Synopses & Reviews
The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world s surface for three centuries. How did one family turn a war-ruined principality into the world's greatest empire? And how did they lose it all?
This is the intimate story of twenty tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. Simon Sebag Montefiore's gripping chronicle reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence and wild extravagance, with a global cast of adventurers, courtesans, revolutionaries and poets, from Ivan the Terrible to Tolstoy and Pushkin, to Bismarck, Lincoln, Queen Victoria and Lenin.
To rule Russia was both imperial-sacred mission and poisoned chalice: six of the last twelve tsars were murdered. Peter the Great tortured his own son to death while making Russia an empire, and dominated his court with a dining club notable for compulsory drunkenness, naked dwarfs and fancy dress. Catherine the Great overthrew her own husband (who was murdered soon afterward), enjoyed affairs with a series of young male favorites, conquered Ukraine and fascinated Europe. Paul I was strangled by courtiers backed by his own son, Alexander I, who in turn faced Napoleon's invasion and the burning of Moscow, then went on to take Paris. Alexander II liberated the serfs, survived five assassination attempts and wrote perhaps the most explicit love letters ever composed by a ruler. The Romanovs climaxes with a fresh, unforgettable portrayal of Nicholas II and Alexandra, the rise and murder of Rasputin, war and revolution and the harrowing massacre of the entire family.
Dazzlingly entertaining and beautifully written from start to finish, The Romanovs brings these monarchs male and female, great and flawed, their families and courts blazingly to life. Drawing on new archival research, Montefiore delivers an enthralling epic of triumph and tragedy, love and murder, encompassing the seminal years 1812, 1914 and 1917, that is both a universal study of power and a portrait of empire that helps define Russia today.
"Simon Sebag Montefiore’s blockbuster history of the Romanov dynasty arrives with exquisite timing.… The historian’s account of the last months, days and hours of the Romanovs will not disappoint… [and] show Sebag Montefiore’s narrative bravado at its scintillating best. There is unlikely to have been a racier account of how the last Romanovs met their end.... Masterly." Mary Dejevsky, The Independent
"Exquisite prose... rigorous research... depravity in boundless detail. Behind the dissonant degeneracy, one finds a perceptive analysis of the Russian addiction to autocracy. The Romanovs contains the most bizarre cast of characters I’ve ever encountered... The Romanov family was heavily populated with raving sex addicts... He writes with perfect cadence." Gerard de Groot, The Times (London)
"Captivating.... The story of the Romanovs has been told countless times but never with such acompelling combination of literary flair, narrative drive, solid research and psychological insight. The Romanovs covers it all, from war and diplomacy to institution building and court intrigue, but it is chiefly an intimate portrait that brings to life the twenty sovereigns of Russia in vivid fashion... Montefiore writes with subtlety and sophistication about the nature of court life, the dynamics of power and the shifting configurations of the various players." Douglas Smith, Literary Review
"Spellbinding... it takes true historical daring to tackle such an immense subject.... Montefiore’s novelistic gift of drawing vivid characters with a few choice words never fails him.... The main portraits are invariably memorable.... This monumental work is an essential addition to the library of anyone interested in Russian history and the doomed dynasty of the Romanovs." Olga Grushin, The New York Times Book Review
"Don’t let its size fool you: There’s never been a more inviting 700-plus-page historical tome. That’s because the author, who matches rigorous scholarship with a novelist’s eye for delicious details, is clearly having so much fun. And why not? In three centuries, the Romanovs produced titans and weaklings, war and peace, and enough salacious behavior to make us say, 'Turn off thy Kardashians! Pick up thy Montefiore!'" O, The Oprah Magazine (Oprah’s 10 favorite books of 2016)
"Simon Sebag Montefiore’s The Romanovs is epic history on the grandest scale... A story of conspiracy, drunken coups, assassination, torture, impaling, breaking on the wheel, lethal floggings with the knout, sexual and alcoholic excess, charlatans and pretenders, flamboyant wealth based on a grinding serfdom, and, not surprisingly, a vicious cycle of repression and revolt. Game of Thrones seems like the proverbial vicar’s tea party in comparison... Reading Montefiore’s excellent account, it is hard to imagine how the monarchy could ever have survived under their catastrophic leadership." Antony Beevor, Financial Times
About the Author
Simon Sebag Montefiore is a historian of Russia and the Middle East. Catherine the Great and Potemkin was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar won the History Book of the Year Prize at the British Book Awards. Young Stalin won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, the Costa Biography Award, and le Grande Prix de la biographie politique. Jerusalem: The Biography was a worldwide best seller. Montefiore’s books are published in more than forty languages. He is the author of the novels Sashenka and One Night in Winter, which won the Paddy Power Political Fiction Book of the Year Award in 2014. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Dr. Montefiore graduated from Cambridge University, where he received his PhD. He lives in London.