Author Topic: Alexandra and her Health Part 1  (Read 235237 times)

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Offline ChristineM

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Re: Alexandra and her Health
« Reply #435 on: August 30, 2005, 05:50:17 AM »
Although the Empress' relationship with Mme Vyroubova is well down the line in terms of her mental and physical health issues, it is probably worthwhile, since the subject is under discussion, making a few points on the tensions which eventually manifested themselves between Anya Vyroubova and Alexandra.  

Firstly it was Orlov who Anya Tanieva wanted to marry.   Alexandra intervened (there were those - still are - who believed the Empress herself had a bit of a 'crush' on Count Alexander Orlov).  

It was Alexandra, personally, who then directed Anya towards the disastrous marriage with Vyroubov.   Alexandra felt responsible for Anya's misery.   This 'guilt', in part, may have contributed to their association developing from that of Empress and maid of honour to warm acquaintance, and then to an intense, intimate friendship.  

It was on holiday in Livadia that this friendship was to change and change forever.   This probably stemmed from Alexandra feeling Anya had by now become rather over-familiar to the point of having a 'crush' on Nicholas.   Anya had certainly become quite proprietorial towards the Emperor.   This is witnessed in the Empress' letters of that time.

Although there was a rapprochement after Anya was almost killed in the rail crash, the relationship had changed.    During her convalescence at the Alexander Palace, Anya became like a fifth daughter.   (Don't forget Anya Vyroubova virtually replaced Princess Sonia Orbeliani - Alexandra's previous maid of honour/friend/companion who tragically died from 'creeping paralysis' and who Alexandra had 'nursed' for many years.)  

Alexandra was a woman who needed to be needed.   Difficult to mix this with the role of Empress of all the Russias.  

I think Alexandra was probably more comfortable with this new relationship.   She catered for Anya's every whim and, although dreadfully injured, I do think Anya probably milked this for all she could.   She certainly did when she had measles at the same time as Alexandra's own children, demanding even more of the Empress' time and attention during a period of the utmost mental and physical stress for Alexandra - the death of Rasputin, fear for the lives of her children, the abdication crisis and the enforced separation from Nicholas.  

I think this gives one the measure of either Anya Vyroubova's childlikeness or of her total selfishness.   To make such demands on her friend and Empress, a woman who was living a life of overwhelming fear and on a woman who had more than her own share of health issues, was totally selfish.  There was plenty staff in the Alexander Palace to care for Anya Vyroubova's nursing needs.   But no, only the Empress was good enough for Anya.  

I was shocked when I read Anya's deposition to the Bolsheviks during her imprisonment in the Peter and Paul Fortress.   She said everything that would spare herself while, at the same time, showing absolutely no loyalty towards the deposed Nicholas and Alexandra.
(Unfortunately I loaned the book containing this transcript to a friend, who not only did not return it, but when I asked her for it back, maintained she had never heard of it!)

tsaria

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Re: Alexandra and her Health
« Reply #436 on: August 30, 2005, 09:08:09 AM »
Don't feel too bad Tsaria, you can read her deposition on the AP main web site any time you want!

Offline ChristineM

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Re: Alexandra and her Health
« Reply #437 on: August 30, 2005, 09:37:29 AM »
Thanks Forum Admin.   What does this say for my powers of observation?  

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Offline ChristineM

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Re: Alexandra and her Health
« Reply #438 on: August 31, 2005, 04:36:28 AM »
This is an entirely different work to the one to which I referred, Forum Admin.   What I read was a book, purchased in St Petersburg about 12 or 13 years ago, written in Russian.   It was a direct transcript of the deposition made by Anya Vyroubova to her Bolshevik interrogators.

OK, one has to bear in mind the woman was in genuine fear for her life.   But she showed not one bit of sympathy or support for the family who had loved and cared for her - in some style, though she repeatedly complained about that - for many years.   Quite the reverse.   She cut them loose.   It was also in total contradiction to the fawning memoirs she wrote later.   There is a huge element of 'Poor Me' mentality about Anya Vyroubova.  

However, the reasons why Alexandra should choose a character such as that of Anya Vyroubova as her closest personal friend, deserve exploration.   Therein we will find indications and explanations as to the Empress' state of mind.

What a contrast there was between Anya Vyroubova and the Empress' other friend, Lili Dehn.    Lili Dehn was a friend indeed when the Empress was in need.

tsaria

bluetoria

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Re: Alexandra and her Health
« Reply #439 on: August 31, 2005, 05:13:17 AM »
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"Here is the report given to me on this subject by M. X. one of the most celebrated Russian professors who was completely up to date on the state of the Empress's health.....  
      "In the female line, this heredity is manifested in other forms. The Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodrovna was a sick woman.
      


I know this is off topic of Alexandra but the statement about Ella is rather vague and I would like to know more exactly what the author meant. I know Ella suffered from various hereditary maladies (gout, rheumatism etc.) but she herself said these didn't bother her. Towards the end of her life, she did look very ill (unsurprisingly) but considering the amount of work she undertook and the number of journeys she made across Russia, she probably would hardly have described herself as 'a sick woman.'

Ok, back to Alexandra!  :)
The 'malign' influence of Anna is fascinating and totally new to me. As tsaria said, this is rather low down on the list of the causes of the Empress's illnesses, and from what I have read here, it seems as though Anna aggravated rather than caused any illness. It always struck me as very odd the way that Anna 'pretended' to be infatuated by Nicholas and Alix encouraged this, while complaining of it. It seems like so much attention-seeking on Anna's part and I agree with tsaria that she was a very selfish woman who had no real thought for the real needs of the Empress. She seemed to gloat over the way that Alix broke off her 'friendship' with Ella, as though Anna - like Alix herself - wanted to be the only other adult in Alix's life. It is rather parasitical, isn't it?

With regard to Alix's early childhood, I think that Princess Alice's increasing bouts of depression and physical illness (she had various gynaecological disorders as well as the problemswith her eyes, fatigue etc.) did 'pave the way' for Alix's own behaviour with her children. Their letters to her are so often filled with sympathy for her illness - and this also reminds me very much of QV's style of writing in that she seemed to revel in gloom and morbid thoughts of people who had died.
Having said that, though, I believe that until Princess Alice's death, there was probably not a happier household among the royalties of Europe. The accounts of the children's high spirits are many, and their lives were far less fraught than those of many of their cousins. Even after their mother's death, the elder Hessian girls seem to have enjoyed a good many happy times and I fear there is a danger of over-emphasising the gloom which descended upon Darmstadt.

Without overlooking Alix's emotional and psychological problems, I should find it interesting perhaps to concentrate first on the physical childhood illnesses and then, perhaps, tracing them to psychological origins (as, I believe, most illnesses can be traced somewhere along the line to psychological origins, so this does not make Alix any different from the rest of us).

Please does anyone have any more information about whether or not Alix did indeed contract scarlet fever as a child....as was suggested (and mentioned on the other thread) by Richard Hough?



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Re: Alexandra and her Health
« Reply #440 on: August 31, 2005, 09:45:34 AM »
Tsaria,
That is my translation from the French volume of the Russian one you had. We have the same book you did, in French.

lexi4

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Re: Alexandra and her Health
« Reply #441 on: August 31, 2005, 11:57:15 PM »
Thank you for clearing that up FA.

Offline isabel

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Re: Alexandra and her Health
« Reply #442 on: September 27, 2005, 06:15:23 AM »
About Alix illnesses. It´s long but i think it´s interesting. It´s from Purple Secret, genes, madness and the royal Houses of Europe"

O, if you knew, how hard Mama´s illness is four us to bear..- Grand Duchess Tatiana to Grigory Rasputin.

As Nicholas II later recorded in his diary, even as a young girl she was easily tired and the victim of various unaccountable pains. Her condition took a distinct turn for worse in 1892, when she was just twenty, on the sudden death of her beloved father the Grand Duke. The shock of his death and anxiety about her own and her young brother´s future brought her to the edge of a nervous breakdown and she had to be sent to the spa Bad Schwalbach in the Taunus Mountains. After the death of her father, she developed "sciatica" with severe pain in  the back and legs wich returned at intervals throughout the next ten years or so.

Queen Victoria sent the Tsarevich the doctor´s report according to which Alicky "requires great quiet and rest...and also a strict regime of life as well as diet".

Soon after their marriage, Nicholas was complaining that his wife was spending a great deal of her time in bed and living in seclusion, unable to come down for meals. In these early years, visitors were shocked by the nervous condition of the Empress, who seemed to experience physical pain whenever she met anyone she did not know well. Count Alexei Ignatyev recorded in his memoirs that: "I noticed that her face had become covered with unattractive red blotches". Prince Volkonsky said about her: "Painfully shy, could only squeeze a word out with difficulty, her face becoming suffused with red blotches.

Such red skin blotches, have come to recognize as a symptom of variegate porphyria, the granddaughter of Dr. Botkin tell that the fact that Empress and Anna Anderson manifested red skin blotches, played a key part in convincing her family that Anna Anderson was who she claimed to be, the lost Grand Duchess Anastasia.

The sciatica and weakness of the legs which had come on before her marriage continued to be a major problem throughout her reign, becoming worse with time and making walking a torment.In the final years of her life she was barely able to walk at all.

It is important to note that she was capable when it was required of her of heroic efforts to attend her sick child, visit hospitals with her daugthers and assist the wounded soldiers returning from the front.

In 1909 the Tzar wrote to his mother:"Alix...is feeling better these days...It is very important for her to get better, for her own sake and the children´s and mine. I am completely run down mentally by worrying over her health".

Alexandra suffered from pain not only in the legs and back, she continued to complain of headaches and neck and chest pains, swollen feet and painful teeth, which her dentist at times needed to treat daily or even several times a day.. From 1908 onwards she put on weight and seemed to have aged prematurely, she felt herself growing weaker not only physically but emotionally too.

She became addicted to Veronal, a sedative drug based on barbituric acid once admitting. Nicotine was another false friend to whom she turned in desperation. "I came home and then i couldn´t stand it, i burst into tears, prayed, lay down and smoked to set myself right."

Did this granddaughter of Queen Victoria´s have variegate porphuria, too, like her Aunt Vicky, her cousin Charlotte, and her niece Feodora? Was that inherited metobolic disorder the cause of the terrible suffering which overshadowed her life and that of her husband and children in the final doomed decades of the Romanov empire?

Many of the symptoms which began to show themselves soon after her twentieth birthday are certainly consistent with such a diagnosis: the pain in her legas and back, her lameness, the neuralgia in her face, neck and eyes, the abdominal pain, her shortness of breath and blue lips, her racing pulse and palpitations, the periodic outbreak of red blotches on her face, neck, arms and hands, her hypersensitivity to sound, and her evident mental and emotional disturbance.

Clearly, though the balance of probabilities must be that she had indeed inherited that faulty gene in addition to the gene for haemophilia, more hard evidence is needed even in her case to arrive at a firm diagnosis.




JaneEyre5381

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Re: Alexandra and her Health
« Reply #443 on: September 27, 2005, 10:20:03 AM »
Isabel, that was very informative.  After reading what you posted, I started to wonder what toll Alix's health problems took on Nikolai.  It's very hard to watch someone you love suffer and not to be able to help.  Add to that the ordeal of running a country, and you got yourself a very stressed man indeed. Their marriage, as happy as it may have seen must have had a lot of strain.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by JaneEyre5381 »

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Alexandra and her Health
« Reply #444 on: September 27, 2005, 12:14:57 PM »
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About Alix illnesses. It´s long but i think it´s interesting. It´s from Purple Secret, genes, madness and the royal Houses of Europe"


Isabel, this is an extremely enlightening quote.

It triggers a discussion which might more properly belong on any one of several other threads ("Was Nicholas to Blame," "Alexandra:  Russia's Worst Nightmare," Negative Attributes of Nicholas," "Negative Attributes of Alexandra", to name but a few).  But since this thread also encompasses the effects of Alexandra's illnesses, I'll post my thoughts here:

Let's assume for the moment that all these symptoms were present in Alexandra (and I, for one, think they were).

The citation seems to indicate that Nicholas knew he was seeking to marry a woman who, at age 20, was already in a fragile state of health . . . not to mention the hemophilia that was known to run in her family.  Yet he was willing to press upon her a crown that carried very heavy public duties.

The citation reinforces discussions we've had elsewhere that Alexandra's health was a burden and a distraction to Nicholas, particularly in times when the plight of his nation was in dire need of his undivided attention.

As a person, Alexandra is to be pitied for the state of her health.

But the huge question for me is why Nicholas, knowing his wife's condition to be what it was, left the government in her hands when he went to Stavka from 1915 - 1917.  Most rulers, knowing their spouses to be ill and overwrought by public duties, would have relied on ministers and the other institutions of royal government to fulfill this role.  Why did Nicholas pick one of the most unsuitable regents in the annals of royal history to play such a critical role, especially in Russia's darkest hour?

What was going on between those two that made it seem reasonable to Nicholas to put a sick, stressed out, widely-detested, emotionally-drained semi-invalid with a sick child at the helm of his government?
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Tsarfan »

Offline RichC

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Re: Alexandra and her Health
« Reply #445 on: September 27, 2005, 12:43:02 PM »
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About Alix illnesses. It´s long but i think it´s interesting. It´s from Purple Secret, genes, madness and the royal Houses of Europe"

O, if you knew, how hard Mama´s illness is four us to bear..- Grand Duchess Tatiana to Grigory Rasputin.

Queen Victoria sent the Tsarevich the doctor´s report according to which Alicky "requires great quiet and rest...and also a strict regime of life as well as diet".



If the Queen was sending the Tsarevich such a report, presumably as a warning that Alix might be a bad choice for Empress because of her health, then why recommend her has as a possible wife for Prince Eddy?  That doesn't make sense.  Unless the Queen wasn't aware of the health problems at the time of the suggested marriage between Alix and Eddy -- but that seems unlikely.  

It would be very interesting to see this report, if it really exists.  

The only other thing I would add is there is still much debate about Prophyria and whether it existed in the royal family or not.

Elisabeth

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Re: Alexandra and her Health
« Reply #446 on: September 27, 2005, 12:50:42 PM »
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But the huge question for me is why Nicholas, knowing his wife's condition to be what it was, left the government in her hands when he went to Stavka from 1915 - 1917.  Most rulers, knowing their spouses to be ill and overwrought by public duties, would have relied on ministers and the other institutions of royal government to fulfill this role.  Why did Nicholas pick one of the most unsuitable regents in the annals of royal history to play such a critical role, especially in Russia's darkest hour?

What was going on between those two that made it seem reasonable to Nicholas to put a sick, stressed out, widely-detested, emotionally-drained semi-invalid with a sick child at the helm of his government?


The short answer is because Alexandra was the only person Nicholas trusted. Her political views were in close, perhaps even complete harmony with his own. Which is another reason why I find these discussions of Alexandra's "culpability" in bringing about the revolution pretty much beside the point, since ultimately every administrative decision made was Nicholas's and Nicholas's alone. There's no evidence whatsoever that Nicholas really disagreed with Alexandra on key issues.

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Alexandra and her Health
« Reply #447 on: September 27, 2005, 02:23:08 PM »
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The short answer is because Alexandra was the only person Nicholas trusted. Her political views were in close, perhaps even complete harmony with his own.


But did Alexandra's views naturally align with Nicholas' views, or was she instrumental in forming his views?

On another thread, I quoted the memoires of the head of Nicholas' secretariat in which it was observed that Alexandra's views were more reactionary than Nicholas'.  Where she could have been a support to him in bolstering his resolve in his own opinions, she instead led him down more and more counterproductive paths.

The imperial family, who had both information and opportunities to observe that we will never have, felt that Alexandra played a significant role behind the scenes in influencing Nicholas.  Wasn't that the whole point of Ella's visit to Tsarkoye Sleo just before the revolution and in Sandro's famous bedroom visit?

Certainly Alexandra became the only person Nicholas trusted.  But the real question is why was there no one else in Russia whom he could trust?  Was Russia really totally devoid of intelligent, trained officials who were loyal to the monarchy and interested in seeing Russia prevail in WWI?  Was the Romanov clan so devoid of people who could sympathize with Nicholas' viewpoint?

If no one in all of Russia could be called upon to assist Nicholas in pursuing his policies but his ill wife, no wonder there was a revolution.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Tsarfan »

Offline isabel

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Re: Alexandra and her Health
« Reply #448 on: September 27, 2005, 03:13:12 PM »
I don´t think that Queen Victoria thought that Alix´s illnesses was an impediment to be an Empress, not at all,... if she sent to Nicholas the doctor´s report was because she wanted him to take care of her, after Alix´s mother´s death, Queen Victoria was a little her substitute, she always had an specialy look for the Hessian children.

At this time is true that Alix began to suffer from sciatica and other several pains but it was the begining, and i think that no one supposed that this pains were beeing to increase with the years. Also, it´s very probably that they attributed her melancholie and emotional disorder to the death of her beloved father, no more.

I continue to belive that neither Alix or Nicholas were informed about the true tragic risk of haemophilia, but only about an strange disease of blood.

About Nicholas...i am agree with Tsarfan, it´s very courious that knowing Alix´s illnesses (physical and emotional), leaved on  her shoulders the weigh of the Empire.

About this, .....there exist some studies of Alexandra´s personality, it would be very interesting to see some informs about Nicholas personality too.

In my opinion both, Nicholas and Alexandra, were very similars in many aspects of their carachteres, if one of the two would have had a more strong charactere, if one of them would pushed the other to be not so close, things would be turned differents. Perhaps.

Offline RichC

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Re: Alexandra and her Health
« Reply #449 on: September 27, 2005, 05:04:26 PM »
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I don´t think that Queen Victoria thought that Alix´s illnesses was an impediment to be an Empress, not at all,... if she sent to Nicholas the doctor´s report was because she wanted him to take care of her, after Alix´s mother´s death, Queen Victoria was a little her substitute, she always had an specialy look for the Hessian children.


But Alix's illnesses were an impediment to being a (good) Empress, weren't they?  Isn't that the supposition we are going on?  If this report was real, and Queen Victoria saw it, I fail to see how should could have thought otherwise.  The Queen, for all her own set of personality flaws, was a shrewd judge of character.  

It would be interesting to see this medical report; does anyone know anything more about it?  Does the book you reference have any notes or bibliographical information about it?

Quote
About this, .....there exist some studies of Alexandra´s personality, it would be very interesting to see some informs about Nicholas personality too.


It would be really interesting to see the one's about Alexandra.

Quote
In my opinion both, Nicholas and Alexandra, were very similars in many aspects of their carachteres, if one of the two would have had a more strong charactere, if one of them would pushed the other to be not so close, things would be turned differents. Perhaps.


I have always thought Nicholas and Alexandra had vastly different characters, with Alexandra having had a much stronger and forceful personality.  She spoke her mind, had no problem telling people what to do (or where to get off) (remember her "lady of the house" letter to Marie Pavlovna?).  By all accounts Nicholas was never like this.  

I have been reading Prince Wolkonski's memoirs and he mentions how Nicholas (remember, we are talking about the Tsar of Russia here) was unable even to bring himself to ask the Prince (to his face) to substitute one ballerina for another (Kchessinska was insisting that she be given a part that had been assigned to another ballerina) for a particular ballet -- and instead had someone else do it just a day or two after the Tsar had seen Wolkonski himself.