There are few characters in history about whom opinion has been more divided than the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, and his wife the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna. On one hand, they are venerated as saints, innocent victims of Bolshevik assassins, and on the other they are impugned as the unwitting harbingers of revolution and imperial collapse, blamed for all the ills that befell the Russian people in the 20th century. Theirs was also a tragic love story; for whatever else can be said of them, there can be no doubt that Alix and Nicky adored one another. Soon after their engagement, Alix wrote in her fiancé s diary: Ever true and ever loving, faithful, pure and strong as death words which met their fulfilment twenty-four years later in a blood-spattered cellar in Ekaterinburg. Through the letters and diaries written by the couple and by those around them, Virginia Rounding presents an intimate, penetrating, and fresh portrayal of these two complex figures and of their passion their love and their suffering. She explores the nature and possible causes of the Empress s ill health, and examines in depth the enigmatic triangular relationship between Nicky, Alix and their favourite, Ania Vyrubova, protégée of the infamous Rasputin, extracting the meaning from words left unsaid, from hints and innuendoes. The story of Alix and Nicky, of their four daughters known collectively as OTMA and of their haemophiliac little boy Alexei, is endlessly fascinating, and Rounding makes these characters come alive, presenting them in all their human dimensions and expertly leading the reader into their vanished world.
Virginia Rounding is an author and book critic, specialising in history and biography. Her most recent book, published in the USA and the UK this year, is a fresh examination of the lives of the last Emperor and Empress of Russia: Alix and Nicky: The Passion of the Last Tsar and Tsarina. A reviewer commented in the Washington Times: 'she has brought them to life in flesh and blood perhaps better than any previous writer on the subject. This is partly a result of her skill in rooting out and quoting commentary on them by those who knew them well and put their impressions down in letters and diaries. But she has a knack for building on these insights with her own, and so has produced a more rounded portrait than we have ever had before.'
Virginia's previous book was a biography of the Empress Catherine II (Catherine the Great: Love, Sex and Power, 2006, described in the Daily Telegraph as 'a thumping great triumph of a book'), and she recently presented a programme for BBC Radio 3 about music and musicians at Catherine's court. Catherine the Great was preceded by a study of French courtesans (Grandes Horizontales, 2003, in the Independent as 'impeccably researched, a flirt of a book, enjoyable and sexy').
Virginia is also the joint author, with Martin Dudley, of a series of books on church administration, and she reviews widely for a variety of newspapers and magazines, including the Daily Telegraph, FT Magazine, Independent, Daily Mail and Moscow Times. She lives in the Hoxton area of London and is an elected councillor (known as a Common Councilman) for the Ward of Farringdon Within in the City of London.
In addition to being a writer, Virginia has had a variety of jobs in order to keep body and soul together. She is currently part-time Clerk to the Guild of Public Relations Practitioners, and was for many years administrator of The Consort of Musicke, a vocal and instrument ensemble specialising in English and Italian music of the Renaissance. She has recently set up a writing consultancy, specialising in assisting post-graduate students with their writing of dissertations and theses, having enormously enjoyed her time doing precisely this as a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at The Courtauld Institute of Art from 2008 to 2011.
She was educated at Merchant Taylors' School for Girls, Great Crosby, and at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London.