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.

tsar with his children
Grand Duchess Anastasia, Grand Duchess Olga, Tsar Nicholas, Tsarevich Alexei, Grand Duchess Tatiana, Grand Duchess Maria

 

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The long-awaited heir had arrived.

Alexei Romanov was born in 1904, to the nation’s great relief and the joy of his parents, Tsar Nicholas and the Empress Alexandra. But the joy of the Russian royals was short-lived. Thanks to an unlucky inheritance passed down to him from his great-grandmother Queen Victoria, Alexei inherited hemophilia, a rare and incurable genetic disorder that prevents the blood from clotting. A hemophiliac can bleed to death from a minor injury. Alexandra was a carrier, but none of her daughters had inherited the disorder. Now the illness had finally manifested itself in the sole heir to the crown, the tsarevich, Alexei.

Tsarevich Alexei. Possibly the most angelic looking child ever.
Tsarevich Alexei. Possibly the most angelic looking child ever.

 

The little boy was delicate, and for the small circle of people who were in the know, it was clear the son and heir to the Russian throne would never live to inherit it. Apart from the heartache this would cause any family, Alexei’s parents viewed his condition as a threat to the nation’s stability. If he died, the throne would pass to a different branch of the family so the little boy’s precarious health was a closely guarded secret. Though he was frequently ill, the family gave away no hint of anxiety.

romanovs

 

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