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.

Cousins
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

 

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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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.

Rasputin was thought to control Alexandra
Rasputin was thought to control Alexandra

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.

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