Rose de Guzman

History ~ Books ~ Tea ~ Figure Skating

Menu Close

Category: monarchy monday (page 2 of 2)

Monarchy Monday: HIH Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich

On 30 July 1904, the prayers of millions across the Russian empire were answered with the birth of His Imperial Highness, Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich, the only son of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

However, this blessing came with a secret curse — that of the hereditary and deadly disease known as hemophilia.  The young heir’s blood would not clot, and he ran a constant risk of deadly internal hemorrhage.  This illness was treated as a state secret, but there were often rumors about the boy’s health.

His hemophilia shaped his entire childhood.  While the disease itself caused him much suffering, it also changed the way he was raised. His parents were, by necessity, extremely careful that he not injure himself in anyway, and even had two sailors follow him around to protect him from the bumps and bruises inherent to being a lively boy.  This extra protection led to him being a bit spoiled, but he was still known to be a happy boy and he was often a prankster.  His tutor, Pierre Gilliard, did eventually convince his parents to give him a bit more autonomy and to learn self-control.

However, it wasn’t just his childhood that was defined by his illness — the destiny of the entire empire was at stake.  When Alexei’s condition worsened and he nearly died at Spala in Poland, his mother turned to the faith healer (often incorrectly called a monk) Gregory Rasputin.  Rasputin seemed to be able to comfort the boy and slow the internal bleeding that threatened to kill the young Tsarevich.  How, or even if, this worked is still not understood to this day, although some have suggested that it was a kind of hypnosis.

The focus that the Empress had to give to her son’s illness, as well as the questionable influence of Rasputin, played not a small role in the breakdown of the empire itself.  The strain of ensuring the heir’s survival ended up being part of the demise of the entire imperial system, though of course it is an over-simplification to imply that it was the only factor.

Outside of the ravages of his illness, Alexei was an enthusiastic boy with a love of all things military.  He accompanied his father to Stavka, the military headquarters, during the First World War.  He enjoyed his time there, living and eating like a soldier.

During the family’s captivity after the revolution, Alexei’s condition worsened.  By 1918, he was unable to walk, and, the night of the shooting, his father had to carry him down into the cellar where their lives were to end.

Alexei only lived to be thirteen — he was killed alongside his family in Yekaterinburg in 1918.  The only survivor of the shooting was Alexei’s spaniel, Joy, pictured below.

Nota Bene: This is the fifth in a series about Tsar Nicholas II’s children. 

All dates prior to February 1918 given in Old Style (OS) format unless otherwise noted.

Sources:

Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by Pierre Gilliard

Memories of the Russian Court by Anna Virubova

Monarchy Monday: HIH Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna

anastasiaHer Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, the fourth and youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, was born on 5 June, 1901.  Her name means “resurrection,” something that was often pointed out in conjunction with legends of her survival.

Her birth was a bit of a disappointment to her parents and relatives — everyone had hoped that the Tsar’s fourth child would (finally) be the longed-for son and heir.  Because Russian laws differed from laws of other monarchies (such as England), the Tsar’s daughters would never be allowed to inherit the throne and producing a son was of paramount importance.  Upon finding out that his wife had given birth to yet another daughter, Nicholas had to go for a walk to compose himself before seeing the Empress and newborn Grand Duchess Anastasia.  But compose himself he did — Nicholas was a loving father who adored all of his daughters, despite the succession issue.

anastasiaselfie

The prankster of the family, Anastasia was often called “shvibzik,” meaning “imp.”  She would often refuse to come out of trees that she had climbed or play pranks on her tutors and family members.  Anastasia is often credited as having taken the first “mirror selfie,” but the reality is that there is no way to know who came up with this idea first (and there are examples older than Anastasia’s).  Even so, the picture — indicative of her personality and of the family’s love of photography — is shown here.  It proves, if nothing else, that there is nothing new under the sun.

Like her sister Maria, Anastasia was too young to be a nurse during the war.  However, she went with Marie to visit soldiers, play games, write letters, and otherwise cheer them up.  She also had a cheering effect on her family during their captivity with her sunny personality.  Even the guards described her cheerfulness.

Because of the well-known impostor who went by the name of Anna Anderson and the media surrounding that woman’s decades-long claim to be Anastasia, the youngest Grand Duchess is the most famous, especially in the West.  In fact, I discovered the Romanov family via the (very inaccurate) 1997 animated film, Anastasia, as did many other Romanov followers I know.  The real Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna was killed along side her family in 1918, but many people still believe in the myths of survival.  Some people still believe Anna Anderson’s claims, despite DNA evidence to the contrary and despite the discovery of Anastasia’s remains.

Nota Bene: This is the fourth in a series about Tsar Nicholas II’s children. 

All dates prior to February 1918 given in Old Style (OS) format unless otherwise noted.

anastasiachildSources:

Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by Pierre Gilliard

Six Years at the Russian Court by Margaret Eager

Memories of the Russian Court by Anna Virubova

The Fate of the Romanovs by Greg King and Penny Wilson

The Resurrection of the Romanovs by Greg King and Penny Wilson

Monarchy Monday: HIH Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna

marieHer Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, the third child of Tsar Nicholas II, was born on 14 June 1899.  Sometimes, especially in English language publications, she is referred to as “Marie,” the French form of her name, but this is not accurate in terms of Russian naming. (Although she sometimes went by Marie as well as the more traditional Russian nickname “Masha.”  Perhaps this had something to do with the Imperial Russian love of all things French.)

Considered very beautiful, Maria had light brown hair and striking blue eyes.  However, her sisters often called her “fat little bow wow,” especially when she went through what we would call a “chubby” phase during her growth.

Together with her younger sister, Anastasia, Maria was half of the so-called “little pair.”  She and Anastasia shared a room and often wore similar clothing.  However, kind Maria was often overruled by her impish prankster of a sister.

Maria1914

Maria was considered too young to be a nurse during the war, but she did go and visit soldiers and help them write letters home to their loved ones.  She was spared some of the more disturbing sights that her older sisters experienced, but was still able to help the war effort in a way more fitting to her age (only 15 when the war began).

Often a flirt, Maria’s lifelong dream was to be a wife and mother, and she often had crushes on the soliders she visited.  She said that if she were not a member of the imperial family she would have wanted to marry a solider and have lots of children.  While all of the Tsar’s daughters were expected to marry and have children, Maria seems to have daydreamed about this more than her sisters.  At least one man was very taken with her — Louis Mountbatten.  In fact, he kept a picture of her by his bedside as a memento of his childhood crush on her until the day he died.

Some people believed that Maria was a symptomatic carrier of hemophilia, the bleeding disease her younger brother, Alexei, suffered from.  When Maria had her tonsils out in 1914, she hemorrhaged, which could be an indication of hemophilia since some carriers do bleed more readily than the average unaffected person.  After the bodies of the Imperial family were discovered and tested, it was found that one of the girls in the main grave was a hemophilia carrier — but who she was depends on who is right about the identities of the various sisters in the graves, which is a mystery unlikely to ever be fully solved.

maria childNota Bene: This is the third in a series about Tsar Nicholas II’s children. 

All dates prior to February 1918 given in Old Style (OS) format unless otherwise noted.

Sources:

Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by Pierre Gilliard

Six Years at the Russian Court by Margaret Eager

Memories of the Russian Court by Anna Virubova

The Fate of the Romanovs by Greg King and Penny Wilson

Monarchy Monday: HIH Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna

Tatiana_Nikolaevna Her Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna, the second child of Tsar Nicholas II, was born on 29 May 1897.

The younger half of the so-called “Big Pair,” she shared a room with her older sister, Olga. The girls were very close, and adored each other.  When Olga was ill with Typhoid fever, Tatiana was inconsolable, terrified because she did not recognize that sick little girl in bed as her sister.

Tatiana was a leader among her siblings, and they called her “The Governess.”  While she lacked her older sister’s natural talent in the schoolroom, she was a harder worker, more likely to follow through until a project was completed.

In many ways, she was a lot like her her mother — both in looks and temperament.  She was also the daughter who was the most bonded to their mother.  While all of Empress Alexandra’s children loved her, Tatiana seemed to be her kindred spirit.  Of all the girls, Tatiana was also the most dedicated to their friend Rasputin, recording his sayings in a little notebook.  She was the most devout of the children, frequently reading The Bible and other religious books.

Tall, slender, and regal — many people considered Tatiana the most elegant of the Tsar’s daughters. She enjoyed dressing her mother’s hair and had a flair for style and fashion.  It would have been interesting to see what she would have done with the styles of the 1920’s and beyond.

tatiana child

Tatiana was devoted to her duties as a wartime nurse, and her only complaint about nursing was that she was not allowed, due to her age, to do even more.  She also appeared in public more than her sisters, chairing committees and attending events.  However, she was nervous about speaking in public and naturally shy, perhaps due to her sheltered upbringing.  Duty was paramount, though, and even nerves could not stop her from doing what she believed her country needed.

Her natural sense of responsibility was a comfort to her mother during their captivity.  When the Tsar was to be moved from Tobolsk, the Empress was willing to accompany her husband despite her son’s illness and inability to be moved only because Tatiana was able to stay behind and manage things.  However, the reduced circumstances of their imprisonment was hard on Tatiana, and she clung to her dignity via a haughty demeanor.  It is difficult to view her harshly for this, though, because she was a young woman adrift from all she was raised to expect from life.  The very position she was born and raised to hold was gone, and with it the very world she was meant to inhabit.

On 17 July 1918, Tatiana was shot along with the rest of her immediate family.

tatiana2Nota Bene: This is the second in a series about Tsar Nicholas II’s children. 

All dates prior to February 1918 given in Old Style (OS) format unless otherwise noted.

Sources:

Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by Pierre Gilliard

Six Years at the Russian Court by Margaret Eager

Memories of the Russian Court by Anna Virubova

Monarchy Monday: HIH Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna

Olgachair

Her Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, the eldest child of Tsar Nicholas II, was born on 3 November 1895.

Olga was sensitive and studious, often having an understanding of events that defied her years.  The imperial tutor, Pierre Gilliard, praised her “quick brain” and spoke of her natural abilities as a student.

However, like many eldest children, she could be bossy or pushy with her siblings, and her mother often reminded her to be kind and patient.

She was indeed kind, giving her own allowance to help others, including crutches and other medical expenses for a sick boy once she reached the age of twenty and had control over some of her own money.

Almost from the moment of her birth, speculation as to Olga’s marriage prospects was rampant.  When she was just an infant, newspapers suggested that she might marry her distant cousin, Prince Edward of York, who would eventually become Britain’s King Edward VIII.  However, this was not seriously considered.  Olga came closer to marrying Prince Carol of Romania, but the negotiations came to nothing because Olga was not interested in pursuing the match.  War, and, eventually, revolution, put an end to the possibility of Olga marrying.

During the Great War, she served her country as a trained nurse.  However, this was very difficult for her — nothing could prepare her for the sights, sounds, and smells she would encounter in the hospital.  Despite the difficulty, Olga continued to carry out her duties with her mother and her sister, Tatiana.

Similarly, captivity was difficult for the sensitive Olga.  The stress weighed on her, and she grew thin and drawn, her face aged rapidly during her imprisonment.  Some believe that the young grand duchess had more of a sense of what was coming than even her parents, and, truthfully, that wouldn’t surprise me.

Olga was shot alongside her parents and siblings in July, 1918.  She was later canonized in the Russian Orthodox Church as a passion bearer.

olga child

Nota Bene: This is the first in a series about Tsar Nicholas II’s children. 

All dates prior to February 1918 given in Old Style (OS) format unless otherwise noted.

When this post was originally published, it featured a Photoshopped version of the photograph of Grand Duchess Olga in her nurse’s uniform, in which her face was replaced with that of her sister, Maria.  My apologies for this mistake, which is discussed in more detail here.

Sources:

Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

The Diary of Olga Romanov translated by Helen Azar

Thirteen Years at the Russian Court by Pierre Gilliard

Monarchy Monday: Long Live the Queen

Last week, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II marked 65 years on the throne, the first British monarch to do so.  In 2015, she became the UK’s longest reigning monarch, and now she is the only one to have celebrated a Sapphire Jubilee.  While the celebrations weren’t as dramatic as her Golden Jubilee (2002) or her Diamond Jubilee (2012), there was a 41-gun salute and well wishes from around the world.

Her accession in 1952 at the age of 25 upon the death of her father was shown recently on the Netflix drama The Crown.  Because this anniversary is also that of her beloved father’s death, Her Majesty spent the day in private on her Sandringham estate, as she does each year.

If Her Majesty lives as long as her late mother, she could celebrate a Platinum Jubilee in 2022.

Sources:

CNN: Queen Elizabeth II marks 65 years on British throne with Sapphire Jubilee

Today: Queen Elizabeth makes history with 65 years on the throne