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From Splendor to Revolution: The Romanov Women, 1847--1928

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This sweeping saga recreates the extraordinary opulence and violence of Tsarist Russia as the shadow of revolution fell over the land, and destroyed a way of life for these Imperial women The early 1850s until the late 1920s marked a turbulent and significant era for Russia. During that time the country underwent a massive transformation, taking it from days of This sweeping saga recreates the extraordinary opulence and violence of Tsarist Russia as the shadow of revolution fell over the land, and destroyed a way of life for these Imperial women The early 1850s until the late 1920s marked a turbulent and significant era for Russia. During that time the country underwent a massive transformation, taking it from days of grandeur under the tsars to the chaos of revolution and the beginnings of the Soviet Union. At the center of all this tumult were four women of the Romanov dynasty. Marie Alexandrovna and Olga Constantinovna were born into the family, Russian Grand Duchesses at birth. Marie Feodorovna and Marie Pavlovna married into the dynasty, the former born a Princess of Denmark, the latter a Duchess of the German duchy of Mecklendburg-Schwerin. In From Splendor to Revolution, we watch these pampered aristocratic women fight for their lives as the cataclysm of war engulfs them. In a matter of a few short years, they fell from the pinnacle of wealth and power to the depths of danger, poverty, and exile. It is an unforgettable epic story.


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This sweeping saga recreates the extraordinary opulence and violence of Tsarist Russia as the shadow of revolution fell over the land, and destroyed a way of life for these Imperial women The early 1850s until the late 1920s marked a turbulent and significant era for Russia. During that time the country underwent a massive transformation, taking it from days of This sweeping saga recreates the extraordinary opulence and violence of Tsarist Russia as the shadow of revolution fell over the land, and destroyed a way of life for these Imperial women The early 1850s until the late 1920s marked a turbulent and significant era for Russia. During that time the country underwent a massive transformation, taking it from days of grandeur under the tsars to the chaos of revolution and the beginnings of the Soviet Union. At the center of all this tumult were four women of the Romanov dynasty. Marie Alexandrovna and Olga Constantinovna were born into the family, Russian Grand Duchesses at birth. Marie Feodorovna and Marie Pavlovna married into the dynasty, the former born a Princess of Denmark, the latter a Duchess of the German duchy of Mecklendburg-Schwerin. In From Splendor to Revolution, we watch these pampered aristocratic women fight for their lives as the cataclysm of war engulfs them. In a matter of a few short years, they fell from the pinnacle of wealth and power to the depths of danger, poverty, and exile. It is an unforgettable epic story.

30 review for From Splendor to Revolution: The Romanov Women, 1847--1928

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Huston

    This one rolled in today on my doorstep and like I always seem to do with a Russian history book, I jumped right on it. Looks at the lives of four women of the Romanov dynasty -- Empress Marie Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark) and Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who married Romanov men, and Queen Olga of Greece and Marie Alexandrovna, who married foreign princes. As there tends to be not very much written about Queen Olga, this should be interesting. Ok, all done now. Very good, very interesting, te This one rolled in today on my doorstep and like I always seem to do with a Russian history book, I jumped right on it. Looks at the lives of four women of the Romanov dynasty -- Empress Marie Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark) and Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who married Romanov men, and Queen Olga of Greece and Marie Alexandrovna, who married foreign princes. As there tends to be not very much written about Queen Olga, this should be interesting. Ok, all done now. Very good, very interesting, terrific photos, if a touch too small on some, along with the usual ancillary stuff of genealogies, bibliography and the like. Four stars overall and a recommend. For the longer review, please go here: http://www.mylot.com/post/2944723/rev...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Really, really well done. Engaging writing style, a lot of information I've not read before. Julia Gelardi is fast becoming one of my favorite historians. Hope she doesn't switch to historical fiction like so many others have, real life is frequently more interesting than anything that can be made up! Really, really well done. Engaging writing style, a lot of information I've not read before. Julia Gelardi is fast becoming one of my favorite historians. Hope she doesn't switch to historical fiction like so many others have, real life is frequently more interesting than anything that can be made up!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    This is the second book I have read by this author and both have had me pulling hair by the end. This one deals with four royal Romanovs and it is just three too many to keep straight. Back and forth between Russia, Germany and Greece and throw in England now and then and sometimes using proper names and sometimes nicknames and sometimes--it all was very confusing. None of the subjects gets developed in any depth (if they had any depth to start with- just being royal doesn't always hack it). The This is the second book I have read by this author and both have had me pulling hair by the end. This one deals with four royal Romanovs and it is just three too many to keep straight. Back and forth between Russia, Germany and Greece and throw in England now and then and sometimes using proper names and sometimes nicknames and sometimes--it all was very confusing. None of the subjects gets developed in any depth (if they had any depth to start with- just being royal doesn't always hack it). The book did make realize that terrorism and suicide bombers are nothing new to our generation. I think I'd like to see what the author could do with a biography of one strong personality.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marsha Altman

    I admit I'm grading this on a bit of a scale, because I also just read "The Romanovs 1613-1918 " and "Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy" and this book was not as good as either of them. That may seem unfair, but we have to consider that I was super fresh on the material for this time period but I still had trouble following it. The author said in the beginning that she would rely on nicknames to sort out all of the Maries and Olgas, but then she doesn't, so I had a hard ti I admit I'm grading this on a bit of a scale, because I also just read "The Romanovs 1613-1918 " and "Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy" and this book was not as good as either of them. That may seem unfair, but we have to consider that I was super fresh on the material for this time period but I still had trouble following it. The author said in the beginning that she would rely on nicknames to sort out all of the Maries and Olgas, but then she doesn't, so I had a hard time keeping the characters straight, even with dynasty and family trees in the introduction. Since this book was mostly about Romanov women and how they interacted, it relied more on me being able to tell them apart than Russian and global politics, which I find easier. Still, it was interesting.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria, also by Julia Gelardi, stands out in my memory as one of the best books I've ever read. The complex subject matter was made into a page turning narrative. The history was a back drop, and the focus was on the granddaughters of Queen Victoria who also became queens. If Amazon permitted seven stars I'd have awarded them. This book on four contemporaneous Romanov matriarchs, while very good, does not equal the other in readabili Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria, also by Julia Gelardi, stands out in my memory as one of the best books I've ever read. The complex subject matter was made into a page turning narrative. The history was a back drop, and the focus was on the granddaughters of Queen Victoria who also became queens. If Amazon permitted seven stars I'd have awarded them. This book on four contemporaneous Romanov matriarchs, while very good, does not equal the other in readability or focus. In this new book, there is more detail on history and the portraits of Marie of Romania and the Tsarina Alexandra (subjects of the earlier book) are a bit long for this occasion. Despite this, and a sometimes awkward insertion of direct quotes from primary sources, the book is very good and an achievement for the author. Of the four portraits, that of Empress Marie Feodorovna (Dagmar/Minnie) dominates the others in this book, as she, herself, probably did in life. She is every bit the Empress. Her sister-in-law, Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, had substance beyond her "life of the party" persona and had plenty of reason for "I told you so" dating back to Nicholas II's early days as Tsar. I wonder how an alternative history, with her husband Vladmir as Tsar, would have played out. Queen Olga of Greece, the daughter of Alexander II's brother Constantine experienced the upheavals in her native Russia as well as her adopted Greece. Marie Alexandrovna, the only daughter of Alexander II to survive childhood, married Queen Victoria's son and thereby became the Duchess of Edinburgh and eventually through her husband's inherited throne, the Duchess of Saxe-Colburg-Gotha. These matriarchs spent far too much time plotting marriages that never seem to yield fruitful alliances and too much energy on objecting to love matches with commoners and divorcees. Those in Russia were blithely unaware of the conditions in their country. For instance, they decked out in jewels for the first meeting of the Duma, as though it would be something like a "court" event. They may have thought they could impress the commoners with the accoutrements of royalty. They did not seem to even glimpse that their imperial life-style depended on a system that essentially guaranteed poverty to others. Their acts of charity, particularly during the war, while commendable, were merely band-aids for a system not designed to consider the needs of the everyday soldier. I've read a number of books on this period in Russia, but this is the first time I've been impressed with how many times Nicholas II was warned about the influence of Rasputin. Many royals and their staffs envisioned the collision course they are on and wrote in their diaries or otherwise recorded the disaster for Russia that they saw brewing. Nicholas II, in his ineptitude, is a poster child for the folly of autocratic monarchies. He even botched his abdication by not checking with his named successor. The author makes excellent use of many sources, and the text is well documented. This is a great addition to research on this era and I highly recommend if for those interesting in Russia and the Romanovs.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    My biggest problem with this book is that it tried to cover too much. Perhaps if the author centered on two of the ladies instead of four. She also wrote chronologically and while this usually works best, she jumped from person to person without sometimes finishing the part she jumped from. Also the names were confusing, as usually happens with European royalty. The names are used repeatedly from person to person, and even adding the patronymics didn't always help.Then there is the use of titles My biggest problem with this book is that it tried to cover too much. Perhaps if the author centered on two of the ladies instead of four. She also wrote chronologically and while this usually works best, she jumped from person to person without sometimes finishing the part she jumped from. Also the names were confusing, as usually happens with European royalty. The names are used repeatedly from person to person, and even adding the patronymics didn't always help.Then there is the use of titles. She also discussed minor characters whose names were similar as many of them were cousins or children or grandchildren. I would like to see Ms. Gelardi write a biography of one person. It is only the confusion of characters which ruins the book. I had another book by her on my Wish List, but since it also involves multiple main characters of the same family, I have removed it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

    An interesting book. I’m always fascinated by the lives of the lesser known Romanovs and this book gives a good depiction of their lives and times.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    Enjoyed this gossipy look at four Romanov women from the same generation across the royal houses of Europe at the moment when so many thrones collapsed under the weight of WWI and social unrest.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    It's been a while since a book really wowed me, and I certainly didn't expect that the next book to keep me up at night to be nonfiction on Russian history. This was a real page-turner and I learned a lot about the Romanovs, especially the four formidable women this focused on, even though I've read quite a few books about the family. This also illuminated a lot of European history that I was pretty unfamiliar with. My only complaint is the author's constant harping on the faults of Alexandra Fe It's been a while since a book really wowed me, and I certainly didn't expect that the next book to keep me up at night to be nonfiction on Russian history. This was a real page-turner and I learned a lot about the Romanovs, especially the four formidable women this focused on, even though I've read quite a few books about the family. This also illuminated a lot of European history that I was pretty unfamiliar with. My only complaint is the author's constant harping on the faults of Alexandra Feodorovna. She was certainly a flawed tsarina, but it's a gross oversimplification to blame her for all of Russia's woes. Fortunately, since she wasn't the focus of this book, the harping wasn't too overwhelming. Okay, maybe one other complaint that is not the fault of the author: The plethora of Maries, Olgas, and Alexandras in the Romanov family made it quite difficult to keep up with who was who! Not to mention all the Nicholases, Alexanders, and Georges...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    This was a fascinating book. It was an incredibly rich, well researched look at some very important women, who can be overlooked by many history books. The period examined was one that was incredibly important to Russian and European history. The changes experienced by that society in such a short amount of time were unbelievable. If you're looking for a detailed examination of the fall of the Romanov empire as viewed from within the royal family, this is a great book for that. Also, the author This was a fascinating book. It was an incredibly rich, well researched look at some very important women, who can be overlooked by many history books. The period examined was one that was incredibly important to Russian and European history. The changes experienced by that society in such a short amount of time were unbelievable. If you're looking for a detailed examination of the fall of the Romanov empire as viewed from within the royal family, this is a great book for that. Also, the author truly has a way of making this non-fiction read so well. It was never dry or dull at all. I can't wait to read more by her.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kris Mehigan

    Excellent moment-to-moment description of the Romanov women. Clearly the author did an amazing amount of research. A must read for anyone interested in turn of the century monarchies. Note- would have rated 4.5 stars... only wished some of the sequence of events were specified by date rather than merely month, though I understand the calendar differences would have been complicated. Otherwise excellent.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Fran Johnson

    I loved this book. There is quite a bit written about the unfortunate last Tsar and Tsarina but not as much about the other royals of Russia. Great details about the Romanovs, their rich balls and celebrations, the many arguments between the aunts and uncles, it's all here in glorious details. You get to know the family and their lifestyle. I loved this book. There is quite a bit written about the unfortunate last Tsar and Tsarina but not as much about the other royals of Russia. Great details about the Romanovs, their rich balls and celebrations, the many arguments between the aunts and uncles, it's all here in glorious details. You get to know the family and their lifestyle.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Helen Carolan

    A re-read of this interesting book charting the lives of four Romanov women, before, during and after the revolution.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kay Wahrsager

    Totally derivative, nothing new here for devotees of the last generation of Romanovs. Merely a compilation of stories previously covered in a vast array of more serious accounts.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Terry Neaves

    Greece kept butting in on the more interesting stories. Would have done better to focus on main characters - too much Ducky, Missy etc etc

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    I found it a little difficult to navigate back and forth between the characters; it felt disjointed. Fascinating subject nonetheless. Don't regret the time spent on this book at all. I found it a little difficult to navigate back and forth between the characters; it felt disjointed. Fascinating subject nonetheless. Don't regret the time spent on this book at all.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy

    Few epochal events exemplify the vagaries of Fortune's Wheel like the spectacular demise of the Romanovs. The enduring fascination with this story is due to its representation of all almost human emotions and motivations: love and hate, bathos and bombast, sacrifice and cruelty, generosity and avarice, kindness and indifference, greatness and pitifulness, strength and weakness, success and failure and of course, life and death. Births celebrated and deaths by the most soulless executions and ass Few epochal events exemplify the vagaries of Fortune's Wheel like the spectacular demise of the Romanovs. The enduring fascination with this story is due to its representation of all almost human emotions and motivations: love and hate, bathos and bombast, sacrifice and cruelty, generosity and avarice, kindness and indifference, greatness and pitifulness, strength and weakness, success and failure and of course, life and death. Births celebrated and deaths by the most soulless executions and assassinations. Through it all four women born into or married into the Romanov clan experienced all of the Wheel's rotations as the world and the Royals collided with the 20th century and its Great War and Russian revolution. Born into royal entitlement and believers in autocracy these women were perched on a pinnacle doomed to fall to an increasingly enlightened world struggling to find a way between socialism and anachronistic oligarchy. The ever reactionary obstinacy of the autocracy created the perfect climate of Nihilists cum social revolutionaries cum hardened Bolveshiks. Thus the tumultuous stage is set upon which our four heroines will spin in Fortune's Wheel. Sometimes charming, always regal, these women were also ambitious, greedy and oblivious to the people they ruled. Blind by birthright to the penury of the peasants who comprised 85% of of the Russian empire they were unseeing champions of an obsolete world order. They bickered over jewels, precedence, who threw the most lavish balls and had the most beautiful gowns. They also set up hospitals and nursed fallen soldiers and provided them with succor and money to ease their wounds. Fervently religious they believed in the afterlife and the supremacy of god's will. They were related to every Royal family and meddled happily and unhappily in world affairs and wars. Once allies thence enemies thence allies again they shared the celebrations of marriages and the heartbreak of casualties to war, not always on the same side. Loving mothers all of them, their children were of course pawns in marriage games. Divorces and marriages to commoners resulted in banishment and exiled. Always royals, the children were indulged while admonished on responsibility amidst unsurpassed wealth. The Romanovs were the wealthiest family in the world and the Tsar the wealthiest man. The bravery these women manifest during the revolution and its aftermath is all the more remarkable given the smallness of the isolated worlds in which they spent most of their lives. Captives afraid for their lives while their family members were summarily executed they remained loyal to Russia and the belief that they would be restored. As the Whites fell to the Reds and hope leached away, these women stoically stood up to physical and emotional deprivation as one after another of their family members perished and they were moved from one deplorable condition to another. The author is even-handed in her treatment of a rather prickly assortment of royal women and does a serviceable job of laying the historical context for their splendid falls. Even those expert in this area will find new perspectives and perceptions from this book. So, I have read too many books about the various royals from this period to count and I am pretty clear on who is who and I do have one BIG gripe: the author, I guess to reduce naming fatigue, switches up the appellations for the characters from sentence to sentence and I find myself having to stop and figure out who the hell she means. One character will be referred to by her full name, then her royal title, then a nickname, followed by her relative status--such as cousin or sister-in-law of someone else so that the reader is sifting endlessly among unnecessary naming nonsense. Give the editor a whack for not fixing this. It ruins an otherwise very good multiple biography.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jaylia3

    Covering the years 1847 to 1928, From Splendor to Revolution chronicles the grand but difficult lives of four women who were born or married into the Romanov dynasty: an empress, a grand duchess, a queen and a duchess, each a generation older than Russia’s final tsar, Nicolas II. By this time England’s monarchy was constitutional, and Queen Victoria’s political power came from her cunning, and her skill at marrying her children and grandchildren into strategically important European royal famili Covering the years 1847 to 1928, From Splendor to Revolution chronicles the grand but difficult lives of four women who were born or married into the Romanov dynasty: an empress, a grand duchess, a queen and a duchess, each a generation older than Russia’s final tsar, Nicolas II. By this time England’s monarchy was constitutional, and Queen Victoria’s political power came from her cunning, and her skill at marrying her children and grandchildren into strategically important European royal families. Russia, however, was still ruled by tsars who believed their autocracy and duty to serve were divinely commissioned. The royal family lived in unimaginable grandeur before the Russian revolution, but even in those high times political unrest meant they had to cope with well-founded fears of death and mutilation, and the shockingly brutal murders of some of their dearest family members. Marie Feodorovna, or Minnie, was the last tsar’s mother. Originally a Danish princess she married and moved to Russia at 18 where her engaging personality helped make her popular with the people, and she became the empress only fifteen years later when her father-in-law Tsar Alexander II was assassinated. Minnie was a voice of reason when her son and daughter-in-law were under the destructive spell of Rasputin, but later she could never bring herself to believe that Tsar Nicolas II had been murdered along with his wife and children, even though she lived a decade after their deaths. Marie Pavlovna, or Miechen, was Minnie’s sister-in-law, married to her husband’s brother Vladimir, and Miechen was a highly skilled, savvy and ambitious socialite. Pious and sweet Olga, who became the Queen of Greece, was the daughter of Alexander II’s brother Constantine. Marie Alexandrovna was the sister of Alexander III, and so the sister-in-law of Minnie and Miechen. After the early death of her sister, Marie Alexandrovna was the only surviving daughter of Alexandra II, and was so beloved and spoiled by him that she might never have been persuaded to leave her father’s side if he hadn’t angered the family by taking a mistress, who he eventually moved into the palace with their born out of wedlock children. As a means of escape, Marie Alexandrovna married Queen Victoria’s wayward son Alfred, brother of King Edward, and through him became the German Duchess of Coburn. The text of From Splendor to Revolution has been copiously, even distractingly, footnoted throughout the book, but that means you can check the original sources when you find something particularly fascinating, something that happened to me a lot. This book will be well loved by most anyone interested in the Romanov family.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael Llewellyn

    Author Julia P. Gelardi travels much-visited territory in From Splendor to Revolution, The Romanov Women, 1847-1928. She nonetheless manages to bring a fresh and captivating point of view as she unfolds the lives of four extraordinary women: Tsarina Marie Feodorovna, Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, Maria Alexandrovna, Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and Olga Constantinova, Queen of the Hellenes. Richly detailed and served up in a style vacillating comfortably between scholarly and gossipy, their sto Author Julia P. Gelardi travels much-visited territory in From Splendor to Revolution, The Romanov Women, 1847-1928. She nonetheless manages to bring a fresh and captivating point of view as she unfolds the lives of four extraordinary women: Tsarina Marie Feodorovna, Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, Maria Alexandrovna, Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and Olga Constantinova, Queen of the Hellenes. Richly detailed and served up in a style vacillating comfortably between scholarly and gossipy, their stories reveal a dynasty rushing toward oblivion albeit with plenty of warning signs along the way. As with any family, the Romanovs endured internecine squabbling and power struggles, often exacerbated by the ever-meddling Queen Victoria, but theirs played out on a grand, larger-than-life stage because it held the destiny of the largest country on earth- Russia. Their internal dissent reached epic proportions after Tsarina Marie's son, Nicholas, married Alix of Hesse and By Rhine, better known as the Empress Alexandra. When Alexandra's obsession with Rasputin and domination of the milquetoast Tsar Nicholas II sped Russia on its course to implosion, the otherwise benevolent Dowager Empress Marie was driven to declare, "Alexandra Feodorovna must be banished. I don't know how, but it must be done....Let her enter a convent or just disappear!" As everyone knows, Alexandra indeed disappeared, taking her husband, five children and the 303-year-old Romanov dynasty with her. That incredible, stranger-than-fiction story is splendidly recounted in From Splendor to Revolution. The author must be credited for heroic effort to simplify a world inhabited by endless Maries, Alexanders, Olgas and Vladimirs connected with a spider web of royal and noble weddings. She achieves this with the use of nicknames and titles and provides five enormously helpful family trees. With 16 pages of photographs.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    I agree with the other reviewss about the author's usage of different names/nicknames for the same individuals made it difficult to keep everyone straight. I found myself frequently going back to the introduction (which explains the naming system and relations of individuals) as well as bringing up Wikipedia in order to get everyone and their relations straight. It's also difficult to keep all the names and persons straight due to the vast quantity of them. Because the book is structured chronol I agree with the other reviewss about the author's usage of different names/nicknames for the same individuals made it difficult to keep everyone straight. I found myself frequently going back to the introduction (which explains the naming system and relations of individuals) as well as bringing up Wikipedia in order to get everyone and their relations straight. It's also difficult to keep all the names and persons straight due to the vast quantity of them. Because the book is structured chronologically, it covers each of the four protagonists simultaneously rather than individually. Although this does add to the amount of names the reader must keep tract of at the same time, it creates a good sense of the time period and this particular generation, which I think is what the author intended. So looking past names issues, what makes this book interesting is learning about the four protagonists and their relationships with the people in their lives. It is very detailed and gives the reader an intimate portrait of many historical figures and how they dealt with the mounting fear as the Russian revolution built. There are many quotes taken from personal letters to family members which gives you a look inside their private world. It puts into perspective how all these royal families (Russian, British, Greek, etc) were not only related to each other but were a part of each other lives. There are some genuinely moving moments described and if you enjoy the human side of history, this is a good read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Xenia0201

    Gelardi has touched upon many of these women in her previous book, Born to Rule, but I learned in depth especially about two Romanov women in great detail that I've only read fleeting comments about in the past. Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna, daughter of Alexander II, who married Queen Victoria's son, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Saxe Coburg-Gotha and Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna "Miechen", wife of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovitch made this book really interesting for me. Gelardi also incl Gelardi has touched upon many of these women in her previous book, Born to Rule, but I learned in depth especially about two Romanov women in great detail that I've only read fleeting comments about in the past. Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna, daughter of Alexander II, who married Queen Victoria's son, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Saxe Coburg-Gotha and Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna "Miechen", wife of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovitch made this book really interesting for me. Gelardi also includes other Romanov matriarchs, Dowager Emperess Marie Feodorovna, Wife of Tsar Alexander III, and Queen Olga of Greece, the former Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia, daughter of Constantine Nicholaevitch, a son of Tsar Nicolas, I. It is amazing how far the fall was for these women, who were all born into fabulous weath and priviledge and all ended their lives virtually penniless. The hardships suffered were unimaginable. Although all of these women poured themselves into charitable efforts and lent much of their time and own funds to various causes, you cannot help but feel these women were still desperately out of touch with the real Russia, even as their family members were slowly wiped out by assassins' bombs and bullets. All of these women escaped Russia during the Revolution, and Queen Olga has the unique distinction of surviving the fall of the monarchies of her motherland and her adopted land, Greece, in her lifetime. Gelardi's account of these women is highly readable and interjects many lesser known details and facts that make this a page turner.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    This isn't a typical Russian Revolution story. Gelardi writes about four matriarchs of the Romanov dynasty: Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna, born a Romanov who married into the British Royal family and eventually became Duchess of Coburg Olga Constantinova, another born Romanov, who married into the Danish Royal family and became Queen of Greece Marie Pavlovna, a minor German princess who married Prince Vladimir and became a Grand Duchess and who's glittering society surpassed her neice, Tsarina A This isn't a typical Russian Revolution story. Gelardi writes about four matriarchs of the Romanov dynasty: Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna, born a Romanov who married into the British Royal family and eventually became Duchess of Coburg Olga Constantinova, another born Romanov, who married into the Danish Royal family and became Queen of Greece Marie Pavlovna, a minor German princess who married Prince Vladimir and became a Grand Duchess and who's glittering society surpassed her neice, Tsarina Alexandria and most famous, Marie Feodorovna, a popular Danish princess who married the Tsarvitch and who's popularity as empress lasted past the Russian Revolution. What is remarkable about these women is the lives they led through an entire tumultuous period of history. Interrelated as only the European Royal Families could be, their lives crossed and intersected, and while they did not always get along, as the dust settled on the Russian Revolution and the ousting of Olga's sons as kings of Greece, they had only each other in exile. This was a fascinating look at the internal ties that bound and anchored Europe pre-World War One, and how the fascination with these families linger even today. A fantastic read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Em

    I really enjoy Julia Gelardi's dedication to presenting Europe's female gentry as complex, deeply interesting people and her writing style overall and learned a lot about Russia. My Russian history knowledge is limited to the 20th Century/Soviet Era and remains fairly sparse even then, so I really went into this with very little prior knowledge. But this might be my least favorite of the books I've read by her. I found it very difficult to keep the cast of characters straight (it's not her fault I really enjoy Julia Gelardi's dedication to presenting Europe's female gentry as complex, deeply interesting people and her writing style overall and learned a lot about Russia. My Russian history knowledge is limited to the 20th Century/Soviet Era and remains fairly sparse even then, so I really went into this with very little prior knowledge. But this might be my least favorite of the books I've read by her. I found it very difficult to keep the cast of characters straight (it's not her fault that 3 of the women profiled are named Marie, and there's also a proliferation of Olgas, Nicolases, and Alexanders/as but she alternates between using proper names and nicknames far, far too much and just wasn't consistent with how she referred to individuals) and she went into such detail on Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna that I sometimes forgot she wasn't a fifth main "character". I think the book might have been better if it were simply about the last two Tsarinas, Maria Feodorovna and Alexandra Feodorovna. It would still have portrayed the fall of imperial Russia through the eyes of its most powerful women, but wouldn't have been nearly as confusing or scattered.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    This is a very confusing read. Though she says she will be focusing on four Romanov women, she jumps back and forth between them and other related figures. As other reviewers have said, her moves from place to place and character to character make for a not-very-smooth read. Her switching between names and nicknames did not help and was ironic considering she discusses in the preface the problems entailed in keeping the infinite “Maries” straight. She also has a tendency to the hagiographic (her This is a very confusing read. Though she says she will be focusing on four Romanov women, she jumps back and forth between them and other related figures. As other reviewers have said, her moves from place to place and character to character make for a not-very-smooth read. Her switching between names and nicknames did not help and was ironic considering she discusses in the preface the problems entailed in keeping the infinite “Maries” straight. She also has a tendency to the hagiographic (here’s one example of many): “Thus was Olga untiring in her quest to improve her subjects’ spiritual and material well-being, never ceasing to do as much good as she could.” Try as I might I can’t understand her choice to pick these particular four women to write about rather than to write a biography of one central figure or a general history of the period. She says that they were “matriarchs” meaning the four women she chose had heirs. I don’t see what difference that really makes since it is a book about their time and not ours and the effect they had on it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sanam514

    This book takes place in Russia, were it mainly discusses about four Romanov royal women, Empress Marie Feodorovna Dagmar of Denmark, Marie Alexandrovna the daughter of Tsar Alexander II, Queen Olga constantinovna of Greece, , and Marie Pavlovna wife of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia. The book also discussed their lives as royals all the way to the Russian revolution and how it changed their lives. This was a very delightful book to read, and I really enjoyed reading it. However, on This book takes place in Russia, were it mainly discusses about four Romanov royal women, Empress Marie Feodorovna Dagmar of Denmark, Marie Alexandrovna the daughter of Tsar Alexander II, Queen Olga constantinovna of Greece, , and Marie Pavlovna wife of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia. The book also discussed their lives as royals all the way to the Russian revolution and how it changed their lives. This was a very delightful book to read, and I really enjoyed reading it. However, one downside of the book that I disliked was that there were too many characters in the story, and I especially got confused by those who had the same name. Overall, it was a really good and interesting book which kept me entertained and I would very much recommend it to those who enjoy historical stories.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Well this was a book. [end review] It's not that this was a bad book. It's not. However, it's not life changing moving or what not. It's just kinda there with a bunch of facts about people who I felt absolutely no connection with. Perhaps the subject matter was too broad for me to care about any of these people. I had to keep referring to wikipedia just to keep straight who was who. Many of the women Gelardi discusses are damn near unlikable. They aren't even fun unlikable. They just suck. Also, co Well this was a book. [end review] It's not that this was a bad book. It's not. However, it's not life changing moving or what not. It's just kinda there with a bunch of facts about people who I felt absolutely no connection with. Perhaps the subject matter was too broad for me to care about any of these people. I had to keep referring to wikipedia just to keep straight who was who. Many of the women Gelardi discusses are damn near unlikable. They aren't even fun unlikable. They just suck. Also, could someone please name Romanov women something other than Marie and could the Romanov men please marry women named something other than Marie. I just dragged myself through this books wondering if I would have been better served by some cleverly contrived wikipedia wormholes.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Whimsical

    A well researched and well written book which gives insight into the lives of four of the most powerful Romanov women from 1847-1928. The extremes in their lives are stark- from being the wealthiest in the world and priviledged beyond believe to the unbelievable distruction of the home they all had in common, Russia and the sadness at the end of their lives. Their tale also speaks to the human spirit and will, the Romanov's a dynastic autocracy ruled Russia for three hundred years - opulence, de A well researched and well written book which gives insight into the lives of four of the most powerful Romanov women from 1847-1928. The extremes in their lives are stark- from being the wealthiest in the world and priviledged beyond believe to the unbelievable distruction of the home they all had in common, Russia and the sadness at the end of their lives. Their tale also speaks to the human spirit and will, the Romanov's a dynastic autocracy ruled Russia for three hundred years - opulence, decadence, stringent hold on tradition, and a narrow-mindedness to a certain extent and on the flip side, the depravity, unbridled evil, distain for tradition and wontan disregard for human life by the Bolsheviks, Lenin etc. It is a must read!

  28. 4 out of 5

    David Rogers

    While I enjoyed this book ("I liked it") I felt that the author could have done a better job of organizing it. For example, there were too many characters named Marie. The author, at first, said what their nicknames were but then hardly used them. I had to keep their nicknames in my head to distinguish one Marie from the other. Plus, there were a lot of characters in this book. For sake of clarity and consistency some measures could have been taken so as not to confuse the reader. In any case, t While I enjoyed this book ("I liked it") I felt that the author could have done a better job of organizing it. For example, there were too many characters named Marie. The author, at first, said what their nicknames were but then hardly used them. I had to keep their nicknames in my head to distinguish one Marie from the other. Plus, there were a lot of characters in this book. For sake of clarity and consistency some measures could have been taken so as not to confuse the reader. In any case, the story was great and I particularly liked how it was told from the angle of four Romanov women. Every time I read something about Nicholas II I cringe and wish I could go back in time and knock some sense into him. Poor sap.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    This book traces the lives of four of the Romanov women (by birth or marriage) from marriage through the Russian revolution and their lives after that event which destroyed the dynasty. I have to admit that I had trouble keeping relationships in perspective since the names were so similar, even those of incidental characters. The intermarriage of the royal houses of Europe, while interesting, further confused the narrative as sisters married cousins and utilized various forms of address/titles. This book traces the lives of four of the Romanov women (by birth or marriage) from marriage through the Russian revolution and their lives after that event which destroyed the dynasty. I have to admit that I had trouble keeping relationships in perspective since the names were so similar, even those of incidental characters. The intermarriage of the royal houses of Europe, while interesting, further confused the narrative as sisters married cousins and utilized various forms of address/titles. The author has done excellent research but I felt that there was a certain feeling of disconnect in the narrative. I stuck with it but it is not an easy read and may not be for all tastes.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    A nice, easy read and decent overview of royal European society in the late 19th and early 20th century. There were parts that I would have certainly enjoyed more detail, but the author states in her introduction that it's meant to be an overview and not a detailed analysis. Ms. Gelardi also gets points because, unlike Mr. Massie, she actually mentions the Jewish minority population, if only briefly. NB: this is likely the last book I will have finished in 2013, making it 88 of 100 as my goal. Nex A nice, easy read and decent overview of royal European society in the late 19th and early 20th century. There were parts that I would have certainly enjoyed more detail, but the author states in her introduction that it's meant to be an overview and not a detailed analysis. Ms. Gelardi also gets points because, unlike Mr. Massie, she actually mentions the Jewish minority population, if only briefly. NB: this is likely the last book I will have finished in 2013, making it 88 of 100 as my goal. Next year's goal will be less only because I know I'll be doing significant travelling and simply won't have the time.

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