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Empress Alexandra (Hardback)

The Special Relationship Between Russia's Last Tsarina and Queen Victoria

P&S History Social History Women of History Victorian Era 19th Century Royal History

By Melanie Clegg
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 216
Illustrations: 32
ISBN: 9781526723871
Published: 30th September 2020

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When Queen Victoria’s second daughter Princess Alice married the Prince Louis of Hesse and Rhine in 1862 even her own mother described the ceremony as ‘more of a funeral than a wedding’ thanks to the fact that it took place shortly after the death of Alice’s beloved father Prince Albert. Sadly, the young princess’ misfortunes didn’t end there and when she also died prematurely, her four motherless daughters were taken under the wing of their formidable grandmother, Victoria. Alix, the youngest of Alice’s daughters and allegedly one of the most beautiful princesses in Europe, was a special favourite of the elderly queen, who hoped that she would marry her cousin Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and one day reign beside him as Queen. However, the spirited and stubborn Alix had other ideas…

I have a real thing for Russian history, so was pretty delighted to receive an ARC via NetGalley. Many thanks to the publisher.

This is is an extremely enjoyable read of a fascinating period. It was great to get a better picture of Alix's mother and her early line. It really emphasised just how entwined the royal houses of Europe were in that period. It was not so much a family tree as a family wreath.

NetGalley, Madeline McCreanor

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I have read many books about the Romanov family and always lamented the lost correspondence that the Empress burned during her detention. Melanie Clegg teases out, aided by Queen Victoria's vast correspondence and journals, a full picture of who Alix was as a child and young adult and does the further favor of giving the reader a look at the grandmother and grandchild's special relationship. Clegg provided interesting details and context of the broader royal landscape of the time, allowing the reader to appreciate the nuanced relationships among family members spread throughout Europe.

I really enjoyed Clegg's writing style and her ability to round out and weave together all of the various figures. The facts themselves are naturally compelling and Clegg's research and narrative made their stories come to life.

NetGalley, Erin Loranger

Melanie has created such a well researched account of the relationship between Queen Victoria and her granddaughter Alix of Hasse who goes on to become Empress Alexandra. Their lives are surrounded by grief and loss but both, supported by one another in various ways, become the strongest women in British and Russian history of their time.

We learn of the families struggles and happier times via letters sent to family members and their diary entries. This gives a personal touch to the read and allows you to hear the royals personal thoughts and feelings. The photographs of Queen Victoria and family members at the end was also a welcomed touch.

NetGalley, Stephanie Cameron

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book was extraordinary! It satisfied my love for History, European Royalty and genealogy. What a woman Queen Victoria I was; so strong mentally and physically, she was one hell of a matriarch, and a phenomenal mother lwho stepped up to the plate when her daughter Alice died prematurely, leaving behind her motherless children. Stubbornness was clearly a family trait and it was pleasant to see strong-willed women living in the 1800s.

This was a delectable book and such a treat beginning to finish. I particularly loved the fact that there were so many quotes taken from diaries, which gave an intimate feel to the book. I also loved all the pictures and family portraits at the end, which I could understand after this reading.

I will now add Ms. Melanie Clegg’s full catalog to my TBR.

NetGalley, Mairy Tsirigotis

As a history and royal nerd, I really enjoyed this. Clegg pulls from Victoria's personal journals and letters (and some of her family's as well) and creates a very clear through line of Victoria's private life (and her massive domineering influence in her family). As Clegg acknowledges herself in the acknowledgements, this is really a story of Alice too - the book begins with Princess Alice's birth (Alexandra's mother), and it was really clear how the relationships developed and changed over time. The ARC that I had did not feature the pictures that are alluded to (a great disappointment), but the acknowledgments indicate that it will be in the fully published form - something I really wish I had access to as well. I also felt that a family tree would be useful, as once grandchildren enter the scene, it's really a lot to handle and keep straight (especially as so many of the names are repeated, and many of them go by a different name within the family). It also made me realize that I really only know German history starting with WWI, as so many of the ducal titles meant nothing to me due to lack of prior knowledge.
I really enjoyed this and it whetted my appetite to learn more about European history in the 19th century, and I would've also loved for Clegg to write more about the Romanovs, though I understand that that's outside the purview of this book, which ends with Victoria's death. Clegg has a solid handle as a historian, and I will be on the lookout for her other accounts as well.

Also, my personal favorite part was also Albert telling Alice that her mother tends towards melodrama, and now all I want is a visual adaption of Victoria flinging herself upon divans after Albert's passing and yelling at her kids not to smile.

NetGalley, Courtney Beresheim

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A well-researched look at the relationship between Alexandra and her grandmother Queen Victoria.

I absolutely adored this and it will have pride of place on my bookshelf.

NetGalley, Julianne Freer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As someone who enjoys reading history books, I found Empress Alexandra fascinating.

The book centers around the relationship between Empress Alexandra and Queen Victoria. I have always been fascinated by the story of the Russian czar family.

A lot of people tend to forget that royal families are all related to each other, so it may come as a surprise that Tsarina Alexandra and Queen Victoria were members of the same family.

I was surprised at how domineering Queen Victoria was, even though I knew she was a powerful woman, I had never considered that she also inflicted her power onto her own family.

If you aren't a royal geek right now, you will be after reading Empress Alexandra!

NetGalley, Jemima Reads

It was an excellent book and makes me want to read more about Queen Victoria and her grandchildren.

NetGalley, Beth Bullington

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It was a really informative read and gave an insight into past royals - definitely a book for people who love royal history.. I found it really interesting that through marriage a lot of the royals were related.
Melanie Clegg has written a book that you can curl up on the sofa with and gives an insight into the relationships between Victoria and her children - truly insightful.

I look forward to reading more of Melanie's books.

NetGalley, Emma Nelson

A nicely written book, providing some depth to the characters.

NetGalley, Ru Story Huffman

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a fascinating look at both Queen Victoria and a wonderful look at the interactions within her huge brood of children who eventually ended up ruling in some way or other most of Europe and Russia. The first section of the novel begins with the early part of Victoria's marriage to her beloved Prince Albert and the birth of their first three children, the third being Alice who becomes the future mother of Victoria's favorite grandchild Alexandra. Alice marries Prince Louis of Hesse Darmstadt. It is a happy marriage with Alice having a great interest in helping others less fortunate especially through nursing being a great admirer and correspondent of Florence Nightengale. She is a wonderful mother who tries to instill independence in her children not letting them have the servants do everything for them as she was raised to be in her childhood also. Unfortunately when the children become ill at the same time she catches their illness while nursing them and dies prematurely. This leaves the youngest Alexandra or "Alicky" motherless at two. This is when Victoria really steps in and in a way takes over the mothering of the younger grandchildren but it is Alexandria to whom she is the closest. Alexandria is a lovely, shy girl who does better in smaller groups rather than huge gatherings of people and this is why Queen Victoria is so worried when she falls in love with Nicky Tsar Alexander III's heir. After Alexander's death and Nicholas's ascension to Tsar, Victoria really becomes alarmed at her having to change her religion from Lutheranism to Russian Orthodoxy and the amount of reponsibilities she will have to take on as Tsarina. The marriage begins fairly well because they are truly in love with one another but they are both too shy and weak for the enormous job of running the enormous empire and begin to become unpopular among the people. I never quite warmed up to Queen Victoria until I read this book.She was a strong, extremely intelligent, caring woman. Yes, she did run a little too much toward melancholia but which one of us has not struggled with grief after the loss of a loved one. I really want to read more about her and at the end of this book I could really begin to see some of the reasons for the Russian revolution although the massacre of the royal family was a despicable act of barbarism. It's a wonderful book and I thank Net Galley and Pen & Sword Publisher for granting me the pleasure of enjoying it.

NetGalley, Mark McGrath

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Empress Alexandra by Melanie Clegg is an excellent book that highlights the special relationship that Queen Victoria had with the fascinating, complicated, and sometimes challenging Empress Alexandra of Russia. As grandmother and granddaughter (Alix was the daughter of Victoria’s own daughter Alice), their bond was unique and special, especially considering their royal statuses, the volatile times, and their physical distance from one another.

The author does a superb job depicting this amazing relationship from historical records and letters/correspondence between Queen Victoria and Alix. The author clearly did her research, and what is presented to the reader is an excellent depiction that is appropriately detailed, spaced, and nicely flowing. As a huge fan of Queen Victoria and the Romanovs, this was right up my alley.

Excellent. 5/5 stars

NetGalley, Rachel Fox

This was an interesting book.

NetGalley, Karen Kenyon

History lovers will enjoy this in-depth account of the close relationship between two of the most famous women in British and Russian history. Melanie Clegg does a wonderful job of piecing together various details mostly from primary sources (letters to and from Queen Victoria to Alix) and various secondary sources. The photographs in the book provide a particularly special treat for readers.

NetGalley, Jess Salafia Ward

Queen Victoria's life is already well-mined in the literary world, so one must take some interesting side relationships in order to write a new book. Melanie Clegg's book "Empress Alexandra: The Special Relationship Between Russia's Last Tsarina and Queen Victoria" examines Queen Victoria's close relationship with her granddaughter Alix, who later marries Nicholas II to become Tsarina of Russia. The through line of this relationship is Victoria's third child, Alice, who was Alix's mother. Victoria and Alice were very close, though grew somewhat apart after Alice's marriage to Louis and move to Darmstadt where she became more independent. Princess Alice was an offspring of Victoria I did not know much about, as she on appearance does not play as big a role in history as some other children of Victoria's (e.g, Vicky who gives birth to Wilhelm II, Bertie who is a bit of a problem child who Victoria blamed partially for her husband Albert's death and becomes the future King Edward VII). Clegg describes Alice as a somewhat morose women, who appears quite frail as she ages. One of her children dies from a fall (he had hemophilia, and the book's first mention of illness that will be involved in Russia's downfall). Alice sets in motion the special relationship between Victoria and Alix as she dies of diptheria at a rather young age after having nursed her husband and children who had been stricken ill with it also. It took the life of her youngest daughter, and then Alice. As all of Alix's other grandparents are dead, Victoria takes a special interest in her life. The book focuses primarily on their relationship for the second half of the book, and Victoria's feelings about Alix's romance and ultimate marriage to Russia's Nicholas II who becomes Tsar right before they are married when his father, Tsar Alexander III dies unexpectedly without preparing Nicholas for the role he has ahead. The book ends with Victoria's death, and the reader is left to wonder what role she would have played as Alix finally gives birth to a son, and how Russia and England's relationship may or may not have changed in the events leading up to World War I. While parts of this book have been discussed at length in other great historical books, Clegg did a nice job of highlighting a relationship tying together a formidable Queen and her love for her granddaughter, the last Tsarina of Russia.

NetGalley, Kristina Nord

This is lovely book looking deeply at the relationship between Queen Victoria, her daughter Alice and granddaughter Alix, more so than on the eventual fate of The Tsarina. As such, it’s a really sweet and incredibly researched book which I recommend. Seeing aspects of the person behind the historical figures is always interesting and this really shows the love and connectedness that was there.

NetGalley, Jennifer Ruth

I'm fascinated by history and I've read several books about the Romanov family and Queen Victoria, they are fascinating subjects. This book is a wonderful addition to my understanding of the people behind the facade of royalty, making them so relatable and human. The book is laid out logically and the prose is wonderful I want to thank NetGalley for the advance copy that I read in exchange for this honest review.

NetGalley, Carrie Habib

Melanie Clegg is the Queen of sweeping royal biographies. With each history she recreates, the reader is left feeling as though they've been transported to the world of that particular royal subject. Brilliantly written, 'Empress Alexandra' comes across as a historical saga that feels as though you're reading a work of fiction.

Insightful from the very first page, Clegg successfully educates the reader on not only Empress Alexandra but a whole slew of characters from her royal family- beginning with the impressive, domineering figure of Queen Victoria. This biography is perfect for all types of readers! Whether you are a loyal follower of royal figures or a first timer, Clegg will provide readers with such rich details that hold your interest from start to finish. The tragically beautiful story that belongs to the Empress Alexandra is masterfully crafted by Clegg.

NetGalley, Sydney Harper

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


This book gives a comprehensive study of the relationship between granddaughter Alix and her formidable grandmother, Queen Victoria of England.

Alix was the daughter of Victoria's second eldest daughter named Alice. Alice's upbringing and personality were thoroughly covered and described. She and her mother, Victoria, had a somewhat combative relationship, but it was evident that they did love one another. (perhaps they were too much alike – both headstrong.) When she showed a marked interest in Nicholas the tsarevich of Russia, Victoria's feathers were definitely ruffled.

Queen Victoria thought that the Russians were “decadent and degenerate.” I tried very hard to feel generous toward Queen Victoria, but her opinions and passive/aggressive treatment of her daughters and granddaughters drove me up the wall. I allow some leeway for the time in which she lived, but she really seemed to be a controlling old bat. She must have drove her relatives to distraction. When poor Alix was the only granddaughter left unmarried, what chance did she have?

I read a book about the life of “Minnie” Tsar Nicholas II's mother some time ago called “The Romanov Empress,” by C.W. Gortner and I got the distinct impression that Minnie did not care for Alix at all. She found her spoiled and opinionated. Both she and her husband Tsar Alexander III thought that Alix would be a major mistake for Nicholas and his reign. (And look how it turned out.) Interesting how these two formidable women viewed young Alix so differently.

It turned out that both sets of relatives finally gave their assent to the match, albeit with grudging and lingering doubts. Following the unexpected death of his father, the unready Nicholas was catapulted onto the throne. He felt little prepared for it. Alix was a somewhat standoffish young woman, and Queen Victoria presaged that this would not be to her benefit now that she was Empress and had to be friendly to all people. She was judged to be “aloof and unfriendly” by Nicholas' family and courtiers. Victoria, too, became concerned that they were shutting themselves away too much.

They were right...

This book shows the author's exhaustive research and attention to detail. Ms. Clegg was very careful to differentiate between all the Victoria's and other similar names. I really appreciated that aspect of her writing. It was not written in such a dry manner that it turned the casual reader away. This material is accessible to all readers of all interest levels. I found the material very interesting. I knew that Alix was Victoria's granddaughter, but was unaware of their close and sometimes rocky relationship until now. I am very glad that I was chosen to read this advanced review copy of the book. I immediately went to Amazon to peruse the rest of Ms. Clegg's books.

NetGalley, Joyce Fox

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Empress Alexandra by Melanie Clegg was such an interesting and informative read. She draws from Victoria's letters and journals, revealing a mother and grandmother who doted on her family. She was known as Grandmama to her granddaughter's spouses.

Clegg tells Alix's story in context of her relationship with her grandmother Queen Victoria. Alix was Queen Victoria's favorite granddaughter. Her mother Alice was the queen's companion and social secretary after the death of Prince Albert. Tragically, Alice died young.

The queen took Alice's children under her wing as a surrogate mother. They and their father Prince Louis became even closer to the monarch.

Alix was a beautiful child. At an early age, she caught her cousin Nicky's attention.

In spite of Queen Victoria's endeavors to arrange a marriage for Alix, she and and her cousin Nicky fell in love. When became Nicholas became Emperor of Russian, and Alix became Empress Alexandra, Victoria worried about her. She did not approve of the opulent lifestyle of the Russian Court, or the condition of Alicky converting to the Russian Orthodox Church. And especially, she worried about the social unrest and feared assassination attempts.

The queen loved Nicky and he enjoyed his time in Britain with her and his beloved Alix. The couple recreated a retreat inspired by British middle class style, and preferred a quiet life. When Nicky's father died, he was only twenty-six. He followed his father's autocratic style of governing.

Victoria and Albert raised their children to be self-sufficient, educating them well but also including fun and healthy activities in their lives. Alice patterned her mother's style, and so did granddaughter Alix when a mother.

Queen Victoria died in 1901 and happily never lived to know her beloved granddaughter and Tzar Nicholas and their children were assassinated in 1918.

Clegg's book is well presented, and for all the characters and royals to keep track of, I never felt confused.

The royal family suffered so many tragedies! But love also blossomed.

NetGalley, Nancy A. Bekofske

About Melanie Clegg

Fascinated by history from a very early age, Melanie Clegg graduated from the University of Nottingham with a degree in History of Art. She originally turned to writing historical fiction and her women’s history blog, Madame Guillotine, as a means of escaping from the dull admin jobs that she found herself doing, before becoming a full time writer and historian.

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