Dr Helen Rappaport is an internationally bestselling historian and author of 12 books specialising in the Victorian period and revolutionary Russia. These include Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death that Changed the Monarchy, and Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd 1917. She is a frequent contributor to television documentaries, most recently Queen Victoria’s Children (2013) and Russia’s Lost Princesses (2014), both for BBC2, as well as programmes about Queen Victoria’s love of the Highlands, Mary Seacole, Rasputin and the Romanovs.
Helen Rappaport is a fluent Russian speaker and a specialist in Russian history and 19th century women’s history. Her great passion is to winkle out lost stories from the footnotes and to breathe new life and perspectives into old subjects.
Since the mid-70s Helen has also become well-known as a Russian translator in the theatre, working with British playwrights on new versions of Russian plays. She has translated all seven of Chekhov’s plays, including Ivanov for Tom Stoppard which was a critical success at the Donmar Season at Wyndham’s in 2008. She was also Russian consultant to the National Theatre’s Tom Stoppard trilogy, The Coast of Utopia. Helen’s 2017 book Victoria: The Heart and Mind of a Young Queen is the official companion to the Masterpiece Presentation on PBS.
Helen recently filmed a two-part documentary The Romanovs for BBC 2. She is currently working on a documentary for Netflix on the Russian Revolution, in time to commemorate its 100th anniversary. She has also worked extensively in radio broadcasting, appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Start The Week, and Today Program, to name a few, as well as on BBC 1’s The One Show and Channel 4’s Walking Through History.
Helen gives frequent lectures at regional literary festivals and at high profile public events, anywhere from the V&A and Kensington Palace to addressing Citigroup at Canary Wharf.
The Victoria Letters – Buy it here
The official companion to ITV’s hotly anticipated new drama, The Victoria Letters delves into the private writings of the young Queen Victoria, painting a vivid picture of the personal life of one of England’s greatest monarchs.
From the producers of Poldark and Endeavour, ITV’s Victoria follows the early years of the young Queen’s reign, based closely on Victoria’s own letters and journals. Now explore this extensive collection in greater depth, and discover who Victoria really was behind her upright public persona.
At only 18 years old, Victoria ascended the throne as a rebellious teenager and gradually grew to become one of the most memorable, unshakeable and powerful women in history. The extensive writings she left behind document this personal journey and show how she triumphed over scandal and corruption. Written by Internationally bestselling author, historian of 12 books and Victoria historical consultant, Helen Rappaport, and including a foreword by Daisy Goodwin – acclaimed novelist and screenwriter of the series – The Victoria Letters details the history behind the show. Revealing Victoria’s own thoughts about the love interests, family dramas and court scandals during her early reign, it also delves into the running of the royal household, the upstairs-downstairs relationships, and what it was like to live in Victorian England.
Full of beautiful photography from the series and genuine imagery from the era, come behind the palace doors and discover the girl behind the Queen.
PUBLICATION DATE: 6TH OCTOBER 2016
Caught in the Revolution — Buy it here
‘A gripping, vivid, deeply researched chronicle of the Russian Revolution told through the eyes of a surprising, flamboyant cast of foreigners in Petrograd, superbly narrated by Helen Rappaport.’ Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of The Romanovs
Caught in the Revolution is Helen Rappaport’s masterful telling of the outbreak of the Russian Revolution through eye-witness accounts left by foreign nationals who saw the drama unfold.
Between the first revolution in February 1917 and Lenin’s Bolshevik coup in October, Petrograd (the former St Petersburg) was in turmoil – felt nowhere more keenly than on the fashionable Nevsky Prospekt where the foreign visitors and diplomats who filled hotels, clubs, bars and embassies were acutely aware of the chaos breaking out on their doorsteps and beneath their windows.
Among this disparate group were journalists, businessmen, bankers, governesses, volunteer nurses and expatriate socialites. Many kept diaries and wrote letters home: from an English nurse who had already survived the sinking of the Titanic; to the black valet of the US Ambassador, far from his native Deep South; to suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst, who had come to Petrograd to inspect the indomitable Women’s Death Battalion led by Maria Bochkareva.
Helen Rappaport draws upon this rich trove of material, much of it previously unpublished, to carry us right up to the action – to see, feel and hear the Revolution as it happened to a diverse group of individuals who suddenly felt themselves trapped in a ‘red madhouse.’
PUBLICATION DATE: 25th August 2016
On 17 July 1918, four young women walked down twenty-three steps into the cellar of a house in Ekaterinburg. The eldest was twenty-two, the youngest only seventeen. Together with their parents and their thirteen-year-old brother, they were all brutally murdered. Their crime: to be the daughters of the last Tsar and Tsaritsa of All the Russias.
In Four Sisters acclaimed biographer Helen Rappaport offers readers the most authoritative account yet of the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. Drawing on their own letters and diaries, she paints a vivid picture of their lives in the dying days of the Romanov dynasty. We see, almost for the first time, their journey from a childhood of enormous privilege, throughout which they led a very sheltered and largely simple life, to young womanhood – their first romantic crushes, their hopes and dreams, the difficulty of coping with a mother who was a chronic invalid and a haeomophiliac brother, and, latterly, the trauma of the revolution and its terrible consequences.
Compellingly readable, meticulously researched and deeply moving, Four Sisters gives these young women a voice, and allows their story to resonate for readers almost a century after their death.
Rappaport is insightful in her analysis of Alexandra’s vulnerability [and] illuminates the precise influence of Grigori Rasputin . . . An astoundingly intimate tale of domestic life lived in the crucible of power. (Observer)
[Rappaport] brings to Four Sisters an encyclopedic knowledge of the minutiae of Nicholas and Alexandra’s family life . . . Four Sisters is a study in unity. It demonstrates resoundingly the strength of family ties. (The Telegraph)
A well-written gem . . . a fascinating, in-depth and comprehensively researched study of the imperial daughters. (Daily Express)
Evocative and beautifully researched and told, this is narrative history at its best. (Bookseller)
Poignant [and] well written … Rappaport’s sensitive portrayal of the doomed sisters draws the reader into an attachment to each one. (Mail on Sunday)
One of the greatest skills a historian can possess is to make readers feel as if they have stepped back in time to witness the characters, places and events they describe. In her stunning composite biography, Helen Rappaport achieves this to dazzling and, at times, almost unbearably poignant effect. (Tracy Borman BBC History Magazine)