Monday, January 29, 2018

Cats and Royalty

From Royal Central:
Cats also helped to guard the cavernous Winter Palace in St. Petersburg and were valued for keeping down its resident rodent population, in a parallel with how cats were officially employed (from 1868) by the British Post Office for this same purpose. The tradition of keeping cats dates from the reign of Empress Elisabeth Petrovna, who was offered five cats by the city of Kazan in answer to her 1745 edict of appeal regarding the rat problem at the Winter Palace. Her successor, Catherine II ‘the Great’ is said to have admired the feline breed of ‘Russian blues’ inside the palace, whilst continuing the tradition established by Empress Elisabeth regarding ‘working cats’ at the Winter Palace. These palace cats, known popularly as the ‘Hermitage Cats’ – were so valued in Imperial Russia, that even had their own servants until the October Revolution, with their food paid for every month by the Treasury. The imperial palace was gradually absorbed into the vast Hermitage museum, in a transformation which began in 1918 and lasted until about 1939. 
The Hermitage’s stalwart, feline guardians all died during the brutal blockade known as the 872-day long ‘Siege of Leningrad’ (1941-1944), when the heroic city of Leningrad, as St. Petersburg had become known from Petrograd in 1924, became starving, yet remained boldly resilient. Following the end of the Second World War, two wagon-loads of new cats arrived in the city to fulfill the purpose that Empress Elisabeth intended for them. The Hermitage now has its own ‘Cattery’, today located in the vast Museum’s basement, as reached by a stone staircase. The ‘Hermitage Cats’ may be found in the galleries themselves or outside the Hermitage, even on the embankments of the river Neva. (Read more.)

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