Author Topic: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated  (Read 293786 times)

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Offline Janet Ashton

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #645 on: October 25, 2009, 03:59:27 AM »


Though I agree with you that comparing values can be dangerous when trying to come to a realistic conclusion about a historical person, it is rather difficult to avoid. I think we all tend to process information through our own mindset and though the factual information may be the same, the interpretation may be quite different. To take an example relevant to our differing views of Alexandra, some years ago the British politician William Hague had an operation on his sinuses, and the newspapers noted, apparently approvingly,  that Mrs Hague took a couple of days off work to look after him. Having had the same operation a few months before, I was of the view that Mr Hague was a big boy now and could quite safely be left for a few hours  in a centrally heated house with a jug of orange juice, and all that was needed from his wife was a quick telephone call at lunchtime! On the one hand, Mrs Hague - devoted wife. On the other - Mr and Mrs making a lot of unnecessary fuss. Same information, different interpretation.

Ann


Perhaps they just felt like a few days off to catch up on their backlog of DVDs! :-)

- It is true that we process things through our own mindset - and of course there has been a vast debate about this in historical methodology - but ultimately I think that we still have a responsibility to be aware of this and not to allow our own mindset to take precedence over the evidence (I'm not saying this is what you do of course!). The whole basis of the so-called empirical "scientific" approach to history is that we look at as much material as conceivably possible and examine it from all angles before making up our minds. And empiricism has been challenged of course - at least insofar as it claims to be "objective' - but is still the basis for historical method today.
Strictly personally, I have always enjoyed history for opening up new topics and theories to me, rather than looking into it for a reflection of myself - which isnt to say that there's anything wrong in the latter approach, but I for one don;t identify with Alexandra, despite knowing more about her than almost any other person in history I've studied.
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Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #646 on: October 26, 2009, 05:11:02 AM »
Janet

You are quite right that we need to be aware of our own mindset and be careful. Mind you, my mindset is somewhat inconsistent. Based on my normal prejudices, I should have no time whatever for Paul Alexandrovich, who had an affair with the wife of an ADC, abandoned his legitimate children to run off with her and the by-blow, then proved a complete disaster as a General on the one occasion he took direct command of troops. And he was frequently ill. However, I rather like him!

To the Forum generally.

I'm not a particular Ella fan. I prefer her to Alexandra, but I don't subscribe to the 'Ella the beauty and saint' approach. Partly it is contrariness - if a person is praised uncritically, I immediately start thinking, 'Are they really so marvellous?' and start looking for faults. And being constantly told that Ella was beautiful definitely brings out my contrary streak! On a more serious level, she was clearly a more complex individual than the saintly image suggests, and, like most of us, had her faults.

Ann


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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #647 on: October 27, 2009, 01:38:14 PM »
I keep looking for that exceptional beauty that Ella was supposed to have had and I don't see it.

I think it might be the style of photography were everyone looked wistful or thoughtful or even bored!!

I don't see much beauty in Alexandra either, but again without being able to see her eyes in real life must be part of it.  Beauty is usually in the eyes and not the face.

Deportment and comportment and compassion and life "fire" are all a part of beauty and each of us sees it differently.

One of the posters here has a collage of the three sisters in signature.  I have looked at it often and I do not see beauty in any of them.  In fact I think that Victoria was homely.  But again "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" so I am probably missing something that others see.


Offline historyfan

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #648 on: October 27, 2009, 08:42:50 PM »
And the standards of beauty have changed too.  Those who consider, say, Angelina Jolie as beautiful probably wouldn't hold Alix or Ella to the same criteria of evaluation.

Only slightly off-topic, but not really - I've read in "Born To Rule" by Julia Gelardi, how rapturous the Spanish people were by Queen Victoria Eugenie (Ena).  I have the same reaction as you, Alixz, when I look at her photo - she's not unattractive, but beautiful?  But the comments made were of her colouring - which, of course, you don't get the essence of in a black-and-white photo!

My point is that I think we really would have to have met these women in real life to make any sort of accurate judgements on their physical appearance.  The photos we see really don't do them justice.

Offline imperial angel

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #649 on: October 27, 2009, 09:54:32 PM »
Ella was more laid back than Alexandra who was a far more rigid person. Although Ella was very religious like Alexandra, Ella was religious in a constructive way, unlike Alexandra with regards to Rasputin and other men like him. Ella had more common sense than Alexandra. She would have been easier to know. She just seems more down to earth, and obviously had better judgment. So yes, I do prefer Ella to Alexandra. I think both sisters were pretty, but that Ella's beauty lasted longer than Alexandra's beauty did.

Offline blessOTMA

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #650 on: October 28, 2009, 07:09:32 PM »
Apparently their coloring was amazing and that is impossible to get across in
the b/w photos...and coloring was highly prized. 

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Offline PAVLOV

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #651 on: October 29, 2009, 08:57:26 AM »
Does anyone think that Grand Duchess Vladimir would have made a good Empress ? Or in your opinion anyone else in the family ?
I would vote for G D Vladimir for the following reasons :

1) She was more social, and realised that it was the family's duty to mix in society. her personal sense of duty was very evident.
2) She had a stonger appreciation of who she was, and where she fitted in.
3) She had a sense of fun, and got on well with people from all levels of society.
4) She had a "Russian" sense of grandeur, not only reflected in her jewels and clothes, but also in her palaces, and the way she entertained.
5) She looked more regal, but without the coldness and haughtiness of Alexandra.
6) Her children were also more acceptable as heirs to the throne. She had more sons, although they were not all that well behaved. But i would imagine that the Russian people were more forgiving than we think, and did not have the Victorian outlook that Alexandra had, when it came to the off indiscretion.

 

Offline Teddy

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #652 on: October 29, 2009, 11:33:01 AM »
Does anyone think that Grand Duchess Vladimir would have made a good Empress ? Or in your opinion anyone else in the family ?
I would vote for G D Vladimir for the following reasons :

1) She was more social, and realised that it was the family's duty to mix in society. her personal sense of duty was very evident.
2) She had a stinger appreciation of who she was, and where she fitted in.
3) She had a sense of fun, and got on well with people from all levels of society.
4) She had a "Russian" sense of grandeur, not only reflected in her jewels and clothes, but also in her palaces, and the way she entertained.
5) She looked more regal, but without the coldness and haughtiness of Alexandra.
6) Her children were also more acceptable as heirs to the throne. She had more sons, although they were not all that well behaved. But i would imagine that the Russian people were more forgiving than we think, and did not have the Victorian outlook that Alexandra had, when it came to the off indiscretion.

I don't know if you know it, but you talk about GD Maria P. sr. as if she could in hired the throne of Russia!

1) Indeed she was more social: she loved gossip. But that's not social at all. By the way, her personal sense of duty was not black mailing her Empress, but supporting her.
2) Alexandra had also a good appreciation of who she was, but she just lived at the background.. Whats' the problem with that?
3) Please give us a few examples!
4) So because Nicholas and Alexandra chooses to live a more back to basic level, someone like GD Maria must be a Empress?
5) If you are black mailing a person then indeed you see every minor mistake in a way, that it is even there at all.
6) I hoped she had a more Victorian outlook. She was criticised in WW1 because she looked so German. By the way  what strange example do you give. Only because someone has more sons, someone has more right on something. So for example, because my sister has children, she must get all the inheritance of my parents, because I don't have children?
 

Offline mcdnab

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #653 on: October 29, 2009, 12:51:44 PM »

[quoteHowever Alexandra of the two,  was the  Empress , so she comes in for the criticisms. I think some people praise  Ella  merely a way to slam Alexandra as much if not more  than to just  praise Ella . But I do think the lack of a decent social season for 23 years created a great bitterness. There is our own likes and dislikes  and then there is our duty. It was Alexandra's duty get out of the mauve room more.  It's unfortunate she grew up  watching  Queen Victoria hide at Balmoral because she  drew the wrong lesson from it.

I really do think we shouldn't draw any suggestion that Queen Victoria's decision to retreat from public appearances was any kind of lessons to Alexandra or any of her descendants.
Firstly Victoria's decision was based on her own reaction to early widowhood and the loss of a dearly loved husband.
Secondly her removal from public duties caused outrage and public attacks on the crown which her family in particular her son were exceptionally aware of.
Thirdly by the 1880's and 90's she was once again making more frequent appearances (which helped in averting that criticism of the crown that had been noted in the 1860's and 70's).
Another point worth bearing in mind that in the 19th and early 20th Century the public role of  royalties was very different to how it developed in the rest of the 20th century. Their public engagements were far fewer, they were seen far less and for younger members of royal families and those not in direct succession it was perfectly possible to have an appropriate career (in the armed services for example) and to have the kind of lifestyle and freedoms enjoyed by their wealthiest and most aristocratic subjects.
In the Post World War I period with the extension of the franchise in most European countries, the growing power of the left, the mass depression, the birth of the mass media, the public side of the role increased along with their duties matched in many countries in the decline of their political power - the welfare monarchy was born in Britain which was an attempt to emphasise the charitable works of royalties making them appear less distant and more interested in the 'humblest' subject of course they still occupied a position of privilege and wealth and continued to have friends, servants and aquaintances who came out of the correct 'top' drawer, that example was largely copied by most of the surviving monarchies.
Alexandra seems from her war work to have found the charitable side of monarchy far easier and comfortable (where she would be largely meeting significantly socially inferior people who would treat her with the due deferance and also felt she was being practically helpful) than the social aspect of the role. It is hard to see that she wasn't her own worst enemy - she definitely was personally ill suited to that side of the role and probably (given the examples of the german and british courts) perhaps unaware that in following Marie Feodorovna, who loved that side of the role, she would be expected to take an active social role amidst the higher echelons of Russian society.
To be fair it wasn't a role that was really that onerous: to host and attend a few events during the relatively short season, to visit the theatre, basically to appear at all without looking like she didn't want to be there and rushing home at the first opportunity. The secrecy over her son's illness after his birth doesn't really excuse her inability to cope with these occassions in her first decade as Empress.
Society feeling snubbed reacted badly which in turn made Alexandra less willing to take part and more willing to retreat into private family life which in turn made the problem worse. It was that retreat from society that desire for privacy that made it far easier for people to attack her for every problem real or imagined because they didn't really know her.
I think it was Marie Feodorovna who noted (as quoted in Coryne Hall's excellent book) who thought it strange that she seemed to want society's recognition but didn't comprehend that her own attitudes and behaviour were the main problem. To put it in other words - she had little comprehension that due deference, trust and respect even admiration have to be earned by even the highest person in the land.

Offline blessOTMA

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #654 on: October 29, 2009, 04:52:52 PM »
Quote
I really do think we shouldn't draw any suggestion that Queen Victoria's decision to retreat from public appearances was any kind of lessons to Alexandra or any of her descendants.

Well I feel it was a very unfortunate example for Alexandra to be exposed to....since it affirmed her own inclinations of retreat.

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Firstly Victoria's decision was based on her own reaction to early widowhood and the loss of a dearly loved husband.

Indeed. But the reason for withdrawal was not what I was pointing to. Each has their own,whatever one's reason's the result is the same.

Quote
Secondly her removal from public duties caused outrage and public attacks on the crown which her family in particular her son were exceptionally aware of.

There was a huge uproar...but ultimately not enough consequences  to give a young girl staying with her grandmother  pause. Plus being raised by her grandmother gave Alexandra a view of what royalty could do that was 50 years out of date ...and she needed one at least 20 years ahead.

Quote
Thirdly by the 1880's and 90's she was once again making more frequent appearances (which helped in averting that criticism of the crown that had been noted in the 1860's and 70's).

Indeed. But by that time the pattern had be set...but I believe Alexandra's lack of understanding about what was required of a monarch in Russia  also  stemmed from  coming from tiny  Hesse where really one could simply do as they wish and live privately as any  wealth family. 
Quote
Another point worth bearing in mind that in the 19th and early 20th Century the public role of  royalties was very different to how it developed in the rest of the 20th century.

Certainly

[/quote]Their public engagements were far fewer, they were seen far less and for younger members of royal families and those not in direct succession it was perfectly possible to have an appropriate career (in the armed services for example) and to have the kind of lifestyle and freedoms enjoyed by their wealthiest and most aristocratic subjects. [/quote]
I agree...but I feel the Russian throne had a extremely social role, which was more pronounced than one finds with other royalty.   Seemingly every month brought  ceremonies it was involved in for 100's of years  and there was the importance of the "season" from Xmas and lent...which cannot be overstated....particularly as you point out, coming after Marie Feodorovna brilliant  leadership!

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Alexandra seems from her war work to have found the charitable side of monarchy far easier and comfortable (where she would be largely meeting significantly socially inferior people who would treat her with the due deference and also felt she was being practically helpful)
Well certainly someone with inferior feelings about themselves would welcome social interaction with  those of  less rank and therefore  who must give them deference.  She could then relax and be generous. The Romanov family were not  nearly as deferential to the head of the family as Victoria's was with her!  It was far more rough and tumble lol! I have found shy people are proud people too. It's mixed up. Feeling inferior and prideful,  they are both...not one or the other.

And that's another thing. I can see  St.P. society scorning her for curtailing her grown royal  dauther's exposure to balls and parties , but immediately have them involved with every part of nursing and  war wounds?  Were is the balance in that? It's wonderful they did nursing...but why were they not allowed the fun too?  They would have enjoyed it even if she did not, and they should not have been denied it. Yes the war put an end to such things, but Olga came out in 1911...and unlike her mother, loved it. 

Quote
than the social aspect of the role. It is hard to see that she wasn't her own worst enemy - she definitely was personally ill suited to that side of the role and probably (given the examples of the german and british courts) perhaps unaware that in following Marie Feodorovna, who loved that side of the role, she would be expected to take an active social role amidst the higher echelons of Russian society.

Agree and very well said.

Also a huge  problem was Alexandra would not listen , or even consider  advice on this matter ( or any other!) . She could not even appreciate the  sincere effort, but saw it only as a terrible  affront.Then many years  of  watching the results of her  mistaken policies taught her nothing but to repeated the failed pattern more strongly. Her belief in her own ideas was indefatigable...it seems no reality could shake it. 

Quote
To be fair it wasn't a role that was really that onerous: to host and attend a few events during the relatively short season, to visit the theatre, basically to appear at all without looking like she didn't want to be there and rushing home at the first opportunity. The secrecy over her son's illness after his birth doesn't really excuse her inability to cope with these occasions in her first decade as Empress.

Exactly...but what is of the most import is the social role was not her natural inclination . And it seems all was bent to that .
As you say,  Alexi's illness  could not excuse her behavior in her first decade. But her pattern of disliking the social occasions was there long before....still one has a job to perform . And Alexandra's  refusal to put aside her own inclinations in order to do her job, cost her dear.
Quote
Society feeling snubbed reacted badly which in turn made Alexandra less willing to take part and more willing to retreat into private family life which in turn made the problem worse. It was that retreat from society that desire for privacy that made it far easier for people to attack her for every problem real or imagined because they didn't really know her.

Very true...slander comes when people feel  the string of rejection  and look for reasons to do rejecting themselves .

Quote
I think it was Marie Feodorovna who noted (as quoted in Coryne Hall's excellent book) who thought it strange that she seemed to want society's recognition but didn't comprehend that her own attitudes and behaviour were the main problem. To put it in other words - she had little comprehension that due deference, trust and respect even admiration have to be earned by even the highest person in the land.

Very well put !!  I was thinking, indeed, she wanted the privileges of being a sovereign , but not the actal work. 
There are people who think having an exulted position  is enough, their part is then at an end ...but that's just the beginning.

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Offline PAVLOV

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #655 on: October 30, 2009, 05:53:00 AM »
 I am sorry but I dont agree with anything you have said. 
She certainly engendered more respect from the Russian people and  society than Alexandra did.
Grand Duchess Vladimir also took her part in the Imperial family very seriously, and performed her duties exceptionally well. She carried out many official duties on behalf of the Imperial family, probably because Alexandra was reluctant to perform them herself. She certainly did them a lot better than Alexandra did !!.
 
 She did not lie around on her sofa all day, she did not withdraw from society, break out in a rash and tremble with nervousness in public. She certainly appeared from all accounts to have been a far more balanced person that Alexandra. She also did not sequester her children  from the world.
It does not matter if people thought she looked "too German". So what ? A large portion of the Russian court were German, and so too the aristocracy.
How do you have to look, to look German ? Perhaps Marie Feodorovna looked too Danish ?
Very strange. 

PERHAPS THIS IS THE WRONG PLACE TO POST THIS SUBJECT.

 

Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #656 on: October 30, 2009, 06:47:33 AM »
Certainly by the 1880s and 1890s a 'public service monarchy' was emerging in Britain. This seems to have been led by her children and (British) grandchildren rather than Victoria herself, although she was emerging from her 'Widow of Windsor' phase and making some public appearances.

Although quite a lot of the work done by such people as Helena of Schleswig-Holstein was behind the scenes (her involvement in the registration scheme for nurses, for example), it was known about, and contributed to the high standing of the British royal family by 1914 (I love the way that Helena briskly told Marie Louise, after the annulment of her marriage, not to mope about but to throw herself into charitable work).

Unfortunately, Alexandra doesn't seem to have taken much notice of this example. That she was shy is not, I think, really an excuse. Shyness seems to have been a disease among Queen Victoria's descendants(!) but many were conscientious in performing public duties notwithstanding. George VI is probably the best example, if rather later, but Arthur of Connaught was also terribly shy  (according to his Oxford DNB entry), but comes across as a classic hard-working royal and one seen as a safe pair of hands (interesting that at the age of only 19 he was sent to Japan to present the Meijii Emperor with the Garter - one would have thought that quite a delicate mission).

Alexander III was a homebody who didn't like parties, but nevertheless appeared at balls, recognising that was part of his job.

Offline blessOTMA

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #657 on: October 30, 2009, 10:13:30 AM »
Quote
Although quite a lot of the work done by such people as Helena of Schleswig-Holstein was behind the scenes (her involvement in the registration scheme for nurses, for example), it was known about, and contributed to the high standing of the British royal family by 1914 (I love the way that Helena briskly told Marie Louise, after the annulment of her marriage, not to mope about but to throw herself into charitable work).

Haha!! Good advice! It helps oneself as much, if not more,  as those in need of the charity!

Quote
Unfortunately, Alexandra doesn't seem to have taken much notice of this example. That she was shy is not, I think, really an excuse.

I agree and it's sad. Shyness is not helped by withdrawal , but by going forward regardless. Making an effort is, at least, respected. If you can't enjoy yourself at a ball ,well  others will...why deprive them of the enjoyment? And by withdrawing  she is  curtailing the thrones' social  role generally and that's a mistake. If you made the world go on with out you, it will. About Alexandra, what often sticks in my mind is the event on the Imperial couple's visit to England in 1896. Queen Victoria made a gesture of allowing Alexandra to go before her , but was shocked when Alexandra didn't realize it was but a gesture and actually did. Alexandra had a clear idea of what was due to her, but not, it seems,  of what  was expected of her.

Quote
seems to have been a disease among Queen Victoria's descendants(!) but many were conscientious in performing public duties notwithstanding. George VI is probably the best example, if rather later, but Arthur of Connaught was also terribly shy  (according to his Oxford DNB entry), but comes across as a classic hard-working royal and one seen as a safe pair of hands (interesting that at the age of only 19 he was sent to Japan to present the Meijii Emperor with the Garter - one would have thought that quite a delicate mission).

Alexander III was a homebody who didn't like parties, but nevertheless appeared at balls, recognising that was part of his job.

Interesting anecdotes! Thank you!

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Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #658 on: October 30, 2009, 10:32:12 AM »
BlessOTMA

I think also that royalty do have a degree of flexibility in what they do - yes, they have to make public appearances, but it's possible to put some emphasis on things they are actually interested in. Hence we have the Prince of Wales with the Prince's Trust, other organisations to do with young people, and environmental matters. In an earlier era George VI also had an interest in young people, as well as in industry. Lots of royalties have been interested in medical matters - for example, the Earl of Athlone was chairman of the Middlesex Hospital for many years (prior to the National Health Service, that would have involved a lot of fundraising).

Even if Alexandra hated huge social events, she could still have had small dinner parties and the like, with people she didn't know as well as those she did.

Massie in Nicholas and Alexandra has a nice depiction of Alexander III at a court ball, doing as much dancing as he had to, then ambling round chatting to people while Marie Feodorovna held centre stage.

And you are quite right to say that Alexandra wouldn't take advice unless that it was advice she wanted to hear. She was one of those people who think they are always right - an extreme case of that. Perhaps that was her greatest failing, certainly the aspect of her character which exasperates me most.

Ann

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #659 on: November 01, 2009, 06:07:54 PM »
 Ann,

Quote
Even if Alexandra hated huge social events, she could still have had small dinner parties and the like, with people she didn't know as well as those she did.

Indeed and it's tragic because she actually could have hid more readily at a big event! The point is not to curtail your subjects enjoyment and  involvement in these social gatherings,  simply because you don't personally enjoy them. Balls during season at the Winter Palace were a vital political component that should not  have been dropped . 

[/quote]Massie in Nicholas and Alexandra has a nice depiction of Alexander III at a court ball, doing as much dancing as he had to, then ambling round chatting to people while Marie Feodorovna held centre stage..[/quote]

Exactly. If Czar Alexander III  felt compelled to make this gesture, surely Alexandra should have! I believe people greatly appreciated his efforts and it makes a subject feel their sovereign hears them. If people have a sense of that, they will allow the sovereign lea way else where.

Quote
And you are quite right to say that Alexandra wouldn't take advice unless that it was advice she wanted to hear. She was one of those people who think they are always right - an extreme case of that. Perhaps that was her greatest failing, certainly the aspect of her character which exasperates me most.

And it exasperated many then!


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