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.

tsar and children
(L-R) Tsar Nicholas II, Grand Duchess Olga, Grand Duchess Tatiana, Grand Duchess Maria, Grand Duchess Anastasia, and the Tsarevich Alexei

 

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.

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A suggestive cartoon that appeared in a St. Petersburg newspaper in 1916
A suggestive cartoon that appeared in a St. Petersburg newspaper in 1916

 

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.

Alexandra and Alexei
The Empress Alexandra with the tsarevich

 

 

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Nearly a century has passed since he walked amongst the living, but people still ask, “Who was Rasputin?”

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Grigori Yefemovich arrived in St. Petersburg in 1903. His strange appeal introduced him to circles of society to which no peasant ever rose. It’s hard for anyone living now to understand how remarkable Rasputin’s story really is.

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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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