Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Last Tsar Emperor Michael II

Donald Crawford's The Last Tsar is an absolutely dreadful book.  This is in spite of the fact that Crawford has put together a competent bibliography of resources.  

This book is supposed to be an update to Michael & Natasha by Crawford and his wife, Rosemary.  That book, published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson, focused largely on the relationship of Grand Duke Michael and his morganatic wife, Natasha Wulfert.  

Crawford now turns to Michael's position as heir presumptive and his putative succession to the throne after Nicholas II's abdication for himself and his only son.  Michael may have been Tsar on paper, but he never reigned, never held power, and ended up as a pawn in the Bolshevik power struggle  It was the Bolshevik "government" that offered false information, stating that Michael had escaped (and providing hope to his wife).  But the truth was different.  Michael and his secretary were shot to death in June 1918, a month before the deaths of Nicholas II and his family.

The book might be more credible if Crawford had actually took the time to grasp basic facts about the succession to the Russian throne.  He also trips often over family relationships.  Page 225 is a good example. 

Crawford wrote: "It would not be long before anti-German sentiment would be so great that the British royals in the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, as Queen Victoria  thought it would be, would reinvent themselves under the more agreeable name of the House of Windsor.  By an Order-in-Council of July 17, 1918, Alexandra's eldest sister, Victoria of Hesse-Darmstadt, until she married Prince Louis of Battenberg, disappeared, to be replaced by the terribly English sounding Marchioness of Milford Haven, though she had never been there.  Other Battenbergs were translated into Mountbatten and Carisbrooke; the Duke of Teck found himself converted into a Scotsman, as Earl of Athlone."

George V's Order in Council created the House of Windsor.  The decision of his cousins to abandon their German titles came at the same time, but this was not included in the Order.  

It's Hesse and By Rhine, not Hesse-Darmstadt.  Victoria was not created Marchioness of Milford Haven.  Her husband, Prince Louis, was created as the Marquess of Milford Haven.  Princess Victoria was given the opportunity to keep her title, but she chose to give it up, and be styled as Marchioness of Milford Haven.  All of the Battenbergs became Mountbatten.  Prince Alexander of Battenberg, Princess Beatrice's eldest son, was created the Marquess of Carisbrooke, with the family name Mountbatten.

The Duke of Teck, who was Queen Mary's brother,  was created Marquess of Cambridge.  Their younger brother, Prince Alexander of Teck, who was married to Princess Alice of Albany, was created Earl of Athlone.  Athlone is in Ireland, not Scotland.

Grand Duke Kirill's wife, Victoria, is described as "German-born."  She was born in Malta.   Crawford also errs when he writes that Kirill and his brothers were barred from the succession because their mother had not converted at the time of the marriage.  The Fundamental laws are specific about the succession.  Most  brides converted when they married, but the law only applied to the Emperor and his heir.  Alexander II had approved Wladimir's marriage to Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. 

Following the Borki train crash, a commission ruled that Wladimir and his children had succession rights even though Marie was Lutheran.  She did convert in 1907, when this branch of the family realized that the throne might pass to their branch if Alexis died before he married and had issue.

Kirill's marriage was eventually recognized and approved.  Victoria was styled as a Grand Duchess, and her children recognized as members of the Imperial family.  The Russian Orthodox church does not permit marriages between first cousins (Kirill and Victoria were first cousins), but the church also does not permit marriages between second and third cousins, which would eliminate a number of Romanov marriages.   Kirill and Victoria were married by an Orthodox priest.

Grand Duchess Elisabeth, the wife of Grand Duke Konstantin, never converted,  yet her children had succession rights.  These rights were acknowledged when their daughter, Princess Tatiana, renounced her rights when she married.

Such tosh.  Getting the facts is not difficult.  Lots of good sources for the right information.  Making such sloppy mistakes does not help any possible scholarship.

The Amazon listing does not provide a publisher for The Last Tsar. I have looked through the book several times, and have not been able to find the name of the  publisher. There is nothing on the jacket.   The book must be print-on-demand.

Give this book amiss.  No trees should have died for this crap.


  1. The Amazon listing, at least for the paperback, now gives the publisher as CreateSpace -- which is, just as you say, a print-on-demand publisher associated with itself.

  2. The book is published by Murray McLellan, Edinburgh, though like most British publishers it now uses CreateSpace to upload to Amazon UK. Welcome to today's world. As for Ms Koenig's review, what utter drivel. Apart from missing the point of the book, she is not as clever as she thinks she is. To take but two points, Hesse by the Rhine was never after 1816 a name adopted by the British — simply doesn't trip off the tongue — and Athlone is not in Ireland. Athlone is near Aberdeen, and the Athlone coat of arms bears the Scottish Unicorn. No British royal has ever held an Irish title. How do these people get the space for such nonsense?

  3. No British royal has ever held an Irish title. Queen Victoria created her third son, Prince Arthur as Duke of Connaught. Connaught is in Ireland. Athlone is in County Westmeath, Ireland. It also does not matter how something trips off the tongue . the official translation into English of Hesse und bei Rhin is Hesse and by Rhine. There are plenty of official references to this. When Princess Irene married Prince Harry of Prussia, the Times stated "Princess Irene of Hesse and By Rhine, as her proper designation runs" Good enough for the times ..

    and remember, the British royals are officially of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland .. talk about tongue tripping .. and MOST UK publishers do not use CreateSpace ...

  4. Sorry, not interested. But good luck with your Kindle booklet The Gleichens on Amazon — if you can get it into print, do try CreateSpace. They are really very good.

  5. Mr.Crawford, you said no British royal has ever held an Irish title, and then after you are presented with the fact that Prince Arthur was created Duke of Connaught, you say sorry not interested. The Duke of Albany's third title was Baron Arklow - and Arklow is located in County Wicklow Ireland. So how can you say No British royal has ever held an Irish title.
    My Gleichen article is also being published in a journal. It is not long enough for a book. My next book is on the descendants of Grand Duke Adolphe of Luxembourg.

    You might want to consider having an experience royal expert read your manuscripts before publication so the point of the book won't be distracted by so many glaring mistakes that could have easily been caught .. and your editor also failed by not making sure the facts were correct before hitting the send button.