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Murder at Yusupov Palace – Part 1

For such a large country its quite surprising that Russia’s history pre-World War II isn’t really what you’d call mainstream worldwide. Perhaps it’s because of Russia’s tenuous relationship with the US that this has become the case. We mostly see depictions of a Soviet Russia, communists against the American way and all that. It’s fair to say that is a huge part of its history, moulding the modern Russia into what it is today but there’s much more to the countries past than just that. It was once ruled by the powerful Tsars and the wealthy elite, despite that one monk from a poor background became just as influential as any rich man, if not more so. That man was Grigori Rasputin, he was a close advisor and loved by the family of Tsar Nicholas III. This friendship was loathed by other powerful members of society and none were more loathsome of it than the Yusupov’s. And it was this clash of characters that would lead to an astounding assassination that took place at the beautiful Yusupov Palace.

The house of Yusupov were an extremely wealthy family and members of the Russian nobility. The family were also descendants of the monarchs of the Nogai Horde who were a confederation of Mongol and Turkic tribes that formed at the opening of the 16th century. The Yusupov’s reached the height of their wealth in the 18th and 19th centuries and were renowned not only for this incredible wealth but their philanthropic endeavours as well as their vast art collections which were kept in the palace. Ironically despite all of this however the most well known of their ilk would be a Felix Yusupov II. I say that because it is not for any achievements in life, not even for a lovely art collection but instead for murder, in fact it wasn’t just murder he’s well known but making such a mess in the prosses.

Felix was the most stereotypical of aristocrats going, when reading about him he appears as if he’s a character from the Blackadder TV series; you can almost hear Rowen Atkinson calling him a “namby pamby rich boy”. He is said to have lived a flamboyant life and enjoyed all the indulgences his wealth afforded him. It’s important to note that at this point the family was richer even than the Romanovs, the Russian royal family. He studied Forestry at University College, Oxford and joined the Bullingdon Club, an all-boys dining club for the wealthy. During this time, he lived there and in his home at 14 Edward Street had a housekeeper, an English valet, a French Driver, a Russian cook and even a pianist. Later during the First World War he managed to get out of service thanks to a law that permitted only sons exemption. His wife’s cousin, Grand Duchess Olga, wrote of his idling during this time with utter contempt. Despite this however it should be noted that he opened up a wing at Yusupov Palace, converting it into a hospital for the wounded. Later he would study at the elite Page Corps military academy and did in fact try to join a regiment in August 1916.