Author Topic: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?  (Read 115013 times)

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Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #15 on: September 27, 2004, 01:45:12 PM »
Thank you, the aroma is indeed lovely!
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Offline Janet_W.

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #16 on: September 27, 2004, 02:43:22 PM »
Remember that the family one reads about in Fate of the Romanovs is different, in many ways, from the family of 1913, 1906, and so forth.

Family dynamics are always in a state of flux, no matter how much some parents may wish to stop time. (My own mother's favorite statement was, "I wish I could put a brick on their heads and stop them from growing" . . . an attitude I rather think Alexandra had about OTMA!) Growing emotional and social independence, along with puberty, is going to affect relationships--not destroy them, necessarily, but certainly affect them. The girls--and Alexei, for that matter--were becoming grownup, despite whatever immaturities they may have exhibited from time to time. Olga had a keen mind and, if the war had not come along, would have undoubtedly succeeded as a poet or in any other related discipline. Tatiana had management skills that needed an outlet. Marie had longed for a husband and children even as a child. Anastasia's precocity speaks for itself. Had the family survived, Nicholas and Alexandra would have found what all parents of healthy teens-to-adults have found . . . that their "children" were making decisions for themselves and leading lives which were not always in accordance with their own thoughts and wishes.

Alexandra was undoubtedly more involved with her children's lives than most royal mamas. However, the Romanovs have become perhaps the most scrutinized royals of all time, and so of course people evaluate and speculate over the various aspects of their lives. It is only natural for a child to long for the presence of a parent--remember when our own parents couldn't always make it to a school pageant?--and although OTMA were used to having servants help their lives along, they did miss the presence of their parents on numerous occasions. Still, the many casual photographs with all seven family members bear some sort of witness as to Nicholas and Alexandra's involvement with and enjoyment of their children.

By the time of imprisonment, though, much had changed. The parents were not only middle-aged but undergoing incredible stress. The children had been going through puberty, were about to enter it, or were young adults still sequestered with their parents. Crisis after crisis was being met, mostly with tremendous grace and courage, but it would be absurd to think that the relationships between these seven distinct  personalities--cooped up and suffering from various physical ailments and emotional stresses, not to mention fears for their futures--would be in perfect and idealistic harmony.

Offline Abby

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #17 on: September 27, 2004, 02:55:32 PM »
Janet, your posts are always very clear and well thought out. You made a great point! I agree, and think that we probably don't know as much about the family during their final months as we think. Lord only knows what 7 people go through together in that situation.

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #18 on: September 27, 2004, 03:22:52 PM »
I agree with Janet. I might add, however, that IF their lives had proceeded on a "normal" course [for Romanov Imperials] they would not likely have had much of a chance to make many decisions for themselves or chosen their own paths.
At least no more than any children of a reigning family.
What we might call "career opprotunities" might have been confined to "hobbies or past-times" for them.
Robert
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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #19 on: September 27, 2004, 03:34:53 PM »
Personally I think Sarai and Janet_W should write a book. I will read it!

I hope I didn't sound as if I wanted to destroy Alexandra's reputation as a mother, because that wasn't my intention. As Antonio pointed out, in addition to being royal, Alexandra was also an invalid (I am NOT one of those people who ascribes her illnesses to symptoms of "hysteria"). I do, however, think she and Nicholas did not pay nearly enough attention to their daughters' education as they should have done -- quite possibly because they had too much to worry about already.  Their governess in Tobolsk commented that the girls were not nearly as well educated as one would expect the daughters of an emperor to be; Gilliard also mentions that the imperial milieu was not conducive to the flowering of Olga's considerable intellectual potential.

I've always thought it strange that Nicholas II did not follow his imperial forebears' example in choosing some of his children's tutors from the ranks of Russia's great writers and thinkers -- especially when you consider that his reign was the Silver Age of the Russian Arts.  Instead they chose these very obscure people like Gibbes and Gilliard. No doubt it reflects Nicholas and Alexandra's suspicious attitude towards their "intelligentsia" (although many Russian intellectuals were conservative, so that excuse doesn't quite wash, either).

Maria Mouchanow records that after the revolution, Alexandra lost her obsessive interest in Alexei and became much closer to her daughters, whom she felt she had neglected somewhat in the past.  But does anyone here know how reputable a source Mouchanow is? I've noticed only Carolly Erickson ever used her as a source, in her biography of Alexandra.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Janet_W.

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #20 on: September 27, 2004, 03:36:16 PM »
Thank you for your kind words, Abby.  :D

And yes, Robert, I agree with you   ;) . . . the children, as adults, would have needed to subjugate their own interests to the schedules and demands of their royal duties. But I am inclined to think that Olga would have carved out a "niche" for herself as a published author, much as did Carmen Sylva and Marie of Romania. And I'm sure that practical and efficient Tatiana would have been a natural as an organizer of charities and so forth. All of this would have happened only in addition to pregnancies and public appearances, of course!

Offline Janet_W.

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #21 on: September 27, 2004, 03:46:09 PM »
Elisabeth, what a nice compliment. My day is definitely made!  :D

Sadly, it seems that the Maria Mouchanow book was more a work of fiction than fact, and "Maria Mouchanow" a fictiitious name. I have enjoyed Carolly Erickson's books, but I think many people here--including the Forum Administrators, if I recall correctly from previous posts--will agree that Ms. Erickson made a mistake in relying so heavily on the Mouchanow book.

If the Forum Administrators or any other posters disagree with what I've just said, I am ready to stand corrected!

Offline Janet_W.

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #22 on: September 27, 2004, 10:04:23 PM »
Belated thanks, AnastasiaFan!  

I confess to becoming focused on the Paul Voronov thread this afternoon, and only found your nice comment just before closing time. Now I'm finally back online . . . but at the library because my own computer isn't the most reliable p.c. these days!

Anyway, thanks again for your kind words. And I do recommend the memoirs of Paul Voronov's wife .  . . in addition to her own story, you'll find some interesting bits of info re: OTMA as well, including comments about their shyness and relative isolation. (How's that for getting back on topic?!)




Offline pushkina

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #23 on: September 27, 2004, 11:29:56 PM »
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I do, however, think she and Nicholas did not pay nearly enough attention to their daughters' education as they should have done -- quite possibly because they had too much to worry about already.  Their governess in Tobolsk commented that the girls were not nearly as well educated as one would expect the daughters of an emperor to be; Gilliard also mentions that the imperial milieu was not conducive to the flowering of Olga's considerable intellectual potential.

I've always thought it strange that Nicholas II did not follow his imperial forebears' example in choosing some of his children's tutors from the ranks of Russia's great writers and thinkers -- especially when you consider that his reign was the Silver Age of the Russian Arts.  Instead they chose these very obscure people like Gibbes and Gilliard. No doubt it reflects Nicholas and Alexandra's suspicious attitude towards their "intelligentsia" (although many Russian intellectuals were conservative, so that excuse doesn't quite wash, either).
 


considering the education levels of N & A, it doesn't surprise me that the children weren't well educated.  remember that also in the british family, sophisticated levels of education weren't a thing there either.  for males, education was to be part of a military service, to ride, to hunt, shoot, the social pleasures.  for females, to do good needlework, to be useful to one's charities, to ride and dance gracefully, to manage a household.  general victorian upper middle/upper classes aspired to the same sorts of things. (sorry i'm so jumbled: i'm sick in bed with fever!)
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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #24 on: September 28, 2004, 06:52:15 AM »
I hope you get better soon, Pushkina!

Regarding the children's education -- even Nicholas II had teachers like the former Minister of Finance, Nicholas Bunge, and the Procurator of the Holy Synod, Pobedonostsev.  The latter might have had reactionary views we find repellent, but nobody could argue that his was not, objectively speaking, a formidable intellect.

Alexander I had LaHarpe, Alexander II had the poet Zhukovsky. The last tsarevich, Alexei Nikolaevich, had Gibbes and Gilliard. Very odd.
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Offline Sarai

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #25 on: September 28, 2004, 07:53:11 AM »
Quote
Personally I think Sarai and Janet_W should write a book. I will read it!


Elisabeth,
Thank you very much for your kind words! They are truly appreciated. :) You have made some very excellent points yourself.

I am glad we have discussed the passing of notes between mother and daughters in this thread. It is something that I have thought to be odd and somewhat impersonal, having to pass notes and letters to your children who are living right upstairs. However, I am more enlightened by the explanations given here as to the reasons why she did this, especially those due to health reasons. I can certainly understand that if the mother is ill and can't see her children, then at least passing notes to them is a considerate way of keeping in touch. It shows that she still wanted to communicate with the children even if she couldn't see them personally.

I don't know how often this was done, though, although I seem to recall reading somewhere that it was done on a nearly daily basis. If this was done even when Alexandra was feeling alright, then it would still appear rather strange to me, but, like AnastasiaFan pointed out, it seems to just have been a custom of the time among royal mothers.

rskkiya

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #26 on: September 28, 2004, 08:41:02 AM »
Heres an idea...
Perhaps Alix used notes to instruct or correct her children so as to not embarrass them publicly...Life in any palace would have been - I imagine- a bit like life in a glass box, even amongst the family I should guess there would have been servants, various guards, pages, footmen, & ladies in waiting all about, so a simple note from downstairs stating "Olga please dont sulk and do try to stop slurping your soup.  Mama *" or Maria, sit up straight and  please work on your french pronunciation... G. mentioned that this is a problem. Mama.*" may well have been kinder than we could realize.
Then again what do I know about this sort of thing... :)LOL

R.

*- Not actual notes - simply my creations! R

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #27 on: September 28, 2004, 09:49:51 AM »
I'd like to agree with that argument. The problem is, that many of Alexandra's notes to her children were about such intensely private and emotional things, the kinds of things children are usually too afraid to speak about in a voice above a whisper, much less to confide to a piece of paper!

I'd like to go back to a point Angie raised at the beginning of this discussion, i.e., that Alexandra raised her children in much the same way she was raised, that is, in the English fashion. We tend to forget how most upperclass children fared in England.  They were raised primarily by their nanny and a flock of nursemaids.  In other words, most of the actual child rearing was left to servants. Children of the aristocracy and even the middle class were fortunate if they saw their parents once a day. This was during the so-called "Children’s Hour," when traditionally the entire family gathered for tea. (A tradition upheld by Nicholas and Alexandra.)

As children got older, girls usually were kept at home, under the supervision of a governess. Sometimes one daughter, often the youngest, was expected to stay unmarried and care for her parents in their old age. Meanwhile boys were sent off to public school by the age of eight or nine, and only saw their families on holidays. (Foreigners even as early as the sixteenth century viewed this practice as evidence that the English "hated" their own children!)  

Examples of famous "neglected" children abound.  (By which standards, Nicholas and Alexandra were above-average parents!)  Winston Churchill’s parents virtually ignored him until he became a teenager, and showed promise of becoming as talented as his famous father. (He was fortunate that he had a nanny who loved him, and with whom he could form an enduring bond.) But his experience could hardly be called unique.

A historian of childhood, Lloyd de Mause, calls the world of Victorian childhood "terrifying."  Servants could and did take out their problems and frustrations on the little children under their care.  Older children often tormented their tutors and governesses, knowing that, as mere "servants" in the household, these teachers would probably never dare to punish them. In the case of royal children, the position of tutor or governess assumed a much greater importance.  The teacher played a crucial role in forming the intellect and views of future monarchs. (We would expect that a future autocrat would receive an education at least equal to, preferrably superior to, that received by a future constitutional monarch!)  But the tutor or governess also helped to shape the child’s behavior, as the only regular source of discipline and example for the child, in the absence of the parents.  If OTMA "behaved like savages," it was no doubt because, after Mme. Tiutcheva left, they had no governess to keep an eye on them.      
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »
... I love my poor earth
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Offline pushkina

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #28 on: September 28, 2004, 08:07:39 PM »
we're not royal and living in a fishbowl of a palace and yet my husband sends me daily emails (today's equivilent of a note) to remind me of things, to bust my chops, to encourage, to say stuff he would hesitate to speak.  

it drives me crazy BUT he says that things make more of an impact if they are read rather than heard.

maybe alix knew how to make an impact on her girls.  and if they had lived, the lessons, in deportment (well OK maybe not if they really did behave like savages) but surely in matters of the heart and soul would certainly have had to make a strong point to remind and shape daughters of the tsar and the empire.  public life was/is lonely and treacherous.  a note in the pocket would have been/is a tangible (and treasured) reminder.
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rskkiya

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Re: The Imperial children "sad,sheltered" life?
« Reply #29 on: September 29, 2004, 04:07:09 PM »
Pushkina

Sorry ..."Bust your chops?"

Your husband wants you to smash up meat?

I'm so lost...
R