Empress of Russia
I never expected this. When May and I dreamed of husbands when we were five, neither of us imagined rising to the height of Grandmama. But now—I am an Empress. I feel as though it should not be me, it should be Ella or Vicky. They have always been the most popular, the beloved pair. I feel Ella and I could swap places and I would be most comfortable. A quiet life in the country would suit me nicely; the house is big enough that I could avoid Sergei most days, and entertain the rest.
But Nicholas. Nicholas makes it all worth it. If it were not for him, I would scarcely have survived the engagement, let alone the avalanche of activity that followed. His father’s death, the coronation, my conversion, our wedding! I feel as though I have blinked and the year has ended and I have a whole new life. Everything is gold and delicate, and I have become the same. I do not even know my handmaidens. They come, they drown me in fabric and jewels, and they leave without a word.
I live in a gilded cage.
Lily of the Valley
Being a mother has been the most harrowing and fulfilling experience of my life. I wish I had more time with my own mother. At times I try to grasp a memory of her, but they escape like butterflies from my reach. I recall her in the hospital, but it could have been Ella or Vicky, they became my mother when Mama passed. It breaks my heart that Ella has been unable to conceive; she would make such a great mother. I am certain the problem is Sergei, though he would never admit it, and Ella is so kind she would take all the blame no matter what—which makes me loathe Sergei even more.
When Ella visits, I feel her yearning. Olga and Tatya are such a beautiful pair, and they do remind me of Ella and Vicky when they were children. Though Olga is so much bossier than Vicky ever was. When I watch them play, I feel as if she is a matron. If Tatya had another friend to play with, I imagine they might dub her ‘Herr Olga’. But when they come to me after supper, they are so darling. I read with one of them curled under each arm on the lounge. Little Olga loves to press her ear against my belly. She tells me she can hear her brother in there, and I hope she is right.
The Russian people may revolt if I have another daughter.
I cannot describe how much I love my little Alexei. I waited so long for a boy. I cannot seem to let him go. I know he hates me for it at times, but I just want to protect him from the world and its demons. If it were not for his illness, maybe I would not feel so anxious. Nicholas assures me that Alexei is just a rambunctious boy and I need to let him be a boy. How can he be so blasé about the health of our only child, when he is off fighting in the war, risking his own life? We may never be able to have another son. I need to cherish Alexei, he’s my little Tsarevitch.
For more about the Imperial Faberge Eggs, visit the Faberge website or watch this video. Or, if you’re ever in Russia, you can visit the Faberge Museum in St Petersburg, which houses the largest collection of Imperial Faberge eggs in the world.