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I was a Romanov by birth, which made me a Grand Duchess. My father was tsar of Russia, which means he was the emperor. I was the youngest daughter but my brother, Alexei, was the youngest. Olga was the eldest, Tatiana was second, and Maria was third, followed by me and Alexei.
My grandmamma, Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna Romanova, was coming from Paris to see us. I walked to the door of my room, followed closely by Jimmy, my Cocker Spaniel. I passed my mother talking to Sofia, my governess; my mother, Alexandra, was Tsarina of Russia. She was preparing for my grandmamma. They didn’t get along very well.
I found Alexei in the gardens, waiting for grandmamma, even if she is not to be expected until the next day. He became embarrassed around grandmamma easily as he was the only boy, and was doted upon constantly. I sat next to him on the white bench, the one overlooking the pond. We talked about nothing and everything until our sisters showed up.
Olga drew Alexei in her arms and Tatiana sat next to me. Maria sat on my other side. Maria was the one who started speaking first, “Have you seen any of her couriers?” She was referring to the man who had a separate limousine and usually travelled faster than my grandmamma so that he could let us prepare for her. I shook my head at her.
Olga made a face. “I don’t want to listen to mama complain about her. She makes a royal fuss when grandmamma comes over.” We all laughed at Olga’s pun. Jimmy settled in Maria’s lap, while Joy, Alexei’s Spaniel, sniffed the grass.
A few minutes had passed when we heard a graceful bell in the distance. That would be the courier. We all got very excited. He arrived in usual liveries, fanciful as usual. He announced that my grandmamma was only a half an hour away.
All seven of us, including the dogs, raced to our rooms to dress in our finer clothing. Even if she was our grandmamma did not mean we didn’t have to look well-groomed. I pulled my hair back and tugged my dress on. Alexei and I stepped out of our rooms at the same time, the tassels on his shoulders swinging back and forth.
We rushed, but in a graceful procession, to the front gate. Grandmamma’s limo pulled up flush to the wrought iron. Mama and Papa stood next to us; Papa’s hand on Alexei’s shoulder and Mama’s arm around my own shoulders.
Grandmamma’s driver got out of his side of the car and shut the door softly. Walking over to her door, he opened it to reveal her presence. She was dressed in a sparkling pale yellow gown, the tiara on her head sparkling like liquid fire.
She held a bag, and we all knew what was held in it: presents. Grandmamma handed a badge and toy to Alexei, books to both Tatiana and Maria, a small jewelry box to Olga, and finally me. She handed me the palest porcelain doll I had ever seen. I took the doll in one hand, and thanked Grandmamma with a hug.
I was overjoyed; a real French porcelain doll! I was amazed at how pretty the green gown that adorned the doll was. Every detail was intricate; it was one of my most prized possessions.