FOR more than a hundred years the haunting image of the last Tsar, in Scottish regalia, has hung in an officers' mess in Edinburgh Castle.

Now the portrait of Nicholas II, who was murdered by the Bolsheviks 100 years ago, is to to be displayed in public for the first time.

The painting, from 1902, shows the Tsar depicted in the full dress uniform of his rank of Colonel in Chief of the 2nd Dragoons, The Royal Scots Greys, an honour bestowed upon him by Queen Victoria.

Based on a photograph of the Russian monarch taken in the leafy grounds of Balmoral, it is now being loaned to the National Galleries of Scotland for a lengthy period of public exhibition.

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The image of the Tsar shows him in the striking red uniform given to him by Queen Victoria in 1894, and was painted by Valentin Serov, considered to be one of the finest painters of Russian art before the Revolution.

HeraldScotland:

The painting has been loaned to the National Galleries by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Regimental Trust, the successor regiment to the Royal Scots Greys.

The Russian and British royal families were close: Nicholas II made five visits to Britain, and in 1894 he stayed with the Queen, meeting Princess Alix of Hesse, who, following their marriage, became Empress Alexandra.

She, like, her husband, was murdered on July 17, 1918.

Queen Victoria gave several honours on the Tsar: he also became a Knight of the Garter, an Honorary Admiral of the Fleet and in 1916 a British Field-Marshal.

Tsar Nicholas was apparently proud of his association with the Scots Greys, wearing the uniform on several occasions, including his visit to Scotland in 1896 - he was photographed during this visit by Robert Milne, a local photographer, who specialised in portraits.

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These photographs were the inspiration for Serov for his painting, which is the only major oil painting by him in a UK public collection.

The Tsar’s uniform survives in the collection of the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

Christopher Baker, director of European and Scottish Art and Portraiture at the National Galleries of Scotland, said: "This impressive portrait of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, is an important, poignant and generous loan to the National Galleries of Scotland, a century after the execution of the Imperial family.

"What makes the painting so arresting is its relative intimacy, the intense eye contact with the viewer and singing colours."

Brigadier David Allfrey, Colonel of rhe Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, also producer of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, said that the loan of the painting, familiar to officers for decades, was an emotional one.

He said: "We are tremendously proud of our Regiment’s history and our association with our Royal Family right back to 1678 and Charles II.

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"In similar vein, our connections with Russia are long-honoured, not just through Tsar Nicholas as our Colonel-in-Chief but through a number of regimental customs and routine contact with friends and families across the years.

"We carry an icon of Saint Nicholas with Regimental Headquarters on operations and on training and the Serov portrait has traditionally hung at the end of the Officers Mess Dining Room.

"It is a precious and important object for all of us.”