The Russian Court at Sea

The Russian Court at Sea: The Voyage of HMS Marlborough, April 1919 by Frances Welch       

Introduced by Iain Finlayson   

Some moments in history are perfectly theatrical, even operatic. The short voyage, from the Crimea to Malta in April 1919, of seventeen surviving members of the Russian Imperial family into permanent exile is one of them.

As the Dowager Empress Marie stood alone on the deck of the British battleship HMS Marlborough, a chorus of 170 White Russian officers sang the Russian national anthem.

Other principals were Princes (including Prince Yussupov, Rasputin’s assassin), Princesses, Grand Dukes and Duchesses (freighted with 200 tons of cash-convertible treasures) and a full complement of British naval officers.

The politics, the protocols, the proprieties and – naturally – the personalities and passions of the passengers and crew are neatly narrated with effective detail and admirable restraint.

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