Princess Victoria Melita, Grand Duchess Cyril of Russia
John Van der Kiste
Sutton, Stroud (UK), 2003
Princess Victoria Melita (1876-1936), nicknamed 'Ducky', was the second daughter of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria's second son, amd Gramd Duchess Marie of Russia, daughter of Tsar Alexander II. She was the only member of the Queen's family to be born on Malta, hence her second name.
In 1894 she was married to her cousin Ernest, Grand Duke of Hesse. The match had been arranged partly by Queen Victoria, who was particularly fond of her grandson (his mother had died of diphtheria when he and his sisters were still children), but he was sensitive, probably bisexual, and as husband and wife they proved totally incompatible. There was much scandal throughout Europe when the faltering marriage ended in divorce in 1901, conveniently just months after the Queen's death. Victoria Melita was held largely responsible for its breakdown.
Within a few years, both partners had remarried. In 1905 she went to the altar with another cousin, this time on her mother's side - Grand Duke Cyril. This incurred the displeasure of Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra, who had found it hard to forgive her for divorcing her brother Ernest, and for a few years they were banished from Russia.
Eventually they were allowed to return, but within a few years war broke out, and the Russian revolution overthrew the Romanov dynasty. Grand Duke Cyril, who had been seriously wounded on board ship while fighting in the Russo-Japanese War, pledged allegiance to the provisional government in 1917, and some of the family never forgave him for it. They and their children were among those who managed to escape from Russia and find a new life in Europe. From their home in France Cyril proclaimed himself Tsar in 1924, much to the disgust of many other surviving Romanovs.
This biography looks at the Grand Duchess's life against a background of the courts of England, Germany and Russia, their role in the revolution, their life in post-war Europe, her controversial visit to the United States, and her possible partisanship with the Nazi movement, as well as the unhappiness she found in her second marriage which led to her final breakdown in health.
The review of this Book prepared by John Van der Kiste