July is the centenary of the execution of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife and their five children. The story has retained its popular allure, despite being told many times before. Romanoviana has been kept alive by the classical echoes of hubris before the fall and the lurid violence of the murders — several of the Romanov daughters were bayoneted to death...Adding to the drama of the final act was the long build-up. The Romanovs endured 15 months of captivity, grimly awaiting their fate at the hands of the Bolsheviks ... This makes for a gripping narrative, which Helen Rappaport recounts with a light touch in The Race to Save the Romanovs. She has uncovered many missing pieces in the story, from the diplomatic wrangling over the tsar’s fate to a number of 'hare-brained' rescue schemes hatched by monarchist sympathisers.
A deep dive into archives and obscure sources, Rappaport’s book exposes the feckless and ultimately futile ideas to rescue the imprisoned Romanovs that surfaced between Nicholas’s abdication and the family’s murder in the summer of 1918 ... Much of the book focuses on the action— and inaction—of King George V; indeed, one gets the sense that Rappaport’s intent is to rehabilitate the man often blamed for refusing to grant sanctuary to his Russian cousins ... In the end, even Rappaport has to agree that George 'may have been a moral coward' in forcing his government to abandon asylum ... Rather than blaming King George for forcing his government to withdraw asylum, Rappaport’s finely researched and elegantly written book asserts that 'responsibility should be more widely, and equally, apportioned.' It’s a fair point.
Lieutenant Boris Solovev...devised a plan to rescue Tsar Nicholas II from house arrest in the west Siberian town of Tobolsk. This was just weeks after Lenin’s Bolsheviks had seized power in Russia, and the prospects for the Romanovs were starting to look bleak ... He claimed he had found 300 'loyal' soldiers who could overcome the guards in the mansion where the tsar and his family were imprisoned. Then, in freezing midwinter, he would escort his royal charges 1,300 miles through a chaotic Russia, where civil war had erupted, to Murmansk. There, a ship or submarine would take them to a country willing to give them asylum. All he needed was the money ... Around 175,000 gold rubles were found from the tsar and friends (around £2.1m today) and handed to Solovev. The money was never seen again, nor were the 300 soldiers or a ship, let alone a submarine or a rescue plan ... For nearly 100 years rumours have abounded about myriad so-called plots to free the tsar. As Rappaport shows, 'the truth behind the secret plans to rescue'.