The British and Russian royal families met properly only three times before the Romanovs’ tragic end in 1918. The Imperial Tea Party draws back the curtain on those pivotal encounters; encounters that had far-reaching consequences for 20th-century Europe and beyond.
Russia and Britain were never natural bedfellows. But the marriage, in 1894, of Queen Victoria’s favourite granddaughter, Alicky, to the Tsarevich Nicholas marked the beginning of an uneasy Anglo-Russian entente that would last until the Russian Revolution of 1917.
The three extraordinary meetings that took place during those years, although well-intentioned and generally hailed as successes, were beset by misunderstandings and misfortunes. During their visit to Balmoral, the Tsar took to his room with toothache, and both he and the Tsarina complained about the appalling weather. And their criticisms were later matched by complaints from British courtiers about the Russians hospitality – the food, the music, the slow service…
In this wonderfully waspish account, Frances Welch presents a vivid snapshot of two dynasties at a time of social unrest. The two families could not know, as they waved each other fond goodbyes from their yachts at Cowes in 1909, that they would never meet again. The assassination of the Tsar and his family by the Bolsheviks in 1918 horrified King George, and whether things might have turned out differently if he had accepted their plea for refuge has been the subject of speculation ever since.