Friday, August 30, 2013

Russian Royals

Why read romance novels when you can read a real life story packed with romance, opulence, intrigue, tragedy, and even magic?  The story of Tsar Nicholas II, the last tsar, and Empress Alexandra is, in my opinion, a great love story.  The story of the Romanov family is one of the great tragic stories of the early 20th century.  These are superbly told by Robert Massie in Nicholas & Alexandra.

Having recently read this remarkable book, my interest was piqued yesterday when I heard a news report that there was a photo exhibit of the Russian royal family.  Sponsored by the Casa Russa in Lloret de Mar, it was being held at a gallery in one of the big Lloret hotels.  Unfortunately, today, Friday was the last day of the exhibit.

So this morning, I hopped in the car and set out for Lloret.  I’ve been to Lloret once, with Manel, about fourteen years ago, when we came together to Catalunya for the first time on a vacation.  I didn’t like it then and didn’t like it much better today.  It’s one of the prime coastal tourist destinations and is overflowing with people and tourist shops full of tacky junk.  But never mind.  I didn’t come for that.  I came to see Nicholas, Alexandra, Alexis (the tsarevich), Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia.  If Rasputin were also in the photos, that would be cool. 
It's not all tacky.  There is at least one
glorious, modernist church
To make a long story short, Massie says that the downfall of the Tsar stemmed from his son’s hemophilia.  The little tsarevich suffered terribly all his short life from this disease while the family managed to keep it a secret from the public.  It was in a desperate, hysterical attempt to alleviate his suffering and to save his life that his parents, particularly his mother, turned to the monk Rasputin for help.  Pierre Gilliard, tutor of Tsarevich Alexis wrote “The illness of the Tsarevich cast its shadow over the whole of the concluding period of Tsar Nicholas II’s reign and alone can explain it.  Without appearing to be, it was one of the main causes of his fall, for it made possible the phenomenon of Rasputin and resulted in the fatal isolation of the sovereigns who lived in a world apart, wholly absorbed in a tragic anxiety which had to be concealed from all eyes.”  Massie explains, step by step, how this came to be.

I was hoping for some memorabilia, some Faberge eggs maybe, but there were only the photos.  Overall they were very interesting and yet they lacked two things.  First the titles and text were in Russian only leaving you to guess at the subjects of those photos that weren’t so obvious.  And second, they didn’t tell the whole story – they didn’t show the last two years, when the royal family was put under arrest and eventually sent to Ekaterinburg and finally very brutally murdered.  Photos from that period exist, some are in Massie’s book, and they are heartbreaking.  I imagine the Russians who admire their royal family want to show them in their glory and not in their demise which came directly at the hands of the revolutionaries.  Although British inaction also contributed.

George V, King of England, was first cousin to Nicholas through his mother, and first cousin to Alexandra through his father.  (The two looked almost like identical twins and were confused for each other at some of the social events where they were both in attendance.)  Queen Victoria had been Alexandra’s grandmother.  (Alexis’s hemophilia almost certainly was inherited from Victoria.)  But while it seems he could have, King George did nothing to help the Russian Royals escape.

Now there is the question of who was really dug up in 1991 from the shallow mass grave near Ekaterinburg, Siberia?  I will soon be reading Massie's newer book, The Romanovs: The Final Chapter to find out.
Coronation (I'm guessing)


Is the monk in black Rasputin?

Tsarevich Alexis at bottom center,
his father Tsar Nicholas to the left

Father and son at center


  1. Fascinating Dvora! I shall look for this book. I love historical books, both fiction and non-fiction. Right now, I am reading BLOOD AND BEAUTY by Sarah Dunant about the Borgias (he was the first Spanish born Pope ever to be canonized in 1492!) So far, very captivating! Glad you went to see this! Cheers! Suz

  2. Suz, I like Sarah Dunant. I'll have to look for this one. But you need look no further than the Amazon shop on my blog!