Organized by Lady Cheshire and Lady Grylls, a great Russian tea party at the Royal Hotel was to launch Stephan Roman’s new book “Isle and Empires” and raise funds for Mountbatten and Dementia UK Admiral Nurses IW.
Guests were greeted with a Russian Spring Punch cocktail, consisting of Mermaid Salt Vodka courtesy of the Isle of Wight Distillery, Simon Davis’ Rachmaninoff on piano, and a real Russian samovar on loan from the Leconfield Hotel. Once seated, guests were treated to a cornucopia of Russian-themed scones, cakes and delicacies, designed by Ben Chamberlain and his team, while sipping Russian and English teas.
Grand Duchess Marie, daughter of Alexander II of Russia (played by actress Helen Reading), made a surprise appearance, entertaining guests with stories about her stepmother, Queen ‘Vicboria’ (sic) and the bleak nature of Osborne’s court in the late 1800s, and its history – she was married to Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s second son.
Master of ceremonies Paul Armfield introduced the author, Stephan Roman, who described the exodus of his own grandparents from Russia; a perilous journey which was almost thwarted by the Russian guards. Stephan then spoke about the role of the Isle of Wight in Anglo-Russian relations – particularly how refugees and dissidents from Czarist Russia gathered in Ventnor during the summer months from 1860 to to plot against the ruling classes of their country.
An alternative, more radical Russia emerged in Ventnor at the same time as members of the Romanov royal family visited their loved ones in Osborne, just 14 miles away. Russian revolutionaries such as Alexander Herzen and Ivan Turgenev cultivated a summer colony in the seaside town, debating, arguing, and formulating new ideas about their homeland. But it was not without risk, and Okhrana spies were frequently suspected of following these free-thinking Russian communities to the island.
Editor Peter Harrigan said:
The Russian Tea Party at the Ventnor’s Royal Hotel was a colorful, elegant and delicious celebration of the publication of ‘Isle and Empires’ in which author Stephan Roman examines Russian historical ties to the Isle of Wight, including extraordinary ties with Ventnor. We are delighted that the event also raised funds for 2 IOWater-worthy charities, Mountbatten and Dementia UK Admiral Nurses IW.
The silent auction raised Â£ 1,000, which was split between Mountbatten and Dementia UK Admiral Nurses IW. Offers included a framed photograph of Queen Victoria with Nicholas II donated by the K1 Britannia store in Cowes, books donated by Medina Publishing, nautical-themed cushions from www.xvstripes.com in Yarmouth, bottles of spirits from www.isleofwightdistillery.com, a goody bag of skincare products www.rhodesskincare.com, breakfast for 4 to www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk with basket, lunch for 2 with soft drinks www.briddlesford.co.uk/bluebells, a beautiful bouquet in a vase www.floristwild.com, a voucher for Hursts and a cream tea for two at The Old Smithy. Table favors were donated by Sweets and Treats of Cowes.
Published by Peter Harrigan of Medina Publishing, ‘Isle and Empires’ costs Â£ 20 at Medina Bookshop, High Street, Cowes and www.medinapublishing.com