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The Tsar's Doctor
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Autobiography & Biography, Biography, History
Publication Date
01 September 2010
Paperback (also available as an eBook)
Available for Sale
Birlinn Limited

The Tsar's Doctor

The Life and Times of Sir James Wylie
by Mary McGrigor - Find out more about the author


Also available to download in the iBookstore

Mary McGrigor explores a thrilling period of European history in this biography of James Wylie, Scottish-born personal physician to the Russian tsars in the early nineteenth century. A pioneer field surgeon who saved the lives of countless soldiers, Wylie was present at some of the seminal moments of the Napoleonic Wars, including the battles of Austerlitz, Jena and Borodino, and also involved in some of the most astonishing intrigues of the imperial court. Having performed the first tracheotomy operation to be carried out in Russia, Wylie was made the Tsar Paul I’s personal doctor. When the Tsar was assassinated in March 1801, Wylie made his first steps into infamy when he signed the death certificate, mysteriously giving apoplexy, in place of strangulation, as the cause. Wylie went on to serve the Tsar’s son, Alexander I, and was with him during many of the most significant events in the country’s history. Following the Treaty of Vienna, Alexander returned to Russia before travelling to the Crimea – where he contracted Crimean fever and died. Once again Wylie signed the death certificate, but rumour soon spread through the Empire that the Tsar, who had become intensely religious, had escaped to live in Siberia where, some time later, he emerged as a visionary monk. In The Tsar’s Doctor, Mary McGrigor unravels the many mysteries surrounding Wylie’s life and his involvement with the Romanov dynasty, using contemporary evidence and Wylie’s own diaries to examine the details of his great achievements and his participation in several of the most momentous events in 19th century Russian history.

Lady Mary McGrigor grew up in a 15th-century Scottish castle which inspired her love of history. When she was twenty she married Sir Charles McGrigor who eventually retired to become a hill farmer in Argyll. Anna, Countess of the Covenant, her biography of Lady Anna Mackenzie, was published by Birlinn in 2008. She lives near Port-Sonachan in Argyll.

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