After 40 years on a shelf the true identity of the cup is revealed.


Cup of Sorrow commemorating the coronation of Czar Nicholas II in 1896.

Many years ago, a hospice patient gave me an enamel beaker with, what looked like, Russian symbols, the date 1896 and some initials on the side. It was not particularly attractive and had some nicks in the rim, but my patient said she had treasured it for many years and wanted me to have it. I took it home and forgot about it. Several years later I was looking through an Arts and Antiques magazine and saw a small picture of a cup that looked familiar. The accompanying article gave a brief history of the cup and called it The Cup of Sorrow. Sometime later I found the enameled beaker on a shelf in my home with pens and pencils in it. My curiosity was aroused. I entered Cup of Sorrow in the computer and the story of this old cup was there.

To celebrate the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna on May 18, 1896, gifts of silk scarves with the names of the Tsar and Tsarina and ornately decorated enameled cups were to be distributed to the guests. This white cup had the initials of Nicholas and Alexandra surrounded by a geometric pattern and the Romanov eagle on the opposite side.

In addition to the gifts, food and beer was to be distributed to the crowd of peasants gathered on Khodynka Field to witness the coronation. This was a training ground with pits and trenches dotting the entire field. More than half a million people were crowded together on the field. More people than could be safely accommodated. The supply of food and beer was not sufficient for the size of the gathering. The crowd, already restive, went wild when a rumor passed quickly through the crowd that the commemorative enamel cups had a gold coin in the bottom. A stampede ensued and in the melee 1,389 people were trampled to death and another 1,300 injured.

An elaborate Coronation ball was planned for that evening. Advisors to the Tsar urged Nicholas to cancel the festivities in light of the tragedy or refrain from attending. Nicholas, willfully, attended the splendid occasional, accompanied by Alexandra. For his callous behavior, he earned the nickname of “Bloody Nicholas.”

This became known as the Khodynka Tragedy and the enameled cup called The Cup of Sorrow or The Cup of Tears. This tragic event was considered an omen for the reign of Tsar Nicholas II.

Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, was an ineffectual leader more interested in his family life and his own pursuits than in ruling Russia. Alexandra, granddaughter of England’s Queen Victoria, being of strong character tried to make Nicholas into a more capable leader without success. She was hated by the Russian people and during the war with Germany she was called “The German Woman.”

After twenty-four years as Tsar of Russia, Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, four daughters and one son, their servants, dogs and anyone who had accompanied them when they were imprisoned, were murdered on July 17, 1918 by order of the Ural Regional Soviet.

Contributed by:  Margaret Hall Simpson


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