The Empress Alexandra was devastated by Rasputin’s death. He was the only man alive who could save Alexei and now he was gone.
It is unknown whether she considered the implications of a man known to be favored by her being murdered despite her protection. But looking back, it was another sign that the people were increasingly dismissive of the imperial Romanovs.
Nicholas had no military experience and the war was not going well. At the front, men starved; at home, women and children went hungry. The Romanovs, however, seemed oblivious. It is more likely that the tsar’s gestures that were meant to give courage were misplaced or misinterpreted by a struggling people. The pretty grand duchesses, the impressive uniforms, the picturesque photographs looked as though they were part of a different war than the one being fought by the Russian army.
By the end of 1916, the extended Romanov family was desperate.
Someone had to put a stop to Rasputin. For some reason, the tsar and tsarina appeared to be completely bamboozled by this drunken, filthy man who took bribes and sold government appointments.
Perhaps Rasputin sensed he had gone too far. He sent this prophetic letter to the tsarina in early December:
I write and leave behind me this letter at St. Petersburg. I feel that I shall leave life before January 1st. I wish to make known to the Russian people to Papa to the Russian Mother and to the children to the land of Russia what they must understand. If I am killed by common assassins and especially by my brothers the Russian peasants, you Tsar of Russia, have nothing to fear. Remain on your throne and govern and you, Russian Tsar, will have nothing to fear for your children, they will reign for hundreds of years in Russia.But if I am murdered by boyars, nobles and if they shed my blood, their hands will remain soiled with my blood for twenty-five years they will not wash their hands from my blood. They will leave Russia. Brothers will kill brothers, and they will kill each other and hate each other, and for twenty-five years there will be no peace in the country.The Tsar of the land of Russia, 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. And if they do, they will beg for death as they will see the defeat of Russia, see the Antichrist coming, plague, poverty, destroyed churches, and desecrated sanctuaries where everyone is dead.The Russian Tsar, you will be killed by the Russian people and the people will be cursed and will serve as the devil’s weapon killing each other everywhere. Three times for 25 years they will destroy the Russian people and the orthodox faith and the Russian land will die.I shall be killed. I am no longer among the living. Pray, pray, be strong, and think of your blessed family.
Rasputin did not see 1917.
Inevitably, a plot was hatched. Five nobles, including the tsar’s cousin and his nephew by marriage, conspired to poison the monk.
Over time, Rasputin became more and more necessary to the Romanovs, at least in Alexandra’s opinion. The monk gradually became a fixture in the palace. He was given unrestrained access to the palace and was casually familiar with the family. Despite the rumors and substantiated stories, nothing could harm him with the Romanovs.
People noticed it, and reacted with resentment. In a sign of imminent trouble, suggestive cartoons appeared in the newspapers, disrespectfully portraying the tsar and tsarina as manipulated children, and the tsarina as Rasputin’s lover. This is stunning, given the newspapers were censored. Even a year earlier, no editor would have had the courage to print them.
If there was any doubt in the minds of Nicholas and Alexandra, it disappeared when Alexei had another scare. Rasputin was in Siberia when Alexandra’s frantic telegram arrived: the doctors said the boy couldn’t live through the night. Rasputin responded immediately, reassuring the Empress that God had heard her prayers and Alexei would recover.
The next day the tsarevich was better. After that, nothing could dislodge Rasputin.