I’ve been slowly making my way through the lengthy biography of the Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore, and to be honest, it’s been a bit of a slog. A part of my family comes from Russia, so I feel somewhat traitorous in admitting that; sorry, mom! It’s not entirely the author’s fault, and the book itself moves at a decent pace whilst still being quite exhaustive. The problem is that there are SO MANY personages to keep straight, and the names are only occasionally helpful. Ultimately, I think the book’s biggest problem is its overly-ambitious scope; a history of the Romanovs could comfortably fit a half dozen books, and that’s if you lump together all the lesser known tsars. The history itself is fascinating and well worth exploring. From my library, I would recommend From Splendour to Revolution: The Romanov Women 1847-1928 (Julia P. Gelardi); The Romanov Sisters and The Last Days of the Romanovs (both by Helen Rappaport); and Sunlight at Midnight: St. Petersburg and the Rise of Modern Russia (W. Bruce Lincoln) for anyone interested in more Russian imperial history. As always, I welcome your suggestions in turn.

Since this has also become the informal what’s-happening-this-week-on-Victoria post … let’s tackle what happened this week on Victoria. Most importantly, the newlyweds started figuring out the whole “teamwork” thing. Victoria successfully plotted without the benefit of Lord M (missing but not forgotten … by me). Albert gave a speech. (I felt his pain; I hated public speaking for most of my life. And “barbarous” IS a hard word to pronounce.) Ernest bid adieu to his (married) lady friend, and England. I hope we see him again; the actor looks like Matt Saracen’s lost (naughty) twin, so I’ve developed a huge soft spot for him. But, spoilers: Wikipedia tells me not to expect his little romantic subplot to go anywhere. Some stuff happened with the Palace staff, and for once I wasn’t completely bored by it. (I’m still not going to recap it all, though. I smell “tragic end” all over that maid/chef storyline.)

A couple of history nerd comments. One, I liked the subtle nod to Albert’s priggishness, when he told his brother to back off the married duchess. Albert was the original Victorian, and actually had a large influence on the queen in that respect. Two, I liked that the show acknowledged that Victoria had a lot of reservations about babies. (The having of them, not the making, hah.) I hope they continue to portray her “curmudgeonly” side. As a person who is also not fond of pregnancy and babies, I feel a certain kinship with Vicky.

Lastly, I just want to say that I find Albert’s character fascinating. One thing to remember is that he was very, very young when he married Victoria. His position was difficult; in a firmly patriarchal society, brought up with certain ideals of what being a man meant, he ended up being the ornamental spouse. But he wasn’t a male bimbo; actually, he was kind of a nerd — earnest and hard-working, and legitimately interested in social causes. (Although I found the whole support-for-anti-slavery plotline a bit heavy handed.) I think his portrayal on the show is quite good in showing all these different angles. Sometimes, Alberta exasperates me, but other times, I find him completely sympathetic. As a feminist, I am really intrigued by all the nuances in Victoria & Albert’s relationship.

What I’m trying to say is … I don’t just watch the show for the eye candy. Honest.

On to other things I read on the internet. My inner voyeur loved this post from Racked, offering a glimpse into different people’s closets. This kind of thing needs to be a show. I would be hooked.

If you’ve swooned over Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (or perhaps Matthew Macfadyen is more your speed), then you might want to skip this next article. Apparently, the real Mr. Darcy was a pointy-chinned elf. I don’t know, you guys. I’m not really seeing Legolas; if I squint, maybe a young Alan Rickman?

[By the way, please admire my restraint in not using this as an opportunity to rehash the who-is-the-hottest-Austen-hero discussion. Or the let’s-fantasy-recast-every-Austen-novel-again exercise. You’re welcome.]

The comments on the Darcy discussion reminded me of one of my fave Tumblrs, My Daguerreotype Boyfriend. If you’re not already familiar with it, take a few minutes (or hours) to peruse its collection of attractive gentlemen (or rascals) from bygone eras. I love looking at old photographs, and if I wasn’t already half way to being a hoarder, I would definitely start a collection. Perusing the site did remind me that I do have one, albeit it much more recent, photo of a historical hottie.

literally, a handsome sailor
literally, a handsome sailor

I don’t know anything about this handsome fellow except that he was my grandma’s first beau.

3 Comments on What I Read: Romanov Edition

  1. Because it’s Captain Wentworth, obviously! Though, in real life he probably would have given Anne syphillis, which I suppose dampens the appeal somewhat.

    On the subject of Russian history, I’ve been reading a lot of Svetlana Alexievich’s work recently. Have you read her? I studied Russian for a few years in college and have a soft spot for Russian literature. I was actually thinking about getting the Romanov book, so I’m glad to hear your thoughts. I might hold off and work through my enormous stack of unread books. :/

  2. I agree with you on that Romanov book – I actually don’t think I finished it. From what I remember, it was simultaneously too in-depth with some of the stories and yet skimmed over a lot of stuff too. I found I had to go look up the people he was talking about on wikipedia just to learn more about what the people actually did, instead of just the “scandalous” things about them.

    I am not as caught up as you are with Victoria although that could be this weekend’s plan. I agree with you on the servants though – I don’t really care about them and want to fast-forward every time they’re on my screen. I’m watching this for Victoria!

    Finally, I heard about that Darcy story but didn’t actually read it. As far I am concerned, Darcy is fictional and he can look however I want him to look, which, coincidentally, is exactly like Colin Firth in the 1996 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. 🙂