Thank you for visiting! Please feel free to leave a comment. I accept anonymous comments as long as they are polite.

All written content is protected by copyright but if you wish to contact me regarding the content of this blog, please feel free to do so via the contact form.

Please pay a visit, too, to HILLIARD & CROFT


Christina Croft at Amazon

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Glib Lines Without Meaning

I wonder why it is that multi-faceted people find it so easy to write off other people of the past in glib one-dimensional lines. Imagine if someone were to describe you in one short phrase - your whole life experience with all its ebbs and flows narrowed down to that - and worse, if that short phrase were so often repeated that it became generally accepted as 'truth'.

How many times have I read such phrases regarding the last Imperial Family of Russia? "Nicholas was a weak Tsar." "Alexandra was psychologically unsound." Serge was gay." "Ella was cold." These things are written on blogs and websites all over the place and they are as far from the whole truth as the popular (and untrue) myth that Queen Victoria was puritanical and seldom amused.

Happily, there are also many people who are not so trite in their descriptions and understanding. Most of the people whom I know who have any depths of understanding of that family, eventually come to a point of giving up trying to refute these easy statements so the glib lies continue uncontested. It would be possible to write at length of all the reasons why these statements are inaccurate but there is little point in doing that among people who prefer to make everything black and white and are constantly seeking someone to blame for all the errors of the past.

There are many examples to illustrate that Nicholas was not weak. There are many examples of Alexandra's strength of mind and character, and happily other people write of these with such knowledge and insight. Very few people have even heard of Serge and Ella, and it is so unjust to see how often they are passed off with those lines: "Serge was gay. Ella was cold." Personally, though I don't give two hoots about whether he was or he wasn't, I don't believe that Serge was gay. Nowadays, a person's sexual orientation is happily a matter for that person and not anyone else's business. In late 19th century Russia (as elsewhere) it was a criminal offence and to accuse someone of being homosexual was a means of shaming them. So many accusations were levelled against Serge because of his political stance. It was difficult to contradict his views politically and so much easier to make such an accusation about his sexuality simply to demean him! That aside, it must be remembered that his servants were utterly devoted to him. Not many people inspire such devotion in their staff. The diaries of Css. Tolstoy - no great fan of the Grand Duke - include references to his kindness when she asked for help for her son to gain a commission in a particular regiment. She also writes of how, trying to make a request to him in St. Petersburg, she couldn't reach him because he had made the very long journey to Moscow simply to attend the wedding of one of his servants, to which he had been invited. But Serge, according to the myth was 'gay, a sadist and a control-freak' - Funny that, since all the gay men that I know are far from being control-freaks or sadists. So, please would those who make up or repeat these stories decide which stance they are taking before making such glib accusations?

Then, 'Ella was cold'. What is cold? Numbed and shocked to the core by witnessing the horrific death of her husband? Crikey!! Wouldn't you be cold with shock and horror if you saw someone you loved in such a mutilated state? Obviously, the glib accusation of 'cold' cannot apply simply to that moment. So she was generally cold? Hmm....Ella, who, on being parted from her sisters 'cried like a child'...Ella, who wrote to Nicholas in such extremely effusive tones: "Darling boy, dearest, darling Nicholas, may I call you so?" Ella, who 'sobbed' after her final meeting with Alix. Ella, whose letters are filled with effusions: her descriptions of her feelings in the Holy Land or at Sarov; her 'boundless' love, her 'longing'...are these the words of a cold person?

If people dislike people of the past, that's fair enough. If people have issues or disagreements with people of the past, that's fair enough too. But to narrow a person down to an often repeated statement is just so shallow! Nicholas was weak, Alix was psychologically disturbed, Serge was gay, Ella was cold...take it back further, Richard III (so loved by the people of Yorkshire!) was just the wicked uncle who killed his nephews (yeah right!! where was Henry Tudor in this?)...King John was evil; Richard the Lionheart is a hero (though he virtually bankrupted England and spent hardly any time here)....Please, if we write of people, let's at least get the wider picture....

No comments: