a remarkable correspondence of the grand duchess to a close friend who had known her since her childhood, covering a period of over thirty years during which she married, moved to England, brought up her family and became a grandmother.
Initially Marie is struck by the contrast between the "coldness" of England and the warmth of Russia (not the climate, but the people and the atmosphere), and she finds relations with her mother-in-law Queen Victoria difficult and unpredictable, a state of affairs which hardly altered over the years. She is however amazed by her visit to the Derby, and loves the Italian paintings in the National Gallery, which recall her tour of Italy before her marriage. While awaiting the birth of her first child, she finds her "villégiature" at Eastwell in Kent rather dull – at 20, she remarks wistfully, surely one has the right to some amusement – and misses her Italian and music lessons.
From Malta where Alfred is stationed with his ship she notes that "nous avons commencé à travailler pour les blessés" (a course of action which the Tsar had hoped would not offend Queen Victoria, the wounded in question being Russian officers) but it pains her to be away from Russia at such a time, but she admits guiltily that she gets bored with Alfred away at sea, and regrets that she cannot accompany him when he is posted to the Crimea.
On hearing of the assassination attempt on her father in 1879 she is overwhelmed with anxiety and desperate for more news. She goes to Ingenheim to see her mother, whose health is poor, and tries to prepare herself for the worst, knowing that she is mortally ill.
After the death of her father in 1881 she feels that Russia no longer exists for her, and has a profound sense of exile from her homeland. A year later the sadness of the anniversary is acute; she states that she is living on her memories, and has harsh words for the new Empereur and his repressive policies. She finds that in her sadness Queen Victoria has been kind to her, and they have gone for long walks together and talked a lot.
She is irritated at finding herself pregnant again, but is delighted when another daughter (Alexandra, named after the Countess, but known as Sandra) is born on Easter Day, which she feels is a good omen. She reports on the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, which went well, to the Queen’s satisfaction, and on her travels in Europe, with amusing accounts of a visit to the Queen of Spain, to Romania for the birth of her daughter Missy (Marie)’s first child, and to the Empress Frederick in Berlin, who hasn’t a good word to say for her son (Kaiser Wilhelm), though Marie finds him "honnête et ouvert". She complains of having to go to Windsor to inaugurate yet another statue of the Prince Consort ("comme s’il n’y en avait pas assez dans toute l’Angleterre"), and contrasts the elaborate reception of Wilhelm II at Osborne with his previous visit when he was all but ignored.
She describes the wedding of second daughter Ducky (Victoria Melita) to Ernest of Hesse, which was attended by Queen Victoria, since both bride and groom were her grandchildren. Fortunately Queen Victoria would not live to see this marriage end in divorce. The only child of the marriage died in 1903. Marie tries to counter Countess Tolstoy’s disapproval, and informs her that Ducky wants to remarry one of her Russian cousins. The final letter refers to the "horrible Japanese war".
The lot also includes two letters by Marie to her close friend Ina ("Inushka") and other related items.
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