The Court of the Last Tsar: Pomp, Power and Pageantry in the Reign of Nicholas II
It was the most magnificent court in Europe—a world of fairy-tale opulence, ornate architecture, sophisticated fashion, extravagant luxury, and immense power. In the last Russian imperial court, a potent underlying mythology drove its participants to enact the pageantry of medieval, Orthodox Russia—infused with the sensibilities of Versailles—against a backdrop of fading Edwardian splendor, providing a spectacle of archaic ceremonies carefully orchestrated as a lavish stage upon which Nicholas II played out his tumultuous reign.
While a massive body of literature has been devoted to the last of the Romanovs, The Court of the Last Tsar is the first book to examine the people, mysteries, traditions, scandals, rivalries, rituals, and riches that were part of everyday life in the last two decades of the Romanov dynasty.
It is as difficult for the twenty-first-century mind to imagine the pomp and splendor that accompanied the tsar and his family everywhere they went as it was for the simple Russian peasant toiling a thousand miles from St. Petersburg. This stunningly illustrated volume removes the mystery with more than a hundred black-and-white photos; floor plans of the tsar’s Winter Palace, the Alexander Palace, and the Grand Kremlin Palace; a map of St. Petersburg; and plans of the imperial parks at Tsarskoye Selo and Peterhof.
This eye-popping tour of hedonistic imperial Russia on the edge of oblivion draws on hundreds of previously unpublished primary sources, including memoirs, personal letters, diary entries, and official documents collected during author Greg King’s fifteen years of research in Russia and elsewhere in Europe. It invites you to experience dozens of extravagant ceremonies and entertainments attended only by members of the court; exposes the numerous sexual intrigues of the imperial family, including rape, incest, and brazen affairs; and introduces many of the more than fifteen thousand individuals who made the imperial court a society unto itself.
Chief among these, of course, was Tsar Nicholas II. He ruled an empire that stretched over one-sixth of the earth’s land surface but lacked, according to one courtier, both his father’s inspiring presence and his mother’s vibrant charm. His wife, Alexandra, was a strong and passionate woman who “never developed the social skills necessary to her rank.” Their wedding and the tsar’s coronation are two of the most spectacular ceremonies described in this lavish volume.
Vetted with care by the last remaining members of the Russian imperial court, The Court of the Last Tsar brings the people, places, and events of this doomed but unforgettable wonderland to vivid and sparkling life.