Praise for From Splendor to Revolution
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. Starred Review – Publisher’s Weekly
Freelance historian Gelardi (In Triumph’s Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters, and the Price They Paid for Glory) tells the story of the downfall of the Romanov empire, from Alexander III to Nicholas II, through the distinctive perspectives of four of its powerful if lesser-known women: Danish-born Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia, mother of the last reigning Romanov, Nicholas II; and her in-laws, Queen Olga of Greece, Duchess Marie Alexandrovna, of both Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg, and Duchess Marie Pavlovna of Russia. Gelardi does an exceptional job of relating the last years of the Romanovs via the formerly underutilized perspectives of the women behind the men. VERDICT While Orlando Figes’s Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia used Tolstoy’s War and Peace as its framework, telling some of the same story, Gelardi offers a more richly detailed account, sure to captivate those with a deep interest in Russian and interrelated European history. Highly recommended. Library Journal
Independent historian Gelardi has done her homework, drawing on an impressive array of primary and secondary sources to deliver a joint biography of four women who were part of Russia’s imperial dynasty in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Two of the women, Queen Olga of Greece and Marie Alexandrovna, Duchess of Edinburgh, were born Romanovs, and two, Empress Marie Feodorovna and Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna, married Romanovs. Against the backdrop of a tumultuous period in Russian history, this is really a book about an extended family, with a family’s sorrows, joys, squabbles, and scandals, albeit on a very grand scale. Even with the helpful genealogical charts, it’s easy to get lost in a thicket of names, and the prose style is often as bland as a press release (As patroness of the Russian Red Cross, Marie Feodorovna oversaw the philanthropic organization’s numerous important projects, assuring that they ran well or came to fruition). Still, this is an absorbing account that will appeal to Russian history buffs and to those who enjoy reading about royals. Booklist
This sweeping saga recreates the extraordinary opulence and violence of Tsarist Russia as the shadow of revolution fell over the land, and destroyed a way of life for these Imperial women.
The early 1850s until the late 1920s marked a turbulent and significant era for Russia. During that time the country underwent a massive transformation, taking it from days of grandeur under the tsars to the chaos of revolution and the beginnings of the Soviet Union.
At the center of all this tumult were four women of the Romanov dynasty. Marie Alexandrovna and Olga Constantinovna were born into the family, Russian Grand Duchesses at birth. Marie Feodorovna and Marie Pavlovna married into the dynasty, the former born a Princess of Denmark, the latter a Duchess of the German duchy of Mecklendburg-Schwerin.
In From Splendor to Revolution, we watch these pampered aristocratic women fight for their lives as the cataclysm of war engulfs them. In a matter of a few short years, they fell from the pinnacle of wealth and power to the depths of danger, poverty, and exile. It is an unforgettable epic story.