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Messages - bookworm8571

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Yes, I think they were at fault in a number of areas. I'm not sure if they were fundamentally capable of doing anything differently, however.

I think everything contributed: the structure of the government, the history of the country and the czars, the oppression of the Russian people; Alexei's hemophilia and their secrecy about it, Rasputin; Nicholas's poor education and inexperience when he assumed the throne, Alix's shyness, reserve, and unfortunate tendency to try to run the government for Nicholas when she was completely incapable of it.

In many ways Nicholas and Alix were good, well-intentioned people. Like Massie writes, they would have been perfectly suited to bourgeousie life. They just weren't all that bright. They made the wrong decisions at every single turn. They were stubborn and wrong-headed. At the last Alix should have loaded all five children onto a train, measles or no measles, and fled the capital. The tragedy is that they just didn't believe this sort of thing could happen to them. It was outside their conception of reality.

I'm almost positive the photo on the right is of a young Alix. Every time I've seen this photo reproduced it identifies the child as Princess Alix of Hesse. I also think the little girl in the picture on the right looks a little older than four, the age May died at. The photo on the left of May must have been taken very close to her death, as she does look like a four-year-old. Poor little thing!

The two girls  do look fairly similar, but then sisters often do look alike as small children. In other photos I've seen of her, taken at different angles, May's bone structure looks strikingly like her older sister Irene's. I don't think she would have been quite as pretty as an adult as her sisters Ella and Alix were.

I've read 10-year-old interviews with Cyril's granddaughter and she always sounds quite serious about her role as supposed "heir" to the throne. Her son George would be 22 or 23, right? What has he been doing these past years? Where does he work? How has he been educated? Is Maria hunting around for some German "princess" to marry him off to so he can make an "equal" marriage? I can't imagine many people taking the succession to the throne seriously in this day and age. Has anyone read an interview with George?

And do Maria and her mother have any Spanish blood? They're both so dark they look far more Latin than Russian.

Anastasia Nicholaievna / Re: Anastasia wasn't called Ana, was she?
« on: June 30, 2004, 02:08:02 PM »
I read somewhere that the nicknames ending in "ka" were originally used for serfs or pets and have a pejorative meaning. Any stigma must have disappeared if Marie was called "Mashka" by her sisters.

And speaking of names -- another web site says that Tatiana was most commonly used for peasants. Yet there was another Romanov cousin of Tatiana's generation with this name and it was apparently used for at least one other Romanov. Was Tatiana really a name not used by the upper class? I like the idea that they named her after the Tatiana in Pushkin's Eugene Onegin better.

I've read biographies that suggest Olga was in love with Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich, who lived in the same household with them for a time. He'd certainly have been an acceptable choice for her in terms of rank. But maybe her veiled references to Dimitris in her letters were to one of the soldiers instead?

From the photographic evidence it looks like the girls had ample opportunity to flirt, dance, and play tennis with handsome young officers on their yacht and had the usual crushes and broken hearts. It makes them sound more human in a way. Too bad they didn't have a chance to live out their natural lives with one of them.

Anastasia Nicholaievna / Re: Anastasia wasn't called Ana, was she?
« on: June 30, 2004, 08:38:11 AM »
In English "Nastya" looks too much like the word "nasty" for that to be the usual nickname for Anastasia. I wonder if that's behind some of the "Ana" websites. Stacy would be the typical English nickname, but then most girls born today would be named just plain Stacy and not Anastasia. I wonder if Anastasia was ever called Stacy when her family spoke English?

When I've read articles about American families that have adopted little girls named Anastasia from Russia I notice that the nickname given is never Nastya. In one case the family kept Anastasia as the first name and nicknamed her "Anya," and in the other the mother changed "Nastya" to "Nascha" to avoid the connection to "nasty." I always think the little girls must be confused by the name change!

Anastasia Nicholaievna / Anastasia wasn't called Ana, was she?
« on: June 30, 2004, 12:07:18 AM »
I've noticed on some of the web sites I've come across that people call Anastasia "Ana." Is this because of the movie version of "Anastasia" that came out a few years ago where the main character is called "Anya?" This has always bugged me for some unknown reason. The nickname derived from Anastasia's proper name would have been Nastya or Nastinka in Russian. I think I even remember her being referred to as such in Alexei's diary. I don't think anyone in her family ever called her Ana or Anya -- a completely different proper name. Anya is the Russian version of Anne and isn't a nickname for Anastasia at all.

Tsarevich Alexei Nicholaievich / Re: Alexei and Hemophilia
« on: June 29, 2004, 11:59:22 PM »
I'm not a geneticist, but everything I've ever heard on the subject suggests that the doctor who gave your grandparents this information was dead wrong. Your dad had hemophilia because your grandmother was a carrier. Your grandfather had nothing to do with passing down that gene. Your sons have hemophilia because you inherited the gene from your hemophiliac father and are a carrier. If your sons have daughters, all of them will be carriers of the hemophilia gene and all of their sons will be completely free of the gene, unless they happen to marry girls who are carriers of the hemophilia gene themselves.

The hemophilia in the Imperial family had nothing whatsoever to do with inbreeding or cousin marriages. Alexei would have been a hemophiliac even if Alix married someone completely unrelated to her. The gene was passed down to Alexei by his mother. The only case where a cousin marriage would have been potentially lethal would be the rare case of a hemophiliac marrying a carrier of a hemophilia gene. Most children of even first cousin marriages are perfectly healthy and bright. I know of such families.

"Gay" and "bisexual" are probably terms that they wouldn't have used, but the sexual preference has always been there. I don't entirely agree that the chance to form relationships wasn't there either. They just had to be far more secretive about it when they were in the closet. I have a book of photographs from the late 1800s and early 1900s that are an absolute revelation. They show lesbian "couples" -- several of a woman in drag (suit, tie, mustache) and a woman in a dress standing side by side like a married couple. There are stories about female couples who lived as husband and wife, with the "husband" living as a man so they could appear as a normal married couple. This was during the 1890s or 1900s, the same period that Ernie and Victoria Melita were married. I'm not certain if it would have been as easy for male couples to live in such a fashion, but I'm certain they existed. They were probably just "roommates" or some other euphemism that made it easier for them to live together. I think our ancestors were far more modern than we think they were.

The biographies of Victoria Melita I have don't strike me as the best researched books. Both say she told Marie the story some point after the divorce -- it doesn't give a date -- and that she told Ileana the same story when her engagement to a German prince was broken up. Ileana was interviewed in about 1980 and this interview is cited in the footnotes of the Sullivan biography. I still tend to believe it's more likely to be true than not. A divorce was scandalous, but I doubt Victoria Melita would have made up a story that was equally scandalous to explain it. It didn't make her look any better than Ernest.

Sure, a bitter divorce brings out the worst in people, but why would she tell such a story more than 20 years after the divorce and the death of their daughter? First of all, she surely could have come up with some other damaging material to ruin Ernie if she wanted to. Why something this damaging, particularly since Ducky would have been damaged if it got out too?

This tale supposedly was told to Ileana at a time in Ducky's life when she was happily married with three children of her own. Surely her worst vitriol about Ernest had passed by then.  Ducky was also particularly vulnerable, having lost her fortune in the Revolution and the first World War, and relied on Marie and other relatives for financial support. Telling tales about Ernie would only have made her look repulsive to relations. Even if it were true, telling tales about it "was not the done thing."  Ducky told first her sister, a woman who was perhaps the only person she trusted, and Marie wouldn't have spread gossip. Ileana apparently didn't talk about it until much, much later.

The tale rings true to me and doesn't seem like just a biitter ex-wife telling untruths about a former husband she didn't care for. The timing of the story, the likelihood that only something intolerable would have disrupted the marriage and given Ducky a reason to seek a divorce, and the culture of the interrelated royal families gives me reason to believe it.

I agree, Forum Administrator, that some sources are more credible than others and it can be difficult to ascertain how trustworthy some are at first glance. However, I don't think uncertainty is reason enough not to publish a statement or to automatically dismiss it as completely untrue.

Who else, for instance, would have greater intimate knowledge of Grand Duke Ernest's sexuality than his first wife? Who would Victoria Melita have been most likely to share the reasons for the break-up of the marriage with? Her sister -- her closest friend and confidant -- and her niece who was going through a similar experience. I don't happen to think they have reason to lie, but certainly their statements ought to be corroborated with those of impartial witnesses, if there are any, or refuted if they did in fact spread false stories about Ernest.

I don't think anyone ought to be shut up in a historical account. Rasputin's secretary has his place in history. If I were to quote him, I'd include facts and statements from those around him that would let the reader put him in his proper place in history. The reader will be warned to take his statements with a grain of salt, but still may find value in something he said. I think it's incredibly important to attribute statements to the correct person and research their lives and determine how likely it is that what they're saying is true. If possible, facts should always be corroborated with more than one source. But let's look at everyone who had something to say and judge their merits for ourselves. I don't think it's appropriate not to discuss something just because it can't be proven to be 100 percent factual. The argument can certainly be made -- and backed up with credible witnesses -- that the story about Ernest could have been true.

I would consider Princess Ileana to be a relatively reliable source of information.

I'm sure Mr. King will conduct research into many aspects of the Grand Duke's life and will cite his sources for any information he uncovers when he writes the biography. Quoting gossip without attributing it to the rightful source would make the end product suspect. As a newspaper reporter, I do not quote people who will not allow me to use their names, regardless of how plausible their stories might be. It isn't fair to the reader. If I happen to interview two credible people who tell me two conflicting stories about an event, I quote both and let the reader make up his or her own mind. I don't consider it my place to express an opinion on which of the two versions is correct.

Good historians should be equally meticulous in gathering information about their subjects and, I hope, recording all credible information that might cast light on the subject. A historian can analyze and express opinions and speculate about his subject matter in ways that a journalist cannot, but backing up the opinion with original source material is just as important. Ultimately, it's up to the readers to judge what the truth is and that can't be done if they aren't given the whole story.

None of us are German royalty or the grandchildren of Queen Victoria, subject to the pressures or responsibilities or able to enjoy the pleasures that such a life might entail -- but I think it's ridiculous to believe that an intelligent person cannot IMAGINE what that life must have been like and how they may have been forced to react because of their station in life.

Most importantly, I believe history is the story of human beings. Human beings are basically the same, regardless of what the trappings of their lifestyles might be, and they loved and hated and felt joy and pain in 1903 just as we do in 2004. It's in that sense that we can understand Ernest and Victoria Melita and knowing them as human beings will add dimension and interest to the historical events that surrounded them.

I think you're overlooking the fact that his private life was as much a part of his life as his public life and, in fact, is a legitimate topic of research. It's even more so if one is writing a biography.

Apparently you would prefer that we no longer speculate about any aspect of the private lives of these people we are all obviously fascinated with. So there should be no more discussion then of Nicholas and Alexandra's love for one another and relationship with Rasputin -- Nicholas considered that none of the public's business, after all. There should be no further readings of the private letters or diaries they probably never intended to be published. No more should we discuss Nicholas's love affair with the ballet dancer, or Alix's rejection of Prince Eddy, the stupid cousin who might have been King of England. Alexei's hemophila is certainly off limits, since they did not wish anyone to know about it. In short, one should look only at what they chose to make public during their lifetimes and should view them with all due reverence. Of course, all of that is history. If someone hadn't gone digging into their private lives we wouldn't know anything about it or understand them or sympathize with them. The secrets of Ernest's life are no more sacrosanct than were his sister's. I like and sympathize more with the man because I see from these biographies that he was a man and not a plaster saint.

I would have thought it was a given that Grand Duke Ernest's many accomplishments would not be diminished if he was, in fact, gay.

By all accounts he was a good father, amusing, artistic, sensitive; took his role as Grand Duke seriously, particularly as he matured; and cared for shell-shocked soldiers in his own home after World War I. All in all, a very admirable man. More knowledge about his private life and sexual orientation could only add dimension, as far as I can see. I think truth -- the whole truth -- is always better than 100-year-old historical cover-ups or myths.

I don't think such discussions should be at all off-limits when we're analyzing the life of a man who was, as Mr. King pointed out, a historical figure who had an impact on events that probably affect our own lives today.

If Ernest was gay or bisexual, it's relevant to discuss how he lived with that fact in a time when it was even less accepted than it is now. I don't think there is anything wrong with saying so if he was, or that he would have been wrong to be so, by the way. He would have been a victim of the marriage as much as Victoria Melita. If he was NOT, on the other hand, it's certainly time to refute the stories, isn't it? I will be interested in reading what I'm sure will be a well-researched, thorough, thoughtful biography of a multi-faceted man by Mr. King.

In the books and articles I've read, the only people who have actually been named as saying or implying that Ernest was gay or bisexual are Victoria Melita, her sister Queen Marie of Rumania, and her niece Princess Ileana of Rumania. One of the biographies I have of Victoria Melita -- the one by Sullivan -- lists in its footnotes a 1980 interview with Ileana, who was by then a nun called Mother Alexandra. Ileana referred to Ernest's "disgusting nature" and apparently said that her aunt told her she arrived home unexpectedly and found Ernest in bed with one of the servant boys. Victoria Melita apparently told Ileana this story when the Rumanian government put an end to Ileana's engagement because her fiance had been involved in a homosexual scandal.

One of the biographies I have of Victoria Melita -- the one by van der Kiste -- alludes to whispered rumors in the Hessian capitol about Ernest visiting a mistress in the city and having an unusually warm regard for the stableboys and servant boys. I don't see names for any of the Hessians who knew this listed in the footnotes. On the other hand, the old story about "where there's smoke there's fire" might apply here. It's not the kind of thing they'd have discussed openly in the early part of the century, or even in the 1940s.

I also see little reason for Victoria Melita or her sister or her niece to make up a story like that. They certainly could have found other ways to destroy Ernest's reputation had they wanted to. I haven't read anything suggesting that Victoria Melita ever told anyone but her close family members or that the story was published during Ernest's lifetime.

Reading about them, I think Victoria Melita, her sisters, daughters and mother all were quite capable of acting selfishly and being unpleasant. Baby Bee flirted with her cousin Victoria Eugenie's husband. Victoria Melita's daughter Masha apparently competed with her cousin Ileana for male attention and strained relations between Victoria Melita and Marie. But were Victoria Melita or Marie or Ileana evil enough to make up such a story? I don't think so.

Victoria Melita was married off young to a man who apparently didn't want her sexually; she was completely unsuited to him and to the role of grand duchess and probably to motherhood. She is viewed with disapproval in the present day and was back then because she wasn't willing to accept her lot and be miserable. She dared to say, "I'm entitled to some personal happiness," to seek out a divorce and marry a man she really did love and want. It was clearly the best choice for both her and Ernest, regardless of what his sexual orientation really was.

I'm not sure why the rude Frenchman threw a conniption fit over your calling him "Ernie." The whole lot of them interest me because they're people, not because they're royal. Blue blood didn't make them perfect or keep them from having tragedies and scandals. They're all dead now and their thrones are extinct, so what does it matter anymore?

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