Heads up, it's this week..
Episode One :: 'The Gilded Cage' ~ Thursday August 21st BBC2 8pm
Interviews with leading historians, archive footage and dramatic reconstruction reveal the childhoods of Tsar Nicholas II's four daughters - Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia - and the truth behind the fairytale images. The sisters were the most photographed princesses of their day, attracting the same frenzied press attention as Princess Diana later would, but their public profile masked the reality of their strange and very isolated upbringing.
The sisters' lives changed forever after the birth of their little brother Alexei, whose life-threatening haemophilia meant that he became the main focus of their mother Alexandra's love and attention. Alexandra was obsessed with keeping Alexei's illness an absolute secret, so the family lived in a gilded cage - the girls seldom left the confines of their palace, had few friends and knew almost nothing of the outside world. One of the few outsiders to whom the four sisters became genuinely close was their parents' controversial spiritual advisor Rasputin, the only person who seemed able to alleviate Alexei's suffering.
As adolescents the girls grew even closer to Rasputin. Because their mother was often unwell, frequently locked herself away and refused to see her daughters, they turned instead to Rasputin for advice on all their teenage problems. Rasputin was notorious for his debauchery, so his relationship with Alexandra and the sisters was cause for mounting concern amongst the extended Romanov family and it wasn't long before shocking rumours started to circulate about what exactly was going on amidst the seclusion of the Alexander Palace.
Episode Two :: The World Turned Upside Down ~ Tuesday August 26th BBC2 8pm
The story of the final four years in the lives of Tsar Nicholas II's four daughters - Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, concluding with their brutal murders in the bloody climax to the Russian revolution. Interviews with leading historians, archive footage and dramatic reconstruction reveal the real women behind the familiar images of beautiful girls in white dresses.
In 1914 Olga and Tatiana were 18 and 16 and old enough to be married off to eligible princes, but any prospect of escaping their strange and very isolated life in the Alexander Palace was thwarted by the outbreak of the First World War. The war destroyed all trace of the life the sisters had known, but when Olga and Tatiana volunteered as Red Cross nurses they did enjoy a brief taste of the real world beyond the palace gates. The sisters became very close to some of the dashing young officers they nursed and Olga's touching diary entries reveal how she fell passionately in love with one particular Georgian officer, Dmitri Shakh-Bagov.
March 1917 brought a dramatic end to over three centuries of Romanov rule and following their father's abdication the girls were forced to adjust to a world turned upside down. After five months under house arrest at the Alexander Palace the girls, along with the rest of their family, were sent into exile in Siberia. The sisters' letters from Siberia bring the boredom, frustration and uncertainty of their captivity powerfully to life. For much of their tragically short lives the girls had been as much prisoners as princesses and in their final weeks in exile in Siberia that imprisonment was absolute - the whitewashed windows of the house where they were held denied them even a glimpse of the outside world.