Elizabeth, Grand Duchess of Russia

Hugo Mager, Author Carroll & Graf Publishers $27.5 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7867-0509-2
Maternal granddaughter of Britain's Queen Victoria, Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia was killed in 1918 by Bolsheviks, thrown down a Urals mine shaft just one day after the slaughter of the imperial family. British historian Mager's elegantly written biography restores her to her rightful place in history, a remarkable woman overshadowed by her more famous sister, Alexandra. Elizabeth led a life of high drama. Rejecting the overtures of her conceited cousin, Prince William of Prussia (the future Wilhelm II of Germany), she married another cousin--haughty, taciturn Serge, grand duke of Russia. Her belated discovery of his homosexuality and her eventual repulsion at his bigotry (he expelled all of Moscow's Jews in 1891) made her marriage a hollow formality. After witnessing Serge's assassination by a bomb thrower in 1905, Elizabeth, a convert to Russian Orthodoxy and a vegetarian, immersed herself in religion; she founded an order of nuns, built hospitals and an orphanage, tended to the poor and sick. She accepted the union of her sister, Alexandra, to the future Nicholas II, but she vehemently opposed Alexandra's involvement with self-proclaimed holy man Grigory Rasputin, and she approved of his assassination. Though scanty on interpretive analysis, Mager's biography penetrates the core of an emotionally rigid woman who bore tragedy with dignity and who lived by her conscience. Photos not seen by PW. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
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