Pierre Gilliard

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Pierre Gilliard
Pierre Gilliard with his pupils, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna of Russia and Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia at Livadia in 1911. Courtesy: Beinecke Library.
Born(1879-05-16)16 May 1879
Died30 May 1962(1962-05-30) (aged 83)

Pierre Gilliard (16 May 1879 – 30 May 1962) was a Swiss academic and author, best known as the French language tutor to the five children of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia from 1905 to 1918. In 1921, after the Russian Revolution of 1917, he published a memoir, Thirteen Years at the Russian Court, about his time with the family. In his memoirs, Gilliard described Tsarina Alexandra's torment over her son's haemophilia and her faith in the ability of starets Grigori Rasputin to heal the boy.[1]


Pierre Gilliard was born on 16 May 1879 in Fiez, Switzerland.[2] In his memoirs, Gilliard wrote that he initially came to Russia in 1904 as a French tutor to the family of Duke George of Leuchtenberg, a cousin of the Romanov family. He was recommended as a French tutor to the Tsar's children and began teaching the elder children, Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia in 1905.

He grew fond of the family and followed them into internal exile at Tobolsk, Siberia, following the Russian Revolution of 1917. The Bolsheviks prevented Gilliard from joining his pupils when they were moved to the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg in May 1918.[3] He described his final view of the children in his memoirs:

The sailor Nagorny, who attended to Alexei Nikolaevitch, passed my window carrying the sick boy in his arms, behind him came the Grand Duchesses loaded with valises and small personal belongings. I tried to get out, but was roughly pushed back into the carriage by the sentry. I came back to the window. Tatiana Nikolaevna came last carrying her little dog and struggling to drag a heavy brown valise. It was raining and I saw her feet sink into the mud at every step. Nagorny tried to come to her assistance; he was roughly pushed back by one of the commissars ...[4]

Gilliard remained in Siberia after the murders of the family, assisting White Russian investigator Nicholas Sokolov. He married Alexandra "Shura" Tegleva, who had been a nurse to Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, in 1919. In Siberia, he was instrumental in unmasking an impostor who claimed to be the Tsarevich Alexei.[5]

In 1920, he returned to Switzerland via the Russian Far East. He became a French professor at the University of Lausanne and was awarded the French Legion of Honor.[6] In 1921, he published a book entitled Le Tragique Destin de Nicholas II et de sa famille, which described the last days of the Tsar and his family, and the subsequent investigation into their deaths.[7]

In 1958, Gilliard was severely injured in a car accident in Lausanne. He never fully recovered and died four years later on 30 May 1962.[8]

Anna Anderson[edit]

Gilliard and Tsarevich Alexei on board the imperial yacht Standart

In 1925, the Tsar's sister, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia, asked Gilliard and his wife to investigate the case of Anna Anderson, who claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia.[9] On 27 July 1925, the Gilliards saw Anderson at St. Mary's Hospital in Berlin, where Anderson was being treated for a tubercular infection of her arm. Anderson was severely ill, and semi-conscious. Madame Gilliard asked to examine Anderson's feet, and noted that Anderson's feet were shaped similarly to Anastasia's: both had bunions.[10] Gilliard insisted that Anderson be moved to a better hospital, to ensure her survival while her identity was investigated.[11]

After an operation on Anderson's arm, she recuperated at the Mommsen Nursing Home in Berlin. There, in October 1925, the Gilliards saw Anderson again. Anderson did not recognise Gilliard, which she later claimed was because he had shaved off his goatee beard.[12] When he asked her to "tell me everything about your past", she refused.[13] According to Gilliard, Anderson mistook Shura for Grand Duchess Olga on the second day of their visit.[14] At a subsequent meeting, Anderson mimicked the actions of Anastasia when she asked Shura to moisten her forehead with eau de Cologne, which left Shura shaken.[15]

Anderson's supporters claimed that the Gilliards recognized Anderson as Anastasia, while the Gilliards denied it, and said her supporters mistook their compassion for recognition.[16] Anderson's friend and lifelong supporter, Harriet von Rathlef, wrote that she spotted Gilliard in the hallway, looking agitated, and muttering in French, "My God, how awful! What has become of Grand Duchess Anastasia? She's a wreck, a complete wreck! I want to do everything I can to help the Grand Duchess!"[17] Shura cried when she left Anderson, wondering why she loved the woman as much as she loved the grand duchess.[18]

On departure from the hospital, Gilliard told the Danish Ambassador in Berlin, Herluf Zahle, "We are going away without being able to say that she is not Grand Duchess Anastasia."[18] Gilliard later wrote to von Rathlef making further enquiries about Anderson's health, but he referred to her as "the invalid" rather than "Anastasia".[19] By the beginning of 1926, however, Gilliard was clearly of the opinion that Anderson was an impostor.[20]

While supporters of Anderson insisted that the Gilliards recognized her as Anastasia and then recanted, possibly the couple were hesitant at first because her emaciated condition made her look so different from the plump teenage Anastasia they had last seen.[21] While this was enough to suspend their initial doubts, they eventually decided, once she was better and they could question her more closely, that she was an impostor. Anderson's supporters accused Gilliard of turning his back on her because he was paid off by the Tsarina's brother, Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse.[22]

Like Ernest Louis, Gilliard became a vociferous opponent of Anderson and her circle.[23] Gilliard wrote articles and a book entitled The False Anastasia, which claimed she was a "vulgar adventuress" and a "first-rate actress".[24] He said that he had known at once that she was not Anastasia, there was no facial resemblance, her entire knowledge of Russian imperial life was gleaned from magazines, books and her friends,[25] and she could not speak Russian, English or French.[26] He testified against her in Hamburg in 1958.[27] The lawsuits, designed to determine whether she was truly the grand duchess, eventually ended inconclusively in 1970, after Gilliard's death.[28]

Decades later, DNA tests were carried out in 1995, which proved that Anderson was not Anastasia, but was a Polish woman by the name of Franziska Schanzkowska.[29]


  1. ^ Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra, 1967
  2. ^ Mumenthaler, Rudolf. "Gilliard, Pierre". Dictionnaire historique de la Suisse [Historical Dictionary of Switzerland] (in French).
  3. ^ Klier and Mingay, p. 33; Massie, The Romanovs, p. 172
  4. ^ Gilliard, Pierre (1970), Thirteen Years at the Russian Court, pp. 74–76
  5. ^ Klier and Mingay, p. 77
  6. ^ Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra, pp. 525–526
  7. ^ Klier and Mingay, p. 76
  8. ^ Kurth, p. 300
  9. ^ Klier and Mingay, p. 99; Kurth, p. 105; Massie, The Romanovs, p. 172; Phenix, p. 148
  10. ^ Kurth, p. 106; Massie, The Romanovs, p. 172; Phenix, p. 149
  11. ^ Kurth, p. 106; Massie, The Romanovs, p. 172
  12. ^ Phenix, pp. 150–151
  13. ^ Kurth, p. 108; Massie, The Romanovs, p. 173
  14. ^ Klier and Mingay, p. 150
  15. ^ Kurth, p. 110; Phenix, p. 153
  16. ^ Klier and Mingay, p. 101
  17. ^ Kurth, p. 111
  18. ^ a b Kurth, p. 112; Massie, The Romanovs, p. 173
  19. ^ Kurth, pp. 112–113
  20. ^ Kurth, p. 117
  21. ^ Klier and Mingay, pp. 101–102
  22. ^ Klier and Mingay, p. 103
  23. ^ Klier and Mingay, p. 126; Massie, The Romanovs, p. 174
  24. ^ Kurth, p. 115; Massie, The Romanovs, p. 175
  25. ^ Kurth, p. 116; Massie, The Romanovs, p. 175
  26. ^ Kurth, p. 116
  27. ^ Kurth, pp. 298–300
  28. ^ Klier and Mingay, p. 139; Kurth, p. 377
  29. ^ Stoneking, Mark; Melton, Terry; Nott, Julian; Barritt, Suzanne; Roby, Rhonda; Holland, Mitchell; Weedn, Victor; Gill, Peter; Kimpton, Colin; Aliston-Greiner, Rosemary; Sullivan, Kevin (9 January 1995), "Establishing the identity of Anna Anderson Manahan", Nature Genetics, 9 (1): 9–10, doi:10.1038/ng0195-9, PMID 7704032