Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna was many things. She was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, a dedicated dupe of the notorious mystic Grigori Rasputin—and the steadfast wife of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and mother to their five children.
In her collection of poems, Mrs Romanov, Lori Cayer gives voice to the expectations and fears of this powerful and ultimately doomed figure. With great empathy and emotion, she presents a portrait in poetry of a woman whose concerns, even as she navigates the ‘forest of eyes and gossiping teeth’ of her unwelcoming adoptive country, prove startlingly domestic. Cayer captures Alexandra’s devotion to her husband and her children, in particular her constant anxiety over her young hemophiliac son: ‘anyone who could see into this house / would see love / breathing itself like a tubercular lung / imprinting itself to life like a snapshot’. But in so doing, Cayer exposes another Alexandra, one whose attempts to bolster her politically inept husband caused Russia to veer sharply from autocracy to revolution, and her family from prosperity to fatal captivity.