Nicholas: The Last
In his book, The Last Tsar, Edvard Radzinsky
describes a very interesting viewpoint of the life and death of Nicholas
Alexandrovich, the last Russian Tsar. Radzinsky’s illustration of this
ill-fated monarch follows the diaries of Nicholas from their beginning
on March 1, 1881, to the final entry on July 16, 1918.1 Radzinsky mainly
goes over pre-marital relationship between Nicholas and Alexandra, the
medical condition of Nicholas’ son, Alexei, and the imprisonment and execution
of Nicholas and his family.
The relationship between Nicholas II and
Alexandra began in 1884. Alexandra, the daughter of Louis IV, the Grand
Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt, a tiny state in Germany, was born in 1872.2 Her
grandmother was Queen Victoria of England, her oldest sister married an
English prince, her second sister married a Russian Grand Duke and her
third sister married a German prince. Nicholas and Alexandra met during
the wedding of her second sister, Ella, to Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich.
Alexandra was only twelve and Nicholas was only sixteen, but he stated
in his diary that he fell in love with her a first sight. Nicholas’ father,
Tsar Alexander III, did not approve of Alexandra, because of the fact that
she was the granddaughter of the English Queen. Instead, he suggested that
Nicholas marry a princess from the House of Orleans. His decision was basely
mainly on politics, as he was striving for an alliance between Russia and
France. Alexander’s suggestion did not have any effect on Nicholas, as
he seemed certain to marry his childhood sweetheart, Alexandra. That day
came in 1894, when Alexander was on his deathbed, suffering from a kidney
disease that he had contracted in a train wreck six years earlier. On April
8, 1894, at the wedding of Alexandra’s brother, her and Nicholas were engaged.3
On November 14, 1894, a month after the death of his father Nicholas married
Alexandra and officially became the tsar of Russia.
Alexei Nikolaevich, the first son of Nicholas
and Alexandra was born on July 30, 1904, following the births of four daughters.
The problem of who would rule Russia in case of an accident to Nicholas
was solved. However, there was a new problem, as Alexei was diagnosed with
hemophilia. Hemophilia is a disease that weakened the walls of the arteries
so that “any blow or intense pressure can cause the blood vessels to burst
and can mean the end.”4 Rumours of a holy man, named Grigory Rasputin,
however, living in the backwoods of Siberia gave rise to Alexander’s hopes
that her son’s hemophilia could be cured. Rasputin possessed what some
called a gift of healing, as he repeatedly healed possibly fatal wounds
suffered by Alexei.5 The first time he helped Alexei was when Alexei had
suffered a bruise on his leg was in agonizing pain. Rasputin walked to
Alexei’s bed, grasped Alexei’s leg and healed the possibly fatal bruise.
There are many stories where Rasputin healed Alexei without physically
being there. For example, in 1912, Alexei was suffering from a common cold.
When he tried to blow his nose, the blood vessels burst and the blood began
to gush. The doctors could do nothing to help. When all hope was fading,
they received a telegram from Rasputin. It read “God will help you, be
Nicholas II was forced to end the Romanov
rule over Russia after three hundred years, as he forfeited the throne
on March 2, 1917 because of the Russian Revolution. However, the people
were still so upset with him, that the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and
Soldiers’ Deputies passed a decree the day following the abdication. The
Deputies ordered the arrest of Nicholas II and the members of the Romanov
dynasty on March 3, 1917. The family and everyone who remained with them
were to be isolated from the outside world within the confines of Alexander’s
Palace, complete with an inside and outside guard. However, soon after,
rumours were spreading that claimed the imperial family had escaped to
England. Therefore, the provisional government sent the family and their
servants to Tobolsk, in Siberia, on July 31, 1917.7 After spending about
nine months under heavy supervision, the family was going to be transported
to Moscow to stand trial for treason against Russia. However, this plan
was only a fake, as the family was never intended to make it to Moscow.
The real plan was that the Uralite Bolsheviks would seize the train on
its way to Moscow and take the family to the Uralite capital of Ekaterinburg.8
In Ekaterinburg, the family was put in a prison in one of the town’s largest
houses, the Ipatiev House. About two months later, when the Ural capital
was surrounded by the Czech Legion and the White Army who were intent on
overthrowing the Bolsheviks, a decision about the family had to be made.
The Bolsheviks sent a telegram to Moscow containing the plans for an execution
of the imperial family on July 16, 1918.9 Once the consent came from Moscow,
the family was awakened in the early hours of July 17 and taken down to
the cellar for what they thought was a family photograph. However, they
all realized there would be no photograph, when Yakov Yurovsky, a member
of the Uralites, read out the family’s death sentence. As soon as he had
finished, the shots began and minutes later, the family and their servants
lay dead in a pool of their own blood. They loaded up the bodies into a
truck and buried them in a pre-selected gravesite.
Thus, within a time span of just over a
year, both the rule and lives of the imperial family were ended by revolutionaries,
and one of the greatest dynasty’s the world has ever known came to an end.