Reflections on the Water-Blog by Lynn Whitney


“Standart” – The Last of the Imperial Yachts By Lynn Whitney

Luxury Yachts – the last bastion of the super wealthy.  These floating palaces transport royals and tycoons with the privacy and lavishness to which they are accustomed.  Royal or Imperial yachts were typically financed by their government and manned by naval personnel.  Now viewed as rather  a hard to justify expenditure, they are becoming a rarity.

Of the elegant yachts once serving the rulers of the world, perhaps the finest was the Russian yacht “Standart”, Imperial yacht of Tsar Nicholas II.  While today’s mega yachts are for the most part motor yachts, the Standart resembled a clipper ship.  Impressive in size, she was the largest Imperial yacht of her time at 420 ft. long and 50 ft. wide.   Propelled by twin screws, powered by steam and coal, she could reach a top speed of 22 knots.  Under sail, she was majestic, with a sleek black hull, a gold encrusted bow sprit leading to the double-headed Imperial eagle, three tall masts rising from gleaming teak decks and twin funnels painted white.  White canvas awnings covered the decks, shielding her passengers from the sun while they relaxed on white wicker furniture.  

Below deck was opulence seen only by the royal family and other dignitaries.  A large drawing room was paneled in carved mahogany and hung with velvet drapes and crystal chandeliers.  Silk brocaded Louis XV style furniture was arranged over jewel toned Oriental rugs.  The walls were lined with oil paintings and a grand piano dominated the room.  The dining salon hosted a mahogany table that could seat 80 guests.  The china place settings were rose and cream colored and decorated with cherubs and the black double headed eagle.  The crystal goblets were etched with the Romanov Coat of Arms.  French doors led from these rooms to the stern deck.  

A mahogany staircase led down to A deck.  Here, the Royal family and their guests could gain access to the yacht from tenders while on the sea.  Passengers would enter a small mahogany paneled Reception room.  Through this room was the entrance to the private state rooms of the Emperor and Empress and their five children.  The Empress Alexandra’s rooms were decorated in English chinz in tones of mauve and grey.  Her walls were covered with family photographs and her beloved icons.  Tsar Nicholas’ private study was furnished in rich green leather.  The children’s rooms were lavishly decorated with brass beds, chinz curtains covering the port holes and marble wash basins.   A library lined with mahogany shelves, was used to receive important diplomats.  Alexandra had her own cream colored writing room to receive her guests.  To maintain the family’s daily religious services, there was a private chapel, to which the Holy Synod had assigned a priest.  

The lower decks held pantries stocked with food and wine, galleys and dining rooms for the Standart’s crew of 350.  There were holds for ice, cargo and coal.  A distilling plant provided 60 tons of hot and cold water to the passengers daily.  There was even a teak lined stable to hold a cow that produced fresh milk for the family.  The ship also carried members of a brass band and a balalaika orchestra for entertainment.

Life aboard the Standart, cruising through the Finnish fjiords, was a fairy tale for the Royal family.  Away from preying eyes, the children could roam the ship freely, while their parents enjoyed a reprieve from their rigorous schedule of duties.  Each child was assigned a diadka, a sailor whose duty it was to safe guard and entertain his charge.  The children were quite fond of these young officers and innocent flirtations were known to develop between them and the young Grand Duchesses.   When anchored, the family would get in small launches and head for an uninhabited island, where they could play and relax with complete freedom.  A tennis court had been constructed, so the family could participate in their favorite sport.  At the end of each idyllic day, the family would return to the ship and gather on the deck for evening prayers.  

The Summer of 1914 was the last time the family vacationed on the Standart.  Within weeks of news of the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand, war was declared and the Standart was placed into dry dock.  

Of course, history tells the story of the tragic fall of the Romanov Dynasty.   The Standart was stripped of its glory and pressed into naval service.  She was renamed Vosemnadtstate Martza, and later Marti.  In 1932, she was converted to a minelayer for the Soviet Navy.  On Sept. 23, 1941 Marti was damaged in an air attack.  She was repaired and quickly returned to service.  After the war she was converted to a training ship and renamed Oka.  She was scrapped in 1963 in Tallinn in Estonia.