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The Romanovs 1613-1918

The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world’s surface. How did one family turn a war-ruined principality into the world’s greatest empire? And how did they lose it all?

This is the intimate story of twenty tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and imperial ambition. Montefiore’s gripping chronicle reveals their secret world of unlimited power and ruthless empire-building, overshadowed by palace conspiracy, family rivalries, sexual decadence and wild extravagance, and peopled by a cast of adventurers, courtesans, revolutionaries and poets, from Ivan the Terrible to Tolstoy, from Queen Victoria to Lenin.

To rule Russia was both imperial-sacred mission and poisoned chalice: six tsars were murdered and all the Romanovs lived under constant threat to their lives. Peter the Great tortured his own son to death while making Russia an empire, and dominated his court with a dining club notable for compulsory drunkenness, naked dwarfs and fancy dress. Catherine the Great overthrew her own husband – who was murdered soon afterwards – loved her young male favourites, conquered Ukraine and fascinated Europe. Paul was strangled by courtiers backed by his own son, Alexander I, who faced Napoleon’s invasion and the burning of Moscow, then went on to take Paris. Alexander II liberated the serfs, survived five assassination attempts, and wrote perhaps the most explicit love letters ever written by a ruler. THE ROMANOVS climaxes with a fresh, unforgettable portrayal of Nicholas and Alexandra, the rise and murder of Rasputin, war and revolution – and the harrowing massacre of the entire family.

Written with dazzling literary flair, drawing on new archival research, THE ROMANOVS is at once an enthralling story of triumph and tragedy, love and death, a universal study of power, and an essential portrait of the empire that still defines Russia today.

THE ROMANOVS was published in the UK on 28th January 2016 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.  The US edition was released on 3rd May 2016 by Knopf.


“Epic history on the grandest scale…A story of conspiracy, drunken coups, assassination, torture, impaling, breaking on the wheel, floggings, sexual and alcoholic excess, charlatans and pretenders… Game of Thrones seems like the proverbial vicar’s teaparty in comparison… Excellent.”
– Antony Beevor, Financial Times

“This captivating book…. The story of the Romanovs has been written many times but never with such a compelling combination of literary flair, narrative drive, solid research and psychological insight. The Romanovs covers it all from war and diplomacy to institution-building and court intrigue but chiefly it is an intimate portrait of the 20 sovereigns of Russia in vivid fashion. Montefiore writes with subtlety and sophistication about the nature of court life, dynamics of power and shifting configurations of players.”
– Douglas Smith, Literary Review

“With its sordid power struggles, violence and brutality, its cast of magnificent monsters, tragic victims, and grotesque holy men, this is an extraordinary and gripping tale. Montefiore has plumed remarkable range of unused archives …. By turns horrific, hilarious and moving, but ultimately tragic, this is essential reading for anyone interested in Russia or puzzled by the workings of the Russian state.”
– Adam Zamoyski, The Spectator

“Wonderfully compelling and insightful…Fabulously revealing portraits of the tsars….The author has already written excellent books on Catherine the Great and Stalin. This one is even better, combining expert knowledge of Russian history with the narrative wizardly of his bestseller Jerusalem. A gripping and scarcely credible tale of the most successful dynasty since the Caesars – and Montefiore tells it brilliantly.”
– Saul David, Evening Standard

“Exquisite prose…rigorous research… depravity in boundless detail. Behind the dissonant degeneracy, one finds a perceptive analysis of the Russian addiction to autocracy. The Romanovs contains the most bizarre cast of characters I’ve ever encountered…The Romanov family was heavily populated with raving sex addicts…He writes with perfect cadence.”
– Gerald DeGroot, The Times

“Riveting…. A study of brutality, sex and power …The research is meticulous and the style is captivating..”
– John Kampfner, Observer

“Spellbinding. It takes true historical daring to tackle such an immense subject. Overall this monumental work is an essential addition to the library of anyone interested in Russian history and the doomed dynasty.”
– Olga Grushin, New York Times

“magnificent and magisterial. Wonderfully ambitious, authoritative and gripping. This is a superb book and it will surely become the definitive work.”
– Jane Ridley, The Oldie