Friday, December 21, 2018

Alix an Gretchen (Aix and Gretchen)

In 2002,  Alix and Gretchen (Briefe der Zarin Alexandra Feodorowna aus den Jahren 1891-1914 an Freiin Margarethe von Fabrice) was published in Darmstadt.  This book included letters between Alix and Gretchen until the outbreak of the first world war and family photos that belonged to Gretchen's granddaughter, Rottraut von Prittwitz and other family members.  The book was privately printed with limited distribution.

Fast forward to 2018.  Darmstadt publisher Justus von Liebig Verlag has published the book a hardcover edition with more text and images, again from Gretchen's family's personal collection.

Gretchen was a special lady-in-waiting to Princess Alix of Hesse and By Rhine. Ten years Alix's senior, Gretchen was also a good friend to the young princess. This friendship continued after Alix's marriage to Nicholas II.

The correspondence flourished with letters, postcards, and telegrams.  New photos of the two women's growing families were sometimes also included in the letters.

The outbreak of World War I in the summer of 1914 led to an abrupt break in the correspondence.  For Alix, who had made few friends in Russia, the loss of her friend Gretchen, must have been difficult to cope with especially as Gretchen was someone who understood her.

The new edition also has a new introduction by German historian Thomas Aufleger, who specializes in the Hesse and by Rhine grand ducal family, and Rotraut von Prittwitz's original forward.

The book is in German and there are no plans for an English translation.   Personally, I think an English translation is warranted because the correspondence offers a different insight, a softer impression of Empress Alexandra,  a royal whose personality and demeanor were ill-suited to be the consort of the Russian emperor, who was equally unprepared to be Emperor.

Alix's connection to Gretchen maintained a line to her past in Darmstadt where life was more simple and without the pressure of the Russian court.

This book is available solely through the publisher. The price is 24.80 Euros.  Postage is extra.  For postal prices outside Germany, please contact the publisher at

The book is not available through Amazon.  I think the publisher should consider investing in a better distribution system for this book because it is warranted.  I also think that an English translation would not be too costly for the publisher.

Justus von Liebig should be able to do more to get Alix an Gretchen out beyond Darmstadt.  It is a disservice to do otherwise.

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