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The tragedy of Nicholas II, the Last Imperial Ruler of Russia, was that he appeared in the wrong place in history. Equipped by education to rule in the nineteenth century, where the world seemed orderly, and equipped by temperament to be a constitutional monarch, where a sovereign needed only be a good man in order to be a good king. He lived and reigned in a transforming Russia of the early twentieth century.

The Emperor had the outstanding qualities of a man and a ruler, but his favorite expression with regard to himself in a close family circle was “I am just a plain, common man.” He had an excellent memory, exceptional energy and broad learning, a strong and disciplined will power, an acute sense of morality, a great awareness of his responsibilities. Devoted to his ideals, he defended them with patience and persistence. Thoroughly honest, he was a slave to his word and his loyalty towards the allies, which was the reason of his death, proved it better than anything else.

His instructions on the way to write an account of the Russo-Japanese War were the following: “The work must be based exclusively on bare facts … We have nothing to hold back, as too much blood has already been shed. Heroism deserves to be recorded along with defeats. We must unfailingly strive to restore historical facts in their true light.”

The Emperor was an implacable enemy of all the attempts to idealize that which was unworthy; he himself spoke and demanded nothing but the truth. Truth alone was what he looked for everywhere.

A. Macovsky. Oil on Canvas. Portrait of Nicholas II, 1908.Although Nicholas was the Tsesarevich, he had no desire to be the Tsar and would have rather been "a farmer in England". But, alas, he was to become the Tsar. Nicholas and his family's fate were sealed.
It was a great misfortune for the Tsar Nicholas II and the Tsarina Alexandra that they ascended the throne so young.

rowing up, Nickolas's father, Emperor Alexander III, did not let him participate in his father's meeting with counclers, which was a large mistake, for if Nicholas had been more active in his father's life as a Tsar, he would not made so many mistakes during his rule.

Nicholas II Alexandrovich Romanov (1868-1918) - last Russian emperor, ruled from 1894 to 1917. Eldest son of Emperor Alexander III (1845 - 1894) and Empress Maria Fedorovna (1847-1928). He married (1894) a German Princess Alix Victoria Helene Luisa Beatrice Hesse-Darmstadt (1872 - 1918) who, after converting to Russian Orthodoxy, became Alexandra Fedorovna or Alix.

Portrait of Empress Alexandra , Circa 1825, Oil on Canvas. Prior to her confirmation, Alexandra had to go through a great moral struggle, when, loving the Tsarevich Nicholas, and knowing that she was loved by him, she also knew that to marry him she had to embrace the Orthodox faith.

German by birth, English by upbringing, Protestant by her father’s faith, she became a true Russian with ever fiber of her nature. She had a deep love for Russia and became truly Orthodox in spirit, in thought, and in actions in the services, very similar to those performed by religious peasant women.

After the birth of her first child, the Empress gave all her attention to her children; she personally fed them, bathed them, selected their nurses and was constantly in the nursery, not trusting them with anyone. She would spend hours in the classroom, directing their studies. It often happened that while discussing important questions regarding a new charitable organization, she would be holding her baby in her arms, or while signing some business documents she would be rocking a baby’s cradle. In her free moments she was always engaged in some work such as embroidering, knitting, or painting.

The Grand Duchesses, were also busy, always occupied with some activity. Wonderful works and embroideries came from their nimble little hands. The two oldest daughters, Olga and Tatiana, worked together with their mother in their military hospitals during the World War l. Working as common Red Cross nurses, they changed the dressing of wounded men.

The Royal Wedding

One week prior the royal wedding of Nicholas and Alexandra, Emperor Alexander III, Nicholas's father, died. The Imperial Family all assembled at St. Petersburg to meet the funeral train, and Princess Alix's first entrance into her future capital was in a weary funeral procession.

Royal wedding

Princess Alix was dressed for her wedding in the Malachite drawing-room of the Winter Palace. Her hair was done in the traditional long side curls, in front of the famous gold mirror of the Empress Anna Ioannovna, before which every Russian Grand Duchess dresses on her wedding day. The chief dressers of the ladies of the Imperial Family assisted, and handed the crown jewels, which lay on red velvet cushions. She wore numerous splendid diamond ornaments and her dress was a heavy Russian Court dress of real silver tissue, with an immensely long train edged with ermine. The train was so heavy that, when it was not carried by the chamberlains, she was almost pinned to the ground by its weight.

The Emperor's marriage had been arranged so suddenly that no preparations had been made for the young couple. No festivities of any kind followed the marriage ceremony. It took place in the morning, and immediately afterwards the young Imperial couple drove to the Anichkov Palace, enthusiastically cheered by the huge crowds which lined their route.

Empress Alexandra in court dress, 1907Letter from Empress Alexandra to her sister.

Anichkov Palace,
December 10th, 1894.
"The ceremony in church reminded me so much of '84, only both our fathers were missing - that was fearful-no kiss, no blessing from either. But I cannot speak about that day nor of all the sad ceremonies before. One's feelings you can imagine. One day in deepest mourning, lamenting a beloved one, the next in smartest clothes being married. There cannot be a greater contrast, but it drew us more together, if possible... If I only could find words to tell you of my happiness daily it grows more and my love greater. Never can I thank God enough for having given me such a treasure. He is too good, dear, loving and kind, and his affection for his mother is touching, and how he looks after her, so quietly and tenderly."

The Empress's character was very complex. Love for her husband and children was its dominant trait. She was an ideal wife and mother; her worst enemies could not deny her this. She was not always logically reasonable when it was a case of conflict between reason and affection. Her intellect was always subordinate to her heart. In her dealings with other people, her idealism often made her find in them the good that her own nature led her to expect. Her inherent shyness, which she was never able to conquer, was misunderstood and considered pride.

The Emperor Nicholas and the Empress Alexandra were everything to each other, and their devotion lasted all their lives. Their natures were very different, but they had grown into harmony with each other till they had reached that perfection of understanding in which the tastes and habits of the one are a development and continuation of those of the other. The Empress had the stronger character, and in matters concerning the Household or the children's education, which the Emperor left in her hands, her wishes were law. If anyone referred such questions to the Emperor, he always said "It is as Her Majesty desires." He believed in her intuitive good sense and depended on her judgment.

Nicholas II with wife Alexandra and kids

Letters from Tzar Nicholas II to his wife Alexandra

Telegram, Novoborissov, 21 September, 1914.
"Sincere thanks for dear letter. Hope you slept and feel well. Rainy, cold weather. In thought and prayer I am with you and the children. How is the little one? Tender kisses for all. Nicky."

Letter, Stavka, 5 April, 1915.
I thank you from the depth of my old loving heart for your two charming letters, the telegram and the flowers. I was so touched by them. I was feeling so sad and downhearted, leaving you not quite well, and remained in that state until I fell asleep... Nicky."

Letter, Stavka, 31 March, 1916.
At last I have snatched a minute to sit down and write to you after a five days' silence - a letter is a substitute for conversation, not like telegrams.
I thank you tenderly for your dear letters - your first seems to have come so long ago! What joy it is to get several in one day, (as I did) on the way, coming home!
During the journey I read from morning till night - first of all I finished "The Man who was Dead," then a French book, and to-day a charming tale about little Boy Blue! I like it... I had to resort to my handkerchief several times. I like to re-read some of the parts separately, although I know them practically by heart. I find them so pretty and true! ....
Now, my angel, my tender darling. I must finish. May God bless you and the children! I kiss you and them fondly.
Eternally your old hubby NICKY."

Letter, Stavka. 23 February, 1917
I read your letters with avidity before going off to sleep. It was a great comfort to me in my loneliness, after spending two months together. If I could not hear your sweet voice, at least I could console myself with these lines of your tender love... - The day was sunny and cold and I was met by the usual public (people), with Alexeiev at the head. He is really looking very well, and on his face there is a calm expression, such as I have not seen for a long time. We had a good talk together for about half an hour. After that I put my room in order and got your telegram telling me of Olga and Baby having measles. I could not believe my eyes - this news was so unexpected. In any case, it is very tiresome and disturbing for you, my darling. Perhaps you will cease to receive so many people? You have a legitimate excuse - fear of transmitting the infection to their families... The stillness round here depresses me, of course, when I am not working...I am sending you and Alexey Orders from the King and Queen of the Belgians in memory of the war. You had better thank her yourself. He will be so pleased with a new little cross! May God keep you, my joy... NICKY.

The Royal jubilee

The year 1913 was the jubilee of the Romanov dynasty, when the completion of three hundred years of monarchy was celebrated with great rejoicings.

Expressions of fealty reached the Imperial Family from every part of the country. It seemed scarcely possible that the people who hailed the Revolution with enthusiasm four years later could have moved such addresses of loyalty and taken part in such celebrations.

Emperor Nicholas II, last Emperor of Russia
Emperor Nicholas II, last Emperor of Russia.

Rasputin and Tsarevitch Alexei

If the riddle of the blood disorder that helped bring down Russia's Imperial Empire is to be solved, we must first find the truth about a holy man's influence on the lives of an Empress and her son. History has recorded that Grigory Rasputin, possessed mysterious powers of healing that could stop the bleeding episodes of Alexei, the only son and heir of Tsar Nicholas II.

Tzarevich Alexei as an InfantIn the summer of 1904, the long-awaited heir to the throne was born. He became the center of the family, the favorite. Alexei was an exceptionally handsome boy, the most wonderful child anyone could hope for. But alas, when he was two months old the Empress discovered that he was afflicted with hemophilia, a hereditary disease of the House of Hesse, now transmitted tragically to him, the long awaited heir.

The Empress suffered agony, blaming herself to be responsible for his condition. Alexandra's shame of this may have been one of the factors why she turned to the uncouth holy man Gregory Rasputin.

The entire story of Tsar Nicholas II and his Empress Alexandra centres on the Spala episode of October 1912 when their son Alexei appeared to be on the brink of death.

The Emperor wrote to his mother: “The days from the 10th to the 23rd were the worst. The poor child suffered greatly; the pain was sporadic, occurring every 15 minutes. He hardly slept at all, did not have the strength to cry but only moaned, repeating the same words all over again: “Lord have mercy on me.” I could not stand it but had to remain in the room in order to relieve Alix who had exhausted herself completely, spending every night at his bedside. She bore this trial better than I, especially when Alexis’ sufferings were at their worst.”

Alexandra with son Alexei, 1908.One can only imagine how the parents suffered. An eye witness of Alexei’s illness write: “The crown-prince lay in bed, and moaned pitiably, pressing his head to his mother’s hand, his fine face bloodless, unrecognizable. From time to time he stopped moaning to whisper only one word: “Mama,” in which he expressed all his suffering, all his heart-break. And the mother would kiss his hair, his forehead, his eyes, as if by this caress she could lighten his pain, breathe into him some of that life which was leaving him.”

For a week and a half the boy displayed symptoms of pallor, internal haemorrhaging, abdominal swelling, pain and bleeding in the joints, delirium, and dangerously high fever, but he suddenly began to recover after the arrival of a telegram sent by Rasputin to the Empress Alexandra.
Nicholas  with Alix and Alexei in Standardt.All sorts of theories, from a reduction of stress and blood pressure to claims of hypnosis, have been used in attempts to explain how the words of a simple telegram could cure an eight year old boy believed to have been dying from haemophilia.

Surrounded by doctors and advisors all predicting the worst, only Rasputin gave her hope and reason to believe things could get better. He did not heal Alexei's disease as historians have suggested, but Rasputin did heal Alexandra's faith and her belief that there could be a brighter future for her son.

Some say that it is incredible that the Empress of Russia could pin her faith to such a person.

The appearance of such a personage in the precincts of the Palace was bound to make a stir. The Emperor and Empress had by this time realised that anyone to whom they showed any special mark of favour would be immediately pecked at and intrigued against. They imagined that this was the cause of the feeling against Rasputin. When rumours against him were reported to the Empress, she supposed them to be due to jealousy and class prejudice.

Nicholas II, Karlovich Lipgart, 1900. Oil on Canvas.There was something in the Emperor, simple as he was, that made any familiarity in his presence unthinkable; but Rasputin kept his gruff way of speech and spoke as authoritatively to the Emperor as he would have spoken to a commoner.

The Empress saw Rasputin solely with religious eyes, neither the uncouth peasant, nor the man, but the helping spirit sent in her hour of need. She trusted, from the first, that his prayers might cure her son. She, who disliked all publicity, hid the fact of the child's illness.

In the case of Alexandra Fedorovna, mysticism was combined with a blind clinging to anything that might save her child, easily understood by some Russian minds, in whom religion is curiously mixed with superstition.
RasputinHatred for Rasputin, the man who was supposed to be responsible for all the Government's mistakes became a real obsession. The feeling against him became so intense that in 1916 a plot was formed to murder him in order to save Russia.
Conspirators lured him to the Yusupov Palace on the pretext that Prince Felix Yusupov would introduce Rasputin to his beautiful wife.

Rasputin was first offered poisoned wine, the amateur murderers not knowing that for the poison they chose alcohol is an antidote. Their victim survived what appeared to be a deadly dose. Prince Yussupov and Purishkevich then took Rasputin into an adjoining room and, as he was admiring an ancient crucifix, shot him several times in the back. Rasputin's strong frame resisted even this, and when Prince Yussupov -returned to remove his body, he got up and staggered across the room. More shots were fired, this time with effect. The body was taken in a car and thrown into a hole made in the frozen Neva. The strength of the current drove the body down under the ice, and it was washed ashore some days later. Rasputin does not seem to have been dead even when he was thrown into the water, for the cords bound round his body were loosened, and his rigid hand was folded as if making the sign of the cross.

Nickolas as Tsarevich early in 1891 at Livadia, Crimea.Nicholas II Romanov ruled Russia from 1895 to 1917 and lost power during Russia's February Revolution, when in the spring of 1917 he had to abdicate. The power was transferred to the Provisional Government, but shortly after that Nicholas Romanov and his family were arrested and were kept under close surveillance at the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, near the Russian capital Petrograd (now St. Petersburg). Romanovs were then transported to inner Russia to prevent them from running away abroad or from being captured by the approaching German troops. Russia's last tzar and his family spent the last months in Yekaterinburg. During their time in housearrest, the family came yet closer and really didn't want leave Russia. They saw it as their duty to stay, and as the empress said: "If it is god's will, we must endure it to the very end…" And so they did…

Nicholas with kids. Picture is taken by Alexandra.
Nicholas with the kids. Picture was taken by Alix.

efore leaving to Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo for house arrest, Emperor Nicholas II insisted on taking leave of his troops by addressing to them the following Order of the Day.

Last Order of the Emperor Nicholas II.
8 (21) March, 1917. No. 371.

Icon of Nicholas IIOn July 17, 1918 last imperial family of Russia was "executed" on the orders of the local authorities and, allegedly, of the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin. The bodies of Romanovs were then thrown into one of abandoned mines.

As a tsar, and even after he abdicated, Nicholas II was the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. After the assassination, he and his family were revered by many as martyrs and numerous miracles were attributed to them. The family was canonized as royal martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in 1981.

ivan the terrible peter the great  |  nicholas the second  |  anastasia  |  imperial style  |  regalia  |  jewellery
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