The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport (5 Stars)

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport

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Not one to embrace stardom, celebrity and royalty, nevertheless, this story always fascinated me. The Romanov Sisters is indeed a very comprehensive look at Russia’s last royal family. Rappaport’s research was documented with personal letters and diaries, giving each of the sisters a voice.  This is an intimate glimpse into the lives of the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov. They were the first four children born to Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra, before Alexandra gave birth to Alexei.

I don’t intend to tell the whole story, as it is documented everywhere on the web, but let’s start with Alexandra, or Alix, who was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Through her mother’s marriage, she became Princess Alix Viktoria Helene Luise Beatrix of Hesse and by Rhine, part of the German Empire. She and Tsar Nicholas were in love, but she initially refused to marry him as she refused to convert to Russian Orthodoxy. She did change her mind and came to fervently embrace her new religion. There seems little doubt about Nicholas and Alix’s love and devotion to each other, which was part of his downfall. He spent so much of his time with his family due to her inability to cope, that the citizenry felt he was neglectful of them and ineffective. Being born into a royal family, you would think that she would have had a better handle on reading the public, yet she was wildly out of touch with public opinion. She knew she was unpopular with the Russian citizenry, and never really made an effort to change their opinion. She continued to isolate herself and her children from the public, using her health issues as an excuse. The “girlies,” who grew up with little social interaction, were awkward and immature. Alix’s involvement Rasputin and his influence over her was further cause for public outcry. Then the country went to war, Nicholas was judged to be an ineffective ruler, the revolution took place, and the family ended up being murdered.

Sounds simple, but the details behind the story, both private and political, are fascinating.  It also makes you wonder how history may have been rewritten if Alix was different, if Nicholas felt he had the time to tend to the public more, and both were beloved by the citizenry.

This was an excellent book and very thought-provoking.

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