- Alexandra Feodorovna (Alix of Hesse)
Infobox Russian Royalty|empress|consort
name =Alexandra Feodorovna
birth name =Alix Viktoria Helena Luise Beatrice
title =Empress consort of All the Russias
November 1, 1894– March 15, 1917
spouse =Nicholas II
issue =Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna
Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna
Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna
Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna
Grand Duke Alexei Nikolaevich
imperial house =House of Romanov-Holstein-Gottorp
House of Hesse-Darmstadt
Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse
Alice of the United Kingdom
date of birth =birth date|1872|6|6|df=y
place of birth =
date of death =death date and age|1918|7|17|1872|7|6|df=y
place of death =
Yekaterinburg, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
place of burial=
Peter and Paul Cathedral, Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation|
Alix of Hesse and by Rhine (later Alexandra Feodorovna Romanova ( _ru. "Императрица Александра Фёдоровна Романова") (
6 June 1872– 17 July 1918), was Empress consort of Russiaas spouse of Nicholas II, the last Emperorof the Russian Empire. Born a granddaughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, she was given the name Alexandra Feodorovna upon being received into the Russian Orthodox Church, which canonised her as Saint Alexandra the Passion Bearer in 2000.
Alexandra is best remembered as the last
Tsaritsaof Russia, as one of the most famous royal carriers of the haemophilia disease, as well as for her support of autocratic control over the country. Her notorious friendship with the Russian mystic Grigori Rasputinwas also an important factor in her life.
Alexandra Feodorovna was born on
June 6, 1872at the New Palace in Darmstadtas Princess Alix Viktoria Helena Luise Beatrice of Hesse and by Rhine, a Grand Duchythat was then part of the German Empire. She was the sixth child among the seven children of Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse and by Rhine, and Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, the second daughter of Queen Victoria and Albert, Prince Consort. Alix was baptized on 1 July 1872according to the rites of the Lutheran Church and given the names of her mother and each of her mother's four sisters, some of which were transliterated into German. Her godparents were the Prince of Wales, the Princess of Wales, the Tsarevich of Russia, the Tsarevna of Russia, Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom, the Duchess of Cambridge and Anna of Prussia. In December, 1878, diphtheria swept through the ducal house of Hesse. Alix and her 3 sisters and her brother, Ernst fell ill. Elizabeth, Alix's older sister had been sent to visit her paternal grandmother, and escaped the outbreak. Alix's mother Alice, who had experience as a nurse from the time her father, Prince Albert, died, tended to the children rather than abandon them to doctors. Alice herself soon fell ill with diphtheria and died on the anniversary of her father's death, December 14 1878, when Alix was only 6 years old . Alix, Victoria, Irene, and Ernst survived the epidemic, but Princess May did not. Alix was sent to her maternal grandmother's (Queen Victoria) to be cared for and the two became very close.
Alix was married relatively late for her rank in her era, having refused a proposal from
Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence(the eldest son of the Prince of Wales) despite strong familial pressure. It is said that Queen Victoria had wanted her two grandchildren to marry, but because she was very fond of Alix she accepted that she did not want to marry him; The Queen even went on to say that she was proud of Alix for standing up to her, something many people, including her own son the Prince of Wales did not do.
Alix however, had already met and fallen in love with the Tsarevich of Russia, whose mother was the sister-in-law of Alix's uncle, the Prince of Wales and whose uncle Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich was married to Alix's sister Elizabeth. They were also second cousins as they were both great grandchildren of Princess Wilhelmina of Baden. Nicholas and Alix had first met in 1884 and when Alix returned to Russia in 1889 they fell in love. "It is my dream to one day marry Alix H. I have loved her for a long time, but more deeply and strongly since 1889 when she spent six weeks in Petersburg. For a long time, I have resisted my feeling that my dearest dream will come true." Nicholas wrote in his diary ; [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.49] and Alix reciprocated his feelings. At first, Nicholas' father, Tsar Alexander III, refused the prospect of marriage . [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.49] Society sniped openly at Princess Alix, safe in the knowledge that Tsar Alexander III and Empress Marie, both vigorously anti-German had no intention of permitting a match with the Tsarevich. Although Princess Alix was his godchild, it was generally known that Alexander III was angling for a bigger catch for his son, someone like Princess Helene, the tall dark haired daughter of
Philippe, comte de Paris, pretender to the throne of France. [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.49 ] The approach to Helene did not please Nicholas. He wrote in his diary, "Mama made a few illusions to Helene, daughter of the Comte de Paris. I myself want to go in one direction and it is evident that Mama wants me to choose the other one." [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.50.] Fortunately Helene also resisted. She was Roman Catholicand unwilling to give up her faith to become Russian Orthodox. The Tsar then sent emissaries to Princess Margaret of Prussia, daughter of Kaiser Friedrich III and sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Nicholas flatly declared that he would rather become a monk than marry the plain and boring Margaret. Margaret stated that she was unwilling to give up her Protestantreligion to become Russian Orthodox. As long as he was well, Alexander III ignored his son's demands. He only relented as his health began to fail in 1894. [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.50] Alix was troubled by the requirement that she renounce her Lutheran faith, as a Russian Tsaritsa had to be Orthodox; but she was persuaded and eventually became a fervent convert.
She and Nicholas became engaged in April 1894. Alexander III died on 1 November 1894 and Nicholas became Tsar of
all the Russiasat the age of twenty-six. The marriage was not delayed. Alexandra and Nicholas were married in the Chapel of the Winter Palaceof Saint Petersburgon 14–26 November 1894. The marriage that began that night remained unflawed for the rest of their lives. It was a Victorian marriage, outwardly serene and proper, but based on intensely passionate physical love. . [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.45]
Her older sister Ella, was not only her sister, but her aunt by marriage. In fact, she, like Nicky was a first cousin to Britain's King George V; Nicky was a first cousin to three other monarchs as well:
Christian X of Denmark, Constantine I of Greece, and King Haakon VII of Norway.
Alix of Hesse accompanied the Imperial family as they returned to Saint Petersburg with the body of the Tsar, and it is said that the people greeted their new Empress-to-be with ominous whispers of "She comes to us behind a coffin." [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.76]
Alexandra Feodorovna became Empress of Russia on her wedding day. It was not until 14th May 1896, that the coronation of Nicholas and Alexandra took place inside the Kremlin in Moscow. [Google video | id = -8924435945313999876 | title = Coronation of Tsar Nicholas II ] The following day, tragedy struck the coronation celebrations when the deaths of several thousand peasants became known. The victims were trampled to death at the
Khodynka Fieldin Moscowwhen they believed there were not enough commemorative gifts for everyone. By the time the police and more cossacks arrived, the meadow resembled a battlefield. By afternoon the city's hospitals were jammed with wounded and everybody knew what had happened. Nicholas and Alexandra were stunned. He declared he could not go to the ball being given that night by the French Ambassador, the Marquis da Montebello. The Tsar's uncles urged him to attend not to offend the French. Tragically as would happen so often in his reign, Nicholas gave in and he and Alexandra attended the ball. Sergius Witte commented, "We expected the party would be called off. Instead it took place if nothing had happened and the ball was opened by Their Majesties dancing a quadrille." [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.80] It was a painful evening. "The Empress appeared in great distress, her eyes reddened by tears" the British Ambassador informed Queen Victoria. [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.80] Masses of simple Russians took the disaster at Khodynka Meadow as an omen that the reign would be unhappy. Other Russians, more sophisticated or more vengeful used the tragedy to underscore the heartlessness of the autocracy and the contemptible shallowness of the young Tsar and his 'German woman'. [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.81]
Alexandra was unpopular at court and with the Russian people. When she appeared she was silent, seemingly cold, haughty and indifferent. [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.186] She was hurt by their unenthusiastic reception, and declared herself to be tired of the loose morals and etiquette of the Russian court. Alexandra was called prim and dull, provincial, uninteresting and haughty. There is a story that captures the battle between Tsarina Alexandra and society perfectly. At one ball, Alexandra spotted a young woman whose decolletage she considered too low. A lady-in-waiting was dispatched to the woman saying, "Madam, Her Majesty wishes me to tell you that in Hesse-Darmstadt, we don't wear our dresses that way." The woman replied, "Really?" at the same time pulling the front of her dress still lower. "Pray tell Her Majesty that in Russia, we do wear our dresses this way." [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.93]
Alexandra made few attempts to forge bonds with the other members of the large Romanov family and she generally attended as few court occasions as possible. She was unfavourably compared to the popular Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, daughter of King
Christian IX of Denmarkand younger sister of the Princess of Wales. [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.93] In Russia, Dowager Empresses outranked Empress Consorts, unlike at most European royal courts. Alexandra's stubborn attitude did not allow her to make any attempt to learn from her more experienced mother-in-law who could have helped her so much. The Dowager Empress had lived in Russia for seventeen years before coming to the throne; Alexandra had barely a month between her arrival and her marriage. Alexandra knew better than to publicly criticise "Mother dear". The Tsarina's aunt, German Empress Friedrich, wrote to Queen Victoria that "Alix is very imperious and will always insist on having her own way; she will never yield one iota of power she will imagine she wields ... " [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.93]
Alexandra's failure to produce an heir to the Russian throne in her first four attempts was a source of great disappointment.
Alexandra was fiercely protective of her husband's role as Tsar, and actively supported his rights as an autocratic ruler. She was a fervent advocate of the divine right, and believed that it was unnecessary to attempt to secure the approval of the people. During the first world war, with the national passions aroused, all the complaints Russians had about the Empress - her German birth, her coldness, her devotion to Rasputin - blended into a single, sweeping torrent of hatred. [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.186 ]
Alexandra and Her Children
Directly above the Mauve Boudoir at the Alexandra Palace were the nurseries of her children. In the morning, Alexandra could lie back on her couch and through the ceiling hear the footsteps of her children and the sound of their pianos. A private elevator and private staircase led directly to the rooms above. [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.153] Alexandra, to the Russian people, was a cold-hearted German woman, with no ability to see the needs of those around her, unless they were family. This was true to a certain extent, as Alexandra was, like her husband, very focused on family. The empress, from her childhood, was painfully shy; a trait shared by her grandmother,
Queen Victoria. She hated public appearances and neglected them and only appeared when absolutely necessary. Alexandra preferred to retreat to the sidelines, giving way to her mother-in-law; something which by law was Maria Feodorovna's right. This shyness and desire to be alone had a deep impact on her five children and the empire. Alexandra never made the effort to win the affections of the Russian people.
Almost one year after her marriage to the Tsar, Alexandra gave birth to the couple's first child: a girl, named Olga, was born on
15 November 1895. Olga could not be the heir due to the Pauline Laws implemented by Tsar Paul I. Only a male could succeed to the Russian throne. Olga was well-loved by her young parents. Three more girls followed Olga: Tatiana on 10 June 1897, Maria on June 26 1899and Anastasia on 18 June 1901. Three more years passed before the empress gave birth to the long-awaited heir. Alexei Nikolaevich was born in Peterhofon 12 August 1904. To his parents' dismay, Alexei was born with hemophilia, an incurable bleeding disease.
With her eldest daughter, Olga, Alexandra sometimes had a difficult time. Perhaps this was due the fact that Olga was first born. Olga was most like her father. Shy and subdued, she impressed people with her kindness, her innocence and the strength of her private feelings. As she grew older, Olga read widely, both fiction and poetry, often borrowing books from her mother's own tables before the Empress had read them. "You must wait Mama, until I find out whether this book is a proper one for you to read." [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.154] Alexandra understood her second daughter, Tatiana much better. In public and in private, Tatiana surrounded her mother with unvarying attention. If a favor was needed, all the imperial children agreed that "Tatiana must ask Papa to grant it." [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.154] During the family's final months, Tatiana helped her mother move from place to place, pushing her about the house in a wheelchair. The next daughter, Maria, liked to talk about marriage and children. The Tsar thought she would make some man an excellent wife. Maria was considered the angel of the family. Anastasia, the youngest and most famous daughter, was the "shvibzik," Russian for "imp." [ Vorres, I, "The Last Grand Duchess", p.108] She climbed trees and refused to come down unless specifically commanded to come down by her father. Her Aunt and Godmother, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna once recalled a time when Anastasia was teasing so ruthlessly that she slapped the child. [ Vorres, I, "The Last Grand Duchess", p.109] When they were children, Alexandra dressed her daughters as pairs, the oldest two and the youngest two wearing matching dresses. [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.157] As Olga and Tatiana grew older, they played a more serious role in public affairs. Although in private they still referred to their parents as 'Mama' and 'Papa', in public they referred to 'the Empress' and 'the Emperor'. [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.157] Nicholas and Alexandra intended that both their older daughters should make their official debuts in 1914 when Olga was nineteen and Tatiana seventeen. The first world war intervened and the plans were canceled. By 1917, the four daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra had blossomed into young women whose talents and personalities were, as fate decreed, never to be unfolded and revealed. [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.158]
Alexandra doted on Alexei. The children's tutor,
Pierre Gilliardwrote, "Alexei was the center of a united family, the focus of all its hopes and affections. His sisters worshiped him. He was his parents' pride and joy. When he was well, the palace was transformed. Everyone and everything in it seemed bathed in sunshine." [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.158]
Having to live with the knowledge that she had given him the bleeding disease, Alexandra was obsessed with protecting her son; she kept a close eye on him at all times and consulted a number of mystics who claimed to be able to heal him during his nearly fatal attacks. Alexandra spoiled her only son and let him have his way. She seemed to pay more attention to him that any of her four daughters. When Alexei's illness was finally announced to the public in 1912, Alexandra became an unpopular figure with her people. Her German background during Great War only made this hatred grow.
Name Birth Death Grand Duchess Olga Nicholaevna 15 November 1895 17 July 1918 Grand Duchess Tatiana Nicholaevna 10 June 1897 17 July 1918 Grand Duchess Maria Nicholaevna 26 June 1899 17 July 1918 Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholaevna 18 June 1901 17 July 1918 Tsesarevich Alexei Nicholaevich 12 August 1904 17 July 1918
Hemophilia and Rasputin
Alexei was born during the height of the
Russo-Japanese Waron 12 August, 1904. The Tsarevich was the Heir Apparentto the throne of Russia, and Alexandra had fulfilled her most important role as Tsaritsa by bearing a male child. At first the boy seemed healthy and normal, but in only a few weeks' time it was noticed that, when he fell and bumped himself, his bruises did not heal, but became worse and his blood was slow to clot. It was soon discovered Alexei suffered from Hemophilia, which could only have been transmitted from Alexandra's side of the family. [ Denton, C.S, "Absolute Power", p.574] Hemophilia was generally fatal in the early 20th century, and had entered the royal houses of Europe via the daughters of Queen Victoria, who herself was a carrier. Alexandra had lost a brother, Friedrich, to the disease, as well as an uncle, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany; her sister Princess Irene of Hesse and by Rhinewas also a carrier of the gene and, through her marriage to her cousin Prince Heinrich of Prussia, spread it into a junior branch of the Prussian royal family. Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, another of Queen Victoria's granddaughters and a first cousin of Alexandra, was also a carrier of the hemophilia gene. She married King Alfonso XIII of Spain and two of her sons were hemophiliacs. As an incurable and life threatening illness, suffered by the sole male heir, the decision was made to keep the heir's condition secret from the Russian people. As a carrier of the hemophilia gene, Alexandra was not a hemophiliac but she likely produced lower-than-normal clotting factor, having only one normal copy of the gene instead of two. Her status as a carrier, in addition to her worry over her son's health, might have been one reason for her reportedly poor health. Alexandra generally suffered from poor health.
At first Alexandra turned to Russian doctors to treat Alexei. Their treatments generally failed as there was no known cure. Burdened with the knowledge that any fall or cut could actually kill her son, Alexandra herself did even more charity work. She also turned toward God for comfort, familiarizing herself with all the Orthodox rituals and saints and spent hours praying in her private chapel for deliverance. [ Denton, C.S, "Absolute Power", p.374] In desperation, Alexandra increasingly turned to mystics and so-called holy men. One of these,
Grigori Rasputin, appeared to have a success.
Rasputin's debauched lifestyle led Nicholas at times to distance him from the family. Even after Alexandra was told by the director of the national police that a drunk Rasputin exposed himself at a popular Moscow restaurant and bragged to the crowd that Nicholas let him top his wife whenever he wanted, she blamed it on malicious gossip. "Saints are always culminated." she once wrote. "He is hated because we love him." [ Denton, C.S, "Absolute Power", p.577] Nicholas was not nearly as blind, but even he felt powerless to do anything about the man who seemingly saved his only son's life. One minister of Nicholas wrote, " He did not like to send Rasputin away, for if Alexis died, in the eyes of the mother, he would have been the murderer of his own son." [ Denton, C.S, "Absolute Power", p.577]
From the start there were persistent murmurs and snickers behind Rasputin's back. Although some of St.Petersburg's top clergy accepted Rasputin as a living prophet, others angrily denounced him as a fraud and a heretic. Stories from back home in Siberia chased him, such as how he conducted weddings for villagers in exchange for the first night with the bride. In his apartment in St.Petersburg, where he lived with his daughter Maria, Rasputin was visited by anyone seeking his blessing, a healing or a favor with the Tsarina. Women, enchanted by the monk's crude mystique, also came to Rasputin for more 'private blessings' and received a private audience in his bedroom, jokingly called the 'Holy of Holies'. Rasputin liked to preach a unique theology, that one must first become familiar with sin before one can have a chance in overturning it. [ Denton, C. S, "Absolute Power", p.576]
In 1912, Alexei suffered a life-threatening hemorrhage in the thigh while the family were at Spala,
Poland. Alexandra and Nicholas took turns at his bedside and tried in vain to comfort him from his intense pain. In one rare moment of peace, Alexis was heard to whisper to his mother, "When I am dead, it will not hurt any more, will it, Mama?" [ Denton, C.S, "Absolute Power", p.575] Devastatingly, it seemed to Alexandra that God was not answering her prayers for her son's relief. Believing Alexei would die, Alexandra in desperation sent a telegram to Grigori Rasputin. Right away he sent a reply, "God has seen your tears and heard your prayers. Do not grieve. The Little One will not die. Do not allow the doctors to bother him too much." [ Denton, C.S, "Absolute Power", p.575] Rasputin's advice just happened to coincide with signs of a recovery. From 1912 onwards, Alexandra came to rely increasingly on Rasputin, and to believe in his ability to ease Alexei's suffering. This reliance enhanced Rasputin's political power, which was seriously to undermine Romanov rule during the First World War.
Rasputin's perceived interference in political matters eventually led to his murder in December 1916. Amongst the conspirators was a noblemen Prince Felix Yusupov, married to Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna's daughter,
Princess Irina of Russia, and a member of the Romanov family Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich.
World War One
The outbreak of
World War Iwas a pivotal moment for Russia and Alexandra. The war pitted the Russian Empire of the Romanov dynasty against the much stronger German Empire of the Hohenzollern dynasty. [ The Last Tsar by Virginia Cowles, p.4 ] When Alexandra learned of the Russian mobilisation, she stormed into her husband's study, slamming the door behind her. Alexandra's friend, Anna Vyrubovasat outside, waiting, listening to the angry voices coming from the room which were growing louder by the minute. In the middle of the loud voices, the door opened, and Alexandra ran out as Anna and into the bedroom. Anna followed her and found the Tsarina lying on the bed, crying hysterically, "War!" she choked. "And I know nothing of it! This is the end of everything." [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.213]
The Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine, ruled by her brother, formed part of the German Empire. This was, of course the place of Alexandra's birth. This made Alexandra very unpopular with the Russian people, who accused her of collaboration with the Germans. [ The Last Empress by Greg King p.223 ] The German Kaiser, William II, was also Alexandra's first cousin. Ironically, one of the few things that Empress Alexandra and her mother-in-law Empress Maria had in common was their utter distaste for Kaiser Wilhelm II.
When the Tsar travelled to the front line in 1915 to take personal command of the Army, he left Alexandra in charge as Regent in the capital Saint Petersburg. Her brother-in-law, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich recorded, "When the Emperor went to war of course his wife governed instead of him." [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.244] In the two and a half years that followed, the Russian government deteriorated with a shocking rapidity that is without parallel in modern history. [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.244] Alexandra had no experience of government, and constantly appointed and reappointed incompetent new ministers, which meant the government was never stable or efficient. The Tsarina's involvement in political affairs was her own doing. To the Tsar she wrote, "Let me help you, my treasure. Surely there is some way in which a woman can be of help and use. I do so yearn to make it easier for you. ... I long to poke my nose into everything." [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.244] This was particularly dangerous in a war of attrition, as neither the troops nor the civilian population were ever adequately supplied. She paid great attention to the self-serving advice of Rasputin, and their relationship was widely, though falsely, believed to be sexual in nature. It is alleged that when the Tsarina met with Sir George Buchanan, the British Ambassador, she told him, "I have no patience with the ministers who try to prevent him from doing his duty. The situation requires firmness. The Emperor, unfortunately, is weak; but I am not, and I intend to be firm." [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.247] Alexandra was the focus of ever increasing and extremely negative rumours, and widely believed to be a German spy in the Russian court.
World War Iput what proved to be unbearable burden on Imperial Russia's government and economy, both of which were dangerously weak. Mass shortages and hunger became the daily situation for tens of millions of Russians due to the disruptions of the war economy. Fifteen million men were diverted from agricultural production to fight in the war, and the transportation infrastructure (primarily railroads) were diverted towards war use, exacerbating food shortages in the cities as available agricultural products could not be brought to urban areas. Inflation was rampant which, combined with the food shortages and the poor performance by the Russian military in the war, generated a great deal of anger and unrest among the people in Saint Petersburgand other cities. [ Tames, R, "Last of the Tsars", p.52]
The decision of the Tsar to take personal command of the military against advice was disastrous as he was directly blamed for all losses. His relocation to the front, leaving the
Tsaritsain charge of the government, helped undermine the Romanov dynasty. The poor performance of the military led to rumours believed by the people that the German-born Tsaritsa was part of a conspiracy to help Germany win the war. The severe winter of 1916–17 essentially doomed Imperial Russia. Food shortages worsened and faminegripped the cities. The mismanagement and failures of the war turned the soldiers against the Tsar. . The mood of the army is perhaps captured well by one scene in Jean Renoir's movie, La Grande Illusion. Alexandra sends boxes to Russian prisoners of war. Thrilled to think they are receiving vodka, they open them to discover bibles, and promptly riot.
By March 1917, conditions had worsened. Steelworkers went out on strike on 7 March, and the following day,
International Women’s Day, crowds hungry for bread began rioting on the streets of Saint Petersburg to protest food shortages and the war. After two days of rioting, the Tsar ordered the Army to restore order and on 11 March they fired on the crowd. That very same day, the Duma, the elected legislature, urged the Tsar to take action to ameliorate the concerns of the people. The Tsar responded by dissolving the Duma. [ Tames, R, "Last of the Tsars", p.53]
On 12 March soldiers sent to suppress the rioting crowds mutinied and joined the rebellion, thus providing the spark to ignite the February Revolution (like the later October Revolution of November 1917, the Russian Revolutions of 1917 get their names due to the Old Style calendar). Soldiers and workers set up the "
Petrograd Soviet" of 2,500 elected deputies while the Duma declared a Provisional Government on 13 March. Alexander Kerenskywas a key player in the new regime. The Duma informed the Tsar that day that he must abdicate.
In an effort to put an end to the uprising in the capital, Nicholas tried to get to Saint Petersburg by train from army headquarters at Mogiliev. The route was blocked so he tried another way. His train was stopped at Pskov where, after receiving advice from his generals, he first abdicated the throne for himself and later, on seeking medical advice, for himself and his son the
Tsarevich Alexei. [ Tames, R, "Last of the Tsars", p.55] Alexandra was now in a perilous position as the wife of the deposed Tsar, hated by the Russian people. Nicholas finally was allowed to return to the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo where he was placed under arrest with his family. Despite the fact he was a first cousin of both Nicholas and Alexandra, King George V refused to allow them to evacuate to the United Kingdom, as he was alarmed by their unpopularity in his country and the potential repercussions to his own throne. [ Tames, R, "Last of the Tsars", p.57]
The Provisional Government formed after the revolution kept Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children confined in their primary residence, the
Alexander Palaceat Tsarskoye Selo, until they were moved to Tobolskin Siberiain August 1917, a step by the Kerensky government designed to remove them from the capital and possible harm. From Tobolsk, Alexandra managed to send a letter to sister-in-law, Xenia Alexandrovna, in the Crimea,
"My darling Xenia,My thoughts are with you, how magically good and beautiful everything must be with you - you are the flowers. But it is indescribably painful for the kind motherland, I cannot explain. I am glad for you that you are finally with all your family as you have been apart. I would like to see Olga in all her new big happiness. Everybody is healthy, but myself, during the last 6 weeks I experience nerve pains in my face with toothache. Very tormenting ...
We live quietly, have established ourselves well [in Tobolsk] although it is far, far away from everybody, But God is merciful. He gives us strength and consolation ...." [ Van der Kiste, J & Hall, C, "Once A Grand Duchess: Xenia, Sister of Nicholas II", p.121 ]
Alexandra and her family remained in Tobolsk until after the Bolshevik Revolution in November 1917, but were subsequently moved to Bolshevik controlled
Yekaterinburgin 1918. Nicholas was ordered to Ekaterinburg. Alexandra and their daughter Maria went with him arriving at the IpatievHouse on 30 April 1918. On entering their new prison, they were ordered to open all their luggage. Alexandra immediately objected. Nicholas tried to come to her defence saying, "So far we have had polite treatment and men who were gentlemen but now -" [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.344] The former Tsar was quickly cut off. The guards informed him he was no longer at Tsarskoe Selo and that refusal to comply with their request would result in his removal from the rest of his family; a second offence would be rewarded with hard labour, Fearing for her husband's safety, Alexandra quickly gave in and allowed the search. On the window frame of what was to be her last bedroom in the Ipatiev House, Alexandra scrawled a swastika, her favourite good luck symbol, and pencilled the date 17/30 April 1918. [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.344] In May, the rest of the family arrived in Ekaterinburg. They had not been able to travel earlier due to the illness of Alexis. Alexandra was pleased to be reunited with her family once more.
Seventy-five men did guard duty at the Ipatiev House. Many of the men were factory workers from the local Zlokazovsky Factory and the Verkh-Isetsk Factory. The commandant of the Ipatiev House, Alexander Avadeyev was described as "a real Bolshevik". The majority of witnesses recall him as coarse, brutish and a heavy drinker. If a request for a favour on behalf of the family reached Avadeyev, he always gave the same response, "Let them go to hell!!" The guards in the house often heard him refer to the deposed Tsar as "Nicholas the Blood-Drinker" and to Alexandra as "The German Bitch". [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.345]
For the Romanovs, life at the Ipatiev House was a nightmare of uncertainty and fear. The imperial family never knew if they would still be in the Ipatiev House from one day to the next or if they might be separated or killed. The privileges allowed to them were few. For an hour each afternoon they could exercise in the rear garden under the watchful eye of the guards. Alexei could still not walk, and his sailor Nagorny had to carry him. Alexandra rarely joined her family in these daily activities. Instead she spent most of her time sitting in a wheelchair, reading the Bible or the works of St. Seraphim. At night the Romanovs played cards or read; they received little mail from the outside world, and the only newspapers they were allowed were outdated editions. [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.346] One of the guards, Anatoly Yakimov observed the family and recalled,
"Though I did not speak to them when I met them I still got an impression, that entered my soul, of them. The Tsar was not young any more; he had grey hair in his beard .... His eyes were kind and he had altogether a kind expression. I got the impression that he was kind, modest, frank, and talkative person. Sometimes I felt that he would speak to me right away. He looked as if he would like to talk with any one of us. The Tsarina was not a bit like him. Her look was severe. She had the appearance and manner of a haughty and grave woman. Sometimes we used to speak about them amongst ourselves and we all thought that Nicholas Alexandrovich was a modest man but that she was very different and looked exactly like a Tsarina. She seemed older than the Tsar. There was grey hair on her temples and her face was not the face of a young woman ..." [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.348 ]
We now know that
Leninpersonally ordered the execution of the imperial family. Although official Soviet accounts place the responsibility for the decision with the Ural Regional Soviet. Leon Trotsky, in his diary, makes it quite clear that the assassination took place on the authority of Lenin. Trotsky wrote,
"My next visit to Moscow took place after the fall of Ekaterinburg. Talking to Sverdlov I asked in passing, "Oh yes and where is the tsar?" "It's all over," he answered. "He has been shot." "And where is his family?" "And the family with him." "All of them?" I asked, apparently with a touch of surprise. "All of them," replied Sverdlov. "What about it?" He was waiting to see my reaction. I made no reply. "And who made the decision?" I asked. "We decided it here. Ilyich (Lenin) believed that we shouldn't leave the Whites a live banner to rally around, especially under the present difficult circumstances." [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.358]
On 4 July 1918,
Yakov Yurovsky, the chief of the Ekaterinburg Cheka, was appointed commandant of the Ipatiev House. Yurovsky was a loyal Bolshevik, a man Moscow could rely on to carry out its orders regarding the imperial family. Yurovsky quickly tightened security. From the imperial family he collected all of their jewellery and valuables. These he placed in a box which he sealed and left with the prisoners. Alexandra kept only two bracelets which her uncle, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, had given her as a child and which she could not take off. He did not know that the former Tsarina and her daughters wore concealed on their person diamonds, emeralds, rubies and ropes of pearls. These would be discovered only after the murders. Yurovsky had been given the order for the murder on 13 July. [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p.539]
On Sunday, 14 July 1918, two priests came to the Ipatiev House to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. One of the priests, Father Storozhev later recalled, "I went into the living room first, then the deacon and Yurovsky. At the same time Nicholas and Alexandra entered through the doors leading into the inner room. Two of his daughters were with him. I did not have a chance to see exactly which ones. I believe Yurovsky asked Nicholas Alexandrovich, "Well are you all here?" Nicholas Alexandrovich answered firmly, "Yes all of us." Ahead beyond the archway, Alexandra Feodorovna was already in place with two daughters and Alexei Nicolaievich. He was sitting in a wheelchair and wore a jacket, as it seemed to me, with a sailor's collar. He was pale, but not so much as at the time of my first service. In general he looked more healthy. Alexandra Feodorovna also had a healthier appearance. ...According to the liturgy of the service it is customary at a certain point to read the prayer, "Who Resteth with the Saints." On this occasion for some reason the deacon, instead of reading the prayer began to sing it, and I as well, somewhat embarrassed by this departure from the ritual. But we had secretly begun to sing when I heard the members of the Romanov family, standing behind me, fall on their knees ...." [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.361]
Tuesday, 16 July 1918 dawned hot and dusty in Ekaterinburg. The day passed normally for the former imperial family. At four o'clock in the afternoon, Nicholas and his daughters took their usual walk in the small garden. Early in the evening Yurovsky sent away the fifteen year old kitchen boy Leonid Sedinev, saying that his uncle wished to see him. At 7pm, Yurovsky summoned all the Cheka men into his room and ordered them to collect all the revolvers from the outside guards. With twelve heavy military revolvers lying before him on the table he said, "Tonight, we shoot the entire family, everybody." Upstairs Nicholas and Alexandra passed the evening playing
bezique; at ten thirty, they went to bed. [ Massie, R, "Nicholas and Alexandra", p,540]
The former Tsar and Tsaritsa and all of their family, including the gravely ill Alexei, along with several family servants, were executed by firing squad and bayonets in the basement of the Ipatiev House, where they had been imprisoned, early in the morning of July 17, 1918, by a detachment of
Bolsheviks led by Yakov Yurovsky. [ Tames, R, "Last of the Tsars", p.63] In the basement room of the Ipatiev House, Nicholas asked for and received three chairs from the guards. Minutes later a squad of soldiers, each man armed with a revolver, entered the room. Their leader Yurovsky casually pronounced, "Your relations have tried to save you. They have failed and we must now shoot you." Nicholas rose from his chair and only had time to utter, "What ...?" before he was shot in the head. [ Denton, C.S., "Absolute Power", p.588] Alexandra watched the murder of her husband and two servants before military commissar Peter Ermakovkilled her with a gun shot to the left side of her head before she could finish making the sign of the cross. Ermakov, in a drunken haze, stabbed her dead body and that of her husband's, shattering both their rib cages. Alexandra lay next to her husband Nicholas in a pool of blood. [ King, G, "The Last Empress", p.364]
Identification of remains
After the execution of the Romanov family in the Ipatiev House, Alexandra's body, along with Nicholas, their children and some faithful retainers who died with them, was stripped and the clothing burnt according to the Yurovsky Note. Initially the bodies were thrown down a disused mine-shaft at
Ganina Yama, 12 miles (19 km) north of Yekaterinburg. A short time later they were retrieved, their faces were smashed and the bodies dismembered and disfigured with sulphuric acid were hurriedly buried under railway sleepers with the exception of two of the children whose bodies were not discovered until 2007. In 2007, the bodies missing were those of a daughter- Maria or Anastasia- and Alexei. [ [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,294360,00.html FOXNews.com - Remains of Czar Nicholas II's Son May Have Been Found - Science News | Science & Technology | Technology News ] at www.foxnews.com] In the early 1990s, following the fall of the Soviet Union, the bodies of the majority of the Romanovs were located along with their loyal servants, exhumed and formally identified. A secret report by Yurovsky, which came to light in the late 1970s, but did not become public knowledge until the 1990s, helped the authorities to locate the bodies. Preliminary results of genetic analysis carried out on the remains of a boy and a young woman believed to belong to Nicholas II's son and heir Alexis, and daughter Maria have been revealed on January 22, 2008. [ YEKATERINBURG, January 22, 2008 (RIA Novosti) ] The Ekaterinburg region's chief forensic expert said, "Tests conducted in Yekaterinburg and Moscow allowed DNA to be extracted from the bones, which proved positive," Nikolai Nevolin said. "Once the genetic analysis has been completed in Russia, its results will be compared with test results from foreign experts." [ YEKATERINBURG, January 22, 2008 (RIA Novosti) ] Nevolin said the final results would be published in April or May 2008. [ YEKATERINBURG, January 22, 2008 (RIA Novosti) ] Certainty about the remains will finally put an end to the story of Anna Anderson having any connection with the Romanovs as all remaining bodies will be accounted for.
DNA analysis represented a key means of identifying the bodies. A blood sample from
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh(a grandson of Alexandra's oldest sister, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine) was employed to identify Alexandra and her daughters through their mitochondrial DNA. They belonged to Haplogroup H (mtDNA). Nicholas was identified from DNA obtained from among others his late brother Grand Duke George Alexandrovich of Russia. Grand Duke George had died of tuberculosisin the late 1890s and was buried in the Peter and Paul Fortress in St.Petersburg. [ Identification of the remains of the Romanov family by DNA analysis by Peter Gill, Central Research and Support Establishment, Forensic Science Service, Aldermaston, Reading, Berkshire, RG7 4PN, UK, Pavel L. Ivanov, Engelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology, Russian Academy of Sciences, 117984, Moscow, Russia, Colin Kimpton, Romelle Piercy, Nicola Benson, Gillian Tully, Ian Evett, Kevin Sullivan, Forensic Science Service, Priory House, Gooch Street North, Birmingham B5 6QQ, UK, Erika Hagelberg, University of Cambridge, Department of Biological Anthropology, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3DZ, UK - http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v6/n2/abs/ng0294-130.html ] [ Once A Grand Duchess: Xenia, Sister of Nicholas II by John Van Der Kiste & Coryne Hall, p.174 ]
Burial and sainthood
Alexandra, Nicholas and three daughters were reinterred in the St.Catherine Chapel of the
Peter and Paul Cathedralat the Fortress of St.Peter and St.Paul in St.Petersburg in 1998, with much ceremony, on the eightieth anniversary of the execution.
In 2000 Alexandra was canonised by the
Russian Orthodox Churchtogether with her husband Nicholas II, their children and others including her sister Grand Duchess Elizabeth and her fellow nun Varvara.
* A rather romanticised version of Alexandra's life was dramatised in the 1971 movie "
Nicholas and Alexandra", based on the book by the same title written by Robert Massie, in which the tsaritsa was played by Janet Suzman.
*1932's "Rasputin and the Empress," a film that is less famous than the lawsuit it spawned. Alexandra was portrayed by
*The highly fictionalized 1966 film
Rasputin, the Mad Monk, in which Renee Asherson portrayed the empress.
Fall of Eagles, a BBC series dramatizing the demise of Europe's ruling families. Alexandra, portrayed by Gayle Hunnicutt, is a prominent character in the series.
* is a 1996
HBO TV filmfor which Greta Scacchiwon an Emmy for her portrail of Empress Alexandra.
* , (1997) is a biographical documentary.
*The episode "Love and Revolution" devoted to the fall of the Romanov dynasty is featured in the Danish television "
A Royal Family", a series about the descendants of King Christian IX of Denmark.
* "Her Grand Ducal Highness" Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine (1872-1894)
* "Her Imperial Highness" Grand Duchess Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia (created in 1894 by Alexander III prior to her marriage)
* "Her Imperial Majesty" The Empress of all the Russias (1894-1917)
* "Her Grand Ducal Highness" Princess Alexandra of Hesse and by Rhine (1917-1918)
style=font-size: 90%; line-height: 110%;
boxstyle=padding-top: 0; padding-bottom: 0;
1= 1. Alix of Hesse and by Rhine
Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse
Princess Alice of the United Kingdom
Prince Karl of Hesse and by Rhine
5= 5. Princess Elizabeth of Prussia
Albert, Prince Consort
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Louis II, Grand Duke of Hesse
Princess Wilhelmine of Baden
Prince Wilhelm of Prussia
11= 11. Landgravine Maria Anna of Hesse-Homburg
Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Strathearn
Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
Louis I, Grand Duke of Hesse
17= 17. Landgravine Louise of Hesse-Darmstadt
Charles Louis, Hereditary Prince of Baden
Landgravine Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt
Frederick William II of Prussia
Frederika Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt
22= 22. Frederick V, Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg
23= 23. Landgravine Caroline of Hesse-Darmstadt
Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
25= 25. Princess Augusta Reuss of Ebersdorf
Augustus, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
Duchess Louise Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
George III of the United Kingdom
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld(= 24)
31= 31. Princess Augusta Reuss of Ebersdorf (= 25)
* Denton, C.S., "Absolute Power", London, Arcturus Publishing Ltd, 2006
* Finestone, Jeffrey, "The Last Courts of Europe", London, J M Dent & Sons Ltd, 1981
* Hall, Coryne, " Little mother of Russia", Holmes & Meier Publishers, Inc, 2001. ISBN 0-8419-1421-4
* Hall, Coryne & Van Der Kiste, John, "Once A Grand Duchess Xenia, Sister of Nicholas II", Phoenix Mill, Sutton Publishing Ltd, 2002
* King, Greg, "The Last Empress", Citadel Press Book, 1994. ISBN 0-8065-1761-1.
* King, Greg "The Court of the Last Tsar", John Wiley & Sons, 2006. ISBN 13 978-0-471-72763-7.
* Kurth, Peter, " Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexandra", London, Little, Brown and Company (UK) Ltd, 1995
* Lyons, Marvin, "Nicholas II The Last Tsar", London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974
* Massie, Robert, "Nicholas and Alexandra", London, Pan Books, 1967
* Massie, Robert, "The Romanovs The Final Chapter", New York, Ballantine Books, 1995
* Tames, Richard, "Last of the Tsars", London, Pan Books, 1972
* Vorres, Ian, "The Last Grand Duchess", London, Finedawn Publishers, 1985 (3rd edition)
* [http://gatchino.com/literatura/sokolov_n_a/ The Murder of Russia's Imperial Family] , Nicolay Sokolov. Investigation of murder of the Romanov Imperial Family in 1918.
* [http://www.frozentears.org/ FrozenTears.org] , A media library on the Last Imperial Family.
* [http://www.alexanderpalace.com/palace/ Alexander Palace Time Machine] , Alexandra's home in Tsarskoe Selo.
* [http://www.alexanderpalace.org/2006alix/ Life and Tragedy of Alexandra Feodorovna] , Sophie Buxhœveden.
* [http://www.alexanderpalace.org/realtsaritsa/ The Real Tsaritsa] , Lily Dehn.
* [http://www.alexanderpalace.org/palace/alexandragurko.html The Religious Character of Alexandra Feodorovna] , Vladimir Gurko.
* [http://www.bl.uk/eblj/2006articles/article4.html God in All Things] , the Religious Beliefs of Russia's Last Empress by Janet Ashton.
* [http://www.alexanderpalace.org/palace/alexandraexile.html Letters of Alexandra in Exile] , in English and Russian.
* [http://www.alexanderpalace.org/letterstsaritsa/ Letters of Tsaritsa to the Tsar] , 1914–17.
* [http://www.alexanderpalace.org/wedding/ Marriage Ceremony of Nicholas and Alexandra] .
* [http://www.alexanderpalace.org/jewels/ Jewels of the Romanovs] .
* [http://www.nicholasandalexandra.com/ Nicholas and Alexandra Exhibition] .
* [http://www.hemophilia.org/NHFWeb/MainPgs/MainNHF.aspx?menuid=180&contentid=45&rptname=bleeding Hemophilia A] (Factor VIII Deficiency)
* [http://www.kingandwilson.com/ The Romanovs in Film] , a complete filmography.
* [http://www.firstworldwar.com/bio/alexandra.htm A short biography of the Alexandra]
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