Elizabeth, Grand Duchess of Russia

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Had Elizabeth, the exquisite granddaughter of Queen Victoria, not married the Grand Duke Serge of Russia, she would not have found herself, first, at the heart of the opulent court in St. Petersburg and, after the brutal assassination of her husband, in the embrace of the Russian Orthodox Church and a convent dedicated to Christian charity. Nor would she have battled the mesmeric Rasputin for her sister Alexandra's soul or suffered the bloody consequences of a Revolution that would lead to her martyrdom and, ...

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Overview

Had Elizabeth, the exquisite granddaughter of Queen Victoria, not married the Grand Duke Serge of Russia, she would not have found herself, first, at the heart of the opulent court in St. Petersburg and, after the brutal assassination of her husband, in the embrace of the Russian Orthodox Church and a convent dedicated to Christian charity. Nor would she have battled the mesmeric Rasputin for her sister Alexandra's soul or suffered the bloody consequences of a Revolution that would lead to her martyrdom and, ultimately, sainthood. The dramatic details of Elizabeth's story make this elegant volume a fascinating, compelling biography. "Mager's elegantly written biography restores [Elizabeth] to her rightful place in history, a remarkable woman overshadowed by her more famous sister, Alexandra." - Publishers Weekly "A remarkable story . . . [a] fluent and moving biography of an extraordinary woman" - Houston Chronicle "In this spirited biography, Mager reconstructs the far-from-trivial life of this woman who possessed a lovely character to match her lovely face." - Booklist "An authoritative, well-researched biography of a fascinating woman" - Library Booknotes

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
Mager, credited only as a student of Russian history, writes an academically soft account of Elizabeth, sister and contemporary of Czarina Alexandra. As both were English/German princesses married to Russian royalty, both experienced cultural distance in their adopted countries and eventually met identical deaths just a few miles apart at the hands of Bolshevik authorities. Their marriages were vastly different, however. In 1905, Grand Duke Serge, Elizabeth's husband, met a tragic end at the hands of revolutionaries because of his cold heart and dishonest dealings. That left Elizabeth clinging to religious icons and becoming a patron saint of the sick and poor. Mager uses Elizabeth to give an account of Alexandra's relationship with Rasputin. Essentially, it coincides with Greg King's The Man Who Killed Rasputin (Birch Lane, 1996) but omits many of the details given in King's book and makes Rasputin the main cause of the fall of Nicholas II, in opposition to much current thinking on the Russian Revolution. Light reading for more casual readers, this book is long on descriptions and short on citations but still recommended for public libraries.--Harry V. Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. Sys., Iola
Kirkus Reviews
A biography that captures Elizabeth's endearing personality but dwells on her too speculatively. Fans of royal biographies will welcome Mager's dramatic tale of the tragic life of Elizabeth (a.k.a. Ella), granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Hessian princess, elder sister of Empress Alexandra of Russia, and in her own right a Russian grand duchess. He considers the wide-reaching web of royal connections throughout Europe at the turn of the century. Mager begins his tale with the story of Elizabeth's mother, Alice, whose religious spirit, strength of character, and commitment to others, he argues, Elizabeth inherited. We see how, surrounded by death, war, and personal loss since childhood (her mother and several siblings perished), Elizabeth grew into the woman who remained devoted to her husband despite a hollow marriage and, after his assassination, dedicated her life to Russian Orthodoxy; she became a nun. Finally arrested by the Bolsheviks, Elizabeth was thrown into a mineshaft to a gruesome death and later canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church. To add to the drama, Mager pays close attention to relations between Elizabeth and the Russian empress, dramatically presenting the former's role as a go-between in Alexandra and Nicholas II's courtship; less successfully, Elizabeth tried to distance her sister from the devious faith-healer and political meddler Rasputin. Mager gets into trouble, though, when the biography veers too far into the "what if" school. Annoyingly, he argues that had Elizabeth married her cousin Willy, the future kaiser of Germany, WWI might have been averted, and that if she had not urged on the marriage of Alexandra and Nicholas (Mager claims she wanted a relativewith her in Russia), the Russian Revolution might not have occurred. Interesting story, but the amateur historian's interpretations too often don't match the evidence. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786706785
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 9/14/1999
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 1.22 (d)

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