By Sarah Wright
Grab your crumpets because we're about to dive into century-old "tea" with "Queen Victoria and the Romanovs: Sixty Years of Mutual Distrust" by Coryne Hall. There's seldom more juicier tea than that belonging to royalty, and the pairing of the British royal family and the Romanovs makes for the best.
Hall pulls extensively from diaries and letters from all parties, so it's almost as if these larger-than-life figures are speaking from beyond the grave to the reader. And oh the tea, these letters and diary entries spill from young love to scandal to illuminating inner thoughts (some quite petty) and startlingly accurate prophecies.
I found "Queen Victoria and the Romanovs" to be a fast and intimate read. I was captivated by the historical what-if of the young Queen Victoria's romance with the future Tsar Alexander II, which seemingly ran hotter than what is portrayed in ITV's "Victoria" (SPL has this TV show available for checkout; I highly recommend it.) and caused Tsar Nicholas I to recall his son to Russia.
Despite this earlier positive interaction, family dynamics and imperialistic ambitions would see Queen Victoria and the Romanovs at odds for most of her reign.
Really this book has everything, including a good dose of humor. I personally loved learning that the future Tsar Nicholas II accidentally became locked in a bathroom at Balmoral Castle during a visit to Queen Victoria and his fiancée, the future Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna. Alix had to rescue him.
If you love royal history, this book is for you!
Despite their frequent visits to England, Queen Victoria never quite trusted the Romanovs. In her letters she referred to ‘horrid Russia’ and was adamant that she did not wish her granddaughters to marry into that barbaric country. ‘Russia I could not wish for any of you,’ she said. She distrusted Tsar Nicholas I but as a young woman she was bowled over by his son, the future Alexander II, although there could be no question of a marriage. Political questions loomed large and the Crimean War did nothing to improve relations. This distrust started with the story of the Queen’s ‘Aunt Julie’, Princess Juliane of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and her disastrous Russian marriage.
Starting with this marital catastrophe, Romanov expert Coryne Hall traces sixty years of family feuding that include outright war, inter-marriages, assassination, and the Great Game in Afghanistan, when Alexander III called Victoria ‘a pampered, sentimental, selfish old woman’. In the fateful year of 1894, Victoria must come to terms with the fact that her granddaughter has become Nicholas II’s wife, the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Eventually, distrust of the German Kaiser brings Victoria and the Tsar closer together.
SPL's communication specialist, Sarah loves all things history. Most of what she reads nowadays is nonfiction, with some of her favorite topics being the Great War (and other military history), Romanovs, Tudors, shipwrecks, and the '20s.
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