Whilst researching on the correspondence of the last Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918) of Russia and Princess Marie Bariatinsky, one of the Tsarina’s first maids-of-honour (freilina) in her early years in Russia and a later friend, I discovered a series of unpublished letter cards in a collection in Vienna, from the Tsarina to Princess Marie.
The five letter-cards are autographed with the Tsarina’s monogram, ‘AF’ or simply ‘A’ and are written in bold or blue pencil, one dated 29 August 1912. The Tsarina’s name ‘ALEXANDRA’ appears in Russia under an embossed crown in either gold, blue or black. Originally identified as from the Tsarina to Queen Mary, I argued that the Tsarina’s letters to Princess Marie based on other existing examples usually began ‘Dearest Mary’, whilst the English Queen was usually exclusively referred to by Tsar Nicholas II and the Tsarina as ‘May’. I am indebted to INLIBRIS Gilhofer Nfg and most especially to Dr Christopher Frey (Books) who graciously photographed the cards and gave me permission to reproduce the text.
As Alexandra destroyed much of her private correspondence, these letter cards are an important survival in their own right, whilst some of the letters sent by the Tsarina to Princess Marie Bariatinsky are preserved in the Broadlands Archives (Greg King, The Last Tsarina, 403). One of those letters was written to Princess Marie on 28 October 1910 and betrays Alexandra’s health concerns: ‘What can I say about my health? For the time the doctors are contented with my heart… But have again strong pains in the legs and back…’ Alexandra refuted the allegations about her nervous condition, leading us to question that whether psychosomatic or otherwise, the conditions were nevertheless genuine, whatever the cause: ‘If people speak to you about my “nerves”, please strongly contradict it. They are as strong as ever, it’s the “over-tired heart”… very bad heartaches, have not what one calls walked for three years, the heart goes wild, fearfully out of breath and such pains’ (Broadlands Archives, cit., King, 177).