Frances Welch has a sharp eye for a quote. ‘Man’s sensitivity to little things and insensitivity to the greatest are the signs of a strange disorder’ (Pascal), printed on the opening pages of her book, might have been written with Tsar Nicholas II in mind. Nicholas seems to have had little grasp of the major issues of the day and his diaries, as quoted in this book, are curiously childish, concentrating mainly on the weather. Granny – Queen Victoria – largely failed in her attempts to school him in political and international affairs, describing him, not unfairly, as ‘very simple and unaffected’. He in return compared her to ‘a round ball with wobbly legs’.
Similarly, his wife, the neurasthenic Alexandra (known as Alicky), Victoria’s granddaughter, preferred to focus on trivial-seeming subjects, remarking on the fact that Nicky and Georgie (George V) were both short: ‘Foolish Georgie says I am to insist upon you wearing high heels and that I am to have quite low