As few interesting photos to peruse and enjoy on a Sunday afternoon (or whenever you should take the notion).

Statue of Liberty under construction in France

Jean Harlow, glamorous early starlet. Born in 1911.
This is one of her baby pictures, taken around 1915

 

Hot air balloon races at the 1900 Paris World Fair. These events took place in Vincennes, in the outskirts of Paris. There was an altitude contest which was won by Mr. Balsan – who reached an altitude of 8,357 meters in his hot air balloon. The same Mr. Balsan became famous for winning a contest involving both distance and duration; it took him 35 hours to reach Russia. Courtesy Library of Congress

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A century ago tonight, Grigori Rasputin became the victim of an elaborate and murderous plot.

That evening, the controversial Siberian monk was lured to the palatial home of Prince Felix Yusupov for a private party. There he happily ate cakes laced with enough cyanide to kill ten men, and guzzled the wine – also poisoned – brought to him by his royal host. When it became clear that Rasputin was not even going to develop a stomachache from the poisoned treats, Yusupov and his co-conspirators became increasingly frightened, as one method after another failed to kill the monk.

At last the noblemen succeeded in murdering Rasputin. Had it not been for their desperation, the monk would no doubt have survived the poison, the gunfire, and the beating. He would probably have gone on influencing the Romanov tsar and tsarina and living a heady life in the Russian capital. Yet had he died later, of natural causes, his triumphs and misdeeds would eventually have been lost in the historical mists.

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But Yusupov and his co-conspirators unintentionally guaranteed the Mad Monk immortality, and not only by the cruel and spectacular way in which they committed the deed. Two weeks before he was killed, Rasputin had written a letter to the tsar and tsarina that included this passage:

If you hear the sound of the bell which will tell you that Grigory has been killed, you must know this: if it was your relations who have wrought my death, then none of your children will remain alive for more than two years.

Prince Felix Yusupov, nephew of Tsar Nicolas, was ignorant of this letter. He had no way of knowing that it was through him that the monk’s last and greatest prophecy would be fulfilled: the tsar, tsarina, and all five of their children were murdered in Siberia 18 months later.

Click here for a detailed account of Rasputin’s death and the dreadful aftermath. 

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Note: Mads Dahl Madsen colorized the pictures of Rasputin in this post. He did a wonderful job of capturing the monk’s famously icy eyes, didn’t he?

Was George V indirectly to blame for the murder of his Romanov cousins?

Did he fear his own English crown would be jeopardized if he gave asylum to the Russian Tsar?

Tsar Nicholas II and George V
Tsar Nicholas II and George V

There is evidence that the English royals were worried. They had good reason to be. The costs of the Great War were so much more than anyone had imagined. Scarcely a single family had been spared, and the end still was not in sight. In a show of loyalty, the family renounced their German titles. Their surname was changed from the Germanic-sounding Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor.

And now the dilemma came. The horizon upon which Russia lay was darkening, and the signs were ominous for George V’s cousin, Nicholas.

George V and Nicholas II
George V and Nicholas II, with their families

The King of England and the Tsar of Russia were first cousins, who looked like twins. They were the same age, they had grown up together. And now as the revolution raged in Russia, the Bolsheviks circled Nicholas and his family like buzzards, waiting.

Tsar and King
Tsar and King

It seemed an easy choice. But… George had no foresight into how the war would end. The German victories in the early days of the war were shocking and many believed England would be defeated, eventually. And, with revolution brewing on the Continent and increasingly in his own kingdom, the English King hesitated.

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Tsar King Kaiser

Casualties from the German war were appalling and it was hardly a secret that the Empress Alexandra was a German.  And her presence might call additional attention to another problematic cousin of the King’s: Kaiser Wilhelm. Wouldn’t it aggravate matters to give the Romanovs asylum in his own kingdom?

Did George decide not to offer his cousin asylum? Or did he just continue to hesitate? However it happened, no offer was made and the window of opportunity closed. The Romanovs were soon beyond George’s help.

Romanovs
Tsar Nicholas, Empress Alexandra and their children