Grigory Rasputin, Siberian peasant-turned-mystic, was both fascinating and unfathomable. As the only person able to relieve the symptoms of haemophilia in the Tsar’s heir Alexis, he gained almost hallowed status within the Imperial court. Yet he played the role of the simple man, eating with his fingers and boasting, ‘I don’t even know the alphabet’.
During the last decade of his life, he and his band of “little ladies” came to symbolise all that was decadent and remote about the Imperial Family – especially when it was rumoured that he was not only shaping Russian policy during the First World War, but also enjoying an intimate relationship with the Tsarina.
Rasputin’s role in the downfall of the tsarist regime is beyond dispute. But who was he really? Prophet or rascal?
In this unputdownable short biography – which draws on new material, including an interview with one of the last people alive who actually saw Rasputin, as well as unpublished memoirs, diaries and letters – Frances Welch turns her inimitable wry gaze on one of the great mysteries of Russian history.
“In this elegant and insightful short biography, Welch has enormous fun...she has done an excellent job of digging out the kind of telling detail that often gets swamped by the grand political narrative.”
“The book is a delight to read...Frances Welch tells this extraordinary story in the right, clear, sceptical tone.”
“Welch is a mistress of wry description not only in this book but in three other sharply observed works on the Russian court.”
Frances Welch has written for the Sunday Telegraph, Granta, The Spectator and the Financial Times. She is co-author of Memories of Revolution: Russian Women Remember (Routledge, 1993), The Romanov & Mr Gibbes (Short Books, 2003) and A Romanov Fantasy: Life at the Court of Anna Anderson (Short Books, 2007) She is married to the writer Craig Brown, and has two children. She lives in Aldeburgh, Suffolk.