the plan for the future

Notes on Nicholas II

2005 - 2011

Author: C.T. Evans

Taken from: - Notes on Nicholas II

Nicholas II was not the luckiest person in the world; nor did he ever seem to be blessed with enormous reserves of common sense. One of my professors at the University of Virginia always said that Nicholas reminded him of the cartoon character who always had a black cloud hovering over his head.

1. An unlucky birthday?

"Nicholas II took it as a confirmation of his hard lot, his destiny from the very day of his birth May 6, 1868, the martyr St. Job's Day."

2. Bad wedding timing

(A marriage during the official mourning period for his dad, Alexander III.)
"As for the Tsar [Alexander III] himself, his condition began to worsen and at his doctor's recommendation, he was moved to the Crimea with Maria and Nicholas. He appeared to improve but then his health deteriorated rapidly and Nicholas sent for Alix [Alexandra], who came quickly and they were formally betrothed. [Nicholas had proposed to her earlier that year, but Alexander III had refused to approve.] Tsar Alexander III died suddenly, leaving an unsure Nicholas to reign over Russia (Mazour 123). The morning after Alexander's death, Princess Alix converted to Orthodoxy and took the name of Grand Duchess Alexandra Fedorovna. (Massie 44) The wedding was moved forward at Nicholas' request and one week after the funeral of Alexander, Nicholas and Alexandra were married in the chapel of the Winter Palace. (Lincoln 26) Because everyone was still in mourning, there was no honeymoon or reception after the wedding."

Because the wedding took place so close to the funeral, Alexandra was called the "funeral bride."

3. Coronation ceremony bad omens

On 26 May 1896, Nicholas and Alexandra were crowned in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Moscow. During the ceremony, which lasted five hours, Nicholas was invested with the orb, the scepter and the chain of the Order of St. Andrew.

"After being proclaimed Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias, Nicholas II entered the sanctuary, for the only time in his life, to celebrate the mass as a priest of the Orthodox Church. As he walked up the stairs, the chain of the Order of St. Andrew slipped from his shoulders and fell to the floor, a fact which was taken as a bad omen by those who saw it." (Source:

"As an example [of bad common sense], his coronation address was merely a repeat of what Alexander III had said."

4. Khodynka Field Stampede

"Four days later, as it was the costume (sic) at the Tsar's coronation, a banquet was going to be held for the people at Khodynka Meadow, a field outside Moscow. There would be free beer and gifts for everyone. [The rumor was that rich gifts were to be distributed; in actuality the gift was to consist of a "roll, a piece of sausage, gingerbread and a mug" (] A night before, people began to crowd at Khodynka; at dawn a half million people had gathered there, where they could see the beer and the gifts, awaiting for them. Only sixteen men had been assigned to keep order among the crowd. Suddenly a rumor spread among the people that there were not enough beer and presents for everybody. The crowd began to push themselves, falling down and crushing between them. It all happened in 15 minutes; there were 1429 dead and thousand of wounded. When they learned about the tragedy, Nicholas and Alexandra were shocked; they spent the rest of the day visiting hospitals and comforting the wounded. That night a ball given by the French embassy, was going to be held. The Minister of Finance, Sergei Witte, suggested that the ball should be canceled in spite of the tragedy, but Nicholas' uncles, Grand Dukes Vladimir, Alexis, Serge and Paul advised their nephew that he and Alexandra must attend the ball for diplomatic reasons, and so they did." (Source: [actual casualties were closer to 1300 dead and an equal number wounded.]

From the Memoirs of Maurice Paleologue, the French ambassador to Russia, (, entry for Thursday, September 21, 1916.)

"The first occasion was during the celebrations attending his coronation at Moscow on May 18, 1896. A public fête had been arranged in Khodinsky meadow, near Petrovsky park. But the police arrangements were so bad that the crowd began to heave violently. Suddenly there seemed to be a panic and a general stampede ensued; there were four thousand victims, of which two thousand died. When Nicholas II heard of the catastrophe he did not display the slightest sign of emotion and did not even cancel a ball for that evening.

Nine years later, on May 14, 1905, Admiral Rojdestvensky's fleet was utterly destroyed; with it disappeared Russia's whole future in the Far East. The Emperor was just about to play a game of tennis when the telegram announcing the disaster was handed to him. He simply said: "What a horrible catastrophe!" and without another word, asked for his racket.

"If only his diary would always contain such joyous entries . . . but on the evening of May 18, a horrifying diary entry would pierce the pages: 'Till this day, thank God, everything has been going quite smoothly, but today a grave sin has befallen. The crowd who spent the night in the Khodynskoye Pole (meadow) pending the giving out of a dinner and a mug, pressed upon the wooden constructions, and there was a terrible jam, and it's dreadful to add, about 1300 people were trampled down!"

5. Got to have a son

There were enormous pressures put on Alexandra to give birth to a son, especially after she gave birth to girl after girl after girl after girl. (See Robert Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra.)

Once Aleksei was born, "weeks after Alexis' birth, he began to bleed from the navel; it lasted two days and although the doctor applied all kinds of bendages (sic) and cures, the bleeding didn't stop. When the Tsarevitch began to walk and he tumbled, big swellings were formed under his skin and he cried out in terrible pain. Alexandra was shocked; it was evident that Alexis had haemophilia, the terrible blood disease transmitted by her family." (Source:

This of course opened the door for Rasputin.

"Relating indirectly to Alexei's illness came a person who had great influence over the Tsar and Tsarina. Twice when Alexei was suffering a great deal as a result of his hemophilia and appeared to be on his deathbed, a man named Gregory Rasputin intervened to "save" him. Rasputin was an illiterate Siberian peasant supposed to have strange religious powers. Though it was never clear if it was indeed his prayers that saved Alexei and later the Empress's good friend Anna, Alexandra believed fully in his powers and adopted him as her friend, confidant and advisor. (Mazour 134, Massie 334)"

Unfortunately, the decision was made to keep Aleksei's illness secret; this led to all kinds of ugly rumors being circulated; it also did not generate any public sympathy or support.