This is the intimate story of twenty tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. Montefiore reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence and wild extravagance, and peopled by a cast of adventurers, courtesans, revolutionaries and poets, from Ivan the Terrible to Tolstoy, from Queen Victoria to Lenin.
To rule Russia was both imperial-sacred mission and poisoned chalice: six tsars were murdered and all the Romanovs lived under constant threat to their lives. Peter the Great tortured his own son to death while making Russia an empire, and dominated his court with a dining club notable for compulsory drunkenness, naked dwarfs and fancy dress. Catherine the Great overthrew her own husband - who was murdered soon afterwards - loved her young male favourites, conquered Ukraine and fascinated Europe. The Romanovs climaxes with a fresh, unforgettable portrayal of Nicholas and Alexandra, the rise and murder of Rasputin, war and revolution - and the harrowing massacre of the entire family.
'Simon Sebag Montefiore's The Romanovs is epic history on the grandest scale . . . A story of conspiracy, drunken coups, assassination, torture, impaling, breaking on the wheel, lethal floggings with the knout, sexual and alcoholic excess, charlatans and pretenders, flamboyant wealth based on a grinding serfdom, and, not surprisingly, a vicious cycle of repression and revolt. Game of Thrones seems like the proverbial vicar's tea party in comparison . . . Reading Montefiore's excellent account, it is hard to imagine how the monarchy could ever have survived under their catastrophic leadership' — Antony Beevor, Financial Times
'Captivating . . . The story of the Romanovs has been told countless times but never with such a compelling combination of literary flair, narrative drive, solid research and psychological insight. The Romanovs covers it all, from war and diplomacy to institution building and court intrigue, but it is chiefly an intimate portrait that brings to life the twenty sovereigns of Russia in vivid fashion . . . Montefiore writes with subtlety and sophistication about the nature of court life, the dynamics of power and the shifting configurations of the various players' — Douglas Smith, Literary Review
'Montefiore has an eye for the telling detail which lifts an unfamiliar narrative. His mammoth history of Russia's royal dynasty features many such vivid, amusing and surprising particulars. Indeed it is startlingly lubricious and gory . . . Gore and sex aside, the author's pen produces reams of fluent, sometimes sparkling prose. Many of his reflections on the Romanov era apply well to Vladimir Putin's domains now . . . The Russian court was an entrepot of power: its role as a broker allowed participants to amass wealth and bonded them in shared loyalty. But it also allowed them to compete without resorting to civil war or revolution. That sounds pretty much like the modern Kremlin' — The Economist
About the author
Simon Sebag Montefiore is a prizewinning historian whose books include Catherine the Great and Potemkin; Stalin: the court of the Red Tsar; Young Stalin; Jerusalem: the biography; and the novels Sashenka and One Night in Winter.