The best books about the Romanov family

3 authors have picked their favorite books about the Romanov family and why they recommend each book.

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The Romanovs

By W. Bruce Lincoln,

Book cover of The Romanovs: Autocrats of All the Russias

A comprehensive and lengthy study of the three-hundred-year rule of the Romanov dynasty, with particular attention paid to the reign of Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II. Lincoln, who was a professor of Russian history at Northern Illinois University, succeeds in bringing to life the sweeping saga of the Romanovs from their beginning in the seventeenth century with the accession to the throne of Michael I to the end with the abdication of Nicholas II in 1917 and onwards to the executions of the imperial family in 1918.

The Romanovs can be treated as both a general reference book for Romanov and imperial Russian history or as a starting point from which to delve further into specific subjects such as a particular reigning Russian monarch or historical event. Lincoln has produced a cogent, solidly researched work that succeeds in making the sometimes impenetrable and complex histories of Russia’s tsars much more…


Who am I?

Julia P. Gelardi has obtained a Master’s degree in History and spent many years immersed in the world of European royal history. The author of numerous articles and seven books on European royalty, three of which have been published by St. Martin’s Press, Julia has done extensive research in various archives, including the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle. She continues to search the world for elusive books on royalty to add to her library and is always on the lookout for new topics to write about and share with her readers.


I wrote...

From Splendor to Revolution

By Julia P. Gelardi,

Book cover of From Splendor to Revolution

What is my book about?

This sweeping saga recreates the extraordinary opulence and violence of Tsarist Russia as the shadow of revolution fell over the land, and destroyed a way of life for these Imperial women. The early 1850s until the late 1920s marked a turbulent and significant era for Russia. During that time the country underwent a massive transformation, taking it from days of grandeur under the tsars to the chaos of revolution and the beginnings of the Soviet Union.

At the center of all this tumult were four women of the Romanov dynasty. Marie Alexandrovna and Olga Constantinovna were born into the family, Russian Grand Duchesses at birth. Marie Feodorovna and Marie Pavlovna married into the dynasty, the former born a Princess of Denmark, the latter a Duchess of the German duchy of Mecklendburg-Schwerin.

The Resurrection of the Romanovs

By Greg King, Penny Wilson,

Book cover of The Resurrection of the Romanovs: Anastasia, Anna Anderson, and the World's Greatest Royal Mystery

It was on my favorite TV show as a kid, In Search of… starring Leonard Nimoy, that I first heard of Anna Anderson, the woman who claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. The tsar was murdered with his entire family in 1918 – or so it was thought. So who was this old woman living in Virginia claiming to be Anastasia? Decades later, I saw the headlines reporting that DNA tests proved Anderson was an imposter, but I never knew one percent of the story before diving into The Resurrection of the Romanovs. Reading along while a mystery from my childhood was so painstakingly solved was great fun. If only now they could find the Loch Ness Monster.


Who am I?

One of the great job benefits of being a newspaper reporter is the wide array of interesting people I get to meet. Not only get to meet but in fact, get paid to meet and to tell their stories. Some of them are famous, and that’s fine. Much more interesting, I think, are the ordinary folk nobody knows who are doing something extraordinary. And then there is a third category that I find most interesting of all: The people who have something to hide. They are mysteries who don’t want to be cracked, and I find them irresistible.


I wrote...

The Imposter's War: The Press, Propaganda, and the Newsman Who Battled for the Minds of America

By Mark Arsenault,

Book cover of The Imposter's War: The Press, Propaganda, and the Newsman Who Battled for the Minds of America

What is my book about?

In the years before the United States joined WWI, a fearless New England newsman called John Revelstoke Rathom became a media celebrity for his sensational scoops about German espionage and propaganda in the U.S. His articles were designed to condition America to see the German Empire as an enemy worth fighting at war. What the public did not know was that the famous editor was not who he said he was. Rathom was a confidant of President Woodrow Wilson, he was trusted by millions of readers, and yet there is no evidence he ever spoke his real name on this continent. His darkly funny tale exposes murky details of the propaganda wars waged by foreign nations to influence American public opinion, which echoes today.

Thirteen Years at the Russian Court

By Pierre Gilliard,

Book cover of Thirteen Years at the Russian Court: A Personal Record of the Last Years and Death of the Tsar Nicholas II, and His Family

This is the personal account of the family of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra as told by their children’s French-language tutor. Gilliard, who spent the years 1905-1918 in the bosom of the imperial family, came to know the family well, and hence had nearly unprecedented access to them. Gilliard succeeds in fleshing out the personalities of the ill-fated family who were devoted to each other, to God, and to Russia. He also highlights in vivid detail the impact of the Tsarevich Alexis’s hemophilia on him, his family, and most especially his distraught mother. Thanks to Gilliard, we come to understand the impact Rasputin had on the Tsarina and her hemophiliac son, whose illness was a closely guarded secret.

The Swiss-born Gilliard notes in his book that he was so “appalled” by the countless “absurdities and falsehoods” written about Nicholas II and his family that he was compelled to “rehabilitate…


Who am I?

Julia P. Gelardi has obtained a Master’s degree in History and spent many years immersed in the world of European royal history. The author of numerous articles and seven books on European royalty, three of which have been published by St. Martin’s Press, Julia has done extensive research in various archives, including the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle. She continues to search the world for elusive books on royalty to add to her library and is always on the lookout for new topics to write about and share with her readers.


I wrote...

From Splendor to Revolution

By Julia P. Gelardi,

Book cover of From Splendor to Revolution

What is my book about?

This sweeping saga recreates the extraordinary opulence and violence of Tsarist Russia as the shadow of revolution fell over the land, and destroyed a way of life for these Imperial women. The early 1850s until the late 1920s marked a turbulent and significant era for Russia. During that time the country underwent a massive transformation, taking it from days of grandeur under the tsars to the chaos of revolution and the beginnings of the Soviet Union.

At the center of all this tumult were four women of the Romanov dynasty. Marie Alexandrovna and Olga Constantinovna were born into the family, Russian Grand Duchesses at birth. Marie Feodorovna and Marie Pavlovna married into the dynasty, the former born a Princess of Denmark, the latter a Duchess of the German duchy of Mecklendburg-Schwerin.

The Romanov Empress

By C.W. Gortner,

Book cover of The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna

The sumptuous story of Nicholas II’s mother, Empress Maria Feodorovna, aka Princess Dagmar of Denmark. Initially engaged to his brother, she becomes the wife of Tsar Alexander III. This elegant novel follows the new empress from the triumphs of her early years in Russia, conflicts with her son’s wife, Alexandra, and the challenges and heartbreak of the Russian Revolution.


Who am I?

Jennifer Laam has been long fascinated with the mysteries surrounding the last Romanovs. Book Bub named her debut novel The Secret Daughter of the Tsar one of  "12 Books to Read if You Love Anastasia." She has three books published with St. Martin's Griffin, all focusing on an aspect of Russian history.


I wrote...

The Secret Daughter of the Tsar: A Novel of the Romanovs

By Jennifer Laam,

Book cover of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar: A Novel of the Romanovs

What is my book about?

A compelling alternate history of the Romanov family in which a secret fifth daughter--smuggled out of Russia before the revolution--continues the royal lineage to dramatic consequences

In her riveting debut novel, The Secret Daughter of the Tsar, Jennifer Laam seamlessly braids together the stories of three women: Veronica, Lena, and Charlotte. Veronica is an aspiring historian living in present-day Los Angeles when she meets a mysterious man who may be heir to the Russian throne. As she sets about investigating the legitimacy of his claim through a winding path of romance and deception, the ghosts of her own past begin to haunt her.

Rubies in the Snow

By Kate Hubbard,

Book cover of Rubies in the Snow: Diary of Russia's Last Grand Duchess, 1911-1918

I am surprised that I never came across this book until now. I rarely read Young Adult books, but of course make exceptions for Romanov fiction. There simply is not enough decent Romanov fiction out there, period. IMO this one is a gem. Although of course it is not based on the diaries of real Anastasia (who unfortunately burnt them all when the revolution broke out), the author clearly did a lot of research and seemingly read the diaries of the other sisters. Not sure why this book got so many 3 star ratings, even though the reviews say it is a very good book, but I would definitely recommend it to Romanov fiction and non-fiction history fans.

Who am I?

After a relatively short career in research science, Helen Azar switched gears and returned to graduate school to fulfill a dream of becoming a reference librarian. She worked at the Free Library of Philadelphia for ten years, during which time she became a published author. While researching for her first book, The Diary of Olga Romanov, Helen visited Russia several times, and worked in the Rare Book Fund at the Museum at Tsarskoe Selo, which holds the imperial book collection. Today, Helen lives on the beautiful far south coast of New South Wales, Australia; she continues writing about Russia's last imperial family and leads Romanov history tours. She also administers The Romanov Family website and is the content creator for a YouTube channel In the Steps of the Romanovs.


I wrote...

In the Steps of the Romanovs: Final two years of the last Russian imperial family (1916-1918)

By Helen Azar,

Book cover of In the Steps of the Romanovs: Final two years of the last Russian imperial family (1916-1918)

What is my book about?

By 1916, Russia had been involved in the First World War for almost two years, and events were about to take a tumultuous turn. Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate his throne, and what followed was a struggle that neither he, nor most of his nearest, were destined to survive. This volume offers an accurate glimpse into the final two years of the last Imperial Family of Russia: exclusively through their own diary entries and personal correspondence, supplemented by contemporary eyewitness accounts, many of which are published here in English for the first time.

The reader will get to know on a deeper level the Grand Duchesses and the Empress, as they work at Tsarskoe Selo infirmaries; witness the imperial family's grief for their murdered "Friend" Grigori Rasputin; experience their arrest after the outbreak of the revolution, and follow them into captivity in Siberia - and ultimately the Red Ural - where they meet their tragic end in the cellar of "The House of Special Purpose". This already familiar unique piece of history is individually told by Nicholas, Alexandra, and their five children: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei. Their collective personal story is a portrayal of a united family bound together by love, hardship, and tragedy, taking place during the twilight of an extraordinary bygone era. 

The Fate of the Romanovs

By Greg King, Penny Wilson,

Book cover of The Fate of the Romanovs

This is a comprehensive account of what happened to Nicholas, Alexandra, and their family from the fall of the monarchy to their last days in Ekaterinburg. It covers fully all the details of their confinement, their brutal murder, the discovery of the Romanov grave outside Ekaterinburg in 1989, and the controversy over the bones, using many previously unpublished Russian archival documents. If you think you know what happened, then read this because there are some surprising revelations.


Who am I?

I developed a fascination for Imperial Russia in childhood when I learned that my great-grandmother was born in St Petersburg, an almost exact contemporary of Nicholas II. I have studied the Romanovs and Imperial Russia for over 40 years and lectured in England (including the Victoria & Albert Museum), America, Denmark, The Netherlands, and Russia. My many books include To Free the Romanovs and Queen Victoria and the Romanovs.


I wrote...

Little Mother of Russia: A Biography of Empress Marie Feodorovna

By Coryne Hall,

Book cover of Little Mother of Russia: A Biography of Empress Marie Feodorovna

What is my book about?

Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia lived one of the most dramatic lives of anyone to mount the steps of the Russian throne. Her husband Alexander III died in his prime and two of her sons died young. During the First World War she watched in despair as her son Nicholas II refused to heed her advice and the country she loved was governed by her daughter-in-law Empress Alexandra and Rasputin, with disastrous results. In the revolution that followed she lost two of her sons and five of her grandchildren, murdered by the Bolsheviks. She escaped on a British warship having lost her home, her country, her church and many of her family. She died in her native Denmark – the tragic relic of a bygone age.

The Last Grand Duchess

By Ian Vorres,

Book cover of The Last Grand Duchess: Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna

A skillfully written account and engaging portrait of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960), younger sister of Tsar Nicholas II. Olga Alexandrovna’s life was no less dramatic than that of her brother, Nicholas II. Daughter, granddaughter, and sister to Russian emperors, Olga – a woman devoid of vanity and imbued with a strong faith – lived a life that could never be replicated. Immersed in the splendors of the Russian court, Olga also suffered through the Russian Revolution, and ultimately left Russia for a life of exile in Denmark and Canada. The Last Grand Duchess is Olga’s memoirs as told to Ian Vorres whose deft presentation of her story is to be applauded. Published in 1965, The Last Grand Duchess not only delves into Olga’s life but that of her family and other historical figures and brings a unique insight into the last Romanovs and Tsar Nicholas II in particular.

In…


Who am I?

Julia P. Gelardi has obtained a Master’s degree in History and spent many years immersed in the world of European royal history. The author of numerous articles and seven books on European royalty, three of which have been published by St. Martin’s Press, Julia has done extensive research in various archives, including the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle. She continues to search the world for elusive books on royalty to add to her library and is always on the lookout for new topics to write about and share with her readers.


I wrote...

From Splendor to Revolution

By Julia P. Gelardi,

Book cover of From Splendor to Revolution

What is my book about?

This sweeping saga recreates the extraordinary opulence and violence of Tsarist Russia as the shadow of revolution fell over the land, and destroyed a way of life for these Imperial women. The early 1850s until the late 1920s marked a turbulent and significant era for Russia. During that time the country underwent a massive transformation, taking it from days of grandeur under the tsars to the chaos of revolution and the beginnings of the Soviet Union.

At the center of all this tumult were four women of the Romanov dynasty. Marie Alexandrovna and Olga Constantinovna were born into the family, Russian Grand Duchesses at birth. Marie Feodorovna and Marie Pavlovna married into the dynasty, the former born a Princess of Denmark, the latter a Duchess of the German duchy of Mecklendburg-Schwerin.

After the Romanovs

By Helen Rappaport,

Book cover of After the Romanovs: Russian Exiles in Paris from the Belle Époque Through Revolution and War

The fascination of this book is its portrayal of the human cost involved in the fall of a civilisation. After the Bolshevik Revolution the cream of Russian society, including most of the aristocrats, the professional classes, the officer class, the middle class, fled Russia with little but the clothes on their backs. Being Francophone, most of them sought refuge in Paris only to find there destitution. Grand Dukes who formerly had palaces, country estates and scores of servants, now drove taxis, waited at table, washed dishes; Grand Duchesses embroidered for fashion houses (the lucky ones), all yearning for their homeland and being, as time passed, regarded with less and less tolerance by the French.  

The book is a reminder that catastrophe waits only for opportunity.


Who am I?

I live in Dublin, Ireland and am the author of eleven novels, many of them Irish bestsellers, all of them translated into foreign languages, most of them also published in the US by St Martin’s Press. A lawyer by profession, I gave up my law practice to concentrate on writing fiction, beginning with an historical novel Whispers in the Wind which was a No. 1 Irish bestseller. History is my passion.


I wrote...

Under the Wild Sky: A Saga of Love and War in Revolutionary Ireland

By Mary Ryan,

Book cover of Under the Wild Sky: A Saga of Love and War in Revolutionary Ireland

What is my book about?

I wrote Under the Wild Sky to coincide with the centenary of the 1916 Rising in Dublin which culminated in the revolution that won Independence. The title was inspired by a verse from Francis Ledwidge’s poem "Lament for Thomas MacDonagh" (a leading revolutionary who was executed by firing squad).

Essentially a love story, it traces events leading up to the Rising and the War of Independence through the eyes of Ellen and Guy, two young people in the cross hairs of history who come from opposite sides of the political and religious divide. The sequel to Under the Wild Sky will be out in November 2022. It is called The Dreamless Land.

Rasputin

By Douglas Smith,

Book cover of Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs

Rasputin’s ghost will rejoice to have the centenary of his murder marked by 800 pages of painstakingly researched, objective, accurate, and even sympathetic biography. For this authoritative work, Douglas Smith mined the entire Russian press of Rasputin’s last years, the reports of up to 5,000 the agents sent by authorities in the government and church to protect or to incriminate Rasputin, as well as every extant memoir. He has discounted many sensational and scandalous reports of this self-made monk or priest’s wild behaviour and magical powers. Rasputin’s sexuality, drinking, and propensity to violence, Smith insists, are much exaggerated. As police agents confirmed, he would visit two or three prostitutes a day; he bedded many of his female acolytes and petitioners. But, as others testify, he was no rapist or pervert. His performance was unimpaired by three bottles of Madeira. Understandably, he drank and whored heavily in the last four years…


Who am I?

Since adolescence, I have been fascinated by Slavonic languages, literature, cultures, and history, and by what can be retrieved from archives all over Eastern Europe. And because so much has been suppressed or distorted in everything from biographies of writers to atrocities by totalitarian governments, there has been much to expose and write about. Studying at Cambridge in the 1960s gave me an opportunity to learn everything from Lithuanian to Slovak: I have been able to write histories of Stalin and of Georgia, biographies of Russians such as Chekhov, Suvorin, and Przhevalsky, and the field is still fresh and open for future work.


I wrote...

Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him

By Donald Rayfield,

Book cover of Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him

What is my book about?

Stalin did not act alone. The mass executions, the mock trials, the betrayals and purges, the jailings and secret torture that ravaged the Soviet Union during the three decades of Stalin's dictatorship, were the result of a tight network of trusted henchmen (and women), spies, psychopaths, and thugs. At the top of this pyramid of terror sat five indispensable hangmen who presided over the various incarnations of Stalin's secret police. Now, in his harrowing new book, Donald Rayfield probes the lives, the minds, the twisted careers, and the unpunished crimes of Stalin's loyal assassins.

Land of the Firebird

By Suzanne Massie,

Book cover of Land of the Firebird: The Beauty of Old Russia

To understand Imperial Russia, you have to understand its culture. From the early days of conversion to Christianity in 987, through to Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, Suzanne Massie takes us on a wonderful journey through the customs and culture of this enigmatic land. We see the colourful markets and fairs, the carnival season and the traditions of Easter and Christmas, as well as the great artists, composers, writers, and dancers that Russia has produced. This is one of the most beautiful (and useful) books I have ever bought.


Who am I?

I developed a fascination for Imperial Russia in childhood when I learned that my great-grandmother was born in St Petersburg, an almost exact contemporary of Nicholas II. I have studied the Romanovs and Imperial Russia for over 40 years and lectured in England (including the Victoria & Albert Museum), America, Denmark, The Netherlands, and Russia. My many books include To Free the Romanovs and Queen Victoria and the Romanovs.


I wrote...

Little Mother of Russia: A Biography of Empress Marie Feodorovna

By Coryne Hall,

Book cover of Little Mother of Russia: A Biography of Empress Marie Feodorovna

What is my book about?

Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia lived one of the most dramatic lives of anyone to mount the steps of the Russian throne. Her husband Alexander III died in his prime and two of her sons died young. During the First World War she watched in despair as her son Nicholas II refused to heed her advice and the country she loved was governed by her daughter-in-law Empress Alexandra and Rasputin, with disastrous results. In the revolution that followed she lost two of her sons and five of her grandchildren, murdered by the Bolsheviks. She escaped on a British warship having lost her home, her country, her church and many of her family. She died in her native Denmark – the tragic relic of a bygone age.

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