Rosemary spoke about Tsar Nicholas II and Princess Alexandra of Hesse and showed us many photographs of the family, especially the children. Although the photographs were originally monochrome, many of them had been colourised to modern standards.
Tsar Nicholas was born in 1868, the son of Tsar Alexander III. Tsar Nicholas was known to be the richest man in the world but he was regarded as a politically weak man.
Princess Alexandra was the grand-daughter and favourite grand-child of Queen Victoria, but was not popular in Russia. Nicholas and Alexandra became engaged in 1893 and were married later in St. Petersberg. The marriage was regarded as a love match and they were a passionate couple.
Nicholas succeeded his father, Alexander III, in 1894. The coronation was immense with Royal families from all over the world in attendance. Alexandra’s dress was so heavy with jewels and ermine that she had to have help to sit and kneel. Outside the cathedral a crowd of over 50,000 had gathered to see the Royal couple. There was a stampede and over 1300 people were crushed to death and many more were injured. The couple still appeared before the crowd in the afternoon.
They had five children; at first four daughters, which did not go down well with the population, and finally a son.
Olga was born May 3rd, 1895 when they visited Balmoral and lived at Alexandra Place.
Tatiana was born in 1897 and later did Red Cross work in World War I.
Maria was born in 1899 and was strongly fancied by Lord Mountbatten.
Anastasia was born in 1901 and always had poor health.
Alexis was born in 1904. He was found to be a haemophiliac and was always protected because of it. He was carried by a retainer at all public events, even when he was older, and was not allowed a bicycle or to play any sports. He had a major bleed some years later when the family was on holiday in Finland and was bathed in mud to stop the bleeding.
The family travelled in luxury in a fantastic train with guards stationed at 10 meter intervals alongside the tracks! They owned a personal Rolls Royce and another 66 cars. Alexandra had diamonds galore.
Nicholas had established an Entente Cordiale with Great Britain and, early in World War I, took over command of the army. He left the conduct of home affairs to his wife, who became dominated by Rasputin. At the time there was great unrest and threats of revolution in Russia.
In 1917 Nicholas was forced to abdicate and, three days later, they were put under house arrest at Tsarskoe Selo. They still had the servants and the freedom of the palace and grounds, so life carried on fairly normally.
They were moved to Topol August 1917 with several of their staff. The locals were kind and generous but life in the Siberian surroundings was not as colourful.
In May 1918 they were put on ‘soldiers rations’ and confined to a small area, then moved to Ekaterineberg where they were held for 78 days in a ‘house of special purpose’. Captivity became very harsh and some staff thought they were being sexually abused.
They were assassinated on July 17th, 1918.
There are many stories of their burials etc. and the mysteries continue to this day.