When World War I broke out in 1914, the trouble that had loomed at the edge of the Romanov's awareness began to penetrate the protective shell of imperial privilege. In response to the suffering of their people, and in an attempt to present an image of patriotism and concerned involvement, Alexandra enrolled herself and her older daughters in nurses' training and had the palaces converted into provisional hospitals to care for the increasing number of wounded.
Meanwhile, the Czar spent more and more time at the front with his armies. Alexandra wrote daily to her husband:
20 November 1914. "This morning we were present (I help as always giving the instruments and Olga threaded the needles) at our first big amputation. Whole leg was cut off. I washed and cleaned and bandaged all up."
25 November 1915. "During an operation a soldier died. Olga and Tatiana behaved well; none lost their heads and the girls were brave. They had never seen death. But he died in a minute. How near death always is."
At that time, there was great hope that Russia would yet prevail in the war, and Fabergé was asked to continue the tradition of Imperial Easter eggs. But to match the solemn mood of the nation and reflect the noble efforts of the family, Fabergé wisely altered the tone of the Easter gifts that year.
The Emperor paid 3559.5 roubles for this Egg. The USSR's Antikvariat sold it in 1930 for just 500 roubles. Mrs Pratt purchased it in 1933 at Armand Hammer's exhibition at Lord & Taylor's department store in New York.
Inside the Red Cross egg given to the Dowager Empress Maria, are portraits of the Romanov women dressed as Sisters of Mercy. Inscribed inside are the words, "Greater Love hath no man than this, to lay down his life for his friends."
The miniature portraits, from left to right, represent:
Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, the Tsar's sister; Grand Duchess Olga Nicholaievna, his eldest daughter; Czarina Alexandra Fyodorovna; Grand Duchess Tatiana Nicholaievna, the Czar's second daughter; and Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, the Czar's first cousin.
Each of them is wearing the uniform of the Red Cross, whose symbol surmounts the individual panels. Each miniature is backed with mother of pearl and has the monogram of the person who appears on the front.
At the extreme right is photograph, taken during the First World War, of Czarina Alexandra with the Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana in their nurses' uniforms.
Emperor Nicholas II mother, as well as the Emperor's sisters Xenia and Olga and other members of the Imperial Family were actively involved in Red Cross in a nursing or other capacity. For example, the Dowager Empress was President of the Red Cross and members of the Imperial Family served as Sisters of Mercy at a hospital at Tsarskoye Selo. This involvement provides the subject for this Egg.