Dr Helen Rappaport is an internationally bestselling historian and author of 16 books specialising in the reign of Queen Victoria, the Romanov family and revolutionary Russia. These include Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death that Changed the Monarchy, Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd 1917 and The Race to Save the Romanovs. She is a frequent contributor to online history podcasts and television documentaries in her specialist subject areas, most notably the 2-part BBC2 documentary Russia’s Lost Princesses (2014) that was based on her book Four Sisters, the Channel 4 documentary The Real Angel of the Crimea (2005) about Mary Seacole and the forthcoming BBC Radio 4 podcast series Killing Victoria about assassination attempts on Queen Victoria. She has made numerous contributions as a talking head to radio and TV programmes about Queen Victoria’s love of the Highlands, her interest in photography and her marriage to Prince Albert; to documentaries about Mary Seacole, Rasputin, the Romanovs, Lenin and the Russian Revolution.
Helen is multilingual and makes a special point of drawing extensively on foreign language sources in all her work – using in particular her French and Russian, such as for her most recent book After the Romanovs about Russian émigrés to Paris between the wars. She also takes a particular interest in 19th-century women’s history, her great passion being to winkle out lost and forgotten stories from the footnotes. Her book on the notorious Victorian beautician con-artist Madame Rachel published as Beautiful For Ever (2010) uncovered a fascinating true crime story and her biography of Mary Seacole was the end product of 20 years of painstaking research on her hidden story.
Since the mid-70s Helen has also become well-known as a Russian literary 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 was the official companion to the ITV Victoria/Masterpiece Presentation on PBS.
Over the last twenty years or more Helen has also worked extensively in radio broadcasting, appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Start The Week, and Today Program, as well as numerous radio chat shows, on BBC1’s The One Show, Channel 4’s Walking Through History and as a talking head on several Lucy Worsley’s historical TV series. She gives frequent lectures at regional literary festivals and high-profile public events, anywhere from the V&A and Kensington Palace to addressing Citigroup at Canary Wharf. She has also lectured in the USA – Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans and especially New York – on her various books.
She is currently working on her 17th book about a Saxe Coburg princess who married into the Romanov family. Several of her books have been translated: Four Sisters for example, is now available in 11 foreign languages.
The year 2023 will see publication of the UK and US paperback editions of her two latest books: In Search of Mary Seacole: The Making of a Cultural Icon (Simon & Schuster UK; Pegasus USA) and After the Romanovs: Russian Exiles in Paris through Revolution and War (Scribe UK; St Martin’s Press USA).