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Russia

Russian Family portraits

The five children of Nicholas II on the deck of the imperial yacht. Visit of Nicholas II and the empress Alexandra to the Grand Duke Konstantin and the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mavrikievna, probably at Pavlovsk. The Grand Duke Nicholas Konstantinovich, scandalous member of the family, with his sister the Grand Duchess Vera Konstantinovna, and his…

Palace of Strelna

Saint Petersburg, Russia This palace was built for Peter the Great by architect Le Blond. Its park stretched from its terraces to the Baltic. It was passed down to numerous members of the Imperial Family before belonging to my great-grandfather, the Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich, and then to his son, Konstantin Konstantinovich. I absolutely wanted…

COUSIN TALYA

One day, someone, I cannot recall who, told me of a distant cousin of mine, a Romanov, who had lived her entire life in Moscow and still lived there. I answered that it was perfectly impossible, that no Romanov could have lived in the Soviet Union at the time of the Soviets, and, worst yet,…

RASPUTIN

Rasputin was this Russian monk who, having been introduced to the last emperor Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, proved to be the only one capable of calming the terrible haemophiliac episodes of the heir Grand-Duke, the young Alexis. This allowed him to gain absolute control over the parents of the unfortunate child, to…

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TSARITSYNO PARK

It was just given back to the public recently, but Aimone, my son-in-law, had long known it as a Romanesque ruin through which he enjoyed taking strolls, as the palace is surrounded by a sumptuous park with water features, an island and a dock marked by marble sphinxes. In fact, the tsarina Catherine II the…

THE FORGOTTEN TREASURE OF THE LAST TSAR

When Kerensky had seized power in Russia during the Revolution of February 1917, he had interned the tsar, the tsarina and their five children in the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. He had tried to send the prisoners to England, but King George V, first cousin of Nicholas II and first cousin of the Empress,…

Orlow_Diamond-Diamant_ imperial sceptre_Orlov-diamond_Russia_Michael_of_Greece_Chronicles

THE ORLOV DIAMOND

Grigory Orlov was a dashing officer from a Russian aristocratic family. The Grand Duchess Catherine Alexeievna fell in love with him. Both mistrusted and beloved by the reigning Empress Elizabeth, neglected by her husband the Grand Duke Peter heir to the throne, isolated in a Court where she knew few people, she was in a…

THE GHOST OF THE LAST TSAR

While I was writing my book on Russian Imperial Palaces, we dined, my editor and I, in Saint Petersburg with a handful of curators from the Hermitage. As always, a Russian-style diner, very joyful with lots of drinking, and, also in Russian-style, the conversation soon fell onto one of their favourite subject: ghosts. And so…

THE FAKE ANASTASIA ( Part 2)

The audience was restricted: Dorothy and I, her brother, Mr. Benjamin and the Cannon couple. The room to which we were shown had all the usual accessories: a water basin, a guitar, aluminium trumpets. We turned off the lights and almost immediately the medium fell into a trance. In total darkness, we heard quiet rustling…

THE FAKE ANASTASIA

Since the discovery of DNA, there is no more Anastasia mystery, as it was immediately proven, without a shadow of a doubt, that Mrs Anderson ¬who pretended to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, youngest daughter of Nicholas II, survivor of the Yekaterinburg massacre – had nothing to do with her. Long before the war, my…