A vividly recreated story of an unlikely voyage, with its bizarre assortment of warring characters and its priceless cargo of treasures including rolled-up Rembrandts and Faberge eggs.
On 11th April 1919, less than a year after the assassination of the Romanovs, the British battleship HMS Marlborough left Yalta carrying twenty members of the Russian Imperial Family into perpetual exile. They included the Tsar's mother, the Dowager Empress Marie, and his sister, the Grand Duchess Xenia, Prince Felix Youssupov, the murderer of Rasputin and a man once mooted as a future leader of Russia, and Grand Duke Nicholas, former Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armies.
As the ship prepared to set sail, a British sloop carrying 400 White Russian soldiers drew up alongside. The soldiers stood on deck and sang the Russian National Anthem. It was the last time the anthem was ever sung to members of the Imperial Family within Russian territory. The Dowager Empress stood on deck alone. According to the HMS Marlborough's First Lieutenant, nobody dared to approach her.
The Russian Court at Sea vividly recreates this unlikely voyage, with its bizarre assortment of warring characters and its priceless cargo of treasures including rolled-up Rembrandts and Faberge eggs - for they were a family riven with hostility and mutual resentment. It is a story, by turns exotic, comic and doomed, of an extraordinary group of people caught up in an extraordinary moment in history when their lives were in every way at sea.
Frances Welch has written for the Sunday Telegraph, Granta, The Spectator and the Financial Times. She is co-author of Memories of Revolution: Russian Women Remember, The Romanov + Mr Gibbes and A Romanov Fantasy: Life at the Court of Anna Anderson. She is married to the writer Craig Brown, and has two children. She lives in Aldeburgh, Suffolk.