The Romanov Trilogy brings three of Evelyn Anthony’s most successful works together in one collection following the dramatic life of Catherine the Great.
Rebel Princess: Augusta Fredericka’s fantasy of reigning as Catherine the Great comes true after marrying Grand Duke Peter Romanov. But the repulsive—and sexually and emotionally impotent—heir to the Russian throne is not the man she expects. A succession of lovers may fulfill her, but they’ve also left her vulnerable to her seditious husband’s plot to have her arrested for treason.
Curse Not the King: Since her husband’s assassination, Catherine has ruled for a decade. But her son—the rightful heir to the throne—has never forgiven her seizure of power, or forgotten his father’s murder. Little does he know the sacrifices she’s made—as mother and empress—to safeguard his liberty and life. Now, all Catherine can do is pray that her son’s blind rage won’t destroy them both.
Far Flies the Eagle: Following victory in Europe, Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte is ready for his next conquest: Russia. What has he to fear from such a young czar? But Alexander, the grandson of Catherine the Great, should not be underestimated. A powerful adversary, he’s already murdered his own father to ascend to the throne. Vanquishing the French emperor will be a pleasure.
Sweeping from Paris to the Kremlin to the battlefield, Anthony’s historically authentic trilogy offers a fascinating glimpse into the Romanov family and of the grand ambitions of one woman. “Miss Anthony knows how to highlight the . . . drama and intrigue that gradually change a trembling girl into a woman of brilliance and power” (The New York Times).
About the Author
Evelyn Anthony is the pen name of Evelyn Ward-Thomas, a female British author who began writing in 1949. She gained considerable success with her historical novels—two of which were selected for the American Literary Guild—before winning huge acclaim for her espionage thrillers. Her book, The Occupying Power, won the Yorkshire Post Fiction Prize, and her 1971 novel, The Tamarind Seed, was made into a film starring Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif. Anthony’s books have been translated into nineteen languages.
Read an Excerpt
The peace of a snow-driven December night in the year 1743 was shattered by a horseman galloping along the road from Berlin, his mount slipping dangerously on the icy surface, the rider urging him on relentlessly, for he rode to the orders of one who would brook no excuse for delay.
He paused only once during that night to rein in at a wayside inn and swallow a cup of wine, not even waiting to dismount.
"Is this the road to Zerbst?" he asked.
"It is, Sir, about three miles distant, and a Merry Christmas to you," answered the innkeeper, but his traditional salutation fell upon the empty air, for the horseman had already dug spurs into his beast.
The small German city lay grouped about the central pile of the castle, its towers half hidden by the veil of thickly falling snow.
By a window in the castle tower a young girl, muffled to the tips of her ears in a counterpane, knelt on her bed, looking out into the night. Princess Augusta Fredericka should have been asleep, but she was far too restless to lie there in the darkness without even the cheerful comfort of a candle. So it happened that the first person to see the horseman clatter into the castle courtyard was she whose destiny he carried with him in the despatch case strapped to his body.
The Prince of Zerbst was at table in the banqueting hall when a lackey announced that a messenger begged admittance. He was a big jovial man, fond of women and of wine, and the occasion was one of double celebration for him, for he had just succeeded to the Principality of Zerbst. As a gesture he had invited his poorer relatives to spend Christmas with him.
A long table piled high with dishes stood in the center of the huge room, whose walls were hung with faded tapestries that moved gently in the draught. The faces of the guests were illumined by the light of many candles, faces flushed with wine and the rich food they had eaten.
At their head sat the Prince, laughing with great good humor and surveying the scene with comfortable satisfaction. In the soft candle-light the cups and platters shone like silver and the uniforms of his lackeys gleamed with tarnished braid; it was difficult to notice the threadbare shabbiness of the family seat of Anhalt Zerbst.
The feast had been in progress several hours, and, in accordance with the customs of the age, most of the diners were drunk, their powdered wigs askew, while some lay sprawled asleep across the table, undisturbed by the talk and shouts of laughter that grew in volume as the wine flowed.
The floor at their feet was littered with bones, and winespillings dripped unheeded from the board, while the stolid German servants stood like statues behind their master's guests, refilling empty cups.
It was one of these who approached the Prince and murmured something so that he turned to his younger brother Christian and roared jokingly:
"Come, Christian, lay down your inward Bible and fill that empty goblet! There's a messenger outside, perhaps he's from Heaven in answer to your prayers? What if the King has given you a province at last?"
It was a tactless remark to make, for the comparative poverty and obscurity of Christian and his family were too sore points for any of them to appreciate the joke. Christian raised his head and looked about him with angry, somber eyes. The extreme piety that afforded him comfort in his misfortunes had become a standard jest among his more pleasure-loving, feckless kin and a source of impatient irritation to his wife, whose freezing, contemptuous glance met his across the table, and caused him to wince involuntarily.
"My lady wife has enough to say upon the matter without your jesting," he muttered, half to himself, for the dark, quick-tongued Princess Johanna was of nobler blood than he, an advantage which she had never allowed him to forget, and was impelled by an ambition that her cautious, slow-moving husband had utterly failed to understand or gratify.
In the midst of the general din of conversation the Prince of Zerbst addressed the messenger, travel-stained and shivering, who bowed before him.
"Whom do you seek?" he inquired grandly. The answer was both unexpected and unwelcome.
"The Princess Johanna of Anhalt, may it please your Highness!" the courier replied.
The Prince frowned suddenly, all his boyish, blustering humor gone. "She sits over there," he directed sullenly.
Johanna of Anhalt was a small dark woman in the early thirties, her carriage was upright and her expression sourly disdainful. Married at seventeen to the uninspiring Christian, disappointment had blighted her vivacious looks and destroyed those scant virtues possessed by a nature at once shallow and conceited.
Now she regarded the messenger with an indifferent hauteur, belied by the red patches of excitement that burned on either cheek.
She was poor and unimportant; no messages ever came for her. ... But her hated relations must not see that the delivering of a letter had come to be an event in the monotony of her life.
"I am the Princess," she said sharply.
The man dropped to his knee before her, unfastening the leather satchel which was strapped to his waist. He handed her a scroll.
Johanna took it from him with hands that trembled, for she recognized the emblem on the messenger's case and, as she broke the heavy seal, saw the same cypher repeated on the head of the document. There was a sudden silence at the table, and the Prince of Zerbst put down his wineglass to stare at her while she read.
He too had seen the seal that dangled from its crimson ribbon — the dreaded double-headed eagle.
"What news, sister?" he demanded. "You look as if your letter contained something that we should be interested to hear."
Johanna lowered the parchment into her lap so that her brother-in-law's sharp eyes should not notice how the paper wavered in her shaking fingers, and despite her efforts at composure, her voice was uneven with excitement as she replied.
"It is a message from my kinswoman ... the Empress Elizabeth of Russia," she announced. "It is a most cordial message, most cordial. ..."
"Naturally," the Prince answered impatiently, "but do not keep me in suspense, my dear Johanna. What does the message say?"
Johanna looked at him, remembering how he had sneered so often at her pitiful boast of kinship with the great. He would find out what the Empress had said soon enough. Insolently she ignored her husband; already she had determined what stand must be taken against him if necessary.
"I am summoned to go to Russia," she announced boastfully, "and I am to take my daughter Augusta Fredericka with me. We are to leave without delay."
There was an immediate babble of comment, but neither the Prince nor his brother felt the need to question the meaning of the summons; for they knew that it was the usual procedure with the Imperial Court to decide upon a bride for one of their number, and then to send for the girl without any previous warning.
Johanna's brother-in-law ventured one more question:
"And is there anyone in particular who desires to see Augusta, besides the Empress?"
"She is most anxious to present my little daughter to her nephew, the Grand Duke Peter," replied Johanna venomously, for the Grand Duke Peter was none other than Elizabeth's heir.
In those few words she told them all that her daughter might well become the next Empress.
She herself had not quite realized the full import of her own words; excitement, vindictive satisfaction, and a sense of unreality vied for full possession of her feelings.
It was surely not possible that her daughter, the unremarkable Augusta Fredericka, should be called to such a destiny. But the parchment scroll still clasped in her hands proved it was true.
Johanna could not endure that smoking, shabby dining hall another moment.
"I must waken Augusta. I must tell her this news without delay. With your Highness's permission ..."
The Prince of Zerbst nodded his dismissal, while Johanna swept him a proud curtsy and hurried from the room. She had to relate her story into a sympathetic ear, or at least into a submissive one, and the person least likely to interrupt or question was the fourteen-year-old Augusta who was upstairs in bed.
Discussion with Christian would be difficult, for she knew well that the roots of strict Lutheranism went deep within him and that the ridiculous conscience of which he made such boast might not be blinded by the brilliance of his daughter's future. His hatred and distrust of all things foreign were the only strong emotions, beside his long-dead passion for herself, that Johanna had ever known to possess him.
As she mounted the stone stairs to Augusta's room, the Princess marveled at the choice of Russia's Empress. Of all the eligible royalties in Europe, why had she chosen the least important, a half-educated, precocious creature, who concealed her infuriating obstinacy beneath a manner at once brow-beaten and trusting?
Others, like her husband and that impudent French governess, might protest that her daughter exercised both charm and intelligence, but these qualities had never revealed themselves before Johanna.
Augusta Fredericka had long been a convenient butt of her ill-tempers and innate spite; it was no fault of Johanna's vigorous methods that the girl retained a spark of gaiety or spirit, and her mother's jealousy found vent in a half-recognized resentment that her child must share in the good fortune which had befallen them.
As she paused at the door of Augusta's room, her hand touched the miniature of Elizabeth of Russia which was pinned to her breast. The diamonds surrounding it were large, and the Empress's gift to her distant relative was the finest piece of jewellery that Johanna possessed. Soon there would be other jewels, other gifts....
She delivered a pat of satisfaction to the painted features of her benefactress, and lifted the latch of the heavy door.
"Wake up, Augusta! Wake up this instant!" The girl in the bed sat up obediently, drawing the covers around her for warmth, and regarded her mother's dim figure with misgiving.
Johanna seated herself upon the bed and, forgetting the dislike her daughter always inspired in her, related her story with a wealth of detail. Augusta was to go to Russia, there to meet the Empress Elizabeth and her nephew, heir to the throne. If she pleased them (and God help her if she failed), then she would be married to the boy. She would become a Grand Duchess, eventually an Empress....
Sitting there, shivering despite the covering of bedclothes, Augusta remembered the horseman whose arrival had relieved the long sleepless hours of Christmas Eve, and knew then that the messenger she had glimpsed from her window had carried this summons that was to change the course of her life.
Augusta woke at dawn the following morning, and still in her nightgown ran down the castle's icy passages to find her French governess, Mademoiselle Cardel. She was a kindly woman, though strict, and a strong bond of affection had grown between the young Princess and her instructress.
Augusta knew better than to attempt to question her mother, but Mademoiselle Cardel might perhaps know something about the Russian court, its Empress and, more important, the Grand Duke Peter.
She had heard rumors of the fabulous Northern Empire, and strange things had been whispered about the woman who ruled over it, but the stories were vague, intangible scraps of gossip, half forgotten until now. It was said, of course, that the Empress was very beautiful, and the lovely face on her mother's ornament would seem to bear that out. But Augusta, with an insight beyond her years, felt that those surrounding Elizabeth could hardly say otherwise.
There had been talk that she was even a little mad and given to the eccentric tyrannies that seemed to amuse every ruler who sat upon the throne of the Czars, but the girl's excited mind refuted the idea. She must find someone to whom she could talk about her future, someone who could satisfy her curiosity.
But the room occupied by her governess was empty, the bed unmade. Johanna had obviously wasted no time in rousing her entourage; it behove Augusta to go back and get dressed as quickly as she could. Passing down the corridor on the way to her own apartment, she noticed that the door of her parents' bedroom stood half open, and she peeped guardedly inside lest the occupant be her mother. Christian sat propped up in the huge four-poster, its shabby curtains drawn aside to let in the morning light.
For a moment his daughter stood quietly watching him as he read the heavy Bible that she recognized so well. What would be his feelings on this great matter of her traveling to far-off Russia? Augusta did not think that he would share her own enthusiasm, and she sighed so audibly that Christian raised his head and beckoned her into the room. "Good morning, child," he said gently.
"Good morning, papa," she replied, kissing the hand he held out to her.
Seeing that she shivered in her thin night-gown and that her feet were bare, Christian dispensed with ceremony and bade her creep under the bed-cover. He had scarcely recovered from a biting argument with his wife, and now the object of it sat beside him, eager eyed and excited. How much impression had his frequent lectures and Bible readings made upon her mind, he wondered uneasily, and would her soul be asked as forfeit for the undreamed-of worldly eminence now offered her?
Johanna had dismissed his religious qualms with savage scorn, reminding him angrily that for a trifling change of creed her daughter was not going to risk the loss of the greatest imperial throne in the world. He would not be there to meddle in affairs above his understanding, Johanna had announced finally, for the Empress's letter expressly forbade Christian to accompany his wife and daughter. Only Augusta could set his conscience at rest, and he held out the leathern Bible for her to hold.
"You are going away, Augusta," he said solemnly. "Far away into a foreign land, where I fear you will find customs practised that are very different from those of Stettin. Do not be swayed by wealth or strangeness, my daughter, nor by the promise of greatness in this world. Remember the good Protestant faith that you were born in, and I ask you to promise me, by the Bible, that you will never change it! Do you promise, Augusta?"
The girl dropped her eyes that her father might not read the disappointment in them. She reflected that such promises were easy for those whom life had left in a forgotten backwater of the German States like Stettin, or even Zerbst. Her decision was prophetic of the years to come. "If I refuse, it might be in his power to prevent my going," she thought quickly, and her natural affection added that her reply would set his mind at rest.
Augusta smiled back at him. "I promise, papa," she said. Christian sighed with relief. Doubtless, as Johanna said, his daughter's character had many faults, but to his knowledge lying was not among them, and he never doubted her sincerity.
In the midst of his reflections it occurred to him that it might go hard with his daughter at Elizabeth's court, with no one to protect and guide her but the self-seeking and incautious Johanna. Looking at her with more than usual interest, he noticed that she was quite a pretty girl, she had her mother's dark hair and his blue eyes, but her face had a vividness of expression foreign to either parent. She promised, in fact, to be a very handsome woman.
Since there could be no question of refusing the Empress's request, he salved his uneasy conscience with the promise he had just extracted from her and tried to dismiss the affair from his mind. After all, he considered, the courier that had arrived last night, almost on the heels of the Russian emissary, bore a message from their King, Frederick the Great, endorsing Elizabeth's invitation and even sending for Johanna to attend an audience with him before she left for Russia.
Christian was not a clever man, nor was he a coward, but he knew enough of the age he lived in to realize that, in sending for Johanna, something of further significance besides the marriage of Augusta was in the mind of his wily sovereign.
"It is time that you dressed, Augusta," Christian observed awkwardly, somehow unwilling to look at his child. "You had best return to your own room."
Augusta slipped to the floor, bobbed a quick curtsy and ran to her apartment, while her father opened his Bible and continued reading.
Once in her bedroom, she shut the door and climbed back into her own chilled bed, shivering with cold and excitement. The thought came to her that if the cold of Zerbst nipped her so cruelly, what of that land of furious ice and blanketing snow that was to be her home for the future?
Excerpted from "The Romanov Trilogy"
Copyright © 1977 Hutchinson Edition.
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Curse Not the King,
Far Flies the Eagle,
About the Author,