Sunday, April 29, 2012

From Splendour to Revolution – Review by Coryne Hall

“From Splendour to Revolution. The Romanov Women, 1847-1928”, Julia P Gelardi.
(St Martin’s Press, New York.) 482 pages, 36 illustrations.

For her latest book Julia Gelardi looks at four members of the Romanov family, Marie Alexandrovna and Olga Constantinovna,  who were born Russian Grand Duchesses; and Marie Feodorovna and Marie Pavlovna who married into the Romanov family. 

For Marie Alexandrovna, the only (and rather spoilt) daughter of Alexander II, her misfortune was not to marry a king, for when she married Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and went to live at the court of Queen Victoria she found it hard to adjust. Flaunting her superior jewels and demanding precedence over all the princesses except the Princess of Wales, Marie disliked England and was soon homesick for Russia. When her husband inherited the Dukedom of Coburg at least it got the Duchess away from Victoria.

The other Romanov Grand Duchess, Olga Constantinovna, was married at sixteen to King George I of Greece and left the splendours of St Petersburg for a huge, draughty palace in Athens.  Although she visited Russia as often as possible she raised her children as Greeks, helping both her adopted country and her homeland through charity work.  

For Marie Pavlovna, born a Princess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, life took a different turn when she ditched her fiancé and married Grand Duke Vladimir. Refusing to convert to Orthodoxy (and thereby setting a precedent), she moved with her husband into the luxurious Vladimir Palace and became one of the leading lights of society, whose court rivalled that of Tsar Nicholas II. Ambitious and formidable, she never forgot that her family was next in line for the throne.

The fourth subject of this book is Empress Marie Feodorovna, born Princess Dagmar of Denmark, who moved from the simplicity of the Danish court to the Russian capital, became a much-loved Empress and the mother of the ill-fated Nicholas II.  She also adjusted well to the change in lifestyle, loving what might be called all the perks of the job.

From a life of wealth and power these four very differing personalities were caught up in the chaos of war and revolution, three of them escaping from Russia in dramatic circumstances and the fourth, Marie Alexandrovna, in Germany. Their stories are brilliantly woven together, something Julia Gelardi always does really well, and the letters and diaries quoted make fascinating reading.

The period covered by this book is significant, as it is the lifespan of Marie Feodorovna and, as the last of the four to die, she does figure rather too heavily in this work. I would have liked to read more about Marie Alexandrovna, especially her letters to Missy in Romania.  She seems to disappear in the middle, which is a shame, but her last years make poignant reading.  

Marie Alexandrovna and Marie Pavlovna both died in 1920 but for Marie Feodorovna and Queen Olga, exile was bitter, pining both for their families and for Russia.  Queen Olga, who had endured revolution in Russia and in Greece summed it up thus: “Everything, everything is gone with no return ….My brothers are gone, I am the only one remaining in my family like a miserable fragment of the past”.  

A riveting read.

Coryne Hall

This title is available through us at Eurohistory. If interested in a copy simply email us at:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Honour and Fidelity: The Russian Dukes of Leuchtenberg

“Honour & Fidelity. The Russian Dukes of Leuchtenberg” by Zoia Belyakova. (Logos Publishers, St Petersburg). 156 pages. Illustrated throughout in black & white and colour.

In 1812, Napoleon’s step-son Eugene de Beauharnais saved the Savvino-Storozhevssky Monastery from the pillaging of his own French troops. Stopping at the monastery for the night, Eugene had a vision of an aged monk who told him that if his monastery was protected from harm the prince would return home safe and well and his descendants would serve Russia. So runs the legend.

 Eugene did return home, where he later married Princess Augusta of Bavaria and became the first Duke of Leuchtenberg.  

Eugene and Augusta’s son Maximilian, 3rd Duke of Leuchtenberg, rose even higher, when in 1838 he married the Tsar’s daughter Grand Duchess Maria Nicholaievna and moved into a purpose built palace in St Petersburg. The couple had seven children and the story of how Maximilian and his descendants continued to serve Russia is the subject of Zoia Belyakova’s latest book, which takes its title from the Leuchtenberg family motto: Honour & Fidelity.

 The author has found some riveting stories. Max and Maria’s eldest son, Nicolai, made a morganatic marriage for which his mother never forgave him (despite the fact that in later life she did the same thing herself); Nicolai’s niece Daria, who returned to Petrograd after the revolution, worked in the Leningrad Public Library and was executed in 1937; and Max’s daughter Princess Eugenie who, despite ill health, continued to carry out charitable works.  One of the most fascinating sections is the story of her son Prince Peter of Oldenburg, who married Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna. Peter is usually dismissed as a gambling homosexual but here he comes across as sensitive, considerate and attentive to his young wife, a man who was a friend of several notable writers including Tolstoy. He himself wrote essays, including one called “Loneliness” based on events after his parting from Olga.  Some of it appears in this book.  

Professor Belyakova has travelled round Europe and America interviewing descendants of Duke Max and Grand Duchess Maria.  Many of them have lent rare letters and photographs which are published here for the very first time. The result is a well researched, well written work about a family whose story deserves to be told.

Coryne Hall


Kongehuset 2011 – Review by Coryne Hall

 “Kongehuset 2011” by Kurt Stjernholm Riisberg. (Lindhardt og Ringhof, Copenhagen).  80 pages, illustrated in colour throughout. Captions in Danish.

This year’s Danish royal yearbook has plenty to keep royal watchers happy. The big event was the birth of the Crown Prince and Princess’ twins Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine. There are gorgeous pictures of the newborn babies and plenty of coverage of their christening in April, when little Princess Isabella almost stole the show afterwards. 

Prince Joachim and Princess Marie are not forgotten either.  There are some fun pictures of them in Greenland, and also delightful pictures of little Prince Henrik and Joachim’s elder sons Nicolai and Felix and their mother Countess Alexandra. 

Queen Margrethe and the Prince Consort visited Bahrain  and Russia, as well as undertaking the usual round of public engagements and official duties. The photographs show them at work and at play, including some charming studies of the whole family at Graasten Slot in the summer.

The one drawback of the book is that the picture captions are only in Danish. Nevertheless, sit back and enjoy the pictures, which are an absolute delight.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Magnificent Obsession – Review by Coryne Hall

Magnificent Obsession. Victoria, Albert and the Death that Changed the Monarchy”, by Helen Rappaport.  (Hutchinson), 336 pages. 22 black & white, and 21 colour illustrations.

The death of Prince Albert in December 1861 was a turning point in the life of Queen Victoria and for the British monarchy. Yet surprisingly little attention has been paid to the effect that his death had on his contemporaries and the nation at large.  Using contemporary letters and diaries Helen Rappaport corrects this, showing what a national calamity Albert’s death was, both for the Queen and the country. She also examines the cause of his death.  Was it really typhoid?

  By 1861, when her mother died, Victoria had already “taken to the performance of bereavement with aplomb”, plunging the court into mourning for even the most distant relatives. As Victoria grieved for her mother the burden of official duties fell more and more on the far from robust Albert.  Nevertheless, the shock was enormous when he died. The nation was totally unprepared, not believing him to be seriously ill, and the first many knew about it was the tolling of the church bells on Sunday morning.

At first there was great sympathy for the widowed Queen but soon apprehensions about what the author calls her “insatiable commemoration of Albert” began to set in. The only people who were pleased were the tradesmen – there was an almost incalculable demand for mourning goods as people remained in black longer for their own deceased relatives. The jet industry also flourished, as ladies ordered mourning jewellery and accessories.

As the Queen’s cult of Albert’s memory continued unabated through the 1860s the lack of court functions began to affect London’s trade. The only time Victoria appeared in public was for yet another commemoration ceremony as memorials sprang up all around the country.  Her first major state appearance, opening parliament in 1866, was necessitated by the need to obtain grants for two of her children.  Otherwise she remained secluded for months at Balmoral with her highland ghillie John Brown.  Helen Rappaport looks closely at this relationship but find nothing more than a friendship between a lonely widow and her servant. By 1870 a strong republican movement argued that as the Queen was invisible anyway, the country could do quite well without a monarchy. It took the Prince of Wales’s recovery from typhoid in 1871 to turn the tide back in Victoria’s favour.

This is a well researched and very well written book. Helen Rappaport gives us a rounded portrait of an insular, self-absorbed, stubborn woman whose one aim was to perpetuate Albert’s memory in as many ways as she could, while those around her wrung their hands at her unwillingness to participate in national life. It was, indeed, a “magnificent obsession” and this is a magnificent read.

Coryne Hall

Young Royals on Tour – William and Kate in Canada

“Young Royals on Tour.  William and Catherine in Canada”, by Christina Blizzard.
(Dundurn Press, Toronto, Canada).  64 pages, with colour illustrations throughout.

In the summer of 2011 the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge set out to Canada for their first official tour.  To mark that event, Christina Blizzard presents this souvenir giving a day by day account of the royal visit.

Canadians were clearly delighted with the royal couple’s friendliness and willingness to have a go at anything, from Dragon Boat racing to more traditional tree planting.  The Duchess’s outfits wowed everyone.

Interspersed with details of William and Kate’s activities are facts and pictures of previous royal visits by senior royals, including King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the present Queen and the Prince of Wales.

         Public interest in the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge doesn’t seem to have abated and, with plenty of colour illustrations of the couple, this lovely book is a fitting souvenir of their first overseas visit as man and wife.

Coryne Hall

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dear Ellen @ Noblesse et Royautes

The widely read website Noblesse et Royautés has published a piece on my latest book, Dear Ellen.

Visit them...

The LAST TSAR – Review by Coryne Hall

“The Last Tsar. Emperor Michael II,”  by Donald Crawford.  (Murray McLellan,  Edinburgh. Paperback).  346 pages, 10 illustrations in the text.

Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, youngest brother of Nicholas II, has been rather neglected by biographers.  This is a pity, because his story is equally tragic in its ending.

Born in 1878, Michael took the route of most Grand Dukes and entered the army, and while serving at Gatchina he fell in love with the wife of a fellow officer.  Natasha Wulfert was already divorced and the relationship caused a scandal.  When the couple married secretly in Vienna, two years after Natasha had given birth to Michael’s son, the Tsar banished them from Russia.

Michael was permitted to return when war broke out in 1914.  He heroically led the Savage Division, earning an award for bravery. General Brusilov called him “an absolutely honourable and upright man… As a soldier he was an excellent leader and an unassuming and conscientious worker.”  As revolution erupted Michael tried to persuade his brother to grant a government that would have the confidence of the people, to no avail.  Nicholas refused to listen and when he abdicated in 1917 he bypassed Tsarevich Alexei and left Michael to pick up the pieces.

Donald Crawford argues that Michael was “proclaimed Emperor without his knowledge or consent. He had not willingly become Emperor and Nicholas had no right to pass the throne to him.”  He had to act as Emperor to give legitimacy to the Provisional Government.  The result, says Crawford, was “a manifesto which would make Michael Emperor without it saying that he had accepted the throne….,”  his powers would be vested in the Provisional Government and he would wait for a Constituent Assembly to decide the future of Russia and the monarchy.  Nowhere was the word “abdicate” mentioned.

In the end it mattered little and the “wise government” Michael wished for never materialised.  In 1918 he was arrested by the Soviet and exiled to Perm with his secretary Johnson.  On 13 June they were taken by force from their hotel and shot in the woods outside the town. Their bodies have never been found.

This is a riveting account of a powerful story – but it has one flaw.  In 1997 Donald Crawford and his wife Rosemary published “Michael & Natasha”, which contains almost everything (and more) to be found in this present work.  If you have read “Michael & Natasha” you won’t find anything new here – but if you haven’t then “The Last Tsar” is a recommended read.

Coryne Hall

The Palace and the Bunker

“The Palace and the Bunker. Royal Resistance to Hitler,” by Frank Millard. (The History Press).  192 pages, 14 illustrations.

Much has been made of the royal princes who supported Hitler, many of whom thought the Nazis would be a useful bulwark against Bolshevik Russia.  But what of those who resisted?

Frank Millard begins with National Socialism in Germany, showing how the demise of the German and Austrian monarchies in 1918 made the rise of Hitler possible.  Then, armed with the knowledge of the world in which the various royal families were living, he goes on to look at some case histories – Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia (involved in the German resistance movement),  Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria (whose family ended up in the Nazi concentration camps),  Prince Hubertus zu Löwenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg (who travelled widely, assembling groups of German exiles), Otto von Habsburg (sentence to death in absentia) and the Hohenbergs, Maximilian and Ernst, children of the ill-fated Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Max and Ernst, both vocal supporters of a Habsburg restoration, were rounded up in 1938 and sent to the notorious Dachau concentration camp where they were forced to clean the lavatories. Queen Mary (who had known their parents) was among those who worked for their release. The final chapter deals all too briefly with other royal houses who opposed the Nazis – Denmark, Norway, Britain, the Netherlands, amongst others.  All played their part, and their ‘quiet defiance’ undermined Hitler’s authority.

As history this is fascinating stuff but as a ‘royal’ book it has several drawbacks.  Firstly, the initial 88 pages deal with National Socialism, the royal subjects only appear in the last one hundred pages.  Secondly, there are some errors.  The King of Norway was not the younger brother of the King of Sweden; Christian X succeeded his father in 1912, not 1910.

Having said all that, the book is certainly not without interest, although personally I would have preferred more emphasis on the ‘royal resistance’ and less on ‘the bunker.’

Coryne Hall


Personally, I believe Coryne Hall is being awfully kind in her review of this major disappointment of a book.

When I started reading the book, I had many hopes and myriad expectations. Few, in fact, were met. Most disconcerting of all seems to be the author's complete inability to correctly describe familial connections, genealogy of the people analyzed in the book (according to Mr. Millard Crown Princess Cecilie was the grandmother of Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, not his mother...oh dear!). In one page alone I found three major mistakes when dealing with relationships, dates and facts.

Save the the tree...

I was thoroughly amazed that the publisher, successors to the defunct Sutton Publishing, paid such small attention to these details. Most of these dates can be easily found and verified online. The use of any major genealogical work, like Marlene Koenig's Queen Victoria's Descendants, is yet another reason why the author seemed at such a loss when discussing who is a cousin of whom.

Initially we were going to sell the book and thus add it to our 1200+ book catalogue, however, after reading most of it I felt, strongly, that these book is simply just not one I would recommend. It is a hard decision as I expected so much from it...but it is what it is!

Arturo Beéche

The Grand Dukes, Vol. 1 – Review by Phil Perry

The Grand Dukes, Volume I, Edited and Published by Arturo E. Beéche.
(Eurohistory & Kensington House Books, October 2010). 303 pages,
including 38 pages of glossy photos.

The wait was long and at times frustratingly slow. I remember sending
Mr. Beéche copious emails about the estimated time of publication for
a book that I had looked forward to reading. Every time I contacted
Eurohistory, he would patiently explain to me what a complicated
process it was to sift through the various chapters contributed by
more than a dozen of today's most respected royalty authors. The
myriad issues dealt with included several different versions of major
events the Grand Dukes lived through, several narratives of the same
event, like the Russian revolution, different spellings for the same
actors, etc. I can just but begin to imagine what a complicated and
slow process this must have been. Personally, I think I would have
simply given up. However, and to our utter delight, Mr. Beéche's
perseverance is witnessed once again in what has quickly become my
favorite royalty book for the year 2010.

The Grand Dukes - Sons and Grandsons of Russia's Tsars since Paul I
(Volume I), is a stunning production. The book is what many of us
refer to as "a must-have," for without a doubt it is sure to become a
standard reading for anyone interested in the lives of Russia's unique
Grand Dukes. They were a difficult bunch, these men. What with their
contradictions, their flaws, their penchant for "slow ships and fast
women," the Romanov Grand Dukes certainly provide a fine example of
the history, triumph and tragedy that engulfed the Russian Imperial

In all, there were close to forty Grand Dukes, all descendants of Tsar
Paul I. The initial plan for this book was to cover them all in one
volume. However, that became an impossible task as the text of the
book passed the 600-page mark. Mr. Beeche explained to me in great
detail the many reasons why The Grand Dukes began as a single volume
book, but ended as a two-volume publication. These reasons included:
cost of production, technical problems caused by having a paperback
nearing 700 pages (with the photo sections), maneuverability for the
reader, weight, shipping costs and logistics. By publishing the book
in two volumes, none of the sacrifices that the single-volume project
entailed would have to be made. Yes, for us the consumer it is a bit
onerous. Yet, I personally liked the idea of a two-volume set,
particularly if the photo sections were to be as prodigious as the one
in The Grand Dukes, Volume I.

Very cleverly, the book was divided in two equal halves. Volume I
includes biographies on all the sons (who lived longer than a few
years) of reigning Tsars. Thus, the book has expertly-written life
stories of the sons of Tsar Paul I, Tsar Nicholas I, Tsar Alexander
II, Tsar Alexander III and Tsar Nicholas II. In all, there are
eighteen biographies in this first volume. But, the narrative is not
just the only aspect of this book that I loved. There are the photos
to discuss as well.

I may not be alone in sharing a deep love of royal photos. I am sure
that any of the European Royal History Journal's readers also enjoy,
as do I, the beautiful images that the magazine and Mr. Beéche regale
us with in every issue. Come to think of it, Eurohistory's books are
always a like a fountain filled with beautiful antique imagery. Trust
me when I say that The Grand Dukes, Volume I, is no disappointment in
this regard either. The photo section contains nearly 100 gorgeous
images of the subjects covered within the book. There are many unique
photos in this section. I was particularly impressed by the images
chosen of Nixa, the lost Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich. One image
of painful significance is that of Empress Marie Alexandrovna holding
her grandson Prince Alfred of Edinburgh, a boy destined to suffer a
tragic end, like so many of his cousins and as did his own
grandmother. The Empress' look is one of utter desolation and pain,
perhaps reflecting the deep sadness she lived through caused by her
husband abandoning their marriage for a younger woman. I also enjoyed
seeing images of Grand Dukes Konstantin, Nicholas and Michael
Nikolaievich, for we do not get to see these historical figures often.
The photos dealing with Tsar Nicholas II are also exquisite and
provide us a window into the calm bourgeois family life he so enjoyed.
There is one image portraying the tsar while working at his desk in
the Alexander palace. In it I see a lonely man copping, barely
perhaps, with the insurmountable task heredity placed on his
shoulders. Another photo shows Alexandra Feodorovna longingly looking
out the window of her private room, wondering one can theorize, what
other tragedies life in Russia had in store for her. All in all, I
found myself lost in time while perusing through the photos chosen and
wondering what other treasures Eurohistory has in store for us in the

The Grand Dukes also has four nicely designed family trees. I don't
know about you, but I find it very difficult to read royalty books
that do not include family trees. When the cast of characters is as
vast as the one covered by this particular book, having family trees
makes it so much easier to place the actors in a historical,
genealogical and generational context.

What would I have liked to see, you may wonder. Well, I am impatiently
waiting for the Second Volume. I wish these books could be produced in
hardback format, but I also realize that given the size of today's
market for royalty books, that is perhaps a pipe dream. Instead, small
publishers like Eurohistory and Kensington House Books, have become
very innovative in the production of fantastic royal titles in
paperback. Trust me when I say that The Grand Dukes, Volume I, will
not disappoint you. I have read it once already and will surely read
it again and will return to it as one of the best reference books
available to us on the Romanovs. As I said before, The Grand Dukes,
Volume I, is a must have, of that there is no doubt in my mind.
Congratulations go, not just to the publisher, but also to the
authors, who have regaled us with a wonderful piece of historiography
that we will treasure for decades to come.

Available at

Available at

The Four Graces – Review by Marlene Koenig

We have a winner. A real winner. I read a lot of books. I have read a lot of books about royalty. The majority of books published in English are largely fluff. Consider the number of books that have been published on Prince William's engagement and wedding and then think about how many well-researched, scholarly books you have read.

I have been reviewing books since 1983, when I first started the print version of Royal Book News, then a bi-monthly newsletter. I have read some good stuff -- Hugo Vickers' biography of Princess Alice comes to mind, as well as Greg King's biographies, and I have also forced myself to gorge on Kitty Kelley and Lady Colin Campbell, although Lady C was on to something because she, not Andrew Morton, was the first to write about Charles and Diana's marriage and Diana's psychological issues.

The James Pope-Hennesseys and Greg Kings are far and few between, and, sadly, the publishing industry is not willing to encourage major royal tomes. Although the archives at Harewood House must be teaming with material, there has never been a serious biography on Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood. Two hagiographies were published in the late 1920s, but nothing since then. Princess Mary died in 1965 shortly after she learned that her elder son was the father of an illegitimate son. The late Princess Royal is largely unknown in the United Kingdom. She is the only child of George V who has not been subjected to a biographer's pen. Even her youngest brother, the mentally challenged, epileptic Prince John, has had more biographical information published about him than Princess Mary has.

It is a shame that no one has taken on Princess Mary. I used to say the same thing about Princess Victoria of Hesse and By Rhine, the eldest child of Princess Alice, second daughter of Queen Victoria, and Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and By Rhine. There are biographies on Victoria's sisters, Ella and Alix, who married Grand Duke Serge and Nicholas II of Russia, respectively. Victoria's only surviving brother, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig, wrote his memoirs, and was also the subject of a biography, both in German.

Victoria, who provided the center, the core, to her siblings, featured in the biographies of her siblings and her daughters, Princess Alice, and Queen Louise, but she was never the star. Until now.

Thanks to Ilana Miller's The Four Graces ( $43.00), Victoria's story has come to the fore in a meticulously, well-researched book. Suffice to say, this is a superb book, and one of the best royal books I have read in a long time. Miller breathes life into a princess, less known than her sisters, but far more important in many ways.

The Four Graces refers to Victoria and her three younger sisters, Irene, Ella and Alix, although all three take a back seat to Victoria in this book. The three younger sisters made spectacular dynastic marriages: Irene married her first cousin, Prince Henry of Prussia; Ella wed Grand Duke Serge of Russia, who was assassinated in 1905; and Alix made the grandest marriage of all, when she married Nicholas II of Russia. The princesses' maternal grandmother, Queen Victoria, made it clear that she did not approve of any of these marriages. She did not believe that Alix did not have the right stuff to be the consort of the Tsar of Russia. In this matter, Queen Victoria was proved right. Although Nicholas and Alexandra were very much in love, neither were ever prepared for the mammoth tasks.

Princess Victoria was very close to her grandmother. She was born at Windsor Castle, and, despite her German title, Victoria was to spend most of her life in England. She did not make a grand marriage. She, too, married for love, and her husband was Prince Louis of Battenberg, her father's first cousin. The marriage was not considered equal, as Prince Louis was a morganaut, the son of Prince Alexander of Hesse and By Rhine and Julie von Hauke, who was created Princess of Battenberg.

Victoria was content to stay in the background, support her husband in his naval career in the United Kingdom. She rose among the many tragedies in her life. Frittie's fall from the window in 1873. Alice and May's deaths from diphtheria in 1878. Ernie's divorce. The death of his daughter, Elisabeth, in 1903. Serge's assassination in 1905. The regicide at Ekaterinburg and Alapaevsk in 1918. The air crash at Steene in 1937. George's death from cancer in 1938.

One can only imagine how strong Victoria had to be in order to provide support and comfort to others. The day after the crash that killed her sister-in-law, Onor, her granddaughter, Cecile, and her nephew, Donatus, and their two sons, the pragmatic Victoria suggested that the marriage between Don's younger brother, Prince Ludwig, and the Hon. Margaret Geddes take place the next day, albeit quietly. The family had been en route to London to attend the wedding, Young Princes Alexander and Ludwig were to have been pages in the wedding.

Ilana Miller, an Adjunct Professor of History at Pepperdine University spent an enormous amount of time working on this book. She read the appropriate histories and biographies. She was able to do research in Darmstadt, and she was given access to unpublished material, including Princess Victoria's and Grand Duke Dimitri's unpublished memoirs. Copies of the former are at Southampton University and Darmstadt and Dimitri's diaries are at Harvard. Ilana also met with Victoria's granddaughter, Lady Mountbatten, who was able to provide first hand information about Victoria.

In 1917, Prince Louis of Battenberg renounced his German title and was created Marquess of Milford Haven. Victoria, a Princess in her own right, could have retained her title, but she, too, chose to relinquish her grand ducal title, and became known as the Marchioness of Milford Haven.

Victoria's life was far from ordinary. She was the glue, the lynch pin, that kept her family together, even when divided by war. She was close to her two daughters-in-law, Edwina, and Nada, and she provided the stability for her young grandson, Prince Philip.

Considering the vicissitudes of her own live - and the lives around her - Victoria was the ultimate survivor. Considering her own family ties, one can only imagine her joy on November 20, 1947, when she sat in Westminster Abbey to watch her grandson marry the future Queen of the United Kingdom. No doubt Queen Victoria would have approved of this marriage.

Ilana Miller is to be commended and complimented for The Four Graces, which is sure to become a well-thumbed reference work for future biographers and historians.

The book is illustrated with eighty photos.

I would recommend that Eurohistory use a professional indexer in order to create a more detailed index based in names and places. This book deserves a detailed index.

One more quibble: the typeface is too small. Older folks may require a magnifying glass in order to read the book. I am not kidding.

So invest in a magnifying glass if you have trouble with small print. It's worth the investment. The Four Graces is one of the best royal books that I have read in a long time. This book is a true winner. It is a must read, a definite need for your royal collections.

Available at

Available at

DEAR ELLEN – Review by Coryne Hall

 “Dear Ellen”, by Arturo Beéche. (  138 pages, over 300 illustrations. Family trees.   Dedication by H.R.H. Princess Elisabeth of Yugoslavia and Remembrance by H.R.H. Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia.

“I like snobs,” Grand Duchess Helen once said.  “They are the only people who take me seriously.”  Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Helen of Russia was the only daughter of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich and his wife the formidable Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna.  In 1902, to the disappointment of her mother, Helen left the splendour of St Petersburg to marry Prince Nicholas of Greece, third son of King George I and Queen Olga.  The couple went on to have three daughters, Olga (Princess Paul of Yugoslavia), Elisabeth (wife of Count Carl Theodore of Toerring-Jettenbach) and Marina (wife of Prince George, Duke of Kent).  Each is given a chapter in the album.  

Arturo Beéche has given us a real treat.  This lovely book is filled with photographs (many of them provided by Grand Duchess Helen’s family and never before published), as well as the reminiscences of family members.  He has been given access to the diary of Princess Olga of Greece which, among other delights, gives her version of the end of her engagement to Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. Family members have provided reminiscences of Helen, George and their daughters.  Prince Alexander, Prince Dmitri and Princess Elisabeth of Yugoslavia,  Archduchess Helen of Austria, Count Han-Viet of Toerring-Jettenbach and Prince Michael of Kent have all provided memories for this book.

The text is concise and informative and there are family trees to help you sort out the myriad intermarriages between the different branches of Grand Duchess Helen’s family. But it is the photographs which really make this book stand out.  Forget the carefully posed pictures of royalty you normally see.  These are photos taken for the private family albums. Among the more surprising images are one of Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna on horseback (we are used to seeing her in court dress glittering with jewels); Helen in a bathing costume; Prince Nicholas in a towelling robe on the beach, and also a wonderful picture of the prince, who was a talented artist, with his paint brushes and easel.  There are gorgeous images of Helen and Nicholas’ daughters as children, including a rare one with some of the Tsar’s daughters who were their playmates, and a photo of the Tsar taken by Grand Duchess Helen. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

The book moves on to the couple’s many siblings and cousins, which brings in the royal houses of Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Great Britain, Hanover (Cumberland), Romania and Holland.  Among the couple’s nephews was Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

The author has done an excellent job showing just how Helen and Nicholas are related to all these European royals and, again, there are many unpublished family photographs.

Nicholas and Helen had an extremely happy married life but the family certainly had their share of triumph and tragedy, not to mention the vicissitudes of Greek politics. After Nicholas’ death in 1938 Helen remained in Athens and worked for the International Red Cross during the war, also collaborating with resistance groups.  She died in 1957. 

The couple’s many descendants continue to meet regularly at family events and credit must go to them for generously allowing these family photographs to be published, and to Arturo Beéche for telling the story so well.

Highly recommended and definitely not to be missed!

Coryne Hall

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