7 Intriguing Facts About Tsar Nicholas II You Probably Didn’t Know About
Tsar Nicholas II, whose full name was Nikolay Aleksandrovich Romanov, was the last Emperor of All Russia. Nicholas II was born in 1868 in Tsarskoye Selo (modern-day Pushkin) near St. Petersburg, Russia. He was killed, along with his wife and children, in 1918 in Yekaterinburg by the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution.
Nicholas II was the eldest son of Tsar Alexander III, who died at the age of 49. Nicholas succeeded his father in 1894 when he was only 26 years old. He had very little experience in running a country, which would later lead to some mistakes that cost him his throne and life. In the same year he became the emperor, he married Princess Alexandra of Hesse-Darmstadt. The two of them had five children – four daughters and one son.
The young Nicholas wasn’t ready to become the autocratic leader of such a vast country. Before he succeeded to the throne, he received a military education, and most of his interests were connected to physical exercise, parades, uniforms, and so on. He showed little to no interest in politics and economics, and his father also failed to prepare him for what was coming. Due to his lack of knowledge and insecurities, Nicholas II became an uncompromising autocrat, and this provoked the Russian Revolution in 1905.
While Nicholas was the emperor, Russia introduced several reforms of literacy programs, initiatives to modernize the infrastructure, state representation, and more. However, all of this progress was undermined by Nicholas’s autocracy, oppressive policies, executions of political enemies, and defeats of the Russian military in the Russo-Japanese War, and World War I.
By 1917, Nicholas II completely lost the support of the public, and he was forced to abdicate the throne. His abdication marked the ending of the 300-year rule of the Romanov dynasty in Russia. Tsar and his family spent the next year in house arrest in Siberia. In 1918, Nicholas II, his wife, and their children were executed in Yekaterinburg by the Bolsheviks. (1) (2)
These were some well-known facts about Tsar Nicholas II and his reign as the last emperor of Russia. However, there’s so much more that you won’t learn in school about Nicholas II.
Without any further ado, let’s find more intriguing facts about Tsar Nicholas II and his life!
1. Decades after his death, Tsar Nicholas II was made a saint
Nicholas and his family were recognized as saints by the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia in 1981. Almost 20 years later, the Russian Orthodox Church within Russia canonized them as passion bearers. This category is only used to classify believers who went through suffering and death at the hands of political enemies. Tsar Nicholas II is also known as Saint Nicholas the Martyr. (3)
2. Tsar Nicholas II was related to the British royal family
Tsar Nicholas II was married to Princess Alexandra of Hesse-Darmstadt, who was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Alexandra’s sister, Princess Victoria Mountbatten, is the grandmother of Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh.
In 1991, a mass grave was exhumed in the woods outside of Yekaterinburg. It was believed that these bodies belonged to the Imperial family and their servants. Prince Phillip, who was a great-nephew of tsarina Alexandra donated his DNA, and it matched.
All of Philip’s children and grandchildren are therefore related to the Romanov family, including the first heir to the British throne, Prince Charles. (4)
3. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize
One of the least known facts about Tsar Nicholas II is that he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901. The prize was supposed to be a recognition for his efforts to limit national military equipment and promote peace among the great powers. In 1898, Tsar Nicholas II initiated The First Hague Conference.
The main topics of the meeting were the termination of the arms race and setting up machinery for peaceful settlement of international conflicts. The Hague conventions were among the first formal statements of the rules of war. Because of this, Nicholas II became the hero of the dedicated disciples of the peace, and he and the Russian diplomat Friedrich Martens were nominated for the initiative to convene the conference and their contributions for making it happen.
However, the Nobel Prize was awarded to Frédéric Passy, one of the main founders of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the main organizer of the first Universal Peace Congress. (5)
4. He was in a relationship with a ballerina before he got married
Before Tsar Nicholas II married, he had a love affair with the Polish ballerina, Mathilda Kshesinskaya. Even though both of them were unmarried at that point, the relationship was frowned upon. At the time of their relationship, Mathilda was a dancer at Saint Petersburg Imperial Theatres.
Their affair was broken off before Nicholas II got married, and there’s no evidence to prove that their relationship went off after the marriage. Years later, Mathilda became the prima ballerina at Saint Petersburg Imperial Theatres and married Nicholas’s cousin, Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich of Russia.
Recently, a movie based on their affair was released, but it caused lots of tension and backfire from the Russian public. This happened mostly due to twisting the historical events and portraying the sexual relationship between the two. State Duma Deputy Natalia Poklonskaya said that showing saints having sex ‘offends the feelings of believers.’ (6)
5. He is also known by the nickname Nicholas the Bloody
Tsar Nicholas II was an uncompromising autocratic ruler, and he was known for using violence against his people. He didn’t stray away from using military powers to crush peaceful protests. He strongly refused reforms that were suggested by the public, which made them feel disconnected from the tsar. (7)
He got his nickname because of many brutal executions during his reign, and events such as the Bloody Sunday and Khodynka Tragedy. The Bloody Sunday occurred in the early 1900s. At the time, lower-class workers in Russia lived in poverty. In 1905, under the leadership of a priest George Gapon, they decided to organize a march to the Tsar’s palace.
The thousands of marchers who believed that the government was at fault also thought that the Tsar will take their side. As they were peacefully approaching the palace, the army soldiers guarded the bridge and fired into the crowd killing most of the marchers. (8)
The Khodynka Tragedy happened four days after Tsar’s coronation, in 1896. The open celebration was supposed to be held on an esplanade outside of Moscow, known as the Khodyna camps. The theaters for entertainment were set up, along with 20 bars and 150 stalls where people could get bread, sausage, gingerbread, sweets, and pretzels.
At this time, the country was facing a famine, meaning that the event was something that no one wanted to miss. The event was supposed to open at 10 am, but at 5 am, there were already more than 500,000 people at the field. Soon enough, a rumor started to spread that there won’t be enough gifts for everyone, which caused chaos.
The people’s desperation caused a brutal stampede which killed around 1800 people. The coronation was quickly overshadowed by the tragedy, and Tsar Nicholas II tried to cover up the incident. (9)
6. His son suffered from hemophilia
Nicholas II and Alexandra had one son, Alexei, who was also the only heir to the throne. Alexei suffered from hemophilia, which is a disease that causes excessive bleeding for all kinds of injuries, even the smaller ones. The disease is known under the nickname of the “royal disease” because many of Queen Victoria’s relatives had it. (10)
Alexei’s disease made his mother miserable. She sought to find someone who might be able to help him, and when traditional medicine failed to provide a cure, she turned to mysterious healers. One of them is Grigori Rasputin, a healer from a Siberian village. Over the years, the two of them grew close together, and today Rasputin is as famous as the royal family is.
Rasputin was murdered two years before the Romanovs were in St. Petersburg at the Yusupov Palace. It’s widely believed among historians that aristocrats and other members of higher society were behind his execution because they didn’t like his influence on the royal family. (11)
7. Tsar and his family had “an exit strategy”
The Romanov family was executed in the basement of Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg in 1918. Family and their servants were shot by a firing squad. When the squad started firing at them, bullets started to ricochet. It turned out that the Romanovs had jewels sewn into their clothes. They believed that one day they may be released, and would have to start their lives all over again from nothing. As we know today, that never happened. (12)
Those were some of the most intriguing facts about Tsar Nicholas II, the Romanov family, and their lives. Having in mind all of these things, it might be easier to understand what led to the abdication of the last Russian emperor, and why he lost the support of the public. Now, we want to hear from you… Do you think that Tsar Nicholas II had a chance despite his lack of knowledge about politics and warfare? Is there something else that impacted his reign that we failed to mention? Let us know in the comments below