Author Topic: Languages of NAOTMAA and how they sounded  (Read 70766 times)

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Offline Sarai

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Languages of NAOTMAA and how they sounded
« on: February 15, 2004, 03:26:07 PM »
I am curious to know how the Imperial family sounded when they spoke English - what accents did they have? I recall reading that the children spoke English with a kind of Irish accent, owing partly to the fact that their early nurse, Miss Eager (an Irishwoman), influenced their way of speaking.

I imagine Alexandra spoke English with a British accent instead of a German one, as her mother was British and she was practically raised in Queen Victoria's household. This leads me to wonder, therefore, whether her children would not also have spoken with British accents?

And finally Nicholas - did he speak English with a Russian accent? I assume that he, too, spoke with a British accent.

Offline Greg_King

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Re: Languages of NAOTMAA and how they sounded
« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2004, 12:46:29 AM »
Several people comment on the various accents of the Grand Duchesses and Tsesarevich, which ranged-depending on languages-to perfect to somewhat gutteral.

I've seen a few descriptions of Nicholas's voice-low, kind of raspy.  An interesting bit: while he apparently spoke English with a perfect accent, this also affected his Russian.  Prince Andrei Lobanov-Rostovsky recalled that his Russian was even tinged with “a slightly English accent.”

Alix-again a number of accounts.  But recently I've heard from Countess Mountbatten that Alix's sister Victoria Milford-Haven and her brother Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig spoke with a sort of gutteral English-rolling their "R"s quite a bit-maybe Janet Ashton can post a bit more on this.  It would seem that Alix probably had the same characteristics-particularly as VMH lived in England and spoke English exclusively for years and still spoke in this way-whereas Alix was a bit of a linguistic banquet-so she probably had something of this that people might have taken for a German accent.

Greg King

Offline BobAtchison

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Re: Languages of NAOTMAA and how they sounded
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2004, 08:52:39 AM »
Nicholas was said by native English speakers who heard him to have a slight odd accent that they could not quite place, sounding like he came from obscure part of Britain.  But his accent did not sound foreign to them.  While he had an accent of some kind his vocabulary was quite incredible.  He learned English rater late - I think he was 8 or 9 when he and George began his formal lessons with Mr. Charles Heath, a 'burly Englishman', companion of Alexander III who received the rank of General for his service.  He was from Oxford and also taught the boys watercolors.

Vyrubova says Nicholas had a strong Russian accent in English.  I don't know how to reconcile what I have written above with this comment of hers.

If I remember correctly Nicholas started his English lessons rather later - 8 or 9.

Alexandra did not have a German accent in English.  This was because she and her brother Ernst-Ludwig were raised differently from their older sisters - more apart and with a different staff.  Did she have an English accent in German?  I don't know.  She had an English accent in her Russian not German.

I have never been able to find out if Alexandra's sister Victoria had the heavy German accent that I have read about in some books. I have asked many people about this and they tell me to ask the Queen or Prince Phillip, as both of them obviously knew her.  Greg's comment would seem to the closest we have.  Isn't that odd?  You would have expected more people to have commented on her German accent - had it been bad.  But then there doesn't seem to be much in print on her anyway.

I haven't found a passage where Elizabeth is said by a native English speaker to have a German accent.  Maybe someone else has.

Bob

Offline Lanie

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Re: Languages of NAOTMAA and how they sounded
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2004, 03:24:30 PM »
I'm curious as to what the girls sounded like, and Alexei, too -- anyone have any clue?  I've also heard that there were sound recordings made of them by the Dowager Empress, but I don't know if that's just some silly folklore thing or not.

Offline Janet_Ashton

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Re: Languages of NAOTMAA and how they sounded
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2004, 05:27:26 PM »
Bob
  Lady Mountbatten decribed Victoria's voice as having "a distinct sort of German guttural sound about it" - and then modified this comment, adding "you wouldn't say it was a German accent, but there was a slight gutturalness about it, a slight hoarseness." So I take it that it was basically British with a German tinge to a few consonants, maybe - like the previous generation? (Edward VII and his sisters were often described as having this accent).

Lili Dehn of course commented that Alix spoke with an English accent, but I take that with slight caution now for two reasons -
firstly, I am not sure Lili could really speak about this with any degree of certainty since she wasn't British; and secondly, I feel she was slightly defensive too, and wanting to defend A. against charges of being a German spy, so an accent which came between the two would sound British to her.

On the subject of accents generally, it's worth recalling that the British community in Petersburg acquired a distinctive adge to their voices too: - James Wishaw, whose daughter Stella married one of the Meyendorffs (spelling?!) and thus entered Nicholas's court and the Russian aristocracy, recalled in his memoirs that he sent her "home" to boarding school as a child to stop her acquiring that "sing-song" accent that he considered characteristic of the Anglo-Russian community. It might be fair to assume that the Grand Duchesses had a similar accent?

Janet

Offline Janet_Ashton

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Re: Languages of NAOTMAA and how they sounded
« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2004, 05:47:15 PM »
Just as a thought...every website I've come across which has a discussion board attached - not to mention people on atr of course! - asks the question, What did they sound like? - It's not just a matter of simple historical curiosity I don't think - the human voice is a totally indispensible tool when it comes to communication, and that sorts of gets reflected in our interest in historical characters....we can read any number of letters from those long dead, but the people whose voices are recorded for posterity are  more "real" in some ways....and will never disappear in quite the same way as those of distant generations.

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Re: Languages of NAOTMAA and how they sounded
« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2004, 07:29:26 PM »
The obvious question Beckons

Are there any surviving audios of the Tsar and his family ?

Surely some of his speeches must have been recorded ?

Offline Alice

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Re: Languages of NAOTMAA and how they sounded
« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2004, 04:00:54 AM »
Oh I'd love to hear them! Surely there must be some somewhere?

Whenever I read letters that the Imperial family wrote, I always "hear them in my head" with an English accent.

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Languages of NAOTMAA and how they sounded
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2004, 01:58:46 PM »
This seems to be an ongoing search. I also have heard of various recording on Nicholas.  The children sounds plausible in thinking about the dowager Empreee: it does seem like something a grandmother would do.
However I have yet to actually see, read or hear anything concrete. Perhaps Greg & Penny, in their vast research might have found some evidence....
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Offline jackie3

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Re: Languages of NAOTMAA and how they sounded
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2004, 01:36:28 PM »
As to the possibility of the Dowager Empress making recordings of the GDs - if she did wouldn't she have taken them into exile with her? In that case they would probably be in Denmark still, no?

And Nicholas' voice is not at all what I thought. I though it would be much more weaker and gentle but it sounded strong and (if may I say) "royal". Compare it to some of the current British royals like Prince Charles or Prince Edward who sound very diffident and nonchalant - like govt. ministers instead of would-be monarchs.

Offline BobAtchison

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Re: Languages of NAOTMAA and how they sounded
« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2004, 01:40:03 PM »
Nicholas is shouting to the troops in a military voice to be heard at a great distance.  It's not natural and distorted by the recording.

Bob

Offline BobAtchison

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Re: Languages of NAOTMAA and how they sounded
« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2004, 01:41:22 PM »
The Dowager Empress probably left them at the Anitchov - she hadn't expected not to return from Kiev...

Bob

Alicky1872

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Re: Languages of NAOTMAA and how they sounded
« Reply #12 on: September 09, 2004, 08:20:56 PM »
 Hello everyone! I know this is an "old topic" from months ago, but can I just say how INCREDIBLY AMAZING it was to hear Nicholas' voice for the first time?! I got the chills, and had tears in my eyes, I was very moved! I don't understand Russian, but nonetheless, I will never forget it!
 Does anyone know of any other recordings of Royalty  that are accessible to the public, like this one? (Besides the History Channel website by the way, who has a great recording of George V, if anyone's interested!)
Thank you so much, to the person that found this recording!

Offline pushkina

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Re: Languages of NAOTMAA and how they sounded
« Reply #13 on: September 09, 2004, 10:39:22 PM »
i've always wondered how they sounded, of course but something else has also niggled my curiosity:

i think in the kurth book on AA, while disucssing her abilites with languages, it was said that AA spoke the many various languages that AN was supposed to have spoken but in the peculiar manner of her family: they would use the word in the langauge that suited best.  for example they might start out in english or russian but that if a particular word in german or french suited better they would use that word, witht he effect being that a sentence may contain a number of languages. it seemed to convey that while one could speak the langauge fluently, amongst one's intimates, one would pick and choose among languages and since everyone understood them all anyway, it made sense.

coming from a polyglot family, that made a lot of sense to me. especially as children, we used to pick and choose our words that way. the attitude amonst the grownups was that there was plenty of time to learn it properly; that this was something OK to do at home.

has anyone else come  across references to this habit of the IF?  is it something they really did?



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Offline Antonio_P.Caballer

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Re: Languages of NAOTMAA and how they sounded
« Reply #14 on: September 09, 2004, 11:21:20 PM »
Hello Pushkina,

That comment about mixing different languajes in a same phrase wasn´t related to Nicholas and Alexandra, but to Grand Duchess Xenia Georgievna´s(Mrs Leeds) family.

The grand duchesses only spoke fluently in russian and english. Curiously enough, as Gleb Botkin remembered, they had a slightly russian accent when speaking in english and a similar english accent when speaking in russian. He said it was charming.

I´ve seen in a recent documentary an old russian prince(i don´t remember his name now) stating that they spoke perfect english, perfect russian and perfect french. Well, i really don´t know where he got that idea from but Pierre Gilliard positively declared they were never fluent in french.