The disturbing rumours had penetrated the walls of Tsarskoe Selo Palace as well. The atmosphere there was heavy. “It’s as if there’d been a death in the family,” remarked a frequent visitor. The Tsarina remained in bed almost the whole time. The children shot nervous glances at their parents. Trepidation reigned in the ranks of the closest courtiers, with certain ladies beset by presentiments of disaster. The faithful servant Admiral Nilov had long since lost faith in everything. Time and time again, he repeated to his friends, “there’ll be a revolution and we’ll all be hanged – and as for what streetlamps we shall dangle from, what does it matter?”.
I foresee a gloomy future: a consequence of the war will be a Jewish incursion. The Jews will enslave the peasants; the peasants shall revolt and set about routing the Jews and the landowners, whom they’ll heap into the same pile.
Sunny, –14°. Went for a brief stroll. Received conference members at 11; representatives from England, France and Italy – 37 people in total. Talked to them for about an hour. 12 o’clock meeting with Sazanov, appointed ambassador to England. Alexei has sore tonsils, he’s been in bed all day. Did a loop of the grounds. Read.
Prince Lvov has just returned from St Petersburg and told us in confidence in Chelnokov’s apartments all the latest news from the capital. A palace coup is to be expected in the nearest future, in which leading politicians, grand princes and officers from the highest military circles are expected to take part.It appears that the plan is to dispose of Nikolai II and Alexandra Fedorovna. We must prepare ourselves for the consequences. A number of those in attendance agreed that Lvov should not let the opportunity to head the new government pass him by.
In one place, there’s a well right in the middle where the distance between us and German trenches is no more than 30 steps. We and the Germans had to both use it since there wasn’t any other.
The need for it was so great that there was a silent agreement between us and the Germans Every morning the Germans went to fetch water first and then us, and there was never a single shot fired during this time, from our side or theirs.
“The English scoundrels must be made to come before us on their knees. Until then we must continue to hit them where it hurts – to sink them with our submarines. We will force them to agree to our terms!”
At eleven o'clock the Emperor received the members of the conference at the smaller palace at Tsarskoe Selo.
Court etiquette prescribes that ambassadors take precedence of their missions, so that the order of presentation is determined by their seniority.
The three delegations were thus arranged in a circle in the order: English — Italian — French.
After a few pleasant words to the junior officials and officers who form the suite of the French mission, Nicholas II withdrew, and the function was over.
As we were returning to Petrograd, I observed that Milner, Scialoja and Doumergue had been equally disappointed with the ceremony.
I could not help thinking to myself to what good use a monarch who really knew his business — someone like Ferdinand of Bulgaria —would have put such an event.
I can imagine the dexterous interplay of questions and insinuations, allusions and hints, confidences and compliments in which he would have revelled. But Nicholas II, as I have so often said, does not enjoy the exercise of power.
Conscience, humanity, gentleness, honour — these, I think, are the outstanding virtues of Nicholas II. But the sacred spark is not in him.