Thursday, March 11, 2010

Family Profile: Family of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia

In this segment of Family Profile, we will be highlighting the family of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Nicholas II (Russian: Nikolai Aleksandrovich Romanov, born 1868 in Tsarskoe Selo, died 1918 in Yekaterinburg), was the eldest child of Tsar Alexander III and Empress Marie Feodorovna (born Princess Dagmar of Denmark, daughter of King Christian IX). Nicholas ascended the Russian throne in 1894 on the death of his father. A few weeks later, he married Princess Alix of Hesse (born 1872 in Darmstadt, died 1918 in Yekaterinburg), daughter of Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and, through her mother, a granddaughter of Britain's Queen Victoria. Alix converted to Russian Orthodoxy and changed her name to Alexandra Feodorovna.
















Children of Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra -

Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna (born 1895 in Tsarskoe Selo, died 1918 in Yekaterinburg)


Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna (born 1897 at Peterhof, died 1918 in Yekaterinburg)


Grand Duchess Marie Nikolaevna (born 1899 at Peterhof, died 1918 in Yekaterinburg)


Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna (born 1901 at Peterhof, died 1918 in Yekaterinburg)


Tsarevich and Grand Duke Alexei Nikolaevich (born 1904 at Peterhof, died 1918 in Yekaterinburg)


By all accounts, the family of the last Russian tsar was close-knit and intensely sheltered. While Russia spun into continued turbulence with strikes, riots, and eventually the First World War which hastened the collapse of the monarchy, Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra virtually isolated themselves and their children at their beloved Alexander Palace in the imperial compound of Tsarskoe Selo, 15 km outside of St. Petersburg.

Their only son, Alexei, brought their parents indescribable relief upon his birth in 1904, for the succession of the monarchy was secure. But this was to be a short-lived joy, for within weeks of his birth it was confirmed that the boy suffered from hemophilia, the genetic bleeding disease that his mother had inherited from her maternal grandmother, Queen Victoria. Several of Alexei's royal cousins across Europe also suffered from the disease, but his case remains the most well-known of all the royal hemophiliacs. It was his illness that brought about the appearance of Grigori Rasputin, the infamous Siberian "holy man" who became an intimate confidante to Empress Alexandra- with devastating consequences for the monarchy.

The entire family was brutally murdered in the early morning hours of July 17, 1918 in the Ural city of Yekaterinburg. They had been imprisoned in a merchant's house there for nearly three months, in the midst of the civil war that had broken out across Russia between the Bolsheviks' Red Army and the White Armies, made up of anti-communist and some monarchist troops. As the White Army advanced undefeated upon Yekaterinburg, the Ural Soviet panicked, fearing that a White takeover of Yekaterinburg would lead to the liberation of the tsar and his family and possibly restoring them to power. The family, who had their physician, a cook, valet and maid also imprisoned with them, were herded down into the cellar of the house. There, they were shot, beaten and bayoneted to death by their guards. Their bodies were partially burned and dumped inside a shallow grave in the woods outside Yekaterinburg, where they remained hidden for over 70 years.

In 1998, two decades after the remains were first stumbled upon and almost a decade after scientists used DNA testing to confirm the identities of the remains, Russia's last imperial family were buried in the tsarist crypt at the Fortress of Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg.

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