Commemorative events celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the glorification of the Fortieth Anniversaryof the glorification of Royal Martyrs and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fedorovna

On 2nd – 4th July, 2021, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov Society, UK organized special events to celebrate the Fortieth Anniversary of the glorification, by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, of the Royal Martyrs and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, among the host of the New Martyrs of Russia.

The main ceremony took place on July 3 at the Romanov Monument at East Cowes (Isle of Wight) close to Queen Victoria’s residence, Osborne House. A solemn ceremony was held to lay earth from the places where the remains of the martyrs were found in the base of the monument and the installation of a memorial plate recording this. As it was mentioned by the chairman, “the Monument stands on British soil and now it has Russian soil inside, in its heart”. 

Three years after the Romanov monument (designed by Russian Sculptor Elena Bezborodova) was erected it became possible to organize the delivery of a small amount of soil to the UK. This was with the blessing and direct participation of Bishop Leonid of Argentina and South America, formerly Bishop of Alapaevsk, His Grace sent us an address which was read by Subdeacon Alexander Groves (Founder member of the Society) who presented the programme of ceremonies. The atmosphere around the monument was very warm although the weather was windy and rainy. The audience was quite big, as much as the epidemic restrictions allowed, and diverse. A talk on “The Canonisation of the Royal Martyrs of Russia – its meaning”  delivered by Reader John Harwood, Secretary of the Society, answered many questions from those who knew little about the historical and religious background.

The placing of the earth, followed by a moleben, was performed by the Chancellor of the Diocese, Archpriest Paul (Elliott), who arrived at the southernmost point of Britain from his northern parish which is dedicated to the New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth. The audience stood up to listen to the Gospel and was moved by the beautiful choral singing and Father Paul’s sermon on the topic of self-denial for Christ. 

The ceremony was attended by the  President of the Romanov Family Association Princess Olga Andreevna Romanova, granddaughter of Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, by the Deputy Lord-Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight Mary Case, the representative of the Queen, by the Chairman of the Isle of Wight Council Lora Peacey-Wilcox, the Mayor of East Cowes Michael Paler and other notables who addressed words of welcome to the audience. The Russian and the British Royal anthems concluded the ceremony. 

The programme of the weekend included other important events dedicated to the memory of the August Martyrs of Russia. After the ceremony, many guests visited the Royal Chapel of St Mildred, where Victoria, the eldest sister of St Elizabeth and St Alexandra is buried. The church has icons of the Holy Martyrs on the left altar near the memorial plate which has their names, put there by Princess Beatrice soon after the tragedy. (The icons were presented to St Mildred’s by GDERS in 2016.)

After the tour around the church and the grounds members of the Society and guests met at the garden picnic in the Rectory. The sun shone again and everybody could enjoy a concert of Russian songs performed by Vassilissa Kedroff (from Paris) and Maria Shepard (from London). Some of them were dedicated to the Royal Martyrs.

In the late afternoon Sara Lang, former curator of the Carisbrooke museum, lead a walking guided tour “Russian Imperial Visits to East Cowes”, based on Stephan Roman’s book.

Maria Harwood, Father Paul, Olga Romanoff, Janet and John McNeals. First row. Peter Harrigan, John, Maria Smirnova and Melinda Henry. Second row.

The group of visitors, including Olga Romanoff, climbed to the top of a hill in midst of the countryside to see the high column visible from faraway – the Monument to Tsar Alexander I, erected here by a local merchant. This was a sign of friendship between two nations in the time of victory over Napoleon. 

Anna Scriven, Princess Olga and Olga Harrison

On Sunday the pilgrims had a prayerful Obednitsa (Typika) organised by John Harwood in a chapel of a former Catholic convent. (Our friend David Hill offered this calm and beautiful place to us.) After the prayers the group of twenty met at Carisbrooke Castle, where King Charles was imprisoned in the I7th century, to speak about Royal Martyrdom, comparing British and Russian tragic history. The speakers were John Harwood and Stephan Roman, the author of a recently published book on Russian-British historical relations (Isle and Empires, Medina, 2021).

Picnic after the Ceremony.

The programme was successfully concluded at Albert Cottage (on the Osborne estate) where Tsar Nicholas stayed as a child during his first visit to Britain with his parents. 

The Society expresses its gratitude to Mr Alexandre Tissot-Demidoff, President of the International Demidoff Foundation for sponsoring the plaque dedicated to the tragic history of Russia and the Urals, the homeland of the noble Demidoff family. Especial thanks to the members of the Society Natalia Yurova, Elizaveta Dmitrieva and Anna Andreeva for their generous sponsorship which made possible our recent projects. Our gratitude to Karl Love, Deputy Mayor of East Cowes, and David Hill for their great help in the preparation for the events. We are thankful to Anna Scriven (Treasurer) for her dedicated work, to other members of the GDER Society, and to the Isle of Wight community who contributed much to this celebration. Especial gratitude to Michael Edwards who was such a helpful aide to our distinguished guest, and to John Newbery who presented us with a beautiful portrait of Grand Duchess Elizabeth.  


The flowers and the cloth with Romanov insignia were presented by local people
UK event