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The Lost Fortune of the Tsars

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In this fascinating historical investigation that The New York Times Book Review has likened to "a John le Carre mystery", financial expert William Clarke delves into the whereabouts of over $45 billion in jewels, gold, and cash belonging to the murdered Russian imperial family. photos. In this fascinating historical investigation that The New York Times Book Review has likened to "a John le Carre mystery", financial expert William Clarke delves into the whereabouts of over $45 billion in jewels, gold, and cash belonging to the murdered Russian imperial family. photos.


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In this fascinating historical investigation that The New York Times Book Review has likened to "a John le Carre mystery", financial expert William Clarke delves into the whereabouts of over $45 billion in jewels, gold, and cash belonging to the murdered Russian imperial family. photos. In this fascinating historical investigation that The New York Times Book Review has likened to "a John le Carre mystery", financial expert William Clarke delves into the whereabouts of over $45 billion in jewels, gold, and cash belonging to the murdered Russian imperial family. photos.

30 review for The Lost Fortune of the Tsars

  1. 5 out of 5

    Antigone

    And what a fortune it was. Best known, perhaps, were those exquisite eggs commissioned each Easter from the Imperial Court's jeweler, Peter Carl Faberge, as a traditional gift from the Tsar to his wife (and in the case of Nicholas II, to his mother) - each a bejeweled splendor of such magnificence as to be christened with its own name. A sampling might include the Colonnade Egg, the Mosaic Egg, the Love Trophy Egg, the Duchess of Marlborough Egg, the Tercentenary Egg - this last a collector's fav And what a fortune it was. Best known, perhaps, were those exquisite eggs commissioned each Easter from the Imperial Court's jeweler, Peter Carl Faberge, as a traditional gift from the Tsar to his wife (and in the case of Nicholas II, to his mother) - each a bejeweled splendor of such magnificence as to be christened with its own name. A sampling might include the Colonnade Egg, the Mosaic Egg, the Love Trophy Egg, the Duchess of Marlborough Egg, the Tercentenary Egg - this last a collector's favorite decorated on the outside with miniatures of every Romanov ruler and, within, a globe depicting the extent of the Russian Empire. Fifty-six of these treasures were made. Moscow, in present day, retains only ten. Yet those were just the eggs. There were, also, the crown jewels: the Grand Imperial Crown (replete with 32,800 carats of diamonds), the Imperial Sceptre (atop which rests the enormous Orlov diamond) and the Imperial Orb (in which nests a 46-carat Indian diamond surmounted by a 200-carat sapphire from Ceylon). There were a bewildering multitude of extravagant tiaras, the most famous of which, in all probability, is the stunning diamond-and-pendant-pearl headpiece currently in the collection of Britain's Queen Elizabeth. There were necklaces and earrings and brooches by the score, ropes and ropes of pearls and, lest we imagine this decorative luxury restricted to the women, there were also stickpins, snuffboxes, crosses, belts, hatpins, sabre hilts and cuffs, the exceptional diamond epaulette of Paul I, and the striking diamond centerpiece of the chain of the order of St. Andrew that was customarily worn at coronation. Even this, you should know, is by no means a representative accounting of the munificence at the Tsar's disposal. Understand that there were so many jewels of such weight and substance that those few the daughters took into exile with them, and sewed into their underclothes for safety's sake, combined to form the rudimentary version of a bulletproof vest and kept them alive through the first barrage of shots by their late-night executioners. This is serious wealth. There was gold as well, and millions of rubles; investments, trusts. There was art of great importance, and there were intricate tapestries; rugs and splendid pieces of furniture. There was a room in the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo that was paneled entirely in amber and considered by many to be the Eighth Wonder of the World. It is impossible to imagine the ostentation of the Russian Imperial Court at the height of its glory - and that was pretty much the point. It was Tsarist policy for hundreds of years to show what one was worth. How else was anyone to take you seriously? Best, they thought, to leave the world awestruck. And this they did. If one was willing to travel to Russia, one would and could and should encounter the spectacular. Then came the revolution, the Bolsheviks, the assassination of the Tsar and his family. The aristocracy took flight; many with only what they might carry. And once they reached their destinations, the rumors began. What of the Tsar's accounts around the world? Had he a hidden cache of gold? Millions set aside in German, French, or British banks? Did he possess holdings that might be considered inheritable? Surely there had to be something left of that fabulous fortune. Surely one of the richest of civilized men would possess a lucrative estate. William Clarke picks up the baton just about here, and I wish I could tell you he ran a good (t)race. He didn't. Rather than lay some groundwork with the factual aspects of the tsarist portfolio, he chooses instead to proceed by retelling the dramatic tale of the exile and then chasing the most persistent of the rumors down. And, as any reader of history will tell you, working backward from scuttlebutt makes for a very disorganized presentation. We jump from one person's story to another person's claim to a third person's lawsuit with slices of backstory interspersed between, and it's all a bit of a grueling labor to read. He does arrive at some conclusions, and they do seem solid, and logical (and it's likely the best anyone's ever going to do considering Russia is a country that is rarely cooperative with historians), but I do think there's probably a better book around and, if I were you, I might hunt for it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    After their murders in 1918, what happened to the Russian royal family’s wealth? Let me save you untold hours of tedium and summarize with four key facts: - When Nicholas II abdicated, his state wealth became the property of the provisional government and later the Bolsheviks. Most was used for securing credit or buying munitions. - Whatever wealth was left untouched by that change became Soviet property in the decree Lenin signed in 1918 abolishing private property. - When WW1 broke out, Nicholas After their murders in 1918, what happened to the Russian royal family’s wealth? Let me save you untold hours of tedium and summarize with four key facts: - When Nicholas II abdicated, his state wealth became the property of the provisional government and later the Bolsheviks. Most was used for securing credit or buying munitions. - Whatever wealth was left untouched by that change became Soviet property in the decree Lenin signed in 1918 abolishing private property. - When WW1 broke out, Nicholas II and other aristocrats repatriated most of their investments from overseas banks. Whatever remained abroad was quickly eaten up by hyperinflation. - Peter Bark, the last Tsarist financial minister, has long been suspected of keeping the money for himself, but at the end of his life was quite poor so this is unlikely. There. I have just spared you 100 pages of needless historic recapping (as if anyone reading this wouldn’t already know the basic facts of the Romanov fall), and then 200 more meticulously following bank records. Mr. Clarke, haven’t you ever heard of a summary? I thought the fact this was a published book meant it would have an interesting story to tell, so I was actually very angry to have slogged through so many bone dry stacks of facts just to be told that in effect, there is NO lost fortune at all.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ned Charles

    Considering the effort applied to writing this book I feel guilty about awarding just three stars, but there is good reason. Easy to follow but the initial excitement in the book wears thin as it progresses. The first 100 pages covered the final years of Nicholas ll and his family in a basic manner. Once the explanation of the wealth began I found it impossible to maintain a running understanding of the assets and the value, hence not a useful book. A reference book approach would be more appropr Considering the effort applied to writing this book I feel guilty about awarding just three stars, but there is good reason. Easy to follow but the initial excitement in the book wears thin as it progresses. The first 100 pages covered the final years of Nicholas ll and his family in a basic manner. Once the explanation of the wealth began I found it impossible to maintain a running understanding of the assets and the value, hence not a useful book. A reference book approach would be more appropriate, perhaps with a spread sheet for ready reckoning and an index with clarification notes. However the amount of research carried out to write the book is truly admirable. The scale and range of the wealth of the Tsar is mind numbing; the revolution and its turmoil was inevitable.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jodi

    Nothing new, and rather dry...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Julie Ferguson

    I read the more recent edition of 2000 that has the latest DNA studies of Tsar Nicholas and his family following their murders by the Bolsheviks. A dense, well researched book that fascinated me. Not for everyone, though, because of the financial focus of the tragedy. Very well written.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lidia

    Un pic greaoie cartea, multe detalii ...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Pdm

    Will never finish. Interesting but not for me. Too dry. Appreciate work author put into it

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    Very interesting points about the wealth and assets of the last ruling family of Russia. Did find some of the financial details a bit repetitive and dull however.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laura Patton

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chris Sudall

  11. 4 out of 5

    Luis

  12. 5 out of 5

    Vicky Varichak

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ariel

  14. 4 out of 5

    Johnny

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jason

  16. 5 out of 5

    TE

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dropbear123

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brit

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sue

  20. 4 out of 5

    AnnMarie

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Goodwin

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mariana

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cathy Allen

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jim Brown

  28. 5 out of 5

    Elliem

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Rose

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kerry Hewitt

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