"Helen Rappaport paints a compelling portrait of the doomed grand duchesses." —People magazine
"The public spoke of the sisters in a gentile, superficial manner, but Rappaport captures sections of letters and diary entries to showcase the sisters' thoughtfulness and intelligence." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Days of the Romanovs and Caught in the Revolution, The Romanov Sisters reveals the untold stories of the four daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra.
They were the Princess Dianas of their day—perhaps the most photographed and talked about young royals of the early twentieth century. The four captivating Russian Grand Duchesses—Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov—were much admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, the clothes they wore and their privileged lifestyle.
Over the years, the story of the four Romanov sisters and their tragic end in a basement at Ekaterinburg in 1918 has clouded our view of them, leading to a mass of sentimental and idealized hagiography. With this treasure trove of diaries and letters from the grand duchesses to their friends and family, we learn that they were intelligent, sensitive and perceptive witnesses to the dark turmoil within their immediate family and the ominous approach of the Russian Revolution, the nightmare that would sweep their world away, and them along with it.
The Romanov Sisters sets out to capture the joy as well as the insecurities and poignancy of those young lives against the backdrop of the dying days of late Imperial Russia, World War I and the Russian Revolution. Helen Rappaport aims to present a new and challenging take on the story, drawing extensively on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries and archival sources, as well as private collections. It is a book that will surprise people, even aficionados.
HELEN RAPPAPORT studied Russian at Leeds University and is a specialist in Russian and nineteenth-century women's history. She lives in Oxford.
After the untimely death of Prince Albert, the queen and her nation were plunged into a state of grief so profound that this one event would dramatically alter the shape of the British monarchy. For Britain had not just lost a prince: during his twenty year marriage to Queen Victoria, Prince Albert had increasingly performed the function of King in all but name. The outpouring of grief after Albert's death was so extreme, that its like would not be seen again until the death of Princess Diana 136 years later.
Drawing on many letters, diaries and memoirs from the Royal Archives and other neglected sources, as well as the newspapers of the day, Rappaport offers a new perspective on this compelling historical psychodrama--the crucial final months of the prince's life and the first long, dark ten years of the Queen's retreat from public view. She draws a portrait of a queen obsessed with her living husband and – after his death – with his enduring place in history. Magnificent Obsession will also throw new light on the true nature of the prince's chronic physical condition, overturning for good the 150-year old myth that he died of typhoid fever.
There are few characters in history about whom opinion has been more divided than the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, and his wife the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna. On one hand, they are venerated as saints, innocent victims of Bolshevik assassins, and on the other they are impugned as the unwitting harbingers of revolution and imperial collapse, blamed for all the ills that befell the Russian people in the 20th century. Theirs was also a tragic love story; for whatever else can be said of them, there can be no doubt that Alix and Nicky adored one another. Soon after their engagement, Alix wrote in her fiancé's diary: "Ever true and ever loving, faithful, pure and strong as death"—words which met their fulfillment twenty-four years later in a blood-spattered cellar in Ekaterinburg.
Through the letters and diaries written by the couple and by those around them, Virginia Rounding presents an intimate, penetrating, and fresh portrayal of these two complex figures and of their passion—their love and their suffering. She explores the nature and possible causes of the Empress's ill health, and examines in depth the enigmatic triangular relationship between Nicky, Alix and their ‘favourite,' Ania Vyrubova, protégée of the infamous Rasputin, extracting the meaning from words left unsaid, from hints and innuendoes..
The story of Alix and Nicky, of their four daughters known collectively as ‘OTMA' and of their hemophiliac little boy Alexei, is endlessly fascinating, and Rounding makes these characters come alive, presenting them in all their human dimensions and expertly leading the reader into their vanished world.
Between the first revolution in February 1917 and Lenin’s Bolshevik coup in October, Petrograd (the former St Petersburg) was in turmoil – felt nowhere more keenly than on the fashionable Nevsky Prospekt. There, the foreign visitors who filled hotels, clubs, offices and embassies were acutely aware of the chaos breaking out on their doorsteps and beneath their windows.
Among this disparate group were journalists, diplomats, businessmen, bankers, governesses, volunteer nurses and expatriate socialites. Many kept diaries and wrote letters home: from an English nurse who had already survived the sinking of the Titanic; to the black valet of the US Ambassador, far from his native Deep South; to suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, who had come to Petrograd to inspect the indomitable Women’s Death Battalion led by Maria Bochkareva.
Helen Rappaport draws upon this rich trove of material, much of it previously unpublished, to carry us right up to the action – to see, feel and hear the Revolution as it happened to an assortment of individuals who suddenly felt themselves trapped in a "red madhouse."