May I do a ‘pedantry corner’ on Christopher Danziger’s enthralling piece on Felix Yusupov?

Rasputin was not the Mad Monk. He was never a monk, and far from being mad was cunning. But his great enemy the monk Iliodor (real name Sergei Trufanov) entitled his memoirs The Mad Monk of Russia, referring to himself – ‘mad’ most probably in the American sense of angry. The book was published in New York in 1918.

Danziger quotes an autopsy report saying Rasputin drowned. Professor Dmitri Kosorotov of the Russian Imperial Military Medical Academy, who carried out Rasputin’s autopsy, wrote that he was killed by a bullet to the forehead. You can see the bullet hole in the photograph of Rasputin post mortem. Kosorotov adds that the three bullets that struck Rasputin came from three different guns. Felix Yusupov and Vladimir Purishkevich, the conspirator who was a member of the Duma, described in their memoirs firing the first two shots, but not the coup de grace.

This led to the rumour that Yusupov’s old Oxford friend, the SIS officer Oswald Rayner, shot Rasputin. The former ‘C’ of MI6, Sir John Scarlett (Magdalen, 1966), assured me that he didn’t – the official line now for a century, but probably true. Personally, I suspect it was Yusupov. For he went on to attack the dead body with a dumb-bell, in particular the genitals, in an uncontrollable frenzy of sexual revenge – the evidence of which Professor Kosorotov vividly described, and which is more or less confirmed in both Yusupov’s and Purishkevich’s memoirs.

Rasputin was a plausible and manipulative rogue. Oxford graduate and murderer Yusupov appears to have been, to say the least, seriously weird.