tsarevich nicholas alexandrovich


This was not just a man who has left us. This was youth, beauty, a first love, scarcely awakened… This was a young man who personified all the hopes which a million brave men place in the future. This was nobility, goodness, friendliness, the spirit of justice and fair-play. This was the symbol of all that is dear and sacred to us on earth.” Stassioulevitch

April 24, 1865 – Death of the Tsesarevich Nikolai Alexandrovich

On Easter Monday 18 April, the Tsesarevich was dressed and place in an armchair to receive communion. News of his illness had drawn specialists from all over Europe, and one Professor Rehrberg from Vienna produced the first accurate diagnosis: cerebro-spinal meningitis. It was too late. Within days Nikolai was slipping into periods of delirium, when he could recognize no one. On Thursday Grand Duke Alexander arrived. Nikolai was pleased to see the brother whose gifts were apparent to no one but himself. Dagmar reached Nice on Friday with her mother, and at 2:30pm the Tsar himself came to the Villa Bermond. The Tsaritsa woke her son to tell him that his father had come; he kissed her hand, taking each finger in turn, and asked what she would do without him. It was the first time he had mentionned death, and his father knelt by the bed in tears. 

Nikolai was sleeping more now, thought the slightest sound would wake him. On Saturday he was Dagmar come into the room and whispered to his mother, “isn’t she beautiful?” Dagmar spent a long time beside him that day, arranging his pillows and stroking his hand, talking softly all the while; for some time Alexander also stayed by the bed, holding his other hand. Later the legend grew that Nikolai had joined their hands and told them to marry after his death, but there is no suggestion of this in the early eyewitness accounts. The end came on the evening of Sunday 24 April. Outside, in the sunshine of early spring, French infantru and cavalry and Russian sailors mounted silent guard on the Villa Bermond, while the family, their suites and the doctors filled the Tsesarevich’s room, and the clergy chanted prayers for the dying. Nikolai was beyond speech now, but a single tear was seen on his cheek. The tragedy chaged the future for the whole dynasty. 

|The last century of Imperial Russia : Romanov Autumn by Charlotte Zeepvat |


“When, as Tsarevich, Nicholas came to London in 1893 for my father’s wedding, my father was mistaken for him by a well-intentioned diplomat who asked if he had come over especially for the Duke of York’s wedding. My father loved to relate the confusion that came over the embarrassed envoy when hereplied: “I am the Duke of York and it is important that I attend. my own wedding.”  – David (Duke of Windsor)


Princess Dagmar of Denmark may have been only second in beauty to her ethreal anf fair sister Alexandra, but she was admittedly more intelligent and just as charming. Clever and delightful, she captured the heart of her first fiancée Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, and when she was, after his early death, married off to his younger brother instead, it did not take her long to win a lifelong and deep affection of her husband, even though he had been more than reluctant to wed her. Dagmar was rather small and delicate in appearance, her large dark eyes being her greatest asset. According to all they were always kind, full of warmth and often mischief.

Dagmar, later in life known as Empress Maria Fyodorovna, won many hearts and was perhaps the most popular Russian Empress of them all, even among the common folk. So much so that even her autocratic husband regarded her a “Guardian Angel of Russia”.

A royal candid image

From left to right : Prince Valdemar of Denmark, Prince George of Great Britain (future King George V), Princess Marie of Greece, Tsar Alexander III of Russia, Tsaritsa Maria Feodorovna of Russia, Queen Olga of the Hellenes, Prince Nicolaos of Greece and cut in half, Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich of Russia, future Tsar Nicholas II. Early 1890s.

English, Russian, Danish and Greek royalty, ca. 1888

Back row: Princess Marie of Denmark; Princess Louise of Denmark; Crown Prince Frederick and Crown Princess Louise of Denmark; Prince Maximilian of Baden; Princess Marie of Greece; Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia; Prince Albert Victor of Wales; Crown Prince Constantine of Greece; Princess Victoria of Wales; Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich of Russia; Princess Alexandra of Greece; Prince Nicholas of Greece; Grand Duke George Alexandrovich of Russia.

Front row: Princess Ingeborg and Princess Thyra of Denmark; Albert Edward Prince of Wales; Alexandra Princess of Wales; Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, Empress Maria Feodorovna and Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia; Queen Louise of Denmark; Tsar Alexander III of Russia; Princess Maud of Wales; King Christian of Denmark.


Among the numerous offspring of Queen Victoria perhaps no other suffered as tragic a fate as two of her granddaughters Princesses Elisabeth (*1864) and Alix (*1872), children of Princess Alice of the United Kingdom and Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse. Blue-eyed and golden-haired, they were both undisputed beauties of the family with loving and happy dispositions, however the untimely death of their mother in 1878 signalled both change in the course of their lives and introduced solemnity and melancholy into the character of the younger sister. Virtually adopted by Queen Victoria, Ella and Alicky were to play major roles in political and human disaster of Europe in years to come. When Ella married Grand Duke Sergei of Russia in 1884, in spite of loud opposition from her formidable grandmother, she unknowingly set in motion a chain of seemingly minor events that eventually led to her younger sister to fall in love and marry Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich in 1894, again to great disaproval of the English monarch.

Grand Duchess Elizaveta Fyodorovna and Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, as they were now styled, found little happiness in their exalted positions. The patronizing manners and difficult personality of Grand Duke Sergei, as well as the couple´s childlessness, made Ella´s life complicated. Still in her devotion she further suffered when her husband was killed by a revolutionary bomb in 1905. Meanwhile the painfully shy Alix suffered through the unavoidable social events and faced growing unpopularity, mainly because she failed to give Russia a male heir for first ten years of her marriage. When her son Alexei was finally born in 1904, it was soon apparent he was a victim of hemophilia. His mother never knew a moment´s peace since that day.

In the growing dark of political and social struggle Russia was going through, the two German Princesses found comfort in embracing their new country and particularly its faith, both becoming devout Orthodox Christians. Free of her marital status, Ella became a nun and dedicated her life to care of the poor and sick. When the Great War errupted in 1914, Alix found new purpose in personally caring for the injured, and organizing sanitary trains, hospitals, orphanages and other helpful institutions. Her own inexperience in political field, unfortunately, led to further deterioration of order in an already unstable government, adding the proverbial straw that ultimately broke the camel´s back.

After the revolution both sisters were arrested and held prisoner for several long months, with other members of the Romanov family, and together with them they were brutally massacred. In early morning hours of 17th July 1918 Alix and her family met their end in hail of bullets, a mere day later Ella and several Romanov Princes were thrown into an abandoned mineshaft, followed by grenades.



With the exception of Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna, the eldest child, who died of infant meningitis at age 6, these are the years Tsar Alexander II and his immediate family turned thirteen years old, their first year of being a teenager.

When Alexander II was 13, few imagined that he would be known to posterity as a leader able to implement the most challenging reforms undertaken in Russia since the reign of Peter the Great. The boy’s moral and intellectual development was entrusted to the poet Vasily Zhukovsky, a humanitarian liberal and romantic. Even from an early age, he traveled widely across Russia.

In 1837, 13-year-old Marie Alexandrovna was a skinny Hessian princess living in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany. Marie was a year shy of meeting her future husband, Tsarevich Alexander. During Alexander’s tour through Europe in 1838, he met the teenage Marie and unexpectedly fell in love. The two married in April 1841. Marie was 16 and Alexander 23.

When Alexander and Marie’s eldest surviving child, Tsarevich Nicholas, was 13 years old in 1856, he was already the heir of the Russian throne and witnessed the end of the Crimean War and his parents’ luxurious coronation. Nicholas only had nine years of life left before tragically dying of meningitis. This was the same type of disease that claimed the life of his elder sister Alexandra sixteen years earlier.

When the rest of the boys Alexander, Vladimir, Alexei, Sergei and Paul were 13, they were receiving military training as expected for their titles of Grand Duke. However, the youngest two brothers were more interested into the arts than the military. The boys’ linguistic, artistic and musical abilities were encouraged by tutors.

The remaining sibling, Maria, became thirteen years old in October 1866 and she was the only girl in the family full with boys, causing her to grow up as a tomboy. Standing out in a crowd of boys, Maria was often in the center of attention and had a great influence over her father, who became deeply attached to her after the death of little Alexandra. Mark Twain, the famous American author, met Maria in August 1867 while visiting the imperial family in Livadia and thought her to be very pretty and noticed the influence the girl had on her father.

Maria was the first Russian grand duchess to be raised by English nannies and to speak fluent English. This eventually enabled her to meet and become engaged to Prince Alfred of the United Kingdom, the second son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She was the only Romanov in the British Royal Family.


The four eldest surviving children of Emperor Alexander III of Russia and Empress Maria Feodorovna (Princess Dagmar of Denmark) by Makarov:  Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (later Emperor Nicholas II), Grand Duke Georgiy Alexandrovich, Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, and Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich.

The engaged couple in love - Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich and Princess Dagmar of Denmark. 

Sadly their happiness was short-lived with Nicholas “Nixa” succumbing to an illness mere months after the engagement. One of the last letters Dagmar “Minnie” wrote to him show her concern over the lack of correspondence she received from him, not fully realizing how bad his state of health was:

Copenhagen, April 7, 1865

Dear, beloved Nixa, I am completely despondent that my dear little Nixa writes to me so rarely; I feel quite unhappy and forgotten; not even a telegram! Why this awful silence, what is the reason for it? I have had no news since March 20, and today is the 8th of April [confusion in original dating], is it not disheartening for me, poor little me, who only lives for those letters!!! Dear, dear Nixa, now lovely spring is beginning and the time for us to meet again is coming with it, you cannot imagine how much this occupies my thoughts, and how much I long for news from you so that I will know what you think about it, whether you are happy about it or not, for otherwise I greatly fear that you have become enamored of a lovely Italian girl with big black eyes who had made you forget your poor little fiancée in the north!!!!!

The 8th - Today, on my dear Papa´s birthday (undoubtedly the last that I will celebrate among them in my dear fatherland), I have only a few minutes in which to entertain myself a bit with you, my angel, but I can no longer do without news from you, which is why this morning I telegraphed in an attempt in this way to get an answer, is it your chest once more that prevents you? I would be sorry if this were the case, but I cannot find any other reason unless it is because I have been forgotten, and I cannot believe this of my dear little Nixa, whom I love more and more, whom I adore! … 

Dear Nixa, I ask you with all my heart to kiss you dear Mama from her daughter, I have not yet written to her and thanked her, for I am afraid to bother her by writing too often, so I ask you, my angel, to tell her. 

Never leave me without news for so long, it makes me far too unhappy, dear Nixa. Now farewell, my dear, do not forget me completely, and always keep a tiny little corner of your heart for faithful Minnie.”

Dagmar would eventually marry Nixa´s younger brother Alexander and have a happy, contended marriage by his side. She never forgot Nixa though, his photographs were carefully kept in her posession until her death in 1928.


One of the favourite past times of the 19th century Russian nobility were amateur stage performances, often based on famous literary work, in which the members of the noble families would themselves participate. At one such occassion Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, future Tsar Nicholas II, played the lead role in an adaptation of Pushkin´s Eugene Onegin. The role of beautiful Tatiana was entrusted to his aunt by marriage, Grand Duchess Elizaveta Fyodorovna.