Grand Duchesses Anastasia and Maria with their mother Alexandra Feodorovna. 1908.
This was taken in Spala, 1912, during the height of Alexei’s bleeding. This was one of the few times Alix actually smiled while her son was in pain. Gilliard recalls;
At the beginning of September, 19I2, the family left for the Forest of Bielovesa (An Imperial sporting estate in the Government of Grodno. This forest and the Caucasus are the only places where the aurochs, or European bison, is found. They still rove these immense forests, which occupy an area of more than three thousand acres.), where they spent a fortnight, and then proceeded to Spala (An ancient hunting-seat of the kings of Poland.)
(Alexei gets hurt.)
One evening after dinner the Grand-Duchesses Marie and Anastasia Nicolaievna gave two short scenes from the Bourgeois Gentilhomme in the dining-room before Their Majesties, the suite, and several guests. I was the prompter, concealed behind a screen which did duty for the wings. By craning my neck a little I could see the Tsarina in the front row of the audience smiling and talking gaily to her neighbors.