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Topics - Kalafrana

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Having Fun! / A Royal Musical Soiree
« on: May 16, 2016, 04:05:28 AM »
We've had royal dinner parties, so now it's time for gatherings of musical royalty and their court composers and protogees.

Let us begin with Boris III of Bulgaria and the great bass Boris Christoff. As a young lawyer in Sofia, Christoff belonged to the Gusla Male Choir. King Boris and Queen Giovanna invited the choir to perform at the palace. Christoff sang a solo, and Boris was so impressed that he provided him with the funds to study in Italy. I'm not sure whether Boris played any instruments, but Queen Giovanna can accompany Christoff on the piano.

I must also invite the philistine christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg, and JS Bach, whom he turned down as court composer AFTER Bach had written the Brandenburg Concertos to show him what he could do!


Having Fun! / Unpretentious Royalty
« on: April 02, 2016, 04:46:51 AM »
It's Easter, and spring is uncertainly springing (in Britain at least), so time for a fun topic.

Lots of examples of royalty who behaved in a delightfully unpretentious fashion (Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna and Princess Marie Louise spring immediately to mind), but I will kick off with the little-known Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Altenberg.

On the outbreak of WW1, Ernst, born in 1871, resigned his appointment as a General a la suite, turned down the Kaiser's offer of a cushy number at his headquarters, and went straight to the front as a Colonel and regimental commander.


Russian Noble Families / Prince David Chavchavadze
« on: November 10, 2014, 05:27:26 AM »
Prince David Chavchavadze has died aged 90.

Here is a link to an interesting obituary in the Daily Telegraph.


Having Fun! / By Popular Request - The Emperor's Hussar, continued.....
« on: October 03, 2014, 07:06:55 AM »
We start with the killing of Rasputin. Sensitive readers should note that there is a lot of gore, and PC readers that there is dialogue which would be regarded as unacceptable today.

On the Wednesday morning, 14 December, Major Finch declared Dolgoruky’s stump healed, so that he could be discharged from the Anglo-Russian Hospital  with a month’s leave.

He was restless. He had been cooped up much too long; since leaving the classrooms of Corps des Pages he had never spent so much time indoors, and he had never in his life been idle for such a lengthy period. There were only so many hours a man could devote to wedding preparations in any one day, and in any event the essentials had now been dealt with. The two ceremonies were arranged, with lunch at the British Embassy in between, and Anton taking Dolgoruky and Kate to Tsarskoye-Selo in his car, driving himself in order to ensure space for Lady Ottoline and Major Finch in addition to Aunt Maria and Irina. Anton had also arranged a special train for the guests. Even Dolgoruky’s father had stirred himself from the casino to telegraph his blessing. Aunt Maria and Irina were enjoying themselves with  dressmakers. After a good deal of discussion Dolgoruky and Kate had decided not to rush into renting a flat, but to begin their married life at the Embankment and find somewhere else at leisure.

Though Dimitri scoffed at the idea of retribution, the others in the conspiracy had all made plans to leave Petrograd once the job was completed. Dimitri was due back at the Stavka on the Sunday at the end of his leave. Purishkevich and Dr Lazovert planned to take their hospital train to the Romanian front. Felix Yussupov would accompany three of his Romanov brothers-in-law as they travelled to the Crimea to spend  Christmas with their parents and sister.

Dolgoruky had thought about following their example and making plans to go to the estate while the fuss died down, or even, now that he was about to marry, to take the opportunity to visit his properties, but he did not want to be separated from Kate. Even though she was currently on night duty, and the Embankment  was not the dacha, while he remained in Petrograd he would see her every day. Christmas was now only ten days away; Anton, Irina and Aunt Maria had already invited Kate to spend it at the Embankment when she was not working.

Dolgoruky did go to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery and pray at the tomb of his patron saint, a short distance from the font in which he had been baptised. There was a service going on, and he listened for a long time to the singing of the monks. He would have liked to discuss the scheme with one of the clergy, but that was impossible.

On Friday he went to Tsarskoye-Selo with Desmond Beresford, introduced him to Colonel Schubert and took him into the regimental riding school under the eye of the Riding Master. Like all his kind, Ivan Antonovich Polivanov was a leathery figure up from the ranks, a survival from the days before universal conscription, when a man was chosen by lot from the peasants of each village to serve for thirty years. He had risen to be Regimental Sergeant-Major, then been commissioned as Riding Master and sent his sons to cadet school.   All the softness had long since been etched out of his face, he respected horsemanship but nothing else. He watched Beresford in silence for a considerable time, then beckoned him over.
‘You’ll do.’
Ivan Antonovich spoke no language but Russian, in the heavy accent of the province he had left to become a recruit,  so it took some time for the import to sink in.
Beresford thanked him in uncertain Russian, and then turned to Dolgoruky. ‘Would you please thank the Riding Master very much indeed.’

‘We had a Riding Master in my regiment just like that. Captain O’Flaherty.’ Beresford smiled. ‘He could reduce one to a height of six inches with a single glance.’

Now that he had the Riding Master’s approval, he explained to Beresford, it would be possible for him to get a horse from the stables whenever it suited him; there was no need for Dolgoruky to accompany him. They then spent an hour or so riding in the park, which gave him the opportunity to show the best places to go, until it began to get dark.

There was a party of recruits out in the park, far enough on in their training to go outside the covered school, riding in a column of threes with  Roughriding Sergeant-Major Romanko at their head. The turn-out was good enough, both for men and horses, but something was missing. Before the war Sergeant-Major Romanko would have called ‘Singers to the front,’ and the men would have roared out the familiar regimental songs as they rode. Now there was silence. They were conscripts, of course, but the pre-war recruits had been conscripts too, a good proportion of them angry at being assigned to the cavalry, which meant an extra year’s service on top of the normal three. Before long that anger vanished, replaced by pride at belonging to a crack regiment. Dolgoruky could remember them swaggering through the town, then going off in their parade dress for their first home leave. Beresford said nothing, but Dolgoruky was aware that his experienced eye was appraising the men in the same way.

The false prophet has done this.

When Dolgoruky returned to the Embankment, Anton was already at home, and in a high state of indignation.
‘We’ve been prorogued again! By Imperial Decree!’
‘What for?’
‘Criticism of the government!’ It was seldom that Anton was aroused to ire. ‘Isn’t that what we’re there for? In fact, we were debating a motion calling for the removal of Rasputin from all positions of influence. Just as we were getting into our stride, an emissary arrived to announce that we were prorogued until February, and demanded that we disperse quietly.’
‘Did you?’
‘Not quietly at all. In fact rather noisily. Sometimes I begin to think that the revolutionaries have the right idea, that things here have gone too far to be capable of reform, so the only thing to do is to destroy the existing system and start again from scratch.’

Dolgoruky had heard Chaliapin sing Boris many times previously, and had tried on occasions to match his mastery of the role. But on this occasion it was not Chaliapin who made the greatest impression on him, for all that he was in splendid voice, but the tenor who sang the role of the Yurodivy, the Holy Fool, with his rendering of the lament at the end of the third act,

Weep, my Holy Russia, weep, for thou art entering into darkness
Weep, my Holy Russia, weep, for thou shalt surely die.

Having Fun! / Just For Fun - Royalty No-one Had a Good Word To Say For
« on: March 19, 2014, 06:59:53 AM »
We've had royalty no-one had a bad word to say for. now for the reverse.

Of couse, when someone is nominated, it is open to anyone else to suggest that the person concerned did have some redeeming features.

To set things going, I nominate Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia.


Having Fun! / Time for Another List - Royalty Nobody had a Bad Word For
« on: August 30, 2012, 12:46:52 PM »
Some weeks ago someone remarked that no contemporary seemed to have a good word for Alexander of Battenberg (Carisbrooke).

This has set me thinking. Who are those nice pleasant royal persons whom all their relations liked for their general decency, kind hearts, devotion to their countries etc etc? In order to screen out those whom nobody could bring themselves to criticise for posterity because they died in childhood, I shall set a requirement that the person must have lived to at least the age of 21, and the views are those of contemporaries.

To kick off, in no particular order:

Haakon VII of Norway
Arthur Duke of Connaught
Princess Marie Louise

We could also suggest Heinrich of Prussia and Ernest of Hesse (relations seem to have viewed him as more sinned against than sinning in relation to his break-up with Victoria Melita, which is surprising in view of contemporary attitudes to homosexuality and the rumours about stable boys).

Everyone seems to have liked and admired Max of Baden, though Alexandra Feodorovna didn't want to marry him.

Alexander of Athlone was another popular fellow of sterling character.

More please!

And perhaps we need someone to join Alexander of Battenberg on the unpopular list. This might be difficult - even the Kaiser could claim to be liked by Alice of Athlone and Empress Zita (and maybe Marie Louise).


Small point about the Sipyagin murder. I don't think the sentry would open the package himself. He would summon the duty NCO (probably a Corporal), who would take the visitor into the guardroom and open the package (probably with another soldier present).  You could also include a brief view of sleeping soldiers on bunks in the neighbouring room.


The Wittlesbachs / Prince Arnulf of Bavaria
« on: May 19, 2012, 01:21:06 PM »
I am currently reading a biography of Heinrich Himmler. It turns out that this deeply unpleasant individual came from a solid professional middle class family, and at the time of his birth in 1900 his father was tutor to the sons of Prince Arnulf of Bavaria. In fact, one of them, Prince Heinrich, was young Himmler's godfather. Apparently, Himmler senior left shortly afterwards and pursued a career as a headmaster, but Prince Arnulf's family kept in touch. Prince Heinrich was killed in WW1 at the age of 32.

Does anyone know anything about these Wittelsbachs?


Having Fun! / Dancing with OTMA
« on: January 03, 2012, 07:01:46 AM »
Just for fun, once again. If anyone knows the name of the Grand Duchesses' dancing mistress, please pass it on! SAndor Dolgoruky, recently appointed ADC to the Tsarevich, is at the Alexander Palace visiting Alexei, who is rather bored.

Maria Nikolaievna knocked on the door. ‘Alexander Alexandrovich, would you like to come and dance? Madame Vera – our dancing mistress – is here, and it would be so nice to have you to dance with instead of dancing with each other. And Baby of course.’ She was blushing a little.
‘My name is Alexei.’
‘Well, I won’t stop calling you Baby.’ Maria Nikolaievna giggled, and her brother’s eyebrows drew together in a frown.
‘I’m not a baby,’ he protested.
‘Come on. I want to dance with Alexander Alexandrovich.’
 ‘Girls! All they think about is falling in love.’
Maria Nikolaievna blushed again, and tried to cover it. ‘It’s so dull when Papa isn’t here. All the ADCs have gone to the Stavka, and Vassili Alexandrovich is going by the next train. He’s awfully old, but he’s such a good dancer. There’s only Monsieur Gilliard and Mr Gibbes.’

In the green drawing room Baroness Buxhoeveden was seated at the piano, Madame Vera, a middle-aged Frenchwoman, instructing her pupils. ‘Remember, my dears, you must keep a straight back.’ Marie Nikolaievna seized Dolgoruky by the hand.

Dancing was a necessary accomplishment for a Russian officer. ‘Remember, gentlemen, you do not go to a ball to enjoy yourselves, but to ensure that the ladies enjoy themselves. You must not allow any lady to feel neglected, however aged or ill-favoured she may be.’ The young Grand Duchesses were neither aged nor ill-favoured. Olga Nikolaievna was twenty-one, Anastasia Nikolaievna fifteen, and all were attractive, though Maria Nikolaievna was passing through the puppy fat stage Dolgoruky remembered in his cousin Anna, and he had heard her sisters describe her as ‘Fat Little Bow-Wow’. He danced with each of them in turn, as did the Tsarevich. Then Maria Nikolaievna shyly asked  him to call her Mashka, ‘Since you call my brother Alexei,’ and to dance with her again, which sent her sisters into a fit of giggles.
‘Mashka’s in love again!’

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

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.

Their World and Culture / Russian Wedding!
« on: January 12, 2011, 01:58:50 PM »
My novel again!

I am finishing off with the wedding of my hero and heroine in January 1917, at the Church of Holy Wisdom, Tsarkoye-Selo, followed by a reception in the Officers' Mess of HM Life Guard Hussars. This is intended to be a last gasp of old aristocratic Russia before the Revolution. So, please, suggestions for suitable food and drink! Magnifent uniforms are, of course, a given!

As I understand it, Russian brides are not given away, as in the UK, but the groom pays a ransom to the bride's family. Do they then go off to the church together? Here, it's considered very unlucky for the couple to meet on the wedding day before the ceremony, so the groom goes to the church and waits at the altar rail for the bride to arrive.

As I understand it, a Russian wedding reception also involves dancing. Is there anything else I should make sure I include?


Tsarevich Alexei Nicholaievich / Did Alexei play chess?
« on: January 04, 2011, 04:08:34 AM »
My novel again. I am planning a scene in which the hero and Alexei play chess together, but did Alexei actually play? It doesn't matter how well or badly.


Can anyone tell me which Russian cavalry regiments took part in the war against Japan?


Their World and Culture / Meeting a Grand Duke and Grand Duchess
« on: July 21, 2010, 07:40:55 AM »
Another query for my novel.

Prince Alexander Dolgoruky and Kate Brazier, the English clergyman's daughter have now got engaged. Dolgoruky's old pal, Dimitri Pavlovich, is going to invite them to join him at the opera, with supper at home afterwards. I presume that Dimitri is not going to bring his mistress along on this occasion, so have it in mind that his sister, Marie Pavlovna, will be in Petrograd at the time and can be brought in to even up the numbers.

Now, how would the introductions be done. Doubtless the imperial brother and sister will quickly invite Kate to call them Dimitri Pavlovich and Marie Pavlovna respectively, but first I imagine there must be some Your Imperial Highness-ing and curtseying. I imagine Dolgoruky will say something like, 'May I present my fiancee, Miss Katharine Brazier,' Kate will curtsey to both and Dimitri will kiss her hand. However, does Marie or Dimitri come first? I imagine Marie, but in my usual fashion I want to make sure!


Their World and Culture / Smellies for Men
« on: May 23, 2010, 06:00:23 AM »
As I've mentioned in a couple of places elsewhere on the Forum, I'm writing a novel set around the murder of Rasputin. The hero also falls in love and gets married.

Now there is a moment where he and his beloved are going to have an embrace and a kiss just after he has had a bath and a shave, and she catches a faint whiff of something nice. Nothing too overpowering.

Can anybody suggest something suitable (and available in 1916) for a 25-year-old Guards officer who is conventionally masculine in his tendencies (i.e. he is no Felix Yussupov). I am thinking in particular of some nice-smelling shaving soap.


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