Every season we let you choose a winner in our Guaranteed Content Poll. We grant that request and bring Season Three to a close with your winner- The Romanov Sisters. But, we decided to give you more than you asked for and expanded on the topic to include the entire family. What an epic subject! The story of the Romanovs begins in 1613, and doesn’t really end until 2007! More than one episode could handle, so we have broken it into two parts.
Part one begins with a Tiny Tiny Romanov Tutorial. We give a very brief history of the very long reign of this Imperial family. Beginning in 1613 when the 16 year-old nephew to Ivan the Terrible- Mikhail is crowned the first Tsar of Russia. Fast forward through time, past some Greats (and some not-so-greats) we finally land at Alexander III who we fondly call,”Papa Tsar”. He is the father of Nicholas and his death shortly after the engagement of his son to a well connected Princess begins the reign of the last Tsar, Nicholas II.
The Princess in this story was christened (deep breath) Princess Victoria Alix Helena Louise Beatrice of Hesse and by Rhine. Or Alix for short (and “Sunny” if you knew her really well).
Alix was the daughter of Alice, and Alice was the third child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Not too shabby as royal lineage goes. Early in her life Alix lived up to her nickname and was sunny and happy. Then a diphtheria epidemic hit her home and Alix lost her little sister and her mother. Gan Gan Victoria did give Alix and her siblings a mother figure as often as she could while they grew up.
She also gave Alix something even less cheery and warm: Hemophilia- or rather the gene that carries it. Through her bloodline, Alix became a carrier for the bleeding disorder.
As always, we go into much more detail in the podcast, but life briefly became sunny again for her when she spent time with Nicholas. They met when he was 16, she merely 12 at Alix’s older sister Ella’s wedding. Both were smitten, however neither family was crazy about the match and tried to throw more politically adventagous suitors before both of them (as well as one that was merely designed to distract the young man). But the plots were unsuccessful and, after many years of exchanging letters, visits and flirtations, Nicholas proposed
And not happy Yes! Yes! tears, either.
She would have to leave not only her country, but also her Lutheran faith. To become part of the Imperial family, to become the next Tsarina she would have to convert to Russian Orthodoxy. After many tears, and questionably intended drama, she accepted.
Our couple would not have a leisurely engagement. Shortly after their betrothal was announced the rapidly failing health of Papa Tsar took a turn for the worse. Nicholas called Alex to be at his side as his father passed away. For more prepared future rulers, this would have been a time of sadness as well as a preparation to step up to the role that he had been trained for his whole life.
But that’s not exactly how Nicholas felt. In the shadow of his strong father, Nicholas had grown up lacking both the temperament to rule but also the training. But with his father’s death, he had to accept his role and duty to Russia.
Nicholas and Alexandra -as her name became- were wed.
Not only was Alex now in a new country with new customs and societal rules- she had some rather unique Mother-in-law issues.
Dowager Tsarina Maria was not only unwilling to give up the life she knew, it wasn’t required of her. She stood at her son’s side, as his wife walked paces behind them, continuing with her life as it had been before her husband had passed. To complicate the situation, the newlyweds had to live with her. The wedding was so rushed that no home had been set up for Nicholas and Alexandra.
Within a year the first child, Olga was born to the couple. They both loved being parents, but were also preparing for another life change: their coronation of the new Tsar and Tsarina of Russia. The religious ceremony would establish Nicholas as the head of the autocracy, and marry him to his country in what was thought of his God given position as ruler.
This happy event brought out millions of spectators and, despite the falling economy of the country, no expense was spared. Parades and balls and pagentry galore- and all went well…until a stampede of spectators eager for ceremonial swag created a deadly situation. The exact number of people that were trampled to death us unclear, but up to 3,000 people died that day. How the people saw the reaction of their new ruler played a part in what will be the legacy of his rule.
Tune back in soon for Part Two of this sad story of the last Imperial Family of Russia.
TIME TRAVEL WITH THE HISTORY CHICKS
You want more Romanovs! We get that. We did, too. There is no shortage of images, websites and blogs of this Imperial Family online. We whittled down the list to our favorites and because this is a two-part subject, we are going to link you up with everything but books here. Check back for Part Two for all of our (many) book recommendations.
You want pictures and the stories behind them? You want to tour the palaces from the comfort of your home? You want to see all those jewel encrusted Easter eggs? Click on over to Alexander Palace Time Machine to get enough Romanov intel and images to keep you occupied for a very long time.
Another really great site that has videos and tons of biographies is Royal Russia- The Romanovs.
Finally, you might enjoy checking out NicholasandAlexandra.com
The podcast that we reference in Part Two, Russian Rulers History Podcast, can be found on your favorite podcast aggregator.
Movies! Although we end this part of our tale before Anastasia is even born, she is the subject of two films that were pretty good.
We talk about it these movies and links in Part Two(which will make this link make sense) but you might enjoy checking out the Animated Things Club podcast.
And because it’s funny, here is a link to part one of the Frasier episode, A Tsar is Born.
As always, music comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at Music.mevio.com