Archimandrite Nicholas (Gibbes), an Englishman, was the tutor of English for Tsarevich Alexis Nikolaevich, the son of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. After the murder of Tsar Nicholas and his family, Gibbes became an Orthodox hieromonk and returned to Britain to become a prominent figure in Orthodoxy in Britain.
Charles Sydney Gibbes was born in Rotherham, Yorkshire in England on January 19, 1876, the youngest surviving son of John Gibbs, a bank manager, and Mary Ann Elizabeth Fisher, the daughter of a watchmaker. He attended St. John's College, Cambridge, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1899. Then, he attended theological studies at Cambridge and Salisbury.
Having some talent at languages, Charles decided to teach English abroad. In 1901, he became a tutor to the Shidlovsky and then the Soukanoff families in St. Petersburg, Russia. He then received an appointed to the staff of the Imperial School of Law, and by 1907 he was appointed vice-president and committee member of the St. Petersburg Guild of English Teachers.
He came to the attention of Tsarina Alexandra. In 1908, he was invited to tutor the Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana, to improve their English accents. Subsequently, he tutored Grand Duchesses Maria and Anastasia. In 1913, he became tutor to Tsarevich Alexei. The children referred to him as Sydney Ivanovich.
Sydney's career as tutor to the Imperial Family continued until the 1917 revolution. When the Romanov family were held at Tsarskoe Selo, Charles was in St. Petersburg. After his return to Tsarskoe Selo he was denied access to the family throughout their detention there. Gibbes was permitted to recover his possessions after August 14, 1917 when the Imperial family was transferred from Tsarskoe Selo to the house of the Governor-General in Tobolsk, Siberia. Gibbes stayed with the family which arrived in Tobolsk in October 1917, just before the Provisional Government fell to the Bolsheviks. When the Imperial family were moved to the house of Nicholas Ipatiev in Yekaterinburg in May 1918, neither Gibbes nor Pierre Gilliard, the French tutor, were allowed to join the family. They were free, but remained in Yekaterinburg in the railroad car that had brought them. On June 3, the car was moved to Tyumen where Gibbes remained until after the murder of the Imperial family on July 16, when he returned to Yekaterinburg.
As the Bolsheviks closed in on Yekaterinburg, Gibbes moved to Omsk. There in January 1919, he was appointed a secretary to the British High Commission in Siberia which retreated eastwards as the Red Army took over Siberia. He was employed briefly at the British Embassy in Beijing, China before becoming an assistant in the Chinese Maritime Customs in Manchuria. In Harbin, he met a Russian refugee orphan, Georges Paveliev, whom he adopted.
In Manchuria, Gibbes was received into the Orthodox church on April 25, 1934 by the exiled Archbishop Nestor of Kamchatka and Petropavlovsk. Gibbes took the baptismal name of Alexei in honor of the former Tsarevich Alexei. On December 15, 1934, he was tonsured a monk taking the name Nicholas in honor of the former Tsar. He was then ordained deacon on December 19 and a priest on December 23. In March 1935, he became an abbot. In 1937, he returned to Britain and was established in a parish in London.
In 1941, Father Nicholas moved to Oxford, and there he established St. Bartholomew's Orthodox Chapel in Bartlemas. In 1949, he bought a house on Marston Street, later to be known as St. Nicholas House, where he maintained a chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. In the chapel Fr. Nicholas kept several icons and mementos of the Imperial family that he brought with him from Yekaterinburg.
Fr. Nicholas died at St. Pancras Hospital in London on March 24, 1963.
- Christine Benagh, An Englishman in the Court of the Tsar: The Spiritual Journey of Charles Syndney Gibbes (2000). ISBN 978-1888212198.