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Little Mother of Russia: A Biography of the Empress Marie Feodorovna (1847-1928)

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Empress Marie, born Princess Dagmar, was the daugher of King Christian IX of Denmark and sister of Queen Alexandra of Great Britain, Edward VII's wife. She was betrothed to Tsarevitch Nicholas of Russia, a love match on both sides, but tragically he died months before the wedding. A year later, out of duty she married his brother the new Tsarevich and sailed for Russia in Empress Marie, born Princess Dagmar, was the daugher of King Christian IX of Denmark and sister of Queen Alexandra of Great Britain, Edward VII's wife. She was betrothed to Tsarevitch Nicholas of Russia, a love match on both sides, but tragically he died months before the wedding. A year later, out of duty she married his brother the new Tsarevich and sailed for Russia in 1866.


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Empress Marie, born Princess Dagmar, was the daugher of King Christian IX of Denmark and sister of Queen Alexandra of Great Britain, Edward VII's wife. She was betrothed to Tsarevitch Nicholas of Russia, a love match on both sides, but tragically he died months before the wedding. A year later, out of duty she married his brother the new Tsarevich and sailed for Russia in Empress Marie, born Princess Dagmar, was the daugher of King Christian IX of Denmark and sister of Queen Alexandra of Great Britain, Edward VII's wife. She was betrothed to Tsarevitch Nicholas of Russia, a love match on both sides, but tragically he died months before the wedding. A year later, out of duty she married his brother the new Tsarevich and sailed for Russia in 1866.

30 review for Little Mother of Russia: A Biography of the Empress Marie Feodorovna (1847-1928)

  1. 5 out of 5

    MeriBeth

    Little Mother of Russia is an immensely readable biography of the Dowager Empress Marie Fedorovna, the mother of the Last Tsar of Russia, from her childhood in Denmark through the triumphs and tragedies of her life as Empress to her return as a penniless exile to Denmark after the fall of the Romanov Dynasty. Published in 1999, this book is somewhat difficult to find out but the information it contains is of great importance to anyone reading about the Romanov family as nine times out of ten the Little Mother of Russia is an immensely readable biography of the Dowager Empress Marie Fedorovna, the mother of the Last Tsar of Russia, from her childhood in Denmark through the triumphs and tragedies of her life as Empress to her return as a penniless exile to Denmark after the fall of the Romanov Dynasty. Published in 1999, this book is somewhat difficult to find out but the information it contains is of great importance to anyone reading about the Romanov family as nine times out of ten there is a bias by authors in favor of "poor misunderstood Empress Alexandra" yet you discover from reading this book that Alexandra never attempted to fit in or learn about her new culture and world as the more popular Marie had when she married into the Imperial Family. Marie was the matriarch of the Romanov family and ruled it with an iron hand until, and for a time after, the arrival of Alexandra. She saw the potential problems of her son's love match marriage, watched it splinter the Romanov family apart, and tried to prevent the destruction only to have her protests repeatedly fall on deaf ears. As anyone would after repeated spurnings, she retired from the field though she never stopped worrying about or loving her son and grandchildren. She was one of the few, in the face of the overwhelming circumstantial evidence, not to accept the assassination of the Imperial Family as fact; however, she also never accepted Anna Anderson as Anastasia either. As far as Marie was concerned, the last Imperial Family of Russia was living in prison somewhere in Siberia. She never accepted it and believed this until her death in the late 1920s. Unlike many books about the Romanovs, there is no attempt to sugar coat or sweeten Marie's disposition. Her faults are as equally displayed as her triumphs. She could be frivolous, revengeful, had no idea how to handle money, and yet also adored her family and was extremely loyal to the dynasty she married into as a teenager. I found the fact they didn't try to turn Marie into a perfect unflawed woman refreshing in a sea of books imply that the Romanovs had absolutely no faults - a state of affairs begun in the writing community after the canonization of the Last Imperial family. Something this book shares with only a small handful of others. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the Romanov dynasty, especially the last decades, as this gives an unexpected insight into how a three hundred year old dynasty could fall so far and so fast due to stubbornness, religion, and hubris.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Zosi

    4.5 stars. A hard book to get ahold of and a very definitive one. The only reason I didn’t give it a full five is because of how dense it gets in some parts. A thoroughly exhaustive biography and a must read for Romanov buffs. Or, Marie is iconic anyway and more people should know about her.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gareth Russell

    A meticulously researched biography of the penultimate empress of Russia. There had long been a need for a study of Marie Feodorovna’s life and Coryne Hall delivered it. Alexander III’s wife and Nicholas II’s mother was chic, glamorous, extravagant, temperamental, stubborn, ferociously loyal, loving, and she imparted shrewd advice that her eldest son increasingly, and devastatingly, ignored. I thoroughly enjoyed Hall’s study of her life.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeanet Alessandra

    ¡Excelente Biografía!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy

    Well, wasn't she a piece of work. From princess of third rate kingdom to Empress of Russia. This is a compelling read for anyone who remains fascinated by Nicholas and Alexandra and the fall of the Romanovs. One sees much more clearly that the revolutionary seeds were sewn during the 13 year reign of Alexander III, Minnie/Maria' husband/tsar and his absolute return to the absolutism of autocracy. Haltingly implemented reforms were overturned and repression was restored with conviction. Maria's r Well, wasn't she a piece of work. From princess of third rate kingdom to Empress of Russia. This is a compelling read for anyone who remains fascinated by Nicholas and Alexandra and the fall of the Romanovs. One sees much more clearly that the revolutionary seeds were sewn during the 13 year reign of Alexander III, Minnie/Maria' husband/tsar and his absolute return to the absolutism of autocracy. Haltingly implemented reforms were overturned and repression was restored with conviction. Maria's role was to support her husband in all things and as the more sociable and personable of the couple to be the face of the wife and little mother of Russia. Over 50 years as she grew her into her role she became the standard bearer for Romanov dynasty, conservatism and duty to mother Russia and the church before else. She was a formidable force, a peerless snob who believed in the intrinsic superiority of royalty and an utter spendthrift who delighted endlessly in her jewels and Worth gowns. She and Alexandra ultimately were bitterly opposed as Alexandra exerted greater influence and poor judgement over Nicholas. From the perspective of today, they were both responsible in their own ways for the death of the dynasty as despite their divergent points of view on what should be done neither was capable of seeing beyond the lavish and entitled trappings of their anointed role of empress. Nicholas, who might be best thought of as a nebbish with little strength of conviction was ill-equipped by nature or nurture to be tsar. His mother dominated him as did his uncles until his emotionally unstable, histrionically melancholic and ill-informed wife imposed her poor judgement on him with disastrous results that helped shape the violent and tumultuous 20th century.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne Beaudet

    I loved this book. In many biographies that are sympathetic to Alexandra, Marie (Dagmar) comes across as a rather nasty interfering mother in law. Here, her role is well explained. She does act very selfishly but she was concerned for the monarchy and the family. Her flaw is that she loved the limelight. The description of her life in the aftermath of the revolution shows that she was in more danger than I had thought. I'm not going to give away any spoilers, but her early love life was pretty i I loved this book. In many biographies that are sympathetic to Alexandra, Marie (Dagmar) comes across as a rather nasty interfering mother in law. Here, her role is well explained. She does act very selfishly but she was concerned for the monarchy and the family. Her flaw is that she loved the limelight. The description of her life in the aftermath of the revolution shows that she was in more danger than I had thought. I'm not going to give away any spoilers, but her early love life was pretty interesting. There are some great photos in this book too. It's an excellent, well written biography.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Wedma

    Diese Biographie (Bio) von Dagmar von Dänemark (1847-1928)/Maria Fjodorovna, i.d. Familie auch Minnie genannt, die von 1881 bis 1894 Kaiserin von Russland war, habe ich ausgesprochen gern gelesen, daher empfehle ich diese Bio auch gern weiter. Rund 350 Seiten des Textes sind in fünf Teile geordnet und erzählen recht detailliert und lebendig über das Leben der dänischen Prinzessin, angefangen von der Kindheit in eher wenig üppigen Verhältnissen, ohne typische kaiserliche Firlefanz, was sie zu ein Diese Biographie (Bio) von Dagmar von Dänemark (1847-1928)/Maria Fjodorovna, i.d. Familie auch Minnie genannt, die von 1881 bis 1894 Kaiserin von Russland war, habe ich ausgesprochen gern gelesen, daher empfehle ich diese Bio auch gern weiter. Rund 350 Seiten des Textes sind in fünf Teile geordnet und erzählen recht detailliert und lebendig über das Leben der dänischen Prinzessin, angefangen von der Kindheit in eher wenig üppigen Verhältnissen, ohne typische kaiserliche Firlefanz, was sie zu einer bodenständigen, praktisch veranlagten Frau werden ließ, über ihre ersten erwachsenen Jahre, als sie sich zum ersten Mal als Verlobte des russischen Thronfolgers, des Erstgeborenen von Kaiser Alexander II. und seiner Frau Maria Alexandrovna/ Marie von Hessen und bei Rhein, genannt Nixa, Russland näherte, später den Bruder von Nixa, nach seinem frühen Tod, heiratete und an seiner Seite 13 Jahre die Kaiserin von Russland war. Auch ihre Jahre als Kaiserwitwe, sowie die Exiljahre sind sehr schön, facettenreich und bildhaft beschrieben worden. Die Schilderungen spiegeln viel mehr als nur das Leben von Dagmar. Da steht eine längst vergangene Epoche samt den historischen Persönlichkeiten einem lebendig vor Augen. All die politischen Entscheidungen, die getroffen werden mussten, die Kriege und ihre Auswirkungen sind hier keineswegs ausgespart worden, denn Dagmar hat schon ihren Einfluss ausgeübt, wo sie konnte: manche Heirat und manchen Ausgang der Verhandlungen mitbestimmt, obwohl sie offiziell „nur“ die Frau von Alexander III. war und sich bloß um das Häusliche kümmern sollte. Sie hat sechs Kindern das Leben geschenkt, nur vier erreichten das Erwachsenenalter. Dagmar war am Hof sehr beliebt, hat gern die kaiserlichen Bälle veranstaltet, da das Tanzen ihr großes Vergnügen bereitete. Sie trug gern auch Schmuck, der oft üppig ausfiel, und schöne Kleider. Insofern ähnelte sie der Alexandra Fjodorovna, Charlotte von Preußen, der Frau von Nikolaus I. Dagmar konnte aber auch genauso gut in einer Hütte stehen und eine Fischsuppe kochen, aus den Lachsen, die ihr Mann, Kaiser Alexander III., aus dem Wasser gezogen hatte, was sie gern auf den Reisen in skandinavische Ländern taten. Sie führten größtenteils ein normalbürgerliches Leben, bloß ihr Mann ging dem Job eines reaktionären Kaisers in einem verfallenden Staat nach und sie kümmerte sich um das Zwischenmenschliche. Man lernt auch einiges über das Leben am Hof, aus Dagmars Sicht, man sieht den letzten Kaiser Nikolaus II. aufwachsen und seine Frau Alix von Hessen und bei Rhein, und keine andere, auswählen. Man erfährt auch ein wenig über den Alexej, insb. über seine Krankheit, und etwas mehr über die Töchter des letzten Kaiserpaares. Auch darüber, dass Dagmar die Alix nie mochte und kein gutes Verhältnis zu ihr hatte. Die Fehler von Nikolaus II. konnte sie kaum verhindern, obwohl sie es versucht hatte. Dagmar war ein Familienmensch und sorgte sich um die Ihren, wobei ihr Standesdünken keineswegs fremd war. Aber einige, darunter ihre Kinder Olga und Michael, heirateten die Bürgerlichen, was Dagmar am Ende, insb. im Exil, auch hinnahm. Spannend war u.a., wie sie zum Schluss auf der Krim saß und Russland nicht verlassen wollte, obwohl es schon recht gefährlich wurde, da die neue Macht der Kaiserfamilie auf den Fersen war. Dagmar konnte sehr bestimmend sein und ließ paar Schiffe ohne sie übers Schwarze Meer nach Konstantinopel abfahren. Ich habe mich in dieser Bio sehr wohl gefühlt. Sie liest sich sehr angenehm: Sachlich, aber auch sehr nett erzählt, was man schlicht und ergreifend nennt. Einige Momente gingen just unter die Haut. Alles in allem hinterlässt dieses Werk einen bleibenden, sehr positiven Eindruck. Man sieht auch, dass dieser Bio umfangreiche und tiefgreifende Recherchen zugrundeliegen. Die Quellen sind im Text gekennzeichnet und hinten nach Kapiteln geordnet, anschließend in der Bibliographie auf 10 S. mit vollen Titeln aufgeführt. Ausführliches Register auf 15 S. hilft beim Wiederfinden der Schlüsselstellen. Am Anfang gibt es Ahnentafeln von der dänischen und der russischen kaiserlichen Familien, was sich auch sehr hilfreich erweist. Es gibt 62 s/w Fotos in zwei Blöcken im Text, die sowohl die kleine Dagmar mit ihren Schwestern zeigen, ihre Eltern, sie mit Nixa und später Dagmar als Kaiserin von Russland; als auch paar Mal die russischen kaiserlichen Familien, 2 Generationen, ihre Anwesen auf der Krim und St. Petersburg; zum Schluss Dagmar als alte Frau und ihren Sarg. Bei manchen Fotos fehlt das Datum, bei den meisten ist die Jahrangabe aber da. Die Bio hat 1999 das Licht der Welt erblickt, was erklärt, warum so manches Detail zum Schluss nicht auf dem neusten Stand ist, 2006 wurde sie überarbeitet und in 2017 nochmals aufgelegt. Fazit: Eine sehr gut gelungene, detaillierte, facettenreiche Biographie von Dagmar/ Maria Fjodorovna, die ich auf der gesamten Länge genossen habe. Ich musste mal lachen, mal weinen. Aber die meiste Zeit las ich vergnügt und konnte das Buch kaum aus der Hand legen, machte aber extra Pausen, damit das tolle Buch nicht zu schnell zu Ende ist. Wenn ich so schöne Biographien zu lesen bekomme, bräuchte ich keine Romane mehr, da hier wohl kaum etwas der Dichtung angehört, zudem sehr schön erzählt. Da musste ich nochmals denken: Das Leben selbst schreibt die tollsten, ergreifendsten Geschichten.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    I have wanted to read this book for 10 years. While Emptess Marie Feodorovna is referred to significantly in most boos about the waning years of the Romanov dynasty and Russian Revolution, Hall’s book fills a gap - and a very interesting gap it is. When I first started reading Russian history, I viewed the demise of the Romanov’s - particularly the execution of the Tsar and his wife and children - as among the greatest tragedies. As I have aged and continued to read, my views have seasoned and c I have wanted to read this book for 10 years. While Emptess Marie Feodorovna is referred to significantly in most boos about the waning years of the Romanov dynasty and Russian Revolution, Hall’s book fills a gap - and a very interesting gap it is. When I first started reading Russian history, I viewed the demise of the Romanov’s - particularly the execution of the Tsar and his wife and children - as among the greatest tragedies. As I have aged and continued to read, my views have seasoned and changed.... This later life view? Things could not have ended any other way. The stupidity and vacillation of Nicholas II and the even greater stupidity tempered by willfulness of Alexandra could not have resulted in anything but tragedy. Dagmar was a far shrewder character, albeit (as the book makes pretty clear) not much smarter than her son. She had a keen understanding of people and how to build rapport and even awe among the Russians. She was loved long before and long after the other Romanovs were reviled. And yet....Dagmar betrayed her relatively humble beginnings in Denmark (where she had to the the washing up on weekends and make many of her own clothes) in ways that were incredibly discourteous to commoners and royals both. I was aghast by the idea that after her nephew George V sent a battleship to rescue her from russia, she refused to get on it for weeks, and when she did, she insisted on bringing a retinue and other hangers-on far larger than there was room for. Another story indirectly demonstrated just how very cold and calculating royalty could be: throughout her remaining years, she refused to recognize the woman posing as Anastasia. While she proved correct, her reasoning (laid out by Hall and others I have read) was that 1) it would be a huge scandal that her granddaughter had married a Bolshevik and had his child, and 2) that this fact would put the restoration of the Russian monarchy on very shaky terms. Remember....this was potentially her granddaughter. (This makes me feel they George V was less awful to have personally rescinded the British offer of asylum for his cousins due to his own concern for his throne on an age of rising labor unions in the UK). Finally, I was amused to read about how Dagmar’s “advice” to her sister Queen Alexandra of England when her husband died really made the new queen’s (Queen Mary) life difficult in the early days of the new reign. Dagmar pushes her sister to give up nothing - not her precedence, her homes, the jewelry she only had the right to as the wife of the king. Perhaps Queen MAry can be forgiven for possibly screwing the Romanov’s on the jewelry she eventually bought once they were in exile. 😉

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lauralee

    Marie Feodorovna was the last living empress of the Romanov dynasty. Her death marked the end of the Russian Imperial age. Thus, Marie Feodorovna’s life is often marked by tragedy. She witnessed the death of her fiance, and married his brother out of duty. Her husband, Tsar Alexander III died in his prime at the age of 49. Two of her sons died young. She witnessed the Russian Revolution and became a hostage under their regime. She refused to believe that her son, Nicholas II, Alexandra, and her Marie Feodorovna was the last living empress of the Romanov dynasty. Her death marked the end of the Russian Imperial age. Thus, Marie Feodorovna’s life is often marked by tragedy. She witnessed the death of her fiance, and married his brother out of duty. Her husband, Tsar Alexander III died in his prime at the age of 49. Two of her sons died young. She witnessed the Russian Revolution and became a hostage under their regime. She refused to believe that her son, Nicholas II, Alexandra, and her grandchildren had died in Ekaterinburg and believed they were still alive. Because of Marie Feodorovna’s dramatic life, she deserves to be given a full biography. Little Mother of Russia gives us a sympathetic account of this fascinating empress. Marie Feodorovna was a princess of Denmark. Her older sister, Alexandra, would become the queen of England. Her brothers William and Frederick, would become kings in their own right. It is only fair for Marie Feodorovna to be a queen as well. She was engaged to the Tsarevich Nicholas of Russia. However, he died a few months after her engagement. She married his brother, Alexander. They would have a happy and successful marriage, but he would die in his prime. Thus, Marie Feodorovna life was full of unhappiness. Little Mother of Russia does a great job in portraying Marie Feodorovna. She could be judgemental, unforgiving, and selfish. She was cold to her father-in-law’s second wife, and her daughter-in-law, Alexandra. There were many times that I thought that Olga, her daughter who became her companion for the rest of her life, was a saint because Marie Feodorovna was definitely a headache. Still, I admired Marie Feodorovna for her charity work. She took care of the wounded and was an advocate for the education of women. Thus, she did have some admirable qualities. Overall, this was a balanced biography of Marie Feodorovna. The author created an intimate portrait of the Empress,and I came away feeling that I understood her. The biography is written in a narrative and engaging style. I never felt that I was bogged down with historical facts. Little Mother of Russia is heavily researched but reads like a novel. Therefore, this makes for light reading for the general reader. I recommend this biography to those interested in the fall of the Romanov dynasty. Because Marie Feodorovna lived such a colorful life, hopefully there will be more full length biographies on her in the future.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    A thorough account of Empress Marie Feodorovna's life from her childhood in Denmark to her death in exile following the Russian Revolution. The chapters about her betrothal and early married life are especially strong. There is a definite theme throughout suggestive of the gradual fall of the Romanov dynasty. The author uses facts, comparisons, and even a bit of superstition to engage larger Russian culture and evidence the doomed fate of Imperial Russia and the road to Revolution. Though the na A thorough account of Empress Marie Feodorovna's life from her childhood in Denmark to her death in exile following the Russian Revolution. The chapters about her betrothal and early married life are especially strong. There is a definite theme throughout suggestive of the gradual fall of the Romanov dynasty. The author uses facts, comparisons, and even a bit of superstition to engage larger Russian culture and evidence the doomed fate of Imperial Russia and the road to Revolution. Though the narrative gets a bit bogged down by all of the extended Romanov relations and their personal lives, this is a very compelling biography about an extraordinary woman who deserves far more recognition for her significance to late Imperial Russia.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Belle Meri

    Perhaps the only biography focusing solely on Empress Marie Feodorovna, formerly Princess Dagmar of Denmark, Little Mother of Russia is both underrated and often overlooked among the vast see of books regarding the final years of the Romanov Dynasty. Coryne Hall's biography is a fair and balanced view of this woman who, as much as her son and daughter-in-law, contributed to the fall of Imperial Russia. Perhaps the only biography focusing solely on Empress Marie Feodorovna, formerly Princess Dagmar of Denmark, Little Mother of Russia is both underrated and often overlooked among the vast see of books regarding the final years of the Romanov Dynasty. Coryne Hall's biography is a fair and balanced view of this woman who, as much as her son and daughter-in-law, contributed to the fall of Imperial Russia.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Rarely will I give a book 5 stars. Coryne Hall brilliantly tells the story of the life of Empress Marie Feodorovna. This book is rich and colorful in details and doesn't drag for a minute. For me it's all about wanting to know how things lead up to wars and revolutions. Who are some of the key players, what could they have done differently or not to prevent such violence as in the case of the Bolshevik Revolution. Rarely will I give a book 5 stars. Coryne Hall brilliantly tells the story of the life of Empress Marie Feodorovna. This book is rich and colorful in details and doesn't drag for a minute. For me it's all about wanting to know how things lead up to wars and revolutions. Who are some of the key players, what could they have done differently or not to prevent such violence as in the case of the Bolshevik Revolution.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Hippiemouse420

    I fell in love with Dagmar through this book. I'm glad to have learned about her. I loved that this book had tons of photographs, but I could have used more maps and family trees. The ones included on the covers were covered by the library... However, the writing was sloppy and confusing. I fell in love with Dagmar through this book. I'm glad to have learned about her. I loved that this book had tons of photographs, but I could have used more maps and family trees. The ones included on the covers were covered by the library... However, the writing was sloppy and confusing.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    This is the best book I’ve read about Dagmar and her tragic family.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Janet Malecki

    Fascinating.

  16. 5 out of 5

    C.

    A must for an royal fan.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Susan Liston

    An exhaustively researched, readable account of a woman who had a completely unimaginable life. From incredible privilege to utter horror and everything in between. You cannot make this stuff up.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jason

  19. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alfonso Gomez

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mare Mills

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mace Ousley

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kori Lawrence

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jewel17

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  26. 4 out of 5

    Flaubertian

  27. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

  28. 5 out of 5

    Juho

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  30. 5 out of 5

    Julia Walsh

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