception hosted by King Edward VII, and also held similar receptions on board the Standart over the next few days. The Tsar also had meetings with the Prime Minister Asquith and Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey.

The Grand Duchesses, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia and Tsarevich Alexei spent one afternoon ashore playing with their cousins on the private beach at Osborne. Olga and Tatiana also made a second trip ashore and were allowed to walk through the streets of cowes (with their chaperones and detectives) for a spot of shopping. Unused to being able to move freely, according to historian Helen Rappaport, they were extremely animated and bought pennants of the various nations and commemorative picture postcards of their royal relatives (including their own parents). They visited Benzie, the jewellers where they purchased jewellery with the guidance of the ladies in attendance, and Beken & Son pharmacy where they bought perfume. Word quickly spread around that they were in the town, and they were persuaded by their dectives to cross to East Cowes on the floating bridge where they were taken in a carriage to Whippingham Church. The following day all the family visited Osborne House and the children played in the Swiss Cottage, they then had tea with Nicolas’s cousin George, the Prince of Wales, and his family at Barton Manor. Upon his departure, the Tsar gave a gift of £600 for distribution among the poor of the two towns, West and East Cowes. It was reported in newspapers at the time that the Councils met to discuss this gift and and George Fellows, A E Marvin and S E Saunders all declared that the Tsar’s visit was most successful and that they hoped that, ‘it may not be long before a visit which leaves such pleasant recollections may be repeated’. As we know, Tsar Nicholas II and his family never did return to The Isle of Wight, but were executed in nine years later. A monument was unveiled in East Cowes last year to mark the 100th anniversary of the deaths of the Russian royal family.

Please read more about the history of Cowes buildings with more illustrations on our page Cowes History.

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