Previously unseen photographs have been unearthed thanks to our feature on Oxford alumnus Felix Yusupov and his part in the murder of the ‘mad monk’.
By Chris Danziger
Readers of Oxford Today are drawn from a wide pool both chronologically and geographically, and there were some fascinating responses to my article about Prince Felix Yusupov, The Oxford alumnus who helped to assassinate Rasputin (headlined ‘The Prince, the spy and the mad monk’ in the Michaelmas 2016 print issue). Comments taking issue with various points in that article have been published here recently (Rasputin dispute: Did Oxford alumnus really kill him?).
However, perhaps the most fruitful reaction comes from the grandson of one of Yusupov’s closest Oxford University friends. ’s grandfather Eric Hamilton (1890–1962, later Dean of Windsor and Bishop of Shrewsbury) left a set of photographs involving Yusupov which have never been seen before, and which vividly capture a lost world. Collectively these photographs provide a unique record of the last of a great family and a vanished way of life.
In their matriculation photograph (above) Felix happily sits cross-legged on the grass (third from left), while Eric, the son of a country parson, stands magisterially four rows behind him with folded arms.
Eric was invited to visit the Yusupovs in Russia in 1910, and subsequently holidayed with Felix in Venice. In Russia he took some remarkable photographs, mostly while staying at the Yusupov villa at Koreiz in the Crimea (where Stalin lived during the Yalta Conference of 1945), and in Venice he made a sensitive pen and ink sketch of his friend (below left).
Felix’s dress sense was legendary, as borne out by the two photographs (above right and below) of him with his mother, Princess Zenaida.
One photograph (above) shows the two friends on horseback at Arkhangelskoye, the Yusupov estate near Moscow. Felix is on the left, Eric on the right.
Life in the Crimea was supposedly informal, but standards seem to have been maintained, as a fourth photograph (above) shows.
Leisure activities alternated between lavish picnics (above; Felix is second from left) and drives into the wild and romantic Crimean countryside (below). Cars in the Crimea were a rarity before the First World War, but the Yusupovs owned several.
All images courtesy of David Harrison.