Author Topic: Did Nicholas II and Alexandra know their son could have hemophilia?  (Read 8277 times)

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Offline AngelAnastasia

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I think it's awful to have children if you know that there's a big possibility that they could have terrible illnesses.
If they did know, couldn't they have adopted a son instead if they wanted one?
I know adoption was around back then because Nicholas' aunt Thyra gave her illegitimate son up for adoption.
I mean, Alexandra's brother, Frederick, had hemophilia, as did her uncle, Leopold.
Did she not remember or witness them having hemophilia attacks, or perhaps she didn't realize that she would be a carrier...?
Alexei was frequently in anguish due to his severe hemophilia. To know that that could happen and still reproduce anyway is horrible.
“...because I rant not, neither rave of what I feel, can you be so shallow as to dream that I feel nothing? ”
"I saw a little girl, her eyes tightly closed, holding to the old kind world, one that she knew in her heart could not remain, and she was holding it and pleading, never to let her go.

Offline edubs31

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I think it's awful to have children if you know that there's a big possibility that they could have terrible illnesses.

Some would agree with you. Some would suggest they have a moral obligation to have that unborn child regardless of its condition. Either way there was no such thing as pregnancy screening in 1904, therefore there was no way to know for certain that Alexei had hemophilia.

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If they did know, couldn't they have adopted a son instead if they wanted one?

Not really. I can't imagine an adopted son being recognized by the Russian people as a legitimate heir to the throne. There would have been a crisis of succession with the potential for Romanov family members (such as Grand Duke Michael or the Kiril Vladimirovich) challenging this adopted child's claim to the throne in the event that Nicholas had died.

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I know adoption was around back then because Nicholas' aunt Thyra gave her illegitimate son up for adoption.

Right, but the fact that she gave that child up for adoption (I also think it was a daughter not a son) should tell you that as a royal she was uncomfortable with the idea of raising an illegitimate child. Now extrapolate that out a bit and imagine she was the Empress the of Russia. It's one thing to have an adopted child but another if that child is heir to the throne.

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I mean, Alexandra's brother, Frederick, had hemophilia, as did her uncle, Leopold.
Did she not remember or witness them having hemophilia attacks, or perhaps she didn't realize that she would be a carrier...?

This has become a major topic of discussion. I encourage you to do a little search of the site and no doubt you'll find some interesting exchanges having to do with Alexei's illness and what knowledge his parents had. Statistically speaking if a mother carrier, such as Alexandra, procreates with a healthy male (Nicholas), the odds of them having children with the following are as such; 25% son without hemophilia, 25% son with hemophilia, 25% daughter not a carrier, 25% daughter carrier. So even in the event that they were to have a son - which took five tries to accomplish - there was only a 50/50 chance Alexei would have suffered from the disease. Research suggests that one of Alexandra's daughters, either Marie or Anastasia, was also a carrier.

Perhaps they were simply hoping the coin flip would turn up heads instead of tails. Or they may have naively believed that their son could not possibly have been infected. The latter of the two doesn't really sound too far fetched considering how devoutly religious Nicholas & Alexandra were. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they genuinely believed that God would never poison the heir presumptive of Russia, and certainly not do so after forcing the Tsar and Empress to have four children before a son could be born.

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Alexei was frequently in anguish due to his severe hemophilia. To know that that could happen and still reproduce anyway is horrible.

Again, it's not so clear cut as you make it out to be. Alexandra believed Alexei's hemophilia to be punishment from God, perhaps for her conversion from Lutheranism to the Orthodoxy, or perhaps for other reasons. Given her extreme religiosity, how rare a disease it was and the limited knowledge the medical field had of it, is it any wonder she felt this way?
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Offline Kalafrana

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Alexandra was less than a year old when her brother Friedrich died, so could not have remembered him. Whether she witnessed her uncle Leopold having haemophilia attacks is unknown, and I would be inclined to doubt it.

However, Alexandra's haemophiliac nephew Waldemar of Prussia was born in 1889, well before her marriage, so she should have been aware of the possibility of her being a carrier.

I'm inclined to think that Nicholas and Alexandra ignored the haemophilia risk and pressed on regardless.

An adopted child could not succeed to the throne.

The sensible solution would have been to find Mikhail a suitable wife and ensure he was properly prepared for the succession.

Ann

Offline AngelAnastasia

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Right, but the fact that she gave that child up for adoption (I also think it was a daughter not a son) should tell you that as a royal she was uncomfortable with the idea of raising an illegitimate child. Now extrapolate that out a bit and imagine she was the Empress the of Russia. It's one thing to have an adopted child but another if that child is heir to the throne.
Oh, right. It was a daughter. It was a while ago when I read about that.
“...because I rant not, neither rave of what I feel, can you be so shallow as to dream that I feel nothing? ”
"I saw a little girl, her eyes tightly closed, holding to the old kind world, one that she knew in her heart could not remain, and she was holding it and pleading, never to let her go.

Offline AngelAnastasia

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The sensible solution would have been to find Mikhail a suitable wife and ensure he was properly prepared for the succession.
And they didn't do so because Nicholas believed that it was God's will that he rule, correct?
“...because I rant not, neither rave of what I feel, can you be so shallow as to dream that I feel nothing? ”
"I saw a little girl, her eyes tightly closed, holding to the old kind world, one that she knew in her heart could not remain, and she was holding it and pleading, never to let her go.

Offline Kalafrana

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Nicholas believed that it was God's will that he ruled, and presumably also that it was God's will that Alexei should succeed him. He obviously didn't appreciate that you may trust in God, but you also keep your powder dry!

Ann

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Look, you guys are missing some important points.  First, medical understanding of hemophilia was almost non existent in those days.  Nobody knew exactly how or why people were born with it.  It "seemed" to "maybe" run in families, but nobody knew.

There was no reason for Nicholas and Alexandra to stop and even consider it at all.  You guys really can't take 21st Century points of view and apply them to people in the late 19th century.

Nicholas was Emperor and that was that, as far as he was concerned.  These ideas of adoption or grooming Michael really would have sounded ludicrous to Nicholas at the time. Hempohilia was simply not something they even considered, nor would that have stopped them even if they had.


Offline edubs31

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You guys really can't take 21st Century points of view and apply them to people in the late 19th century.

Well only to the extent that Nicholas & Alexandra were completely unaware as you have suggested. Is there proof of this? Given the secrecy around Alexei's condition from day one we don't appear to have any conclusive evidence regarding the imperial couple's concern or level of understanding regarding the disease. Were they shocked to find out? Were they surprised but (Alexandra) quickly remembered that certain family members were also plagued by the disease (did the Doctors quickly remind them of this)? Were they aware all along of the risks and simply kept their fingers crossed and prayed for God's blessings?

In the movie "Nicholas & Alexandra" the filmmakers seemed to chart a middle-course regarding their presentation of this critical episode. See here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCQahAJnW1g

Now obviously this film isn't exactly renowned for its historically accuracy, especially given what we know about the family today, but the revelation of Alexei's hemophilia might just be the exception. I'm not sure filmmakers today, 43-years since this movie's release, could create a more authentic scene than this. There is simply too much unknown...not unlike the disease itself, at the turn of the 20th century, as you have explained.
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You guys really can't take 21st Century points of view and apply them to people in the late 19th century.

Well only to the extent that Nicholas & Alexandra were completely unaware as you have suggested. Is there proof of this? Given the secrecy around Alexei's condition from day one we don't appear to have any conclusive evidence regarding the imperial couple's concern or level of understanding regarding the disease. Were they shocked to find out? Were they surprised but (Alexandra) quickly remembered that certain family members were also plagued by the disease (did the Doctors quickly remind them of this)? Were they aware all along of the risks and simply kept their fingers crossed and prayed for God's blessings?

There was no way for them to have known in advance that ANY child would be born with hemophilia.  The doctors knew that it ran in the Hesse family, but they simply didn't understand enough about the genetics to be able to say anything more than "maybe".  They had no clue about any extent of "risk" involved, other than sometimes in one family it manifested but more often than not didn't.

They weren't shocked, as much as profoundly upset to discover he had the disease.  Alexandra was aware it ran in her family, and so most likely (according to several reports by doctors who examined her for her "nervous disorders") bore great guilt at having transmitted it to her son, the heir. 

Offline TimM

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It was a 50/50 crapshoot.  It could have gone either way.
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Offline Превед

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Re: Did Nicholas II and Alexandra know their son could have hemophilia?
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2014, 04:26:48 PM »

In the movie "Nicholas & Alexandra" the filmmakers seemed to chart a middle-course regarding their presentation of this critical episode. See here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCQahAJnW1g

Now obviously this film isn't exactly renowned for its historically accuracy,

Ah, it's cringeworthy and lèse-majesté how the doctor bluntly explains QV transmitted it to her daughter and Alice to AF, calling her grandmother "Victoria" instead of "Your Majesty's grandmother" or "Her Majesty the Queen of England".

Remember this was a time when one referred to someone's mother in direct adress as madame votre mère / Ihre Frau Mutter / ваша госпожа мать (?)!
« Last Edit: May 15, 2014, 04:41:40 PM by Превед »
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Re: Did Nicholas II and Alexandra know their son could have hemophilia?
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2014, 04:28:00 PM »
It was no where near 50/50 as far as they knew. Remember doctors had no idea what the chances could be.

Offline AngelAnastasia

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Re: Did Nicholas II and Alexandra know their son could have hemophilia?
« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2014, 06:42:53 PM »
Hempohilia was simply not something they even considered, nor would that have stopped them even if they had.
So hypothetically, even if they did know their son could well be afflicted with hemophilia, it wouldn't have stopped them?
“...because I rant not, neither rave of what I feel, can you be so shallow as to dream that I feel nothing? ”
"I saw a little girl, her eyes tightly closed, holding to the old kind world, one that she knew in her heart could not remain, and she was holding it and pleading, never to let her go.

Offline edubs31

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Re: Did Nicholas II and Alexandra know their son could have hemophilia?
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2014, 07:43:16 PM »

In the movie "Nicholas & Alexandra" the filmmakers seemed to chart a middle-course regarding their presentation of this critical episode. See here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCQahAJnW1g

Now obviously this film isn't exactly renowned for its historically accuracy,

Ah, it's cringeworthy and lèse-majesté how the doctor bluntly explains QV transmitted it to her daughter and Alice to AF, calling her grandmother "Victoria" instead of "Your Majesty's grandmother" or "Her Majesty the Queen of England".

Remember this was a time when one referred to someone's mother in direct adress as madame votre mère / Ihre Frau Mutter / ваша госпожа мать (?)!

That's fine, but it's more important for the audience to understand, quickly and easily, who is being referred to. Not addressing the by then deceased Queen by her full formal title is acceptable in my opinion. After all the focus of the scene was on Alexei's disease not on the Queen herself. But I understand your point...people sometimes come off as too, shall I say "familiar", in these types of productions than was surely the case in reality.
Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right...

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Re: Did Nicholas II and Alexandra know their son could have hemophilia?
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2014, 10:00:04 AM »
Hempohilia was simply not something they even considered, nor would that have stopped them even if they had.
So hypothetically, even if they did know their son could well be afflicted with hemophilia, it wouldn't have stopped them?

Without doubt no. It would not have stopped them.  One must understand their mindset on the issue.  One of the primary duties of the Emperor is to ensure he produces an heir.  That is why they had four girls before Alexei was born.  They HAD to have a son. That is simply one of the duties of the mantle of the Throne.  I have no doubt that if Alexei had been born first instead of Olga, and developed hemophilia they would have tried to have another son in the hopes he wouldn't develop the disease and be able to assume the throne one day.

Remember, we can't take modern sensibilities to understand Victorian era people.  We have to try to "think" they way they would have.