Sensational Story of Russian Royals Gossipy History Is Better Than Fiction

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The Story of Victoria Melita, the Uncrowned Last Empress of Russia

By Michael John Sullivan 473 pages, Random House, $30 *** CHARLES AND DI, Randy Andy and Fergie are simply no longer news. Have no fear. Just in time for the beach, and into the royal breach, step the improbable cast of Vicki and Bertie, Ducky, Missy, and Ernie, Milly and Orchie, Baby Bee and Ali, the Iron Czar, "that clown from Coburg," Elephant and Maypole, and centerstage in this monarchial theater of the absurd, the "Alicky-Nicky Romance" (he, Nicholas, the last czar was "meek and mild"; She, Alix/Alexandra, the last Empress, "didn't listen. She was in love"). Fiction can't compare. "Thought by many to have been a severely frustrated homosexual, the emotionally repressed Serge was married to a virginal goddess." No novelist could invent this: "The tall, slender Ducky was so intense that, on the threshold of puberty, she found that she could cope with the mysterious changes taking place within her only by retreating into herself and guarding her sensitive feelings . . . Therefore it was not surprising the Ducky was now found by many to be a shy and difficult girl." No Bildungsroman could match this: "Ducky and Missy focused their romantic yearnings on the safe territory of their own sex, as many young teenagers do. Missy's crush was the daughter of the commander of the Coburg battalion. For her own true love, Ducky chose `a somewhat "high flown" girl full of poetry' named Frieda von Lichtenberg. …


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