According to my grandfather, Serge Obolensky, Alice was an expert in Egyptian hieroglyphs. Toward the end of her life, he wrote that she had gotten herself deeply involved with mystics. She had always been inclined in that direction, and the lure of the ancient past was once again foremost in her mind. At this point in her life, Alice had divorced David Bouverie, her fourth husband, and had found herself utterly alone. What happened during this period my grandfather didn’t say, but he hinted that her death was unexpected, unnecessary, and well before her time.
Alice is buried in Rhinebeck. Next to her is the grave of Vassily, her chef, who languished after her death and died a year later.
Vassily has an interesting story. He was born Vassily Yourtchenko at the end of the 19th century on my family’s estate in Russia. He was a huge, ungainly farmhand who had a dream of becoming a chef. His zeal impressed my great-grandfather, who made it possible for him to become an apprentice. Over time, he developed into one of the great chefs of Russia. Vassily accompanied my grandfather through much of his life, even during the dangerous months after the 1917 Revolution.
My grandfather had married Princess Catherine, a daughter of the Czar, Alexander II. After the demobilization of the Russian Army in WWI, my grandfather and Catherine finally met up in Kiev after being separated by the war before they retreated south to Odessa. Accompanying her on the journey from St. Petersburg was Vassily, in need of a job. My grandfather told him that unfortunately he was way too expensive to retain, but Vassily insisted that not only could he make common fare spectacular, but at a cost much less than anyone else. After all they still had to eat. With that, there was nothing to be said but to hire him on the spot.
My grandfather eventually moved to London, divorced Catherine, and when he married Alice, Vassily continued on as their chef. He remained with my grandmother for the rest of her life.
Readers have asked what Alice was really like. I wish I could tell you more, but information is sketchy. I do know that she drove an ambulance during the London Blitz, refused to leave her residence at Hanover Lodge during that time, and was generally well liked. She had a very close relationship with the people who worked for her.
Not too far from Vassily’s grave are two others: that of Stanley Martin and Marjorie Lamond. Stanley Martin is the Stanley of Eye of the Moon, and Marjorie is Dagmar.