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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something old, something new, no real surprises but nice.
This book tells the story of the mass exodus of some of the Romanov family, members of the Russian court and their retainers, in 1919 from the Crimea. At the insistence of the Queen Alexandra the HMS Marlborough and a flotilla of British ships were sent to evacuate her sister, the Empress Marie, aka Dagmar. The Marlborough sailed from Yalta to Prince's Island outside of...
Published on January 28, 2011 by Russian Bride

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dames (and Dukes) at Sea
This is a great read but could do better, as my school reports used to say.

I began at the beginning, with the Dramatis Personae. Top of the bill is the mother of the Tsar, the Dowager Empress. Then we have the Tsar's sister and her children - two sons and a daughter, who are therefore the Tsar's nephews and niece. But the Dramatis Personae insists they are the...
Published on August 25, 2011 by P. Bentley


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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something old, something new, no real surprises but nice., January 28, 2011
By 
Russian Bride (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
This book tells the story of the mass exodus of some of the Romanov family, members of the Russian court and their retainers, in 1919 from the Crimea. At the insistence of the Queen Alexandra the HMS Marlborough and a flotilla of British ships were sent to evacuate her sister, the Empress Marie, aka Dagmar. The Marlborough sailed from Yalta to Prince's Island outside of Constantinople, then to Malta.

The story of the Marlborough is one of the few Romanov stories which has a happy ending. If you are a hard core Romanovophile you will know the story and doubtless own Pridham's Close of a Dynasty on which this book relies heavily. So is it worth buying and reading? An emphatic yes. Not only are Pridham and Ingham long out of print but Welch has updated the story using more recently published texts, including Prince Roman's autobiography, Preben Ulstrup's fabulous book, and the Flight of the Romanovs. She adds to our knowledge of divisions within the greater Romanov family and provides insight into domestic life.

More than that, Welch is a good and conscientious writer (if a bit journalistic) who has undertaken her own research. She has consulted newspapers, unpublished memoirs and diaries, other archival material and she has conducted a number of interviews. Unfortunately her research draws attention to one of the major weaknesses of the book. As per her 2 earlier forays into the Romanov family there is not a reference or a footnote in sight. And bless her she doesn't feel the need to address this lack. There is also no index.

If you're hard core you'll probably be able to identify most of the sources but I have to say several had me stymied. Where for example do we find the underground newspaper produced at Ai Todor, the Merry Arnold? What is the source for Miss Henton's (the nanny) newspaper interview about house arrest at Ai Todor? Has Welch misquoted Radzinsky's translation Irina's letter to Felix Yussopov junior or is she using another source for that letter?

There are several points presented as fact which I think are open to dispute. And surely there is another adjective apart from `jolly' that could have been used in the 6 references to Princess Marina's appearance.

Welch has had Marie's diaries translated from the Danish which is a real bonus. She has translated sections of Prince Roman's autobiography from the German. However she doesn't translate some passages from the French into English, for example, Nikolosha's dinner speech. Presumably if you're properly educated you can read it in the original. A little pretentious in this day and age: un peu, peut-être?

According to Welch the book is dependent on its photographs. Unfortunately they are a real disappointment. They are small, cheaply and poorly reproduced. They are also completely unsourced although several of them look like they have been taken straight out of Pridham.

As a final comment, if you are indeed hard core, get yourself a copy of Ulstrop's Empress Dagmar's Captivity in the Crimea. Diaries and Letters 1917-19. Sure it's in Danish, sure it's expensive, but you will get the BEST photos: the people, but especially the estates in the Crimea, that are available in any publication.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fortnight's Journey on HMS Marlborough, November 11, 2011
Frances Welch's chronicle offers an intimate glimpse of the Dowager Empress Marie's 1919 escape from post-revolutionary Russia. She and nineteen members of the Imperial family were rescued by a British warship, HMS Marlborough. The author's division of the royals into "Ai-Todors" and "Dulbers," the names of the Crimean estates where each group was imprisoned, is a clever way to help the reader keep track of the inter-familial rivalries and resentments. Although thrown into close proximity, the British officers were never aware of the tensions within the Imperial family, perhaps, in part because they did not know Russian.

The Romanovs coped without complaint with the duress of leaving their beloved Russia and roughing it on a warship. Crowding so many civilians into close quarters could easily have led to irritability, or even, near mutiny. Instead, the British fell into a mass infatuation with their royal passengers. For Russian Easter the crew painted boiled eggs for the Russian refugees' breakfast. The children's eggs were painted with a view of the ship, their initials in Russian characters and "XB" symbolizing, "Christ is Risen". That day First Lieutenant Francis Pridham wrote in his journal, "It is extraordinary how they appreciate a little thing like that-the reason why we are all in love with them from the Empress down to the one-year-old baby."

The Russian servants created a very different impression. Pridham wrote, "The chief difficulty is the Russian servants who are worse than useless, even when told to stand by their luggage for a few minutes they got tired of it and wandered away." The royals, by contrast, were indulgent to their servants; some even gave up their bunks to a servant.

The Dowager Empress did not yet believe the fate of her son, the murdered czar, and her grandchildren, also murdered, but she was deeply distressed by no word from any of them. This distress never preempted her charming relations with the officers and crew. For this brief sojourn, the British and Russians seemed in perfect sympathy, especially about "... the accusation of criminal folly against France for not holding the Crimea" and their lack of participation in the rescue of Russians.

The parting at Malta on April 22, 1919 was a reluctant separation on both sides. The sea escape saved their lives and they all expressed deep appreciation to the crew of the HMS Marlborough. The royals lost their fond British protectors as they faced an uncertain future and unaccustomed circumstances. Several stayed in contact for some years after being thrown together. The Dowager Empress became godmother to Pridham's daughter, a duty then taken up by Grand Duchess Xenia through the 1950's.

It's an engaging read, almost telegraphic, as provocative anecdotes tumble one after another almost like twitter notes. Flashbacks briefly interrupt the Marlborough days to satisfy the curiosity of readers about the background and later lives of the various passengers.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dames (and Dukes) at Sea, August 25, 2011
By 
P. Bentley (New Malden, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a great read but could do better, as my school reports used to say.

I began at the beginning, with the Dramatis Personae. Top of the bill is the mother of the Tsar, the Dowager Empress. Then we have the Tsar's sister and her children - two sons and a daughter, who are therefore the Tsar's nephews and niece. But the Dramatis Personae insists they are the Tsar's grandchildren! No, they're the Dowager's grandchildren.

Six pages in we read about the Dowager's five grandsons. Five? Back to the Dramatis Personae. Just two grandsons there. Help! Which arrives on page 49, in the form of a photo of, yes, five grandsons. So three of them were spear-carriers who didn't make it to the Dramatis Personae, poor darlings. But then it's a big cast. Talking of which, the Dramatis Personae is useful but even more useful would be a family tree for the two branches of the Romanovs, the Ai-Todors and the Dulbers - I kept getting lost without one. Before embarking on a second reading (geddit?) I made one for myself and found it much easier to keep tabs on who was who.

Ai-Todor and Dulber we quickly learn are the names of relevant Romanov palaces; and it would have been good to have had photos of them - Dulber in particular is a wonderfully OTT Moroccan pleasure dome. There are photos on the internet but in this book all we get is a scrappy snap of another palace, Koreiz. And could we not have a little map of how they and Yalta, the principal port, sit on the Crimean coast? And Sevastopol while we're at it, as that features also.

The author lives at Aldeburgh, on the coast of my sea-girt island home, with boats galore bobbing about the briny, so why on earth aren't we told more about the boat at the centre of the tale, HMS Marlborough? All we get is "a distingushed (sic) Iron Duke battleship, still bearing the scars of a torpedo hit at Jutland in 1916", and then, at the very end of the book, a small photo of the vessel wrapped in Piranesian gloom. Come now, Frances: chaps read your salty tale and we want to know that she was launched in 1912, 25000 tons, length 622 ft, beam 90 ft, speed 21 knots, crew 925, ten 13 inch guns in five twin turrets.... You get the idea. Or could we settle for a plan of the ship, complete with cabins?

And while I'm being picky (moi?), the Dowager Empress may have mistaken the Bosphorus for the Dardanelles (p.123) but our bending author shouldn't.

Nunquam mens, this is a gripping yarn - there are very few books I read twice in quick succession. Roll on the second edition.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad book!, March 8, 2011
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Frances Welch has put together quite a good book on a rather interesting part of Romanov history, the rescue of Maria Feodorovna and the Romanovs living in the Crimea. It most certainly tells you how dire their situation was and how fortunate they were in being able to escape courtesy of HMS Marlborough. My only criticism is a lack of endnotes and an index. Surely these are not too hard to achieve?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice, but very light history, November 12, 2012
This review is from: Russian Court at Sea (Paperback)
Unfortunately, this book was not as good as I expected it to be. First and foremost, I found Frances Welch's writing style very confusing. She makes lots of references to all sorts of people and events without fully explaining them, sometimes you can figure them out and sometimes you just have to move on with the text. Second, she sites French sources three times without translating the quotes. While she may be fluent in French, I would assume most of her readers are not and it is such a pity that we cannot appreciate these few passages which seem to be significant, but are unfortunately incomprehensible to most of us. Third, it would have been nice to have a complete passenger list, explaining in greater detail who each of the characters were and their relationship to the Tsar. Her dramatis personae are incomplete. Fourth, as history books go, this is not too deep. It is a sweet story, and there is a bit of background information on just how our characters got to be on the HMS Marlborough for those who are unfamiliar with the story of the Bolshevik Revolution, but there does not seem to be great depth to the research. I found her discussion of the Russian refugees particularly confusing. She doesn't really explain who they were or why they were so scared. I guess we are supposed to deduce that most of them were members of the aristocricy, but everything is so unclear. Perhaps giving some names and background information would have helped. And she mentions many foreigners, as well. Who were they? A little more background on the revolution and its effects on the Crimea would have been helpful. She also mentions problems with the French which could have been discussed more at length. Also, I would have liked to know, for example, more about the fight over succession to the throne. She mentions some dispute but we don't get much further details. In general, I would have liked to know more about the lives of these people in exile.

All in all, I would have liked to give this book three stars, but I have given it four because the topic, the rescue of many of the remaining members of the Imperial family, is really fascinating. Their story, and how the crew of the Marlborough grew to really like them, is touching and sweet. It is worth a read just for this, but the reader should be aware of the limitations mentioned above.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor quality book, April 19, 2012
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This review is from: Russian Court at Sea (Paperback)
This book was a paperback edition but it was quite small and the print was so close to the binding that it was difficult to read even after cracking the binding which I do not like to do.

I am accustomed to a better quality paperback edition of a book but I don't know how that could be described in the description of the book.

The book itself was very interesting in telling about the voyage of members of the Romanov family who escaped from the Crimea, particularly how the Dowager Empress Marie interacted with the family and with the crew on the ship.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Russian Court At Sea on the HMS Marleborough, November 24, 2014
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Excellent Book with much more in it than I have ever seen. the rescues and the facts are all great. A Lot of information about the diferent things that were saved ie The Grand Duchess Xenia asking what the boxes with shiny things spilling out at the dock and Captain Fothergil answering that that was all of her silver spilling out and the captain informing her that they were able to save the servants silver only. They carried mountains of luggage with their posessions, the Royal family nd the Youssoupovs Rembrants and part of Prince Felixs' Jewels.Most of this book seems to be quotes from Officer Pridhams memoirs. but with much more background information from Ms Francis Welch I Thouroghly enjoyed this work of hers I've got several of her books now and have enjoyed all of them. Reading History, Especially those that occured nearly exactly 100 years. Such a Wealth of information that was sealed to one and all for the last 100 years. 5 Stars for this one
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great piece of litle known history, December 2, 2011
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Being a fan of Imperial Russian History for more than 40 years, I was quite happy to see that there was a book covering the post revolution flight of the Romanov's. It is definately a companion piece to the book of the same name by Perry & Pleshakov "Flight Of The Romanovs". Plenty of detailed information of the in-fighting between the various divisions of the family and where they all wound up. Also, great account of all the "LOOT" that was taken out of the country and the volume of riches the family not only had, but left behind. Much detailed info. regarding the Yusupov family who were on the same ship and suffered the same fate as the Romanov's.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Badly produced, September 12, 2014
This review is from: Russian Court at Sea (Paperback)
This small paperback is not cheap but, feels like it is-poor quality paper and print, shoddily reproduced photographs, no references or footnotes, not even an index. It badly needed a family tree in order to keep track of the extended families. The author supposes a previous knowledge of several of the minor players and more infuriatingly a knowledge of French, which she quotes extensively, with no translation, an old fashioned intellectual snobbery.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good, May 8, 2014
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The book is very good. The only comment I’ll make is about the incorrect year of birth of the younger daughter of the tsar which the author states is 1900 when in fact Grand Duchess Anastasia was born in 1901. The rest is a very agreeable, very interesting reading about the voyage of the ship which conducted the Romanovs and their retinue to the exile.
Maria Beatriz Bartoly
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Russian Court at Sea
Russian Court at Sea by Frances Welch (Paperback - August 1, 2011)
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