Part Two of my Romanov-related blog posts!
|Nicholas II at military headquarters. Courtesy of:
1915: Nicholas II is at military headquarters, commanding the Russian army. He’s left his wife Alexandra in charge of the governing of the empire. Alexandra hates Nicholas’s ministers, appoints her own ministers (at the advice of Rasputin), and the extended Romanov family pick representatives to approach the emperor and empress to give them interventions in the whole matter of Grigori Rasputin–and the peril they thought the country was in. There were cousins planning coups, for goodness’ sake.
|Moika (Yusupov) Palace, St. Petersburg, where Rasputin was murdered.
By A. Savin via Wikimedia Commons.
On December 30, 1916, Rasputin was invited to the Yusupov Palace, home of Prince Felix Yusupov, husband of Tsar Nicholas’s niece. Also, Prince Felix is ridonculously rich. Richer than the Romanovs kind of rich.
(Japan won that one)
In the meantime, their kids are growing up. Alexei seems healthier–he spent quite a lot of time with his dad at army headquarters. Olga and Tatiana, the older daughters, had been Red Cross nurses and there’s evidence that they had their teenage crushes and flirtations, though neither were anywhere near getting married.
|The Romanov children in a colorized photo during WWI|
By 1917, things are not good. Army regiments began mutinying. The Allied forces are like, “Uh, you guys good? ‘Cause we need your cannon fodder.” There are protests and riots in St. Petersburg. In February 1917 (March 1917 by our calendar; Russia still used the Old calendar) the February Revolution takes place, wherein the army is sent to Petersburg quell the protests and strikes but the Petersburg garrisons start mutinying and eventually, joined the protesters and strikers.
Men in the Duma–the representative body–declared a Provisional Committee and they said they were now in charge of governing Russia. A bunch of socialists formed the Petrograd Soviet to represent workers and soldiers. The soldiers guarding the imperial family at the Alexander Palace leave to join their fellow soldiers.
Finally, Nicholas at headquarters is like, “Oh shit!” and he gets on a train headed back to Tsarkoye Selo, outside St. Petersburg, where his family lived in the Alexander Palace. Only he can’t get near St. Petersburg because of the unrest and his train is stopped, then turned around to Pskov. With his military against him, his family far away and possibly in danger, and not wanting the situation to grow worse–like giving way to the German army–Nicholas II abdicated.
At first, he abdicated in favor of Alexei. Alexei was twelve. A couple of hours later, Nicholas redid his abdication documents, this time bypassing Alexei–he didn’t want his son separated from the rest of the family, plus Alexei’s health would always be precarious–in favor of his younger brother Grand Duke Michael.
Michael declined, saying he wouldn’t be tsar until a constituent assembly could be formed. And thus, three hundred and four years of Romanov rule came to an end.
|Source: Royal Russia|
In the meantime, at home in the Alexander Palace, Alexandra heard the news of Nicholas’s abdication. She was deeply unpopular. Crowds tried to storm the palace, but were kept at bay by palace guards–who supported the Duma. This is one of those instances in history where you wonder “what if?”
Because at this point, with the abdication still fresh, things could have gone any number of ways. Nicholas could have demanded that his family be brought to him before he abdicated. The family could have tried to join him before going into exile. Alexandra and the kids could have gone into exile with Nicholas to follow. They could have moved to a safer palace.
For example, the Dowager Empress was in the Ukraine at this time. She stayed relatively safe and unbothered.
Except for one measly quirk of circumstance: the Romanov children were sick with the measles around this time. Grand Duchess Maria nearly died. When their father returned–and the children had started to recover–it was too late to attempt a move or an escape. The Provisional Government, led by Alexander Kerensky, put the family and servants under house arrest.
-House arrest when you live in a palace
-Omg, we can’t have these reviled people so close to those socialists
-Where do we stash them?