Russia's last coronation took place in Moscow in May 1896. To the click of camera shutters, the rattle of telegraphs and the whirring of the earliest cine machines, the twenty-eight-year-old Nicholas II crowned himself as absolute autocrat, inheritor of the spiritual-political legacy of Byzantium. But the world-wide publicity Nicholas sought for the political programme embodied by this occasion proved a double-edged sword. Within days of the Emperor's moment of triumph, the assembled journalists and photographers would report on another quite different event, the tragic crush at Khodynka Meadow in which thousands of ordinary Muscovites and visitors were killed in the rush for commemorative mugs and free refreshments. Little-known published accounts held in the British Library, supplemented by material from other archives, allow a full examination of contemporary responses to the whole coronation, from its most triumphant moments to its most disastrous, exploring themes of myth, propaganda and expectation as the coronation unfolds before the eyes of contemporary observers from all walks of life.
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