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Dancing on the edge : a transformative tale of Pauline Melikoff, Hobart girl and Russian princess


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Rigney, VE 2006 , 'Dancing on the edge : a transformative tale of Pauline Melikoff, Hobart girl and Russian princess', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This biography of Princess Melikoffis presented with the dual purpose of uncovering a life story, and using that story to illustrate wider social structures and themes, which in this case include class and gender, imperial centres and peripheries, citizenship, and colonial anxiety. As the story is about an ordinary girl who becomes a princess, the biography is also positioned within a Cinderella genre, with its elements of romance, intrigue, pathos and the exotic.
Pauline Curran was born in Hobart in 1893. Her family was part of the growing Tasmanian middle class, anxious to cast off the shackles of an insalubrious heritage at the edge of the British Empire, and to strengthen claims on life at the centre. Pauline was at risk of being left 'on the shelf as well as on the edge, but she inherited considerable wealth and whilst its sources were dubious, its effect was to buy her finery, travel, and greater marriage prospects than Hobart offered. In 1925 word came to Hobart from Monte Carlo of Pauline's betrothal to Prince Maximilian Melikoff, former Captain in the Russia Imperial Army.
The thesis addresses issues involved in writing biographies of subaltern characters, who have not left rich trails, yet in whom there is public interest, and from whom much can be observed about human experience in particular epochs. It considers Tasmania's struggles in overcoming social and economic disadvantage, the trope of colonial women and their travel experiences, and the rituals of transformation that attend on women who are recreated from the ordinary to being 'special'. It examines Pauline's 'royal wedding' as an example of empire reinforcing itself as a hierarchical entity, and it reveals the fragility of women's citizenship status in the first half of the twentieth century. The thesis considers life in London between the world wars, the fate of the Russian diaspora, and the princess's motivation in establishing a trust fund to save the baby seals.
The methodology considers similarities and differences between biography and microhistory, and positions the available primary sources against secondary material that provides context. It carries the theme of transformation, and, in concluding that the Princess Melikoff story, like all wondertales, offers the possibility of enchantment to the one who opens the door, it suggests that this has particular relevance to Tasmania since the marriage of another Tasmanian woman, Mary Donaldson, to the Crown Prince of Denmark.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Rigney, VE
Keywords: Melikoff, Pauline, Princess Maximilian, 1893-1988, Melikoff, Maximilian, Prince, d. 1950, Marriages of royalty and nobility, Princesses
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No access or viewing until 17 November 2008. Thesis (MA)--University of Tasmania, 2006. Includes bibliographical references

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