Царь Николай II - Tsar Nicholas II

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Царь Николай II в России

Николай II
Николай Александрович Романов
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
The right-believing Tsar Saint Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov was the last reigning emperor  of Russia at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution.
Together with his wife, Alexandra Fyodoronova, formerly Alexandra of Hesse-Darmstad, and their children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexey, and their servants Doctor Evgeni Botkin, cook Ivan Kharitonov, attendant Aleksey Trupp and attendant Anna Demidova, they are recognized as 'Passion-Bearers' by the Russian Orthodox Church.
His feast day is on July 4.

Nicholas II  (18 May [O.S. 6 May] 1868 – 17 July 1918) was the last Emperor of Russia, Grand Prince of Finland, and titular King of Poland.
His official title was Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias and he is known as Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Nicholas II ruled from 1894 until his abdication on 15 March 1917.
His reign saw Imperial Russia go from being one of the foremost great powers of the world to economic and military collapse.
Critics nicknamed him Bloody Nicholas because of the Khodynka Tragedy, Bloody Sunday, the anti-Semitic pogroms, his execution of political opponents, and his pursuit of military campaigns on a hitherto unprecedented scale.
Under his rule, Russia was defeated in the Russo-Japanese War, including the almost total annihilation of the Russian fleet at the Battle of Tsushima.
As head of state, he approved the Russian mobilization of August 1914, which marked the beginning of Russia's involvement in World War I, a war in which 3.3 million Russians would be killed.
The unpopularity of the Russian involvement in this war is often cited as a leading cause of the fall of the Romanov dynasty less than three years later.
Nicholas II abdicated following the February Revolution of 1917 during which he and his family were imprisoned first in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, then later in the Governor's Mansion in Tobolsk, and finally at the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg. Nicholas II, his wife, his son, and his four daughters were murdered in the same room by the Bolsheviks on the night of 16/17 July 1918.
This led to the canonization of Nicholas II, his wife the Empress and their children as martyrs by various groups tied to the Russian Orthodox Church within Russia and, prominently, outside Russia.

Icon of the Imperial Family

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

Nicholas was the son of Emperor Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia (formerly "Princess Dagmar of Denmark").

His paternal grandparents were Emperor Alexander II (see left) and Empress Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, (born "Princess Marie of Hesse").
His maternal grandparents were King Christian IX of Denmark and Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel.
Nicholas often referred to his father nostalgically in letters after Alexander's (see right) death in 1894, however, as a child, he was jealous of his father's physical strength, as demonstrated when his father lifted a 27 kilo stone with one hand.
He was also very close to his mother, as it is revealed in their published letters to each other. Nicholas had three younger brothers (Alexander [1869–1870], George [1871–1899] and Michael [1878–1918]) and two younger sisters (Xenia [1875-1960] and Olga [1882-1960]).

Maternally, Nicholas was the nephew of several monarchs, including George I of Greece; Frederick VIII of Denmark; Alexandra, Queen consort of the United Kingdom; and the Crown Princess of Hanover.
Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany (see right) were all first cousins of King George V (see left) of the United Kingdom.
Nicholas' mother was the sister of British Queen Alexandra, the mother of George V.

The Empress Alexandra was the daughter of Princess Alice, herself a daughter of Queen Victoria, thus making the King-Emperor Edward VII (see left) her uncle, and cousin to the Emperor Wilhelm, on her mother's side; and equally a direct descendant of Queen Victoria.

The Kaiser Wilhelm (see right) was a son of Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, also named Victoria, who married Crown Prince Frederick of Germany.
Nicholas and Wilhelm were not each other's first cousin, but they were second cousins, once removed, as each descended from Frederick William III, King of Prussia, as well as third cousins, as they were both great-great-grandsons of Tsar Paul I of Russia.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

On 13 March 1881, following the assassination of his grandfather, Tsar Alexander II (see left), Nicholas became Tsarevich and his father became Tsar Alexander III.
Nicholas and other family members witnessed Alexander II's death because they were staying at the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg (see right) where he was brought after being attacked.
For security reasons, the new Tsar and his family relocated their primary residence to the Gatchina Palace outside the city.
A long trip for educational purposes became an important part of training for the members of the Russian imperial house.
In 1890, Tsar Alexander III decided to establish the Trans-Siberian Railway.
His heir, Tsarevich Nicholas, took part in the opening ceremony, and from there he was obliged to make a journey around the world, which became known as the Eastern Journey where he survived an assassination attempt at Otsu in Japan.

Although Nicholas attended meetings of the Imperial Council, his obligations were limited until he acceded to the throne, which was not expected for many years, since his father was only 45.
While he was Tsarevich, Nicholas had an affair with the ballet dancer Mathilde Kschessinska (see right).

The adventure itself with Malechka Nicholas was short lived. If consummated their relationship in early 1893, it ended before Nicholas traveled to Coburg to attend the wedding of his cousin Victoria Melita of Edinburgh, Ducky, the young Grand Duke Ernest of Hesse-Darmstadt, the brother of Alix.
In early April 1894, Nicky was committed with Alix, fulfilling his dream of so many years.
And Alix forgave Malechka affair because it was past Malechka Nicholas, a past which is not exactly proud.

Against his parents' initial wishes, Nicholas was determined to marry Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, the fourth daughter of Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, second eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
His parents intended a more politically beneficial arrangement with Princess Hélène, daughter of Philippe, comte de Paris, pretender to the French throne, hoping to cement Russia's new alliance with France, but eventually yielded to their son's wishes.


Nicholas became engaged to Alix of Hesse in April 1894.
Alix was hesitant to accept the engagement due to the requirement that she convert from Lutheranism to Russian Orthodoxy and renounce her former faith.
An exception was made for Alix where she could convert without renouncing her Lutheran faith. Nicholas and Alix became formally engaged on 8 April 1894.
Alix converted to Orthodoxy in November 1894 and took the name Alexandra Fedorovna (see left), in an attempt to be more acceptable to the Russian people.
Nicholas took the throne on 1 November 1894 at the age of 26 following Alexander III's unexpected death.
Throughout 1894, Alexander's health rapidly declined and at 49, he died of kidney disease.
Throughout his reign, Nicholas chose to maintain the conservative policies favored by his father. While Alexander had concentrated on the formulation of general policy, Nicholas devoted much more attention to the details of administration.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Mourning for Tsar Alexander III was over by autumn of 1895 and was replaced by the preparations for the coronation of the new Tsar.
The last coronation service in Russia was held on 26 May 1896 for Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, who would be the final Tsar and Tsaritsa of Russia.
The Russian crown jewels survived the subsequent Russian Revolution and the Communist period, and are currently on exhibit in a museum at the Kremlin Armoury.

The coronation gown of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna cost 4,920 rubles (see right), with the other items prepared for her for the ceremonies amounting to 12,000 rubles.
It is noteworthy, however, that the sums were only a tenth of the expenditure for her predecessor, Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, in 1883.
The total sum allotted for the Coronation celebrations in 1896 amounted to 965,925 rubles, while the expenditure for the Coronation celebrations in 1883, when tsar Alexander III was crowned, totaled 2,715,704 rubles.
The most prominent artists and decorators were engaged in embellishing the palaces and streets of Moscow.
Special coins and medals were minted to commemorate the Sacred Coronation.
The Russian celebrities Vasiliy Vasnetsov and Alexander Benoit designed watercolours for the menus of the festive meals.
The composer Alexander Glazunov dedicated a cantata.
As befitting the occasion, the Tsar rode to his coronation, escorted by his lavishly brilliant suite. The Tsar was mounted on the half-bred English horse Norma, a thirteen-year-old light-gray dapple mare.
The most splendid part of the procession were the fourteen coaches and phaetons covered with gold leaf and velvet, the train drawn by six horse harnessed in tandem.
Some of the coaches, in the style of Louis XV, dated back to the reign of Empress Catherine II and Emperor Paul I.
The coaches were adorned with paintings by the famous artists Boucher, Watteau and Gravelot. The other carriages, austere and massive, yet even more luxurious, came from the XII century.

The Coronation of the Russian monarch was a religious ceremony of the Russian Orthodox Church, the state church of the Russian Empire, in which the Emperor of Russia (generally referred to as the Tsar) was crowned and invested with regalia, then anointed with chrism and formally blessed by the church to commence his reign.
Although rulers of Muscovy had been crowned prior to the reign of Ivan III, their coronation rituals assumed overt Byzantine overtones as the result of the influence of Ivan's wife Sophia Paleologue, and the imperial ambitions of his grandson, Ivan IV.
These elements remained, as Muscovy was transformed first into the Tsardom of Russia and then into the Russian Empire, until the abolition of the monarchy in 1917.
Since Tsarist Russia claimed to be the "Third Rome" and the replacement of Byzantium as the true Christian state, the Russian rite was designed to link its rulers and prerogatives to those of the so-called "Second Rome" (Constantinople).
The policy of the Orthodox Church held that the monarch must be anointed and crowned according to the Orthodox rite to have a successful tenure.
As the church and state were essentially one in Imperial Russia, this service invested the Tsars with political legitimacy; however, this was not its only intent.
It was equally perceived as conferring a genuine spiritual benefit that mystically wedded sovereign to subjects, bestowing divine authority upon the new ruler.
As such, it was similar in purpose to other European coronation ceremonies from the medieval era.

Even when the imperial capital was located at St. Petersburg (1713–1728, 1732–1917), Russian coronations were always held in Moscow at the Cathedral of the Dormition (see left) in the Kremlin.

The Cathedral of the Dormition (Успенский Собор or Uspensky sobor) is a Russian Orthodox church dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos.
It is located on the north side of Cathedral Square of the Moscow Kremlin in Russia, where a narrow alley separates the north from the Patriarch's Palace with the Twelve Apostles Church. Southwest is Ivan the Great Bell Tower.
Separately in the southwest, also separated by a narrow passage from the church, is the Palace of Facets 
The Cathedral is regarded as the mother church of Muscovite Russia.
In its present form was built in 1475-79 at the behest of the Moscow Grand Duke Ivan III by the Italian architect Aristotele Fioravanti.
From 1547 to 1896 it is where the Coronation of the Russian monarch was held.
In addition, it is the burial place for most of the Moscow Metropolitans and Patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Starting with the reign of Ivan IV, the ruler of Russia was known as "Tsar" rather than "Grand Prince"; "Tsar" being a Slavonic equivalent to the Latin term "Caesar".
This continued until 1721, during the reign of Peter I, when the title was formally changed to Imperator (Emperor).
Peter's decision reflected the difficulties other European monarchs had in deciding whether to recognize the Russian ruler as an emperor or a mere king, and reflected his insistence on being seen as the former.
However, the term "Tsar" remained the popular title for the Russian ruler.

Russian rulers from Dmitri Donskoi to Peter the Great utilized the Cap of Monomakh (see above), a fourteenth-century gold filigree cap with sable trimming, adorned with pearls and other precious stones.
Although Russian legend held that it had been given to Vladimir Monomakh by the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX, more modern scholarship assigns an Asian origin to this diadem.
When Peter the Great proclaimed himself Emperor of Russia in 1721, he replaced Monomakh's diadem with one modelled on the private crowns of the Holy Roman emperors, of which the Imperial Crown of Austria is one example.
Peter's wife, who succeeded him as Catherine I, was the first to wear this type of diadem.
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
For the coronation of Catherine the Great (Catherine II) in 1762, court jewelers Ekhart and Jeremia Pauzie decided to create a new crown, known as the Great Imperial Crown (see right), which used the style of a mitre divided into two half-spheres with a central arch between them topped by diamonds and a 398.72-caret red spinel from China.
This nine-pound crown was used in all coronations from Paul I to Nicholas II—although the latter tried (but failed) to replace it with Monomakh's Crown for his ceremony.
It survived the subsequent revolution, and is today exhibited in a Kremlin museum.
For the actual crowning new ruler directed the Metropolitan to hand him the Imperial Crown.
The Tsar took the crown from the Metropolitan's hands and placed it upon his own head, as the prelate invoked the name of the Holy Trinity.
This was in keeping with the custom inherited from the Byzantine Emperors, and was intended to indicate that the imperial power, which the Tsars viewed as the direct continuation of the Christian Roman Empire (or Byzantium), came directly from God.
The prayer of the Metropolitan or Patriarch, similar to that of the Patriarch of Constantinople for the Byzantine Emperor, confirmed the imperial supremacy:
"Most God-fearing, absolute, and mighty Lord, Tsar of all the Russias, this visible and tangible adornment of thy head is an eloquent symbol that thou, as the head of the whole Russian people, art invisibly crowned by the King of kings, Christ, with a most ample blessing, seeing that He bestows upon thee entire authority over His people."
Next the Tsar received his sceptre and orb, given to him by the Metropolitan (who again invoked the Christian Trinity) with these words:
"God-crowned, God-given, God-adorned, most pious Autocrat and great Sovereign, Emperor of All the Russias. Receive the scepter and the orb, which are the visible signs of the autocratic power given thee from the Most High over thy people, that thou mayest rule them and order for them the welfare they desire."

Nicholas and Alix's wedding was originally scheduled for the spring of 1895, but it was moved forward at Nicholas' insistence.
Staggering under the weight of his new office, he had no intention of allowing the one person who gave him confidence to leave his side.
The wedding (see left) took place on 26 November 1894.
Alexandra wore the traditional dress of Romanov brides, and Nicholas a hussar's uniform. Nicholas and Alexandra, each holding a lighted candle, faced the palace priest; a few minutes before one in the afternoon, they were married.


Despite a visit to Great Britain before his accession, where he observed the House of Commons in debate and seemed impressed by the machinery of democracy, Nicholas turned his back on any notion of giving away any power to elected representatives in Russia.
Shortly after he came to the throne, a deputation of peasants and workers from various towns' local assemblies (zemstvos) came to the Winter Palace proposing court reforms, such as the adoption of a constitutional monarchy, and reform that would improve the political and social life of the peasantry.
Although the addresses they had sent in beforehand were couched in mild and loyal terms, Nicholas was angry and ignored advice from an Imperial Family Council by saying to them:

"... it has come to my knowledge that during the last months there have been heard in some assemblies of the zemstvos the voices of those who have indulged in a senseless dream that the zemstvos be called upon to participate in the government of the country.
I want everyone to know that I will devote all my strength to maintain, for the good of the whole nation, the principle of absolute autocracy, as firmly and as strongly as did my late lamented father."

The first years of his reign saw little more than continuation and development of the policy pursued by Alexander III.
Nicholas allotted money for the All-Russia exhibition of 1896.
In 1897 restoration of gold standard by Sergei Witte, Minister of Finance, completed the series of financial reforms, initiated fifteen years earlier.
By 1902, the Trans-Siberian Railway was nearly completed; this helped the Russians trade in the Far East but the railway still required huge amounts of work.

In foreign relations, Nicholas followed policies of his father, strengthening the Franco-Russian Alliance and pursuing a policy of general European pacification, which culminated in the famous Hague peace conference.
This conference, suggested and promoted by Nicholas II, was convened with the view of terminating the arms race, and setting up machinery for the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

The results of the conference were less than expected, because of the mutual distrust existing between great powers.
Still, the Hague conventions were among the first formal statements of the laws of war.
He was Colonel in Chief of the Royal Scots Greys from 1894 until his death.
On becoming Colonel in Chief he presented the Regiment with a whitebearskin, now worn by the bass drummer of the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.
The Imperial Russian anthem is still played at dinner nights in the Officers' Mess, where there is still a portrait of the Tsar in Scots Greys uniform.
Since his murder the Regiment has worn a black backing behind its capbadge to mourn his death.


Daughters of the Tsar
Children of the Tsar
Alexandra bore Nicholas four daughters - the Grand Duchess Olga in 1895, the Grand Duchess Tatiana in 1897, Grand Duchess Maria in 1899, and Grand Duchess Anastasia in 1901, before their son Alexei was born on 12 August 1904.
The young heir was afflicted with hemophilia B, a hereditary disease that prevents blood from clotting properly, which at that time was untreatable and usually led to an untimely death.
As a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Alexandra carried the same gene mutation that afflicted several of the major European royal houses, such as Prussia and Spain.
Hemophilia therefore became known as "the royal disease". Alexandra had passed it on to her son.
As all of Nicholas and Alexandra's daughters perished with their parents and brother in Yekaterinburg in 1918, it is not known whether any of them inherited the gene as carriers.

Because of the fragility of the autocracy at this time, Nicholas and Alexandra chose not to divulge Alexei's condition to anyone outside the royal household, in fact, there were many in the Imperial household who were unaware of the exact nature of the Tsarevich's illness.
At first Alexandra turned to Russian doctors and medics to treat Alexei; however, their treatments generally failed, and Alexandra increasingly turned to mystics and holy men (or starets as they were called in Russian).

One of these starets, an illiterate Siberian, Grigori Rasputin, appeared to have some success. Rasputin's influence over Empress Alexandra, and consequently the Tsar, had grown stronger ever since 1912, when the Tsarevich nearly died from an injury while the family was on vacation at the hunting lodges at Bialowieza and Spala (now part of Poland).
The bleeding grew steadily worse until it was assumed that the Tsarevich would not survive, and the Last Sacrament was administered on 10 October 1912.
Desperate, Alexandra called Rasputin as a last resort, and the reply came,
"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."
The hemorrhage stopped the next day and the boy began to recover.
Alexandra took this as a sign that Rasputin was a starets and that God was with him; for the rest of her life she would defend him and turn her wrath against anyone who dared to question him.

click here for more information about 
Gregor Rasputin


A clash between Russia and Japan was almost inevitable by the turn of the 20th century.
Russia had expanded in the East, and the growth of her settlement and territorial ambitions, as her southward path to the Balkans was frustrated, conflicted with Japan's own territorial ambitions on the Chinese and Asian mainland.
War began in 1904 with a surprise Japanese attack on the Russian fleet in Port Arthur, without formal declaration of war.
The Russian Baltic fleet traversed the world to balance power in the East, but after many misadventures on the way, was almost annihilated by the Japanese in the Battle of the Tsushima Strait.
On land the Russian army experienced logistical problems.
While commands and supplies came from St. Petersburg, combat took place in east Asian ports with only the Trans-Siberian Railway for transport of supplies as well as troops both ways. The 6,000-mile (9,700 km) track between St. Petersburg and Port Arthur was one-way, with no track around Lake Baikal, allowing only gradual build-up of the forces on the front.
Besieged Port Arthur fell to the Japanese, after nine months of resistance. In mid-1905, Nicholas II accepted American mediation, appointing Sergei Witte chief plenipotentiary for the peace talks. War was ended by the Treaty of Portsmouth.
Nicholas's stance on the war was something that baffled many.
Nicholas approached the war with confidence and saw it as an opportunity to raise Russian morale and patriotism, paying little attention to the finances of a long-distance war.
Shortly before the Japanese attack on Port Arthur, Nicholas held strong to the belief that there would be no war.

Despite the onset of the war and the many defeats Russia suffered, Nicholas still believed in, and expected, a final victory.
Many people took the Tsar's confidence and stubbornness for indifference; believing him to be completely impervious.
As Russia continued to face defeat by the Japanese, the call for peace grew. Nicholas's own mother, as well as his cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm, urged Nicholas to open peace negotiations. Despite the efforts for peace, Nicholas remained evasive.
It was not until 27–28 March and the annihilation of the Russian fleet by the Japanese, that Nicholas finally decided to pursue peace.