GRAND DUKE NICHOLAS KONSTANTINOVICH: HIS AMERICAN MISTRESS
On this page I would like to spotlight a wonderful book about an extended member of the Romanov family. The book had been released a few years ago but for the most part it has flown under the radar. The book I am referring to is Fanny Lear: Love and Scandal in Tsarist Russia by the husband and wife author/translator team Eva and Dan McDonald. You may already be familiar with these two names because the McDonalds also contributed their translations from French to one of my earlier books: Russia’s Last Romanovs: In Their Own Words.
Fanny Lear, whose real name was Hattie Blackford was as American as one can get: she was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1848. Until this book, we did not have a lot of information about this fascinating woman, not even her time and place of death. The McDonalds took care of that, and we are now aware that she died in 1886 in Nice. And Fanny’ life between those two dates is worthy of novels and Hollywood films, that’s for sure. I am very glad that Eva and Dan decided to write this biography, based on Fanny’s very own memoirs.
Grand Duke Nicholas Konstantinovich was the elder of brother of the famous Romanov family poet Konstantin Konstaninovich (KR), whose poetry I so much admire and translate every chance I get. You can read my translations of his poetry here Romanov Family Poetry. As many other Romanov family members, Grand Duke Nicholas Konstantinovich died in 1918, but he was not killed by the Bolsheviks – he actually died of pneumonia.
Eva and Dan McDonald went on location to Tashkent to do a lot of their research, because this is where Nicholas Konstantinovich lived. His palace and many of the original archives survived the revolution. This publication is truly the McDonalds’ labor of love, and very worth reading!
Reader reviews for Fanny Lear: Love and Scandal in Tsarist Russia:
“Fanny Lear, a. k. a Hattie Blackford was one of the most fascinating people who ever wore a pink garter. I was researching her life and found online the French language version of her memoir about her scandalous love affair with Grand Duke Nicholas Constantinovich. I must confess that it took this American-born gal many days of arduous translating the French. After this was completed, I came across Eva and Daniel McDonald’s book, Fanny Lear: Love and Scandal in Tsarist Russia. Not only did the McDonalds provide an expert translation of Hattie’s memoir, they added pertinent biographical information accompanied by rare photographs. I wish I had discovered the McDonald’s version first! It would have saved me those long days of translating–not that I don’t appreciate the beautiful French language; it’s just that I’m not by any means an expert at it. The extra details provided by the McDonalds made Hattie’s words so much more fascinating as well. Because of this, I want to highly recommend the McDonalds’ book to those interested in nineteenth century Russian royalty, courtesans in general, European history, or anyone who enjoys an enticing, true story.”
“Fascinating first hand account of the enchanting and often bizarre world of the Russian Empire through the eyes of an American. Fanny Lear’s journey abroad began with the pomp and extravagance of the Russian Court during the time of Tsar Alexander II and ended in spectacular controversy. Her notorious affair with the charming yet troubled Nicholas Constantinovich got her the royal boot out of Russia at the same time her Grand Duke lover’s misdeeds led to a life in exile. Eva and Daniel McDonald do a terrific job translating the original French text to Lear’s native English and tell the story primarily through the words of the main character. You will however find a detailed introduction and postscript helping to guide to reader through the story, a job made easier by Lear’s gift of gab and natural flair for story telling. Minor drawback is that the book lacks footnotes. The reader will not be overwhelmed by the introduction of characters but greater detail would have lent itself well to those less educated on the topic of 1870s Imperial Russia. For the more advanced reader “Fanny Lear” works as a perfect companion to “Revolutionary Days”; the memoirs of American aristocrat, and eventual Russian Princess, Julia Cantacuzene Spiransky-Grant.”
“Amazing story. Couldn’t be made up. And cleared up lots of misinformation about Nicholas’s wives & children.”
Please don’t miss the chance to read this fascinating book! You can order it by clicking on title: Fanny Lear: Love and Scandal in Tsarist Russia