Using nicknames for royalty

People who read my main blog know I’m writing an alternative history about the rule of Tsar Aleksey II, and that I’ve thus been doing a lot more research into the Russian Imperial Family than I’ve done in years. Since the Russian Imperial Family were closely related to numerous other ruling families of Europe, I’ve also been researching some of them by extension. Some of that research involves reading the posts on the Alexander Palace Time Machine message board, where I personally haven’t registered yet.

I’m not the only one there who finds it really presumptuous, inappropriate, and creepy how certain posters (overwhelmingly young girls) refer to the Imperial Family by personal nicknames, particularly nicknames they don’t seem to have gone by in real life. Like, for example, I’ve seen Grand Duchess Tatyana referred to as Tanyushka and Tanya.

The surviving journals and written correspondence show the two youngest, Mariya and Anastasiya, frequently referred to themselves as and were referred to by nicknames, but there aren’t that many written instances of the oldest two being called by nicknames. That’s certainly not to say they never went by nicknames when speaking among themselves, but in terms of the written word, nicknames are the exception, not the rule.

No matter what nicknames they went by, though, it’s still really inappropriate for unrelated commoners a century later to refer to them by the most personal, intimate forms of their names, as though they’re close friends. I understand it’s motivated by respect, love, and admiration, not anything malicious or deliberately disrespectful, but it just seems really fangirlish, immature, and inappropriate. Their nicknames weren’t for us!

Exceptions I’m okay with:

There are certain royals whose nicknames were used so frequently, in place of their real names, that even many biographers and historical writers use those nicknames in formal writing. For example, Ella, Ducky (a nickname I find hilarious), Miechen, Minnie, Sandro. And since there were only about a dozen or so names used among the Russian Imperial Family during its last century of existence (with some notable exceptions), many of them used nicknames to tell one another apart. For example, Miche-Miche, Nixa, Nikolasha, and Bimbo. I’m totally fine with that. When there are several people named Mikhail, Aleksandr, and Nikolay, there needs to be a way to distinguish them.

If a person used a nickname very frequently, as Tsar Nicholas II was often called Nicky, I’m generally okay with it in informal circumstances. However, I wouldn’t expect a professional biography or historical work to refer to him as Nicky more than Nicholas or Nikolay. I’m currently reading The Flight of the Romanovs (which has a number of little errors), and it’s pretty jarring how often they call him Nicky. At least a nickname like Sandro or Ella is substantial enough to feel like a proper name. Nicky is so obviously a nickname only, not the kind of name one would go by in a formal, professional setting.

I usually refer to Aleksandra as Alix, but that’s not a nickname. It was her real name, the name she by and large continued to go by even after her marriage and the taking of the name Aleksandra. It’s not a shortening of her name. (Yes, I know her actual forename was Viktoria, but it was her first middle name, Alix, which she went by throughout her life.)

If we’re talking a nickname a person went by only among friends and family, like Kostya, Vova, Nastya, Misha, Anya, Sasha, Missy, Woolly, Baby Bee, or Mashka, a name which certainly would never be used in a formal setting, it’s almost always inappropriate to use. Just think of how you’d feel if a complete stranger, totally unrelated to you, a century later, decided to start referring to you by a nickname you never used or which you only used among your nearest and dearest. People have the right to decide how they want to call themselves.

And on that note…

There is now a measure in place to prevent any further comments criticizing my right to express my own opinions on my own blog. The whole purpose of a blog is to express one’s own opinions, and to feel safe in expressing those opinions. I’m fine with constructive criticism and politely disagreeing, but not with cherry-picking or being told it’s ridiculous for me to hold a certain way.

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