I graduated from the University of Delaware in 1969 with a major in Creative Writing and a minor in Russian History. The Romanov dynasty fascinated me, especially the era of the last Tsar. Even the names were dramatic and mysterious: Ivan The Terrible, Peter The Great, Catherine the Great. Nicholas II was ill prepared and a hopeless leader of his 130 million subjects. Empress Alexandra had more strength of will and exerted it readily—although lovingly—over her passive husband.
The image in the book of the 4 Grand Duchesses haunted me when I first saw it in 1966 continues to haunt me, knowing how those ethereal beauties met their horrific end.
And then there’s Alexei. His incurable disease, the “Royal Disease,” inherited by no less an historical titan but blood relative Queen Victoria of England. Alexei’s affliction was the greatest secret of the age. Add to this the assassination of the beautiful family: the greatest outrage of the epoch.
The mystery was compounded when the Siberian death pit was unearthed with the remains of but five members of the royal family. Two bodies were missing. This was in the year 1991, coincidentally the date of the demise of the Soviet Union.
I wrote RASPUTIN and ALEXEI in 2000. With the remains of Alexei and sister Marie finally discovered in late 2007 with concomitant DNA verification, that mystery was put to rest. All these new facts have renewed interest in my book.
Robert Massey, in his seminal work NICHOLAS & ALEXANDRA, speaks to Rasputin’s very real power over the Alexei the tsarevich. The Mad Monk certainly had no supernatural powers. What he did possess was an amazing ability to calm. When Alexei was bleeding internally his blood pressure naturally rose due to the very real possibility of his bleeding to death. Rasputin’s overpowering demeanor and riveting gray eyes mesmerized the boy, thereby reducing his anxiety and ceasing the flow of blood from the heir’s brittle veins.
Aside from the fictional narrator Sergei, and his love interest Mathilde, all the characters mentioned and the facts in the book are well researched and authentic. My bibliography contains first person accounts of the era including Anna Vyrubova, Alexandra’s best friend and confidante who was later imprisoned by Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov a/k/a Lenin.
The chapters in quotes are old Russian proverbs that providentially lend themselves to the story. Alexei and his family were caught up in a maelstrom of international events. The advent of worldwide communism followed the assassination of the Romanovs. Had he been born healthy, Rasputin would not have gained the power he did. The influence of this starets on Alexandra was infinite and was a major cause of the fall of the dynasty. Alexei’s life and death changed the course of the world.
Join the Facebook group I created : Alexei Romanov – The Last Tsarevich. There are many fascinating people globally who are lovers of Romanov history.
Where to find Greer Firestone online
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