Cottage Palace - Little Gem of Peterhof Estate

If you visit St Petersburg, you will likely spend some time at Peterhof – a maze of beautiful palaces and parks designed to house the royal family in bygone times. While attention is usually drawn to the more lavish buildings on the estate, you should make sure that you don’t miss out on one of the smaller buildings at Peterhof – the Cottage Palace. This well preserved 19th century cottage was once the private home of the Emperor Nicholas I who ruled Russia between 1825 and 1855. It was built by Adam Menelaws between 1826 and 1829 and is located in a remote corner of the estate. Strangely small against the backdrop of Peterhof, it is clear that this homely little building was to serve as a private residence instead of a formal state residence.

Once the building had been completed, Nicholas I decided to present the Cottage to Alexandra Feodorovna and that is why it is sometimes known as ‘Alexandria’. It would seem that Nicholas and the rest of the royal family had tired of court life. The cottage was the perfect way to escape tiring court life and only those courtiers who were extremely close to the family were invited here. Of course, the family’s teachers, doctors and attendant on duty were also allowed access to these private royal premises. It was here that the Tsar’s family could enjoy something resembling normal family life. The home is small and is built in the Pseudo-Gothic style that was popular in medieval Europe at the time. The cottage is a two story building with a mezzanine. It has semicircular granite porches, covered balconies, bay windows and terraces. Thus, despite it’s size it is still an amazingly rich and ornate building. It is also surrounded by openwork cast-iron arcades.

The Peterhof Cottage Palace was decorated by the best Russian and Western European masters available. Thus you will find that the furnishing and interiors are as elaborate and ornate as any Russian royal residence ought to be. Much of the cottage had been decorated with a strong gothic influence and even the china, class and bronze where made with a gothic feel. Though this private royal residence was off-limits to all but a chosen few, it was open to the public once every year on 2 July which was the day after the Empress’s birthday. It would seem that Nicholas also regularly invited peasants to watch he and his family enjoy tea parties as part of a public relations effort to paint this oppressive and economically backwards monarchy in a more positive light. Whatever the case, you when you visit this beautiful museum-building today you can easily imagine the emperor drinking his tea on an open veranda as he watched ships sailing past on the Baltic Sea. The home must have served as a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of palace life and also gives a more touching insight into the lives of this early royal family. Make sure it’s a part of your tour of the Peterhof estate.

 



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