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The Russian Court at Sea: The Voyage of HMS Marlborough

On 11th April 1919, less than a year after the assassination of the Romanovs, the British battleship HMS Marlborough left Yalta carrying 17 members of the Russian Imperial Family into perpetual exile. They included the Tsar's mother, the Dowager Empress Marie, and his sister, the Grand Duchess Xenia, Prince Felix Youssupov, the murderer of Rasputin and a man once mooted as a future leader of Russia, and Grand Duke Nicholas, former Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armies.


As the ship prepared to set sail, a British sloop carrying 170 White Russian soldiers drew up alongside. The soldiers stood on deck and sang the Russian National Anthem. It was the last time the anthem was sung to members of the Imperial Family within Russian territory for over 70 years. The Dowager Empress stood on deck alone. Nobody dared to approach her.


THE RUSSIAN COURT AT SEA vividly recreates this unlikely voyage, with its bizarre assortment of warring characters and its priceless cargo of treasures, including rolled-up Rembrandts and Faberge eggs. It is a story that is by turns exotic, comic and doomed, of an extraordinary group of people caught up in an extraordinary moment in history when their lives were in every way at sea.


Frances Welch's detective work, combined with a deep knowledge of the Romanov's public and private lives, has produced a book that is wonderfully witty and sad by turns. The grainy photographs, showing everyday life on board the Marlborough, add to the atmosphere of delicious wistfulness.

Mail on Sunday


Welch combines historical insight with a novelistic flair for character. She adroitly conjures the Romanovs' hopeless naivety but also their charisma

Agent: Peter Straus
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