Sunday, December 31, 2017

Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig and Princess Alix of Hesse and By Rhine in Italy 1893 by Petra H. Kleinpenning

In the spring of 1893, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine and his youngest sister, Princess Alix, traveled to Italy for three and half weeks to +sightsee.  The siblings spent their time in Florence and Venice, visiting churches, museums, and other sites, along with spending time with family members including Princess Marie of Battenberg (the wife of the Count of Erbach-Schonburg) and the Hereditary Princess Charlotte of Saxe-Meiningen (nee Prussia).

Kleinpenning, the editor of The Correspondence of the Empress Alexandra of Russia with Ernst Ludwig and Eleonore, Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Hesse,  compiled this 60-page book by using contemporary sources including the local Darmstadt newspaper, papers in the State Archive of the Russian Federation and memoirs (the Princess of Erbach-Schonburg).   Neither Ernie nor Alix kept travel diaries for their own views and comments during their stay,

After returning to Darmstadt, Alix wrote to her friend Toni Becker about her trip. "Our stay in Florence was idyllic and the weather so favourable all the time --we have seen a lot, but one is never finished.  There are almost too many beautiful things here."

One expects that Alix thought about the man she was in love with -- the Tsarevitch of Russia -- but as she was unwilling to abjure her Lutheran faith to convert to Russian Orthodoxy)

There is no doubt that the trip proved successful for the siblings.  Ernie, for one, was able to indulge in his love for art.   It was also a time for Ernie and Alix to spend time with family, including their grandmother, Queen Victoria, who was also on holiday in Italy.  No doubt, the Queen was considering marital partners for the siblings.  She certainly had a wife in mind for the artistic Ernie: his first cousin, Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh.  They got engaged in January 1894 and were married three months later.

It was at Ernie's wedding that Alix finally accepted Nicholas' proposal.  By the end of 1894,  Alix had converted to Orthodoxy, married Nicholas (who had succeeded his father only weeks earlier) and had become the Empress (consort) of all the Russias.

Kleinpenning has made the most of her sources.   She offers readers a bit of insight into Ernie and Alix's final year of singlehood, traveling together as tourists, sharing confidences and enjoying each other's company.  One can imagine their conversations as they observed great art.

This book may be slim, but it offers insight and retrospect.  Ernie had succeeded his father in 1892 and was finding his way as the Grand Duke.  His three older sisters were married with families of their own, leaving Alix as the only sister at home.

During his lifetime, Ernie visited Italy several more times.  Although Alix desired to see Italy again, she never again visited the country.

Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig and Princess Alix of Hesse and By Rhine - 1893 is available from, but not

It is a print on demand book.  The book's publisher, Brave New Books, is located in the Netherlands. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Wandering Princess by Edward Hanson

Going to say it right now ... The Wandering Princess by Edward Hanson is the best royal book of the year.    This is the first biography of Princess Helene of France, Duchess of Aosta (1871-1950) ... and it was worth waiting for.

Helene, the third of eight children of Prince Philippe, Count of Paris, and Infanta Marie Isabelle, daughter of the Duke of Montpensier and Infanta Luisa Fernanda of Spain.  She was born in Twickenham, England, as her family was in exile.  The young Helene grew up in a social setting that brought her into contact with members of the British royal family.  She was a favorite of the Princess of Wales and a friend of Alexandra's three daughters.   Helene also caught the eye of Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, the eldest son of the Prince and Princess of Wales and second line to the British throne.

Helene was certainly suited to marry the second in line to the throne with one huge caveat.  Helene was Roman Catholic and Eddy, as the Duke of Clarence, was called by his family, would lose his right to the throne if he married a Roman Catholic.  Her father, a devout Roman Catholic,  put the kibosh on Helene's desire to join the Anglican church.

The Duke of Clarence became engaged to Princess May of Teck. He died from pneumonia only weeks before the wedding was to have taken place.  (Eighteen months after the duke's death, May married his younger brother, George.)

Most writers have focused on Helene's brief romance with Eddy, but, thanks to Edward Hanson, we now get a complete portrait.   Helene was certainly shopped around by her family, as they searched for a husband for her.  Duke Ernst Gunther of Schleswig-Holstein considered marrying her, knowing that such a marriage would be an anathema to his sister, Empress Auguste Viktoria.   There were also reports that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, was considering Helene as a bride.  But it was Prince Emanuele Filiberto, Duke of Aosta, who Helene married in 1895.   Five years later, King Umberto I was assassinated and was succeeded by his son Vittorio Emanuele III

The Duke of Aosta was heir presumptive to the Italian throne until 1904, when Queen Elena gave birth to a son, Umberto.

The marriage between the Duke of Aosta and Helene was not a success.  By 1900, following the birth of two sons, the couple lived largely separate lives.  Helene could not accept her husband's philandering behavior and she was ill-suited to life at the Italian court.

Although she supported numerous charitable organizations, including the Italian Red Cross, Helene spent most of her time away from the court, away from Italy, traveling with friends to the Middle East and Africa.  These travels were documented by Helene's camera and her travel diaries.

There is such detail in this book -- as Hanson brings Helene alive through her own words.

The discourse in her marriage -- and her spirit of adventure -- offered Helene the opportunity to carve out a more independent life in the early part of the 20th century.   In later years, Helene considered Emanuele Filiberto to be her best friend, but she acknowledged that there was no love for him.  The first betrayal of his marital vows occurred not long after their marriage.

Helene was very much a wandering princess.  She put her own needs before her family's, including her two young sons,  as it was unusual for a woman of her stature to be so very independent minded.

The wandering was put on hiatus during the first world war as she remained largely in Italy to support her husband's family.  But once the armistice was signed, she was already planning her next trip.

She also had her own lover,  Otto Campini, whom she married in 1936, five years after the death of the Duke of Aosta.

The major blot of Helene's life was her open and enthusiastic support for Mussolini and fascism.  This support made it difficult for Helene to communicate with her elder son, Amedeo, the 3rd Duke of Aosta, who was being held by the British in a prisoner-of-war camp in Kenya.  He died in the camp.  His younger brother, Prince Aimone, the 4th Duke of  Aosta, was named as King of Croatia, although he never reigned in the country.

The Italian monarchy came to an end in May 1946, when a referendum led to the establishment of the Italian republic.  Although King Umberto begged Helene to join the family in exile,  she sought the comfort of her home at Capodimonte, which had been her residence since 1905.  Although the new Italian government allowed Helene to remain in Italy (the law of exile applied to the male descendants of all the Italian kings and their male descendants), she had to leave Capodimonte and move into a new home.

In January 1948,  Helene's younger son, Aimone, who was married to Princess Irene of Greece, died in Argentina, leaving his young son, Amedeo, as the 5th Duke of Aosta.

Helene was 79 years old when she died on January 21,1951.   She died in Italy, which had become her home in 1895.  She understood exile, as she had been born in England, not France, as her family had been in exile since King Louis Philippe lost his throne in 1848.

Unwilling to accept the traditional (and dutiful) role of the wife of an Italian royal, Helene chose her own path.  She preferred to live her life largely on her own terms.

The Wandering Princess is a brilliant book that has all the qualities of what a good royal biography should be.  For starters,  Hanson has well-researched his subject (take a look at the comprehensive bibliography) and the writing is neither stilted nor stuffy.  Hanson has a comfortable scholarly style.  This means the book is readable for historians and the general public.

This should not come as a surprise.  An American by birth,  Edward Hanson studied history before he moved to England where he was ordained as a  priest in the Church of England.

I wait for news of what Edward Hanson's next royal subject will be.  But for now, please feast on The Wandering Princess, a most wonderful book.  There is no doubt in my mind that The Wandering Princess will become a classic biography that will be wanted by royal readers for years to come.

The book is published by Fonthill Media.

You will not regret reading this book.  Treasure it.  Royal biographies like this do not come along very often.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Books about King Michael

Here is a selection of books available in English on King Michael.

The Romanian publishing Curtea Veche has published excellent books on the Romanian royal family.   The search term is regele Mihai.

Several books have a good selection of photos.  I have ordered from this firm several times.  Very easy even with the Romanian language.  Hit the translate button.

The books are largely inexpensive and the postage costs are not prohibitive, even if sending to the USA.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig and Princess Alix of Hesse and By the Rhine in Italy 1893

I just ordered this book - available on and -- from the UK Amazon.  It is not available from  Petra Kleinpenning also edited the wonderful The Correspondence of the Empress Alexandra of Russia with Ernst Ludwig and Eleonore, Grand Duke and Duchess of Hesse. 1878-1916, which is a must have for every Romanov collection.   Both books are from Print on Demand publishers but the first book is now out of print, but there are copies available for sale at Amazon and

Monday, November 27, 2017

Crowning Glory: Americans Wives of Princes and Dukes by Richard Hutto

Not a perfect book (errors that should have been caught before publication)... but comprehensive, nonetheless, about Americans who have married into royal and noble families.   Published in 2007.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Princess Elizabeth's wedding day - 1947

There were very few publications published after the wedding of then Princess Elizabeth and Lt. Philip Mountbatten on November 20, 1947.  Please note that the DVDs are Region 2 (PAL).  The US and Canada are in Region 1 (NTSC).  You will need a code free with a built in converter DVD to watch Region 2 DVDS.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Road Home Filip-Lucian Iorga in Dialogue with Prince Nicholas of Romania (2014)

This e-book was published in 2014.   An interesting perspective.    I do not see it available on

Friday, November 3, 2017

Wilhelmina's letters now in English

Emerentia van Heuven-van Nes is the editor of Darling Queen  Dear Old Bones, a book of the correspondence between Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and her governess, Elizabeth Saxon-Winter.  The correspondence began when Wilhelmina was a child, and continued until Miss Saxon-Winter's death in 1935.

This book was originally published in Dutch.   An English translation is about to be released by the Amsterdam University Press.   Awesome.

The book is also available from Hoogstraten.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Helen Azar's latest Romanov tome: Grand Duchess Maria's 1913 Diary

I have not yet read Helen Azar's newest Romanov b 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna: Complete Tercentennial Journal of the Third Daughter of the Last Tsar, but I do not doubt its scholarship. Azar is fluent in Russian, and does her own translations. I hope to review the book soon -- after I get a copy -- but I have to finish reading and reviewing three other new royal books before starting on this one.

You can order a copy by clicking on one of these links.  The first is for the US and the second is for the UK.   I am not ashamed to say that if you use these links or order anything from Amazon or using my search boxes, I will make a few pennies.  Really - just a few pennies. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Princess Olga A Wild & Barefoot Romanov

A Wild and Barefoot Romanov is the title of Princess Olga Romanov's memoirs.  Olga, who was born 1950, is the only child of  Prince Andrew Alexandrovich of Russia and his Finnish-Scottish second wife Nadine McDougall.  Prince Andrew was the second child and eldest son of Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna and Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovitch.    Xenia was Emperor Nicholas II's sister, which meant that Andrew was the Emperor's nephew, and a first cousin to Nicholas' children.

Andrew's world of great wealth and servants came to an end with the Russian Revolution, the end of the monarchy that led to the  murders of Nicholas and his family and other members of the Romanov family, and exile for those who survived, having fled first to their estates in the Crimea, and finally, leaving Russia in the spring of 1919.

Andrew and his father left Russia four months before the rest of the Crimean-based family.  They were accompanied by Andrew's first wife,  Elisabetta Sasso-Ruffo, a previously married half-Italian-half Russian woman, who was ten years his senior, and pregnant with their first child,  when they married in November 1918.

King George V offered his cousin, Grand Duchess Xenia, grace and favor homes at Windsor and Hampton court.  Andrew and his first wife and their three children lived with Xenia.

One would assume that the British royal family would embrace Xenia's family, which included her seven children.  Her only daughter, Irina, was already married to Felix Yusopov, one of Rasputin's murderers, and, in exile, settled in France.  The family affection ended with Xenia, as her sons had to find their own ways in the world.  Most of Xenia's descendants live in the United States, France and Australia.

Andrew had no inheritance, and no recognizable job skills.  After the death of his first wife in 1940 from cancer,  Andrew married again, just two years later to Nadine McDougall,   Nadine had some money and a family home, Provender, in Kent, which suited Andrew well.

In a word, Nadine was an insufferable snob.  She married a grandson of Alexander III, a real Prince of Russia, who had no income, and no title that he could technically pass to his wife and family.  Both of his marriages were morganatic and in violation of the Pauline laws.   No matter,  Socially,  Nadine and Olga were princesses .. so let's leave it that.   It also should be noted that Olga states that her father was HIH (His Imperial Highness) and head of the Orthodox church.  Andrew was a Prince of Russia, and styled as His Highness.  Grand Dukes and Grand Duchesses were HIH.   Nor was Prince Andrew the head of the Orthodox church.

Olga was born in 1950. It is suffice to say that Nadine was not a hands on mum.  She had delusions of grandeur that would effect Olga's life.   Same pram as the Queen had for her young children.  Only Malvern water.  No tap water.  Nannies, nurses .... a rather presumptuous life for a family of three in Kent, living in a historic house.

While Andrew pottered around Provender, opening fetes and cooking,  Nadine was determined that her only child would marry into a well connected and wealthy family.  No need for a proper education if the only goal was to find a husband.

I feel a bit sorry for Olga.  Limited education, no real job skills, an adoring father who could not stand up to his socially ambitious wife.  Nadine apparently did not have good financial advisers, and when, things got really bad, Nadine got Olga to turn over to her Olga's trust fund.  One word:  naive.  Olga was very naive.  She willingly sign the papers, allowing her mother to take her money ... and never paid her back.

Olga married Thomas Mathew in 1975, settling into a home in Scotland, where Olga raised four children,  The three eldest children survive.

It was at Provender where Olga felt most at home.  In the final years of her mother's life, it became impossible to maintain the historic home.  Leaky roof, no electricity... the house was literally falling down.   Olga would find her metier with Provender's restoration and salvation.  The house is now open to the public, and Olga exploits, in the most of positive of ways, her Romanov connections, although many of her father's possessions, including family correspondence, was sold to pay for the restoration.

While  A Wild and Barefoot Romanov provides an intimate  look at Olga's life and upbringing, the book flops when it comes to facts.  Several times, Olga reminds us that women cannot inherit the throne in Russia.  This is untrue. The Fundamental Laws make it clear that all eligible males have rights before all eligible females.  Olga is correct when she says she has no rights.  This is due to the fact that her father's marriage to her mother was morganatic.  Nadine was not a member of a reigning or a royal house as required by the Fundamental Laws.

She also gets it wrong about George V and the purported offer of asylum in the spring 1917.  If the Provisional Government had not vacillated in its response to the British offer,  Lord Stamfordham would not have had the opportunity to meet with different government officials to make it clear that Nicholas was not welcome.  Kenneth Rose was the first to write about this in his biography of King George V.

Olga writes that her father did not ask Queen Elizabeth (consort of George VI) for permission to marry Nadine ... he didn't need the Queen Consort's permission to wed.  Tosh.  I also doubt that this decision led to tension with Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother.)  More tosh.

In September 1968,  Olga and her mother were in a Scottish hotel to attend the Oban Ball, where it "was announced that Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, had died."   Marina died on August 27, 1968.

I wish the book was better edited.  There were times when I wanted to reach for a red pencil.  It also would help readers if the editor had insisted on source verification (footnotes for some statements) and included an index.

The book includes several dozen family photos, many of which have not been seen before, as the photos are private family photos.

The penultimate chapter, "Lost Heritage," includes the 1924 correspondence between Dowager Empress Marie (Olga's great grandmother) and Grand Duke Kirill, who defended his decision to claim the throne, even though Marie never accepted that her sons and grandchildren were dead.   Her daughters perpetuated the fiction,  never taking the opportunity to tell their mother that Nicholas and Michael were dead. 

Olga's floundering life was given purpose with the restoration and she has made the most of it. 

A Wild and Barefoot Romanov is a fun read, but one does come away with a sense that Olga's life would have been very different if her father knew how to stand up to her snobby, snooty mother.

Noted royal biographer Coryne Hall provided assistance to Princess Olga.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

What Manner of Man is This by Sir Orville Turnquest

I am of two minds about What Manner of Man is This?, a new book that examines the Duke of Windsor's role as Governor General of the Bahamas. The idea of the book is very book because it is the first to focus on the five years (1940-1945), when, according to author, Sir Orville Turnquest, QC, "the native black population was completely subjugated under white minority rule."

None of the former King Edward VIII's biographers have devoted extensive detail for a time period when the British government, after getting the pro-Nazi Duke and Duchess of Windsor out of France, and fobbed off on the Bahamians as their Governor General. 

Certainly, in the eyes of the Duke, and especially his duchess, the Bahamas was not a choice location.  Both would have preferred to spend the war in the United States.   It was a lot easier to keep an eye on the former King if he were put into a position where he could not cause a lot of trouble.

So much for that idea.

The Bahamas became an independent nation in 1973.   Sir Orville served as the country's fifth Governor General (1995-2001) and is one of the country's most successful and respected lawyers.

I enjoyed the parts of the book that were on topic - the Duke of Windsor and the events that shaped Bahamas' growing desire for self-determination -- but the author would veer off topic at times -- offering a history of the Bahamas or his role in some event.   This  made the book disjointed at times.  Perhaps the book would have had a few less pages if the author and publisher had not padded the text.  It took the author forty seven pages to get to the Duke's arrival in the Bahamas.

Sir Orville is at his best when he focuses on the former King's role in Bahamian politics and economics.    The Duke of Windsor was awful at his job.  He never took the time to understand the needs of the Bahamanian citizens, most of whom were black, and largely underrepresented in the government,  This was not an understatement.   At times, the former king would his show his disdain for the black residents.  He certainly made his views clears in correspondence and correspondence.

The issues that faced the duke were largely economical.  After Pearl Harbor and the United States' entry into the second world war, the Bahamas saw their tourism industry collapse.  The United States, however, saw the Bahamas as a good place to build several military bases.  This would mean more jobs for local residents, but the American workers were paid more than the black residents.   This inequality would lead to worker dissatisfaction and worker riots.

But Sir Orville  does answer his own question:  What Manner of Man is This?   Well, not a very good one.  The Duke was poorly advised, and, to use a modern expression, the Duke did not have a clue to the reality of the Bahamas.   Sir Orville is right:  the Duke of Windsor was weak.  He was prejudiced. He was racist and he was disloyal. 

It takes time to get to the answer.   If you are able to wade through the chaff, you will find the wheat to be very interesting.

Two more quibbles:  No photographs and no index.  One would assume that newspapers and archives in the Bahamas would have good selection of photographs of the Duke of Windsor and other seasoned characters (Harry Oakes, for examples) during this time period.  Photographs from local sources would further enhanced this book.

The book was published by a Nassau, Bahamas, based publisher, Grant's Town Press.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Castelul Bran by Diana Mandache

I wish the Romanian publisher Curtea Veche would see the wisdom of a  bilingual text for Diana Mandache's excellent books.  She is a well-known Romanian royal historian, who is known outside Romania, and,she is fluent in  English.

Curtea Veche would be able to market her books outside of Romania -- and they would sell more copies.  More money for the publisher and more royalties for Diana.

Castelul Bran (Castle Bran) is her latest book.  Diana has access to the Romanian archives and she makes brilliant use of Queen Marie's papers -- and the the majority of the photos in the book are previously unpublished.

In 1920, the citizens of Brasov, Romania, offered  Bran to Queen Marie, and she accepted the offer.  The Castle, also known as Dracula's castle, soon became Marie's favorite residence.  She often spent weeks at a time at  Bran.  It was also a favorite residence of her youngest daughter, Princess Ileana, who was married to Archduke Anton of Austria.   Ileana inherited the castle after her mother's death in 1938.   She and her family moved from Austria to Bran, where they lived until the Communists forced them into exile.

The castle was eventually returned to three of Ileana's children, Archduke Dominic, Archduchess Maria Magdalene and Archduchess Elisabeth.  The castle is now open to the public.

Most of the photographs are of Queen Marie,  The story of Bran is also about how she saw Bran as peaceful, and her guests were close friends,  Princess Ileana, and two of Marie's sisters, Victoria Melita (Ducky)  and Beatrice.    My favorite photo shows Queen Marie talking with her nephew, Grand Duke Wladimir, who is playing with a dog, and looking out of open windows are Ducky, her younger daughter, Kira, and Princess Ileana.

The photos are worth the price of the book.  216 pages.  Photos (sometimes  more than one) on nearly every page.

The price of the book is 49 Lei.  This is about $13.00 A real bargain.  Yes, you can order from the publisher.   I think I paid $25.00 including postage.  The site is in Romanian.  You can use your credit cards.  Your browser should have a built in translator.   I have never had a problem ordering from the publisher.

Diana's books on  Cotroceni and Balcicul remain in print.

Twilight of Empire: The Tragedy at Mayerling and the End of the Habsburgs


Mark your calendars,  Greg King and Penny Wilson's latest collaboration, Twilight of Empire, will published in the USA  by St. Martin's Press.   The UK pub date is December 13.  Same publisher.

Please use these links to order the books.  

News from Greg King and Penny Wilson

Many of you know that I write books with my friend, Greg King. We have a good few under our belts at this point - but there have always been those subjects that we really, really, REALLY want to write about - but which won't sell to a publisher who - naturally - has to keep an eye on the bottom line. But now, thanks to Amazon's self-publishing facility, we can move ahead on those subjects - and hopefully on many others.

So, I'd like to introduce you to King and Wilson Books. Our first offering will be published in the first few days of December. It's probably the most comprehensive account in English of the Romanov Family and their history in the Crimea - from the first days of casual visits to Alupka to the first estate at Oreanda to the last desperate days of Empire when twenty members of the Romanov Family - the Dowager Empress, her daughter and grandchildren, and the Nicholaievichi Grand Dukes and their families - accompanied by twenty-five ladies and gentlemen and thirty-six servants, left Russia for the last time on board a British battleship, watching Yalta and the shores of their beloved Russia fade into the past.

This book is called "Imperial Crimea: Estates, Enchantment and the Last of the Romanovs." It is written by me, Greg, Sue Woolmans and Coryne Hall. For more details on the book, or to comment, please visit our Facebook page - and we hope you'll "like" us while you're there!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Crown -- Coming soon on DVD

The first series of The Crown, produced by Netflix, will be released on DVD in November.   If you use these links to purchase,  I make a few pennies per sale .. it adds up.  Thanks.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Madam, Where are Your Mangoes? by Desmond de Silva, QC

Sir Desmond de Silva, QC, has written his memoirs, Madam,  Where are Your Mangoes (Quartet)  I look forward to reading this book.  Sir Desmond is the former husband of Princess Katarina of Serbia.  They have a daughter, Victoria.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Absolute must haves for every Royal books Collection

Seriously, if you do not have these two books by Theo Aronson  .... Order them.   The late Theo Aronson remains one of the best royal biographers ever ... not scholarly reading, but informative and factual.

Queen Victoria's Matchmaking by Deborah Cadbury

I am not sure Cadbury will be telling us anything new.  Looking forward to reading and reviewing it.

Bloomsbury is the UK publisher.   PublicAffairs is publishing the American edition.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Subscribe to Royalty Digest Quarterly

Are you looking for a royal magazine that focuses on the history and not on the fashions or the latest gossip about Prince Harry.   Royalty Digest Quarterly is published by Ted Rosvall.  RDQ specializes in royal history with articles written by experts in their field. (Yes, I do write for the magazine)

 Don't expect articles on the Duchess of Cambridge's third pregnancy.

Subscribe to Royalty Digest Quarterly, now in our 12th year, a journal devoted to the history, genealogy, and images of the Royal Families of Europe. In every issue, which all have 64 pages in large format and over 120 illustrations, we present one dynasty in text, pictures, and pedigrees. Plus a lot of other articles, book reviews, and royal news.

Subscribe at or via email (
SEK 480 per year (approximately £46, €50 or $60) including postage.

All 46 back issues are still available.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Books by Coryne Hall

All are must haves --- excellent books.  Here is an opportunity to these books to your collection.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Romanov Tour: In the Steps of the Romanovs

"The tour will focus on the final 1.5 years (1916-1918) in the life of the Russia's last imperial family Romanov. Their photographs, diaries and letters will be used to help us relive their experiences, from the revolution torn Petrograd to the "Red" Ekaterinburg. We will start in Tsarskoe Selo with their wartime efforts at the infirmaries, their daily attendances of prayer services at local churches, their visits to orphanages, and burials of their beloved patients. We will also visit places where they went regularly, such as Anna Vyrubova's house, Peterhof, and Yelagin Palace.  We will enter the Yusupov Palace where their "Friend" Grigori Rasputin was murdered in late 1916, and take a peek at the apartment where he lived just prior to his death.  We will relive the Tsar’s abdication and retrace the steps of his sad last ride from the imperial train station to the Alexander Palace. We will experience the family's life under house arrest by walking around the Alexander Park - where they planted a garden, broke ice on canals, cut trees for firewood and took walks followed by guards.

During our time in St Petersburg we will visit additional locations, including the cathedral where the remains of the imperial family are currently entombed. We will then follow the Romanovs to Siberia and enter the Governor’s mansion in Tobolsk, where the family lived in captivity for almost a year. We will then head back towards Urals through Tyumen, making a stop in Pokrovskoe village, Rasputin's hometown. We will stand in the same spot the Romanovs stood - in front of Rasputin's house, when on Easter of 1918 they changed horses during their transfer to Ekaterinburg. We will then travel to Alapaevsk, where Grand Duchess Elisabeth, the Tsarina’s sister, and other members of the Romanov family, were imprisoned and ultimately murdered.  Our journey will conclude in Ekaterinburg, where "The House of Special Purpose" - the last prison of the last Russian imperial family - once stood. We will pay respects in the exact spot they were murdered 100 years ago, and remember and honour them at their original burial site in the woods, then outside the city limits."

The tour is being led by Romanov Historian Helen Azar who is a former biochemist turned librarian, historian and translator. She coauthored several articles on identification of the remains of the last Russian Imperial family. While attending library school, Helen did an internship at Tsarskoe Selo Museum's Rare Book Department, where she worked with the library collection that belonged to all Russian emperors from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II. Helen has been researching and translating Romanov diaries and letters for approximately ten years, having published five books from original writings of the last Tsar's four daughters. Within the field, Helen is considered the ultimate "voice" of the Romanov grand duchesses. Currently she is working on a book based on the last diary of Grand Duke Michael - the brother of Nicholas II, as well as two other Romanov books using new primary sources from the Russian archives.

For more information:

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Wandering Princess: Princess Helene of France, Duchess of Aosta by Edward Hanson

 Edward Hanson is the author of The Wandering Princess: Princess Helene of France, Duchess of Aosta 1871-1951 (Fonthill Media)

The Duchess by Penny Junor

The Duchess, a new biography of the Duchess of Cornwall, by Penny Junor will be published by William Collins in the UK on June 29. The book will not be published in the US until early 2018.

The biography is published in connection with the Duchess of Cornwall's 70th birthday.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Why ? Why? Why few English language books on foreign royals

In 1983, I started RBN Royal Book News, a bi-monthly newsletter, where I reviewed English and non-English books on royalty.  I published the newsletter until about a decade ago, due to the rising international postage.    This blog is the newsletter's successor - where I can reach even more readers without having to raise postage.

[RBN was never a money spinner, never made a profit, but I didn't do the newsletter to pay the rent.]

In the last 34 years, I have written numerous times about the dearth of non-British royal books published in English.  There are several reasons for this.

The first reason is no market.  Let me repeat this, as sad as it sounds to those of us who are interested in royalty, the Anglo-market is largely  non-existent.    Anglo-American publishers are not going to invest money in a book about Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden or King Felipe V of Spain because the books won't make money.  Sad.  But true.

The second reason is translation costs.  Yes, there are books in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg (lovely books published in Luxembourg), Spain, Liechtenstein (okay, few books available on the princely family), Monaco (many books in English on Princess Grace and her family), the Netherlands (Wilhelmina's memoirs were translated into English), as well as the non-European monarchies.

Translations are expensive.  Publishers hire professional translators, and the cost for these services are  expensive.   A good translator is well worth the price.   The cost for the translation is built into the cost of publishing the book.     A publisher has to recoup the publishing costs.  This means the book has to make money. Royal books rarely make the best sellers list.

The text for the annual Swedish royal year book, Det Kungliga aret, is in Swedish and English.

A scholarly biography is more likely to be translated in English.  John Rohl's massive three-volumed biography of Kaiser Wilhelm II was translated into English by Cambridge University Press.  However, this is a seminal and masterful achievement, and not a book about what Crown Princess Mary of Denmark wears.

[A review from last year, which includes my frequent lament about lack of translations . ]

A third reason is source material.  If you are writing an authoritative, well-researched book on the Spanish royal family, you need to speak Spanish and be able to access those sources.    John van der Kiste writes competent and interesting books on non-British royals, but admits he is hampered in his research because he is limited to English-language sources.

This has been a major problem for most Anglo-American royal biographers who have written about non-British royals.  If you do not read Danish, you cannot write about the Danes because you cannot access primary or even secondary sources,

The publisher of the Dutch royalty magazine, Vorsten, made an attempt to break into the Anglo market with The Crown, a quarterly journal that included Vorsten articles translated into English.  Unfortunately, the magazine ceased publication after two issues.

Money is the fourth reason.   Most published authors do not make a lot of money.  Bestsellers of course make money for authors and publishers.  Authors need literary agents who negotiate a decent contract with a publisher - who then sells foreign rights, which means more money for a writer.

A writer who does not have an agent will make less money. However,  literary agents charge fees, which are paid by the author out of the author's advance and royalties.

A good publisher might give the writer an advance on royalties.   A writer won't get further payments from the publisher if the publisher does not make money on the book.  Royalties are paid only after the publishing company has earned back the money paid to the writer.  Only after this will royalties be paid.

From The Business of  Publishing: "Typically, an author can expect to receive the following royalties: Hardback edition: 10% of the retail price on the first 5,000 copies; 12.5% for the next 5,000 copies sold, then 15% for all further copies sold. Paperback: 8% of retail price on the first 150,000 copies sold, then 10% thereafter."

This statement usually applies to the larger houses.  A smaller house will probably pay less.

A book on Crown Princess Victoria in English is unlikely to sell 5000 copies, which means a publisher is unlikely to sign a contract to publish the book.  Why?  No profit.

Of course, a writer could go the vanity press (self-publishing) route.   Numerous caveats here.  No one checks a manuscript for veracity.  The owners of vanity presses will pay authors even less than the legitimate publishing house.

The  number of English-language British royal books being published has gone down in the past several years.  Books about William and Catherine do not sell .. and we do not need more books on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.    Far fewer scholarly royal biographies are being published, certainly on  post Georgian royals.  The Tudors remain popular, both for biographies and historical fiction.  

I would love to see a new biography on Queen Alexandra, the consort of Edward VII.   The most recent biography was written by Georgina Battiscombe and published in 1969.  There is unlikely to be another.  Why?   Queen Alexandra did not leave a paper trail.  She destroyed her correspondence and other papers.

And the final reason:  living royals are works in progress so difficult to write competent and authoritative books about them,  It is easy to write books that do not have footnotes and a lot of photographs, but these books are largely fluff and cannot be taken seriously.

I have been reviewing and writing about royal books for more than 35 years -- and I am a published author and I write about royal for several magazines  -- so I feel competent to make these comments.

It also should be noted that most books on the British royals, past and present, have not been translated in other languages.

In conclusion,  a royal watcher might say that  I would love to read a book in English about Crown Princess Mette Marit    Publishers need thousands of these readers.  

I love reading and writing about royalty, and I admit my standards are high.  I do not care who designed the Duchess of Cambridge's shoes or that Crown Princess Victoria wore the same jacket to three different events.  That is not royal writing.

A writer who specializes in royalty needs to know history, access sources (called research), and should be able parse and disseminate the role of the royal within the context of social, familial and political events.   If you want to write about a  non-British royal with authority,  you need to be able to read foreign languages.   I cannot write a good article about Crown Princess Victoria's life because I do not understand Swedish,

In conclusion, don't expect to see British or American publishers seeking  out writers to produce books on living non-British royals.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Romanovs Royal Collections Volume II by Coryne Hall & Arturo Beeche

Yes, of course you are asking yourself the question:  Do you need, really need another
 book of  photographs of the Romanov Family?    Well, the answer is yes,  you need to have The Romanovs, which is the second volume in's Royal Collection Series.
So what to we have here?   For starters, the book has nearly 300 pages of photographs from Art  Beeche's Eurohistory archives,  In the past few decades, Art has acquired an impressive array of royal photos through auctions, acquisition and gifts.   One of the more important collections that Art has acquired came from the late Grand Duchess Helen of Russia, who married Prince Nicholas of Greece.

The book is separated into 10 chapters:  the  Romanov Dynasty, Alexander II, Alexander III (& three of his younger children: George. Michael and Alexandra), Nicholas II, the Senior Grand Dukes Vladimir, Alexei, Sergei. and Paul and their families; Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaievich and the Konstantinovichi Grand Dukes;  Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaievich and his descendants; Grand Duke Michael Nikolaievich and his descendants; Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaievna and the dukes of Leuchtenberg, and Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich and his descendants.

Yes, the entire Romanov clan - from formal group shots and formal portraits to family snaps, such as a rare image of Nicholas II wearing mufti.   Many of the more informal photos come from Grand Duchess Helen's albums.  Family dynamics aside, Grand Duchess Helen tried to maintain a cordial relationship with Nicholas and Alexandra.  This was difficult as Helen's brother, Kirill, was married to Princess Victoria  Melita of Edinburgh, whose first husband, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and By Rhine, was Alexandra's older brother.   A precarious situation as Ducky had been Alix's sister-in-law, but was also her first cousin.

Most photo books focus solely on Nicholas and Alexandra, with the familiar and oft-used photos.This book offers a photograph record of every branch of the Romanov dynasty from 1845 until 1917 -- the end of the Romanov dynasty.  This book includes many unpublished photos.  A real treat.

One of my favorite photos is on page 143, a full page group photo of Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, widow of Grand Duke Vladimir with her children and their families.  The photo was taken in 1912.   Marie's five granddaughters are featured prominently, all dressed in white, several clutching dolls.

A lot more care has been shown in the editing and layout of this book, which is a good thing, as I tend to whine about such things.,

What makes this book special, however, is the care paid to each branch of the Imperial Family.  Nicholas and Alexandra and OTMAA  usually get star attention.    In The Romanovs, we get to meet all of the family, the aunts, the uncles, first cousins, second cousins, thanks to Eurohistory's impressive photo archives.

British biographer Coryne Hall and Arturo  Beeche are the co-authors of The Romanovs.   Coryne has written several books on Romanovs, including a biography of Empress Marie Feodorovna, and she knows her subjects  well.

Do I recommend this book?   Yes, absolutely!   This is a history of a once proud dynasty, brought down by revolution and hubris seen through the eyes of a camera lens.

Don't rush through this book.  Take your time.  Relish and appreciate the portraits and the family snaps.

You will not regret purchasing this book.