What were they and where are they now, asks Pat Poland
On 6 January 1922, best friends Michael Collins and Harry Boland sat across a table from one another in Dublin. Boland reached in to his pocket and produced a bag containing four exquisite jewels. He handed them to Collins, the Minister for Finance, for safe keeping.
However, after a heated argument on the pros and cons of the Anglo – Irish Treaty (agreed just a month previously) Collins, in foul mood, flung the jewels back across the table, growling ‘Take back your damn jewels! They’re blood-stained anyway!’
The jewels in question were part of the Russian Imperial Collection, but how had they ended up in the coffers of Sinn Féin, and why did Michael Collins declare them ‘blood-stained’? Did he know something that Boland didn’t?
Sadly, that meeting was the beginning of the end of the great friendship between the two noted revolutionaries, the first cracks of which had begun to appear over the ‘love triangle’ with Kitty Kiernan (Kiernan choose Collins).
On the following day, the Dáil, and Collins, voted in favour of the Treaty which led to the establishment of the Irish Free State. Boland – who once wrote in his diary that, in Collins, “Ireland has the man of a generation – he stands out as the greatest force of the Movement” – voted against it.
The Russian Royal family had been prisoners of the Bolsheviks since the Revolution, led by Lenin, in October 1917. Now, at 1 o’clock on the morning of 17 July 1918, they were woken from their sleep in the merchant’s house that had been commandeered in Ekaterinburg, where Siberia begins. Their guards had given the house a chilling name. They called it ‘The House of Special Purpose’…