Below are the memoirs of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich about his childhood. Discipline, military drill, no entertainment and tenderness - quite Spartan upbringing, and this was the norm of life for almost all the monarchs of Europe at that time.
Therefore, it was not surprising that the joys of a carefree childhood suddenly broke off for me the day I turned seven. Among the many gifts presented to me on this occasion, I found the form of Colonel 73 of the Crimean Infantry Regiment and a saber. I was terribly happy, as I imagined that now I would take off my usual suit, which consisted of a short, pink, silk shirt, wide trousers and high boots of red morocco, and wrapped in a military uniform.
My father smiled and shook his head. Of course, I will sometimes be allowed, if I am obedient, to wear this shiny form. But first of all, I must deserve the honor of carrying it by diligence and long-term work.
My face was stretched, but the worst was yet to come.
"From tomorrow," my father announced to me, "you will leave the nursery." You will live with the brothers Michael and George. Learn and listen to your teachers.
Farewell, my good nannies, my fairy tales! Goodbye carefree dreams! All night I cried into the pillow, not listening to the encouraging words of my good uncle Cossack Shevchenko. Eventually, seeing that his promises to visit me every Sunday do not impress me properly, he began to whisper fearfully: "
It will be a shame if his Imperial Majesty is recognized and given to the order in the army that his nephew, Grand Duke Alexander, he abdicates from the command of the 73 Crimean Regiment, because he cries like a little girl!
Hearing this, I jumped out of bed and rushed to wash myself. I was horrified that almost disgraced our whole family in the eyes of the Emperor and Russia.
From that day until the age of fifteen, my upbringing was like going to the regiment. My brothers Nikolai, Mikhail, Sergey and George and I lived in the barracks. We slept on narrow iron beds with the finest mattresses laid on wooden boards. I remember that many years later, already after my marriage, I could not get used to the luxury of a wide bed with a double mattress and linen and demanded back my old camp bed.
We woke up at six in the morning. We should have jumped up at once, since anyone who risked "sleeping another five minutes" was punished in the strictest manner possible.
We read prayers, standing on a lap in front of the icons, then took a cold bath. Our morning breakfast consisted of tea, bread and butter. All the rest was strictly prohibited, so as not to accustom us to luxury.
Then came the lesson of gymnastics and fencing. Particular attention was paid to practical training in artillery, for which there was a gun in our garden. Very often my father came to our classes without warning, critically observing the artillery lesson. At the age of ten, I could take part in the bombing of a big city.
From 8 am to 11 and from 2 to 6 we had to learn. By tradition, the Great Princes could not study either in state or private educational institutions, and therefore we were surrounded by a whole staff of mentors. Our curriculum, divided into eight years, consisted of lessons on the Law of God, the history of the Orthodox Church, the comparative history of other confessions, Russian grammar and literature, the history of foreign literature, the history of Russia, Europe, America and Asia, geography, mathematics arithmetic, algebra, geometry and trigonometry), French, English and German languages and music. Moreover, we were taught how to handle firearms, riding, fencing and bayonet attacks. My older brothers Nicholas and Michael also studied Latin and Greek, and we, the younger ones, were freed from this torture.
Studying was not difficult for me nor for my brothers, but the excessive strictness of the mentors left us all bitter with bitterness. It is possible to say with certainty that modern loving parents would resist if their children were brought up the way it was done in the Russian Imperial Family of the era of my childhood.
Because of the slightest error in the German word, we were deprived of sweet. An error in the calculation of the speeds of two oncoming trains - a task that has a special attractive power for mathematics teachers - attracted, with it, standing on your knees with your nose to the wall for an entire hour.
One day, when we were brought to tears by some injustice of teachers and tried to protest, a report to the father followed with the names of the instigators, and we were severely punished.
For me it will remain forever incomprehensible how such a pressing system of education did not dull our minds and did not cause hatred for all those subjects that we were taught in childhood.
I must, however, add that all the monarchs of Europe seemed to have come to a tacit agreement that their sons should be raised in God’s fear for a proper understanding of the future responsibility to the country. Many years later, sharing my memories with the German Emperor Wilhelm, I appreciated the comparative softness of our Tiflis teachers. His successor, the German Kronprinz, married to one of my nieces, dryly added that the number of punishments received in childhood by the monarch father does not mitigate the path of trials his son is following.
Breakfasts and lunches, so pleasant in the life of each family, did not bring diversity to the strict routine of our upbringing.
The governor of the Caucasus was to be the representative of the Emperor of the Emperor in relations with the millions of loyalists living in the south of Russia, and at our table sat at least 30 or 40 people daily. Officials who arrived in the Caucasus from St. Petersburg, eastern rulers - sent to introduce themselves to the Tsar, military leaders subordinates to the Governor of provinces and regions, public figures with wives, persons of retinue and court ladies, officers of personal protection and our mentors - all took the opportunity to express their political views and intercessions to learn about various favors in the Tiflis Palace.
We children should have been at breakfast and lunch, very much to watch for ourselves and not to start talking until we were asked. How often, burning with the desire to tell our father about what a wonderful fortress we built on top of the mountain or what kind of Japanese flowers our gardener planted, we had to restrain ourselves, be silent and listen to an important general who was ranting about the absurdity of Disraeli’s latest political plans.
If, however, we were treated to a question, which of course was done out of a sense of servility before His Majesty’s Vicar, we had to answer in the framework that strict etiquette dictated to us. When a lady, with a sweetly sweet smile on her lips, asked me about who I wanted to be, she herself knew perfectly well that Grand Duke Alexander could not wish to be neither a fireman nor a machinist, so as not to incur the displeasure of the Great Prince - father. The choice of my career was very limited: he lay between the Cavalry, which was commanded by my uncle, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich the Elder, artillery, which was in charge of my father, and a navy commanded by my other uncle, the Grand Duke Constantine Nikolayevich.
"For a boy like you," the smiling lady used to say, "it’s best to follow in the footsteps of your august father."
What else could be blamed on such a question, if we take into account that at that time twelve pairs of eyes of my mentors were digging into me, trying to impress upon me a worthy answer?
Brother Georgy somehow timidly expressed the desire to become a portrait painter. His words were met with the ominous silence of all those present, and George understood his mistake only when the chamberlain, who had served the guests with dessert, passed with a crimson ice cream past his appliance.
The order of distribution of seats at the table excludes for us, children, any opportunity to laugh at one or other of the strange guests or to whisper among themselves. We were never allowed to sit together, but placed between adults. We were explained that we had to behave towards our neighbors in the way our father would behave. We had to smile at the unfortunate acuteness of our guests and show a special interest in political news.
Moreover, we should always remember that one day we will be taken to Russia, which is beyond the ridge of the Caucasus mountains. There, visiting our royal uncle, they told us, we will remember with gratitude our mentors, whom we owe our good manners. Otherwise, our cousins will point at us with their fingers, and call them "savage Caucasians"!
Getting up from the table, we could play in my father’s office for an hour after breakfast and twenty minutes after dinner. At exactly nine we had to go to our bedroom, wear long white, nightgowns (pajamas were not yet known in Russia), immediately go to bed and fall asleep. But even in bed, we stayed under strict supervision. At least five times a night, the mentor on duty went into our room and looked suspiciously at the beds in which under the blankets lay, curled up, five boys.
About midnight we were awakened by the clink of spurs that announced the arrival of his father. At the request of my mother we did not wake, the father replied that future soldiers should be taught to sleep, despite any noise.
"What will they do next," he said, when they had to snatch a few hours to rest, to the sound of the cannonade?
In the eyes of our parents and educators, we were healthy, normal children, but a modern educator would find in us an unfulfilled desire for greater affection and attachment. We suffered from loneliness. Our special position alienated us from children of our age. We had no one to talk to, and each of us was too proud to share our thoughts with other brothers.
One thought of coming to the father and bothering him with vague conversations without a special purpose seemed simply insane. Our mother, for her part, directed all efforts to destroy in us the slightest external manifestation of a feeling of tenderness. In her youth, she passed a school of Spartan upbringing, in the spirit of that time in Germany, and did not blame her.
... Remembering my childhood, the severity of education and treatment with us, I must say that all this had the most beneficial effect on the whole subsequent life. I must add that all the monarchs of Europe appeared to have reached a tacit agreement that the sons should be brought up in the sobering fear of God for a proper understanding of the future responsibility before the country.
Curiously, with all the rigors of such education and personally experienced inconveniences, Alexander Mikhailovich gives such a kind of education a completely positive assessment, while in families with a much warmer attitude of parents, children often grow up dissatisfied and parents, and the way they were raised, and by themselves. Why? What does it depend on? We would call two factors: the control of the format and the status of educators.
With the status of caregivers, it is generally clear: if parents are respected by others, if other children envy that you have such parents, especially if your father is a king and mother is a princess, then the upbringing from such a pope and mother is usually more pleasant, than if my father is an electrician at the factory, and my mother is a laundress. Children status of parents - appreciate.
Nevertheless, it seems that the control of the format plays an even greater role. Under the control of the format, we mean the control of the body corset, the control of facial expressions and the control of conversations commenting on the interaction of pupils and educators. If the pupils are given orders, and the children at this time are crooked, they build dissatisfied and offended faces and accompany what is happening with ironic cues, it is fixed as a negative habit game: the child will be dissatisfied with what is happening. If the beautiful general gives an order, during which the children stand erect, with their shoulders stretched, with a confident expression and confirm: "Yes, it will be done!", The positive suggestion of the body will give the child a vision that he has an excellent life and a beautiful childhood. Demanding parents receive the title of cruel when they are not exacting enough, namely, they are not sufficiently attentive to the format and allow discontented faces. Paradoxically: forbid more - and children will be satisfied ...
Similarly, in soft and free upbringing: if it develops so that the warmth of the parents caused the reciprocal warmth of the children, that is, the communication of the parents and the child was accompanied by the child’s joyful face, the warm embrace of the beloved parents and words: My beloved mother! ", Then years later an adult former child will remember his childhood with the most sincere warmth. If the loving parents are on the fact that, in response to their warmth, the child is twisted and builds muzzles, then after many years their matured child will easily come up with the idea that his parents did not receive it.
Parents, watch the format of your children!