”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 |