Clarence Bicknell: Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890
Excerpts from Clarence's diary, no.4
Tuesday Dec 10th 1889 - Brindisi to Alexandria by sea. A world leader, the future Tsar, is on board and Bicknell pays him scant attention.
So far so good. Delightful weather. Calm sea. The coast always in sight . First yesterday morning he snow clad Albanian mountains, then Corfu, Cephalonia and Zante . Today we have passed Greece since now off Crete. The Ballaarat passed us last night and is now a long way ahead. We have slowed down in order not to reach Alexandria too soon for we cannot enter the difficult harbour until 7 on Thursday morning. We have about 100 1st class passengers, about 20 2nd . The Tzar’s 3rd son with a large suite are on board, charming looking people. A very agreeable Roman is my best friend; he knows so much about Egypt and lands we look on. The officers of the ship are all very pleasant; the doctor looks about 15 but is 28. All the sailors are astonished at the calm weather, so unusual: the last voyage a fortnight ago was bad enough they say. Squalls are so frequent, coming down between these islands . We some high wind and rain for about an hour last night, but then it calmed down again and we slept very well. I am in a cabin with a Mr. Stead going to Australia and am very comfortable. A top berth seems to me very attractive. My only complaint is the quantity of food: coffee in bed at 7. A huge English breakfast at 9 and a big lunch at 1, tea at 4 and awfully long dinner at 6.30 always ending with curry of some kind. An old college acquaintance, Mr Kinglake is on board. There are 3 English gents, alone, going to do Egypt and Syria. Many are only bound for Cairo. The barometer is going down.
Notes from the editor...
Grand Duke George was indeed the 3rd son of the Tsar. It is most likely that George's elder brother Nicholas, the future Tsar, was on the boat also, maybe travelling incognito in the shadow of his younger brother. Note that, on arrival at Alexandria, Bicknell was disinterested in the VIP travellers and reception committee (see his diary for December 12th). "Nicholas II (Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov) (1868-1918) was the last Emperor of Russia, Grand Duke of Finland, and titular King of Poland. On 1 March 1881, following the assassination of his grandfather, Tsar Alexander II, Nicholas became Tsesarevich and his father became Tsar Alexander III. In 1890, Nicholas, along with his younger brother Grand Duke George, and their cousin, Prince George of Greece set out on a world tour, although, Grand Duke George fell ill and was sent home partway through the trip. George died suddenly a few months later, on 9 August 1899, at the age of 28. Nicholas visited Egypt, India, Singapore and Bangkok receiving honours as a distinguished guest in each. In April 1891, while travelling through the city of Otsu, Japan, Nicholas was the victim of an assassination attempt. The incident cut his trip short, yet he was present at the ceremonies in Vladivostok commemorating the beginning of work on the Trans-Siberian Railway. In 1893, Nicholas travelled to London on behalf of his parents to be present at the wedding of his cousin, George, Duke of York, to Mary of Teck. Queen Victoria was struck by the similar appearance of the two cousins, and the appearances confused some at the wedding. Nicholas II ruled from 1 November 1894 until his forced abdication on 15 March 1917. He and 16 of his family and household were executed by Bolsheviks in the night of 17 July 1918." (Source: Wikipedia). Clarence Bicknell died on the same day.
R.A.Kinglake competed for Cambridge in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race of 1864, which means he could have been a contemporary of Clarence Bicknell (21-22 years old in 1864).