Mathilde Kschessinska's life was inextricably linked with that of the Romanovs and this ensures her lasting fame.
However, she was first of all a ballerina as the title of "Imperial Dancer" already suggests. She was a prima ballerina absoluta and reached the absolute hights of her profession. She was not only an excellent dancer but as well good in the "theater politics" ensuring lasting success and influence. And here her Imperial connections come into play:
Mathilde became the mistress of the future Nicolas II. before he married Alexandra. The Czar always protected her and Mathilde did not hesitated to asked him for that or the other favor. After their break-up she become the mistress of Grand Duke Sergei and then of the Grand Duke Andrei. They had a menage a trois and it never become clear who fathered Mathilde's only son Vovo. She lived in absolute splendour - she could call a palace her own, jewels, richesses... a fairy tale life. All this came to an end with the revolution. But Mathilde was a born survivor. After the revolution she married Andrei and was created a princess. She was the strong part in the relationship ensuring financial survival through her dancing school. She outlived her husband and died in her 99 year.
Coryne Hall tries to unveil the truth about Mathilde Kschessinska. Before only Mathilde's memoires "Dancing in St. Peterburg" were shedding some light on her life, but of course her memoires are no objective account of her life. One can hardly expect this. Therefore Corny Hall's biography is very much to be applauded. Mrs. Hall provides the readers with a lot of details about Mathilde, her background, her friendships, her work and her relationships. I read on a on one of the royalty websites that having read the way Mathilde behaved during the pre-revolution time one is longing for the revolution. There is an element of truth in this: she lived in great splendour on the Grand Dukes's purses and there is no reflextion on her part on the state of the Russian Empire, the huge injustices of Impreial Russia. She is an excellent power broker, very determined to rule "her theatre". Yes, she is egocentric... as most artist are! Maybe this is not particuarly nice, but I admire her for being such a briliant politician of theatre politics. I admire her as well for her spirit after the revolution. She goes on, she does not shine from work. Compared to her husband she is a person for the real life. I believe - whatever one is thinking of her - she would have been one of those few person, if one had the opportunity to meet her, one would never forget.
Coryne Hall' s biography brinmgs out most of this. But she drowns a bit too much in details which - after a while - do not add new information on the personality of Mathilde. It is a bit like with her previous biography on The Empress Marie Feodorovna
(Little Mother of Russia). She never really gives you how she views her personality. I found it really strange that inspite of all these information, there is still soemthing missing. But still a very readable book.
For all who are interested in the pre-revolution period in Russia a book one needs to read.