“The two palaces standing five hundred yards apart in the Imperial Park during the reign of Nicholas II had been built by Empress Elizabeth and by Catherine the Great. In 1752, Elizabeth ordered the famous architect Rastrelli to build a palace at Tsarskoe Selo which would outshine Versailles. Rastrelli erected the big blue-and-white palace now called the Catherine Palace, an ornate structure with more than two hundred rooms. It pleased Elizabeth so much that she made Rastrelli a Russian count.
In late eighteenth century, Catherine the Great commissioned another Italian, Quarenghi, to build a second, smaller palace at Tsarskoe Selo for her beloved grandson, a boy who was to become Alexander I. Quarenghi’s building, the Alexander Palace, was as simple as the Catherine was ornate. It was here, to the Alexander Palace, that Nicholas II brought his bride to live in the spring of 1895. It remained their home for twenty-two years.”
“Sometimes through the rooms of this private wing, a clear, musical whistle like a warbling song of a bird would sound. This was Nicholas’s way of summoning his wife. Early in her marriage, Alexandra, hearing the call, would blush red and drop whatever she was doing to hurry to him. Later, as his children grew up, Nicholas used it to call them, and the birdlike whistle became a familiar and regular sound in the Alexander Palace.”
Robert K. Massie, Nicholas & Alexandra. Photo credit to lmabee.