Tuesday, November 1, 2016
I am looking forward to Richard Jay Hutto's forthcoming book, The Kaiser's Confidante: Mary Lee, the first American-born Princess, scheduled to be published March 2017 (McFarland: $35.00)
From the publisher: "New York City native Mary Esther Lee (1837–1914) married Prince von Noer, brother of the Queen of Denmark, in 1874 and was made a princess in her own right following his death. An active philanthropist to Protestant causes, she then married Count Alfred von Waldersee, whose close ties to the Prussian court made her an intimate friend of Kaiser Wilhelm II and a mentor to his young wife. Although she preferred to remain in the background, Mary’s influence caused intense jealously among those at court who resented her friendship with the Kaiser and Kaiserin. This biography chronicles the remarkable life of an American woman whose wealth and charisma enabled her to rise to power in the Prussian royal court."
Hutto's previous books include Crowning Glory: American Wives of Princes & Dukes.
Posted by Marlene Eilers Koenig at 3:29 PM
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Yea, I know I have been remiss in reviewing several of the books in my pile - and I know a certain publisher is not happy with me right now. I got caught up in several things, including school (I am a university librarian and the fall semester started in late August,) but the biggest reason for the delay was the Washington Nationals. I am a season plan holder (since 2005) and I go to about 50 games a year. (I have a half season -40 games - plan). In September, I went to all but two of the 18 games of the last two home stands, and when the team was on the road, I watched from my couch, counting down until we clinched the National League East Championship. Then the playoffs ... yea, you know what happened .... we did not make to the National League Championships. Next year ...
I also "acquired" a nasty upper respiratory infection ... which took several weeks to dissipate, although my nose and ears are still a bit stuffed. At long last, I am able to sit down and write a few reviews.
A young American woman, Kate Koon, on a visit to Russia provided a prescient observation following the coronation of Nicholas and Alexandra. She wrote "It is said that never again will Russia have such coronation festivities, for the people cannot stand the expense, and surely nowhere else in the world could there be a greater magnificence."
Koon had no idea that Nicholas II's Coronation would be the last. Not because of cost, but revolution that was presaged by the tragedy that followed the Coronation.
I also want to use the word "magnificence" to describe Greg King and Janet Ashton's A Life for the Tsar Triumph and Tragedy of Emperor Nicholas II (Eurohistory:$48.95). This is the best book I have ever read on the Nicholas II.
Acclaimed biographers and historians Greg King and Janet Ashton put their heads and their pens together and have come up with a monumental history of the events of the Coronation and the Khodynka Massacre. There were so many witnesses, so many observers, all of whom offer a divergent view of the Coronation and the the massacre that followed.
The early chapters offer a prelude of Russian history - of Alexander III's final days and his death and his eldest son, Nicholas II's, accession to the throne. This is followed by the detailed preparation for the elaborate and deeply religious Coronation Service.
What makes this book so special is the depth and breath of sources consulted --- just take a glance at the bibliography and the End Notes ... yes, End Notes (cited sources). Hooray.
This is the ultimate complete history of one particular event in Nicholas II's life (and the tragedy that followed) as King and Ashton examine all sides, all angles of the Coronation - the reactions and historical views of the guests, of the royal family themselves, political figures from all sides, and international witnesses.
It is accurate to say that "Moscow swelled with excitement, but the man at the center of the spectacle was filled with dread." This is no understatement. Putting aside possible nerves for what would be an overwhelming experience for anyone, Nicholas was a man wracked by personal doubt, and most certainly unprepared for position as Emperor of all the Russias. An arranged marriage may have been more appropriate -- a woman with personality and determination to help guide Nicholas through the vicissitudes of his reign. He married Princess Alix of Hesse and By Rhine for love, and not because he thought she would be the right sort of consort that he really needed. It is not a surprise that he did not realize that Alix was unprepared to be the Empress of all the Russias. Others, including the Dowager Empress, did see it, but none had the real ability to deal with Alix's myriad of physical and mental issues.
The Dowager Empress tried to put on a brave face. Other members of the family commented on her sadness, the deep emotion that she felt, knowing that her son and his wife were ill prepared for their new roles
The deeply religious and symbolic Coronation Service was long and tiring, not only for the participants, but also for the observers. The service was followed by several gala events, where Nicholas and Alexandra had to remain on show. There were more events the next day, including a gathering of hundreds of thousands of Nicholas' subjects, gathering at the Khodynka Meadow, outside the palace. Nicholas and Alexandra were expected to attend the festive occasion.
While the Emperor and Empress were at the Bolshoi, the crowd at the Meadow continued to swell, and tensions began to surface Khodynka. Far too many rumors about gifts from the emperor led to the growing crowds. The police were unwilling to maintain the peace. Many fled. As souvenirs were handed out crowds moved toward the booths, and then came "a wave of human dominoes."
All told, nearly 1400 men, women and children were killed Another 1300 were injured. Nicholas' uncle, Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovitch, was the Governor-General of Moscow. There would be huge consequences for Serge and his chief of police, and both tried to downplay the tragedy. Their view: "Accidents often happen in large crowds."
Nicholas and Alexandra were scheduled to attend a ball that night, but after learning of the tragedy, they wanted to back out and cancel their appearance. It did not take long for Nicholas' Minister of Foreign Affairs to point out that Nicholas could provoke a diplomatic incident if he failed to show up at the ball. Nicholas' four uncles, Vladimir, Alexei, Paul and Sergei, all badgered their nephew "into submission. Alexandra's sister, Ella, who was married to Grand Duke Serge, took her husband's side and told Alix that the ball was of "political importance."
The Dowager Empress Marie and other members of the Imperial Family believed that Nicholas and Alexandra should not attend the ball, One cousin, Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich offered a warning to Nicholas that "the blood of those five thousand men, women, and children will forever remain a blot on your reign."
But it was the uncles, led by Serge, who won the day. The celebrations would continue. None of the four men could accept that this was a bad decision.
The tragedy would leave a huge black mark on Nicholas' reign.
A Life for the Tsar is an amazing book. The authors have been meticulous in their research, peeling away at the layers of this story, focusing not only on the Coronation itself, but also on the social, political, religious, and familial aspects of the events.
Greg King and Janet Ashton have hit a home run with A Life for the Tsar, and they hit it out of the park. This is a terrific, well-written book, brimming over with history, with details, with facts. The coronation and the Khodynka Meadow tragedy ensured that Nicholas' reign would not be successful. If you are planning to give yourself a Christmas present, this should be your gift. Why wait for Christmas. Get it now. Seriously. I have read a lot of books on the Romanov, and I will state categorically that this is one of the best in the Romanov canon ... and oh, I forgot ... the illustrations and photographs (several hundred) are also good.
Posted by Marlene Eilers Koenig at 12:05 AM
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
This morning we released to our printer the latest issue of our magazine, EUROHISTORY (ERHJ).
In it readers will find very interesting articles on: Claremont, the famed royal residence that has witnessed an undue share of royal tragedies; Grand Duchess Augusta of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia; Prince Johann Georg of Hohenzollern; the three daughters of Prince Nicholas of Greece and Grand Duchess Helen Vladimirovna of Russia; Crown of Tears: Marie Antoinette of France and Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia; Queen Marie of Romania; Countess Viktoria-Luis elf Solms-Baruth; as well as our usual sections: Royal Book Reviews and Royal News.
We should be mailing the magazine by month's end since the printer requires at least a month to print and ship!
If interested in joining our ever-growing pool of subscribers, you can do so by emailing us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Rest of the World: $75.00
Or by sending your subscription payable to:
6300 Kensington Avenue
East Richmond Heights, CA 94805
UK Subscribers have the option of paying in Sterling by sending a cheque payable to Ms Katrina Warne:
Ms. Katrina Warne
Surrey GU24 0HL
Posted by Marlene Eilers Koenig at 1:19 PM
Monday, August 1, 2016
Queen Anne of Romania died today at a hospital in Morgues, Switzerland. She was 92 years old. She was born Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma. In June 1948, she married the exiled King Michael of Romania
Now difficult to find is Queen Anne's memoirs: Anne of Romania - A War, An Exile, A Life published in 2002 by the Romanian Cultural Foundation Publishing House. The book was published in English and in Romanian.
Posted by Marlene Eilers Koenig at 11:57 AM
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Nicholas II of Russia had a private bath, a plonge (more like a small swimming pool) at the Alexander Palace. It was place where the Emperor could relax, perhaps, read, or consider the events of that day. No kids no wifey (one assumes) in this man cave, so image the delight of his second daughter, Grand Duchess Tatiana, was allowed to use the private bath.
"Papa darling, Huge thanks for allowing us to bathe in Your tub. It was immensely nice and fun and I enjoyed it terribly." This was written by Tatiana to her father on March 7, 1915. She was in her 18th year, a young woman on the cusp of adulthood.
This letter is included in Tatiana Romanov Daughter of the Last Tsar Diaries and Letters 1913-1918 (Westholme:$26.00), which will be seen as an important contribution to Romanov scholarship, thanks to Helen Azar, whose native Russian-language skills are an asset in translating original Romanov documents, such as diaries and letters.
Tatiana was perhaps the most gifted of the four sisters. At times her diary entries and correspondence are eloquent, as she shows concern for family and friends, even after the Imperial Family is by the Provisional Government to Tobolsk in the late summer of 1917.
In exile, there were few complaints about their living conditions, and the lack of freedom. In a letter to her aunt, Grand Duchess Xenia, in September 1917, Tatiana wrote: "The weather here is wonderful." She also commented to her aunt that the house had a balcony and "it is fun to sit there and watch the street, to see the people. This is our only amusement."
The final years of Tatiana's life were not amusing, but she remained proud, and kind. Her Orthodox faith and her relationships with her parents and siblings were important to her.
Tatiana avoided politics and the growing revolutionary fervor in Russia that led to her father's abdication and their deaths. The collapse of their world was not on their radar. After Russia entered the first World War in 1914, Tatiana threw herself in the new duties: nursing and helping war refugees. The Committee of Grand Duchess Tatiana was formed by an Imperial Ukase in September 1914.
During the next two years Tatiana was an eager nurse, taking part in surgeries including amputations. A typical day would include lessons, church services, visiting the infirmary, having meals with family members, There were few political comments, but her view on the Germans --- calling them curs when German submarines destroyed Russian ships.
The murder of Rasputin by family members left an indelible impression. In a Christmas letter (1916), Tatiana wrote to her mother. "....I believe the soul of our dead Friend is always with us and that he prays for you, my sweet angel Mama." The Friend of course was Rasputin.
The Revolution changed everything. The daily nursing visits came to an end in February 1917. A month later, Nicholas abdicated, and 300 years of Romanov rule was over. The family and a few retainers were kept confined at Tsarkoe Selo. Tatiana's letters during this time period -- no diary entries --- are focused on family and keeping in contact with the outside world, especially her friends from nursing, In one letter to Zinaida Tolstoy, there is a hint of lament about not being the Crimea for the summer. "Strange to be without the sea for three years, there is no feeling of summer for me." Until the war, the Imperial Family spent summers at Livadia in the Crimea. Winters were spent at Tsarkoe Selo, which in March 1917 had become their first prison.
The change in Tatiana's life becomes apparent in a letter to her aunt Xenia in January 1918. "Does your Commissar read all the letters like ours?"
Tatiana's diaries for this time period are not complete, and kudos to Miss Azar for including excerpts from correspondence, biographies and other diaries of family members, servants and contemporaries. The inclusion of the material, which always references Tatiana, enhances Tatiana's own words. We see her through other eyes which help us to understand her and the life she lived.
The material for this book was obtained from the State Archives in Russia and in US libraries, including the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale. The illustrations come from the State Archives, and most have not been published before... at least I have never seen them.
Russian Imperial expert Nicholas Nicholson is the book's co-author. He is responsible for the numerous annotations (footnotes) that will help the general readers with the historical and political references and identifying family relations as many are identified only by nicknames.
This is an important work, true scholarship in the Romanov canon.
Westholme also published Helen's The Diary of Olga Romanov: Royal Witness to the Russian Revolution.
Posted by Marlene Eilers Koenig at 12:32 AM
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Sunday, June 26, 2016
Kudos to German publisher, Friedrich Pustet, which publishes competent and interesting royal books. One of the firm's more recent books is Wilhelm II und seine Geschwister, which translates to Wilhelm II and his siblings.
German historian Barbara Beck has written a competent book that focuses on the relationship between Kaiser Wilhelm II and his younger brother and sisters (Henry, Charlotte, Viktoria, Margarete and Sophie). It is not a surprise to say that the relationships were complicated and difficult.
Beck's style veers between a Ph.D dissertation (minus the footnotes) and a popular history. The bibliography includes German and English language scholarly and standard books and articles.
Wilhelm II was a flawed man, his personality, his decisions made for family and country, were all formed by his deformed arm, his relationship with parents, his confused identity (British mother) and a desire to run a country and a family with an iron fist.
He could put boundaries on Henry and his wife, Irene (and Henry would have been a very different Kaiser had he been the older son), and Wilhelm's relationship with Charlotte, the sister closest in age, was the strongest although she had streaks of independence. Charlotte, the wife of the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, focused on herself - rather on the big picture.
Wilhelm's relationship with his three younger sisters, Victoria, Sophie and Margarete, was far different than with Charlotte or even Henry. Victoria quickly went off the rails after her romance with Alexander of Battenberg was blocked. No romance, no children with her husband, Prince Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe, but what was missing from her life was the support of her family.
The author also has chapters on the two brothers, Sigismund and Waldemar, who died young.
Wilhelm, as a brother, did not have the mechanism to be the good brother. He treated Sophie rather badly after she became the Crown Princess of the Hellenes, especially when he chastised her for converting to the Orthodox faith, not withstanding the fact that the Greek consort was required to be Orthodox. His own personally and strident views would not allow him to comprehend the reality of Sophie's situation.
There was also no real support during the first world war and afterward when Wilhelm II was forced into exile. Yes, there would be correspondence and meetings, but Wilhelm II's relationship with his siblings was supremely dysfunctional.
This is made clear by Barbara Beck. This is one of more competent modern biographies on Wilhelm's relationship with his siblings. (Someone now needs to write a biography on Wilhelm II and his children.)
The book is in German, and there are no plans to translate it into English, although ... this is a metaphorical stamping of my feet .. the book is, in my opinion, a very good candidate for translation, as I think there is a market (small as it is, but if marketed to the ideal readership, the book could sell.)
I hope Pustet Verlag will continue to publish more books like this.
Posted by Marlene Eilers Koenig at 12:38 PM