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A Diplomat's Wife at the Court of the Tsar

A Diplomat's Wife at the Court of the Tsar

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A Diplomat's Wife at the Court of the Tsar

5/5 (1 Bewertung)
158 Seiten
2 Stunden
Aug 23, 2012


The memoirs of the wife of a Danish diplomat who was the last Ambassador at the Court of the Tsar in St Petersburg at the time of the Russian revolution. She had unique experiences of the Tsar and his family and provides many insights into the events of the time. They were also the last Western diplomats to leave Russia and as a result were the diplomatic representatives of a number of European nations including the UK, for which they were both awarded the Legion D'Honneur by France.
Born from a well established Danish family and married to an aristocratic diplomat Anna Sofie Scavenius describes life in Russia and later in other European capitals during the years between the two world wars. She has many amusing stories which illustrate the times.

Aug 23, 2012

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A Diplomat's Wife at the Court of the Tsar - Anna Sofie Scavenius


Anna Sofie Scavenius

First Published: Copenhagen 1960

Translated from Danish and published at Smashwords by E. Angus Cameron, her great nephew, 2012

Copyright 2012 E. Angus Cameron

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

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Chapter 1: Childhood years in Lillegrundet and Villa Solhøj

One of my first memories was a voice in the dark saying: When we get home I'm going to tell on you that you have been telling stories again, you can be sure of that!

My sister Ella and I were on our way home to Lillegrundet from a kindergarten in Vejle. Most children went to these places, accompanied by mothers, aunts or other family members, and they amused themselves by asking me up on stage to tell stories in broad Jutlandish. The children we played with at Lillegrundet spoke unadulterated Jutlandish. I can still remember the best stories, I told, they were The Tale of Smørbuk and Bukke Bruse. Ella found it terribly embarrassing that I acted in this manner, she was ashamed of me, but I was indifferent, and the threats of my parents made no impression on me.

Marius had fetched us with the two black horses, and we were now alone in the dark landau. The trailer was heavy, and the horses were allowed to go slowly and steadily up the steep road. On both sides, we were surrounded by high forested slopes, a fantastic piece of Danish countryside, which must have been formed in the dawn of time, when melting water cleared the way from the high plateaus down to the inlet. A brook also flowed down into the abyss, its water came from a spring which trickled out onto the field, and then formed a small pond in the forest fringe, a part of the mysterious world, to which the sunken road and the forest belonged.

We thought that a salamander lived in the pond, and that salamanders could go through fire and water without dying. Who had told us? I do not know. We were probably a little doubtful about the accuracy of the story, for we didn't talk about it, but we didn’t pass by without sneaking a look over the edge down into the water. It was also one of those places where we were absolutely forbidden to go alone, which of course only made the spot even more attractive.

That evening in 1893, when we returned from kindergarten in Vejle, my sister Ella was five years old and I was four. Father, after a half-year apprenticeship in the Netherlands, had built a margarine factory. It was fully operational so he then built Villa Solhøj on the cliff above the factory, where the Lillegrundet gorge opened up. To build the house, which was actually cut into the slope, he had bought a small piece of forest with large, splendid beech trees, which stood high above the house, and which at times provided an opportunity for mountain climbing. It became the place, where later, when I was 14 years old, I became acquainted with such serious authors as Ibsen and Bjørnson, and where the soft whistling in the treetops high over my hammock helped to create my expectations and dreams about the future to come.

While the villa was being built, father had rented the Lillegrundet main building; previously, we had lived in Torvegade in Vejle, where the three oldest children, Ella, Hans and I, were born. It would have amused the late Chamberlain Gerda Scavenius that Klintholm and I were born in the same house within a couple of years of each other and lived there together; however, none of us remembered it because of our young age. Gerda's father was bank director Monrad-Hansen, who soon moved out of the city.

We lived in Lillegrundet for well over two years, from 1893 to 1895. That was the real countryside, which made its impression on us, even though we lived there only at a very young age and for a few years. Several quite interesting people had lived in the Lillegrundet main building. Among others, A. Feveilerne, who had built the sunken road, and a distant relation, Mrs. Oline Olsen, who apparently was an artist and had made the house a meeting place for musical people. It was a beautiful home. I remember the large living room with sculptured marble reliefs of Thorvaldsen, still in their traditional place, carefully preserved by the present owner Niels Skou, a son of old Niels Skou. From there one went into a beautiful room which opened onto the garden. The large grassy courtyard with a mighty cherry tree with black cherries was abutted to the north by big stables, which housed Niels Skous' famous horses. To the east of the thicket was a large impressive rabbit hutch; to the south were the gardens that sloped down to Vejle town; and to the west was the main building.

In the garden there was a badger in a cage for a time, probably left by former tenants, and a turtle, which, as far as I can remember, lived throughout the year in a small pond.

I had a great experience early one summer morning when I went for a walk in the garden, hand in hand with my father. It was probably late summer, for all the trees and shrubs were wet with dew, and the sun shone causing the grass to flash as if sprinkled with diamonds. We had reached the kitchen garden, when my father suddenly stopped and, without saying anything pointed over at the redcurrant bushes. Half covered by the branches stood an animal with a red head with a thick bushy tail. It looked like a dog, but my father whispered: It’s a fox! I was terrified, because a fox is a wild animal, but the fear disappeared when I felt my father's firm grip on my arm, and he said, 'It won't do anything, it's afraid of us.' I was enthralled and saw it disappear into the bushes, but even today a fox plays a role in my imagination as something dangerous, something unknown you have to be careful of, and as a result I always watch out for them when I am alone in a forest.

The two years in Lillegrundet made a huge impression on my sister Ella and me - the other siblings were too small - we can certainly thank our grandmother, mother's mother, for that. Every year she came on long visits, often when my father and mother took their annual trip abroad, bringing with her a Black-and-Tan Terrier, Gyp. Both she and my grandfather were southern Jutlanders, from Haderslev, where he had a draper's shop, but because they were poor there, they moved to Copenhagen and had bought a house on Platanvej. In this context I should mention a strange coincidence: when I was very ill with diphtheria I visited my grandparents at a time when my future husband was living in the house next door, which belonged to his parents.

My mother's father died early, and I have only a vague impression of him, but my grandmother was a personality not to be forgotten. Her most prominent features were her baroque humour, a bit of which I think we have all inherited (some of us perhaps more than is appropriate), her imagination and a love of nature that brought alive a world that is always there, and into which one could go whenever one wanted to. We went on trips with her, lasting hours, we must have been fit; mostly in the forest, which began on the left of the sunken road when one left the farm for Newt Lake. I do not know to whom the forests belonged, probably partly Skou, but also Vejle town. At any rate we were so at home in them that it never occurred to us that they did not belong to us.

We had given names to the different parts of the forest: A bit of it where the earth in the spring was especially close covered with anemones and violets, was called Grandmother's Garden, and here we also met Rasselbucks. Met perhaps is overstating it, at least they would have been there for the sap on the trees and they had certainly gone, we saw them skip away and heard the foliage rustle when they approached us. I wonder if town children are aware of the wonder it is for children to be in the countryside! In later life it will be the Promised Land, and we never forget that there is a promised country, no matter how much the rest of our lives are a success.

There were of course many people employed on such a large estate, many with their wives and children, so we never lacked company, and we had the freedom to move around with few limitations. There was, for example, the bricklayer, who lived on the slope down to Riding Teacher Hill. There the children had a swing placed high up in the beech trees, and when it was in use it was really a heavenly addition to the deep gorge. Naturally, it was strictly forbidden to go down there, the swing was too dangerous, but we all went down there anyway, and the only time I can remember Ella getting a spanking was when we were once caught returning from such an excursion. I dare say I was a bad influence in my young age.

Lillegrundet is slightly inland, and our parents must have felt that we needed to go to the beach and swim. So, each afternoon during the summer when the weather was good, we took a short char-å-banc journey, supervised by a nanny, out to Tirsbæk, and my oldest brother Hans was old enough to come along. We had never been driving for very long before we all keeled over and fell asleep, it was a drive of at least an hour, and it made us sleepy.

When we came to a small mission house, called Bethlehem, we were awoken, so we could sit nice and properly when we met people. On the beach was a bathing hut, where we were dressed, and then afterwards we had thin chicory coffee and bolted-flour bread with butter at the inn, which is still there today and is one of the most beautiful places in Denmark.

While we lived in Lillegrundet, my father went down to the factory every morning and did not come home before it was pitch-dark, at least in winter. It took only a quarter of an hour from the garden, when he could go by the sunken road following a narrow path down to Horsens road, where the factory was sited. The house was apparently to have been ready in 1894, since this year was engraved on a stained glass window, but in 1895 we first moved in there. There was electric lighting and central heating; the latter especially was something of a sight. It was a terrible system: hot air came out of a vent on top, and from an opening in the bottom it blew cold air to provide ventilation. In later years, I particularly remember I always felt frozen. Only the winter garden was nice and hot, which was separately heated by a system of warm pipes in the basement below, and we spent a lot of time there. At the end of the three living rooms - one could not make them smaller then - we would find father sitting in his rocking chair, when we came home from school, having a snooze after lunch. There at that time was the security and comfort of home, no danger of cars around, with time to kill - as if it doesn't go fast enough by itself!

Already in our last year in Lillegrundet Ella and I had started to learn to read. Father's youngest sister, Aunt Anna, was a teacher in the primary school, and she introduced us to the first mysteries of the reading arts when almost daily she came up and visited us. She was a girlfriend of the two Miss Seligmanns, who owned one of the town's two schools, and, of course, we had to go there.

Since Ella and I were only fourteen months apart in age, it goes without saying that we were in the same class, so as a six year old, I was already in the second year.

The first morning at school seems to me like yesterday. Aunt Anna accompanied us there. We had fine school bags, slates etc. and weren't at all confused about who was in charge. On the other hand, Aunt Anna who, like our father's other two unmarried sisters, considered us as being of greater importance than all the other children, almost flawless angels, had arranged that the first day Ella and I were to sit at a little table in a corner by ourselves so that we should not become anxious of the other children. The only thing that was required of us that day was that we should draw a little,

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  • (5/5)
    There is a lot more to this book than the title suggests: she and her diplomat husband lived in Russia from 1912 to 1919.

    She takes life as she finds it and makes the best of it. An informative and uplifting read.