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Messages - Diotima

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Alexandra Feodorovna / Re: Alexandra as Empress and Mother
« on: March 26, 2021, 03:08:14 AM »
Again, this is not a new thread but my thoughts fit best here - Alexandra as mother.

Most seem to agree she was a good mother, and in many ways, I agree. She was loving, she was more attuned to her children's needs than most aristocratic mothers of her time, there is something "bourgeois" in her insistence on close-knit family ties, and she educated through love and example, not authority and instilling fear. I like all those things and I think she was a very gentle soul.

But after reading most of Helen Azar's excellently annotated and edited translations of the letters and diaries, there is something I must bring up and discuss with other :-)

Her children were very much worried about her health, and she gave them details that are imo unnecessary. Her daughter Olga really obsesses about her mother's health and mentions it nearly daily in her diary. Dear Mama is tired - has the headache - her heart is enlarged - her cheek, leg, back aches - she has a temperature of 37.5 - she is better but very tired - she stayed in her room - and she sat with N.P. [Sablin] - she sat with him quite a lot.

I have much sympathy for Alexandra, I suffered from chronic pain for many years and can understand how mentally exhausting it is. I also don't want to be judgmental but in this case, I fear I am. I think there were enough shadows over the lives of her daughters - their worries about their little brother, their isolation, the tensions within the family - the public interest in them. I think Alexandra could have spared them the details about her physical situation and the daily updates about whether her heart was Nr.1, 2 or 3. I found myself really pitying Olga while reading it.

Where the emotional bond is so strong, parents still have to use discretion and be careful not to over-share.

Maybe I'm too critical but I'm somehow disappointed that Alexandra threw such a shadow over her daughters' minds. Especially because I estimated her mothering instincts greatly. What played against her in the "good society" so much, her introversion and sensitivity, made her a good wife and mother. But she held her health situation like a shield between herself and the world, including her daughters.

I highlighted the sentences about her health situation in my Kindle edition of the book, and wow were they many.

Alexandra Feodorovna / Re: Empress Alexandra - paintings and portraits
« on: December 27, 2018, 05:04:53 PM »
I saw this beautiful crayon portrait sketch of Alexandra Feodorovna by the German artist Kaulbach today in a very interesting exhibition at Bonn, Germany (Malerfürsten - Princes of Painting).

Seeing the real picture, I noticed the gentleness of the artist's touch (which is characteristic of his female portraits), and the way he emphasized her soft skin and facial expression. There's something proud and melancholy in her eyes, as though she was watching a person she loved. Beautiful portrait, and I'm glad I saw it.

Books about the Romanovs and Imperial Russia / Re: Former People
« on: December 12, 2018, 09:29:28 AM »
Yes, it's a great book but also a very depressing read. You simply know that everybody will go through horrible things at the outset of the book, and seeing it unfold is difficult. I confess that there were so many things I didn't know about the Russian Revolution - for example the wide-spread use of kidnapping and blackmailing.

The social gaps were so huge - and what a tragedy that they were not really filled, except with dead bodies.

The Hohenzollern / Re: Books on the Hohenzollerns
« on: December 12, 2018, 09:04:33 AM »
From my book shelves (mostly in German, sorry, but it might help German speakers/readers around here...):

[url]Dagmar von Gersdorff, Königin Luise und Friedrich Wilhelm III.: Eine Liebe in Preußen[/url]´

Not very in-depth but an interesting look at the marriage of Queen Luise and King Friedrich Wilhelm III. They were happy in spite of her health problems and the political upheavals of the times - and in spite of her enthusiam for the Russian Czar.

Heinz Ohff, Ein Stern in Wetterwolken: Königin Luise von Preußen. Eine Biographie

This must have been my first book about any royal - I bought it many years ago. It's probably not up to date and not very critical but it gives a good view of the Prussian court, Luise's life and character and the time of the Napoleon wars.

Günther de Bruyn, Preußens Luise: Vom Entstehen und Vergehen einer Legende

Now this is very interesting. Queen Luise was turned into a legend, and generations of girls revered her. She became the Prussian Madonna who struggled against the demon Napoleon, a symbol of nationalism in front of whose sarcophagus her son kneeled before fighting against France and uniting Germany. This legend underwent all kind of changes over the years. Today, she is mostly rememberd as one of the pretty princesses in Schadow's famous Princess Group sculpture.

I like the way the author followed Luise's myth and reputation through the recent history of Germany.

Karin Feuerstein-Prasser writes a lot about royal women but I have read only two of her books:

Die preußischen Königinnen

Die deutschen Kaiserinnen

I like the idea of showing the seven queens and then the three empresses in sequence - times change and so do the ladies "at the top". The empresses interest me most, and the tragic way in which they don't get along. It's really weird since Empress Augusta valued Queen Victoria's friendship - and yet didn't appreciate her daughter/daughter in law. And the Vicky-Dona-tragedy is really horrible.

The books don't portray the persons in depth and they're not written according to strict professional standards but if you want to get a first overview, they're decent enough. (It seems the author is doing for the Prussians what Thea Leitner did for the Habsburg women...)

Andrew Sinclair, Victoria - Kaiserin für 99 Tage

Not as good as Pakula, but like Pakula focused strongly on Empress Victoria's troubles with Bismarck... and there is quite a bit about the unfortunate Moretta-Sandro romance.

The best of all my books is without a doubt this one:

Frank Lorenz-Müller, Der 99-Tage-Kaiser: Friedrich III. von Preußen - Prinz, Monarch, Mythos´

I love Fritz and Vicky, and this book really shows what a tragedy his life and death were. (I think this book is available in English, too.)

Then there is a wonderful catalogue that i bought in Coburg after I visited an exhibition about the Coburg family and its ties to England:

W. Rogasch, Victoria & Albert, Vicky & The Kaiser: Vicky and the Kaiser

Lots of pictures, not only the well-known family pics but also photos of things that belonged to the family, and interesting essays. I keep returning to this book, it's lovely.

When I was in Berlin, I bought a litte catalogue about the Empress Frederick:

Auf den Spuren der Kronprinzessin Viktoria,

about her time as crown princess, with some lovely pictures of her own paintings, but also the lovely Angeli portraits.

And in the library, I found Karina Urbach's highly interesting Royal Kinship. Anglo-German Family Networks 1815-1918 (Prinz-Albert-Forschungen, Band 4)

Highly recommended!!!

I'll write about Willy separately ;-)

It's my absolute DREAM to see Peter Jackson take this film and the short clips of the Tercentary celebrations and films from the Shtandart.... and do to it what he did to the pictures of WWI soldiers. It's so amazing, they simply come to life under your eyes. Oh how I wish he or whoever would do the same for the Romanov films! I'd LOVE to see the Romanovs and their contemporaries moving naturally and in colour.

Just look at what he did - it's magical.

Having Fun! / Re: The Enid Blyton Thread
« on: December 10, 2018, 03:42:43 AM »
In Germany, Enid Blyton is HUGE, and they continued some of her series with German writers. I always loved Malory Towers, the Adventure series, and some of her stand-alone books about families - Five Bad Boys, Those Dreadful Children and the Mistletoe books. I still re-read my old Enid Blytons, there is nothing better for those escapist evenings... ;-)

She was also a great nature writer. Her books about animals, insects and plants are wonderful. She was an interesting, complex woman, and I also read her biography and saw the mini series with Helena Bonham Carter.

Her books may be formulaic and full of prejudice against anyone not belonging to the "core group" but they turned many children into life-long readers.

Alexandra Feodorovna / Re: Her Accent
« on: December 05, 2018, 11:08:40 AM »
While reading here on the boards (and learning a lot!), I noticed some expressions used by the Empress and her children that are used in German. A strep throat is often called angina in German (because you feel a tightness in the throat), and in German, toilets used to be called 00, zero zero, because that's how they were numbered in hotels before every room had its own. And in German, when someone has a fever, we say "she has 37", meaning 37 degrees Celsius of course. There were more idioms that seemed to me to come from the German (when I see them, I'll add them).

From what I understand, in Queen Victoria's family most people were fluent in English, German and also knew French. I don't know when the Empress started feeling alienated from Germany - she communicated with her husband in English because it was the best language they had in common, if I remember well. Her French was not good, and her Russian came later.

In the series Edward VII (great series btw) she is portrayed with a strong Russian accent. Very funny because her English must have been flawless!

The Hohenzollern / Re: Kaiserin Augusta Viktoria (Dona)
« on: November 10, 2018, 11:21:49 AM »
If people are still interested in books about Dona - there is a German writer, Karin Feuerstein-Prasser, who published a book about the three German empresses - Augusta, Victoria (Vicky) and Auguste Victoria. If you know German, it's an interesting read. The author has written also books about Prussian queens.

I agree with what most people here wrote - Dona's image as much beloved mother and empress is spoiled for me by her ungrateful, spiteful behaviour towards her unhappy mother in law.

I find it ironical that the marriages Vicky arranged all played out against her in the end. She strongly supported the match between her brother Bertie and Danish Alix that became one factor in the alienation of Germany and Britain - she supported her daughter's unhappy Battenberg romance - and she supported her son's marriage to Dona whose father she and Fritz liked very much. Vicky was, iirc, Dona's godmother and liked her initially.

Keeping her grandchildren from such a doting grandmother as Vicky was is really cruel.

Alexandra Feodorovna / Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« on: November 10, 2018, 02:45:26 AM »
I think it's possible today to understand how easy and comfortable it was for everybody to blame the Empress Alexandra - as if she could have done anything to stop the antagonism against Tsarism that was growing over many decades. A more popular empress like her mother-in-law couldn't have stopped it - her popularity in court circles wouldn't have charmed revolutionaries, intellectuals or political organizers. It's always easy to put the blame on a woman who doesn't conform to expectations. Marie Antoinette is a point in case. Reading Antonia Fraser's biography, it becomes clear how evil the slander against her was.

Alexandra was an introvert, had health problems, and probably didn't totally understand the difficulty of the role of the Russian empress. She wanted to fill this role the way her cousins in Victorian England filled their roles, and the way her mother had done in Darmstadt: by nursing, support for social work and charities. That's actually a much more modern idea than her mother-in-law embodied. She might have succeeded in re-defining the role of the Empress successfully if her first childi had been a healthy son. Or if the government had changed the law to make Olga the heir. After all, Russia had had empresses before. That would have taken pressure from Alexandra.

I count her and Marie Antoinette among the most misunderstood and slandered persons in history. By exaggerating their options of taking actions, they are blamed by their critics for developments that were not in their power to stop. And that exonerates the many actively responsible people around them.

Welcome New Users! Read 1st please. / Hello,
« on: November 10, 2018, 02:29:06 AM »
this is my first post although I registered more than a year ago and have been lurking-reading-learning around here for much longer.

I love history and have become increasingly fascinated with Russian history.

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