July 21, 2014

Blog Tour: The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming – Guest Post and Giveaway


Welcome to our Tour Stop for

The Family Romanov:
Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia
by Candace Fleming

presented by Shwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of
Random House Children’s Books !

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post.


“Marrying the intimate family portrait of Heiligman’s Charles and Emmawith the politics and intrigue of Sheinkin’s Bomb, Fleming has outdone herself with this riveting work of narrative nonfiction that appeals to the imagination as much as the intellect.” —The Horn Book, Starred

From the acclaimed author of Amelia Lost and The Lincolns comes a heartrending narrative nonfiction page-turner—and a perfect resource for meeting Common Core standards. When Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, inherited the throne in 1894, he was unprepared to do so. With their four daughters (including Anastasia) and only son, a hemophiliac, Nicholas and his reclusive wife, Alexandra, buried their heads in the sand, living a life of opulence as World War I raged outside their door and political unrest grew into the Russian Revolution.

Deftly maneuvering between the lives of the Romanovs and the plight of Russia’s peasants and urban workers—and their eventual uprising—Fleming offers up a fascinating portrait, complete with inserts featuring period photographs and compelling primary-source material that brings it all to life.

“An exhilarating narrative history of a doomed and clueless family and empire.” —Jim Murphy, author of Newbery Honor Books An American Plague and The Great Fire

“For readers who regard history as dull, Fleming’s extraordinary book is proof positive that, on the contrary, it is endlessly fascinating, absorbing as any novel, and the stuff of an altogether memorable reading experience.” —Booklist, Starred

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Thanks so much for asking me to stop by.   I’m so excited to talk about my new book, The Family Romanov.  And today… well… today I want to share five little stories with you; five little stories drawn from the Romanov’s lives; five little stories I hope you haven’t heard before.  Some are amusing.  Some are heartbreaking.  And all are true.

Story #1:

On a bright autumn morning in November, 1895 Tsar Nicholas’ first child, Olga, was christened in a ceremony befitting her position as “Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess.”   At 10: 45 a.m., a procession of crimson and gold carriages carrying members of the extended Imperial Family – aunts, uncles, cousins — rolled through the park at Tsarskoe Selo.  Soldiers in silver breastplates and scarlet tunics lined the route as the carriages passed over arched bridges and down wide lanes.  At the end of the line, came the golden carriage carrying the little grand duchess.  Regally, it made its way to the chapel in the Catherine Palace. 

A flourish of trumpets heralded its arrival.  Inside, the chapel was already crowded with members of the nobility and the court – the men in full dress uniform their chests covered with medals, the woman in lace and satin and sparkling with jewels.  Only the tsar and empress were absent (Russian Orthodox custom forbade parents from attending the baptism of their child).

Princess Marie Golitsyn – the tsar’s elderly cousin –stepped from the carriage.  Having been given the honor of carrying the infant to the baptismal font, the princess came prepared.  To keep from dropping the baby, the satin pillow on which she lay was attached to a thick gold band tied around the Princess’ shoulders.  And to keep her feet from slipping on the polished marble floors, pieces of rubber had been glued to the soles of her slippers.  Cautiously, the cushion balanced precariously, the elderly woman moved toward the chapel’s gold-inlaid altar.

Father Yanishev was waiting.   Through clouds of sweet-smelling incense, the priest lifted the infant from her cushion.  After removing her white-lace christening gown, he plunged her into the sacred – but cold – water of the baptismal font three times.

The tiny Grand Duchess howled her outrage.

Ignoring her cries, the priest clipped the infant’s downy hair in the shape of a cross.  Rolling the clippings in wax, he tossed them into the baptismal font.  According to church custom, if the hair sank the child’s life would be one of good fortune.  If it floated, sorrow awaited.

What would Olga’s fate be?

All eyes were fixed on the font as the hair slowly circled to its bottom.  A murmur rippled through the congregation.  Good fortune, of course!  What else would await the daughter of a Tsar Nicholas II?

Story #2: 

One day in 1901, Nanny Eager told six-year old Olga and four-year old Tatiana a story.  It was about a boy named Joseph whose father loved him so much that he gave him a colorful and expensive coat.  But Joseph’s older brothers grew jealous. They stole the coat, and pushed Joseph into a pit.

               “What a shame!” cried Olga when the story ended.

               “Yes,” agreed Nanny Eager.  “It was a terrible shame for them to be so jealous and cruel to their younger brother.

Olga frowned.  “I mean it was a shame on the father.  Joseph was not the eldest, and the beautiful coat should have gone to the eldest.  The other brothers knew that, and… that is why they put him in the pit.”

               An exasperated Nanny Eager tried once again to get her point across. Two days later, she showed the girls a movie (a brand new invention in 1901).  The silent film flickered in black and white on the nursery wall, showing two girls each quietly sitting before a table covered with little toys.  Suddenly, the bigger girl leaned over and tried to snatch a toy off the smaller girl’s table.  The small girl clung to it, refusing to give it up.  So the big girl grabbed up a spoon and bashed her over the head until the little girl finally gave it up.

               The scene caused tenderhearted Tatiana to burst into tears.

               But Olga sat pondering for a moment. “I can’t think we saw [all] that picture,” she said.

               Nanny Eager snorted.  “I hope the end of it was that the naughty big sister was well punished.”

               Olga fell quiet again.  “I am sure the lamb belonged at first to the big sister,” she finally said, “and she was kind and lent it to her sister.  Then she wanted it back, and the little sister would not give it up, so she had to beat her.”

               Olga gave Tatiana a sharp look.

               And Nanny Eager gave up.  “Explanations were useless,” she later said.  Olga was unshakeable in her belief that the firstborn had special rights.

Story #3:

One day an elderly, peasant couple arrived at the palace. Clutching a burlap sack, the old man explained to Chancellor Mosolv that he and his wife had used all their money to travel from Siberia just to bring their “Father Tsar” a present.

What kind of present?

The man showed him.  Opening his sack, he whistled sharply.  Instantly, a sable jumped from the bag.  Scurrying up the man’s arm, it hid inside the collar of the peasant’s coat, leaving just the tip of its twitching nose visible.

Mosolov was impressed.  A tamed sable was extremely rare.  He immediately telephoned the tsar’s private apartments.  Would His Majesty like to see the animal?

“As quickly as possible,” replied Nicholas.  “The children are wild with impatience.”

               Minutes later, the awestruck peasant couple was led along gleaming hallways and up carpeted stairs to the nursery where the five children, as well as Alexandra, waited. But it was Nicholas’ presence that astonished the old man.  “We threw ourselves at his feet,” he recalled, “and the sable looked as if he understood it was the Tsar himself.”

               Nicholas told the peasant to let the animal go.  As the children squealed and chased after the sable — who clawed his way up the backside of the curtains and scrabbled under furniture in a frantic attempt to escape — the tsar chatted with the couple.   Even though he ruled Siberia, he knew very little about the place.  He asked the peasants all sort of questions.  “What types of homes do you live in?”  “What are things like?”  “How [do you] go hunting?”

               Unfortunately, the old man had a hard time concentrating on the conversation.  He kept glancing nervously at the excited sable and the even more excited children.  “My sable,” he later admitted, “[made] too much of an upset in the palace.  It [was] not used to rooms like that.”

               The Tsar obviously agreed.  When the couple left a few hours later, they took along a gold watch engraved with the imperial eagle, a jeweled brooch, and enough money to cover the cost of their long trip back to Siberia.  They also took home the sable.

               The children were inconsolable.  “But there was no hope for it,” sniffled Anastasia.  “Papa had made up his mind.”

 Story #4: 

In the summer of 1913, Grand Duchess Olga, fell in love. The man of her dreams was Paul Voronov, an officer who served on the imperial yacht Standart. Invited to spend time with the Romanovs at their Crimean palace, Paul accompanied the imperial children on picnic outings, and served as a tennis partner.  Despite the fact that he was nine years older than she, his dashing good looks soon stole Olga’s heart.

               She kept her feelings a secret, confiding them only to the pages of her diary.  Writing in code to escape her sisters’ prying eyes, she described her feelings for Paul.

               Did the officer return these feelings?

               Olga seemed to think so.  She had never been happier in her life, she wrote giddily.  That fall, when her nineteenth birthday rolled around, her parents agreed to host a luncheon aboard the Standart. Olga only had eyes for Paul.

               Her parents saw the way she looked at him; the way she smiled and flirted.  And they knew the romance had to be nipped in the bud.  As the daughter of the tsar, Olga was obliged to marry a prince.  She could not become involved with an ordinary nobleman.

               And so the imperial couple encouraged Paul to look elsewhere.  Perhaps at Countess Catherine Kleinmichael’s villa, suggested Alexandra.  The countesses’ nieces (also named Olga and Tatiana) happened to be visiting their aunt.  And they were “delightful young ladies.”

Paul knew a royal command when he heard one, even if it was couched as a “suggestion.”  Just one week after her birthday party, Olga sadly wrote in her diary, “he is all the time with the Kleinmichaels.”

               Now days passed without a glimpse of Paul.  When they finally did meet, wrote Olga, “I didn’t say a single word, and didn’t want to.”

               Weeks later, Paul announced his engagement to Olga Kleinmichael.

               The grand duchess did her best to conceal her heartbreak.  But in her diary she wrote, “It is painful and sad.”  Then bravely, “Lord, send happiness to him, my beloved one.”

               Along with a new wife, Paul received a new post.  Nicholas reassigned him to the Alexandria, a yacht rarely used by the imperial family.  This left few opportunities for Paul and Olga to meet.  Still, from time to time they would run into each other.  “I have seen him!” Olga would breathlessly note in her diary, “I thank God.” But whatever relationship they’d had was over.

Story #5:

One bright June afternoon in 1914 as the imperial train slowly steamed into the secluded siding at the station near Stavka.  The cars had barely come to a stop before Anastasia bounded down the stairs, far ahead of her mother and sisters.  There stood Nicholas, waving and smiling on the platform with Alexis standing beside him.  Puppy-like, the fifteen-year old year old flung her arms around them.  Together again, and for a whole week!  Anastasia felt as if she could “burst with joy.”  Who would have thought a vacation at the front could be so carefree?  If it weren’t for all the uniforms, you would hardly even know a war was going on.  And what fun they all had!

               In the mornings, while Alexandra rested, Anastasia and her sister explored the surrounding area, often dropping in unannounced at nearby peasant cottages.  Faces beaming and pockets bulging with candy, the grand duchesses chatted with the grown-ups and played with the children.  Of course, they snapped some photographs with the box cameras they always carried so they could “remember their noble faces forever,” remarked Tatiana.  By the time the girls headed back to the train, they were “accompanied by a mob of ragamuffins collected on their walks and duly stuffed with treats,” recalled tutor, Pierre Gillard.

               In the afternoons, the entire imperial family headed off on one of the hikes, picnics or other excursions that had been planned for them.  Sometimes they steamed up the Dnieper River, stopping at a favorite beach where the girls basked in the sun “like lizards,” despite their mother’s appeal to “think of your complexions!”  Other times, Nicholas and the girls trekked across the countryside, clambering over rocks and through fields.  Once they bumbled, sweaty and mud-caked, into the private garden of a landowner who was just sitting down to tea with his family. Tromping through flowerbeds and across the neatly trimmed lawn, the imperial hikers looked up at the tea drinkers on the balcony.  Politely, Nicholas apologized for the intrusion.

               At first his words were met with black looks.  Then one of the tea-drinkers recognized him.  “It is the Emperor!”  Scrambling off the balcony, they ran about the garden, plucking armloads of blossoms and pressing them on the now giggling grand duchesses.

               Days later, Alexandra and the children climbed onto the imperial train and waved goodbye.  Little did they know they know they were returning to a world teetering on the brink of disaster.

               Oh, but wait!  Can I make it six little stories about the Romanovs? It’s the last one, I promise.

               Story #6:  August 13, 1917, was the family’s last full day at Tsarskoe Selo before being exiled to Siberia.  It was also Alexei’s thirteenth birthday.  In celebration, an ancient and priceless icon known for its miraculous healing powers was brought to the palace from a nearby church.  Mid afternoon, a procession of brightly dressed priests, swinging smoking miters and chanting prayers, wound its way through the imperial park.  Everyone – family, courtiers, household staff, even some of the revolutionary guards – crowded into the palace chapel.   “The ceremony was poignant,” recalled one courtier.  “All were in tears.”

At service’s end, they congregation moved forward to kiss the icon.  Then the priests reassembled their procession.  The imperial family followed as far as the guards allowed them, then watched as the priests and icon disappeared into the park.  Remarked one witness, “It was as if the past were taking leave, never to come back.”


Candace Fleming_Credit Michael Lionstar

CANDACE FLEMING is the prolific and highly acclaimed author of numerous books for young adults and children, including the nonfiction titles The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary, winner of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Nonfiction; Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart, a New York Times Notable Children’s Book of the Year; and The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum, an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults. She lives in Oak Park, Illinois. Visit her at

Connect with the Author:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


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  1. Courtney

    Ever since I read War and Peace, I’ve been fascinated with Russian history and literature. This story is incredibly intriguing because I don’t know much about this period in Russian history. Thanks for the giveaway!

  2. Carl

    I think I find them interesting because of their place at a huge turning point in history. I also find them to be very relatable people since the whole revolution was only 100 years ago.

  3. Karen Bainbridge

    Russian history has always been turbulent but this changed Russia and became a turning point in history especially as it occurred in the First World War.. when one would have thought that peace not Revolution would be on everyone’s mind. It is the most talked about mystery whether there was a survivor out of the Romanov family!! Even though all this happened 100 years ago it is still on the minds of many and ushered in the Russian dictators beginning with Joseph Stalin it is a fascinating period! I love European history it being my major and would love to read this book.

  4. Marjorie Roy

    The storyline and timeline and mystery, has it all I love in a book.

  5. Vivien

    Absolutely! Ever since I was a little girl I’ve found the Romanov history utterly fascinating!! Especially the part where they tried to find Anastasia.

  6. Amber Terry

    I love history which is one reason why I’m interested in reading this particular book, another reason being that this family’s story is incredibly interesting (and, sadly, tragic).

    Thank you for the chance to win :)

  7. melissa cushing

    I have always been intrigued by this family and it was one of may favorite lessons in history for sure! I would LOVE to read and review this for the author and hope to win! Thanks for posting and sharing!

  8. Sonja

    Yes, I find them very intriguing! I have done a play about them my younger years of life and it was so awesome! I would love to read this book.

  9. Viki S.

    I have always found the Romanov’s interesting. A funny fact that my family name was Romanov when my great grandfather escaped Russia and came here. An immigration officer changed it. Thanks.

  10. Judy Cox

    I have always enjoyed the stories and the history of Russian royalty. I read everything that I can find.

  11. Denise Duvall

    I have been intrigued by the story of the Romanovs, ever since I saw the picture of the girls in their court dress, on the cover of my Grandfather’s Life magazine, in the early 60’s. I still have that magazine and it’s 50 years old.Perhaps I was fascinated back then, since the youngest on the cover, was around my age.Now, i’m intrigued since the entire family look so sad in most of their pictures, even as young toddlers. It’s as if they know, what fate awaits them.

  12. Anne Marie Carter

    I find their story very interesting and I try to read everything that I can find about them.

  13. jenn huey

    I love a great historical fiction and the Romanovs are a great subject

  14. Linda romer

    I haven’t read it yet but I think it would be fun and interesting to learn about.

  15. Mary G Loki

    I have always found this family interesting. It started with me watching the disney animated movie Anastasia, and then progressed when I found out she was a real person. I read the princess diaries of Anastasia, where the author makes up the diary of what she probably would have written. Then later I liked to read about the various rumors of the Lost Duchess!

  16. Lisa T.

    I actually found the Romanov’s story quite intriguing, especially that of Anastasia’s whereabouts. There have been rumors about Anastasia being alive and there was this infamous case where a woman claimed that she was the surviving princess. Other rumors claimed that she was buried with her brother when the Bolshevik massacred the entire Romanov family. What’s most interesting to me is the Romanov’s relationship with Rasputin.

  17. Daisy

    The book sounds fascinating! What a wonderful way to learn about Russian history.

  18. BookLady

    What a fascinating book! I have always been interested in Russian history and literature.

  19. Christy Maurer

    Very much so! I have read several stories pertaining to them. It’s fascinating!

  20. Maegan Morin

    I have always thought the Romanov story was very interesting. Ever since I learned about them in school. I just loved the scandal and the intrigue. I would love to read this book!!

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