Isle and Empires
Romanov Russia, Britain and the Isle of Wight
by Stephan Roman
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Pub Date 5 Jul 2021 | Archive Date 15 Nov 2021
The tumultuous story of the Romanovs and their enigmatic relationship with Britain is brought to life in Stephan Roman's Isle and Empires, as he explores the misunderstandings, suspicions and alliances that created an uneasy partnership between two of the world's most powerful Empires. The Isle of Wight was at the heart of this relationship, an island off the south coast of England that intimately linked the British royal family and the Romanovs. Peter the Great drew inspiration for the first Russian naval fleet from his sailing trips around the Island, and Alexander I was immortalised by a hilltop monument built for him on St Catherine's Down.
Alexander II's beloved only daughter, Grand Duchess Marie, spent many years at Osborne House infuriating and irritating her mother-in-law, Queen Victoria. In contrast to the Isle of Wight's imperial and royal connections, Russian revolutionaries also made it their home, establishing a summer colony of radical political thinkers and writers in Ventnor. In August 1909 the Island hosted the Russian Imperial family during their visit to Cowes Week, then the most glamorous yachting regatta in Europe's social calendar.
A new era of Anglo-Russian collaboration was dawning and seemed destined to become a dominant force in 20th century global politics. The Tsar's visit to Cowes was deliberately intended to set the seal on this new alliance. Less than ten years later the Romanovs had been overthrown, with the British government and royal family accused of betrayal and complicity in their deaths.
Isle and Empires is a journey into a world of Imperial glory and power, family rivalry, wars, intrigue and alliances. It is also a story of Russia's revolutionaries, spies and terrorists, and the refugees fleeing Tsarist oppression who found shelter and safety both in mainland Britain and on the Isle of Wight. These events reverberate to the present day and much of what happened when the Romanovs ruled Russia continues to set the pattern for the current relationship between the two countries.
The tale of the Romanovs and the Isle of Wight that Stephan Roman tells is both fascinating and unexpected. For more than two centuries, the Russian imperial family were regular visitors to the island and the book skilfully reveals this unknown history, showing how the friendship between the two royal families provides a wider insight into the often-tangled story of Anglo-Russian relations.
Dr Peter Waldron
Author of The End of Imperial Russia 1855-1917 and Russia of the Tsars
I was immensely impressed by the author's depth of knowledge and his ability to distil the complexities of history - in this case the different strands of the Anglo-Russian relationship during the period of the Romanovs - into a form that is accessible to the average reader.
Author of Zahara And The Lost Books Of Light
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 8 members
A compelling and detailed look at the Anglo-Russian foreign relations since the early 17th century and more specifically the role that the magnificent island of Wight played in the relations between the Romanovs and the British monarchy after the construction of the royal summer residence of Osborne House in East Cowes and the annual presence of the royal family on the island starting in 1851 and until Victoria's death in 1901. A death that actually took place in Osborne House.
A meticulous and richly detailed portrait of the various family ties linking the imperial and royal houses as they met and vacationed on and off over the years on the island. This fascinating tapestry of monarchical relationships and family shenanigans should definitely please anyone interested in European royalties and the ever expanding web of relationships created by the queen's never-ending matrimonial endeavors to link numerous members of her large family to various royal houses on the continent. An engrossing read full of delicious anecdotes and a delightful look at an island that I personally consider to be the most enchanting and interesting place in the English Channel.
Many thanks to Netgalley and Medina Publishing for this terrific ARC
This is a lively and very accessible account of a fascinating relationship between two major powers. I recently read a book about Queen Victoria and the Romanovs; she referred to them as ‘the horrid Russians’ and her negative views certainly influenced attitudes towards the nation and people.
Stephan Roman starts with a very personal account of his familial links and background. The story then moves to an in depth account of the complex cultural, political, Royal and other relationships between the two countries. This is a story that’s filled with intrigue. There are marriages arranged to ensure that various European monarchies remained secure, including the British royal family. I always felt that given the close relationship between Tsar Nicholas and Britain, there was an appalling betrayal of familial loyalty when he and his family were refused refuge at the time of the revolution. It was unforgivable and totally selfish and the this book helps the reader understand just how closely the two countries were linked. Stephan Roman writes in a way that makes this exciting story read more like a thriller. It’s packed with action and the people, spies and traitors, royals are brought vividly to life. I really enjoyed this book recommend it to anyone interested in social history. It’s a remarkable and fascinating review of lost opportunity, mistrust and betrayal on both sides and gives context to Britain’s current complicated relationship with Russia. An unexpected treasure and my thanks to the publisher for a review copy via Netgalley.
Isle and Empires tells the story of the bond between the British Royal Family, the Romanov’s of Russia and the Isle of Wight. Not only that, it also tells the personal story of the author’s family. In this way we learn how the Russian population had a hard time at the time of the revolution and had to seek their salvation elsewhere. An ordeal because it didn’t get any easier as a refugee. Still, an impressive personal story from the author.
The basis of the story revolves around the Isle of Wight, home to the British royal family. Queen Victoria had her holiday home there, the famous Osbourne House. But before that, Isle of Wight was already visited by Royalty and aristocrats. Peter the Great was one of the first to get there. He learned a lot about shipbuilding there. The book tells the story of Anglo-Russian foreign relations from the 17th century. In different time periods the relationship between the countries and the island is told. However, the book also offers a great wealth of history. This way we learn a lot about the different Tsars of the Romanovs, the British Royal family. The author has done good research. Especially the depth in the history of the Romanovs was instructive and interesting.
The book has a separate chapter entirely devoted to the visit of the Tsar Nicholas and his family to the Isle of Wight. Every day the events pass by, with a lot of attention for the local regatta races. These stories also help us get to know the Isle of Wight better. The story about the murder of the Romanov’s is impressive, but also so horrific when you read in the book that it could have turned out differently.
The author has a smooth way of writing, it all comes across very visually, as if you’re watching a movie. It makes the book accessible, for the advanced reader, but also for the reader who is new to it. The book contains a lot of characters, but the open way of writing makes it easy to switch between the characters. The book is nicely illustrated with a number of photos, including the author’s own grandparents who fled Russia after 1917.
The book not only pays attention to the bond between the British Royal family and the Romanov’s, but there is also time and space for literature, especially the books that originated or were written on the Isle of Wight. Politics is also not forgotten, both from the English side and from Russia. This is how we learn something about the Duma. Duma is a representative body in Russia. Dumas can be found both in present-day Russia and in Russian history. Duma, simply referred the lower house of the Russian parliament.
In summary: A great look into the history of Russia’s relations with Britain from the time of Peter the Great to the Revolution and the end of the Romanov’s Dynasty. The book was captivating, educational and at times impressive. Well worked out. It is therefore definitely recommended for anyone interested in history and Royalty.
This book caught my attention as I love history, especially when it centers around England. My knowledge of the history of the Isle of Wight was spotty, at best. I'm so glad I found this wonderfully written book. The authors writing style makes it come alive and flows seamlessly while imparting fascinating details. The ties to Russia all the way back to Peter the Great and Queen Victoria's attitude towards them made me realize how much I wasn't taught in school. How different things would have been if The Romanovs had been given refuge in England.
From the first page to the last, this was an absorbing read and a great way to learn more history. My thanks to the publisher, Medina Press and to NetGalley for giving me an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
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