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In the The Romanovs - One Last Dance Novel:
Nikolai Alexandrovitch Romanov, Last Tsar of Russia, 1868-1918
On May 6, 1868, the future Alexander III and his wife Maria Feodorovna, nee Princess Dagmar of Denmark, welcomed their first child and son, Nicholas Alexandrovitch Romanov. Nicholas was named after his father's older brother, the original Tsarevitch, who had prematurely died in 1865. Despite his rank as the future monarch of Imperial Russia, Nicholas and his younger siblings George (1871), Xenia (1875), Mikhail (1878), and Olga (1882) grew up far away from the St. Petersburg splendor at the Gatchina estate. The children ate simple, english-styled meals and slept on cot beds. From a young age, Nicholas had many tutors and recieved a well-rounded education for his time, as his parents knew he had to be prepared for the role of a 20th century Tsar. Unlike many royal families, Alexander and Maria enjoyed a very loving and stable union, which created a warm and happy childhood for thier rambunctious brood.
In 1881, Alexander II was assasinated, making Nicholas's father the new Tsar and him Tsarevitch. As a result of his new importance in the empire, Nicholas's schooling took on a new importance. By all accounts, he was well educated and took a variety of courses in different disciplines while becoming fluent in French, English, and German. He spoke English so well, many mistook him for his cousin, the future George V, at the latter's wedding!
1884 marked another important event in Nicholas's life. In that year, Elizabeth of Hesse married Nicholas's uncle Grand Duke Sergei in St. Petersburg, bringing the Hessian royal household to Russia. The family entourage included the 12-year old Princess Alix, the Grand Duke Ludwig's youngest daughter and Elizabeth's younger sister. Shy but beautiful, Alix quickly caught the Tsarevitch's eye and they spent much time together. They would see each other again in Russia in 1889. Alix visited Elizabeth in Moscow in the summer of 1890, but Nicholas was far away in the capital, and described the inability to see the princess torturous.
Nicholas was a busy young man, and his first taste of freedom came with the official ending of his education in 1890 and joining of the military,trdition among the Romanov men. In 1892, at party with friends, he met the charming ballerina Mathilde Kssechinkskaya. The two soon developed an amorous relationship, although it was mutually understood Nicholas had to marry a princess.
In fact, his parents soon began pushing the marriage issue, suggesting Margaret of Prussia, Elena of Montenegro, and Helene de Orleans. All would cement strong alliances for Russia, but all resulted in a resounding no from Nicholas. He had only one woman on his mind: Alix of Hesse, whom he called Sunny and "Alix H." in his diary.
His parents however, did not approve of this choice. She was acceptably royal but his parents wished for him to make a more dynastic marriage. In addition, Alix's shy and intorverted personality was considered inadequate for the social poise and charm needed of a Tsarina. However, as Nicholas became more and more adamant, they began to relent as Alexander III's health grew more and more precarious.
In April of 1894, Nicholas made a special record in his diary. It was then Alix agreed to marry him after a second proposal, thus securing personal happiness for her darling "Nicky". They spent the whole summer together, visiting the English royal family for the birth of Prince Edward. Nicholas was delighted that Queen Victoria allowed Alix and him to go riding together without a chaperone. Although the Queen was originally set against her favorite grandaughter living in Russia, she found Nicholas delightful and embraced the couple warmly.
In November, Alexander III died, making Nicky HIM Tsar Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias. Soon after the funeral, he married Alix, who converted to Russian Eastern Orthodoxy and became HIM Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna. At first they lived with Nicholas's mother in the Anikchov palace, but then moved to the intimate Alexander Palace at Tsarkoe Selo in 1895. They would primarily live here until August of 1917. Alix preferred this smaller residence to the larger Catherine Palace and decorated the personal rooms with simple decor, which the Russian nobility thought disdainfully plebeian, more suited to the German beorgoisie than the Romanovs.
In May of 1896, the country moved on from the shadow of Alexander III's death to celebrate the coronation of the new Tsar, in what would be the last in Russia's history.
". . . The procession set out only at half past ten. Luckily, the weather was marvelous, and the Red Porch was a brilliant sight,"
Nicholas and Alexandra thrived in thier domestic life, both being very much in love with one another and treasuring the limited free time they had when Nicholas was free from Imperial duties. Soon, they found new joy in roles as parents. In November of 1895, they welcomed thier first child, a "daughter sent to us by god named Olga". Four more children would join them: Tatiana in June of 1897, Maria in June of 1899, Anastasia in June of 1901, and the long-awaited son and heir Alexei in August of 1904.
Alexei's birth was especially auspicious as Nicholas and Alexandra had long prayed for a son to succeed Nicholas, as their four daughters, though loved by thier doting mother and father, were ineligible for the throne becuase of the Pauline Laws. The matter of succession had been of paramount concern to the Imperial Couple. However, Alexei had hemophilia inherited from Alexandra's family, meaning a simple nose bleed could kill him and leave the throne to Mikhail, who was childless at the time. After him the throne would pass to Nicholas's uncle Grand Duke Vladimir and his ambitious wife Maria Pavlovna. Alix disliked both intensely, and was determined to have her son succeed her "darling boysy dear". The entire family was centered on this youngest child, nicknamed "Baby", "Treasure" and "Baby Tsar" by Nicholas and Alexandra.
Although Nicholas and Alexandra's family life was idyllic behind the walls of the palace,they did not prove to be as able rulers as parents. Nicholas was ill-prepared to rule Russia in 1894 at the age of only 26, and his ill thought out convictions and demanding wife's poor advice would fail to help in the 22 years of his reign. In 1905, Revolution occured in St. Petersburg, when angry workers marched to the Winter Palace for an audience with the Tsar, but instead were fired upon by guards. Nicholas was able to keep his throne, but was forced to grant a constitution and parliament later that year. The Duma proved to be highly ineffective for the next twelve years. Minister Peter Stolypin, a more liberal member, instated numerous reforms in Russia, but his premature death in 1911 ended this improvement. Historians beleive his path could have diverted the revolution that would soon engulf the country.
For the next nine years, life on the surface in Russia went on as normal, though Russian society was increasingly growing weary of the Imperial family being cooped up in Tsarkoe Selo according to Alexandra's wishes. A close call to dynastic stability came in 1912, when Tsarevitch Alexei nearly died from a hemophilia attack. Alexandra contributed his recovery ot the "Mad Monk" Rasputin, an unkempt Siberian who had quickly recieved a notorius reputation among St. Petersburg society. Although detrimental to the Romanov image, Nicholas tolerated Rasputin becuase of his wife's insistence and becuase he kept his son alive. In 1913, the Romanovs, celebrated the 300th anniversary of thier rule in Russia, tracing the journey of the first Tsar, the 16 year old Mikhail Feodorovitch, from his home to Moscow.
In 1914, Russia, along with the other European powers, went to war. At first, Russians were patriotic and support for the Tsar surged. However, Russia was ill-equipped to fight Germany and Austria: thier infrastructure was inefficient, and by 1916 the army was running out of basic supplies and suffering high casualties. Worse, in 1915, Nicholas replaced his uncle Nicholas Nikolawevitch as Head of the Armed Forces, leaving Alexandra in charge in St. Petersburg. She was increasingly becoming influecned by Rasputin, and rapidly discharged ministers she disliked, often replacing them with incompetent men. The Russian people soon grew tired of thier ill-prepared monarchs and instead turned to the Revolutionaries.
In early 1917, a food riot broke out. Alexandra dismissed this, as she thought the the weather would be too cold to attract the peasants. The weather was warmer that day. In mid- March, Nicholas was forced to abdicate.
"At 4:45 I left Mogilev; a crowd that was greatly moved came to see me off. Four members of the Duma accompanied me. Went by way of Orsha and Vitebsk. The weather is cold and windy. It is hard, painful, and sad."
The family were now prisoners in thier own palace. The Provisional government kept them in the Alexander Palace until August, when they were moved to Tobolsk due to safety concerns. The Provisional Government proved no more successful than Nicholas in appeasing the Russians in the capital; Kerenksy's refusal to end Russian involvement in the war proved a death sentence for his government. In October, Lenin and the Bolsheviks ousted the unpoplar Kerenksy, forever changing the course of Russian history and sealing the fate of the Romanovs.
The Romanovs were later moved to Ekaterinburg. Nicholas, Alexandra, and Maria arrived first, then joined by Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia, and the hurt Alexei. They spent the first half of 1918 in relative peace and comfort. However, the Red Guards grew incresingly nervous as the White Army was fast approaching.
On the early morning of July 17, 1918, the family along with three loyal rettainers, were led into a small room, and then shot by an eleven man firing squad. They were then loaded into trucks and then dumped into a siberian lot, not officially discovered until 1991.
In 2000, Nicholas and his family were made palm bearers and saints by the Russian Orthodox Church. His image has been reassessed in Russia and a bit romanticized as many Russians are interested in learning about their last Tsar whose life was censored and locked away in the Romanov Archives in 1918, only to be unlocked again after Perestroika in a world far different from the one in which Nicholas lived in.
"Russia is a riddle, wrapped inside an enigma"- Winston Churchill
HOWEVER, in One Last Dance, the Bolshevik government never successfully came into power and Nicholas remains the Russian Czar, albeit with more constitutional restrictions. However, this fact is not very upsetting to Nicholas, as now he has greater freedom to spend time with his family (now more larger with the arrival of several beloved grandchildren) and help Russia rebuild as an increasingly popular figurehead.
Russia is on the path of stabiltity after devestation in WWI, not only due to a more competent government, but due to dynastic marriages. His oldest and youngest daughter, Olga and Anastasia are now the Crown Princesses of England and Belgium respectively. Even Marie, his third daughter who married a common soldier, has greater political significance as the next in line behind his only son, the Tsarevich Alexei.
Nicholas and his immediate family are in Brussels celebrating the birth of his newest grandson Phillipe.
The Romanovs - One Last Dance
My Reference Books:
Mashkas Tea Room
Alexei Nikolaevich Tsarevich
My Favorite Reads:
Your posts into the politics of the story are always fascinating to read.
Jul 24, 2019 12:55 pmMr.
Aug 12, 2016 11:32 amNicholas the Good
Nov 04, 2011 11:54 am