Tsarina Alexandra

Tsarina Alexandra

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Alexandra Fyodorovna, the daughter of Louis IV, the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt, was born in Germany on 6th June, 1872.

Alexandra, the grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, married Nicholas II, the Tsar of Russia, in October, 1894. Over the next few years she gave birth to four daughters and a son, Alexis.

Alexandra and Nicholas II disliked St. Petersburg. Considering it too modern, they moved the family residence in 1895 from Anichkov Palace to Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo, where they lived in seclusion.

In 1905 Alexandra met Gregory Rasputin, a monk who claimed he had healing powers. Alexis suffered from hemophilia (a disease whereby the blood does not clot if a wound occurs). When Alexis was taken seriously ill in 1908, Rasputin was called to the royal palace. He managed to stop the bleeding and from then on he became a member of the royal entourage.

Alexandra was a strong believer in the autocratic power of Tsardom and urged him to resist demands for political reform. This resulted in her becoming an unpopular person in Russia and this intensified during the First World War.

In September, 1915, Nicholas II assumed supreme command of the Russian Army fighting on the Eastern Front. As he spent most of his time at GHQ, Alexandra now took responsibility for domestic policy. Gregory Rasputin served as her adviser and over the next few months she dismissed ministers and their deputies in rapid succession.

Rumours began to circulate that Alexandra and Gregory Rasputin were leaders of a pro-German court group and were seeking a separate peace with the Central Powers in order to help the survival of the autocracy in Russia. Ariadna Tyrkova commented: "Throughout Russia, both at the front and at home, rumour grew ever louder concerning the pernicious influence exercised by the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, at whose side rose the sinister figure of Gregory Rasputin. This charlatan and hypnotist had wormed himself into the Tsar’s palace and gradually acquired a limitless power over the hysterical Empress, and through her over the Sovereign. Rasputin’s proximity to the Tsar’s family proved fatal to the dynasty, for no political criticism can harm the prestige of Tsars so effectually as the personal weakness, vice, or debasement of the members of a royal house. Rumours were current, up to now unrepudiated, but likewise unconfirmed, that the Germans were influencing Alexandra Feodorovna through the medium of Rasputin and Stürmer. Haughty and unapproachable, she lacked popularity, and was all the more readily suspected of almost anything, even of pro-Germanism, since the crowd is always ready to believe anything that tends to augment their suspicions."

Gregory Rasputin was also suspected of financial corruption and right-wing politicians believed that he was undermining the popularity of the regime. Felix Yusupov, the husband of the Tsar's niece, and Vladimir Purishkevich, a member of the Duma, formed a conspiracy to murder Rasputin. On 29th December, 1916, Rasputin was invited to Yusupov's home where he was given poisoned wine and cakes. When this did not kill him he was shot by Yusupov and Purishkevich and then dropped through a hole in the frozen canal outside the house.

As supreme command of the Russian Army the Tsar was linked him to the country's military failures and during 1917 there was a strong decline in support for Nicholas II in Russia. On 13th July, 1917, the Russian Army High Command recommended that Nicholas abdicated. Two days later the Tsar renounced the throne.

The Tsar and his immediate family were arrested and negotiations began to find a place of overseas exile. P. N. Milyukov persuaded David Lloyd George, to offer the family political asylum in Britain. However, King George V, who feared that the presence of Nicholas would endanger his own throne, forced Lloyd George to withdraw the offer.

Nicholas and his family were moved to the remote Siberian city of Ekaterinburg where he was held captive by a group of Bolsheviks. Alexandra Fyodorovna, her husband and children, were executed on 16th July 1918.

Our souls are fighting for the right against the evil. You are proving yourself the Autocrat without which Russia cannot exist. God anointed you in your coronation and God, who is always near you, will save your country and throne through your firmness.

Profiting by the Tsar's arrival at Tsarskoe I asked for an audience and was received by him on March 8th. "I must tell Your Majesty that this cannot continue much longer. No one opens your eyes to the true role which this man (Rasputin) is playing. His presence in Your Majesty's Court undermines confidence in the Supreme Power and may have an evil effect on the fate of the dynasty and turn the hearts of the people from their Emperor". My report did some good. On March 11th an order was issued sending Rasputin to Tobolsk; but a few days later, at the demand of the Empress, the order was cancelled.

The Tsarina's blind faith in Rasputin led her to seek his counsel not only in personal matters but also on questions of state policy. General Alekseyev, held in high esteem by Nicholas II, tried to talk to the Tsarina about Rasputin, but only succeeded in making an implacable enemy of her. General Alexseyev told me later about his profound concern on learning that a secret map of military operations had found its way into the Tsarina's hands. But like many others, he was powerless to take any action.

On January 19, Goremykin was replaced by Sturmer, an extreme reactionary who hated the very idea of any form of popular representation or local self-government. Even more important, he was undoubtedly a believer in the need for an immediate cessation of the war with Germany.

During his first few months in office, Sturmer was also Minister of Interior, but the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs was still held by Sazonov, who firmly advocated honouring the alliance with Britain and France and carrying on the war to the bitter end, and who recognized the Cabinet's obligation to pursue a policy in tune with the sentiments of the majority in the Duma.

On August 9, however, Sazonov was suddenly dismissed. His portfolio was taken over by Sturmer, and on September 16, Protopopov was appointed acting Minister of the Interior. The official government of the Russian Empire was now entirely in the hands of the Tsarina and her advisers.

Nicholas II remained deaf to these demands, treating them as an insolent infringement of his prerogative as an autocrat. His tenacity augmented the opposition. Throughout Russia, both at the front and at home, rumour grew ever louder concerning the pernicious influence exercised by the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, at whose side rose the sinister figure of Gregory Rasputin. Haughty and unapproachable, she lacked popularity, and was all the more readily suspected of almost anything, even of pro-Germanism, since the crowd is always ready to believe anything that tends to augment their suspicions.

The unrest grows; even the monarchist principle is beginning to totter; and those who defend the idea that Russia cannot exist without a Tsar lose the ground under their feet, since the facts of disorganization and lawlessness are manifest. A situation like this cannot last long. I repeat once more - it is impossible to rule the country without paying attention to the voice of the people, without meeting their needs, without a willingness to admit that the people themselves understand their own needs.

The strikers and rioters in the city are now in a more defiant mood than ever. The disturbances are created by hoodlums. Youngsters and girls are running around shouting they have no bread; they do this just to create some excitement. If the weather were cold they would all probably be staying at home. But the thing will pass and quiet down, providing the Duma behaves. The worst of the speeches are not reported in the papers, but I think that for speaking against the dynasty there should be immediate and severe punishment.

The whole trouble comes from these idlers, well-dressed people, wounded soldiers, high-school girls, etc. who are inciting others. Lily spoke to some cab-drivers to find out things. They told her that the students came to them and told them if they appeared in the streets in the morning, they should be shot to death. What corrupt minds! Of course the cabdrivers and the motormen are now on strike. But they say that it is all different from 1905, because they all worship you and only want bread.

The Tsar entered the hall. After bowing to everybody, he made a short speech. He said that the welfare of his country, the necessity for putting an end to the Revolution and preventing the horrors of civil war, and of directing all the efforts of the State to the continuation of the struggle with the foe at the front, had determined him to abdicate in favour of his brother, the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich.

I quite understand your action, my hero. I know that you could not have signed anything that was contrary to your oath given at the coronation. We understand each other perfectly without words, and I swear, upon my life, that we shall see you again on the throne, raised there once more by your people, and your army, for the glory of your reign. You saved the empire for your son and the country, as well as your sacred purity, and you shall be crowned by God himself on earth in your own hand.

Lately the approach of the Czechoslovak bands seriously threatened the capital of the Red Urals, Ekaterinburg. In view of this the presidium of the Ural Territorial Soviet decided to shoot Nicholas Romanov, which was done on July 16. The wife and son of Nicholas Romanov were sent to a safe place. The All-Russian Soviet Executive Committee, through its presidium, recognizes as correct the decisions of the Ural Territorial Soviet.

Who's Who - Tsarina Alexandra

A tragic if not sympathetic figure, the Tsarina Alexandra (1872-1918) suffered a tragic life that ended with the murder of both her and her family at the hands of the Bolsheviks in July 1918.

Born on 6 June 1872 in Darmstadt, Germany, Alexandra was a granddaughter of Britain's Queen Victoria and the daughter of Louis IV, the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt.

Orphaned at the age of six she married Tsar Nicholas II in 1894 and moved to Russia - a country she greatly disliked - there giving birth to four daughters before giving the Tsar a son, Alexis. Tragically her new-born son proved to suffer from haemophilia.

The Tsarina's anxious concern for her son's illness led her to embrace Rasputin, a debauched 'holy man' who proved able to stem Alexis' loss of blood (it has been suggested through hypnosis).

Already unpopular at court - where she firmly held sway over her husband - Alexandra's unswerving loyalty to Rasputin (whom she believed had been sent by God to save the Russian throne) led her to continually excuse his notorious excesses, and further damaged her reputation both at court and in the public at large (whom she gave every indication of despising).

A fanatical believer in Russian Orthodoxy and a firm believer in the principles of autocratic rule, Alexandra lost no opportunity in asserting her husband's right to lead his country. She routinely dismissed her husband's political advisers, even those who were both competent and remained loyal to the Tsar.

With the Tsarina having helped to engineer the dismissal of Grand Duke Nikolai - the Tsar's uncle - from his position as Commander in Chief of the army, the Tsar subsequently announced his intention (against all advice) to take personal command of his armed forces.

Her husband having left for the front in August 1915, the Tsarina's conduct in determining policy became ever more arbitrary and wanting in political judgement. Vindictive and jealous, Alexandra continued to dismiss from office anyone she deemed disloyal to the Tsar, fairly or otherwise.

In an attempt to halt the seemingly endless stream of scandal emanating from the court, a group of conspirators led by Prince Felix Yusupov resolved to arrange Rasputin's murder, which consequently took place on 16 December 1916.

Nevertheless it was too late to recover any semblance of credibility let alone popularity for the monarchy, particularly given that the Tsar's ill-advised gamble in publicly associating himself so closely with the success of his army had backfired, the latter continuing to perform badly in the field.

Unfounded rumours abounded of the Tsarina's collaboration with Germany (along with Prime Minister Sturmer), further cementing Alexandra's deep unpopularity in the country.

She was nevertheless surprised by the February Revolution. She joined her family (including the Tsar) in internal exile and was eventually executed, shot to death, by the Bolsheviks on the night of 16/17 July 1918 at Yekaterinburg. She was 46.

Click here to view footage of the Tsar and Tsarina filmed prior to the outbreak of war in 1914

Saturday, 22 August, 2009 Michael Duffy

"Plugstreet" was British slang to describe the Belgian village of Ploegsteert.

- Did you know?

Alexandra Feodorovna (Alix of Hesse), is not just remembered as the last Tsarina, but also one of the most hated. To the people of Russia she was nothing they wanted in a Tsarina. The backlashed she faced from her adopted country began the moment she step on Russian land. In their eyes everything she did was wrong.

When I began asking this, I like many, believe it was all because she was German. Now that did play a part but Maria Feodorovna was very loved by Russia and she was Danish.

Here are a few reasons Russia hated Alexandra:

Unlike her mother-in-law, Alexandra was not extroverted, confident, and sociable. Instead she was introverted, awkward, and shy.

Alexandra hated to go out in the public, and wanted no part in public affairs. Unlike her mother-in-law and other Tsarinas before Alexandra.

Alexandra&rsquos childhood played a part in her character, and there is sadness to her childhood. When she was six years old her mother and baby sister died. After their deaths, her motherly figure was her grandmother Queen Victoria.

Though Victoria, in her own way, loved her children and grandchildren she was not like most grandmothers. In fact, most would say she was not a good one either. Now to her own children, she was far from a good mother, but to her grandchildren she showed much love, and Alexandra was her favorite. Queen Victoria had no issue letting others know this also.

She was also raised very reserved and modest, until the royals in Russia. The royals of Russia were very extravagant and Alexandra was raised modest and humble.

Her shyness did not help either, because it made people believe she was snooty. When in fact, that was far from the truth.

Russia wanted a Tsarina that would sociable, devoted to the country, and took part in ruling as the wife of the leader.

Alexandra, did not fit that, and when she did take part in ruling the court, she listened to Rasputin. One of the most hated man in the Russian court and all of Russia.

When Nicholas and Alexandra became engaged their plan was for Alexandra to take time in learning the ways of Russia.

The country that Alexandra grew up in was nothing like Russia. Learning the Russian way of life, how their government worked, and progress of learning to be a Tsarina takes times. The plan was for her to learn all of that before Nicholas took the throne.

However, that did not happen. Tsar Alexander III died unexpectedly in 1894, and even Nicholas himself was forced far to soon into leadership.

Unlike the original plan, when Alexandra became Tsarina she was completely unready. She knew hardly nothing about Russian lifestyle, her Russian and French was very poor, and she knew nothing about Russian government.

So she was expected to be ready for something, she had little or no time to prepare for. A Russia showed her little to no sympathy for this.

Though a lot of the hatred Alexandra faced was unfair, it should be noted that&hellipshe never really went out of her way to change people&rsquos view of her.
Now, yes there would have been people that no matter what she did they still never would have liked her.

However, Alexandra was one of those people that if she messed up her way of handling it was to run from it. Many people claim that if she messed up on something, she would get embarrassed, mortified, claim she had a headache and rush to her room.

Because of that, instead of pushing herself to make people stop hating, she retreated herself more. As if she just expected the hate and saw no point of trying.

When it comes to the story of Alexandra, you cannot tell it without including her devotion and obsession for Rasputin.

Some would say obsession is an understatement of how she felt about him. The people of Russia believed that Rasputin was involved with the family because he had hypnotized the Tsar and seduced Alexandra.

The people of Russia did not know Rasputin was involved with the family to help Alexei. That is because the people of Russia did not even know that Alexei had hemophilia.

Her relationship with Rasputin started off as simple, became a friendship, and then Alexandra was his most devoted follower and supporter.

Anyone who spoke one thing against Rasputin paid a price, because in her mind he was a saint. Almost as if he could do no wrong. Her obsession was so strong that she, no lie, once sent fruit Rasputin had bitten to Nicholas for good luck.

The people of Russia began to believe she was a German spy that was trying to destroy Russia and that Rasputin was the master mind behind it. The relationship between the two ended with Rasputin&rsquos murder.

Tsarina Alexandra, was murdered along with her husband, children, and loyal friends in July 17, 1918.

Though she is known in history as the last and possibly most hated Tsarina. Russia&rsquos view on her today has changed somewhat.

In Russia, people view her in a more positive way, and she is even a Saint in the Russian Orthodox Church.

The personal jewellery of the last Tsarina, Alexandra Feodorovna

The personal jewellery of the last Tsarina of Russia, Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918) provides a living, tangible timeline of her private life, quite apart from the glittering jewels which she would have worn as a Romanov bride. Inevitably though, the public life and the private sphere overlapped into jewellery, where Alexandra would receive magnificent personal gifts from the Tsar, such as the jewel-studded engraved eggs crafted by the St. Petersburg goldsmith, Peter Carl Faberge, to mark the celebration of Easter in the Russian Orthodox church calendar. I am keen to discover how Alexandra’s personal jewellery uniquely reflected events of emotional significance in her life and how this was present from the beginning, literally until the end.

As a child, there were family presents, of course one of her teeth was made into a lily-of-the-valley brooch for her grandmother, Queen Victoria, still in the Royal Collection. This is yet another example of the sentimental jewellery of the Victorian age. Queen Victoria gave her a watch, presumably for her tenth birthday, because Alexandra’s thank-you letter to the Queen is dated 10 June 1882 (Elisabeth Heresch, Alexandra, Tragik und Ende der letzten Zarin, 28).

As Princess Alix of Hesse, Alexandra had, of course, received items of jewellery as personal gifts her maternal English grandmother, Queen Victoria gave her a memorial bracelet containing a picture of her father, Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse, who died in 1892, an event which Alexandra’s biographer, Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden described as ‘perhaps the greatest sorrow of Princess Alix’s life’ (Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden, The Life & Tragedy of Alexandra Feodorovna, 29). She also predictably, gave jewellery as personal gifts, to close friends, brooches being a particularly favoured choice.

Alexandra replied in a thank you letter to Queen Victoria: ‘My own darling Grandmama, I send you my most loving and heartfelt thanks for the lovely bracelet with my beloved Papa’s head – nothing could have given me greater pleasure…’ (Heresch, Alexandra, 68) and tellingly, Alexandra continued: ‘I shall wear it constantly…’ The latter is important, I think, because it shows that jewellery was meant to ‘carry around’ an association with the person concerned, similarly to how Queen Victoria would, remarkably, take out a locket from her corsage when on holiday in Italy. Then she opened and held it up as she sat in the carriage – the locket contained an image of Prince Albert, which she held up so that he might see the repair work which had been done on the ‘recently restored’ Duomo – a story related by the Hon. George Peel to Sir Harold Nicholson, some sixty years after the event (Christopher Hibbert, Queen Victoria, 434-5). Photographs are in some cases, the best way to see the kind of jewellery Alexandra was wearing as a child we can see a sort of memorial locket in the photographs made of Alexandra after the death of her mother, Grand Duchess Alice of Hesse. Princess Irene, her elder sister, is also wearing one.

She was given two bracelets by her uncle, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany a charming photograph in the Royal Photograph Collection shows the Prince with his arm affectionately around his young niece, aged five or six. These bracelets had a life of their own in fact. It is almost certainly these which Alix wore when she went to take her cure at Harrogate in May 1894, a month after her engagement. She wrote to her fiancé the Tsarevich Nicholas: ‘I had my first sulphur bath this morning, it did not smell lovely, and made my silver bracelet, which I never take off quite black, but that one can clean with the powder one uses for cleaning up one’s silver things…’ (Andrei Maylunas & Sergei Mironenko, A Lifelong Passion, 67). These bracelets may be those which show on the x-ray made of the Tsarina’s hand, today kept at the Harvard Medical Library in the Frances A. Countway Library of Medicine.

Poignantly, in her last diary for 1918, amongst the last entries for the month in which she would be executed in the Ipatiev House (‘of Special Purpose’) at Ekaterinburg, we read for 4 July: ‘The Commandant and his young assistant made us show all our jewels we had on, and the younger one noted all down and then they were taken from us… they left me only two bracelets from Uncle Leopold which I cannot take off, and left each of the children the bracelets we gave them, and which cannot be slipped off…’ (Buxhoeveden, 344).

These must have remained on Alexandra’s wrist then, until the very end when she wrote her final entry for 16 July 1918 and closed with the words that never found any continuance: ’10 ½ to bed – 15 degrees of heat…’ They must similarly have been worn by her when preparing what she called ‘medicines’ – when the jewels she and her daughters owned were hand sewn into their corsets for safekeeping – against which horrifyingly, the bullets appear to have ricocheted.

Jewellery formed an integral part of Alexandra and Nicholas’ courtship and engagement. They had scratched their names into the windowpanes at Peterhof in 1884 – when the Hessian princess came to Russia for the wedding of her elder sister, Princess Elisabeth ‘Ella’ to Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich. Alexandra wrote: ‘Our windowpanes’ (Maylunas & Mironenko, 71) and ten years earlier, Nicholas had written: ‘Alix and I wrote our names on the rear window of the Italian house (we love each other). Their names are similarly scratched – presumably with a ring – into a window at the Hessian hunting lodge of Wolfsgarten.

Alexandra had made her first trip to Russia aged twelve-years-old for Ella’s wedding. At some point during this trip, Nicholas pressed a small brooch into Alexandra’s hand – she accepted his gift, but later gave it back to Nicholas at a party sometime before her departure for Germany (Greg King, The Last Empress, 30). Perhaps because of this, Alexandra referred to Nicholas in heavily-coded private correspondence with the close friend of her youth, Toni Becker-Bracht, as the ‘Broschenmensch’ [literally, ‘The Brooch Person’] (Lotte-Hofmann-Kuhnt, Briefe der Zarin Alexandra von Russland an ihre Jugendfreundin Toni Becker-Bracht). After the first trip to Russia, sketches of ladies in grand dresses filled her notebook back in Darmstadt there is even a pencil sketch of a Russian lady in a tiara and a wedding dress. Although equally, this could be in memory of her elder sister Ella’s wedding. Alexandra’s diary for 1889 records that she wore ‘white diamonds’ for a ball at the Winter Palace for her winter visit to St. Petersburg (Maylunas & Mironenko, 15).

As Princess of Hesse, we see Alexandra wearing modest jewellery for studio photographs, more than several bracelets, a string of pearls and a half-moon in the hair, which appears on various occasions and was fashionable at the time – the Viennese mistress of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, Baroness Mary Vetsera wore one for formal photographs. She wore an emerald necklace for the Renaissance ball given at Darmstadt in 1891, as well as emeralds in her hair (King, 38-9). Her first ‘coming out’ ball aged seventeen at Darmstadt, seems to have been the occasion for a mere pearl necklace and bracelets, as the studio photograph indicates. Photographs for a themed ball at Darmstadt also show a star in the hair, for 1887.

For their engagement, Nicholas gave Alix many items of personal jewellery, which she treasured as she did all things from this blissfully happy period in their new lives together, less than six months later ended forever by the unexpected death of Tsar Alexander III at Livadia.

Just as a brooch had been pressed back into his hand at that party in Russia back in 1884, so now Nicholas showered the fiancé whom he had dreamed of one-day marrying (as he wrote in his journal for December 1891) with jewels. Alexandra received a pink pearl ring as an engagement ring, a chain bracelet with a large emerald and a sapphire and diamond brooch, re-identified through recent research. The chain bracelet was a gift to Alexandra which Nicholas gave to her when visiting England in the summer of 1894 as the guest of Queen Victoria as was a necklace of pink pearls (Buxhoeveden, 38). Queen Victoria saw all these presents and Alexandra recalled how the Queen had said to her: ‘Now, do not get too proud, Alix’ (Quoted in Ibid, 38).

The most fabulous engagement present was a sautoir of pearls from her future father-in-law, Tsar Alexander III, hand-crafted by Faberge and worth 250,000 roubles (Alexander Bokhanov, The Romanovs, Love Power and Tragedy, 72). Alexandra wrote to her future mother-in-law, Empress Marie Feodorovna: ‘How can I thank you and dear Uncle enough for the magnificent present you were so awfully kind as to send me. It is much too beautiful for me! It gave me quite a shock when I opened up the case – saw those beautiful stones…’ (Maylunas & Mironenko, 55).

Nicholas sent Alexandra a bracelet for her birthday whilst she was taking her cure in Yorkshire, a month after their engagement: ‘And your glorious bracelet, you naughty monkey, how could you dare to give me such a magnificent thing…’ (Ibid, 70).

When Tsarevich Nicholas had visited England as a guest of Queen Victoria in the summer of 1894, he accompanied Alexandra and the Queen to Osborne before sailing back to Russia. When he departed, Alexandra was left holding his farewell present in her hand – it was a diamond brooch, on which had been engraved the words: ‘Nicky’s Goodbye Tear’ (Richard Hough, Louis and Victoria, 154 King, 71). Alexandra wrote to Nicholas: ‘How you do spoil me – there you have gone and given me that glorious brooch with pearl drops, a thing I have always longed for, but still much too good for me. I felt quite shy wearing it tonight…’ (Maylunas & Mironenko, 81). It was almost as if Nicholas wanted to press the brooch which had been returned to him, back into Alexandra’s hand again – permanently.

As a Romanov bride, Alexandra would, of course, wear fabulous jewellery, as had her elder sister Ella at her wedding in 1884, when Ella’s diamond earrings had been so heavy that they had to be supported by wires, which during the long wedding ceremony, cut deep into her skin (Christopher Warwick, Ella, Princess, Saint and Martyr, 112). When it came to Alexandra’s turn – on 26 November 1894 – she wore ‘numerous diamond ornaments’ (Buxhoeveden, 43) and the splendid bridal circlet, topped with diamonds as a crown, placed on her head by the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna. The glittering jewellery Alexandra wore as an imperial bride is well captured in the flickering candlelight of Laurits Tuxen’s wedding portrait, recording the event, in the imperial church of the Winter Palace.

Queen Victoria sent Alexandra a pendant containing her portrait and a ring, which she wore on the wedding day itself. Alexandra wrote to the Queen: ‘the lovely ring I wore for the Wedding and ever since, and when I look at it I have to think of the beloved giver…’ (Maylunas & Mironenko, 112).

Alexandra would also, of course, give jewellery as personal presents to her close friends, brooches being a particular favourite jewelled gifts also arrived from Imperial Russia for her various godchildren, including gold pins (Elizabeth Jane Timms, Princess Alix of Hesse’s Visit to Harrogate, in Royalty Digest Quarterly 2018/1). As Tsarina, ropes of pearls seem to have been a favourite choice.

Poignantly, like the bracelets which she could never take off and the bracelets belonging to the imperial children, the engagement ring of Tsar Nicholas II could also not be removed when the Commandant, Yurovsky, demanded to see the jewels that the Russian Imperial Family had on, in Ipatiev House at Ekaterinburg. We know this from Alexandra’s diary entry for 4 July 1918: ‘also N’s engagement ring, which he could not take off…’ (Buxhoeveden, 344). Poignantly, a single diamond earring was recovered following the murder of the Russian imperial family, which belonged to Alexandra.

Even the tiny book of their telegraphs in cypher at the time of their engagement had come with them to the Ipatiev House. It was found afterwards. Baroness Buxhoeveden remembered: ‘This little book was one of the tragic mementoes found in the house at Ekaterinburg. The Empress treasured so deeply every souvenir of that time that even in her imprisonment, she had it with her…’ (Buxhoeveden, 39). In their wartime correspondence, the period of their engagement was remembered with personal gifts, though not always jewellery – Alexandra sent Nicholas an icon for the anniversary of the engagement in 1915. Nicholas sent a cross: ‘You do spoil me, I never for a second imagined you would think of giving me anything. How lovely it is! Shall wear it to-day…’ (ed. Joseph Fuhrmann, The Complete Wartime Correspondence of Tsar Nicholas and Empress Alexandra, 108).

Like so much with Alexandra, regardless of time or distance, the association remained the same. Although Russia was in its second year of the First World War, those lines could have been written during the period of their engagement, back in 1894.

Similarly, the following year, Alexandra wore her personal jewellery again, on the anniversary of their engagement. She wrote to Nicholas on 8 April 1916: ‘That dear brooch will be worn to-day… I feel still your grey suit, the smell of it by the window in the Coburg Schloss…’ (Ibid, 446).

Although it was twenty-two years on, Alexandra was using her personal jewellery to physically connect her with the day of her engagement.

Seduced By History

In July 1904, the cannons of the Peter and Paul fortress fired 300 times to announce that, after four daughters, Alexandra had given birth to a son.   Russia had a Tsarevich.   The imperial couple was overjoyed but, within six short weeks, that joy turned to pain.  Something was wrong.   The slightest bump, the smallest pinch and the baby’s skin bruised.   The bruises did not heal.   The child cried with pain and neither his mother nor his doctors could offer him relief.   Alexei was a hemophiliac.  

For Alexandra, the news was devastating.   She’d already lost a brother and uncle to the disease and she knew what the future held.   Her beautiful boy had almost no chance of surviving to adulthood and, even if he did, he’d never be live or play like a normal child.   There was nothing c onventional medicine could do.  

Alexandra looked elsewhere.  In 1905, friends introduced her and her husband to Rasputin.   N either priest nor monk, the uneducated peasant had already earned a repuation as a starets or spiritual teacher.  He was also known as a healer and prophet.   Did he provide relief to the young Tsarevich?  His worst critics admit he did.   He also helped the Tsarina deal with her unbearable guilt and suffering--but that help came at a price.

Rasputin's gifts were offset by his drinking and womanizing.   Scandal was his constant companion.  As his power grew, so did his faults, his behavior becoming increasingly outrageous.  Nicholas ignored it—Alexandra denied it—but the scandal was always there.   And the stink of it threatened the autocracy.  Many believed there was more to the relationship between Alexandra and Rasputin than the sharing of spiritual comfort.   

The situation became especially ugly in 1910 and 1911 when Rasputin seduced a woman serving as nurse to the Imperial children.   The governess, on hearing the story, objected to Rasputin’s familiarity with the Grand Duchesses.   She insisted the Tsarina ban him from the girls’ bedrooms.   The Tsarina refused.  The nurse and governess were dismissed.   Rasputin was now free to come and go as he pleased and the rumors that spread through St. Petersburg now included the young Grand Duchesses.

Nicholas was ineffective in dealing with Rasputin.   Unwilling to upset his wife, he ignored police reports and the advice of friends.  He even ignored photographs.  After a night's carousing, a drunk and naked Rasputin had been photographed surrounded by a circle of nude women.   Blackmailers told Rasputin he had a choice.  L eave St. Petersburg or the pictures would be given to the Tsar.   Rasputin took the photos to Nicholas himself, saying he’d sinned and begging for forgiveness.   Nicholas forgave him.   But the behavior continued.

In 1914, the first attempt was made on Rasputin’s life.   A former prostitute, disfigured by syphilis, disguised herself as a beggar woman and followed Rasputin to his home in Siberia.   She asked him for money and, when he stopped to help her, she stabbed him, nearly killing him.   Rasputin recovered but his drinking increased.      

In 1915, Rasputin tried to seduce a woman at the famous Yar restaurant in Moscow.   When the  lady refused his efforts a drunken,  o utraged Rasputin went berserk.  He smashed the furniture and mirrors in the private dining room, shouting all the while about his relationship with the ‘old woman,’ the Tsarina, and bragging how he did “with her what I want!”   He exposed himself and was finally dragged away by police, fighting and hollering the Tsar would protect him and threatening to get even.  The event was witnessed--and publicized--by a journalist who was present.   

Alexandra had failings but being Rasputin’s lover was not one of them.  Unfortunately, letters she’d written to Rasputin convinced people otherwise.   The Tsarina’s flowery language was deliberately misinterpreted and pornographic caricatures of the Tsarina and Rasputin began to circulate.

All this occurred at a time when Russia was experiencing defeats at the front and serious problems at home.   With Nicholas taking over command of the armies, Alexandra took a more active role in the government and her decisions were guided by Rasputin.   It was a recipe for disaster .  

In November 1916, Vladimir Purishkevich, a conservative member of the Duma, Russia’s parliament, gave a speech in in which he spoke of spoke of the “filthy, depraved, corrupt peasant” the Tsarina all but worshipped.   Rasputin was seen to be at the center of the ‘Dark Forces’ destroying the country.  

In less than a month, Purishkevich joined with Prince Felix Yusopov, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, and a few other conspirators.   Together, they would plot the infamous and successful assassination of the starets.  

Rasputin was murdered on December 29, 1916.  His assassins hoped Rasputin's death would turn things around but it was already too late.   

For his part, Rasputin expected assassination.  He'd allegedly warned Nicholas and Alexandra that if his death came at the hands of the nobility, neither they nor their dynasty would last more than two years.  In that, he was correct.  Nicholas abdicated the throne on March 15, 1917.  He, his wife and five children were murdered in July 1918.  

The 300 year old dynasty had come to an end.  

(All dates are new style.   The quotes are from Brian Moynahan’s biography, Rasputin: The Saint Who Sinned. The photo is from wikimedia.)

Alexandra Feodorovna and WWI.

It must have seemed as if all the bad luck in the world came to be heaped around Alexandra when war broke out between the Russian Empire and the German Empire. Alexandra was already distrusted by the Romanov family and the Russian people because she was a German and her cousin Wilhelm II was the German emperor. Ironically she is said to have despised him but her obvious dislike of him did nothing to quell the stirring of even greater animosity in Russia towards her.

Nicholas alone seems to have stood by Alexandra and although described as a weak ruler he surely showed strength when he left for the front line to command his troops leaving Alexandra in charge as Regent.

This move was in one stroke the worst thing that could have happened for Russia and its imperial household. With no experience at all in politics Alexandra managed to wreck havoc within government. Appointing and sacking ministers at will, ably led by the still constant Rasputin, troops and the wider population were left exposed to political indecision and ultimately ensuring that all were inadequately supplied with food, shelter and munitions. It was a disaster and was surely the turning point for the all the horror that would unravel towards the end of the war.

Many tried to stem the open wound and have Rasputin removed from the household once and for all and for Alexandra to be replaced as Regent but neither Alexandra nor Nicholas would give way. Coups were planned to topple Nicholas. Perhaps the most incredible and surely shows just how desperate things had become, was the proposed coup by Nicholas’ mother, Maria Feodorovna, in which she planned to remove her son from the throne and place herself upon it. The gravity of the situation within the Romanov household cannot be underestimated. Her plan, it is said was uncovered and Nicholas forced his mother to leave St Petersburg, which she did and never returned. How very different the outcome for the family might have been if Maria had been successful. How desperate the situation must have become for her to even contemplate such a move?

  • Post author: Rebecca
  • Post published: January 19, 2020
  • Post category: Victorian Era
  • Post comments: 0 Comments

Alexandra Feodorovna. Empress of Russia as the spouse of Nicholas II—the last ruler of the Russian Empire—from their marriage on 26 November 1894 until his forced abdication on 15 March 1917. Originally Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine at birth, she was given the name and patronymic Alexandra Feodorovna upon being received into the Russian Orthodox Church and—having been killed along with her immediate family while in Bolshevik captivity in 1918—was canonized in 2000 as Saint Alexandra the Passion Bearer. A granddaughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, Alexandra was, like her grandmother, one of the most famous royal carriers of the haemophilia disease.

Alexandra Feodorovna
Her Grand Ducal Highness Princess of Hesse and by Rhine
Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess of Russia
Her Imperial Majesty The Empress of All the Russias
Czarina Alexandra Feodorovna Romanova
Saint Alexandra the Passion Bearer

6 June 1872
New Palace, Darmstadt,
Grand Duchy of Hesse, German Empire

17 July 1918 (aged 46)
Ipatiev House, Yekaterinburg,
Russian SFSR

17 July 1998
Peter and Paul Cathedral,
Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation

Nicholas II of Russia

1 Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna

2 Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna

3 Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna

4 Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna

5 Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich

In addition to her five live-born children,
Alexandra suffered a miscarriage in the
summer of 1896, presumably because she
became physically exhausted during her
coronation festivities, and she had a
phantom pregnancy in August 1902.

Full name
English: Alice Victoria Helena Louise Beatrice
German: Alix Viktoria Helene Luise Beatrix
Russian: Alexandra Feodorovna Romanova

Louis IV
Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine

Princess Alice
of the United Kingdom

Alexandra was born on 6 June 1872 at the New Palace in Darmstadt as Princess Alix Viktoria Helene Luise Beatrix of Hesse and by Rhine, a Grand Duchy that was then part of the German Empire. She was the sixth child and fourth daughter among the seven children of Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse, and his first wife, Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, the second daughter of Queen Victoria and Albert, Prince Consort. Alix was baptized on 1 July 1872 (her parents’ tenth wedding anniversary) according to the rites of the Lutheran Church and given the names of her mother and of her mother’s four sisters, some of which were transliterated into German. Her mother gave her the nickname of “Sunny”, due to her cheerful disposition, a practice later picked up by her husband. Her British relatives gave her the nickname of “Alicky” in order to distinguish her from her aunt by marriage, the Princess of Wales, who while having the given name Alexandra, was known within the family as Alix.

Her godparents were the Prince and Princess of Wales (her maternal uncle and aunt), Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom (her maternal aunt), the Duchess of Cambridge (her great-grandaunt), the Tsesarevich and Tsesarevna of Russia, and Princess Anna of Prussia. In November 1878, diphtheria swept through the House of Hesse Alix, her three sisters, her brother Ernst (“Ernie”), and their father fell ill. Elisabeth (“Ella”), Alix’s older sister, had been sent to visit her paternal grandmother, and thus escaped the outbreak. Alix’s mother Alice tended to the children herself, rather than abandon them to doctors. Alice herself soon fell ill and died on the 17th anniversary of her father’s death, 14 December 1878, when Alix was only six years old. Alix, Ernst and her sisters Victoria and Irene survived the epidemic, but Marie did not. After her mother and her sister’s death, Alix grew from a happy and cheerful girl into one who was reserved and withdrawn.

Alix and her surviving siblings grew close to their British cousins, spending holidays with their grandmother Queen Victoria. Along with her sister, Princess Irene, Alix was a bridesmaid at the 1885 wedding of her godmother and maternal aunt, Princess Beatrice to Prince Henry of Battenberg, and was also present at her grandmother’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1887. Alix was said to be Queen Victoria’s favourite granddaughter. Despite being renowned as beautiful in her youth, Alix was married relatively late for her rank in her era. Though Queen Victoria had intended for Alix to be Britain’s future queen, she relented, accepting Alix’s objections as indicative of her strength of character.

Nicholas and Alix had first met in 1884 at the wedding of Nicholas’s Uncle Sergei to Alix’s sister Elizabeth. When Alix returned to Russia in 1889, they fell in love. They were related to each other via several different lines of European royalty.

Nicholas wrote in his diary…

Initially Nicholas’s father, Tsar Alexander III, refused the prospect of marriage. Alexander and his wife, both vehemently anti-German, had no intention of permitting a match with Princess Alix and the Tsesarevich. Although Alix was his godchild, it was generally known that Alexander III was angling for a bigger catch for his son, someone like Princess Hélène, daughter of Philippe, Comte de Paris, pretender to the throne of France. Fortunately for Nicholas, Hélène also resisted, as she was Roman Catholic and her father refused to allow her to convert to Russian Orthodoxy. The tsar, despite his anti-German sentiments, then sent emissaries to Princess Margaret of Prussia, sister of German Emperor Wilhelm II, who—like Alix—was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Nicholas flatly declared that he would rather become a monk than marry the plain and boring Margaret, who in turn stated that she was unwilling to give up her Protestant religion to become Russian Orthodox. As long as he was well, Alexander ignored his son’s demands, only relenting when his health began to fail in 1894.

At first, Alix was troubled by the requirement that she renounce her Lutheran faith and become Orthodox. Nicholas proposed to Alix, and she rejected him on the grounds of her refusal to convert to Orthodoxy. However, after pressure from the Kaiser, who had told her that it was her duty to marry Nicholas, and her sister Elisabeth, who tried to point out the similarities between Lutheranism and Russian Orthodoxy, she accepted Nicholas’s second proposal. Following the engagement, Alix returned to England with her grandmother. In June, Nicholas travelled to England to visit her, bringing with him his father’s personal priest, Father Yanishev, who was to give her religious instruction. Along with visiting Alix and the Queen, Nicholas’s visit coincided with the birth and christening of the eldest son of Nicholas and Alix’s mutual cousin, Prince George, Duke of York and his wife, Mary of Teck, and both of them were named as godparents of the boy, who would reign briefly as King Edward VIII in 1936. Alexander III died in the early afternoon of 1 November 1894, leaving Tsesarevich Nicholas the new Emperor of Russia. The following day, Alix was received into the Russian Orthodox Church as “the truly believing Grand Duchess Alexandra Feodorovna”. Alix apparently expressed a wish to take the name Catherine, but on Nicholas’s suggestion, she took the name Alexandra.

The wedding of Aliland Nicholas occurred on November 26 [O.S. November 14] 1894 at the Grand Church of the Winter Palace. Invitations had been sent out, along with a dress code: Russian gentlemen were to wear full regimental dress, bureaucrats were to wear the appropriate uniforms as stipulated in Peter the Great’s Great Table of Ranks Russian ladies were to come in full court dress, foreign women in evening gowns, with full jewels and awards. At the Winter Palace, Alexandra was dressed in her wedding gown and imperial mantle. Her Honiton lace veil had been designed by her grandfather Prince Albert and had been worn at the weddings of her Grandmother Queen Victoria, her mother Princess Alice and her sisters. When Queen Victoria died, she was buried with her wedding veil over her face. All Romanov brides wore the same jewels on their wedding day: the nuptial crown imperial rivière necklace diamond earrings (which were so heavy that they couldn’t hang from the earlobes but instead had to be looped around the ear) imperial clasp, originally made in 1750 for the coronation mantle of Empress Elisabeth and the imperial wedding tiara, which was originally created for the Empress Elisabeth Alexeievna in 1810 and has over a thousand diamonds with a beautiful 13 carat pink diamond ornamenting the centre.

Due to court mourning, there was no reception, nor honeymoon, with Nicholas and Alexandra going to reside with his mother and brother at the Anichkov Palace. Alexandra wrote to her sister: “Our wedding seemed, a mere continuation of the funeral liturgy for the dead Tsar, with one difference I wore a white dress instead of a black one.” Many people in Russia took the arrival of their new Empress so soon after the death of Emperor Alexander as a bad omen: “She has come to us behind a coffin. On 15 November 1895, Alexandra gave birth to her eldest child and daughter, Grand Duchess Olga at the Anichkov Palace. While Alexandra wished to name her daughter Victoria after her beloved grandmother, the couple chose the name Olga instead after Nicholas’s younger sister Olga Alexandrovna and because it was an ancient Russian name. Although many Russians and the Romanovs were disappointed an heir to the throne was not born, Nicholas and Alexandra were delighted. It was expected that since Alexandra was only twenty three and still young, there would be plenty of time for a son to be born.

On 14 May 1896 the coronation of Nicholas and Alexandra took place at the Assumption Cathedral in the Kremlin in Moscow. The following day, the coronation celebrations were halted when the deaths of over one thousand people became known. The victims had been trampled to death at the Khodynka Field in Moscow when rumours spread that there would not be enough of the food being distributed in honour of the coronation for the thousands who had gathered there. In light of these events the tsar declared he could not go to the ball being given that night. Nonetheless his uncles urged him to attend so as not to offend the French. Nicholas gave in and he and Alexandra attended the ball.

Alexandra was affected by the loss of life “The Empress appeared in great distress, her eyes reddened by tears,” the British Ambassador informed Queen Victoria. Although Alexandra and Nicholas had visited the wounded the day after and offered to pay for the coffins of the dead, many Russians took the disaster at Khodynka Meadow as an omen that the reign would be unhappy. That autumn Nicholas, Alexandra, and the infant Grand Duchess Olga—who was approaching one—traveled to Scotland to spend time with Queen Victoria at Balmoral Castle. While Nicholas was in somewhat of a bad mood due to days spent with “Uncle Bertie” (the Prince of Wales) shooting in bad weather while Nicholas suffered from a toothache, Alexandra relished the time with her grandmother. It was in fact, the last time that grandmother and granddaughter would see each other.

Alexandra was very supportive of her husband, yet often gave him extreme advice. She was a fervent advocate of the “divine right of kings” and believed that it was unnecessary to attempt to secure the approval of the people, according to her aunt, Empress Frederick of Germany, who 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…” Alexandra was heartily disliked among her subjects. She came off as very cold and curt, although according to her and many other close friends, she was only terribly shy and nervous in front of the Russian people. She felt her feelings were bruised and battered from the Russians’ “hateful” nature. She was also frowned upon by the wealthy and poor alike for her distaste for Russian culture (her embrace of Orthodoxy notwithstanding), whether it was the food or the manner of dancing.

She spoke Russian with a heavy accent. Her inability to produce a son also incensed the people. After the birth of the Grand Duchess Olga, her first-born child, Nicholas was reported to have said, “We are grateful she was a daughter if she was a boy she would have belonged to the people, being a girl she belongs to us.” When her second daughter Tatiana was born, Alexandra was said to have burst into tears over what the Russian people would think of her. The disappointment only increased with the birth of her subsequent daughters, Maria and Anastasia. When her “sunbeam”, the Tsarevich Alexei, was born, she further isolated herself from the Russian court by spending nearly all of her time with him, his haemophilia did little to distance their close relationship. Alexandra suffered a great deal of guilt for passing down the disease to Alexei and eventually suffered what many termed as a breakdown due to the worry for her son’s health.

Alexandra lived mainly as a recluse during her husband’s reign. She was reported to have had a terrible relationship with her mother-in-law, Maria Feodorovna. The Dowager Empress had tried to assist Alexandra in learning the position of empress, but was shunned by the younger woman. Unlike other European courts of the day, in the Russian court, the position of Dowager Empress was senior in rank and precedence to that of the tsarina—a rule that Maria, with the support of Nicholas II, enforced strictly. At royal balls and other formal Imperial gatherings, Maria would enter on her son’s arm, and Alexandra would silently trail behind them according to court protocol. Alexandra was determined to care for her children herself to the shock of the Russian aristocracy, she even breast fed them. Their upbringing mirrored that of Alexandra’s own.

Grand Duchess Olga was reportedly shy and subdued. As she grew older, Olga read widely, both fiction and poetry, often borrowing books from her mother 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,” Olga wrote. She was the cleverest of her siblings and possessed a quick mind, according to her tutors. While she adored her father, whom she physically resembled, she had a more distant relationship with Alexandra Alexandra was close to her second daughter, Tatiana, who surrounded her mother with unvarying attention. If a favour was needed, all the Imperial children agreed that “Tatiana must ask Papa to grant it.” During the family’s final months, Tatiana helped her mother move from place to place, pushing her about the house in a wheelchair. She was the daughter who most resembled Alexandra, both in terms of appearance and personality. Tatiana was also considered the most elegant of her sisters, and more attractive than Olga.

The third Grand Duchess, Maria, was sweet and gentle and liked to talk about marriage and children. She took after her paternal grandparents and inherited Tsar Alexander III’s famous strength. The tsar thought she would make an excellent wife and Maria was considered the “angel” of the family. Maria was also considered to be the most beautiful of her sisters, along with Tatiana. Anastasia, exuberant and vivacious, was the youngest and most famous daughter, was dubbed the “shvibzik,” Russian for “imp.” While Anastasia, like Tatiana, physically resembled her mother, she was immensely different in nature she was incredibly mischievous throughout her childhood, and was known to climb trees and refuse to come down unless specifically commanded 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.

Alexandra doted on Alexei. The children’s tutor Pierre Gilliard wrote, “Alexei was the centre 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.” Having to live with the knowledge that she had given him the bleeding disease, Alexandra was obsessed with protecting her son. At first the boy seemed healthy and normal, but in only a few weeks’ time it was noticed that when he bumped himself, his bruises did not heal. He would bleed from the navel and his blood was slow to clot. It was soon discovered that Alexei suffered from haemophilia, which could only have been transmitted from Alexandra’s side of the family. It had entered the royal houses of Europe via the daughters of Queen Victoria, who herself was a carrier.

As an incurable and life-threatening illness suffered by the sole son and heir of the emperor the decision was made to keep his condition secret from the Russian people. At first Alexandra turned to Russian doctors to treat Alexei. Their treatments generally failed. Burdened with the knowledge that any fall or cut could actually kill her son. Alexandra turned toward religion for comfort, familiarising herself with all the Orthodox rituals and saints, spending hours daily praying in her private chapel for deliverance. In desperation, Alexandra increasingly turned to mystics and so-called holy men. One of these,Grigori Rasputin, appeared to have a cure for her son. Rasputin’s debauched lifestyle led Nicholas at times to distance him from the family. 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. She wrote “Saints are always calumniated, He is hated because we love him.”

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 prophet, others 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 two daughters and two housekeepers, Rasputin was visited by anyone seeking his blessing, healing or favour with the tsarina. Women came to him for “private blessings” in his bedroom, jokingly called the “Holy of Holies”. He liked to preach that one must first become familiar with sin before one can have a chance to overturn it. In 1912, Alexei suffered a life-threatening haemorrhage in the thigh while the family was at Spala in 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, Alexei was heard to whisper to his mother, “When I am dead, it will not hurt any more, will it, Mama?” 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 Rasputin, who immediately replied: “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.” Alexei recovered after Rasputin’s advice was followed. From this time onwards, Alexandra came to rely increasingly on Rasputin and to believe in his ability to ease Alexei’s suffering. The outbreak of World War I was a pivotal moment for Russia and Alexandra. War pitted the Russian Empire of the Romanov dynasty against the much stronger German Empire of the Hohenzollern dynasty. When Alexandra learned of the Russian mobilization, she stormed into her husband’s study and said: “War! And I knew nothing of it! This is the end of everything.” 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. 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. Alexandra had no experience of government and constantly appointed and re-appointed incompetent new ministers, which meant the government was never stable or efficient. This was particularly dangerous in a war of attrition, as neither the troops nor the civilian population were ever adequately supplied.

She paid attention to the self-serving advice of Rasputin, and their relationship was widely, though falsely, believed to be sexual in nature. Alexandrawas the focus of ever- increasing negative rumors, and was widely believed to be a German spy at the Russian court. There was great concern within the imperial house of the influence empress Alexandra had upon state affairs through the Tsar, and the influence Grigori Rasputin was believed to have upon her, as it was considered to provoke the public and endanger the safety of the imperial throne and the survival of the monarchy. On behalf of the imperial relatives of the Tsar, both Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine and Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha had been selected to mediate and ask Empress Alexandra to banish Rasputin from court to protect her and the throne’s reputation, the former twice, but without success. In parallel, several of the Grand Dukes had tried to intervene with the Tsar, but with no more success.

World War I put what proved to be unbearable burden on Imperial Russia’s government and economy, both of which were dangerously weak. 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 the war, the transportation infrastructure (primarily railroads) was diverted towards war use, food shortages in the cities as available agricultural products could not be brought to urban areas. Inflation was rampant. This and the food shortages and poor performance by the Russian military, generated a great deal of anger and unrest among the people in Saint Petersburg and other cities By 1917, the tsar realized that Russia could not fight the war much longer and a make or break spring offensive was planned. Steelworkers went out on strike on 7 March, and the following day, crowds hungry for bread began rioting on the streets of St 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. In an effort to put an end to the uprising in the capital, Nicholas tried to get to St 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.

Nicholas finally was allowed to return to the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo where he was placed under arrest with his family. The Provisional Government formed after the revolution kept Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children confined in house arrest in their home, the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. They were visited by Kerensky from the government, who interviewed Alexandra regarding her involvement in state affairs and Rasputin’s involvement in them through his influence over her. She answered she and her spouse kept no secrets from each other, they often discussed politics and she naturally gave him advice to support him as for Rasputin, he had been a true holy man of God, and his advice had been only in the interest of the good of Russia and the imperial family. After the interview, Kerensky told the tsar that he believed that Alexandra had told him the truth and was not lying. In August 1917, the family were moved to Tobolsk in Siberia, a step by the Kerensky government designed to remove them from the capital and possible harm. Nicholas and Alexandra had themselves suggested to be moved to the Livadia Palace in the Crimea, but Kerensky deemed this to be too dangerous, as they would have to travel through Central Russia, an area which was at the time full of riots where the upper classes were attacked by the public and their mansions burned

From Tobolsk, Alexandra managed to send a letter to her sister-in-law, Xenia Alexandrovna, in the Crimea.

Alexandra and her family remained in Tobolsk until after the Bolshevik Revolution in November 1917. In 1918, they were subsequently moved to Bolshevik controlled Yekaterinburg. Nicholas, Alexandra and their daughter Maria arrived at the Ipatiev House on 30 April 1918. On entering their 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 -” 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. In May, the rest of the family arrived in Yekaterinburg.

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. 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. Tuesday, 16 July 1918 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. Commandant Yurovsky summoned all the Cheka men into his room and ordered them to collect all the revolvers from the outside guards. With twelve 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. 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 17 July 1918, by a detachment of Bolsheviks led by Yakov Yurovsky. They were took to the basement in pretense of having a family photograph be taken. Alexandra and her children had sewn into their chemises diamonds, emeralds, rubies and ropes of pearls.

Alexandra complained about how there were no chairs, Nicholas asked for and received three chairs from the guards. Minutes later, at about 2:15 a.m., a squad of soldiers, each armed with a revolver, entered. Yurovsky ordered all the party to stand, Alexandra complied “with a flash of anger”, and Yurovsky then 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 several times, not (as is usually said) in the head, but in the chest his skull bears no bullet wounds, but his ribs were shattered by at least three fatal bullet wounds. Standing about six feet from the gunmen and facing them, Alexandra watched the murder of her husband before military commissar Peter Ermakov took aim at her. She instinctively turned away from him and began to make the sign of the cross, but before she could finish the gesture, Ermakov killed her with a single gunshot which, as she had partly turned away, entered her head just above the left ear and exited at the same spot above her right ear.

After allowing the haze to clear for several minutes, the gunmen returned. Alexei remained sitting in the chair, “terrified,” before the assassins turned on him and shot at him repeatedly. The boy remained alive and the killers tried to stab him multiple times with bayonets. “Nothing seemed to work,” wrote Yurovsky later. “Injured, he continued to live.” Unbeknownst to the killing squad, the Tsarevich’s torso was protected by a shirt wrapped in precious gems that he wore beneath his tunic. Finally Yurovsky fired two shots into the boy’s head, and he fell silent. Olga and Tatiana were crouched against the room’s rear wall, clinging to each other screaming for their mother. Ermakov stabbed both young women with his 8-inch bayonet, but had difficulty penetrating their torsos because of the jewels that had been sewn into their chemises. The sisters tried to stand, but Tatiana was killed instantly when Yurovsky shot her in the back of her head. A moment later, Olga too died when Ermakov shot her in the jaw. Ermakov then turned on the wounded Maria and Anastasia, who was still unharmed. He struggled with Maria and tried to stab her with a bayonet. The jewels sewn into her clothes protected her, and he said he finally shot her in the head. But the skull that is almost certainly Maria’s has no bullet wound. Perhaps drunken Ermakov inflicted a scalp wound, knocking her unconscious and producing a considerable flow of blood, leading him to think he had killed her. He then struggled with Anastasia, whom he also claimed he shot in the head. As the bodies were being removed from the house, Maria regained consciousness and screamed. Ermakov tried to stab her again but failed, and struck her in the face until she was silent. After all the victims had been shot, Ermakov in a drunken haze stabbed Alexandra’s body and that of her husband, shattering both their rib cages and chipping some of Alexandra’s vertebrae. A short time later, the bodies were retrieved. Their faces were smashed and the bodies, dismembered and disfigured with sulphuric acid, were buried under railway sleepers with the exception of two of the children whose bodies were not discovered until 2007. The missing bodies were those of Anastasia—and Alexei. 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,”

Alexandra, Nicholas II and three daughters were reinterred in the St. Catherine Chapel of the Peter and Paul Cathedral at the Fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul in St. Petersburg in 1998, with much ceremony, on the eightieth anniversary of the execution In 1981, Alexandra and her immediate family were recognised as martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. In 2000, Alexandra was canonized as a saint and passion bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church

What did the Romanovs' wedding dresses look like? (PHOTOS)

The wedding of the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, the granddaughter of Alexander II, and Prince Wilhelm, Duke of Södermanland, a Swedish and Norwegian prince. 1908.

At an early age, a future husband would be selected for young women in the royal family. The grooms were selected from an assortment of grand dukes and princes in Russia and abroad, and their weddings were a matter of state importance. Every element of the ceremony was regulated down to the tiniest detail, and the bride's look was one of the most widely discussed matters in society at the time.

Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mavrikievna, granddaughter of Nicholas I, in the wedding dress, 1884.

The requirements were strictest for brides in the &ldquofirst tier&rdquo of the royal family, i.e. those who might ascend to the throne one day. The ceremony itself was a major event in which even the most minor hiccup could be seen as a bad omen. A great deal of importance was also attached to the wedding dress.

A wedding photo of the Georgian Prince Konstantine Bagration of Mukhrani and Princess Tatiana Constantinovna.

The &ldquowedding dress code&rdquo was set by Emperor Nicholas I in 1834, and it applied not only to the main participants in the ceremony, but to the guests as well. The design of the wedding dresses was the same, but certain adjustments to the style, embroidery and decoration were allowed, taking into account fashion trends and the bride's taste.

Princess Elisabeth in the wedding dress and the crown, 1884.


Wedding dresses were made of silver brocade and decorated with precious stones and stumpwork embroidery. Two mandatory accessories were a long train and an ermine mantle. It was the sort of outfit that was impossible to put on without the help of ladies-in-waiting.

During the church ceremony, the bride had to wear a wedding crown with a diamond tiara on top of it. There were also ceremonial earrings and a necklace.

The wedding crown of Russia.

The Diamond Fund in Moscow has in its collection the only Romanov wedding diadem remaining in Russia today. It was worn by Empress Maria Feodorovna, the wife of Paul I, at her wedding, and then by other brides in the imperial family.

The diadem with the rose diamond.

The diadem has the form of a kokoshnik with a huge pink diamond in the center. In total, the diadem contains 175 large Indian diamonds and more than 1,200 small round-cut diamonds. The central row is decorated with large free-hanging diamonds in the form of drops.

Tsarskoye Selo (Russia), Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia and Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark on their wedding day in the Portrait Hall of the Catherine Palace.

Brides' jewelry could either come from family heirlooms or be made specially for the occasion. For example, for her wedding to Prince Nicholas of Greece, Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna, granddaughter of Emperor Alexander II and cousin of Nicholas II, wore a Cartier diamond headdress and a diamond bow-shaped corsage decoration.

The wedding of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna.

In total, a royal wedding outfit weighed 25-30 kg. Just standing still in it all day was a difficult task, let alone moving around! Sometimes brides would become so exhausted that they had to be carried around.

Alexandra Feodorovna and her wedding dress.

Hermitage Museum Public Domain

According to tradition, brides in the Romanov family donated their wedding dresses to the church afterwards. However, Alexandra Feodorovna, the last empress of Russia, wife of Nicholas II, decided to keep hers. That is why her wedding dress has survived to this day (you can see it at an exhibition in the Hermitage). Many people at the court did not approve of the empress's decision and were convinced that her rejection of a centuries-old tradition would bring bad luck to the family.

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The Romanov Dynasty also known as “The House of Romanov” was the second imperial dynasty (after the Rurik dynasty) to rule Russia. The Romanov family reigned from 1613 until the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II on March 15, 1917, as a result of the Russian Revolution.

The direct male line of the Romanov family came to an end when Empress Elizabeth died in 1762. The House of Holstein-Gottorp, a branch of the House of Oldenburg, ascended the throne in 1762 with Peter III, a grandson of Peter the Great. Hence, all Russian monarchs from the mid-18th century to the Russian Revolution descended from that branch. In early 1917 the extended Romanov family had 65 members, 18 of whom were killed by the Bolsheviks. The remaining 47 members escaped abroad.

The last Romanov Tsar, Nicholas II, began his reign in the autumn of 1894, when as the second Russian emperor by that name and a direct descendant of Empress Catherine the Great, he ascended the throne. His accession occurred much sooner than anyone had expected. Nicholas’ father, Tsar Alexander III, died unexpectedly at the relatively young age of 49.

The Romanov family in mid-19th century: Tsar Alexander II, his Heir – the future Alexander III, and baby Nicholas, the future Tsar Nicholas II.

Events unfolded rapidly after the passing of Alexander III. The new Tsar, aged 26, quickly married his fiancé of several months Princess Alix of Hesse – the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England. The couple knew each other from adolescence. They were even distantly related and had numerous relatives in common, being the niece and nephew of the Prince and Princess of Wales, from different sides of the family.

A contemporary artist’s depiction of the coronation of the new (and last) Romanov Dynasty Tsar – Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra.

Upon joining the Romanov family by marriage, Princess Alix converted from Lutheranism to Russian Orthodoxy, as stipulated by canon law, and was renamed Alexandra Feodorovna. The new Russian Empress had grown up in a very different world: the quiet duchy of Hesse by Rhine, the youngest surviving daughter of its grand duke. When she was just a child of six, Alix lost her mother, an English princess and one of Queen Victoria’s daughters, who died of diphtheria at the age of 36. At the same time, Alix also lost her little sister and playmate from the same disease. The untimely deaths of the people closest to her greatly affected the little girl. Never again was she the sunny and carefree child she had been prior to the tragedy.

Alix was 12 years old when she first met the young Tsesarevich Nicholas Romanov, the heir to the Russian throne, when in 1884 she and her family traveled to Russia to attend the wedding of her older sister Elisabeth. Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna, as she was now known, married one of Nicholas’s uncles, the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich.

Young Nicholas II as Tsesarevich of Russia Princess Alix of Hesse as a child

In the nineteenth century, many members of the European royal families were closely related to each other. Queen Victoria was referred to as “the grandmother” of Europe” because her progeny were dispersed throughout the continent through the marriages of her numerous children. Along with her royal pedigree and improved diplomatic relations among the royal houses of Greece, Spain, Germany and Russia, Victoria’s descendants received something much less desirable: a tiny defect in a gene which regulates normal blood clotting and causes an incurable medical condition called hemophilia. In the late 19th and early 20th century, patients suffering from this disease could literally bleed to death. Even the most benign bruise or bump might prove fatal. The Queen of England’s own son Prince Leopold was a hemophiliac who died prematurely after a minor automobile accident.

The hemophilia gene was also passed on to Victoria’s male grandchildren and great-grandchildren through their mothers in royal houses of Spain and Germany. Alix’s own brother died of complications from hemophilia at the age of three when he suffered relatively minor injuries after accidentally falling out of a window.

But arguably the most tragic and significant effect of the hemophilia gene occurred in the ruling Romanov family of Russia. Empress Alexandra Fedorovna learned in 1904 that she was a carrier of hemophilia a few weeks after the birth of her precious son and heir to the Russian throne, Alexei.

Tsesarevich Alexei was the long awaited heir to the Romanov Dynasty

Because the Russian legal code contained a statute known as the semi-Salic law, only males could inherit the throne unless there were no dynastic males left. If Nicholas II did not have a son, the crown would pass to his younger brother Grand Duke Michale Alexandrovich (Mikhail). However, after 10 years of marriage and the births of four healthy grand duchesses, the long awaited son and heir was stricken by an incurable ailment. Not many subjects realized that their new Tsesarevich’s life often hung by a thread due to his deadly genetic inheritance. Alexei’s hemophilia remained a closely guarded secret of the Romanov family.

The Russian imperial family doted on the little boy he was understandably overprotected and inevitably spoiled. In 1912, when Alexei was 8 years old, he came as close to death as he ever would after a minor accident while the Romanov family was on one of their holidays in Poland. Alexei’s life was apparently saved by the intervention of a Siberian peasant named Grigori Rasputin. It was not the first time that Rasputin’s seemingly miraculous powers had been evoked. On this occasion, Rasputin had not even been present in Poland but had communicated via a telephone call from his own home in Siberia.

Little Tsesarevich Alexei, the Romanov Dynasty’s last heir to the throne

An obituary to announce the passing of the heir to the throne had already been prepared by the Romanov family , and the imperial doctors had all but given up on the seemingly dying boy. But amazingly, Alexei slowly recovered after Rasputin’s telephone call. Hence the man whom Alexei’s parents referred to as “Our Friend” and “Father Grigori” solidified his role as the savior of their beloved son, as well as the Romanov family’s own spiritual advisor whom they viewed as their liaison with God.

During the summer of 1913, the Romanov family celebrated their dynasty’s tercentennial. The dark “time of trouble” of 1905 seemed like a long forgotten and unpleasant dream. To celebrate, the entire Romanov family made a pilgrimage to ancient historical landmarks around the Moscow region, and the people cheered. Nicholas and Alexandra were once again convinced that their people loved them, and that their policies were on the right track.

It would have been difficult for anyone to imagine at this time that only four years after these days of glory, the Russian revolution would depose the Romanov family from its imperial throne and the three centuries of the Romanov Dynasty would come to an end. The Tsar who was cheered enthusiastically everywhere during the celebrations of 1913 would no longer rule Russia in 1917. Instead, the Romanov family would be under arrest and a little more than a year after that, they would be dead- murdered by their own people.

The four Romanov daughters: Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia

Numerous factors influenced the events that led to the sudden end of a three hundred year old Russian imperial dynasty, and it would be an oversimplification to try to pinpoint something specific that caused its downfall. Terrible losses during World War I, continuous rumors and a wide-spread belief that Rasputin was ruling Russia through his influence on the imperial couple, and some other factors, caused events to spiral out of control. The bloody, tragic climax came on the night of July 17, 1918, when a Bolshevik execution squad shot, bludgeoned and bayoneted the entire Romanov family to death.

It is difficult to say whether history would have been different for the last ruling Romanov family if the random nature of genetics emerged in favor of the baby boy who was destined to inherit Russia’s crown, and if he had been born as healthy as his sisters. Would historical outcome for Russia and the world have been any different? Clearly the nature of Tsesarevich Alexei’s medical condition contributed in many ways to the downfall of the Romanov dynasty. Their heir’s hemophilia was one of the main reasons why the Tsar and Tsarina isolated themselves in Tsarskoe Selo, trying their best to keep the heir’s condition secret not just from their subjects but even from the extended Romanov family members.

Alexei’s hemophilia was the principal cause of Tsarina Alexandra’s terrible anxieties and various physical ailments, real or imagined. These led her to avoid society, thus alienating the imperial Romanov family from their subjects. This uncharacteristic behavior was misinterpreted by Russia’s aristocratic upper class and antagonized all those who might have supported Nicholas and Alexandra during difficult times. The isolation of the ruling Romanov family fostered a climate of misunderstanding, frustration and ultimately flagrant resentment.

Grigori Rasputin, a Siberian peasant who some believe contributed the most to the fall of the Romanov Dynasty.

Perhaps if more people in Russia had known about Tsesarevich Alexei’s hemophilia, they would have been able to more fully comprehend the Romanov family’s strange attachment to Grigori Rasputin. A more sympathetic appreciation of the imperial family’s plight might have defused some of the suspicions and sinister innuendos arising from the close relationship of Alexandra, in particular, with the hated Siberian peasant. The degree of Rasputin’s influence, while certainly great, was in fact, exaggerated. But often perception is reality.

There is no denying that Tsesarevich Alexei’s hemophilia was the principal reason why Grigori Rasputin came into the lives of the Romanov family in the first place. This Siberian peasant inadvertently but significantly contributed to discrediting Nicholas II as a ruler among his subjects during a major war, which led to his abdication and to his and the eventual death of the imperial Romanov family.

The story of the last reigning Romanov family continues to fascinate scholars as well as Russian history buffs. In it there is something for everyone: a great royal romance between a handsome young tsar- the ruler of one eighth of the entire world- and a beautiful German princess who gave up her strong Lutheran faith and life as she knew it, for love. There were their beautiful children: four lovely daughters, and a long awaited baby boy born with a fatal disease from which he could die at any given moment. There was the controversial “muzhik” – a peasant who seemed to have wormed his way into the imperial palace, and who was seen to have a corrupt and immoral influence on the Romanov family: the Tsar, the Empress and even their children. There was even an unlikely simpleton, or in some people’s opinion a cunning “best friend” to the Empress. This was Anna Vyrubova, who allegedly manipulated the Empress and even the Emperor behind the scenes, in league with the immoral peasant who pretended to be a “holy” man.

Empress Alexandra with Anna Vyrubova, a close friend of the Romanov family.

There were political assassinations of the powerful, shootings of the innocent, partisan intrigues, worker strikes, mass uprisings and a world war a murder, a revolution and a bloody civil war. And finally there was regicide – the secret execution in the middle of the night of the last ruling Romanov family, their servants, even their pets in the cellar of the “House of Special Purpose” in the heart of Russia’s Urals.

For many years there were no bodies to prove that these deaths actually occurred. For more than a half a century of Soviet rule, the lack of detailed information surrounding the fate of the murdered Romanov family gave rise to numerous rumors of conspiracies and various survivors, not just in Russia but also in the West. There were those who periodically surfaced claiming to be various Romanov family members – one imperial daughter or another, the former heir, or even the Tsar himself. There were movies, cartoons and books based on the alleged survival of the most famous of all imperial daughters – the Grand Duchess Anastasia, which helped reignite interest in the last imperial Romanov family in the 21st century.

The Romanov family: Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra with Tsesarevich Alexei on her lap, the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia.

The eventual discovery and scientific identification of the Romanov family’s remains in Ekaterinburg should have put to rest all the conspiracy theories and fairy tales about the final fate of the lst Tsar and his family. But astonishingly the controversy continued, not least of all because the Russian Orthodox Church, along with one of the branches of the surviving extended Romanov family, refused to accept the definitive scientific results which proved that the remains found near Ekaterinburg indeed belonged to the murdered members of the last ruling Romanov family. Fortunately, reason prevailed and the remains were finally interred in the Romanov family crypt, where they belonged.

The Romanov family crypt which contains the remains of the last Russian Tsar and his family.

Later Years and Legacy

As the queen mother, Alexandra mostly continued her duties as she had as queen consort, focusing her efforts on charity work with a side of anti-German cajoling. Her generosity was renowned, as she willingly sent money to anyone who wrote to her asking for help. She lived to see her fears about the Germans realized with the outbreak of World War I, and rejoiced when her son changed the royal family’s name to Windsor to avoid German associations.

Alexandra suffered another personal loss when her nephew, Nicholas II, was overthrown during the Russian Revolution. Her sister Dagmar was rescued and came to stay with Alexandra, but her son George V refused to offer asylum to Nicholas and his immediate family they were murdered in 1917 by the Bolshevik revolutionaries. In the last years of her life, Alexandra’s health declined, and she died from a heart attack on November 20, 1925. She was buried at Windsor Castle next to Edward.

A popular royal in life and death, Alexandra was mourned deeply by the British public, and she became the namesake for everything from palaces to ships to streets. Although she was not permitted any political influence, she was a style icon for the women of her time and defined an entire era of fashion. Her legacy was not one of politics, but of personal popularity and boundless generosity.

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