The British and Russian royal families had just three full meetings before the Romanovs' tragic end in 1918.
In The Imperial Tea Party, Frances Welch draws back the curtain on those fraught encounters, which had far-reaching consequences for 20th-century Europe and beyond.
Russia and Britain were never natural bedfellows. But the marriage, in 1894, of Queen Victoria's favourite granddaughter, Alicky, to the Tsarevich Nicholas marked the beginning of an uneasy Anglo-Russian entente that would last until the Russian Revolution of 1917.
The three extraordinary meetings that took place during those years, although generally hailed as successes, were beset by misunderstandings and misfortunes.
The Tsar and Tsarina complained bitterly about the weather when staying at Balmoral, while British courtiers later criticised the Russians' hospitality, from the food to the music to the slow service. In this wonderfully sharp account, Frances Welch presents a vivid snapshot of two dynasties at a time of social unrest.
The families could not know, as they waved each other fond goodbyes from their yachts at Cowes in 1909, that they would never meet again.