While providing insight into famously doomed Empress Alexandra Romanov, Gelardi (Born to Rule) focuses on four lesser known but indomitable women who achieved glory at the height of czarist Russia’s global power only to witness its fall to revolution. Danish-born Empress Marie Feodorovna (Nicholas II’s mother) and three of her sisters-in-law: Greek Queen Olga, Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, and Duchess Marie Alexandrovna, developed from four extravagantly indulged girls into dominant matriarchs who still could not prevent the decline of royalty and centuries-old traditions. Relating the drama and tragedy of royal life, Gelardi ably weaves in the extended family ties that connected most European rulers, including Queen Victoria, while also including helpful genealogy charts. Gelardi’s narrative framework of the four Romanov women’s long lives works well to explain not only the realities of the European courts and alliances but also the unique aspects of the Russian dynasty, which suffered repeated assassination attempts even during the age of splendor, resulting in young Nicholas II’s observation of his grandfather’s murder, possibly hastening Russia’s slide to revolution. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/13/2010 Release date: 02/01/2011 Genre: Nonfiction
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