The Red Porch, Rochet-Schneider, Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, and Russo-Baltique

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Tsar Aleksandr II bowing to the people from the Red Porch

The Red Porch, also called the Red Staircase, leads into the Palace of Facets in Moskvá’s Kreml. On the morning of a new Tsar’s coronation, he and his Tsaritsa set out from the Red Porch under a canopy held by 32 generals. The Imperial couple, along with the Imperial regalia, proceeded towards the Cathedral of the Dormition for the crowning and anointing. Afterwards, the newly-crowned couple would proceed back to the Red Porch, where they’d rest up for the great banquet in the Palace of Facets. Starting with Tsar Nicholas I, the Tsar would stop on the Red Porch to bow thrice to the assembled crowd. This gesture symbolised “an unspoken bond of devotion between ruler and subjects.”

Sadly, the porch was destroyed in the 1930s, and not rebuilt till 1994.

Rochet-Schneider

The Rochet-Schneider, my next-most desired antique automobile

In my alternative history, one of Tsar Aleksey II’s cars is a dark blue Rochet-Schneider which he receives as a 21st birthday present from his uncle, Grand Duke Mikhail. He’s not allowed to drive, but he’s not forbidden to ride in cars altogether.

The Rochet-Schneider was a French luxury car which was manufactured from 1894–1932. True to their luxurious nature, they were made of hand-crafted wood, brass fittings, and patent leather. They were primarily intended for wealthy hobbyists, not normal motorists looking for something affordable like a Ford.

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, Copyright sv1ambo, Source 1921 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost dual cowl phaeton

In my alternative history, the future Tsaritsa, Arkadiya Mikhaylovna Gagarina, gets a ride from her hotel to the Aleksandr Palace in a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. She hasn’t appeared at a recent empress-consort audition of morganatic princesses, because she has no interest in that role and is also held back because she’s seven years older than the Emperor. Additionally, she hasn’t been feeling well. Shortly after she sends away the important-looking people who came to her hotel, she’s interrupted again and compelled to return to the palace to be nursed back to health. It turns out she has diphtheria.

In real life, Grand Duke Mikhail also owned a Silver Ghost, and gave one to his wife Natalya as a birthday present. The Silver Ghost was one of the most luxurious, high-end cars in the 1920s, a limousine in its day and age. It was manufactured from 1906–26, with under 10,000 models. Today, it’s believed to be the world’s most valuable car, at over $35 million.

The Russo-Baltique

The Russo-Baltique was one of the Russian Empire’s first cars, manufactured from 1909–23. Tsar Nicholas II owned a Russo-Baltique. Today, only two original models are known to still survive.

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WeWriWa—Agreeable Conditions

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week may be the final snippet from my alternative history for awhile.

In the last snippet, Arkadiya discovered just how much her newlywed husband loves her, and received an invitation to exchange her room for the Imperial bedroom, on two conditions. Though she finds this turn of events very agreeable, she’s still in a state of disbelief. As a 32-year-old spinster, she didn’t think any man would ever love her, let alone the most powerful man in the empire.

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The Great Throne Room of the Winter Palace, where the newlywed Imperial couple were greeted by their parents after the ceremony and given the traditional karavay wedding loaf on a silver platter with salt

“What conditions are these?” She rubbed his shoulders and kissed his neck.

“First, as you’re well aware of, I need to trust you won’t be rough with me.  I’m not as sickly as I was as a little boy, but I’m still not as strong and hearty as normal people.  Secondly, I want you to stop calling me Majesty.  I told you to call me Alyosha.”

She smiled at him. “Sure, I can agree to those conditions, though it’ll take awhile for me to get used to calling you Alyosha instead of Your Majesty.”

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Aleksey with his double-second-cousins Princess Ileana and Prince Nicolae of Romania, 1914. Many people speculate Aleksey and Ileana would’ve married in real life, though of the equally-ranked potential consorts, I slightly prefer Princess Ingrid of Sweden (later Queen of Denmark). The first what-if match is too popular/overused for my tastes, whereas the intelligent, compassionate, courageous Ingrid’s name doesn’t seem to be mentioned so often.

WeWriWa—Declaration of love

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, as the newlywed Imperial couple are sitting by the fireplace of the Gold Drawing Room of the Winter Palace following their wedding. Arkadiya is beyond shocked to hear her new husband telling her he loves her, since their original plan was to have a celibate marriage and adopt a boy as their heir.

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Grand Cathedral of the Winter Palace, site of all Imperial weddings, painted by Eduard Hau

“I never let myself fall in love with anyone before, to try to protect myself.  I wanted a wife and children so badly, to be like other people, but I had to be a martyr and put my feelings last.  The thought of leaving a widow and orphans still terrifies me, and there’s no telling if my sickness will manifest in another generation.  If I’m fated to die young, at least I want to know what it’s like to, you know, do certain things.”

Before Arkadiya could react, he leaned over and kissed her, softly and uncertainly.  Even as a thirty-two-year-old former spinster, she could sense he didn’t really know exactly what he was doing, but she also sensed a sweetness and sincerity in him.  Her skin tingled with electricity as he wrapped his arms around her, and she put her arms around him in return, being careful not to hold him too tightly.

“Will you please do me the honor of coming back to the Imperial bedroom with me to be my real wife, and not remaining in your own room?” he whispered. “I only have two conditions you need to agree to.”

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Next week I’ll be taking a brief detour to celebrate the posthumous 110th birthday of a legendary comedian.

WeWriWa—Declaration of love

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weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4
Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, as the newlywed Imperial couple are in the Gold Drawing Room of the Winter Palace following their wedding and the banquet. Arkadiya is stunned when her new husband tells her he loves her, particularly since the plan was for them to have a celibate marriage and adopt an heir to avoid potentially having a sick child.

What people in 1929 didn’t know was that it’s genetically impossible for a hemophiliac father to have a son with the disease, unless the mother were herself a carrier. All boys born to a hemophiliac father and normal mother will be healthy, but all the girls will automatically be carriers themselves.

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Grand Cathedral of the Winter Palace, where all Imperial weddings were performed, painted by Eduard Hau

“I love you, Arya.  Would I have chosen you for my Tsaritsa if I didn’t love you?  I wanted you to be mine from the first time I saw you.  You’re the perfect match God intended for me, and I never could’ve found you or gotten the chance to marry you without so many little events leading into one another.  The more time has gone by, the less reconciled I feel to having some celibate marriage.  Just because I might not live a long life doesn’t mean I shouldn’t enjoy myself with my beautiful bride with the time I’ve got left.  Please tell me you want to be my real wife, not just a friend I’m married to?”

Arkadiya sat frozen. “You felt this way since you met me, and just let me believe I was a good match for all those other reasons?”

WeWriWa—Declaration of love

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. To avoid giving away too much of my alternative history, I’m skipping to the wedding chapter.

Because Aleksey is so worried about his disease manifesting in another generation or inadvertently injuring himself from the marriage act, he wanted to adopt a child, legally make that boy his heir, and have a celibate marriage. However, you know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men.

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The Gold Drawing Room of the Winter Palace (after its reconstruction in the wake of an 1837 fire), painted by Aleksandr K. Kolb, public domain.

Arkadiya had a seat on the fancy red velvet davenport by the jasper and marble fireplace, though she already felt toasty enough from all the other heating the palace already had in place.  Sitting right next to her new husband made her feel even toastier.

“Are you happy being Tsaritsa so far?  As long as I’m clinging to life, I want to make sure you’re happy.  If anything ever disagrees with you, just let me know, and I’ll immediately find a way to remedy it.  I know I never told you this before, but I love you, Arya, and I really hope you love me too, or at least grow to love me.”

Her blood ran cold. “What did you just say, Your Majesty?”