'In the House of the Romanovs, a mysterious curse descends from generation to generation. Murders and adultery, blood and mud...Peter I kills his son; Alexander I kills his father; Catherine II kills her husband. The block, the rope and poison - these are the true emblems of Russian autocracy. God's unction on the brows of the Tsars has become the brand of Cain.' So wrote a young Russian historian in the 1890s just after the accession of the young Emperor Nicholas II. IN a few words, he explains why the Romanovs is a fascinating saga. Simon Sebag Montefiore tells the story of the dynasty that ruled Russia from 1613 to 1917 with its emphasis on the characters of the Emperors and Empresses, how their courts worked, the meeting of power and personality with a special emphasis on the greatest and most complex rulers, Peter the Great; his daughter Elizaveta; Catherine the Great in the 18th Century; Alexander I, Nicholas I and Alexander II the Tsar-Liberator in the 19th Century. This will also be a portrait of the doomed Tsars - Peter III, Paul I and the Court of the Last Tsar, Nicholas II; and reveal the special rule of women - age of the Imperial petticoat - during the 18th Century. It will not be a full history of military-political-economic times but an intimate chronicle.