TRC characters: royal or rogue, emotions rule – Rasputin

11/03/2012 at 6:58 pm (History, Royalty, Russia) (, , , , )


Sexual and religious deviant? Healer. Illiterate. Practitioner of self-flagellation? Rough-mannered. Common thief?  Staretz – holy man? Libertine. Peasant. Rasputin. Adored by the Tsarina’s best friend, Anna Vyrubova. Hated by the Tsar’s nephew-in-law, Prince Felix Yusupov.  Loved by many aristocrats, mainly women. Feared by politicians. In the year of his murder, 1916, a fiery right-wing member of the Duma, Vladimir Purishkevich, friend of Yusupov, said of Rasputin:  “The Tsar’s ministers …… have been turned into marionettes, marionettes whose threads have been taken firmly in hand by Rasputin and the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna — the evil genius of Russia and the Tsarina … who has remained a German on the Russian throne and alien to the country and its people.”

Yusupov was in the Duma for the speech and he soon persuaded Purishkevich that Rasputin had to be killed.  Not surprising that Yusupov was quick to rope in someone who might help him achieve his dubious objective. He had honed his already considerable networking skills when he was in the Bullingdon Club at Oxford University between 1909-1912. Yes, the same club as Messrs Cameron, Johnson and Osborne belonged to eighty years later. In fact, Yusupov was so effective that the Oxford University Russian Society he founded is still running today.

So while Rasputin did have the patronage of the Tsar and Tsarina, among others, he was up against a very determined, politically sophisticated and organised man in Yusupov, who also had enormous wealth at his disposal to use for any ends he desired.

But what was the secret of Rasputin’s appeal to the Tsar, Tsarina and other members of the Imperial Family?  And what drew the loathing of others? Reading between the lines during our research, TRC answers: the same thing in both cases, sheer emotion.  Theirs and his. We’d probably call his, “emotional intelligence,” these days.  He always seemed to say the right things to his devotees, however brusquely, or be available when most needed. But none of this cut any ice with those who detested him. It wouldn’t be far off the mark to say much of his enemies’ antipathy to him stemmed from personal and political jealousy. How dare this uncouth creature, this Siberian peasant inveigle his way into the Court, and flaunt himself as a friend and adviser of the Tsar and Tsarina? Friend or foe, the source of their attitude to him was emotion. Here’s Yusupov’s description of Rasputin’s eyes: “small, shifty, gray,” so “sunken under heavy eyebrows” that even close up it was sometimes difficult to see them. And Vyrubova’s description? “………extraordinary eyes, large, light, brilliant…..”  Yusupov and Vyrubova met Rasputin several times. So why the contradictory description of his eyes? The source of the discrepancy lies in the differing emotional perspectives from which they viewed Rasputin.  And while we have used this rather simple example to demonstrate our point, you don’t need to be Stephen Hawking to work out that people’s opinions about him would have been just as polarised when it came to more serious issues.

Rasputin’s death on 29 December, 1916 is one of the iconic murders of all time. At the hands of Yusupov, Purishkevich and…………? If you think you’ve seen or read it all before, you haven’t. Not until you’ve read the highly creative TRC. So read it. It’s delicious.

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Who is Anna Vyrubova?

28/05/2011 at 8:39 am (History, Royalty, Russia, The Ruthless Court) (, , , , , , , , )


Actress Alisa Brunovna Freindlikh as Anna Vyrubova in the film 'Agony'Anna Vyrubova, quite simply, was one of the most important women in the last days of the Romanov dynasty. It was her who introduced the eccentric, wild-living, self-proclaimed mystic Grigori Rasputin to the last Tsar of Russia and his family. Anna Vyrubova was Tsarina Alexandra’s lady-in-waiting and best friend. When Rasputin fell into Anna’s social circle and started impressing the ladies with his apparent faith-healing and prophetic abilities, Anna wasted no time in introducing him to the royal family, in the hope that he could alleviate the agony Tsarevich Alexei regularly went through due to his haemophilia.

Rasputin did indeed seem to relieve the young heir’s suffering whenever he was near—however he was also the source of much controversy, due to his partying ways, his love for the ladies and his closeness to the Tsarina. At the onset of the First World War in particular, outrageous rumours about the exact nature of Alexandra and Rasputin’s relationship flew around like birds. As Orlando Figes in A People’s Tragedy says, one such rumour involved Anna herself: ‘There were even rumours of the Empress and Rasputin engaging in wild orgies with the Tsar and [Anna], who was said to be a lesbian’.

In The Ruthless Court, Anna Vyrubova plays as important a part in Rasputin’s relationship with the Romanovs as she does in history, acting as an interlocutor between the two parties whenever the mad monk needs someone to plead his case for him—which is often, as his feud with ‘John Richmond’ (the alter ego of the supposedly dead Prince Albert Victor) over the Tsarina’s heart frequently takes visible and violent turns. And Anna is also inadvertently responsible for restoring Rasputin’s fame and reputation as a ‘true’ holy man just at a time when it looked like he was falling from favour.

Things get even more complicated when Anna develops romantic feelings for ‘John’ and he decides to use her by playing along, not only to keep tabs on Rasputin through her, but for other purposes as well…

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Ra Ra Ra Ra Rasputin

23/03/2011 at 10:03 am (History, Royalty, Russia, The Ruthless Court, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Seriously though, why’d Boney M sing about a dead Russian guy anyway? Well, just look at him! Which 1970s disco group wouldn’t find so terrifying a sight to be the perfect muse? Mind you, the mad staring eyes are not the only reason why this vision has captured the imaginations of people everywhere since his early 20th century hey-day. He was known as the ‘Mad Monk’ for a reason. This extraordinary being claimed to be a holy man with mystical powers yet spent his days revelling in his apartment and the restaurants of Moscow, not to mention enjoying pleasures of the flesh.  He was in fact heavily suspected of being part of a religious sect that combined religious and sexual ecstasy. And it came as no surprise to his peers and many enemies that he was thrown out of at least one of his favourite Muscovite night spots.

But perhaps  the most remarkable thing was the way Rasputin gained entry into the inner circle of the early 20th century Romanovs, the last Imperial family of Russia, before and during WWI.  His greatest “sponsor”,  along with Tsarina Alexandra and Tsar Nicholas II,  was the Tsarina’s best friend Anna Vyrubova. She and they believed him to have special healing powers, which mysteriously eased the effects of the haemophilia of the royal couple’s son Tsarevich Alexei. Known as the royal disease because so many of Queen Victoria’s descendants all over Europe suffered from it, haemophilia is a disease that leads to the slightest injury causing excessive internal or external bleeding for prolonged periods of time. Whenever Alexei was suffering from one of these episodes and Rasputin was there to sit with him and pray over him, the boy somehow found some relief.

So grateful to Rasputin were the family, and the Tsarina in particular, she fast became one of the mystical man’s most devout disciples. When the Russians went all anti-German on her in the darkest depths of WWI, (for, like some other royals we know, she was originally German) one of the vicious rumours circulating was that she and Rasputin were ‘more than friends’. Or was it just a rumour?? We play with that in The Ruthless Court, by pitting Rasputin against a dead man in the battle for the Tsarina’s affections. Well, I say dead, but it’s actually Prince Albert Victor–Victoria’s grandson and second in line to the British throne—having assumed the alter ego of ‘John Richmond’. And for a “dead” man, the Prince more than holds his own against Rasputin in what develops into a bitter feud, as this exclusive excerpt from The Ruthless Court shows:

One morning as the Prince arrives, Rasputin, escorted by a new footman, is leaving by the same entrance. They stare angrily at each other, clearly recalling their first encounter in the Prince’s mansion years earlier. But neither man speaks. However, they both refuse to give way to the other. The Prince’s jealousy and resentment of Rasputin boil over. He stamps on his foot, and turning sideways rams his left elbow into his chest. Rasputin cries out and grabs him by the throat. Jim, the Tsarina’s huge attendant, is passing and pushes them apart. The Prince continues into the palace with Rasputin’s loud threats to have him “exiled” following him.

The next day Anna tells him that Rasputin had complained to the Tsarina about “the unprovoked, brutal violence” “John Richmond” inflicted on him. Anna tells the Prince that the Tsarina was sceptical about the story and tried to calm Rasputin. She smilingly evaded his demands for the Tsar to “banish” his attacker, from Tsarskoe at the least.

“Please tell the Tsarina that I am truly sorry about this unpleasant misunderstanding between Mr Rasputin and me. We got into a tangle as we both moved in the same direction to allow the other to pass through the entrance. In the confusion I accidentally trod on his foot and stumbled. As I flung up my arms to regain my balance one of them struck him in the chest. Entirely unintentional,” the Prince says in a very sincere tone of voice to Anna as he holds her hand.

But will Rasputin get the upper hand in the end? We all know that, in real life, Rasputin met a grizzly end, but once you enter The Ruthless Court, real life becomes….surreal….

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