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Family secrets


Royalty in all shapes and forms

QUEEN CHRISTINA

Christina of Sweden is a phenomenon that passed through the 17th century stunning all her contemporaries. Born in 1626, only daughter to King Gustav II Adolph, her father passes away when she is six years old. She ascends to the throne under the regency of the remarkable Chancellor Oxenstierna, but she does not get along…

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BERNADOTTE

He was a Gascon soldier from the Revolution, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. He had grown up and made his path during this troubled period through the shear strength of his wrists, his wit and his military genius. He had gotten into contact with Bonaparte, but the latter, in some ways, was jealous of him as Bernadotte bested…

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…

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,…

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…

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THE SCANDALOUS GRAND DUKE

At the time, I worked in the National Archives of the Russian State, in an immense sinister building, badly lit but redeemed by the boundless kindness of the employees. We discussed my family with these extraordinarily cultivated ladies. I told them about the four brothers of my grandmother Queen Olga. “No, one of them said…

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ANNE AND SARAH

In the winter of 1711, neither France nor Louis XIV was faring very well. Frost was destroying the crops, it was so cold that people were dying in the streets, the Spanish War of Succession had been dragging on for over ten years, there was no more money, no more troupes, no more resources, no…