The following was excerpted from the article “There’s Nothing Wrong with Falling from Grace”: The Global Network of Monarchists Helping Deposed Kings and Queens by Michael Joseph Gross, published in the May 2018 issue of Vanity Fair
Nikolai Tolstoy reports each day for work at the desk in his library, a three-room stone structure that once was a wagon shed. He is 82 years old, head of the senior branch of the celebrated Russian family, and a distant cousin of the novelist Leo Tolstoy. His inherited title, Count of the Russian Empire, was originally granted by Peter the Great.
Tolstoy is chancellor of the International Monarchist League, and also chairman of the Russian Monarchist League, though “how active they are I’m not in a position to say.” He perceives “very strong monarchist sentiment in Russia, though very little monarchist political activity.” Tolstoy is on good terms with Grand Duchess Maria—who lays claim to the title Curatrix of the Imperial Throne of Russia—and with her son, Grand Duke George, whom he refers to as “the heir.” (Maria calls her son “the Csarevitch.”) Maria has been a guest in Tolstoy’s house. “In our guest book, I think it’s in successive months, we had Grand Duchess Maria and her father, and then we had Svetlana Stalin, brought here by the great-nephew of the founder of the K.G.B.,” Tolstoy said. He paused here to chuckle.
“There is no question that George, naturally if the opportunity were offered, would welcome” the chance to return to the Russian throne, in Tolstoy’s view. “Nothing would be more good for Russia than a constitutional monarchy. It would provide a fair focus of loyalty for the people, one that is above or outside politics, and a sense of continuity over time.” Monarchy provides, for Tolstoy, just this sense of continuity.
“In Russia, I’m pretty sure that well-heeled supporters of the monarchy do support the Grand Duchess Maria and her son.”
Count Tolstoy expects that representatives of some of these royal houses, as well as Grand Duchess Maria and Grand Duke George, will travel to the Urals in Russia in July, to join a mass remembrance of the 1918 execution of Czar Nicholas II and his family. “My wife and I will go,” Count Tolstoy said. “Our son will go, too, and I think several of my family will be certainly attending from abroad, for the principal commemoration in the cathedral specially built in Ekaterinburg to commemorate the emperor and his family, after the stupid destruction of the house where the murders took place.” In 1977, on instructions from Boris Yeltsin, then first secretary of the local Communist Party, demolition workers took down the house, “which was becoming, even then, authorities felt, too much of a shrine to pilgrims.”
Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land is the official name of the cathedral where tens of thousands will observe “the centenary of the martyrdom.” It is referred to as martyrdom, Tolstoy explained, because the Russian Orthodox Church canonized the imperial-family members who were executed in Ekaterinburg. Also raised to sainthood were those who had faithfully served the deposed royals—the household servants who also died. These included a lady-in-waiting, a maid, a footman, a physician, a cook, and a tutor. Tolstoy did not mention the sainthood of the servants, though. Perhaps modesty forbade it.
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© Michael Joseph Gross. 28 April 2018