— Corps des Pages of His Imperial Highness

Remember this …………………

 

 

 

 

and also this …………………

 

 

 

 

 

If my aunt Jenny was right and Joseph was enrolled at the Corps des Pages, it’s necessary for me to add information about the school 🙂

Voronstov Palace

Vorontsoff Palace

His Majesty’s Corps des Pages (Russian: Пажеский корпус – Pajesky Corpus) was founded in St Petersburg on October 20, 1759, as the «Court School of Pages» to prepare young boys to be pages and Kamer-pages (kamer-pazhi).

Then in 1802. Alexander I decreed that the Corps des Pages would become a military as well as a Court school.

Those boys who wanted to be admitted to the Page Corps had to face a very difficult examination and at the time, the admission was limited to those who were sons of a Major-General killed in action, by personal appointment by the Tsar, or sons or grandsons of those who held the top three levels of the Table of Ranks.

Since men could rise in the Table of Ranks by serving the state well, there was a great mixture of the different national groups from all over the Russian Empire, as well as social standing and by religion.

The curriculum was also changed, basing itself on the ideals of the Order of St John, also known as The Knights Hospitallers, one of the most famous of the Western Christian military orders during the Middle Ages.

Then eight years later, the Corps was moved to the palace of the Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem, also known as Vorontsoff Palace. It continued at this location until the Revolution in 1917.

students

Click to enlarge

The Page Corps was run by the Ministry of War and under the general head of the military schools.

Their motto was «Чист, как золото, тверд, как сталь» (Pure, as gold, hard, as steel) which was taken from the motto used by the Knights Templar.

The graduates all wore special rings of steel and gold, on which was an inscription «№ 30» (which was the number of graduates in accordance with success in school) and the year of graduation.

The curriculum included the same as other cadet schools but included two special classes – military science and jurisprudence – but by the 1880s, it also included separate infantry, cavalry and artillery departments. It was harsh, as any infringement of rules were treated to a caning with a birch rod, however the students received a high standard of education.

All students served as pages at the Court and did whatever was required by the Imperial Family and when they graduated, they could join the regiment of their own choice.

Once Tsar Nicholas II was overthrown in February 1917, the Corps des Pages was disbanded but the school was closed in June on Alexander Kerensky’s orders.

All Pages received a Maltese Cross to wear on their uniforms once they graduated. It was a white enamel Maltese cross was put on a round black socket at the top of which is a superimposed gold monogram of the Tsars Alexander I and Nicholas II, and the date at the bottom: “1802-1902”.

Maltese Cross

Click to enlarge

I don’t have any photos of Joseph wearing this but that’s not really surprising as I don’t have many photos of him and, with all the tumultuous events that happened to the whole family, if he did have the cross it might well have been lost or sold … or even gambled away, which is completely possible  🙁

The «Kamer-pages» were only required to give their service to the Imperial Court during the coronation of the tsars.

Kamerpages with the ladies they were assigned to

Kamerpages with the ladies they were assigned to (Click to enlarge)

The Tsar had his own «Kamer-page» but the others were appointed to the ladies of the Imperial Family, as well as to ladies of foreign royal families. They were required to carry “their” ladies’ long dress trains during coronation ceremonies and other events, and assist in any other way possible.

In the past, the Kamer-pages used to serve the ladies when they dined but that was stopped when a terribly anxious boy accidentally spilled soup down the neck of the (Dowager?) Empress Maria Feodorovna, Nicholas II’s mother! The poor boy, I wonder if he ever recovered from doing that 😛

gold_samorodok_cigarette_case

A gold Samorodok cigarette case with the Double Eagle insignia Click to enlarge

The Kamer-pages used to be given thank you gifts from their grateful ladies and some of the types of gifts were jewelled cufflinks, rings, monogrammed watches with chains and signed photographs. However the pages who served the Imperial Family were given Samorodok gold cigarettes cases, some decorated with jewelled double-headed eagles. Not something they’d get in this day and age, that’s for sure!

The Court service of most of the 35 Kamer-pages finished in 1896, with the cessation of the Coronation celebrations.
[Source: The Alexander Palace forum]

Nicholas with his mother, Maria Feodorovna

Nicholas II with his mother, Maria Feodorovna, the Empress Dowager

Before the start of classes, the doctor would appear with an assistant to address any concerns which a page might have.

bedroom

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The classes started at 8 am and finished 3 lessons later, at 11 am.
There was a 10 minute break and the pages were allowed to walk in the garden or the parade ground.

After their walk, the pages had lunch which consisted of one meat dish with vegetables, French bread and tea to drink.

Click to enlarge

Afternoon classes started at noon and finished at 4 pm. They usually had 2 lessons, each lasting 2 1/2 hours, consisting of gymnastics, dance, drill exercises, singing and fencing.

When these classes finished, those who lived nearby went home while the boarders stayed and went for dinner after attending the prayer service.

Dinner usually consisted of soup pies or soup, kasha (buckwheat porridge – there is an old Russian proverb that states «Каша – матушка наша, а хлебец ржаной – отец наш родной»  …  Kasha is our mother, bread is our father) then cakes or sweet pies.

The Corps de Pages uniform in the late 19th/early 20th century

Formal uniform in the late 19th/early 20th C (Click to enlarge)

I wonder if “soup pies” are what my mother used to prepare for our namesday celebrations? Meat, fish or cabbage pies eaten with soup!

On Saturdays classes finished at 2pm and after lunch, the pages were allowed to go for a walk before spending two hours, between 6-8pm, afterwards to study for the next day’s lessons.

At 8pm they had tea with kalach (калач), a type of white bread with a twisted shape, or a French loaf.

The tsars used to send kalachi to people with high clerical titles, including the patriarch, and when servants were given leave, the master would give him a small amount of money to spend on a kalach.
[Source: History of Russian Bread: from Sitnik to Kalach]

The different Corps des Pages uniforms from 1785-1885

The different Corps des Pages uniforms from 1785-1885

Up until 1883, pages were required to stand in twos at the door, holding a large helmet in their left hands. The boys from the junior classes formed 5 or 6 pairs, all of whom had to be of similar appearance with the physical stamina to stand at attention for long ceremonies. However this was cancelled when Alexander III became tsar.

Second Company of the Page Corps 1902-1903

It was very important for all the pages to be brought up to support the tsar and his family and to believe in him being an absolute monarch, as well as believing in the following tenets …

• ты будешь относиться с уважением к слабому и сделаешься его защитником (to believe the instruction of the Church and preserve it);

• ты будешь любить страну, в которой родился (love your native country);

• ты не отступишь перед врагом (never yield to the enemy);

• ты будешь вести с неверными беспощадную войну (you will lead a merciless war against the infidels);

• ты не будешь лгать и останешься верным данному слову (you will not lie and you’ll remain faithful to your word);

• ты будешь щедр и всем благотворить (you’ll be generous and good to everyone);

• ты везде и повсюду будешь поборником справедливости и добра против несправедливости и зла (everywhere you will be a champion of justice and good against injustice and evil).

 

 

I found out that Ucha was the nickname for Prince David Dadiani who did, in fact, attend the Corps des Pages.

Ucha was born in 1875, so was 14 years older than Joseph, and he graduated from the Page Corps on December 8, 1896, aged 21.

However Jenny also said that Joseph was sent to a military academy which his grandfather attended so I don’t know when he left the Corps to attend that school.  It’s so unfortunate that Jenny didn’t write down any other names 🙁

It’s also a mystery why he would have attended another military academy since he would have learned everything necessary had he stayed in the Page Corps. And the other fly in the ointment is the fact that Joseph attended the Law Faculty while studying at the academy  😮

 

 

Corps des Pages

Photos of the Corps des Pages in St Petersburg before the Revolution
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*NB – when you click on the album, the screen will show the top of this page. Please just scroll down to see the pictures.

 

 

His Majesty’s Corps des Pages

 

 

 

Документальные фильмы – Кадеты – Пажеский корпус (Documentaries – Cadets – Page Corps) … unfortunately this is in Russian without subtitles but there are some lovely old photos in it which make it worth watching!

 

 

 

Another internet site with good information about the Corps des Pages …

The Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem – Knights of Malta and the «Corps des Pages», Russia’s Dream of Chivalry – by Daniel E. A. Perret, Ex-Page of the 1916/17 War Time Course

 

 

 

 

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