This is very much a human interest story, told with humour by a down to earth woman struggling to make ends meet in the 21st century. The upkeep of her historical childhood home, Provender House, in the depths of the English countryside, is indeed a constant daily battle for this modern-day princess.
Princess Olga Romanoff, is the daughter of the eldest nephew of Tsar Nicholas II, murdered with his family by the Bolsheviks in 1918. She is the youngest child of the late Prince Andrew Alexandrovich of Russia, who was born in the Winter Palace in St Petersburg in 1897. He fled Russia in 1918 with his pregnant (first) wife and his father, Grand Duke Alexander Michaelovich, while his mother, Grand Duchess Xenia, and his grandmother, Her Imperial Majesty Empress Maria Feodorovna, followed a few months later.
The fabled Romanov jewels that they were able to smuggle out had to be sold and the exiled family lived for some time at various grace-and-favour homes at Windsor and Hampton Court. The book is peppered with amusing anecdotes about the Royal Family, their British cousins.
The reader will also get a glimpse of the Princess’s cosseted childhood. She was looked after by a number of nannies and then privately educated at home, as her mother remembered the terrible time she herself had had at boarding school. But Princess Olga preferred the outdoor life and riding her ponies. She still laughs at one of her mother’s ambitions which was to marry her off to Prince Charles!
It was indeed an unusual upbringing with a snobbish and strict mother of Scottish and Scandinavian background, and a more relaxed and indulgent Romanov father whose occupation was stated as ‘Prince of Russia’ on Olga’s birth certificate.
Her home, Provender House is crammed full of fascinating Romanov memorabilia, from the crockery used by the Tsar and his family during their final captivity in Ekaterinburg, to the diamond blade penknife used for scratching the news of Prince Andrew’s birth on a window pane in the Winter Palace – still there for visitors to see. The rambling 30-room Provender House, now open to the public, has indeed been witness to some extraordinary tales – many of them hitherto untold – handed down by Princess Olga’s father.
Coryne Hall is the author of Little Mother of Russia, a biography of Princess Olga’s great-grandmother, and co-author of Once a Grand Duchess: Xenia, Sister of Nicholas II, a biography of her grandmother, and has written other books and many articles. Read more about Coryne on her author page.
“Rasputin’s murder, sexual misconduct and the Loch Ness monster; the newly released memoirs of Princess Olga Romanoff make for quite an extraordinary read … A richly entertaining book has emerged which will defy many expectations.”
Jonathan Whiley, Mayfair Times
“Colourful, definitely. Entertaining, without question..”
The Sunday Telegraph
“She has written a bitingly funny memoir and history of her family, in which she is also more forthcoming about our own royals.”
Emma Wells, The Sunday Times
“A very readable autobiography…some fascinating anecdotes.”
The New Royalty World
“The princess has the jewel box that the Dowager Empress hid under her voluminous skirts when the Bolsheviks searched the house.”
Extract from a feature in Majesty Magazine.
“An enthralling book”
Michele Magwood, Johannesburg Sunday Times
“Could Prince Charles have ever married a Russian? That was the match once planned for Princess Olga Romanoff, great-niece of the last Tsar. “It was a delusional dream of my mother, who was a huge snob,” says Olga, 67, at the launch in Kensington of her memoirs of life in the Russian imperial family.”
“My grandfather, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia, used this etching pen to write my father’s name and the time and date of his birth in 1897 on the window of the WInter Palace in St Petersburg. I’m not sure why – perhaps simply because he could!”
Emotional ties feature, Mail on Sunday
“Princess Olga: A Wild and Barefoot Romanov provides a rare, highly personal and evocative memoir, inviting the readers into the lives of the surviving Romanovs and members of the Russian Imperial Family.”
Russian Art and Culture – Read full review here.
“The reader does have to remember these are second hand stories from father to daughter in a book of memoirs and not a history text book … I have very much enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone interested in how the Romanov family continued their lives in exile in the 20th century.”
Sue Woolmans, Romanov News