I just received Prelude to the Revolution: The Murder of Rasputin, (2011) by the late Ronald C. Moe and he identifies the author of My Empress as Alexandra’s First Maid-in-Waiting, Madeleine Zanotti who wrote under the nom de plume of Marfa Mouchanow. He first mentions this on p. 49 and again on p. 53 when quoting passages from the book. In his End Notes on p. 71 he goes into some detail about how important Zanotti’s view are, having written them only months after the first Revolution. However the late Ronald C. Moe does not go into detail about how he learned Zanotti was the author of My Empress. …
I am doubtful whether Madeleine Zanotti was ‘Marfa Mouchanow’. Zanotti was unmarried and only 3 years older than the Empress. She had worked at the court in Darmstadt in the early 1890s, but she was as unfamiliar with Russia and Russian court life in 1894 as Alix was. If she was the author of My Empress
, this background makes her account and interpretation of the Empress´ early months/years in Russia less reliable, as she would have had to fill in many gaps in her knowledge of the court and courtiers with second-hand information. A fake identity as a lady of a high rank that made her eligible for such a responsible position at the court and as a widow of a Colonel who had died shortly before N&A’s wedding may have been useful in such a situation, but it would have been rather stupid of the author to undermine the credibility of her book by misrepresenting any situations she actually did
have first-hand information on. Yet this is exactly what Zanotti did, if she was the author behind the alias. My Empress
includes at least one statement of which Zanotti must have known it was utter nonsense and which was unfair to the Empress, whose interests Marfa Mouchanow pretended to have at heart: On page 110, Mouchanow states that “Besides the Princess [Galitzyne] there were four maids of honour attached to the person of the young Czarina. The first was the Countess Lamsdorff, with whom the Sovereign could not get on and to whom she took a violent dislike…”
. This is a misrepresentation. It’s true that Countess Lamsdorff did leave quite soon, but she didn’t leave because of any conflict with the Empress; she left because she got engaged to the Russian ambassador to Munich. And the Empress did not
take a violent dislike to Countess Lamsdorff. On the contrary, she thought her charming and was very sorry to part with her, and the Countess was in tears when she bade the Empress farewell. [Ref: P. H. Kleinpenning, “The Correspondence of the Empress Alexandra of Russia with Ernst Ludwig and Eleonore, Grand Duke and Duchess of Hesse”
, pp. 188-190] Madeleine Zanotti was staying with the Empress in Russia when Countess Lamsdorff got engaged and left the Empress’ service, so she would have known the truth. If Marfa Mouchanow was Madeleine Zanotti, the author was deliberately telling lies.
I read Mouchanow’s book many years ago and felt that her words had a sly, false ring. Mouchanow pretended that she had “nothing to say but good of the unfortunate Czar and Czarina”
[p.94], but her book is actually full of criticism disguised as ‘motherly’ comments. And if I remember rightly, most ‘errors’ in her book didn’t work out in the Empress’ favour, but ‘accidentally’ added more criticism.