I was thinking (I do that sometimes) about the romance that Serenity writes, and when I considered all the romantic stuff that was threaded through the History I taught, like a seam of gold, I wondered if a few little articles on romantic history might meet with some interest?
There are quite a few tragic loves… Abelard and Heloise, Antony and Cleopatra, Nelson and Emma Hamilton (who was actually quite a solidly built girl! Nothing like Vivian Leigh) oh, and I guess Olivier and Leigh would fit in with the romantic/tragic theme as well!
When I covered the Russian Revolutions (1905 and the two in 1917) there was always a fascination among students with the role of Rasputin in the downfall of Nicholas II. The relationship with the Tsarina of course was much talked about on the streets of St Petersburg in the winter months of 1917.
Rasputin had made quite a reputation for himself as a bit of a ‘Lover’… in fact the salvation he offered to the rich women of the capital was that they should prostrate themselves at his feet, wash the filthy digits and engage in sexual antics with him. Only then would they manage to accept that they were sinners and could now be officially “saved".
When we look at accounts of Rasputin, a few things jump out at us… first he was decidedly smelly! Many contemporaries talk about this, and not just the cuckolded husbands! He rarely washed, and his body odour was sometimes spoken of as being ‘Manly’ (or stinky). What then made him attractive to the ladies of the court?
Well, the second point to leap out at us is the positioning of a wart on his member. This, it was rumoured, allowed him to give intense pleasure by using it as a sexual aid. The news quickly spread of course, and eventually the talk around town was that Alexandra, the Tsarina, was taking advantage of Rasputin and his lumpy knob.
Fun gossip though it was, the evidence is not really there to point to a physical relationship. She sent Rasputin some pretty steamy letters, “To lay one's head on your shoulder, to say nothing, to feel the joy of peace and forget-fulness? What heavenly bliss! I thank you for giving it me.” Well, when I say steamy, I mean by the standards of the time (not by Serenity's!)
What Rasputin DID have was an ability to calm the pain suffered by the young prince and heir to the Romanov throne, Alexei. The young boy was a poor sod! The pain was due, as we know, to his Haemophilia. He had a huge sailor appointed to look after him, carrying the Prince around when he could. Any bruise was potentially life threatening, and Rasputin for whatever reason was able to soothe the prince. This gained him huge ‘Brownie Points’ with the Tsarina, but that was not really enough to point to them ‘Hooking up’ (as youngsters say today).
When the Tsar went to the front line to take command of his troops on the eastern front, Rasputin or “our dear friend’ as Alexandra insisted on calling him in her letters, took control of the court and was making key decisions that impacted on Russia. He had to be stopped.
Rasputin (‘Russia’s greatest love machine” as Boney M would have it) was finally murdered to keep him from bringing any more disrepute down on the Tsar and his family. He was poisoned, clubbed, kicked, shot and eventually drowned…and yet it was claimed he still was alive when his body was dumped through a hole in the ice on the river Neva in St Petersburg.
The story goes that his body was found by an old woman who cut of his famous member (wart and all) and kept it in a jar as a talking point! A pretty unsavoury end to a pretty unsavoury bloke.
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