Diary of a Tsar-in-Waiting
In a major scoop, Passport has secured the rights to the diary of Michael Romanov, pretender to the Russian throne. He has recently emigrated from London to Moscow in order to campaign for election as Tsar Michael II. Follow his progress exclusively in Passport.
by Michael Romanov
The phone has not stopped ringing all morning. Half the world, it seems, wants to know me now that I have come out of the shkaf (or ‘closet’) and thrown my hat into the ring, politically-speaking.
TIME wanted to know if I thought that the Russian Presidency should become hereditary. Le Monde phoned with a question in French, of which I could understand only the words ‘Bastille’ and ‘guillotine’.
The Berlinische Abendblatt seemed interested in something that sounded like ‘the mine shaft’. I assume this refers to my great uncle Nicky who paid a posthumous visit to one in Ekaterinburg in July 1918. But they might have said ‘gemeinschaft’. German is Greek to me.
Finally a breathy girl from the Daily Telegraph phones from London asking what the Tsarina is wearing this season. I explain that she is not the Tsarina yet, still plain Mrs Bettina Wilhelmovna Romanova. There is a sharp click at the London end and the phone goes dead.
Is this because we have, as yet, no titles? Or could it be because my dear, saintly wife is revealed by her name to be German. Even though an Imperial restoration looked very unlikely when we married thirty years ago, I thought it prudent to make an alliance with someone from the country where most of my reigning ancestors drew spouses.
No true Tsar is complete without a German at his side, though in the cause of domestic harmony it is best to have one who speaks English.
To the Kremlin to present my credentials as Tsar-in-waiting. At first, nobody seems interested. Then a small, youngish- looking chappie trots out of a dark stairway and takes my card. At first, I assume he is the security manager. But I am pleasantly surprised, in a democratic sort of way, when he announces that his name is Medvedev, and that he actually runs the joint.
He takes me upstairs to a modest apartment, where amidst a clutter of computers, we sit and drink green tea and eat little chocolates that have pictures of peasant girls on the wrapper.
He shows me the blogs he writes, and urges me to do the same if I want to make contact with the general public in so large a country as Russia. The mood is modern, positive and friendly. I can see he does not want to be President for long.
Back at the office, which is a temporary suite attached to the small oil-trading floor that a friend of mine runs on Tverskaya, the phone is ringing again. It is the same TIME reporter wanting me to tell him what I discussed in my audience with Medvedev. How did he know about it?
‘Elton John,’ I say on a whim, just to fox him.
There is an awed hush at the other end of the line, so I volunteer an explanation.
‘I am hoping to persuade Elton to come over here for a fund-raising concert in the autumn,’ I say. ‘I was impressed by the way he played at a friend of mine’s funeral in Westminster Abbey in 1997, and think he could do Candle in the Wind for me too. I’ll provide the candles if he can raise the wind.’
Later in the morning, Father Euphemius drops by to bless our new computer system. He mumbles words in Old Church Slavonic and sprinkles Holy Water left, right and center.
This was my secretary, Tanya’s, idea. The goal was increased efficiency. But far from improving the system’s performance, it seems to retard it. In fact, it will not boot up at all. My chauff eur, Sasha, says he thinks we have Holy Water on the motherboard.
Just before lunch more bad news arrives. Pete Lyon, my landlord and an old friend, bounds into our little command center with a genial smile saying he wants us out of here within a month. The crisis, blah blah.
I say I have already been looking for larger premises. We will need much more space if we are to mount a serious challenge to the Vertical Party at the next election.
‘I have seen a nice big building down by the river that might do,’ I say. ‘It is a white, slab-like structure; not attractive, but large. It is just opposite the Hotel Ukraine. Do you know it, by any chance?’
Pete sniffs and says, ‘I wonder what Mr Putin will say to that!’
Whoever can he be referring to? I think I’ll ring the TIME chappie, who seems omniscient, and inquire.
Next month: what happens when Michael Romanov is introduced to Mr Putin at a private ABBA concert, where he broaches the subject of office accommodation…