Author Topic: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated  (Read 293816 times)

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Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #585 on: October 19, 2009, 05:23:33 AM »
Janet

I don't think Alexandra can or should be solely blamed for the collapse of the Russian government - it was a lot more complicated than that. However, her reliance on Rasputin was immensely damaging, and she does seem to have brought out the worst in Nicholas as a ruler, not least by her insistence that everything must be kept unaltered for 'Baby'.

While she undoubtedly loved Alexei, I don't think her attitude towards him was at all constructive. For example, I've been gradually working my way through some of the older threads on the forum and found it very interesting to read in 'The Crisis at Spala' that, according to Spiridovitch Alexandra was dead against Alexei having orthopaedic treatment to straighten his leg, and Professor Wreden had to insist on it against opposition from both parents. While I can appreciate that a parent might well be reluctant to put her son through more pain and discomfort, I think any sensible parent would recognise that it was necessary on the basis that he would otherwise be left permanently lame. Nicholas obviously had a role in Alexei's upbringing, but, given that Alexandra was a much more forceful character, I can't help thinking that he tended to go along with her rather than the reverse.

I'm happy to accept (I haven't read the letters) that Alexandra was always telling Nicholas to correct Alexei's manners and not to let him run wild, but by the time Alexei was at Spala he was 11 and it was rather late for basic lessons in manners (don't know about you, but I was certainly getting the 'Don't put your knife in your mouth,' 'Don't put your elbows on the table' business by the time I was four!). There were obviously practical difficulties in relation to Alexei's education, but the impression I have is that nobody actually tried very hard to resolve them. As with Alexandra, there has been a pendulum swing with people writing about Alexei. We had Alexei the adorable little darling, then Alexei the budding saint (some of the tales about Alexei's compassion are rather like those in medieval hagiography!). Now we have Alexei the brat to end all brats! The truth, as usual, is somewhere in between. I think he was very spoilt, and babied by his family, particularly his mother, and being at Spala didn't really improve matters because he was made rather a pet of by some of the senior officers. Some of the time he was doubtless a very pleasant boy, especially when getting his own way and being the centre of attention, but at other times he was a horror (as all children are from time to time, the issue is how much). I'm interested to see from William Lee's article on Dimitri that in 1909 Dimitri was writing to his sister Marie Pavlovna at the time of the birth of her son Lennart, and saying that he hoped the boy did not turn out like Alexei!

As to the girls and marriage, to suggest that they would have been happily married to Russians were it not for Alexandra is putting it a bit strongly and, I think, rather more than Alixz implied. Yes, Nicholas and Alexandra could have started looking round for potential husbands for Olga rather earlier than they actually did, but there was no particular need for haste (Olga was at the young end of marriageable age), and it was perfectly reasonable for them to want her to marry someone she loved (after all, the example of Olga Alexandrovna and Peter Oldenburgsky may well have been in their heads). As to marrying a Russian, it is interesting that KR and Elizabeth Mavrikievna were against their daughter marrying Konstantin Bagration-Mukhransky. As far as I know, there was nothing dubious about his character, so the reason must have been that they hoped for a 'more suitable' match. Tatiana Konstantinovna was, of course, on the more distant fringes of the imperial family, not like Olga (though Irina Alexandrovna was allowed to marry Felix Yussupov, which doesn't quite fit my thesis). Was Bagration actually an ADC to KR at this time?  According to 'A Lifelong Passion' he was an ADC later on, and falling in love with an ADC was not quite the thing (like falling in love with a lady in waiting). Also, we should bear in mind that any foreign prince very close in age to Olga was going to be a bit young for marriage in 1914. Someone will no doubt correct me if I'm mistaken, but I think that by this time it was unusual for a prince to marry under 21 (the Prince Consort in 1840 is the latest example I can think of) and 22 plus was more common. Carol of Romania was born on 13 October 1893 so rising 21 in summer 1914, but Olga wasn't interested. The future Duke of Windsor was 20, but he and Olga hadn't met since 1909. Would a meeting have been set up if war hadn't intervened? (it is interesting to speculate on whether Olga might have hit it off with the future George VI, a much more serious-minded and conscientious individual than his brother - perhaps they would have got on rather well).

Offline Janet Ashton

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #586 on: October 19, 2009, 02:29:02 PM »
Janet

I don't think Alexandra can or should be solely blamed for the collapse of the Russian government - it was a lot more complicated than that. However, her reliance on Rasputin was immensely damaging, and she does seem to have brought out the worst in Nicholas as a ruler, not least by her insistence that everything must be kept unaltered for 'Baby'.

I often say - though I don't know if I've done so in this thread ( :-) )- that Rasputin would not have mattered a jot had it not been for what he represented: which is, Nicholas's well-established tendency to take advice from "unofficial" sources - which predates Rasputin by some years. Nicholas started his reign set on a policy which portrayed him as inalterable autocrat with a mission to bring not just Russia but indeed the whole of Asia to God. Alexandra, who had deliberated so long - on religious grounds - over her own decision to marry him, found meaning and justification in this idea - and of course her own role was to back him up and provide his heir (no mere  cousin or his weak brother Mikhail would be worthy to inherit this mission). Even after conceding the formation of the Duma Nicholas remained resolute in his insistence on the title of autocrat. In this context, I don't think he needed much encouragement to leave things unaltered for "baby" - these were his ideas, played back to him.

While she undoubtedly loved Alexei, I don't think her attitude towards him was at all constructive. For example, I've been gradually working my way through some of the older threads on the forum and found it very interesting to read in 'The Crisis at Spala' that, according to Spiridovitch Alexandra was dead against Alexei having orthopaedic treatment to straighten his leg, and Professor Wreden had to insist on it against opposition from both parents. While I can appreciate that a parent might well be reluctant to put her son through more pain and discomfort, I think any sensible parent would recognise that it was necessary on the basis that he would otherwise be left permanently lame. Nicholas obviously had a role in Alexei's upbringing, but, given that Alexandra was a much more forceful character, I can't help thinking that he tended to go along with her rather than the reverse.

I'm happy to accept (I haven't read the letters) that Alexandra was always telling Nicholas to correct Alexei's manners and not to let him run wild, but by the time Alexei was at Spala he was 11 and it was rather late for basic lessons in manners (don't know about you, but I was certainly getting the 'Don't put your knife in your mouth,' 'Don't put your elbows on the table' business by the time I was four!). There were obviously practical difficulties in relation to Alexei's education, but the impression I have is that nobody actually tried very hard to resolve them. As with Alexandra, there has been a pendulum swing with people writing about Alexei. We had Alexei the adorable little darling, then Alexei the budding saint (some of the tales about Alexei's compassion are rather like those in medieval hagiography!). Now we have Alexei the brat to end all brats! The truth, as usual, is somewhere in between. I think he was very spoilt, and babied by his family, particularly his mother, and being at Spala didn't really improve matters because he was made rather a pet of by some of the senior officers. Some of the time he was doubtless a very pleasant boy, especially when getting his own way and being the centre of attention, but at other times he was a horror (as all children are from time to time, the issue is how much). I'm interested to see from William Lee's article on Dimitri that in 1909 Dimitri was writing to his sister Marie Pavlovna at the time of the birth of her son Lennart, and saying that he hoped the boy did not turn out like Alexei!

It's very difficult to come to an objective judgement about Alexei because he never grew up. It is clear that other children feared him (and his sister Anastasia) because they were rough and wild, and tended to pull rank in forcing younger kids to obey them; though as far as Dmitri (a much older boy) is concerned, Will Lee has always been very fair in saying that D himself might have been jealous because he lacked a real family life and doting parents of his own.  But even the best brought-up children will kick over the traces and play up if they can - and Alexandra was concerned about her son's manners well before 1915, if KR's evidence can be believed (her rebuking Olga for not rebuking him at lunch). The imperial children were scrutinized far more closely than other children would be, and every good or bad act noted as evidence of their developing personalities. In truth, we can never know how they might have turned out, and whether their parents might have been seen to have ruined them or to have given them an admirably relaxed and liberal grounding that allowed them to develop as they wished. We do know tat the timid Nicholas and his siblings were also considered out of control when they were young, though, and Alexandra's family were no angels, particularly her brother, who avoided lessons whenever he could. I don't know if this is reflected in their characaters as adults.
Spiridovich says that Nicholas and Alexandra were reluctant to expose him to the orthopaedic treatment in 1913; this may be so, but thereafter there are mentions of use of the electrical apparatus to relieve aches and pains, so they obviously were convinced and willing to change their views after seeing it work.




More in next post, as this won;t go through if it gets too long.....
« Last Edit: October 19, 2009, 02:32:01 PM by Janet Ashton »
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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #587 on: October 19, 2009, 02:51:21 PM »
Janet,

As you pointed out, Alexandra was not a minute by minute mother but some of that was because of all of her "illnesses" which kept her from the meals where she would then "rebuke" Olga for not "rebuking" Alexei.

Again, I see this as Alexandra's fault.  Olga was not Alexei's mother and should not have been left with that responsibility.

Alexandra should have gotten off her "duff" and done more of her own jobs.  Then she wouldn't have had time to interfere in Nicholas's jobs.

Offline Janet Ashton

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #588 on: October 19, 2009, 04:46:41 PM »
Janet,

As you pointed out, Alexandra was not a minute by minute mother but some of that was because of all of her "illnesses" which kept her from the meals where she would then "rebuke" Olga for not "rebuking" Alexei.

Again, I see this as Alexandra's fault.  Olga was not Alexei's mother and should not have been left with that responsibility.

Alexandra should have gotten off her "duff" and done more of her own jobs.  Then she wouldn't have had time to interfere in Nicholas's jobs.

Well, it seems from the account that Alexandra was present at the meal, but at some distance from the children because she was doing what was expected of a conventional hostess and entertaining her guests. It's moot whether the children should have been allowed to be present in those circumstances - most royal couples certainly wouldn't have had them around - but since they were she fell back on what most contemporary parents would have fallen back on, and expected the elder ones to keep the younger in check. So it seems that on this occasion she was doing what she is generally held accountable for NOT doing - playing the conventional empress and hostess. Doing her job according to Maria Feodorovna's definition of the role.

Whether one likes it or not, or considers it appropriate or not (and I have different views of family influence depending who the Grand Duke in question was!), Nicholas ASKED her to "interfere" in his work. I'm not sure he ever asked his mother or any other member of his family, but they did so anyway; it was expected of them and they were raised to play that role of a "support" to the emperor. He didn't question it either.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2009, 04:58:51 PM by Janet Ashton »
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Offline Janet Ashton

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #589 on: October 19, 2009, 04:56:40 PM »

As to the girls and marriage, to suggest that they would have been happily married to Russians were it not for Alexandra is putting it a bit strongly and, I think, rather more than Alixz implied. Yes, Nicholas and Alexandra could have started looking round for potential husbands for Olga rather earlier than they actually did, but there was no particular need for haste (Olga was at the young end of marriageable age), and it was perfectly reasonable for them to want her to marry someone she loved (after all, the example of Olga Alexandrovna and Peter Oldenburgsky may well have been in their heads). As to marrying a Russian, it is interesting that KR and Elizabeth Mavrikievna were against their daughter marrying Konstantin Bagration-Mukhransky. As far as I know, there was nothing dubious about his character, so the reason must have been that they hoped for a 'more suitable' match. Tatiana Konstantinovna was, of course, on the more distant fringes of the imperial family, not like Olga (though Irina Alexandrovna was allowed to marry Felix Yussupov, which doesn't quite fit my thesis). Was Bagration actually an ADC to KR at this time?  According to 'A Lifelong Passion' he was an ADC later on, and falling in love with an ADC was not quite the thing (like falling in love with a lady in waiting). Also, we should bear in mind that any foreign prince very close in age to Olga was going to be a bit young for marriage in 1914. Someone will no doubt correct me if I'm mistaken, but I think that by this time it was unusual for a prince to marry under 21 (the Prince Consort in 1840 is the latest example I can think of) and 22 plus was more common. Carol of Romania was born on 13 October 1893 so rising 21 in summer 1914, but Olga wasn't interested. The future Duke of Windsor was 20, but he and Olga hadn't met since 1909. Would a meeting have been set up if war hadn't intervened? (it is interesting to speculate on whether Olga might have hit it off with the future George VI, a much more serious-minded and conscientious individual than his brother - perhaps they would have got on rather well).

When Tatiana K was first attracted to Konstantin she was technically unable to marry him as imperial consent would not have been given to this "unequal" betrothal; but in response to this engagement Nicholas modified the House Law with the 1911 ukaz that permitted marriages of Princes and Princesses of the Blood Imperial with Russian subjects. This was why Irina's situation was simpler, despite objections to Felix on the grounds of his personality. Nicholas's daughters, as Grand Duchesses, weren't covered by the Ukaz, of course, and these marriages with Russian nobles were considered morganatic despite imperial consent.

I agree that the available princes whose names were coupled with Olga's would have been deemed rather too young for her, certainly in her parents eyes. Alexandra was surprised at the betrothal of her nephew Georgie Battenberg when he was "all of 23", so I think she was expecting an older man to come for her girls.

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Offline Belochka

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #590 on: October 20, 2009, 12:49:11 AM »

I often say - though I don't know if I've done so in this thread ( :-) )- that Rasputin would not have mattered a jot had it not been for what he represented: which is, Nicholas's well-established tendency to take advice from "unofficial" sources - which predates Rasputin by some years. Nicholas started his reign set on a policy which portrayed him as inalterable autocrat with a mission to bring not just Russia but indeed the whole of Asia to God. Alexandra, who had deliberated so long - on religious grounds - over her own decision to marry him, found meaning and justification in this idea - and of course her own role was to back him up and provide his heir (no mere  cousin or his weak brother Mikhail would be worthy to inherit this mission). Even after conceding the formation of the Duma Nicholas remained resolute in his insistence on the title of autocrat. In this context, I don't think he needed much encouragement to leave things unaltered for "baby" - these were his ideas, played back to him.

Nikolai II according to the Oath he uttered in Church HAD to preserve the autocracy. Indeed, he did not require "much encouragement" to undertake that understanding for "baby".


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Offline Belochka

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #591 on: October 20, 2009, 01:02:10 AM »
Alexandra should have gotten off her "duff" and done more of her own jobs.  Then she wouldn't have had time to interfere in Nicholas's jobs.

Vulgar commentary such as this - is unwarranted and regrettably serves to perpetuate the numerous misconceptions written about Alexandra Fyodorovna.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2009, 01:10:11 AM by Belochka »


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Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #592 on: October 20, 2009, 03:53:18 AM »
'but since they were she fell back on what most contemporary parents would have fallen back on, and expected the elder ones to keep the younger in check.'

That something is commonplace doesn't make it right. Alexandra does seem to have been rather in the habit of expecting somebody else to deal with the aspects of bringing up Alexei that she didn't like, i.e. the awkward business of getting him under control (she is starting to remind me of all the modern parents who expect the schools to deal with all the things they should have sorted out themselves before the child started school!). By the time of the incident we are talking about, Alexandra was surely aware that her darling Alexei could not be relied upon to behave properly at the table, so either he should not have been there (the sensible solution) or she should taken responsibility for him herself.

'When Tatiana K was first attracted to Konstantin she was technically unable to marry him as imperial consent would not have been given to this "unequal" betrothal; but in response to this engagement Nicholas modified the House Law with the 1911 ukaz that permitted marriages of Princes and Princesses of the Blood Imperial with Russian subjects. This was why Irina's situation was simpler, despite objections to Felix on the grounds of his personality. Nicholas's daughters, as Grand Duchesses, weren't covered by the Ukaz, of course, and these marriages with Russian nobles were considered morganatic despite imperial consent.'

Thanks, Janet, for sorting that one out.

'In this context, I don't think he needed much encouragement to leave things unaltered for "baby" - these were his ideas, played back to him.'

You are saying what I'm saying about Alexandra bringing out Nicholas's worst characteristics as a ruler, just in a different way.


'Alexandra should have gotten off her duff.'

This is not vulgarity but simply a light-hearted way of saying that Alexandra should have taken her responsibilities more seriously - in British English we would say that she should have got off her backside.

Offline Belochka

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #593 on: October 20, 2009, 04:35:43 AM »
'Alexandra should have gotten off her duff.'

This is not vulgarity but simply a light-hearted way of saying that Alexandra should have taken her responsibilities more seriously - in British English we would say that she should have got off her backside.

The imagery conveyed is nevertheless the same is it not? A vulgar expression in any one's language.

Why do you presume that Alexandra Fyodorovna did not take her responsibilities seriously?


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Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #594 on: October 20, 2009, 05:04:33 AM »
'Why do you presume that Alexandra Fyodorovna did not take her responsibilities seriously?'

As I said above, she seems to have expected the people around her to deal with the 'awkward' aspects of bringing up Alexei. Plenty of mothers do that (or did that), but that doesn't excuse it. Obviously Nicholas had responsibilities as well, but she was the more forceful personality and he seems to have taken his cue from her a good deal.

I start to be reminded more and more of a neighbour my family had years ago, who had a very spoilt four-year-old son who looked angelic (curly fair hair, big blue eyes) but was a complete horror. One one occasion he stuck a mapping pin (very large drawing pin with a flat surface for writing on) in his mother's backside, at which she turned to him, patted him on the head and declared, 'Richard, darling, you mustn't do that.' I often wonder how he turned out - he will be past 40 now.

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #595 on: October 20, 2009, 05:15:07 AM »
Reading Olga's 1913 diary reveals Alexandra  is rarely with them at this point ...due to constant headaches, tiredness and her heart. If she does come with them to an event  , they pay later. Olga notes her mother's health almost more than anything else in her own diary.  It's the chief barometer of their lives. Thankfully the girl's aunt ,Olga A., and their grandmother arranged tea and dance parties  for them or their lives would have resembled how they lived in Tobolsk  well before they got there . Seeminly their mother just couldn't be bothered and couldn't see the need for them to see other people.

When looking at Alexandra, one must remember she lost her mother when she was six. That will mark you.
As they grew older , she seem to  turn these girls into mothers.... for herself and or Alexi. And any opposition is seen as the original abandonment and is  treated as such.

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Offline Janet Ashton

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #596 on: October 20, 2009, 06:24:55 AM »
'but since they were she fell back on what most contemporary parents would have fallen back on, and expected the elder ones to keep the younger in check.'

That something is commonplace doesn't make it right. Alexandra does seem to have been rather in the habit of expecting somebody else to deal with the aspects of bringing up Alexei that she didn't like, i.e. the awkward business of getting him under control (she is starting to remind me of all the modern parents who expect the schools to deal with all the things they should have sorted out themselves before the child started school!). By the time of the incident we are talking about, Alexandra was surely aware that her darling Alexei could not be relied upon to behave properly at the table, so either he should not have been there (the sensible solution) or she should taken responsibility for him herself.

Please note though that I didn't say it was right or wrong to expect the person next to him to take him in hand - and I hesitated to wade into this thread because of exactly this sort of presumption of "sides". The Alexei-at-table incident is one we know of because it aws wriiten in a letter by a man who took little interest in his own children (accoring to his own son) and it appeared in a commercially published and edited book; we actually know nothing else about the context; whether it was part of a pattern on Alexandra's part; whether Alexei had been at table with adult guests before or whether his activities came as a nasty surpirse to them all, so it seems pointless to me to be saying things like "she should have known". Maybe she should have. Maybe she did. Maybe she simply wanted him to learn through experience; it's what her own attitude with Gilliard suggests (we are going in circles here).

And, unfortauntely, whether we think this is a good practice or not it simply was the case that royal and aristocratic parents paid others to raise their children. Especially boys. In Alexandra's caes, she seems to have been most involved with the two eldest, and to have withdrawn somewhat from hands-on upbringing when her health began to collapse. With the first three girls, she attended lessons and commenetd on their behaviour and learning to their tutor. This is far more hands-on than most other parents of her station, so in that sense she was very involved in the unpleasnatness of issues that arose. As far as Alexei is concerned, I should imagine that - after around 1909 and at least until 1914 - he associated her company mainly with periods of illness and frustration, and that he acted up accordingly.



'In this context, I don't think he needed much encouragement to leave things unaltered for "baby" - these were his ideas, played back to him.'

You are saying what I'm saying about Alexandra bringing out Nicholas's worst characteristics as a ruler, just in a different way.



I am saying that she didn't really need to. One thing I do take a stance on morally in this debate is the slightly misogynist air that creeps in (and I dont emean in your case; I am speaking generally): the tone of "oh, that ball-breaking bitch; if she'd only kept her nose out of men's work all would have ben well and good old Nicky would have settled into a constitutional role." Most recent biographers of Nicholas have tended to reduce her poltiical role to practically nil. I am not sure I 100% agree with that, but I do see that he was capable of taking what advice he wanted and ignoring what advice he didn't, as with any one of his councilors and ministers.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2009, 06:36:57 AM by Janet Ashton »
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Offline Helen

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #597 on: October 20, 2009, 06:41:17 AM »
Seeminly their mother just couldn't be bothered and couldn't see the need for them to see other people.
This is simply not true. In a letter written at the end of 1913, Alexandra explained that she had made some staff changes, replacing older ladies with younger ones, where her main criteria was that the ladies were young and prepared to go out with Olga and Tatiana and to accompany them into town.
"The Correspondence of the Empress Alexandra of Russia with Ernst Ludwig and Eleonore, Grand Duke and Duchess of Hesse. 1878-1916"  -  http://www.bod.de/index.php?id=296&objk_
"Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig and Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine in Italy - 1893"

Offline Janet Ashton

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #598 on: October 20, 2009, 06:42:24 AM »
Reading Olga's 1913 diary reveals Alexandra  is rarely with them at this point ...due to constant headaches, tiredness and her heart. If she does come with them to an event  , they pay later. Olga notes her mother's health almost more than anything else in her own diary.  It's the chief barometer of their lives. Thankfully the girl's aunt ,Olga A., and their grandmother arranged tea and dance parties  for them or their lives would have resembled how they lived in Tobolsk  well before they got there . Seeminly their mother just couldn't be bothered and couldn't see the need for them to see other people.

When looking at Alexandra, one must remember she lost her mother when she was six. That will mark you.
As they grew older , she seem to  turn these girls into mothers.... for herself and or Alexi. And any opposition is seen as the original abandonment and is  treated as such.


1913 waas the low point of Alexnadra's life in the sense that her  health completely collpased after Spala; almost a form of PTSD. I have always thought that she did see the need for her duaghters to see others in the sense that she allowed them to go to these parties; her own health did to act as an excuse to prevent this happening, though she was in absoltuley no state to host such things.
The girls lived lives rather seperate from Alexei's; he spent most of his time with his tutors. I do agree with you though that she often expecetd the elder girls to asusme a caring role towards her as they grew up.
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Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #599 on: October 20, 2009, 07:30:39 AM »
'And, unfortauntely, whether we think this is a good practice or not it simply was the case that royal and aristocratic parents paid others to raise their children. Especially boys. In Alexandra's caes, she seems to have been most involved with the two eldest, and to have withdrawn somewhat from hands-on upbringing when her health began to collapse. With the first three girls, she attended lessons and commenetd on their behaviour and learning to their tutor. This is far more hands-on than most other parents of her station, so in that sense she was very involved in the unpleasnatness of issues that arose. As far as Alexei is concerned, I should imagine that - after around 1909 and at least until 1914 - he associated her company mainly with periods of illness and frustration, and that he acted up accordingly.'

I have been concentrating on Alexandra's upbringing of Alexei, as it was there that the inadequacies showed. Yes, royal and aristocratic parents paid other people to look after their children, but ultimately discipline was a parental responsibility - certainly a paternal responsibility in the case of boys. Look at George V and all those summonses to the library! Maybe Nicholas should have been stricter with Alexei, but I can't help thinking that he wanted a quiet life and wasn't going to come into potential conflict with Alexandra on this one.

Ann