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Czar Nicholas and Alexandra's 1903 Ball

Czar Nicholas II and his family in 1917, right around the time of his abdication

© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Despite signs of a pending revolution, Russia's Czar Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra, threw a spectacular party in 1903 known as the Fancy Dress Ball. Held at their Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, it consisted of two events. First was a party on Feb. 11, featuring dinner and dancing, plus a concert in the Hermitage Theater. The second, and marquee, event was the actual Fancy Dress Ball, held Feb. 13 [source: Hermitage Museum].

Guests came adorned in opulent, bejeweled, 17th-century dress. At 10 p.m., everyone moved to the Concert Room for a warm-up dance of sorts, while the dinner was set up. Once dinner was ready, the guests ate, then returned to the Concert Hall. First, they were treated to three special dance performances. Next, the guests took to the dance floor to take part in waltzes, quadrilles and mazurkas. No wallflowers were allowed; young officers in the Russian Guards Regiments -- Horse-Guardsmen, Life-Guardsmen and Lancers -- were made available as male dance partners. To commemorate the event and to raise money for charity, Empress Alexandra commissioned St. Petersburg's finest photographers to take individual and group photos of participants, which were made available for purchase to guests [source: Hermitage Museum].

Later, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich proclaimed the Fancy Dress Ball the Romanov Empire's last spectacular ball. Today, it's considered a historically significant event in Russian history [sources: Just Luxe, Hermitage Museum].

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