Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Becoming Queen Mary Vol 1 (1867-1892) by Kori Roff-Lawrence


I am happy to announce the publication of Kori Roff-Lawrence's first book, Becoming Queen Mary.  This is the first volume that focuses on Mary's life from her birth in 1867 until her first engagement to Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence in 1892.

I had the pleasure to read the book before publication and I think you will enjoy it.  

Becoming Queen Mary is available in a softcover edition from Amazon's Kindle Publishing. It will not be offered digitally for Kindle readers.



Tuesday, November 17, 2020

A Romanian Buffet of Books

 



When I was in Bucharest in January for H.M. Margareta's 30th anniversary of her first visit to Romania,  the Romanian-language edition of Margareta Three Decades of the Crown.   The English-language edition was released in the early summer by Romanian publisher Curtea Veche.  

The first section of the book features family photos of Her Majesty, from infancy to boarding the plane with Princess Sophie in January 1990 for their first trip to Romania.  This is followed by 30 facts about Margareta and then individual chapters on each year - from 1990 to 2019 -- as the family is allowed to live in Romania.  

The Princess Margareta Foundation was established in  August 1990 and is now one of the leading charitable organizations in Romania.

This book offers highlights of the first 30 years of Margareta's work with details on her engagements, photos of her work (as well as with the family and other dignitaries).     Margareta's role, first as her father's primary support, then as heir, and now as Custodian of the Crown, has evolved into a functioning monarchy in a republic.

Margareta Three Decades of the Crown is the definitive book on Her Majesty's work as the Custodian of the Crown.  Plenty of photos and details about her engagements and travels on behalf of the Crown.

Sandra Gatejeanu-Gheorghe, a long-time confidante of Margareta, is the author of the book.  The English-translation was done by Jean Harris.

The book is available from the publisher.  The price is 95 Lei, which is about $23.00 plus postage. Although the site is in Romanian, it is easy to order the book.  
 By the way, postage is not prohibitive.


Prince Radu is the author of Povestea Castelului Peles, which was published in 2017 by Curtea Veche.  This is a 300-page book on Castle Peles in Sinaia.  The castle was built privately by King Carol I and inherited by his nephew, King Ferdinand who left the property to his grandson King Michael.  

Peles and Pelisor were returned to King Michael in 2006.  The Romanian royal family leases the castles to the Romanian government.  Unfortunately, the book is in Romanian only but do not be dissuaded as the photographs, historical and modern, more than makeup for the lack of an English text.

The book is currently priced at 78 leis.  A bargain.





Curtea is also the publisher of Săvârșin. Detaliul, co-authored by Margareta, Custodian of the Crown, and Prince Radu.  This is a 202-page book published in 2015 about the Romanian Royal Family's country home, Săvârșin, which King Michael purchased in the 1940s.   

This book was published following restoration work that began in 2007 and ended in 2015.  

Wonderful photographs by Christian Coposesc.










The Prince of Wales wrote the foreward for Lumea Majestății Sale. Jubileul Custodelui Coroanei Române,  a Romanian-language celebration of  Margareta's first thirty years in Romania.  The book was written by Alexandru Muraru and Daniel Sandru.

The book includes 20 pages of photographs.

This book was published in a paperback edition by Corint, which has no plans to translate the book into English.   Charles' foreward is in English and Romanian.




Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Sisters by Barbara Borkowy


 I looked forward to reading Sisters: Princess Daisy of Pless and Shelagh, Duchess of Westminster as their relationship fascinated me.  Mary Theresa and Constance Edwina Cornwallis-West, better known by their nicknames Daisy and Shelagh, used their beauty and social connections that included the Prince of Wales (Edward) to snare rich and titled husbands.  It was the only goal they had as their parents, William and Patsy Cornwallis-West were not particularly wealthy, but did move in all the right social circles.

But it can be said that neither Daisy nor Shelagh was never prepared for their future roles, as wives of very rich men, one of whom was a German prince.    

Hans Heinrich XI, the Prince of Pless, wanted to find a royal wife for his son, Hans.  He had one princess in mind so he made arrangements for Hans to have a secondment at the German Embassy in London where Hans could meet his father's choice for a bride:  Princess May of Teck, the daughter of Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge and Franz, the Duke of Teck.  

The Tecks were delighted by Hans' attention to their only daughter, but Queen Victoria had earmarked May for her grandson, the Duke of Clarence.    Daisy was presented at Court in March 1891.   Three weeks after her presentation, Daisy was invited to a ball hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Portland where she met Prince Hans Pless for the first time.

Daisy's mother was eager for a foreign marriage as it would raise her own social status and was delighted by Hans's interest.  It was at a masked ball hosted by the Earl and Countess of Ilchester in July 1891 where Hans proposed to Daisy.   They barely knew each other.  Daisy was honest and told Hans that she did not love him, but he told her love would come.  It never did.

Her father, however, was not in favor of the marriage despite his wife's protestations.  In the end, he gave in, especially as Hans would pay for the wedding, including the bride's trousseau.   Hans got a wife with the appropriate 16 aristocratic quarterings and the Cornwallis-Wests' acquired a wealthy son-in-law.

After her debut, Shelagh was also pursued by several wealthy and titled men.  It was Hugh Grosvenor, the 2nd Duke of Westminster, who made the successful proposal.   Shelagh's parents were keen on this marriage as the Duke was one of the wealthiest men in England.

Neither woman was prepared for marriage, so it is not a surprise that their marriages failed and both were divorced in the 1920s.

I really wanted to like this book and share the author's enthusiasm for Daisy and Shelagh.  The author was diligent with her research, as she includes footnotes for her sources, a bibliography which included Daisy's memoirs, and an index.  All good things.   

The book was first published in Polish by Barbara Borkowy, who also did the English translation.  I am happy the book was translated into English.  However, I think  Barbara's text could have been massaged and improved with the assistance of an English-speaking editor, especially concerning titles.  On one page, she refers to Queen Victoria's eldest daughter as Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha who married Friedrich of Hohenzollern.  A few pages later, their son is called Henry of Prussia, which is correct.   Borkowy refers to Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Fife as George V's granddaughter.   Alix was the king's niece, the elder daughter of his sister, Princess Louise.   

I really wanted to like this book and share the author's enthusiasm for Daisy and Shelagh.  Barkowy is to be complimented on her diligent research, complete with footnotes for all her sources, a detailed bibliography, and an index.   All good things.   

The book does have several errors and inconsistencies that could have been cleaned up with a good editor with knowledge of royal history and titles.

A footnote on page 143 states that Prince Joachim Albrecht of Hohenzollern was Kaiser Wilhelm  II's nephew. Wilhelm II did not have a nephew named Joachim Albrecht.  

 The House's name was Hohenzollern, but members of the family were styled as princes and princesses of Prussia.  The Catholic branch of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was styled as Princes and Princess of Hohenzollern.  

Prince Joachim Albrecht and the Kaiser were second cousins.  A prince of Hohenzollern belonged to the Catholic branch of the family, the Princely family of Sigmaringen.

It is easy to say that Sisters is a comprehensive look at the lives of Daisy and Shelagh, as the author tells us what these two ladies did nearly every day of their lives.   Before the war, Daisy and Hans spent a lot of time in England visiting family and friends, taking part in the social season. These frequent trips did not help Daisy adapt to her new life, as the wife of the Prince of Pless (his father died in 1907), in Silesia, then a part of Prussia.  The Prince of Pless was very rich, with several estates including Schloss Fürstenstein and Pless, and he was well-connected.  Wilhelm II, the German Emperor, enjoyed the company of Daisy and Hans.

As the Duchess of Westminster, Shelagh soared to the top of London's social season.  Fetes, parties, charity events, racing, children, marital problems, travel, a new lover (future second husband), two world wars, charity work, travel, and so on.

Daisy was the better known of the sisters as she married the head of the house of Pless, a member of the Prussian nobility. The Hochbergs' ancestral lands were located in what is now Poland. The end of the first world war changed the family's status and titles, the latter was abolished by the new republican government in 1919.  Most of the property in Pless, located in Upper Silesia,  was ceded to Poland following a referendum in March 1921.   The other major property, Schloss Fürstenberg, in Waldenburg, remained the property of the Prince of Pless until 1944.  After the end of the second world war, Lower Silesia was given to Poland including Waldenburg.

The facts are lovely -- and I love footnotes --  but what is sorely missing from this book are the two women's voices, the fleshing out of their personalities, their relationship with each other.  Barkowy writes that the sisters had a falling out because Daisy did not attend her nephew's baptism.  A few sentences later, she writes that the two sisters were reconciled.  Okay, lovely, but the author offers no information on what led to the reconciliation. 

Daisy and Shelagh come off as self-indulgent women, which is not a surprise, as their sole goal in life was to find rich husbands,  Neither were well-educated nor prepared for their future roles, as the wives of a Prince and a British Duke.  I am not surprised that their marriages failed and they had difficult relationships with their children.  

Daisy never made a real attempt to establish a new life with her husband, as she preferred her own country.  The first world war would change everything, and it took several years after the war for Daisy to return to England and re-establish her social status.  

The ramifications of Germany's loss led to straitened circumstances for Hans as he lost property and income to Poland.  

During the 1920s and 1930s, Germany's economic crisis (and the growth of National Socialism) led to Daisy having to sell her jewels to pay bills.  There was a brief discussion of Daisy returning to England to live, but the plan fell through because the landlord would not the lease on her house.  Shelagh's former husband, the Duke of Westminster, was still on good terms with Daisy's eldest son, Hansel (although her own relationship with her three sons was fraught with difficulties so why not ask him for assistance to pay off the lease (which was for only a few months,)

Daisy, who suffered from heart trouble and Multiple Sclerosis,  did her bit her during the second world war to help prisoners at a concentration camp near Fürstenberg.  The day after her 70th birthday, in June 1943, Daisy died, far from her family.  Shelagh lived until January 1970, dying at age 93.

The Polish and English editions of  Sisters were published by the Princess Daisy of Pless Foundation, which is located at Książ Castle (Fürstenstein).  

It is a good thing that Sisters were translated into English, thus offering a wider readership for the book.   At times, the book was compelling, especially with historical events and Daisy's death,  but I would have loved to learn more about the women themselves, and not just the facts of the parties they attended.  I would love to have read what others, their contemporaries, family members, other royals, or members of the nobility, said about Daisy and Shelagh. 

The book is available through Amazon, but not Amazon.co.uk.



Saturday, October 10, 2020

Once Upon a Diamond by Prince Dimitri

 



Once Upon a Diamond, A Family Tradition of Royal Jewels ($80) is one of those rare books that sparkles from the moment you lift it out of the box.  This is a truly beautiful book written by a noted jewelry expert and designer who happens to be a prince as well.

Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia is one of a set of twins (he has a brother Prince Michael), the sons of the late Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia and Princess Maria Pia of Italy.  He is as passionate about his family's history as he is about royal jewelry.  For many years he served as senior vice president of jewels at Sotheby's before he left to start his own jewelry design firm.

Rizzoli is the publisher of Once Upon a Diamond, A Family Tradition of Royal Jewels.   The New York-based publisher specializes in high-quality art books, which means excellent photographs of the jewels and, of course, the family photographs.  The book opens with a chapter on Grand Duchess Vladimir, who was born Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a late 19th-century social influencer at the Russian court,  Her jewel collection was the envy of all.

The Grand Duchess' best-known piece of jewelry,  the Vladimir tiara,  now in the possession of Queen Elizabeth II.

Marie and her husband, Grand Duke Vladimir, a younger brother of Alexander III, had three sons and a daughter, Helen, who married Prince Nicholas of Greece.  They were the parents of three daughters, Olga, Elisabeth, and Marina.  Olga married Prince Paul of Yugoslavia.  Their son, Prince Alexander was Dimitri's father.

The Vladimir tiara was the inspiration for the Leeds Cartier tiara, which was made in 1913 by Cartier for the very wealthy American widow, Nancy Leeds. In 1920, Nancy married Prince Christopher of Greece and Denmark.   A full-page photo of the Leeds tiara follows the discussion of the Vladimir tiara.  

Each page turn brings another delight, whether it a pearl and diamond brooch or the Sapphire & Diamond Kokoshnik, which Marie's son, Grand Duke Kyril, head of the Imperial House, and his wife, Grand Duchess Victoria, sold to Victoria's older sister, Queen Marie of Romania in the early 1920s.

After offering a detailed description of Marie and her jewels,  Dimitri turns his attention to the "Magnificent Jewels of the Russian Court," worn by female members of the Imperial family including Grand Duchess Ella and Grand Duchess Helen, Dimitri's grandmother, who is photographed in her imperial wedding dress and the Nuptial Wedding Crown.  Turn the page and ...wow, a full-page photo of the Nuptial Crown, which is a part of the Russian art and jewel collection at Hillwood Museum in Washington, D.C. 

[I have seen the Nuptial Crown at Hillwood. It is a stunning and true sparkler.]    

Dimitri delves further into family history in  A Tale of Princesses, Their Tiaras, and Crowns, which focuses on the prince's Greek relations including his grandmother, Princess Olga.  He writes about holidays in Tuscany with his grandmother, who would wake up her grandchildren at midnight to view a full moon.  This chapter features photos of Princess Olga and her sisters, Marina and Elisabeth wearing their family's jewels.

The prince also tantalizes us with a selection of photos from The Family Albums of the Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna,   Elena was Prince Dimitri's paternal great-grandmother.  She enjoyed taking photos of her relatives, her husband and children, the British royals, and members of the Imperial family. My favorite snaps are the informal photographs from the wedding of Princess Marie Bonaparte and Prince George of Greece and Denmark, one of Prince Nicholas' brothers.

This chapter also features a previously unpublished hand-painted appraisal of Elena's jewels.

The royal jewels journey moves to Italy and The Three Queens of Italy and their Storied jewels.   Queen Margherita, Queen Elena, and Queen Marie Jose, consorts of Kings Umberto I, Vittorio Emanuele III, and Umberto II, all wore impressive, historic, and significant pieces of jewelry.  Margherita adored jewels, but her daughter-in-law, the Montenegrin-born Queen Elena preferred "a more moderate demeanor and appearance," and only wore the important jewels at official events.

It was Queen Margherita who filled the royal jewels coffers with frequent purchases from Italian jewelers. To celebrate the birth of her grandson, the future King Umberto II in 1904, she commissioned the Musy tiara.  This tiara was inherited by Umberto.  His bride, Princess Marie José of the Belgians, wore the tiara at their wedding in 1930.

The Musy tiara remains in the family, but when Umberto's eldest daughter, Princess Maria Pia married Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia in 1955,  she wore the Daisy tiara, once owned by Queen Margherita's mother, the Duchess of Genoa.

The family jewels - from the Russians and the Greeks to the Savoys -- are more than a family history for Prince Dimitri.   The jewels are a connection to the prince's past and an inspiration for his own designs.  The book makes a tactful segue from Dimitri's family history to his own jewel designs.

He writes: "Because I have always found  novelty so exciting, I work with unusual materials and color combinations."

Personally, I am a sucker for pearl and diamond combination, which means I loved the moonstones, pearl, and diamond earrings on page 213.

Prince Dimitri's designs are modern and classic, at the same time, rich in color  -- and true sparklers, a description that also can be applied to several distaff members of his family.

Once Upon A Diamond's combination of royals and jewels offers a broad appeal to readers. Put this book at the top of your wish list!!

https://www.princedimitri.com/


https://www.instagram.com/prince.dimitri/?hl=en


Monday, October 5, 2020

The Grand Ducal House of Hesse by Art Beeche and Ilana Miller

 



This is a comprehensive history and biographical study of the Grand Ducal House of Hesse and By Rhine by Art Beeche and Ilana Miller (Eurohistory: $48.95).  The photographs are the real stars of this book.

A bit disappointed with the text, which largely relies on English-language sources, and truly surprised that neither writer was aware of Laura Beatty's biography of Lillie Langtry, which was published in 1999.  This biography includes the then previously unpublished correspondence between Lillie and Arthur Jones.

Jones was a childhood friend and Lillie's secret lover.  Their correspondence offered evidence that Jones, not Prince Louis of Battenberg, was Jeanne-Marie's father.

The photographs are the most interesting part of the book -- and you can never miss when the photographs are the reason to purchase the book.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

This book is not recommended

 



Several days ago I received a letter from the publisher, touting this book - and would  I be interested in reviewing it.   After all the author, who was described as a royal historian, has more than 225,000 Instagram followers.  The account was cited so I looked it ... pictures of royals (is the "author" paying copyright fees for the use of the photos?) but little else.  I don't have that many IG followers, but my other blog, Royal Musings, has had more than 15 million readers since 2008!

Having 225, 000 followers or living in London for a year does not make you a royal historian or an expert on British royalty.  Trust me, it takes years of research, reading, more research, writing, more reading ... I could go on because I am a royal historian.  

I have posted the photo of the book but this review will provide no information on the publisher or how to order.   Please do not buy this book.  

The publisher provided me with a copy of the book (which I downloaded).  I regret doing this, but at least, I can warn my readers to NOT BUY THIS BOOK.

I stopped reading the book because it is so awful.  I responded to the  Publicity department's email,  and pointed out the errors I found, which:

Queen Victoria was not married in 1837.   George III was not succeeded by William IV.  Antony Armstrong-Jones did not receive his peerage (Earl of Snowdon) on his wedding.  In fact he received it in October 1961, only a few weeks before Princess Margaret gave birth to their first child, David, now the second Earl of Snowdon.

Yes, Philip was naturalized citizen, but a royal historian would know that he did not need to go through the naturalization process due to the Sophia Naturalization Act (1707).   This act gave British nationality to Sophia's Protestant descendants in perpetuity ... well, until 1949, when the law was superseded by the British Nationality Act.  The SNA remains in effect for Sophia's Protestant descendants born before 1949.    In the same year that Philip went through the process, another descendant of Sophia, Prince Friedrich of Prussia, who married Lady Brigid Guinness, used the SNA to prove his British nationality.  In 1956,  Friedrich's first cousin, Prince Ernst August of Hanover, won his case for British nationality.  

And then there is the egregious error of confusing precedence and etiquette.  After the Prince of Wales married Camilla Parker-Bowles,  Queen Elizabeth II revised the Order of Precedence for women, according to one major British newspaper.  The new wife of the Prince of Wales was placed after Princess Alexandra.  Prior to this, the wife of the heir to the throne followed the Queen and the Queen Mother or the Queen Consort.   The writer then throws a spanner into the story, stating that Camilla and other wives would have to curtsey to the HRHS by birth.

This part of the article was incorrect. Period.  Full stop.  Curtseys and bows are not a part of precedence, but merely etiquette.  An HRH does not curtsy or bow to another HRH, whether they are born or have acquired the style by marriage.  A prince or princess of the blood and a princess or prince by marriage HAVE THE SAME RANK!!!!   They do not bob or bow up and down to each other.  But they all curtsy or bow to the sovereign.

Yet, the Instagram "Royal Historian" did not know this or have the wherewithal to check the facts.  An investment in Debrett's Correct Form might have helped the writer ... or not.  If you do not believe me, ask Dickie Arbiter, the Queen's former press secretary who has pointed out the same corrections to others.

I did not finish it.  I could not bear it. I am sure there are other mistakes, but I am not going to waste my time ... and please, do not waste your time in purchasing this book.  Do not waste bandwidth for downloading ... and no tree should have to die for this book. 

Dear, dear "author", a reminder:  Google is not always your friend. 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Michael Romanov Brother of the Last Tsar Diaries and Letters 1916-1918


Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia was the youngest son of Alexander III and his Danish-born wife, Dagmar (Marie Feodorovna).  With two older brothers, Nicholas and George,  Michael was never expected to play a role in the succession. He was expected to marry well and have children, all of whom would have a supporting role in the Russian monarchy.

That's not how it turned out.  Nicholas succeeded his father in November 1894.  Alexander was only 49 when he succumbed to nephritis.  Three weeks after his father's death, Nicholas married Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine,   Nicholas' middle brother, Grand Duke George was the heir presumptive until his death from tuberculosis in 1899.   

Succession to the Russian throne was semi-Salic, meaning all of the eligible males preceded the females, including the Tsar's daughters.   By 1899,  Nicholas was the father of three daughters and no sons.  Following George's death, Michael became the heir presumptive until August 1904, when Empress Alexandra gave birth to the Tsarevitch, Alexis.

A healthy son would have allowed Grand Duke Michael to have his own life. However,  Alexis was hemophilic, which meant that he might not live to adulthood and Michael would succeed to the throne,

It is apparent that Michael, a dullard, was never able to step up as the spare-in-waiting.  He fell in love with his first cousin, Princess Beatrice of Edinburgh, but the marriage would not be approved by Nicholas.  He also pursued one of his sister's ladies-in-waiting and, finally, in 1912, he eloped with his mistress (and mother of his young son, George, Natalia Wulfert, to Vienna where they were married without Nicholas II's permission.  

Imperial punishment was swift.  Michael was stripped of his position as Regent-in-waiting and access to his appanage.  The family spent three years in exile, but in 1915, he begged his brother to be allowed to return to Russia to serve the county, then embroiled in the second year of the first world.  Although Natalia was never welcome at court,  young George was given the title Count Brasov.

Michael, however, was welcomed back into the imperial fold, where he divided his time with his wife and son at his country estate, Brasovo, and Gatchina.   

This is the first time that Michael's diaries have been published in English with an expert and critical translation by Helen Azar,  Nicholas Nicholson wrote the text and the supporting footnotes.

The diaries cover the period between December 1916 and June 1918, when Michael and his secretary Nicholas Johnson were executed in Perm.  

It must be acknowledged that Michael was an entitled Imperial prat. When the time came to stand up and be counted (the Grand Duke's Manifesto) he screwed up badly, thus ending any opportunity to save the throne,

The diaries open in December 1916 with Michael and his family in Livadia, where they learned of Rasputin's death.  They were back at Gatchina for the new year.  On January 7, 1917, Michael was deputized to meet Crown Prince Carol of Romania and bring him to the Winter Palace.

In the background, one can hear the inevitable time bomb clicking away, but for the protagonists in this diary were a bit oblivious to tick-tick-tick.

It must be noted that the diary entries are largely banal: weather, temperature, walking, going to the zoo, dinner guests, kids playing,  Michael doing gymnastics, Michael playing the guitar (he often played the guitar), day-to-day comings and goings.

Michael did not confide  recriminations or even concern for other family members, which means there is little insight into Michael's views on the political  This may be a calculated decision, perhaps knowing that his diaries could be read.  But it must be stressed that the Grand Duke was ill-suited for his position as heir presumptive. It was difficult to take Michael seriously as he had no real concept of duty.  

The Grand Duke did have a "talk" with his brother on February 10.  This comment is elaborated by a footnote that provides more details on this conversation.  It may not have ended well for Michael -- was he trying to convince Nicholas that the situation was serious.  Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, the Emperor's brother n law was also there, and he noted that his comments to the Empress were dismissed as she was oblivious to the forthcoming revolutionary tsunami.

He did agree to sign the Grand Duke's Manifesto along with Grand Duke Kirill and Grand Duke Paul.  The Grand Dukes wanted to save the throne for Nicholas.  Time was running out, however, as events moved with "horrifying speed."

Had the Manifesto been accepted by the Duma, and more, important, by Nicholas (and Alexandra), the monarchy might have been saved.  The political situation was rapidly snowballing but the situation quickly changed and the Manifesto could not be implemented.   Alexandra's wails were for naught. Nicholas was forced to abdicate for himself and his son.  300 years of Romanov rule was over.  

Michael had neither the power nor the authority to push the Manifesto's agenda.  A more persuasive attempt might have been made by Paul or Kirill.

As the monarchy crumbled and Nicholas and Alexandra and their family were under house arrest,  Michael stayed at Gatchina with his wife, their son, and Natasha's daughter from her earlier marriage.  During the next few months, Michael and his wife were able to go to the theatre, walk at the Zoo, meet with friends, and government officials. His secretary Nicholas Johnson was nearly always present as well.

There would be new arrests and investigations of other members of the Imperial Family.  The footnotes, which were provided by Nicholson, offer more insight into some of Michael's comments.  On June 2, Michael visited his cousin, Grand Duke Boris, who had recently been freed from house arrest, but as with other members of this family, no one would be granted an exit order to be allowed to leave the country.

In an entry dated August 1,  Michael mentions newspaper reports about Nicholas' departure.  He wrote of the departure: "but instead Tobolsk, it said Kostroma."  He did not elaborate further. Historians can only speculate on Michael's private thoughts based on who came to visit or who the Grand Duke met.  This is why the footnotes provide far more than a historical enhancement.

Michael was arrested in August 1917 for being a part of a conspiracy that did not exist. The stress of an increasing fear -- and even though Michael's entries are devoid of emotion, he certainly was under a lot of stress so it is no surprise that he developed an ulcer.  He and other Grand Dukes were released from their arrest, but this did not mean that they had true freedom of movement,

But Michael's grasp on freedom soon came to an end as the Bolsheviks took power.  By November 1917, his situation was becoming more acute "as soldiers from the Aviation School"  confiscated 80 bottles of wine and sugar.   Michael and his family were still able to travel between Gatchina and Petrograd, but returning to Brasovo was out of the question.

It was a false sense of security for Russia and for Michael.  The Bolsheviks had no intention of respecting the Constituent Assembly.  The Bolsheviks had only 24 percent of the seats but were able to take control and end Russia's hope for a democratic constitution.

Michael and his secretary Nicholas Johnson were arrested and sent to Perm, more than 1000 miles from Petrograd on March 11.  There are no diary entries from March 6 to  May 8

Natalia was desperate to have Michael released.  She made arrangements for their son to be smuggled out of Russia.  She received permission to spend Easter in Perm.  She left Perm on May 18, as noted in Michael's diary.  It was the last time they would see each other.  

In the final weeks of his life, Michael continued to have stomach problems.  Although he was not under arrest, he was not permitted to leave Perm.

The last diary entry is dated June 11, 1918.  He wrote to Natasha who had already returned to Gatchina.  In the middle of the night (June 12/13), three soldiers turned up with arrest warrants for Michael and Johnson.  They were "forcibly removed" and before sunrise on June 13, Grand Duke Michael and Nicholas Johnson were executed somewhere outside Perm.  Their bodies were never found.

This book is a welcomed addition -- a must-have, actually -- to the canon of Romanov books for serious historians.  Yes, the diary entries lack emotion or insight, yet remain important as a record of what Michael's life was like until the day before his death.

Helen Azar has done a superior job with the translation and Nicholas Nicholson, already an acknowledged art expert is now an accomplished  Russian historian. In writing the opening biographical sketch and the many footnotes, he consulted numerous original Russian language sources including Grand Duke Andrew's diaries. 

The book includes six pages of photos.  The photos are small, and it is difficult to read the captions.  Doubling the number of pages with 2 photos per page would have allowed the photos to be better presented. 


Michael Romanov Brother of the Last Tsar Diaries and Letters 1916-1918 was published in hardcover ($99.95) and paperback ($29.95) by Academic Press.