Duchess's fall from pomp to modesty: Photographs belonging to sister of last Romanov Tsar fetch pounds 6,900

A COLLECTION OF photographs that once belonged to the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, sister of Nicholas II, the last Romanov Tsar, was sold at Sotheby's yesterday for pounds 6,900.

The Grand Duchess (1882- 1960) fled the Revolution in 1920, escaping to Constantinople on a British merchant ship. She lived in a Danish farmhouse until after the Second World War, when she settled in Canada. The images reflect her dramatic change in lifestyle, from a portrait of her in lavish court dress, adorned with her mother's huge diamond necklace, to a casual snapshot of a very ordinary elderly lady in an anorak, standing outside her modest bungalow in Canada.

Most of the images relate to her time nursing the wounded during the First World War: in one photograph,she is seen curtseying playfully to the camera in nurse's uniform; in another, she is serving soldiers tea from a samovar.

John Stuart, consultant to Sotheby's Russian department, said that the photographs seem to confirm Olga's reputation as 'generous and disarmingly simple'. She liked 'ordinary people', befriending those on the Imperial estates. The formal portrait in court dress is particularly rare as she preferred to dress in the simplest of clothes.

Also in the sale, an 1800 Russian manuscript of the Old Believers which the seller saved from being shredded and recycled in a Helsinki paper mill 25 years ago, fetched pounds 14,720 (estimate, pounds 8,000- pounds 12,000).

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