pre1894

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Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich of Russia (7 June 1869 - 2 May 1870) was the infant son of Emperor Alexander III – the heir apparent, styled Tsesarevich, to the Russian throne as the eldest living son of Emperor Alexander II – and his consort, Marie Feodorovna of Russia. He was Alexander and Marie’s second child, second son, and the younger brother of the future Emperor Nicholas II.

Alexander tragically died of meningitis in 1870, one month before his first birthday. “The doctors maintain he did not suffer, but we suffered terribly to see and hear him,” the baby’s grieving mother wrote to her own mother, Queen Louise of Denmark.

His parents had him posthumously photographed and sketched to remember him, therefore it is likely that the photograph above, of Grand Duke Alexander in his coffin surrounded by flowers, is the only existing photograph. It appears that little Alexander had a great facial resemblance to his youngest brother, Michael, as a toddler.

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I can’t help but notice the few uncanny similarities between Russian Emperors Nicholas II’s daughters and Paul I’s four eldest daughters. The eldest daughters of both Emperors had musical talents, spoke a several languages, and learned quite easily. They were the most thoughtful of the sisters and the most religious. The second daughters were considered to be the most beautiful of all their sisters and also shared a special bond to their elder sister. They were sensitive to anything beautiful.

The third daughters, sharing the same given name, were considered to be simple and ordinary of all but most skilled in art and painting. They were called “the Angel” for their selfless nature and strong desire to help others. Unlike their elder sisters, the two Maria’s were uninterested in fashion and were somewhat a tomboy (though Anastasia was the true tomboy). The fourth daughters were both very lively and vivacious. They had fiery personalities. They both had a close bond to their brothers, who were both heirs to the throne.

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LIST OF ROMANOV RULERS: #10 - Empress Elizabeth I of Russia (29 December 1709 - 5 January 1762)

“The Princess Elizabeth is very handsome. She is very fair with light brown hair, large sprightly blue eyes, fine teeth and a pretty mouth. She is inclinable to fat but is very genteel and dances better than anyone I ever saw. In public she has an unaffected gaiety, and a certain air of giddiness, that seem entirely to possess her whole mind; but in private I have heard her talk in such a strain of good sense and steady reasoning, that I am persuaded the other behavior is a feint.” - Mrs Vigor, an English woman resident in St. Petersburg.

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LIST OF ROMANOV RULERS: #1 - Tsar Michael I of Russia (12 July 1596 - 13 July 1645)

“On these difficult days, a boy was brought on a sledge across the dirty March roads to the charred walls of Moscow – a plundered and ravaged heap of ashes, only freed at great cost from the Polish occupants. A frightened boy elected tsar of Muscovy, at the advice of the patriarch, by impoverished boyars, empty-handed merchants and hard men from the north and the Volga. The boy prayed and wept, looking out of the window of his coach in fear and dejection at the ragged, frenzied crowds who had come to greet him at the gates of Moscow. The Russian people had little faith in the new tsar, but life had to go on.”

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LIST OF ROMANOV RULERS: #4 - Tsar Ivan V of Russia (6 September 1666 - 8 February 1696)

Tsar Ivan is very infirm and congenitally blind, with a growth of skin right over his eyes. So one can well imagine that the dual monarchy will not last long. It’s true that Peter has the greater support from the boyars and magnates, but sister Sophia, who is about 26 and said to possess great wit and judgement, has promoted the elder brother. But it should be evident to anyone that such a feeble-minded and sickly man is by nature unfit to rule.” - Johann Eberhardt Hövel, Austrian envoy to the Russian court

“I believe that Sophia has been not rendered the justice due to her. She conducted the affairs of the Empire for many years with all the sagacity that anyone would have desired.” - Catherine the Great Memoirs

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Three Graces: The Daughters of Nicholas I of Russia.

Imperial Russia, circa 1840s. Below are descriptions of the sisters from the book Alexandra Feodorovna, Empress of Russia.

The grand duchess Maria was extremely lively, of quick perceptions, condescending, winning all by her goodness of heart, full of life and energy, and free from all petty forms and prejudices. Her presence never checked the most easy or unreserved conversation; she was courteous to those whom she liked, and loving to her friends; her father’s dignity was reflected in her regular features, while the heart and freshness and energy of her mother invested her whole being with a singular charm." 

The majestic mien of the grand duchess Olga evinced more calm repose; hers was a finished beauty, more remarkable for stateliness, never in intercourse with other for a moment forgetting that she was of regal birth, and concealing her real goodness of heart by a certain degree of reserve. Her perceptive faculties were not so quick as those of her elder sister, but her studies more profound; her disposition led her thoroughly to investigate every subject and every question, and to persevere with industry and patience in all that she undertook.“ 

The two eldest daughters most resembled their father, but the youngest, Alexandra, bore a greater likeness to their mother, and indeed to Queen Louise also. Until the age of 13, she gave no promise of equaling her sisters in beauty or talent; she showed very little inclination for serious matters, and cared more for childish games; but suddenly a change took place that astonished her mother, and a few months seemed to have done the work of years. This change occurred in Alexandra in her 13th year; her charming figure was developed, her pretty features refined, an eager interest in her studies ensued, and unexpected talents were displayed. From this time, she showed a love for music, and for singing in particular; and occupied herself much about nature.“

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THE YEARS THE ROMANOV FAMILY TURNED THIRTEEN YEARS OLD - EDITION #4

With the exception of the youngest daughter Elizabeth (not pictured), who died when she was about three years old in 1829, these are the years Tsar Nicholas I of Russia and his immediate family turned thirteen years old, their first year as a teenager.

When Emperor Nicholas I of Russia was 13 year old in 1809, his education began becoming more advanced and the boy was being trained almost as if he was the heir, even though he was the third son. His upbringing was strict, flogging was common and few efforts were made to motivate the young student, all of which triggered the boy to hate learning. As a boy, Nicholas was rude and mischievous. The only member of the family that he would listen to was his mother, to whom he was very close. 

By the time Alexandra Feodorovna became 13 years old in July 1811, her young life was marked by the Napoleonic Wars and mourned her mother, who died in the previous year. Alexandra was originally Charlotte, Princess of Prussia, who was an avid reader and enjoyed music. Young Charlotte was a delicate creature full with kindness and preferred privacy which made her adjustment to the excessively ornate society of St. Petersburg very difficult.

Nicholas and Charlotte were warm and affectionate parents, but avoided overindulging their children. The girls, Grand Duchesses Maria, Olga and Alexandra, were raised in the company of each other. At 13, all of the girls were artistically gifted and very lively, sweet and generous and the three younger boys Konstantin, Nicholas and Michael were being trained for the military. Konstantin shared his sisters’ personality but Nicholas was almost the complete opposite. He was less intelligent and later became a true womanizer and loved hunting. His reputation was very low by the time of his death. Little was known of the youngest boy, Michael’s teenage years.

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LIST OF ROMANOV RULERS: #13 - Emperor Paul I of Russia (1 October 1754 - 23 March 1801)

His features were ugly except the eyes, whose expression when he was not overcome with rage, his aspect was terrifying. Although his mien was ungraceful, he had a certain reserve of dignity, and especially of good manners, and a polite bearing towards women, which gave a real distinction to his person and proclaimed him a prince and a nobleman.” - Princess Lieven, the wife of a prominent Russian diplomatist.

“He appears lively and active, with a sensible, spirited countenance.” - Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.

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During the wedding ceremony of her sister Ella in the chapel of the Winter Palace, twelve-year-old Alix stood to one side, wearing a white muslin dress, with roses in her hair. Between listening to the long, incomprehensible chant of the litany and smelling the sweet incense which filled the air, she stole side glances at sixteen-year-old Tsarevich Nicholas. Nicholas responded and one day presented her with a small brooch. Overwhelmed, she accepted, but then shyly pressed it back into his hand during the excitement of a children’s party. Nicholas was offended and gave the brooch to his sister Xenia, who, not knowing its history, accepted it cheerfully.”

Robert K. Massie, Nicholas & Alexandra

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THE YEARS THE ROMANOV FAMILY TURNED THIRTEEN YEARS OLD - EDITION #2

With the exception of Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich who died long before what would have been his 13th birthday in 1882, these were the years Emperor Alexander III of Russia and his immediate family first became a teenager.

When Alexander III became thirteen years old in March 1858, he had little prospect of succeeding to the throne. He had an older brother who seemed of robust constitution and had a great potential of ruling well. Alexander was kind, simple and even almost homely and lacked refinement and elegance. In November 1860, when Maria Feodorovna turned thirteen years old, she was a Danish princess named Dagmar living in Copenhagen, the royal capital of Denmark. Her father, the heir-presumptive to the throne, would become the King of Denmark three years later.

Unfortunately for Nicholas, his thirteenth year turned out to be traumatic. He watched his grandfather die after being blown up by an assassin bomb and his father becoming Emperor much earlier than anticipated. The very next year, on 7 June 1882, was supposed to be Nicholas’s younger brother Alexander’s 13th birthday. But little Alexander had died of meningitis twelve years earlier, one month before his first birthday. “The doctors maintain he did not suffer, but we suffered terribly to see and hear him,” his mother wrote to her own mother, Queen Louise of Denmark.

In 1884, the year after his parents were crowned the monarchs of Russia, Nicholas and Alexander’s younger brother George displayed signs of a promising future career in the Navy and was considered the cleverest of the imperial children.

In the Autumn of 1888, 13-year-old Grand Duchess Xenia along with her family survived a train disaster. Also in the same year, young Xenia was already in love with her future husband, Grand Duke Alexander “Sandro” Mikhailovich of Russia. In 1889, Sandro wrote of Xenia, “She is fourteen. I think she likes me.” The two played together as friends in the 1880s and married in 1894, when Xenia was 19 and Sandro 28. They later had one daughter and six sons.

In 1891, 13-year-old Mikhail was perceived as unremarkable, quiet and good-natured and performed the usual public duties expected as a Grand Duke. In 1895, Olga mourned the loss of her late father, who died prematurely of an illness eight months before she became a teenager. The emotional impact was traumatic for the young girl. However, on a happier note, Olga welcomed her first two nieces, Princess Irina Alexandrovna and Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, into the world.

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LIST OF ROMANOV RULERS: #6 - Empress Catherine I of Russia (15 April 1684 - 17 May 1727)

“Despite her love of pomp, Catherine never pretended that her origins were anything but lowly. Peter’s new wife had qualities which he had never found in another woman. She was warm, merry, compassionate, kind-hearted, generous, adaptable, comfortable, robustly healthy and possessed of great vitality. Among all of Peter’s followers, she and Menshikov came closest to keeping up with the Emperor’s phenomenal energy and compulsive drive. Catherine had an earthy common sense which immediately saw through flattery and deceit. The language she spoke, like Peter’s own, was simple, direct and honest. In private, she alone could indulge her playful humor and treat Peter like an overgrown boy; in public, she had the tact to remain in the background.” - Robert K. Massie, Peter the Great

1873 (May) Ball in the Concert Hall of the Winter Palace during the official visit of the Shah Nasir al-Din by Mihaly Zichy.

Tsar Alexander II of Russia is seen seated near the doorway with the Persian (Iranian) King while his eldest surviving son, the future Tsar Alexander III, dances with his wife Maria Feodorovna.

Tsar Alexander II of Russia as a young nine-year-old boy, painting by George Dawe (1827). The painter became a celebrity throughout Europe and mixed with the Russian intellectual elite. Among others he met and knew were Pushkin who wrote a poem about him entitled “To Dawe Esq.” In 1826, Alexander’s father, Tsar Nicholas I, invited the painter to his coronation ceremony and in 1828 he was officially appointed First Portrait Painter of the Imperial Court. Dawe died when Alexander was eleven years old.

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LIST OF ROMANOV RULERS: #7 - Emperor Peter II of Russia (23 October 1715 - 30 January 1730)

“Peter II has not reached the age when a person’s personality has already shaped. While contemporaries praised his natural intelligence and good heart, they only hoped for that good to happen in the future. However, his behavior did not give chances to hope that he would be a good ruler. He hated learning and thinking about national affairs. He was totally engrossed in amusements, and was kept under someone else’s influence.” - Nikolay Kostomarov, a 19th century Russian historian