TRC: Grand Deeds but Human Nature – The Tsarina to The Queen

23/02/2012 at 8:14 pm (History, Royalty, The Ruthless Court) (, , , , , , , )


Emotion and personal values, not great political thought, rule those who rule us, and inform their actions. This has been so in the past and is now. We saw many occurrences of this as we trawled through information about the real lives of the historical characters who are essential, fictionalised members of our cast for TRC. So we, shamelessly but plausibly, sexed up their motivations and emotions we uncovered. And not only did we allow them, in our plot and narrative, to retain these enriched emotions, we also transfused these into the Twenty-First Century characters we created from scratch.  So for your entertainment in the next few weeks we’ll take a look behind the public face of key real-life characters in our novel.

Speaking of the present, is Queen Elizabeth II’s long reign and her intention to continue linked in any way to the reason for the fall of the Russian Imperial Family?  I’d bet you are saying, “Even for novelists you’re stretching it a bit, aren’t you?”

But it’s not so far-fetched. The link? That other long-reigning woman, Queen Victoria. She virtually adopted her granddaughter, the six year old Princess Alix of Hesse, later Tsarina Alexandra, after Alix’s mother, Victoria’s daughter Alice, died. In the next decade and a half, Alix spent nearly as much time in England with Queen Victoria as she did in Germany. As a child and young woman she was greatly influenced by her grandmother’s attitudes and values to royal life. But even before her “adoption”, her governess was an Englishwoman who implemented a regime very similar to that the old Queen had established in bringing up her children. So Alix was imbued with values such as loyalty and God’s call to service, royal service in particular.

As for our Queen, look at the parallels with Victoria. Accession to the throne at a young age, married to a man she adores, strong faith, a determination to overcome difficult times in her life (for Victoria, unpopularity after Albert’s death; for Elizabeth, the 1990s – Diana; her children divorces) and, like Victoria, a model of how a constitutional monarch should behave. These similarities are not all simply coincidental but several of them are the result of Queen Elizabeth taking example from her great, great grandmother.

And back to Tsarina Alexandra. In her approach she shared and applied many of the personal values of Victoria (and Elizabeth), but, alas for her and the Russian Imperial Family, she took God’s call to service to the extreme. While the two English queens try/tried to influence politicians, the Tsarina wanted her husband to be an absolute ruler. Somehow, it seems, Victoria’s teaching on this subject was lost in transference. Not translation as the Tsarina spoke perfect English from an early age. But neither Alix/Alexandra nor her husband, the Tsar, had the personal skills to weave aspects of a constitutional monarchy into Russian society. So, in the end, emotion and personal values either lead to triumph – Diamond Jubilee – or disaster – multiple, tragic murders in a cellar. Get TRC from Amazon and see how we entertainingly used all this to help us write a fantastic, unique story.

Next week: The real emotions and behaviour of Prince Albert Victor, and their consequences (he was Jack the Ripper, some say).

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Life Imitates Art on The Ruthless Courts of Wimbledon

01/07/2011 at 5:28 am (Books, Current Affairs, Great Britain, History, Royalty, Russia, Tennis, The Ruthless Court, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


The Ruthless Court is set at Wimbledon tennis and in Barbados, St Petersburg, wider London, Moscow and Madagascar. Read Chapter 1 free to see how our scene-setting matches up to this weekend at Wimbledon, with Djokovic, and a tall Russian woman in the Finals.

The Ruthless Court book cover

TITLE PAGE AND COPYRIGHT

The Ruthless Court

Autumn & Bonny St John

 This book is a work of fiction.  Names, characters and their dialogue, incidents and locations either are used fictitiously or are created by the authors from their imaginations.  Any similarity to living or dead people and their current or past dialogue, events and locations is entirely coincidental.

 Copyright © 2011

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the authors, except for the inclusion of  brief quotations in a review.

Chapter 1

“Let’s go rumble with little Miss Womble, Your Majesty!”

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II involuntarily jerked her torso back as if avoiding an intended blow. She and the Lady Sophie Rycroft-Ross, Lady-in-Waiting, in startled unison exclaimed, “What!”

The Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, frowned at Sir Richard Littlehyusen, chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. They were in the hallway of the ladies changing rooms of the famous club. Sir Richard had a look close to horror on his face. His expression was out of place in the genteel surroundings. For security reasons, no one else was allowed to be in the area of the changing rooms at the same time as the Queen. Sir Richard had agreed that with her close protection team. He would therefore have some difficult explaining to do.

The voice they’d heard was that of a New York American but they couldn’t see him. The Queen’s chief close protection officer started walking determinedly and briskly in the direction the voice had come from. He unbuttoned his jacket, and briefly rested his hand on something out of sight at his right hip. Sir Richard trotted along behind the lanky, grey-haired man.

At that moment Catherine Verkhovnova and her coach Jack Petrovich came into the hallway. Jack, always unflappable and confident, immediately realised what had happened.  And the players and coaches had been advised by the club on the etiquette of addressing Her Majesty, if the occasion arose when they had to do so. She had been briefed about the players and coaches.

Jack smiled and with more of a nod than a bow said “Oh, sorry, Your Majesty, I was talking to Catherine here, the one and only Empress of Tennis!”

In spite of the lapse in security and protocol, everyone laughed, except Catherine.

“I am surprised, Mr Petrovich, that you’ve heard of our imaginary little friends, the Wombles of Wimbledon Common.  Do you have children?” the Queen asked with a broad smile.

“No Ma’am, but in the dark, endless Winters of St Petersburg you’ll do anything to pass the time. Even allowing yourself to be persuaded to watch old tapes of the BBC’s Wombles stories,” Jack replied.

Laughter all round again, but Catherine stood unsmiling and as still as if she were rooted to the spot. Jack looked at her. She was trembling slightly. The nineteen year old seemed overwhelmed by coming face to face with the Queen. Her large, bright green eyes were fixed on the authoritative but kind face of this Queen Elizabeth.

Does she know that I am her cousin? Catherine thought. Has she, like me, been told the true story of her great uncle, my great, great, grandfather?

The Queen’s expression revealed nothing. Nothing but her mastery of the diplomatic skill of remaining poker-faced when one’s thoughts had to be kept secret at all cost. She abruptly turned to Sir Richard and nodded.

Guided by him, she and her entourage set off to complete her look round the modern facilities of the club. She had intended to do this two years ago, but had overrun her schedule by talking to players and officials much longer than expected.

Exceptionally, she had returned for the Gentlemen’s Singles Finals this year. During the past year, she had been coaxed and encouraged to do so by her young friends Lady Sophie and her brother, Lord Gervase Rycroft-Ross.

And either by monarchical magic or divine coincidence, Britain at last had a man playing in the Wimbledon singles final for the first time since Bunny Austin more than seven decades ago. In addition, to the nation’s joyful amazement, Georgie Gent had reached the Ladies’ Singles Final, with consummate spotlight sharing timing. And to crown it all for her, she was playing today, Sunday, in front of the Queen. As tradition dictated, the Ladies’ Final had been scheduled for Saturday afternoon, but, in the early morning, Catherine Verkhovnova, Georgie’s opponent, had complained of a debilitating stomach upset. The Championships referee, GJ Gillem, had insisted that the tournament’s official doctor should verify that the world’s number one female player was indeed incapable of taking to the court.

Once her illness was confirmed, the Wimbledon Committee pragmatically, if highly unusually, swapped the Ladies’ Final and the Mixed Doubles Final, bringing forward the latter to Saturday from Sunday. They soothed disappointed and increasingly unruly spectators by offering them a partial refund, before the hallowed name of Centre Court could be brought into disrepute.

But the Mixed Doubles players threatened, in McEnroesque style, not to play, annoyed by the sudden change. However, GJ Gillem used his diplomatic wiles and negotiating skills, honed during several ambassadorial appointments, including Washington, to talk them into playing. It helped as well that he and his wife, the fabulous jazz singer Ann-Nicole Bauer, had been Wimbledon Mixed Doubles champions, so he shared camaraderie with the current players.

The nation was agog with anticipation. The television audience in the UK was expected to be the largest ever to watch a sporting event.

And now on this glorious Sunday, thirty thousand people were flooding onto Henman Hill, Court One and all the “outside” courts to watch the two finals on large television screens. Centre Court, the place where history would actually be played out, was packed.

Inside, Jack took Catherine’s elbow and gently but firmly pushed her along. They headed to the players’ waiting room. When they got there, Georgie hadn’t arrived yet. Hers was not a name known to most of the public; and many tennis fans only knew her as Laura Robson’s sometime doubles partner. But she had shocked everyone by beating Caroline Wozniacki in their semi-final, lasting six hours and fifty-two minutes, the longest match in the history of women’s tennis. And Jack referred to her as Miss Womble only as a way of helping Catherine to relax. It was obvious that Georgie was a skilled competitor. But to write her name in Wimbledon’s brightest history she would somehow have to overcome Catherine, who was undefeated all year.

For her male counterpart, Andy Murray, to join her in tennis immortality, he would have to beat a rampant Novak Djokovic in their final. John Lloyd, the wise, former Great Britain Davis Cup team captain, was confident that Murray would win, as the Scot had demolished Rafael Nadal in three sets in their semi-final.

And so the Wimbledon Committee, unaware of all the coincidences which made it happen, was very pleased that the Queen was attending the two matches of great sporting historic importance for Britain. During the silver jubilee year of her accession, 1977, she had watched from the Royal Box as Virginia Wade won the ladies trophy, the Venus Rosewater Dish. But, after so many, many years, for the two Britons to win on the same day, if they won, in front of her would surely be a great pleasure to her, the club’s patricians reasoned to themselves.

But just about then the long-reigning British monarch was thinking of 1959 and a lunch she had in Toronto, Canada, with the Grand Duchess Olga, who was her cousin and the younger sister of the late Tsar Nicholas II.

Olga, then seventy-seven years old, had told the young Queen an astonishing story about the latter’s great uncle, Prince Albert Victor. To all the world, he had died at Sandringham House, Norfolk, England, in 1892. But, in fact, he had lived long after that, mostly in Russia, where he had a deadly feud with Rasputin.

Like me, Olga would have instantly recognised that extraordinary girl as a descendant of Pyotr Asimov, the Queen thought. So she’s certainly part of the modern legacy of my great uncle, though I don’t know exactly how. Besides what I know, heaven knows what else Asimov got up to. And it was probably her and her advisers who wrote to me anonymously last year, the Queen surmised.  In any event, best for all if this particular past remains the past.

♛ ♔ ♕ ♚ ♛♔ ♕ ♚ ♛♔ ♕ ♚ ♛♔ ♕ ♚ ♛♔ ♕ ♚ ♛♔ ♕ ♚ ♛♛♔ ♕ ♚ ♛♔ ♕ ♚ ♛

 This book has now been published as an eBook on Kindle (there’s a note below about Kindle books). But you don’t need a Kindle device to download and read it. Here’s a link which will take you to the free Kindle app (software/system) for PCs, Macs, iPads, iPods, iPhones, etc, which you can download: http://amzn.to/iCTErl.

And here are links to the book on Kindle: http://amzn.to/mx2X6f  (UK),  http://amzn.to/lkN7F0 (Europe),  http://amzn.to/kC0X3f  (Rest of the World). These should take you direct to the book’s location. If they don’t, you can go to Amazon.co.uk, search for The Ruthless Court and it will pop up. Hope you’ll take a look. If you decide to read it,  hope you do enjoy it–and don’t forget to tell your friends about it as well!

And if you don’t already know:

You can move within a Kindle book as easily as you can in a paper copy. The “GO” button on the menu bar lets you move to, among other places, the Table of Contents and to Page or Location. In addition, when you reopen a Kindle book it will open at the last page you were reading. A paper copy doesn’t do that. You either have to remember where you were or bookmark it!  A Kindle book also allows you to choose from three different page backgrounds: white, off-white (sepia) and black.

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In Russia, With Love: The Royal Wedding of the Last Tsar and Tsarina

29/04/2011 at 5:51 am (Current Affairs, Great Britain, History, Royalty, Russia) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


So the Big Day is finally here! The biggest Royal Wedding Great Britain—and arguably, the world—has seen since Charles and Diana. Prince William and Kate Middleton are to be married at Westminster Abbey, complete with its specially installed 97 metre red carpet, at 11:00 am UK time, with 1900 guests in attendance and in front of the biggest worldwide television audience in all of history. Those lucky enough to be invited to the ceremony range from foreign princes to familiar footballers, war heroes to slapstick entertainers. Also present in the House of Kings will be no less than two choirs, one orchestra and two fanfare teams to perform the wedding service’s music. The two processions, from Buckingham Palace to the Abbey and back again, take in such London landmarks as The Mall, Downing Street,Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

The Royal Wedding reception, to which 650 guests are invited, is to be held at Buckingham Palace. The host, of course, could only be Her Majesty the Queen. Ellie Goulding, one of William and Kate’s favourite singers, will provide the musical entertainment—without the backing of two choirs, one orchestra and two fanfare teams, we imagine. Guests will dine on canapés as offered by circulating waiters.

But, of course, grand royal weddings have happened for eons. Here’s a verbal canapé about one of the most famous.

Nicholas and Alexandra, the last Tsar and Tsarina of Russia, are a pivotal couple in The Ruthless Court. How did their own royal wedding, on 26th November 1894, compare with William’s and Kate’s? It was a more sombre and low key affair, as it was sadly just one week after the death of Nicholas’ father, Tsar Alexander III. However, as you can imagine, the new Tsar’s wedding to the German princess, known as Alix of Hesse before changing her name to Alexandra, was also attended by foreign princes and dignitaries (it is unclear if the 19th century Russian equivalents of Elton John, David Beckham and Mr. Bean were also in attendance).

The wedding took place at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, which was as surrounded with onlookers and well-wishers as Westminster Abbey is right now. Nicholas donned a Hussar’s uniform for the occasion, whilst Alexandra wore the traditional dress of Romanov brides. The post-ceremony procession saw the happy couple drive to Anichkov Palace, cheered on by astounding crowds, as no doubt the procession back to Bucks Palace will be later on. Whilst William and Kate are to nobly take an austerity honeymoon in Cornwall’s Scilly Isles, the Emperor and Empress had no honeymoon at all.

We at The Ruthless Court wish William and Kate a very long and happy life together. As everyone knows, the Tsar and Tsarina stayed in love and loyal to one another throughout revolt, constitutional change, the birth and lives of their children, WWI and finally, the Russian Revolution, which was to lead to their untimely death. In The Ruthless Court, however, their marriage is even more thrilling, laden as it is with secrets, intrigue and visitors from the past!

Be sure to follow our live tweet of the Royal Wedding as it happens!

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Welcome to The Ruthless Court!

24/02/2011 at 8:54 pm (Great Britain, History, Royalty, Russia, Tennis, The Ruthless Court, Uncategorized, Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Welcome to The Ruthless Court, where it’s hard to get off the court–alive…

Allow us to tell you about this highly imaginative and entertaining yarn which spins some of Britain’s and Russia’s most historic events into a single, fantastic, human story.

But first, fire up your imagination to full burn. Lift-off achieved? Then, here’s the adventure you’re on.

The supposedly dead Prince Albert Victor, suspected by some of being Jack the Ripper, second in line to Queen Victoria’s throne, feuds with Rasputin for the love of the last Tsarina, Alexandra, at the Russian Imperial Court in St Petersburg. And to make sure he wins, he dangerously uses the first MI6 officer in Russia, Lenin, the coming, and then the actual Russian Revolution and even Henri Matisse. And the feuds don’t die with the Prince and Rasputin. Their noble descendants clash now at the Wimbledon Championships where the Queen is taken hostage. Current MI5 and MI6 spies in the UK and in Russia use their tricks to try to defeat the self-styled ruthless court behind the present day mayhem. But who are the ruthless court?

How? Why? Who? Questions you’re asking. It’s a great escapist read finding out the answers in The Ruthless Court.

And now that you’re a ruthless courtier, we – Bonny and Autumn St John, father and daughter – your servants in the blogosphere, provide links to all the info you might want (or not) to dip into as  you enjoy your Court.

The Ruthless Court. The first novel by father-and-daughter team Bonny and Autumn St. John, The Ruthless Court is a relentless thriller that dramatically jumps between the late 19th century, early 20th century and the present day. The exciting yarn focuses on an entertaining, heart-stopping version of key points in British and Russian history, as well as the work and lives of 21st century spies…

We’ve basically set up this blog to get the word out about The Ruthless Court, post excerpts from it, update you on our quest to get published and to comment on anything and everything else to do with the world of The Ruthless Court–such as tennis, the Royal Family and Russia, to name but a few subject matters we’ll be chewing the fat over in the days, weeks and months to come.

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