"Secret Lives of the Tsars: Three Centuries of Autocracy, Debauchery, Betrayal, Murder, and Madness from Romanov Russia"
by Michael Farquhar
Paperback, 368 pages
Published July 8th 2014 by Random House Trade Paperbacks
about the author
Michael Farquhar is a writer and editor at the Washington Post specializing in history. He is the author of the bestsellers A Treasury of Great American Scandals
and A Treasury of Royal Scandals
. He appeared on the History Channel’s Russia, Land of the Tsars
and will be featured on a forthcoming program about the French Revolution.
“Michael Farquhar doesn’t write about history the way, say, Doris Kearns Goodwin does. He writes about history the way Doris Kearns Goodwin’s smart-ass, reprobate kid brother might. I, for one, prefer it.”—Gene Weingarten, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and Washington Post
Scandal! Intrigue! Cossacks! Here the world’s most engaging royal historian chronicles the world’s most fascinating imperial dynasty: the Romanovs, whose three-hundred-year reign was remarkable for its shocking violence, spectacular excess, and unimaginable venality. In this incredibly entertaining history, Michael Farquhar collects the best, most captivating true tales of Romanov iniquity. We meet Catherine the Great, with her endless parade of virile young lovers (none of them of the equine variety); her unhinged son, Paul I, who ordered the bones of one of his mother’s paramours dug out of its grave and tossed into a gorge; and Grigori Rasputin, the “Mad Monk,” whose mesmeric domination of the last of the Romanov tsars helped lead to the monarchy’s undoing.
From Peter the Great’s penchant for personally beheading his recalcitrant subjects (he kept the severed head of one of his mistresses pickled in alcohol) to Nicholas and Alexandra’s brutal demise at the hands of the Bolsheviks, Secret Lives of the Tsars
captures all the splendor and infamy that was Imperial Russia.
Even when he writes about things you know like the back of your hand, he is hilarious. It’s a joy to spend a few hours reading one of his books. He’s like the professor whose classes are always filled from day one.
...Farquhar shows that the same wit and vibe he brought to American history, and scandals in royal houses, is aptly suited for vodka drinking Tsars.
...the book includes little tidbits that are just completely strange and historically unimportant, but great to know.
...the footnotes of Farquhar are ones that no reader should miss. Some of his best bits are there – like the bit about cross dressing success.
...considering recent events concerning Russia and the Ukraine, there are few choice bits in this book that will shed more light or understanding on the Crimea events. Good timing on Farquhar’s part and it makes it a worthwhile read.
Farquhar (Behind the Palace Doors) brings all the delightful faults and quirks of the famous Russian dynasts to the forefront while providing an excellent condensed version of Russian history. Working chronologically, Farquhar gives an informative snapshot of each generation in royal succession. Perhaps the title is a little misleading—there was nothing secret about much of the royal misbehavior, including Peter the Great’s (1696–1725) drinking and violence, Anna’s (1730–1740) “peculiar pleasures” (requiring noblemen to delight her by using them as her court jesters), and Catherine II’s (1762–1796) love affairs.
While it is certainly true that the Romanov tsars are associated with the types of negative and deviant behavior alluded to in the subtitle, they are certainly not the only monarchs to exemplify these qualities. To single them out—and never really acknowledge their accomplishments adequately—seems somewhat disingenuous. Still, Farquhar weaves a fine tale of history and scandal, and it is sure to please general readers and monarchy buffs alike.
“An excellent condensed version of Russian history . . . a fine tale of history and scandal..."
“Farquhar’s style is a breezy pleasure throughout.”
v cover image
Reproduced for promotional purposes