Nicholas II

430px-Mikola_II_(cropped)-2.jpg

BIRTH: 18 May 1866
Alexander Palace
, Tsarskoye Selo, Saint Petersburg Governorate, Russian Empire

DEATH: 17 July 1918 (aged 50)

Ipatiev House, Yekaterinburg, Russian Soviet Republic

 

Nikolai II Alexandrovich Romanov was the son of Tsar Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna, born "Princess Dagmar of Denmark". His paternal grandparents were Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna, born Princess Maria of Hesse. Her maternal grandparents were King Christian IX of Denmark and Princess Luisa of Hesse-Cassel. Nicholas had three younger brothers: Alexandre, Jorge and Miguel and two younger sisters: Xenia and Olga.

Nicholas became a tsarevich after the murder of his grandfather, Alexander II on March 13, 1881 and the subsequent rise of his father, Alexander III. For security reasons the new tsar and his family moved from the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to their residence at the Gatchina Palace outside the city.

In 1890 he traveled to Egypt, India and Japan. This trip was organized by his father Alexander III to supplement Nicholas' formal education, and to give him the opportunity to experience life outside of St. Petersburg and the palace. While in Japan, Nicholas survived an assassination attempt.

Nicholas married Princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt, the fourth daughter of Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse, and Princess Alice of the United Kingdom. His parents wanted a marriage to Princess Helena de Orléans, daughter of the Count of Paris, which would strengthen Russia's relations with France.

Tsar Nicholas was shy and had inclinations that guided him more towards domestic life than governing a country. He had the manners of an elite English school student. He danced elegantly, was a good sniper, rode and played sports. He spoke French and German and his English was very good. With the exception of his wife and children, he cared only for Russia and the Army; aside from the exercises he practiced outdoors, everything else left him indifferent. Witnesses agree that he never looked as happy as when he abdicated the throne. Nicholas never felt like ruling Russia, he loved his family and the Russian army and that alone gave him pleasure, the rest did not feel ambition or the ability to do so.

In April 1894, Nicholas joined his Uncle Sergei and Aunt Elizabeth on a journey to Coburg, Germany, for the wedding of Elizabeth's and Alix's brother, Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse, to their mutual first cousin Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Other guests included Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Empress Frederick (Kaiser Wilhelm's mother and Queen Victoria's eldest daughter), Nicholas's uncle, the Prince of Wales, and the bride's parents, the Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Once in Coburg Nicholas proposed to Alix, but she rejected his proposal, being reluctant to convert to Orthodoxy. But the Kaiser later informed her she had a duty to marry Nicholas and to convert, as her sister Elizabeth had done in 1892. Thus once she changed her mind, Nicholas and Alix became officially engaged on 20 April 1894. Nicholas's parents initially hesitated to give the engagement their blessing, as Alix had made poor impressions during her visits to Russia. They gave their consent only when they saw Tsar Alexander's health deteriorating.

Alexander III was not concerned with giving his son Nicholas II a political education, and consequently Nicholas received little training for this imperial duty. However, in the middle of 1894 Alexander III's health unexpectedly declined rapidly. Alexandre died at the age of 49 in 1894, from kidney disease. Nicholas, feeling unprepared for the duties of the crown, asked, in tears, his cousin: "What will become of me and Russia? I am not prepared to be a tsar and I never wanted to be. I don't understand anything about the business of government. I don't even know how I'm going to talk to ministers. "

Alexandra gave Nicholas five children, Olga in 1895, Tatiana in 1897, Maria in 1899 and Anastásia in 1901, and one son, Alexei in 1904.

The oldest, Olga, was very similar to Nicholas. She was smart and quick to pick up ideas. Talking to people she knew well, she spoke quickly, with sincerity and insight. She read a lot and loved to walk and swim with her father. She told him her secrets on her long walks. Tatiana was the most sociable and appeared on more public occasions than the others. She was called "the Housekeeper" by her brothers, because she was the one who interceded for their parents for them.

Tatiana was very close to her mother. She was determined and energetic and expressed categorical opinions. It was felt that she was the daughter of an emperor, declared a Guard officer.

The third daughter, Maria, had a great talent for painting and drawing. She was considered the most lovable and sympathetic of the sisters, which earned her the nickname "the angel of the family". Maria flirted with young soldiers and her favorite subjects were marriage and children. Many thought that she would make an excellent wife for any man.

Anastasia was the most mischievous and smart. She did malicious imitations of people she knew and jokes, which sometimes went too far. When she was a little girl, she climbed trees and only Nicolau managed to get her down. She was called shvibzik ("little devil") and "the terrible child".

The fifth and final son, Alexei, was a much desired child, since until his birth there was no heir to the throne. Despite this, a few months later, it was discovered that he suffered from hemophilia, an inherited disease that prevents normal blood clotting. At that time, the disease had no treatment and usually led to early death. As Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Alexandra carried the same mutant gene that afflicted many royal European homes, such as Spain and Prussia. For this reason, hemophilia became known as "the real disease". Because of the fragility of the autocracy in that period, Nicolau and Alexandra chose not to disclose Alexei's condition to anyone outside the palace.

In 1904 Russia's war with Japan did not go well and Nicholas's contribution to the war was something that frustrated many. Nicholas went to war with confidence and saw it as an opportunity to boost Russian morale and patriotism, paying little attention to the finances of a distant war.

Nicholas still believed, and hoped for a final victory against Japan, but it was only when there was an annihilation of the Russian fleet by the Japanese, that Nicholas decided to go for peace.

The defeat was a violent coup and the imperial government collapsed, with the revolutionary outbreak of 1905-1906. Many protesters were shot in front of the Winter Palace; and the emperor's uncle, Grand Duke Sergio, married to the sister of Nicholas II's wife, was killed by a bomb dropped by a revolutionary while leaving the Kremlin.

On Sunday, January 22, 1905, Gapon started his march under an icy wind and gusts of snow. In the working-class neighborhoods, processions were formed that converged on the city center. Leaving their weapons locked at home, the protesters walked peacefully through the streets. Some carried crosses, icons and religious banners, others national flags and portraits of the tsar. Across the city, on bridges and strategic avenues, protesters found the path blocked in infantry lines, reinforced by Cossacks and Hussars; and the soldiers opened fire on the crowd. The official number of victims was 92 dead and several hundred injured. That day, which became known as "Bloody Sunday", was a turning point in Russian history. It destroyed the ancient and legendary belief that the tsar and the people were one body. As the bullets shattered his icons, his flags and his portraits of Nicholas, the people shouted: The tsar does not help us!.

Outside Russia, that awkward action seemed like premeditated cruelty, and Ramsay MacDonald, the future Labor Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, attacked the tsar by calling him a bloodstained creature and a common murderer. In Tsarskoye Selo, Nicholas was amazed when he learned what had happened. He wrote in his diary: A painful day. Serious disorders occurred in Petersburg when workers tried to approach the Winter Palace. Troops were forced to open fire in various parts of the city and many were killed and injured. Lord, how sad and painful this is! From his hiding place, Gapon (a priest linked to the police) wrote a public letter, bitterly accusing Nicholas Romanov, a former tsar and now a murderer of the souls of the Russian Empire: "the innocent blood of workers, their wives and children will be forever between you and the Russian people ... May all the blood that has to be spilled fall on you, executioner! I ask all the socialist parties in Russia to reach an agreement between them and start an armed uprising against tsarism. " But Gapon's reputation was in doubt and the leaders of the Social-Revolutionary Party were convinced that he was still connected to the police. They sentenced him to death and his body was found hanged in Finland, in an abandoned house, in April 1906.

In the times of the 1st world war and with Russia once again with human and territorial losses, Nicholas, encouraged by Alexandra and feeling that it was his duty, and that his personal presence would inspire his troops, decided to lead his army directly, in opposition to advice against . He took over as commander-in-chief after the resignation of his cousin from that position, the highly respected and experienced Nicolau Nikolaevich (September 1915) shortly after the loss of the Kingdom of Poland. This was a fatal error, and was directly associated with the commander in chief, as well as all subsequent losses. Nicholas was also far away, in the remote headquarters in Mogilev, far from the direct government of the empire, and when the revolution broke out in Petrograd, he was unable to avoid it, being so isolated from the government. In reality, the movement was largely symbolic, since all major military decisions were made by its Chief of Staff, General Mikhail Alekseyev, and Nicholas did little more than review troops, inspect hospitals in the camps. battle and preside over military lunches.

Nicholas was repeatedly warned of the destructive influence of Rasputin (healer of the son Alexei who suffered from hemophilia), but failed to keep him out. Nicholas refused to censor the press, and wild rumors and accusations about Alexandra and Rasputin appeared almost daily. Alexandra was even placed on charges of treason, and of undermining the government due to her German roots. It was during the war that St. Petersburg was symbolically renamed Petrograd, the Slavic equivalent in response to the growing phobia of Germans during wartime. [61] The irritation with the lack of action and the extreme damage that Rasputin's influence was doing to the war efforts in Russia and the monarchy, led to his (Rasputin) assassination by a group of nobles, led by Prince Félix Yussupov and the Grand Duke Demetrius Pavlovich, a cousin of the Tsar, on December 16, 1916.

There was an increasing increase in poverty as the government failed to produce supplies, creating riots and rebellions. With Nicholas distant, in the war in 1915, authority collapsed and St. Petersburg was left in the hands of strikers and soldiers and mutinous recruits. Despite efforts by British ambassador Sir George Buchanan to warn the tsar that he should grant constitutional reforms to defend himself from the Revolution, Nicholas continued to remain distant at headquarters (Stavka) 400 miles (600 km) from Mogilev, leaving his capital and the court open to intrigue and insurrection. The Duma and the Soviet had already formed the nuclei of a Provisional Government and decided that Nicholas should abdicate. Facing this decision, which was echoed by his generals, deprived of loyal troops, with his family firmly in the hands of the Provisional Government and fearful of expanding a civil war and opening the way for a German conquest, Nicholas had no choice but to to submit.

On March 15, 1917, Nicholas II was forced to abdicate. He initially abdicated in favor of Tsarevich Alexei, but he quickly changed his mind after doctors' advice that the heir would not live long away from his parents, who could be forced into exile. Nicholas wrote a new manifesto, naming his brother, Grand Duke Michael, as the next Emperor of All Russia. He issued the following manifesto (which was suppressed by the Provisional Government): “In this time of great struggle against the external enemy who has been trying to enslave our homeland for almost three years, the Lord God has decided to send a new trial to Russia. Internal popular uprisings threaten to wistfully reflect on the conduct of an ongoing war. The fate of Russia, the honor of the heroic army, the good of the people, the whole future of our dear homeland, demand that we emerge victorious from this war at any cost. In these decisive days for the life of Russia, we consider it a matter of conscience to facilitate for our people, the union and formation of the ranks of popular forces around this objective, which is a quick victory, and thus, according to the Duma, we recognize the need to abdicate the throne of the Russian state and free ourselves from supreme power. Not wanting the separation of our beloved son, we transferred the legacy to our brother, Grand Duke Miguel Alexandrovich and we bless him in his accession to the throne of the Russian State. We recommend our brother to govern in full and inviolable union with the representatives of the people, according to the principles that will be established. May the Lord save Russia! ” Everything indicates that Nicholas abdicated for patriotic reasons, convinced by the generals that such an attitude was indispensable to keep Russia in the war and guarantee the victory. If his first concern had been maintaining power, he would have made peace with Germany - like Lenin, a year later - and launched troops against the mutineers in Petrograd and Moscow.

On April 3, 1917, the newly appointed Minister of War of the Provisional Government, Alexander Kerensky decided to visit the imperial family, who were imprisoned in Tsarskoye Selo. As time went on, Kerensky continued to visit the family, and the relationship between the socialist minister and the deposed sovereign and his wife improved markedly. On April 25, Kerensky confessed, that during these weeks, he began to feel affection for his modest manner and complete absence of pose [of Nicholas]. Perhaps, it was this sincere and natural simplicity that gave the emperor the peculiar fascination, the charm that was further enhanced by his wonderful, deep and sad eyes. It cannot be said that my conversations with the Tsar were due to a special wish of his; he was obliged to see me ... yet, the former tsar never lost his balance, never failed to act like a courteous man. For his part Nicholas declared: "He [Kerensky] is a man who loves Russia, and I would have liked to have met him earlier, because he would have been useful to me".

After the Bolsheviks took power in October 1917, the conditions of their imprisonment became strict and the discussion of putting Nicholas on trial became more frequent. Nicholas followed the events of the October Revolution with interest, but without alarm. He continued to underestimate Lenin's importance, but he began to feel that his abdication had done Russia more harm than good.

In August 1917, the Kerensky government, now serving as Prime Minister after Lvov's abdication, evacuated the Romanovs to Tobolsk in the Ural Mountains, claiming that this would protect them from the growing flow of the revolution. There they lived in the former Governor's Mansion with considerable comfort. On April 30, 1918, they were transferred to their final destination: Casa Ipatiev in Yekaterinburg, where the whole family was murdered.