Author Topic: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?  (Read 92511 times)

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Offline Angie_H

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The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« on: March 01, 2004, 11:12:37 AM »
I have often read about how the Imperial children did not have real contemporaries of their own age. How they rarely saw other members of the Romanov family their own age. I have wondered if this was somewhat due to some influence Queen Victoria had over her grand daughter Alix. Not that Queen Victoria told her outright to do this. From what I read, after Prince Albert died Queen Victoria acted like she had to be the center of attention when it came to her children. That she was very reluctant to let her daughters Helena & Beatrice marry (when they did marry Queen Victoria insisted they live in England), that she even expected Beatrice to remain unmarried and devote herself only to her mother. After Princess Alice's death Queen Victoria took more of an interest in her Hessian grandchildren. Did some of this wear off on Alix? Alix was often ill, did she look at her daughters more as companion/caretakers? Being so isolated and not exposed to people their own age, wouldn't that have made the girls somewhat naive in regards to the outside world? And if the grand duhcesses did marry would she have insisted they too remain in Russia. (I do remember reading somewhere that Olga said she did not want to go to a foreign country). And in reality wouldn't the grand duchesses gotten on each other's nerves after awhile too no matter how close & loving they were?  :-/

Offline Sarai

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2004, 03:51:08 PM »
Angie_H,
Yours are interesting questions, which even contemporaries of the Imperial Family posed themselves. From what I have read, it seems that Alexandra's main motivation in isolating her children from the outside world was to protect them from what she perceived as the many negative influences surrounding them. It seems that many of their contemporaries probably lacked the solid moral values that Alexandra tried to instill in her children, as they were more interested in partying and decadence than in a quiet home life centered around family. In this, I find the Imperial Family to have been more like ordinary people than royalty, as their core traditional values dictated family first as opposed to lavish parties and self-indulgence.  As a concerned mother, Alexandra tried to shelter her children from that type of world. Indeed, I think that is what many mothers even today wish they could do, to protect their children from negative outside influences and keep only the good around them. However, as ordinary folks we are unable to do so, as our lives in this day and age have children necessarily exposed to their peers in school and later when they enter the workforce. It is just a normal part of life for us. Our children cannot be secluded in a palace surrounded only by their close family and carefully selected people.

Alexandra also thought that the children could keep themselves occupied amongst each other, without the need to bring in outsiders. As there were four sisters with much in common, they were each other's best playmates. Of course, it could grow boring dealing with the same people day in and day out, and this was seen by outsiders to be detrimental to the children's normal social development, so they tried to help expand their horizons. For instance, their aunt, the Grand Duchess Olga, gave small weekend parties to which the Grand Duchesses eagerly attended and apparently delighted in. Of course, the young people at those parties were very carefully selected to ensure Alexandra's high standards, but they were a diversion nonetheless. Alexei also had outside children brought in to play with him; again, carefully selected sons of officers, but other children nevertheless. The G.D. Tatiana in particular seemed to eagerly seek the companionship of others, as she was naturally outgoing and friendly and wanted friends outside of her tight family circle, but this was not possible.

Alexandra did in fact also consider her daughters as companions, as it has been stated in various books that whenever the girls went out on walking excursions and rides, one of them always stayed behind with their mother, who rarely ventured outside on such journeys. The girls apparently did not mind doing this, and each took turns performing this task. I don't know if this attitude of Alexandra's was due to Queen Victoria's influence, or just due to the fact that she couldn't join their excursions due to health reasons and didn't want to be left alone. The girls apparently considered it as their duty and did not mind keeping their mother company.

The Grand Duchesses were also indeed said to be quite naive about the outside world. For instance, they did not know much about the value of money and buying items in stores, which they were only able to do while on holidays abroad, and contemporaries noted that they seemed immature for their age, in the way that they expressed themselves and acted. Their mother certainly and unapologetically wanted to keep them as children for as long as possible. I don't know if she would have insisted all of her daughters to stay in Russia after their marriages, as I think it was probably inevitable that at least one of them would have been married to a foreigner and gone to live abroad. For instance, I have read that had the revolution not occurred, the G.D. Maria may very well have been married to her cousin Prince Louis Mountbatten of England, who was madly in love with her and whom apparently she had a liking to as well. As far as Olga goes, as you correctly stated, she made the decision herself not to leave Russia and didn't seem to be influenced by her mother in that decision, as she was very steadfast about it and seemed to come to it on her own.

As far as your last question, it is sometimes hard to believe in these cynical times that these girls were as constantly loving and devoted to each other as they were made out to be, but apparently that is really how they were, as evident in their diaries, letters, and contemporary accounts. I am sure they did get on each other's nerves from time to time. There are in fact examples of this in their letters (from memory, i.e., Olga trying to slap Anastasia's hand away from her nose as she was picking it, etc.), but they seemed to be fleeting moments. From all accounts, the girls realized that they lived in a "gilded cage," but didn't seem to mind it - instead, they seemed to treasure it and couldn't imagine any other way of life. Indeed, one must admit that despite their isolation their lives were idyllic until the last few years.

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2004, 12:01:38 PM »
Isolated ? To a certain extent, yes. Like most children of that rank at the time. They had many friends/playmates from among the  myriad cousins, children of staff & servants, etc.  I do not think they were all that naive about life, even though their mother was over-protective, she was certainly not a prude.
Besides, even the most isolated enviornment will not quell a teenagers's curiosity.
The older daughters worked in war hospitals, and the lot of them were friendly with their own guards, for the most part.
The idea of them as "innocent, pure angels, unbesmirched by the vile world" is just another illusion. They were active, curious teens, & I think did what most teens of any era or class do- get away with as much as they they they could !
Life may not be the party we expected, but while we are here, might as well dance..

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Offline tea_rose

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2004, 07:36:59 PM »
I have always been interested in the daughters-a lot of the time they seem to be treated as a unit (OTMA). I think the "isolation" probably started because Alexandra was shy and much more comfortable in the family circle. Also, as someone said, she disapproved of the morals in Russian high society.

 However, the advent of the war probably perpetuated this situation for the girls. They could not "come out" and remained close to their mother doing war work (the nursing). I don't think they would have remained spinster companions in ordinary circumstances as Queen Alexandra's daughter, Toria, did in Great Britain.

 The glimpses we have of them do make them seem "young" for their age-but I think if they had lived in normal times-they would have matured.    

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2004, 06:27:34 PM »
Sarai wrote
Quote
The Grand Duchesses were also indeed said to be quite naive about the outside world. For instance, they did not know much about the value of money and buying items in stores


It is funny to read what Sarai wrote above because I once saw a documentary about the Romanovs and it said the same thing about OTMA being isolated and naive about the outside world: one time when they went to buy something at a store, they paid with money and the shop owner gave them the change but they do not understanded why the owner did that !!!

Offline Olga

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2004, 02:34:14 AM »
I've often read how they sounded immature and how they had a childish way of speaking. What sort of things would they do/say?

Offline jackie3

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2004, 07:23:31 AM »
Another reason for the isolation of the Imperial Children (in addition to Alix's distaste for what she saw as the decadence of the aristocracy and the arrival of WWI preventing the girls from "coming out") was that assassination plots were everywhere. Nicholas' grandfather had been assassinated and died before his eyes, his father Alerxander III's health was probably not helped by the train explosion at Gorki, his Uncle Serge was blown literally to pieces in Moscow, and Prime Minister Stolypin was openly assassinated before the eyes of Nicholas and his two oldest daughters. The children of the Tsar were tempting targets for nihlist terrorists, in Alix's mind (and perhaps in fact) the safest place for them to be was in the Tsar's Village where no one was allowed to enter without the Tsar's knowledge.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by jackie3 »

Offline tea_rose

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2004, 09:30:25 AM »
 Olga, this is what Peter Kurth says about OTMA's immaturity in "Tsar":

" As young women, they spoke disconcertingly like 10 year old girls. They giggled, poked each other, ran into corners, and were incapable of writing any but the simplest correspondence in any one of the four languages they were taught: Russian, English, French and German. Never once in their lives did they go anywhere unescorted or without each other, except to the extent that they were split into pairs, "Big" and "Little."

This sounds harsh-but I have known some teen-age girls that stayed "young" in this way until they went off to school.  I think it would have naturally righted itself if history  had taken another turn.

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2004, 10:53:54 AM »
Well now, it seems highly unlikely that these girls would have "gone off to" anywhere, least of all to school.  Marriage, even for Olga seemed also a rather remote possiblity. The penchant for mothers  in this era to keep at least one daughter at home would also hinder any likelihood of an emotional liberation.
So, would a natural "righting" have taken place?
Despite N&A's obvious healthy & romantic sex life, would they have imparted that expectation to their daughters? Would they even have the possibitly of attaining it?
I would expect that their bubble would have burst sooner or later, despite war, revolution, family feuds & scandal.
Sadly we shall never know what their reaction to a relatively "normal" enviornment would have been.
Robert
Life may not be the party we expected, but while we are here, might as well dance..

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Offline tea_rose

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2004, 11:03:08 AM »
You have a point, Robert! Given their untimely end, I would prefer to be optimistic than not. However, many people of their station did stay isolated in an unhealthy way. Few doubt that their intimate family life was happy-despite the constant stress of their brother (and mother's-to some extent) illness.

 The Tsarina was quite Victorian and probably preferred "naive and immature" daughters to sophisticated ones. Still-as I said-I have seen "late bloomers" and the girls could have have done so. In a way, they were NOT as frivolous as some of their peers; they had a lifetime of putting their parents and brother first.  

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2004, 11:04:51 AM »
I also think Sarai's summary is the best.

Olga wrote:

"I've often read how they sounded immature and how they had a childish way of speaking."

I was very surprised when I read OTMA's childhood letters to their mother in Maylunas and Mironenko's book -- letters in English, with tons of grammatical and spelling errors, far more than you would expect in children of their age. But then I learned from a linguist that children who have multiple "first" languages are much slower to be able to speak and write correctly in those languages than children who only have one language to learn. They have much smaller vocabularies, too, since it's twice (or three times) the work. Sometimes bilingual and trilingual children are even labelled "stupid" or "slow" by their ignorant teachers.

This might partially explain why Gibbes, Alexei's English tutor, records that the boy could not speak or understand any significant amount of English at all when Gibbes first began teaching him. Alexei was 9 years old at the time. Certainly his sisters could all communicate in English by that age. On the other hand, Gibbes' story may also indicate that Alexandra did not spend nearly as much time even with her favorite child as we usually assume.

I think there's a deeper significance to that famous story of Edward VII telling Alexandra in 1908 that something must be done about her children's English, because they had picked up an "Hibernian" accent from their nanny. Why on earth would the children have had an Irish accent if they were speaking English with their mother with any frequency?

One of the things I liked about Wilson and King's book was the fact that they did discuss the strangeness of Alexandra's relationship with her daughters -- writing her little daughters letters about very emotional topics, instead of discussing these things with the girls in person!

There's no doubt that OTMA, at least, did not receive adequate attention, and that many contemporaries wondered why. Various memoirists record that OTMA were frequently left on their own, and after the departure of Sophia Tiutcheva, had no real supervision. Thus Elizaveta Naryshkina recorded that they behaved "like young savages." Mossolov wrote that O and T talked like little children even when they were teenagers.

In terms of friendships, OTMA and Alexei did have opportunities to play with the children of their aunt, Grand Duchess Xenia, as well as the children of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich. They spent a lot of time with Grand Duke Paul's son Dmitry and daughter Maria, who were taken under N & A's wing after the exile of their father. As a young woman Olga was friends with a girl named Rita Khitrovo. But Buxhoeveden also records that Tatiana in particular longed for close friendships that never materialized because of their royal status and general isolation.






« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Michelle

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2004, 11:50:03 AM »
That's terribly unfair that OTMA weren't given much attention! >:(  I can understand Alix not giving them much attention, but Nicholas didn't either?  Poor girls. :'(  I know I'd be irritated.

Offline Antonio_P.Caballer

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2004, 12:10:57 PM »
I think that, at first sight, it might seems quite strange how the Empress used writen notes between the upper and ground floor to comunicate with her own children. However, its very important to considerate that she suffered from recurrents migraines(a kind of strong headache, i hope this is the correct term). I myself have always suffered from migraines. When you have one of them the pain is so hard that you cannot do anything but wait until it stops or (if you are lucky enough) you fall asleep. Really, im not exaggerating, you cannot stand with either the faintest noise or any light. And youll agree with me that four little girls, as much as she loved them, could be quite noisy.

Alexandra spend much more time with her daughter than any of the royalties of her time, and what is more important, she conciously tried to dedicate them every possible time, to the point that she would be criticized by some of her contemporaries. Yet, she had to be the Empress of Russia.

With her failing health, her constant worries...well, i think she would have needed three whole lifes to do all she was supposed to do, one for playing the role of great hostess( to meet the requirements of Miechen, for example), a second one to be the perfect mother( to meet the modern standards requirements) and a third life to take care of her own health....

« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Antonio_P.Caballer »

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2004, 12:14:38 PM »
Late bloomers ?
Perhaps it could have been.
It seems to me that their lives were unbalanced by any class standards.
Despite their air-head frivolity, they had matured  very early in caring for  a very ill sibling and a mother that mixed illness with downright paranoid behavior. Lots of kids around the world have dealt with that situation haven't they? Some deal with it admirably, others hold deep resentment and act on that later in life. I think the potential for either direction was ripe, especially in a rapidly changing world.
And, who is this RALPH that AGRBear keeps referring to?
Best,
Robert
Life may not be the party we expected, but while we are here, might as well dance..

Do you want the truth, or my side of the story ?- Hank Ketchum.

rskkiya

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2004, 01:08:57 PM »
Mr. Hall

You have made a good point. Perhaps it was exactly the stress of being constantly faced with a semi invalid mother, a very ill younger brother- as well as gd knows what other pressures- which caused them to react by being 'silly monkeys' as my dear nana might have put it.

I'm sending some incense wafting up to the firmaments for you...do you like it? ;)

Rskkira

ps-- I do not know "ralph" either.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by rskkiya »