The Flying Prince: Alexander Obolensky: The Rugby Hero Who Died Too Young
**Winner of the Rugby Book of the Year at the Sports Book Awards 2022**
Prince Alexander Sergeevich Obolensky made his name on a cold January day at Twickenham in 1936, his achievements captured for posterity by the newsreels of the time.
On his England debut, having already scored one exhilarating try, the striking blond winger collected a pass on the right and, path blocked, veered left at such a pace that a line of opponents were left grasping at thin air. It was a historic try, unrivalled in skill and speed – and it inspired England’s first ever victory over the All Blacks.
Born to a noble family in St Petersburg in 1916, he had been due a life of wealth and privilege, until revolution forced the Obolenskys to flee Russia. Arriving in Britain with just a handful of possessions, they were reduced to relying on handouts, little Alex’s very education resting on the charity of others. But as the young boy began his new life in a strange country, it was his natural sporting ability that would bring him lasting fame.
The controversial selection for England of a Russian-born prince was a huge story in the press, stirring up xenophobia as well as excitement at the 19-year-old Oxford student’s sheer pace. His later exploits on and off the field would keep his name in the papers, yet Alex was destined to win only four international caps, despite touring with the Lions and appearing for the Barbarians. After joining the RAF to serve his adopted king and country, he died at the controls of a Hurricane in March 1940.
Bringing a fascinating era to life, The Flying Prince explores the mystery and mythology surrounding Alexander Obolensky, and for the first time tells the full story of the sporting hero who died too young.
‘Well-researched . . . a pleasure to read. There are plenty of colourful characters’ – THE TIMES
‘The fascinating tale of the Russian-born aristocrat who helped England beat the All-Blacks for the first time’ JOHN AIZLEWOOD, I NEWS
‘A first biography from Hugh Godwin, rugby correspondent of the i, and a fine fist he’s made of it too’ – BEST RUGBY BOOKS 2021
‘Expertly fills in the gaps . . . Now we have a biography his story deserves’ – THE RUGBY PAPER
A first biography from Hugh Godwin, rugby correspondent of the i, and a fine fist he's made of it too * Best Rugby Books 2021 * It is well-researched vignettes such as this, deftly side-stepping the main story, that make Hugh Godwin's tale of Obolensky a pleasure to read. There are plenty of colourful characters, such as Geoffrey Bell, Obolensky's headmaster, who was fond of making the boys take a naked cold dip in the outdoor pool every morning; or WTS Stallybrass, a sozzled Brasenose don who died falling off a train on his way back from dinner, after mistaking the carriage door for the lavatory * The Times * 'Expertly fills in the gaps . . . Now we have a biography his story deserves' * The Rugby Paper * The fascinating tale of the Russian-born aristocrat who helped England beat the All-Blacks for the first time * John Aizlewood, i news * Compelling * Gavin Mairs, Telegraph *
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