Author Topic: Just for fun - Christmas 1916 at the Anglo-Russian Hospital  (Read 46743 times)

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Offline Kalafrana

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Just for fun - Christmas 1916 at the Anglo-Russian Hospital
« on: December 24, 2011, 06:39:44 AM »
Scenario

Prince Alexander Dolgoruky, known to his intimates as Sandor (his mother was Hungarian) is recovering at the Anglo-Russian Hospital after losing an arm. He and Kate Brazier, an English nurse, have just announced their engagement, but, unknown to Kate, Sandor is deeply embroiled in the plot against Rasputin. Meanwhile, the hospital has decided to have both an English Christmas and a Russian Christmas.

Monday was Christmas Day in England, so at seven o’clock Mr Pearson led a procession around the wards, singing Christians awake, salute the happy morn. Every patient had a card signed personally by Queen Alexandra, and a stocking at the end of his bed contained nuts and sweets and a bar of chocolate. At nine o’clock there was a carol service in the ballroom for the patients who were well enough (all those in traction had been moved there the day before) and all the staff who could be spared from their duties. Afterwards Colonel Appleby read out special messages from Queen Alexandra, the Dowager Empress, and the Empress. Presents were distributed. From the Dowager Empress there were silver brooches for the nurses, and cigarette cases for the patients and  male staff, all bearing the hospital badge.

‘I also have some most important news,’ Colonel Appleby went on. ‘First, Sick Bay Steward Gauci is promoted to Leading Sick Bay Steward.’ A pause, as Gauci came forward to receive his ‘hook’. ‘And, second, you will be aware that when Mr Dempsey volunteered to join the hospital the War Office considered him too old for a commission. Now, happily, they have reconsidered.’ Colonel Appleby held up his hand for silence. ‘Of course, Mr Dempsey has only brought plain clothes with him to Russia. However, Mr Pearson has been busy, and proved once again that he can do anything where supplies are concerned. When Mr Dempsey sent a suit to the laundry recently, Mr Pearson took the opportunity to examine the labels, and ascertained the identity of his tailors in Dublin. They sent a set of Mr Dempsey’s measurements, which Mr Pearson then forwarded to the official RAMC tailors in London. Thanks to the diplomatic bag, the uniform has now arrived. Captain Dempsey, this may be your birthday, but you are improperly dressed!’ Colonel Appleby picked up a large brown cardboard box, secured with string and sealing wax, and a bashful Noel Dempsey came forward in his turn.






Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Just for fun - Christmas 1916 at the Anglo-Russian Hospital
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2011, 06:44:10 AM »
Lunch (goose, ham, beef, roast potatoes and other vegetables, followed by Christmas pudding and mince pies) was served by the doctors and it did not pass unnoticed that the teetotal Mr Pearson partook of a modest spoonful of brandy butter with his pudding. He did not, however touch the quantities of wine provided by a generous  visitor from his Crimean estates (Anton’s hopes of remaining anonymous were dashed when someone recognised the Golitsyn arms on the bottles) and stuck firmly to lemonade.

Then it was time for Cinderella, performed in English but given a Russian gloss and a wartime setting, and a running translation from Colonel Mikhailov. An orphaned Muscovite Countess lived with relations in England, where her kitchen was ‘Far, far colder than Siberia’, and she was forced to subsist on leftover Brown Windsor soup. Olivia Page played her, sighing for her native land and singing sad Russian songs, accompanied on the violin by Sapper Flynn as a Liverpudlian Buttons.  Major Finch was Baron Hardup, whose penury resulted not only from his own profligacy but from the dubious activities of war profiteers, Mr Pearson his long-suffering steward, struggling vainly to balance the books. Major Crombie and Major Davenport were the Ugly Sisters, exposed in due course as German spies, thanks to some detective work by an Italian Count (played by Gauci), an Irish doctor (Captain Dempsey naturally), a Belgian and a Romanian (more ironic cheers), and frogmarched away to the Tower. The ball was held by the French ambassador. Prince Charming was serving in the Coldstream Guards (Colonel Bridger, the Assistant Military Attache, when asked to lend his scarlet and bearskin for the occasion, offered to play the Prince himself, in a departure from pantomime tradition) and Cinderella’s ball gown was decorated with the flags of all the allied nations. Music included a version of I’ve got a little list, sung by the Prince in a fine baritone and specifying uncomfortable fates for the Kaiser, Field Marshal von Hindenburg and Admiral von Tirpitz, and a tender rendition of If you were the Only Girl in the World by the Prince and Cinderella. The audience, which included Dimitri Pavlovich,  the British Ambassador, Sir George Buchanan, Lady Buchanan and their daughter, were also the guests at the ball and so those who were mobile had to get up from their seats and follow Cinderella and the Prince in a spirited polonaise through the hospital. The show ended with It’s a Long Way to Tipperary and the Glory chorus from A Life For The Tsar, followed by all the allied national anthems.


Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Just for fun - Christmas 1916 at the Anglo-Russian Hospital
« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2011, 06:45:35 AM »
This was not the end of the entertainment, because Captain Dempsey moved to the piano and Matron was persuaded to sing (Keep the Home Fires Burning). Colonel Appleby after protesting that he couldn’t sing, proved unexpectedly adept at conjuring tricks. Inevitably, Dolgoruky and Kate were called upon to dance a waltz, and Dolgoruky followed it by joining Colonel Bridger in singing The Bold Gendarmes (something he had learned with Mr Gibson). Various others got up by turns and performed their party pieces, until a patient landed painfully on his smashed elbow.  Then there was tea in the ballroom, with Christmas cake and more mince pies, as well as glasses of sherry.

Spending the day at the hospital was William H Denslow, special correspondent of the Baltimore Globe, in Russia to write a series of articles on the Russian war effort. The previous week he had interviewed various members of the Duma and Anton suggested that he visit the hospital. Matron then invited him to join the hospital for Christmas Day. Now he was in his element, taking numerous photographs and filling a notebook with shorthand, though he rather shamefacedly admitted to the devotees of Karl May and Zane Grey that Baltimore was nowhere near the Wild West.
‘But Mr Denslow, you have surely visited the Wild West?’
‘Hell no. I’ve never been west of the Appalachians, and I hate horses.’

Perhaps it was inevitable, but as evening drew on Kate found herself succumbing to increasing melancholy. Suddenly she missed her family more than ever. Yesterday’s overwhelming relief that Eddie was alive and safe in a German hospital seemed very far away. This was the sixth Christmas she had spent in Russia, the sixth since she had seen any of her family. Richard planned to come out for a month at the end of his first year at Oxford, even had a ticket booked on the train from Paris to St Petersburg at the beginning of August, but the war intervened.


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Re: Just for fun - Christmas 1916 at the Anglo-Russian Hospital
« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2011, 06:46:35 AM »
At home the Brazier family went out in search of holly on Christmas Eve, brought it home to decorate the house. Candles were lit as darkness fell. When Kate, her brothers and sister were children they made paper chains with strips of red and blue paper and pots of glue. They always woke to Christmas stockings, then walked across the road to the thirteenth century church for the carol service at ten o’clock. Lunch was always a goose from the home farm on the Loder-Symonds estate – Kate remembered with a pang that the Loder-Symonds had lost three of their sons in the war, and a daughter had gone down with the Lusitania. Two other sons were still serving, one in the army, the other in the Navy, and another daughter was a VAD. Mrs Brookes, the cook, made her cake and Christmas puddings in August, with a threepenny bit in each pudding. It was a Brazier family tradition to eat cheese on toast and roast chestnuts over the drawing room fire at teatime on Christmas Day, before they all accompanied Kate’s father to church for the evening service. All of them had been there that last Christmas in England. No suggestion that  her father, would be dead little more than a month later. No suggestion either that there would be a war that her brothers would fight in. Richard and Eddie were still at school then.

‘Are you all right?’ Dolgoruky was next to her, putting his arm round her.
‘Sandor, I’m on duty.’
Everyone was on duty, in the British hospital tradition that everyone worked some part of Christmas Day.
‘You can stay with me for a moment,’ Dolgoruky said, lowering her into a chair.
‘I just keep thinking of my family.’ Kate did not quite manage to hide a sniff.
Sergei Platonovich brought her a glass of sherry.


Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Just for fun - Christmas 1916 at the Anglo-Russian Hospital
« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2011, 06:47:45 AM »
‘It was so lovely at the dacha,’ she said when Sergei Platonovich was out of earshot.
‘We’ll be there again soon. We’re going there for our honeymoon.’
‘I just keep thinking of my family. Eddie’s safe, but Richard’s still in France. And Ronald – that’s Jane’s husband. Mother’s on her own.’
‘We’ll go and see them all once the war’s over.’
‘Once the war’s over. That’s what we all keep saying. But when will it be over? It was all supposed to be over by Christmas – two years ago.’
Dolgoruky had got used to thinking of the end of the war as a distant dream, something, indeed, that he did not think about much.
‘And remember that my family are your family now. Aunt Maria, Anton and Irina think of you as one of ourselves.’ He squeezed her hand. ‘Come on. They want us to dance again. Now, we will be expected to dance the czardas at our wedding breakfast, so it is high time I started to teach you.’

The day after Christmas included a concert by the patients, in which Dolgoruky was appearing in a skit entitled ‘Mr Pearson’s Secret’, where the worthy Commissioned Wardmaster faced a crisis as his logistical skills failed him and he reached his last dozen bottles of lemonade, and as one of the chorus of police from The Pirates of Penzance, chosen as something quintessentially English. But that was not until the evening, which meant that he could travel to the Alexander Palace in response to a telephone call from the Marshal of the Court shortly after breakfast.


Offline rachel5a

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Re: Just for fun - Christmas 1916 at the Anglo-Russian Hospital
« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2012, 10:53:11 AM »
is this hospital in GD Dmitri's palace in Petersburg?

Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Just for fun - Christmas 1916 at the Anglo-Russian Hospital
« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2012, 12:14:15 PM »
It is. The staff are fictitious, but otherwise I've tried to stick to what is known.

I don't know whether they celebrated Christmas 1916 with Cinderella, but it seems a reasonable surmise!

Ann

Offline blessOTMA

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Re: Just for fun - Christmas 1916 at the Anglo-Russian Hospital
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2012, 08:00:40 PM »
Great!

"Give my love to all who remember me."

  Olga Nikolaevna

Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Just for fun - Christmas 1916 at the Anglo-Russian Hospital
« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2012, 02:50:18 AM »
Since it was Dimitri's palace I think he should be invited to the pantomime - and he seems to have been in Petrograd far more than at the Stavka!

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Re: Just for fun - Christmas 1916 at the Anglo-Russian Hospital
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2012, 12:58:48 AM »
Since it was Dimitri's palace I think he should be invited to the pantomime - and he seems to have been in Petrograd far more than at the Stavka!
lol!

"Give my love to all who remember me."

  Olga Nikolaevna

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Re: Just for fun - Christmas 1916 at the Anglo-Russian Hospital
« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2012, 07:21:50 AM »
Sandor and Kate have decided to get married. After Sandor has requested permission to marry from the Tsar, they are invited to tea at the Alexander Palace.

‘Now are you quite sure you’re ready?’ Dolgoruky asked as the train pulled in.
Kate had spent much longer than usual in changing from her ‘ward’ uniform to the ‘outdoor’ version.
‘I suppose I should not complain. In peacetime I would have spent at least half an hour getting ready. After I’d bathed and shaved, and with Medvedev’s assistance, after he had spent a couple of days on my kit.’ Dolgoruky stood to attention and declaimed, “When summoned to an audience with His Imperial Majesty  the Colonel-in-Chief, an officer of His Majesty’s Life Guard Hussars will wear parade dress with pelisse, cartouche belt, barrel sash, white gloves, sabre with parade dress scabbard, sword knot and sword belt, sabretache, busby with plume, and such orders and decorations to which he is entitled. He will attend on the Commanding Officer and adjutant for inspection one hour beforehand. And if he is Rittmeister Prince Dolgoruky, he will first visit the regimental barber.”’
Since the delousing Dolgoruky’s hair had reached a stage in its regrowth when it stuck out in every direction.
‘Yes, I can smell the hair oil.’
‘Either His Imperial Majesty the Colonel-in-Chief must endure the smell of macassar oil or I return to looking like a convict on his way to Siberia. Now you are sure that you have practised your curtsey sufficiently?’

‘My cousin Prince Vassili Alexandrovich Dolgoruky, Marshal of the Imperial Court.’
‘Valya, please.’
There was the bow, complete with heel click, which Kate had become accustomed to in Russia. Cousin Valya was about fifty years old, in uniform as a Major-General of the Horse Guards, though Dolgoruky had already told Kate that he had spent much of his career at court.
‘It would take far too long to explain the precise relationship between Sandor and myself. It is enough that we are both Dolgorukys, and that you, my dear Kate, are about to marry him. Now come and meet the family.’

The imperial family were gathered in the drawing room that Dolgoruky had been in previously. Almost as soon as Kate was seated the two younger girls were plying her with questions.
‘Do you know the Isle of Wight, Miss Brazier? We stayed there when we visited England. We stayed with Aunt Victoria and Uncle Louis.’
Anastasia Nikolaievna began to giggle. ‘Mashka and Cousin Dickie fell in love. They walked about holding hands and looking into each other’s silly eyes.’
It took Kate a moment to realize that Mashka was Marie Nikolaievna, not Dolgoruky’s small cousin. The Empress looked disapproving.
‘Mashka’s always falling in love,’ Anastasia Nikolaievna went on.
‘Cousin Dickie’s in the Navy now,’ said Marie Nikolaievna, no doubt seeking to distract her sister from any talk of romance. ‘He’s left Dartmouth and is a Midshipman in a battleship.’
‘A battle cruiser,’ said Tatiana Nikolaievna. ‘HMS Lion.’
‘Georgie – that’s his brother – is a Lieutenant,’ Marie Nikolaievna went on. ‘He’s just got married to another of our cousins. Dickie was very disappointed to miss the Battle of Jutland, but Georgie was there. Do you have any relations in the Navy, Miss Brazier?’
‘Both my brothers are in the army,’ Kate said carefully. She hoped the young Grand Duchesses would not ask too many questions. She did not want to be reminded of Eddie just now.
‘Splendid,’ said the Tsar.


Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Just for fun - Christmas 1916 at the Anglo-Russian Hospital
« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2012, 07:22:41 AM »
The Tsarevich’s voice came suddenly. ‘Alexander Alexandrovich, let’s play trains!’ His Corporal’s uniform was made of officers’ cloth.
‘Would you like to see our rooms, Miss Brazier?’ This was almost the first occasion on which Olga Nikolaievna had spoken.
The girls ushered Kate upstairs, their lady-in-waiting, Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden, behind, while the Tsarevich led Dolgoruky to his own room.
   
Perhaps Alexei Nikolaievich had been playing trains when he was called in to tea, for his model railway showed signs of recent use. This time a third person was present, a tallish well-muscled seaman in his late twenties.
‘Leading Seaman Nagorny, your Illustriousness. Glad to serve your Illustriousness.’

‘Here’s the imperial train,’ the boy said, setting it going.
Several carriages painted in royal blue with the double eagle and cipher in gold on their sides, hauled by a large black locomotive. There were other trains, moved into sidings as the Tsar’s train approached.
‘There should really be another imperial train,’ the Tsarevich said seriously, ‘We have two exactly the same in order to fool the anarchists.’
The boy had lived his entire life in the shadow of the anarchists, as well as his own disease. Anarchists had blown up his great-grandfather, Alexander II, in the last of many attempts, one of which had destroyed part of the Winter Palace itself, and his great-uncle, Sergei Alexandrovich. In his grandfather’s time they had derailed the imperial train with many dead. Three years before the war the Prime Minister, Pyotr Stolypin, had been shot in a theatre in Kiev before the horrified eyes of the Tsarevich’s two eldest sisters.

‘Now,’ said Dolgoruky, in an effort to move the conversation to less uncomfortable matters, ‘If this were the German imperial train, we could have our sappers blow it up.’
‘Oh yes,’ the Tsarevich said. He turned to rummage in a drawer, producing after a few moments a lead figure of the Kaiser in the white uniform and eagle-crested helmet of the Prussian Garde du Corps. ‘The Kaiser sent me this. Of course, we don’t really want to kill him, since he’s my godfather,’ he went on judiciously.
‘But we could singe his moustache, couldn’t we? And give him the fright of his life.’ Dolgoruky saw the boy grin, and remembered a conversation he had once had with Ivan Ivanovich. ‘What we need to do is plant our bomb at a set of points, so that the train will be derailed when it goes over it. Alternatively, you can do it on a bend. And it would be best to do it in a forest, so that we can get close to the track in order to set off the bomb and catch them by surprise.’ A very different philosophy from the early days of the war, when a Russian officer would order his men to lie down when they came under fire, but remain standing himself. He found himself thinking of the scheme to kill Rasputin, and Purishkevich’s insistence on subterfuge.

The Tsarevich, unable to find a way of putting the model Kaiser inside the carriages, set him on top of one instead. Nagorny stood silently at the side of the room, his eyes on his charge.
‘We need some dynamite.’ Dolgoruky brought out some matches, cut each of them in two with Sapper Flynn’s flick knife, and then the heads off, the Tsarevich observing the way he did it with interest. ‘Dynamite comes in sticks.’  He placed them in a small bundle against one of the sets of points. ‘Now we need a length of fuse. Does your Imperial Highness have any string?’
‘You may call me Alexei Nikolaievich.’
‘Your Imperial Highness is most gracious.’
The Tsarevich brought out an odd collection of bits and pieces from one pocket of his breeches. A neatly folded handkerchief with his monogram and coronet, some Meccano parts, several nails and screws, a small lock, with which Dolgoruky had seen him fiddling at their previous meeting, and a tangled and rather grubby  length of string.
‘When we see the Kaiser’s train approaching, Alexei Nikolaievich,  we light the fuse. We have to be very careful with the timing, because we don’t want the bomb to go off too early.’
‘Or too late – after the train’s gone over it.’
‘We’ve left our chargers further back in the wood, and once the bomb’s gone off we run back to them to make our getaway.’
The Tsarevich looked sad for a moment. ‘I’m not allowed to ride.’
‘All right.’ Dolgoruky thought quickly.  ‘We’ve left a car nearby.’
‘I’ve got a car. It’s a Mercedes that was made specially for me before the war. I’ll drive that and you can ride your charger. If we go in different directions that will help fool the Germans.’ He thought for a moment. ‘How do you manage to ride now?’ It was the first time the Tsarevich had alluded to Dolgoruky’s missing arm.
‘I use the reins in my right hand instead of the left. When the stump’s fully healed my cousin Anton Golitsyn is going to make me a hook to take the reins so that I can use a sabre when mounted. Anton likes making things. In fact, he used to make explosives when we were boys.
‘Anton’s your cousin? Do you have any brothers?’
‘No, but Anton and I grew up together and he is like a brother.’
‘I wish I had a brother, but all I’ve got is sisters.’
‘But if you had an elder brother, Alexei Nikolaievich, you would not be Tsarevich. And brothers fight.’
The boy laughed. ‘My sisters are always arguing and pulling each other’s hair. Mashka and Nastya do anyway. Olga and Tatiana have their hair up now, and Tatiana is terribly grown up and boring. I’d like to meet your cousin. Will you bring him here? Now Alexander Alexandrovich, let’s try blowing up the Kaiser.’


Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Just for fun - Christmas 1916 at the Anglo-Russian Hospital
« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2012, 07:23:24 AM »
The Tsarevich switched on the power and the train started to move. Dolgoruky struck a match on his cigarette case, set light to one end of the string. As the train reached the pile of matchsticks the Tsarevich stopped the train and gradually toppled it over. The model Kaiser obligingly fell off the carriage roof.
‘There! Now the train’s been derailed and the Kaiser is climbing out of the wreckage with his face covered in soot and his moustache all singed! Let’s take him prisoner and hold him for ransom!’

Dolgoruky and the Tsarevich had been sufficiently absorbed to have taken no notice of footsteps on the landing outside. Now the Tsar came in.
‘Papa! Alexander Alexandrovich and I have just blown up the Kaiser’s train. Now we’re going to take him prisoner.’
The Tsar was smiling. ‘Shall I be the Kaiser then?’ He twirled the ends of his moustache into points.
Dolgoruky brought out his revolver, broke it open to show the Tsar and his son that it was not loaded, then gave it to the boy.
‘Hands up, Kaiser!’
‘Mein Gott!’ The Tsar let out a stream of alarmed German and waved his arms about in pantomime fashion as the Tsarevich levelled the revolver at him.
‘Now Alexander Alexandrovich, you make sure the Kaiser doesn’t escape while I fetch the car! We’ll  have to be quick before all his ADCs realize we’ve got him.’
The Tsarevich dashed out onto the landing, still clutching the revolver. Nagorny followed him.
The Tsar looked around. ‘Ach, I’m off!’
Dolgoruky whipped out his sabre and went after him. The absurdity of the situation struck him and he burst out laughing. The Tsar, stopping at the head of the staircase, turned round and did likewise, and just for a moment was quite a different person from the careworn monarch Dolgoruky had become used to. His four daughters also appeared, accompanied by Kate and Baroness Buxhoeveden.
‘Oh Papa, you do look funny!’
Discussion followed, of how exactly the Tsarevich was going to drive his car and Dolgoruky ride his charger while ensuring the captive Kaiser did not escape.
‘We’ll need a couple of soldiers to guard him,’ the Tsarevich decided. ‘Nagorny!’

He was an intelligent boy, Dolgoruky thought to himself, though clearly he had been over-indulged. A handsome boy too, and one who would soon be taller than his father. It was difficult to believe that his body harboured a deadly illness.
Then the Empress came into sight, walking slowly and deliberately up the stairs (Aunt Maria had told Dolgoruky that she was plagued by sciatica).
‘Nicky, darling. Baby could fall and hurt himself. You mustn’t encourage him.’

The Tsarevich was grinning, the revolver in his hand. ‘I want Alexander Alexandrovich to be my ADC.’
‘Aren’t you rather young to have an ADC?’ the Tsar said fondly.
‘Papa, you had ADCs when you were Tsarevich.’
‘But I was a good deal older than you by then.’
‘The girls have a lady-in-waiting,’ the boy protested, waving in the general direction of Baroness Buxhoeveden. ‘And I’m the Heir. Why shouldn’t I have an ADC?’
‘Baby’s a Corporal,’ said Anastasia Nikolaievna. ‘A Corporal can’t possibly  have an ADC.’
The Tsarevich thought for a moment. ‘I should have an ADC when I’m being a Colonel-in-Chief, and I want Alexander Alexandrovich. After all, one day I shall be Colonel-in-Chief of the Red Hussars.’
The Empress looked at Dolgoruky with a degree of froideur which was clearly not lost on her husband.
Dolgoruky managed to restrain his laughter. ‘You Imperial Highness’s august Sovereign and father,’ he said in tones modelled on those of Kirill  at the Embankment, ‘Is still a young man. If God wills, it will be many years before your Imperial Highness becomes Colonel-in-Chief of the Life Guard Hussars.’
‘But Papa’s ancient. He’s gone bald on top.’ The Tsar was smiling. ‘Papa, could you transfer Alexander Alexandrovich to one of my regiments.’
‘I must discuss this with your mother.’ The Tsar took the Empress’s arm and walked away.
‘Alexander Alexandrovich, will you show me how this revolver works? I haven’t seen one like this before. I’ve got a rifle, but it only fires caps. Mother won’t let me have a proper one.’

Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Just for fun - Christmas 1916 at the Anglo-Russian Hospital
« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2012, 07:24:22 AM »
‘No, Baby,’ the Tsar said good-humouredly when he returned to find the Tsarevich practising aiming the Webley at various objects in his bedroom, including his teddy bear. ‘Before you ask, you’re too young to have a revolver just yet.’
‘But Papa, I am surely old enough to have an ADC.’
‘Do you know, Sandor, my son has been talking of nothing else since I told him you and your fiancée were coming here today? Will you accept an appointment as ADC to the Tsarevich?’
‘Please, Alexander Alexandrovich!’
‘Nicholas Alexandrovich, I have already accepted a posting to the British Military Mission as a liaison officer.’
‘I’m sure that will not be a problem.’
Dolgoruky came to a decision. ‘Nicholas Alexandrovich, it is an honour. Provided it does not prevent me from returning to the regiment once I am fully fit.’
‘Of course.’
‘Papa, can Alexander Alexandrovich come to the ballet with us tomorrow night?’
The imperial family was due to attend a gala performance at the Imperial Ballet the following night in honour of the Tsar’s name day.
‘Of course. Now Baby, your mother must be wondering what you are doing.’
‘Sandor,’ the Tsar said once the Tsarevich had disappeared down the stairs. ‘You are aware that my son is not as other boys? He is physically frail, but at the same time he is active and energetic – as much  as his health allows. He is now at an age when he needs to be among men much more than previously. He has his tutors, of course, and spending time at the Stavka with me has been very good for him, but there he is always surrounded by senior officers who make rather a pet of him. Now he needs to spend time with younger men such as you. His mother accepts this, but she is concerned that he may develop bad habits, and damage both his health and his character. You understand, of course?’
‘Entirely, Nicholas Alexandrovich.’ Dolgoruky thought privately that it would do the Tsarevich good to be allowed a little freedom to develop bad habits such as an interest in revolvers and blowing up trains.

‘You are so lucky to be marrying Alexander Alexandrovich.’
‘He’s very handsome.’
‘What did you say when he asked you to marry him?’
‘We must come to the wedding. You will invite us, won’t you.’
‘We’ll have to get you a nice wedding present.’
‘A tablecloth. We always give tablecloths.’
‘A nice piece of silver for your dining room.’
‘A christening gown,’ said Marie Nikolaievna with a dreamy look on her face. ‘For all the lovely babies you’re going to have.’
‘Olga’s becoming an old maid,’ said Anastasia Nikolaievna rather wickedly. ‘Twenty-one and still no sign of a betrothal. We went to visit Romania before the war so that she could meet Cousin Carol, but she wasn’t interested in him. Mama thought about Cousin David – the Prince of Wales – but we haven’t seen him for absolutely ages, not since we visited England last. And the Kaiser wanted Olga for one of his sons – there are six, so lots to choose from, though some of them are quite old and married already – but thank goodness she didn’t marry one of them. Just imagine being stuck in Germany now.’
‘And just imagine having the Kaiser for a father-in-law. Uncle Henry’s very nice. He used to take us sailing before the war. But the Kaiser isn’t a bit like him.’
Kate was confused by this galaxy of relations, managing to remember that, just as one of the Empress’s sisters was married to Prince Louis of Battenberg, another was married to Prince Heinrich of Prussia, brother to the Kaiser.
‘I want to marry a Russian so that I never have to leave Russia,’ said Olga Nikolaievna with a faraway look on her face.
‘But Mama doesn’t approve of any of our Russian cousins. Not even darling Dimitri. She says he goes to too many parties.’
‘Olga keeps falling in love with patients at the hospital,’ said Anastasia Nikolaievna.
‘Nastya, you know you’re not supposed to talk like that,’ said Tatiana Nikolaievna.
‘I know, Mama doesn’t approve. But it would be fun if Olga were in love with someone like Alexander Alexandrovich.’
‘Alexander Alexandrovich, now you’re my ADC, will you teach me to use your revolver properly?’
Dolgoruky thought for a moment. ‘If you have never fired a weapon before, you would be better starting with something else. I started with an air rifle and it must still be somewhere at our family dacha. You could try that.’
The boy’s blue eyes shone. ‘That would be wonderful.’
‘I’ll fetch it next time I’m at the dacha.’
‘What shall we use for targets?’
‘We used to use old tins.’

‘This is excellent news,’ said Cousin Valya. ‘There is plenty of good in Alexei Nikolaievich, but he has spent far too long being idolized by his parents and sisters. I do not think any of them has ever said ‘no’ to him and meant it. Certainly no one has taught him table manners. Like any spoilt child, he is charming when he is the centre of attention and getting his own way, but quite obnoxious when he is not.  His tutors despair of his laziness, but he is a bright boy, and he realizes that he has no need to apply himself to his studies. Of course, his poor health is part of all this. It is a pity he cannot go to cadet school to learn some self-discipline! The Stavka has been good for him, but even there he has senior officers dancing attendance on him.  What he needs is to be among boys his own age, but  the Empress will not permit this. Even his cousins are not invited to the Alexander Palace any more – they are considered too rough and lacking in manners. So instead he should have young men such as you around him.’
‘The Empress will not approve.’
‘You have been a duellist, you kept a ballet girl. But now you are a wounded hero. You are about to marry a charming young English lady of unimpeachable morals, and you will put aside your more questionable habits and settle down. And do not forget that becoming ADC to our future ruler will be a most advantageous step in your career.’ Cousin Valya smiled, well aware  that it was his boyhood friendship with the incumbent ruler which had brought him his high position. ‘But bring your pocket chess set to the ballet tomorrow night.’
Kate looked puzzled.
Dolgoruky explained. ‘When I was a boy I used to get very bored whenever I was taken to the opera or the ballet, or the theatre.’
‘Sandor could never keep still for a moment!’
‘So Aunt Maria got me a pocket chess set, and when I started to fidget she would start a game to keep me quiet.’


Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Just for fun - Christmas 1916 at the Anglo-Russian Hospital
« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2012, 07:30:00 AM »
On the occasion of the Tsar’s name day Dolgoruky was instructed to present himself at the Alexander Palace in time for an early dinner. The Imperial party would then travel to Petrograd by train, using the Imperial Station, which was some distance from the ‘town’ station at Tsarskoye Selo. Cars from the Winter Palace would then take them the short distance to the Maryinsky Theatre for the performance of The Little Humpbacked Horse, the Tsar’s favourite ballet, with the famed Tamara Karsavina in the lead role of the Tsar Maiden. Afterwards, Dolgoruky would return with them to the Alexander Palace for the night. A room would be set aside for him on the ADCs’ corridor – there was also a small mess, where the ADCs took their meals when not dining with the imperial family. Dolgoruky had been to Nordenshtrems that morning, purchased a set of aiguillettes and waited a few minutes while the Tsarevich’s cipher was added to a pair of shoulder boards. His duties as ADC to the Tsarevich were indeterminate. ‘You’re his new toy,’ Cousin Valya said in robust fashion. ‘Before long the novelty will wear off.’

By now the stump was almost healed; Major Finch had told him that in another week or so he would no longer need dressings and could be discharged. ‘Then you can have Christmas at home, and be ready for the wedding.’

Most of the arrangements for the wedding had now been made. Aunt Maria had taken charge of the invitations, the chef at the British Embassy was making the cake, and a dressmaker was at work on alterations to Irina Petrovna’s wedding dress. Dolgoruky’s parade dress was at Nordenshtrems for alterations; he had regained much of the weight he had lost, but still the uniform did not fit as it had.

A telegram came the following morning, asking Dolgoruky to arrive early and signed ‘AN’. As soon as he reached the Alexander Palace the Tsarevich led him upstairs for another session with the model railway.
‘Alexander Alexandrovich,’ the boy said after a time. ‘Why are you called Sandor instead of Sacha?’
‘My mother was Hungarian and Sandor is Hungarian for Alexander. When I was about six I decided I liked it better than Sacha.’
‘My parents and sisters keep calling me Baby, but I don’t like it. I’m not a baby. I’ve asked them to call me Alexei instead, but they don’t. I think Mashka and Nastya call me Baby because they know I don’t like it. Nastya likes teasing. How did you make people call you Sandor?’
‘Every time someone called me Sacha, I said, “My name is Sandor.”’
‘So if I tell everybody my name is Alexei, and ignore people when they call me Baby?’
‘Not quite, Alexei Nikolaievich. It would be very ill-mannered to ignore people.’ He was reminded of Aunt Maria saying the self-same thing. In fact, were she the Tsarevich’s aunt, Aunt Maria would have taken him to task over his manners long before now.  ‘It may take a little time, while your family get used to it.’
‘Papa calls you Sandor,’ the Tsarevich said in slightly puzzled tones. ‘And you call him Nicholas Alexandrovich.’
‘That is because your father is a brother officer, since he served with the regiment as Tsarevich. I had the na ty drink with him when I was a Cornet and so I may call him Nicholas Alexandrovich.’
‘So we could have a na ty drink and then I could call you Sandor?’
‘As a Colonel-in-Chief you are the senior, so you may call me Sandor and I continue to call you Alexei Nikolaievich.’
‘I would like you to call me Alexei. If I have a na ty drink with you as a Corporal, then you will be the senior. So could you call me Alexei?’
‘An officer does not have a na ty drink with a Corporal. As a Corporal you should call me Your Illustriousness.’
‘And salute you,’ the Tsarevich remembered.
‘And I should call you Corporal Romanov.’
They both peeled with laughter.
‘But you could have a na ty drink with me as Tsarevich, and graciously invite me to call you Alexei.’
‘Perfect! What should we drink?’
‘Vodka is usual. But perhaps you are a little young.’
‘I suppose we’ll have to make do with lemonade. Nagorny, fetch some lemonade!’