I’ve loved the world of Imperial Russia since I was a child. One of my earliest memories is seeing the BBCTV adaptation of War and Peace when I was about 8 years old. My favourite characters were Prince Andrei and Countess Natasha. The story captured me and the world of Imperial Russia in 1812 entered my heart. I got a model of an 1815 Russian Hussar for Christmas that year and an LP of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and Swan Lake too. For it wasn’t just the history of Russia that had captured my heart. I had seen a photograph of Anna Pavlova in her Swan costume and instantly fell in love with her. I’ve never recovered. To me, the ballerina represents the epitome of Grace and all that is beautiful, sensual and sexy.
And then there’s the music. Beginning with Tchaikovsky’s ballets when I was under 10 years old, by the age of 15 I had graduated to Borodin and the “Five” and finally to the composer I regard as the Master of all Masters, Sergei Rachmaninov, whose Piano Concertos, Piano music, Symphonies and songs are, to me the most beautiful creations in all music. Once I had heard these pieces all other music paled in comparison. Nothing in my experience compares to the emotional power, beauty and depth of Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky. Their music is integral to the world of Lost Eagle and is at the heart of the lives and souls of Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana.
This then is the soil out of which my novels about the Russian Imperial Family, beginning with Lost Eagle were to grow. But there is something different about Lost Eagle in particular. And that is the central mystery that is at the heart of the story. Tatiana’s alleged escape from the Ipatiev House in July 1918.
For most of my adult life I had accepted the established histories and the story they told of the family’s deaths. Then in the Summer of 1994 I came across a book called Royal Russia by Carol Townend. It was a book of photographs of the family of Nicholas II, mostly taken by the family themselves. There was one photograph in particular of Olga and Tatiana that captured my heart. As I had done with Pavlova, I fell in love with them. And I just had to know more. So I began to research their lives, reading every book in English that I could get my hands on. One of those books was historian Michael Occleshaw’s The Romanov Conspiracies, which looked into the efforts of the British, amongst others, to rescue the Romanovs in the Summer of 1918. I followed this up with his previous book Armour Against Fate, which detailed British Military Intelligence activity during World War I and went into the possibility, for which there seemed to be actual archive evidence in the UK, of a rescue which was partially successful and rescued one of the girls, who came to Britain and then vanished from history.
What impressed me about this story was that unlike the average “fake” story, it had never been out in the open, but efforts seemed to have been made to bury it out of sight. Occleshaw’s meticulous work was easy to follow up and I was able to confirm the trail of missing documents, as anyone who is interested can do. I also discovered that the real life story had been paralleled in Ian Fleming’s 1957 James Bond novel “From Russia with Love”, whose heroine is actually called Tatiana Romanova and who is stated by Fleming in the text to be related directly to Nicholas II. The more I investigated the stranger it all got. Analysis of the protocol of Yurovsky, head of the execution squad who had supposedly murdered the family revealed it to have obvious flaws. Evidence uncovered in investigations carried out in the immediate aftermath of the family’s disappearance had been deliberately ignored and the area in the forest around Ekaterinburg where the Imperial Family’s bones had been supposedly uncovered was revealed to be a place referred to as “the killing fields”, a place where the bones of possibly hundreds of bourgeois families were dumped following mass executions in the bloody summer of 1918.
By 1998, Russia wanted to literally bury its past. It is interesting that in the process of confirming the identity of those forest bones using DNA analysis, Aldermaston in the UK took a very long time to come to its conclusions. The DNA used to compare with that of the found bones was Prince Philip, a distant relative. When the tests were done again by Stanford University in 2004, using the children’s aunt Grand Duchess Elizabeth as comparison there was no match. Add to this the Russian Orthodox Churches refusal to officiate at the burial ceremony in 1998 and their still steadfast refusal to acknowledge the identity of the bones as that of Nicholas and the family and you begin to realise there is something odd going on.
All of this research inspired me to write a fictionalised account of the lives of these remarkable young women, starting with Tatiana, the astonishing possibility of her escape and her beautiful but doomed love for Owen Tudor.
As I fell deeper in love with the girls, I began to feel their distinct voices and personalities. Theirs was a world of infinite promise. Rasputin connected the family to the wider world of Nature around them, a world where everything was alive and had a dignity of its own. Nature, love, sex, death, music and dance, all lived in them, united in perfect harmony. No wonder their friend Rachmaninov, writing near the end of his life described his music written in exile as music of “what might have been”. I say more, “what might yet be”.
The story begins and ends with the girls and the Divine Feminine. Lost Eagle is the first novel in a group of four exploring the lives of Nicholas’s daughters, with a fifth one about Rasputin and his relationship with the Goddess, for She it is who lies at the heart of the Orthodox Faith. Along the way I explore the archetype of the Sacrificial Maiden, Royal daughter of the Goddess, brought to life so powerfully by Stravinsky in his 1913 ballet “The Rite of Spring”, and a motif that in its power and ecstasy is absolutely central to the story. I shall have more to say about Her as the books progress, beginning with the second book, “Voice on the Wind”, the astonishing story of Anastasia and her real relationship with the Anastasia Claimant Anna Anderson.
For more about the history behind Lost Eagle, visit the author’s website.