With the blessing of His Grace, Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe, patron of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov Society UK, the Society organised special events on 2nd – 4th July, 2021, to celebrate the Fortieth Anniversary of the glorification, by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, of the Royal Martyrs and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, among the host of the New Martyrs of Russia.
The main ceremony took place on Saturday July 3 at the Romanov Monument at East Cowes (Isle of Wight) close to Queen Victoria’s residence, Osborne House. A solemn ceremony was held to lay earth from the places where the remains of the martyrs were found in the base of the monument and the installation of a memorial plate recording this. As the chairman of the Society, Maria Harwood, mentioned in her speech, ‘the Monument stands on British soil and now it has Russian soil inside, in its heart.’
Three years after the monument was erected and blessed by His Grace, Bishop Irenei, it became possible to organise the delivery of a small amount of soil to the UK. This was with the blessing and direct participation of Bishop Leonid of Argentina and South America, formerly Bishop of Alapaevsk, His Grace sent us an address which was read by Subdeacon Alexander Groves (a founding member of the Society) who presented the programme of ceremonies. The atmosphere around the monument was very warm, although the weather was windy and rainy. There were a considerable number in attendance, as many as the current restrictions allowed. It was quite diverse with a considerable number of local people. A talk entitled The Canonisation of the Royal Martyrs of Russia: Its Meaning was delivered by Reader John Harwood, Secretary of the Society, which answered many questions from those who knew little about the historical and religious background.
The placing of the earth followed a moleben served by the Chancellor of the Diocese, Archpriest Paul Elliott, representing the Diocesan Bishop. Father Paul arrived at the southernmost point of Britain from his northern parish in Merseyside, which is dedicated to the New Martyr Grand Duchess Elisabeth. The gathered faithful and guests stood to hear to the Holy Gospel and were moved by beautiful choral singing. Father Paul preached on the topic of self-denial for Christ, in emulation of the sacrificial life of the Grand Duchess Elisabeth.
The ceremony was attended by Princess Olga Andreevna Romanova, granddaughter of Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna. Also in attendance were the Deputy Lord-Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight, Mary Case, the representative of Her Majesty the Queen; the Chairman of the Isle of Wight Council, Lora Peacey-Wilcox; the Mayor of East Cowes, Michael Paler; and other dignitaries who addressed words of welcome to the assembled company. The singing of the Imperial Russian Anthem and the British National Anthem concluded the ceremony.
The programme of the weekend included other important events dedicated to the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs of Russia. After the ceremony many guests visited the Royal Chapel of St Mildred, where Princess Victoria, the eldest sister of St Elisabeth and St Alexandra, is buried. The church has icons of the Holy Martyrs at the left Altar near the memorial plate which has their names, placed there by Princess Beatrice soon after their martyrdom. (The icons were presented to St Mildred’s by the Society in 2016.)
A group of visitors, including Princess Olga, climbed to the top of a hill in midst of countryside to see the high column visible from faraway — a Monument to the Tsar Alexander I, erected there by a local merchant as a sign of friendship between the two nations in the time of the victory over Napoleon.
On Sunday the pilgrims had a prayerful Obednitsa (Typika), served by Reader John Harwood and Subdeacon Alexander Groves in the chapel of a former Catholic convent. After the prayers the group met at Carisbrooke castle, where King Charles 1st was imprisoned in the English Civil War, to speak about Royal Martyrdom, comparing British and Russian tragic history. The speakers were John Harwood and Stephan Roman, the author of a recently published book on Russian-British historical relations (Isle and Empires, Medina, 2021). The programme was successfully concluded at Albert Cottage (on the Osborne estate), where Tsar Nicholas stayed as a child during his first visit to Britain with his parents.