The three eldest son of Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna : Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich who would die at 21, Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich later Emperor Alexander III and Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich.
“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)
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.
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.
The handsome and incredibly gifted young man was a true European in his convictions and was to continue his father´s reforms. His teachers called him “Russia´s hope”, “a brilliant young man,” “a flexible and subtle intelligence fervently responding to everything new.” Everyone loved him. “The crown of perfection” was what Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich called him. His huge and clumsy brother, Sasha, loved him with touching fidelity. Sasha was next in line. Aware of the rivalry between Alexander and Konstantin, the empress (who never could overcome her dislike of her younger son) did not give Sasha the education that Niks received. Sasha was intentionally not groomed to be Niks´s understudy.
Two letters exchanged between Princess Alix of Hesse and Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich of Russia. In late 1893 they had already been in love for several years, but Alix was unwilling to change her religion which led her to reject Nicholas. In the letter above she wrote to him:
Dearest Nicky, I send you my very best thanks for your dear letter, I enclose the photograph you wished to have, which Ella will forward to you. I believe it must have been a stronger will than ours which ordained that we should not meet at Coburg, for like this it gives me the chance to write to you all my innermost feelings which perhaps out of spur of the moment I might not have said, so that you may have misunderstood me. You know what my feelings are as Ella has told them to you already, but I feel it my duty to tell them to you myself. I thought everything for a long time, and I only beg you not to think that I take it lightly for it grieves me terribly and makes me very unhappy. I have tried to look at it in every light that is possible, but I always return to one thing. I cannot do it against my conscience.You, dear Nicky, who have also such a strong belief will understand me that I think it is a sin to change my belief; and I should be miserable all the days of my life, knowing that I had done a wrongful thing. I am certain that you would not wish me to change against my conviction. What happiness can come from a marriage which begin without the real blessing of God? For I feel it a sin to change that belief in which I have been brought up and which I love. I should never find my peace of mind again, and like that I should never be your real companion who should help you on in life; for there always should be something between us two, in my not having the real conviction of the belief I had taken, and in the regret for the one I had left. It would be acting a lie to you, your Religion and to God. This is my feeling of right and wrong, an one´s innermost religious convictions and one´s peace of conscience toward God before all one´s earthly wishes. As all these years have not made it possible for me to change my resolution in acting thus, I feel that now is the moment to tell you again that I can never change my confession. I am certain that you will undestand this clearly and see as I do, that we are only torturing ourselves, about something impossible and it would not be a kindness to let you go on having vain hopes, which will never be realized. And now goodbye, my darling Nicky, and may God bless and protect you. Ever your loving Alix.”
However Nicholas did not understand , feeling nothing short of devastated. He eventually wrote a reply, almost a month later:
My dearest Alix, Please excuse my not having answered your letter sooner, but you may well imagine what a blow it proved to me. I could not write to you all these days on account of the sad state of mind I was in. Now that my restlesness has passed I feel more calm and am able to answer your letter quietly. Let me thank you first of all for the frank and open way in which you spoke to me in that letter! There is nothing worse in the world than things misunderstood and not brought to the point. I knew from the beginning what an obstacle there rose between us and I felt so deeply for you all these years, knowing perfectly the great difficlties you would have had to overcome! But still it is so awfully hard, when you have cherished a dream for many a year and think - now you are near to its being realized - then suddenly the curtain is drawn - and you see only an empty space and feel oh! so lonely and so beaten down! I cannot deny the reasons you give me, dear Alix; but I have got one which is also true: you hardly know the depth of our religion. If you only could have learnt it with somebody, who knows it, and could have read books, where you might see the likeness and difference of the two - perhaps then! it would not have troubled you in the same way it does now! Your living quite alone without anyone´s help in such a matter, is also a sad circumstance in th barrier that apparently stands between us! It is too sad for words to know that that barrier is - religion! Don´t you think, dearest, that the fiver years, since we know each other, have passed in vain and with no result? Certainly not - for me at least. And how am I to change my feelings after waiting and wishing for so long, even now after that sad letter you sent me? I trust in God´s mercy; maybe it is His will that we both, but you especially should suffer long - maybe after helping us through all these miseries and trials - He will yet guide my darling along tha path that I daily pray for! Oh! do not say “no” directly, my dearest Alix, do not ruin my life already! Do you think there can exist any happiness in the whole world without you! After having involuntarily! kept me waiting and hoping, can this end in such a way? Oh! do not get angry with me if I am beginning to say silly things, though I promised in this letter to be calm! Your heart is too kind not to understand what tortures I am going through now. But I have spoken enough and must end this epistle of mine. Thank you so much for your charming photo. Let me wish, dearest Alix, that the coming Year may bring you peace, happiness, comfort and the fulfilment of your wishes. God bless you and protect you! Ever your loving and devoted Nicky.
Indeed in the spring of the following year Alix finally relented and by autumn the two were married. Ahead of them were 24 years filled with devotion and support, but also tragedy.