One of the most fascinating and historically important lots in Freeman’s October 17 Silver & Russian Works of Art auction is “The Lintern Archive.” The collection includes a photographic album owned by the Romanov children’s French tutor, Pierre Gilliard, and contains 66 images, many of which have never been published and are new to scholars.
The photographs were taken between 1912-1918, showing the Imperial Family’s life before the revolution until their imprisonment in Tobolsk. The album was presented for safekeeping to William Lintern, an Englishman living in Ekaterinburg in 1918. “The Lintern Archive” also includes a letter written by Lintern to his family expressing that the murder of the Imperial Family was widely known by the people of Ekaterinburg. The critical significance of this letter lies in when it was mailed—a full six months before the investigator Nikolai Sokolov arrived in Siberia to begin his inquest into the fate of the family.
On Sunday, April 9, 2017, the hit BBC series "Antiques Roadshow" aired the results of an open day held on the grounds of Pembroke Castle in Wales. The highlight was an important Russian Imperial photograph album and related family documents from the descendants of William Lintern, a British subject resident in Ekaterinburg, Siberia, during the height of the Russian Revolution and the early days of the Russian Civil War. Lintern worked for the British Engineering Co. in Russia when he found himself brought into contact with the entourage of the imprisoned Russian Imperial Family.
William Lintern was born in 1891 in Dowlais, near Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales in 1891. He attended Dowlais Junior School and Cardiff High School. His father, Thomas Lintern, obtained the position of Chief Engineer and Superintendent in Hughsofka in Russia, a steel and mining town that had been created by another Welshman, John Hughes. The whole Lintern family moved to Russia when William was 20 years old. William left Hughsofka in 1915 to take a position as a representative for the British Engineering Company of Siberia (BECOS) and moved to Ekaterinburg where he was named British Vice-Consul at Ekaterinburg, and where he remained until 1919. It was at Ekaterinburg that he was presented with the offered lot.
On the Roadshow, the story presented was one that had been passed down within the Lintern family, stating that the photo album had been given to Lintern by "one of Empress Alexandra's maids" who had pressed him to accept the photograph album for safekeeping. Anna Demidova (1878-1918) was the only maid with the Imperial Family when they were arrested after the Revolution and she followed them into exile, first at the Governor's mansion at Tobolsk, and later in the "House of Special Purpose" [the Ipatiev House] at Ekaterinburg. Like the Imperial Family, Demidova was prohibited from leaving the Ipatiev House, and so it is unlikely that the album was smuggled out of the last residence of the Romanovs.
New scholarship and provenance revealed
The album, recently examined by Freeman's as well as by the noted Romanov scholar Dr. Helen Rappaport, has been determined to contain original photographs dating from 1912 through the imprisonment of the Imperial family at Tobolsk in 1918, and closer inspection reveals handwritten marginalia in the album and on the backs of some of the photographs. The writing is now believed to be in the hand of Pierre Gilliard, tutor to the Imperial children. Some of the images are known to have been taken by Gilliard and have been previously published. A number, however, have not been published before, and are new to scholars. This new evidence suggests that the album was compiled by and belonged to Pierre Gilliard.
Pierre Gilliard (1879-1962) was a Swiss academic who was first hired in 1904 as a French tutor to the family of the Duke of Leuchtenberg, a cousin of the Emperor Nicholas II. He was recommended as a tutor to the daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra, and became part of the inner family circle. His role as tutor to the Tsesarevich Alexei meant that he was a guest at some of the family's most private gatherings and privy to many of their private concerns including the heir's hemophilia. In 1919, Gilliard married Alexandra "Shura" Tegleva who had been a nurserymaid to Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, and who had remained in the family's service. Gilliard and Tegleva had been detained in the company of Charles Sydney Gibbes and Baroness Sophie Karlovna Buxhoeveden -- all at Ekaterinburg, but kept separate from the Imperial family as foreign nationals. Gilliard chose to remain in Siberia after the execution of the Imperial Family, and assisted Nikolai Sokolov during his investigation of the murder of the Romanovs.
Present evidence suggests that this album, most likely compiled and annotated by Gilliard, was passed to Lintern by the former Imperial nurserymaid Alexandra Tegleva, rather than by the Empress' lady's maid, Anna Demidova.
The accompanying letter, written by Lintern to his family in England on 9 August, 1918 is an important document of the period of the late Revolution and the early days of the Russian Civil War.
The Lintern letter makes it quite clear that the ultimate fate of the Romanovs was a mystery to no one. The people of Ekaterinburg were aware that the Imperial family had been held there, and that they had been murdered. The letter also reveals that the communists began immediate class reprisals among the gentry of Ekaterinburg, as was typical in the days of the "red terror."
The letter notes in plain terms that there were mass executions by the local communists, and that "They are finding the bodies of the townspeople who were murdered by the Sovet [sic], and each day has its gastly [sic] toll of bodies, to be brought into the city and given a Christian burial. To see these funerals with anything from fifteen to sixty coffins in each, bearing the remains of the best townspeople, whose only crime was that they were of respectable families, having been put to death in the most brutal way, leaves an impression which one will never get rid of."
Lintern even notes that the murder of the Imperial family, far from being in doubt or indeed, even in question, was well known throughout the city as it was taken back under White control. "For the last two days, they have been pumping the water out of an old shaft in the forrest [sic], around which they found traces of the ex-Royal family, and I think there is no doubt that their bodies will be found at the bottom weighted down with stones."
It was not until six months later, in February of 1919, that the investigator Nikolai Sokolov arrived in Ekaterinburg to begin his inquest to discover what this important document already notes; that less than one month after the murder of the Imperial family, their final fate was already known to the residents of Ekaterinburg.