Author Topic: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?  (Read 37270 times)

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Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #90 on: August 06, 2016, 04:13:11 PM »
I would rule the Persian route out. The country was to put it mildly a "Failed State" there were no railroads to speak of in the country at this time. Add to this while the Russian army in the area was in slightly better shape than the rest of the Russian army this area even pre-war was a very lawless region getting them out through there would be extremely difficult if not impossible.

The Murmansk route was probably the best way out. If it had been tried in the summer of 1917 instead of going to Tobolsk with help from the British they might have been able to pull it off with some luck if they can get past Petrograd.

The Swedish route Sweden was pro-German during WW I. I don't think the Russians or the other Allies trusted them. Also the Tsar knows state secrets they can't risk him falling into enemy hands.

The Siberian route instead of taking the IF to Tobolsk the Provisional Government and the Allies decide to take the IF to Vladivostok and out of the country. This is one very long trip in a country in chaos with lots of people who would do anything to stop IF from leaving the country so the Tsar can lead a "Counter-revolution". This may be the second best route out after the Murmansk route. If everyone thinks the red cross train the IF is traveling on is really a red cross train they might be able to sneak through. If they run in to trouble and someone tries to stop them you wonder how reliable the guard force would be.

Then there is the Kerensky problem he and I would say other members of the Provisional Government are paranoid that if Nicholas get out of the country he will lead a counter-revolution against them.

Offline DNAgenie

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #91 on: August 06, 2016, 07:41:12 PM »
When King George V sent HMS Middlesex to rescue some of the surviving members of the Russian Imperial family in 1919 its access was through the Black Sea, but of course that route was closed to British ships until the end of WW1, after the defeat of Turkey.

Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #92 on: August 07, 2016, 02:11:31 AM »
The Cantacuzenes sent their three teenage children to America via the Trans-Siberian in the summer of 1917 without problems (escorted by their tutor). However, they were fairly 'ordinary' people travelling by ordinary train. It would have been much more difficult to organise a safe passage for Nicholas and family, though, of course, they got to Tobolsk without problems.

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Offline TimM

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #93 on: August 07, 2016, 07:21:58 AM »
I suppose they could have tried to head east, maybe try and reach China. 
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Offline Horock

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #94 on: August 07, 2016, 08:10:22 AM »
Britain had had to deal with civil disturbances in Ireland in 1916 and then 1917 saw unrestricted U-boat warfare, the beginnings of rationing, air raids on London, mutinies amongst troops in France and Britain’s armed forces were incurring an average 1,700 casualties per day. Abroad, French troops were mutinying and the Russian Revolution had taken place.  It seems that the general state of affairs in Britain and abroad led to King George V, a constitutional monarch to change the name of the Royal House to Windsor by proclamation on 17th July 1917. Hardly a decision to be taken lightly and it can really only be seen as a decision taken someone who was concerned about his own position.

Nicholas Romanov was a former head of state whose overthrow had seemed in Britain to have been welcomed in his home country. He would have brought little expertise to the British war effort and his presence in Britain would have had no bearing on Russia’s commitment to the war as the new government in Russia was pledged to continue the struggle.  I do not think that there was any indication that his life, or his family’s lives were in immediate danger – certainly not from enemy action. Where was an obligation to house the Romanovs in Britain?

There was no case for risking British lives to bring the Romanovs to Britain.  If the Romanovs had arrived at a point of entry into Great Britain then they could have applied for residency – as any other aliens could.  At that point, the fact that they had relatives in this country and that they were probably able to pay their way would probably have counted in their favour.  Surely, their case should have been assessed on same basis as any applicant. Or perhaps people think that the Romanovs should have been treated differently to Belgian and French orphans or anyone other Russian with relatives in this Britain?

No one knew then, or knows now, if the presence of the Romanov’s in Britain would have had a detrimental effect on the state the country. Given the situation in 1917, the King’s attitude was reasonable.  Whatever motives influenced government decisions at the time, with the benefit of hindsight the government’s decision not to bring the Romanovs to Britain was correct as the stability of the country was not put at risk and British lives were not endangered in such an undertaking.

Offline NicolasG

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #95 on: August 09, 2016, 01:11:50 PM »
Britain had had to deal with civil disturbances in Ireland in 1916 and then 1917 saw unrestricted U-boat warfare, the beginnings of rationing, air raids on London, mutinies amongst troops in France and Britain’s armed forces were incurring an average 1,700 casualties per day. Abroad, French troops were mutinying and the Russian Revolution had taken place.  It seems that the general state of affairs in Britain and abroad led to King George V, a constitutional monarch to change the name of the Royal House to Windsor by proclamation on 17th July 1917. Hardly a decision to be taken lightly and it can really only be seen as a decision taken someone who was concerned about his own position.

Nicholas Romanov was a former head of state whose overthrow had seemed in Britain to have been welcomed in his home country. He would have brought little expertise to the British war effort and his presence in Britain would have had no bearing on Russia’s commitment to the war as the new government in Russia was pledged to continue the struggle.  I do not think that there was any indication that his life, or his family’s lives were in immediate danger – certainly not from enemy action. Where was an obligation to house the Romanovs in Britain?

There was no case for risking British lives to bring the Romanovs to Britain.  If the Romanovs had arrived at a point of entry into Great Britain then they could have applied for residency – as any other aliens could.  At that point, the fact that they had relatives in this country and that they were probably able to pay their way would probably have counted in their favour.  Surely, their case should have been assessed on same basis as any applicant. Or perhaps people think that the Romanovs should have been treated differently to Belgian and French orphans or anyone other Russian with relatives in this Britain?

No one knew then, or knows now, if the presence of the Romanov’s in Britain would have had a detrimental effect on the state the country. Given the situation in 1917, the King’s attitude was reasonable.  Whatever motives influenced government decisions at the time, with the benefit of hindsight the government’s decision not to bring the Romanovs to Britain was correct as the stability of the country was not put at risk and British lives were not endangered in such an undertaking.


First you mention a lot of issues that have no relation to the Imperial Family or Russia (how their arrival to Britain would have encouraged Sinn Feiners or Unionists?), then you say that it is not possible to know if their presence in Britain would have affected the situation in any way and finally you haste to the conclusion that George V's decision to abandon them to their fate was right because that way the country was not put at risk. Frankly, I think your logic is quite faulty.

There is only one way in which the presence of the Imperial Family could have supposed a risk: the existence of a powerful socialist-revolutionary movement bent on overthrowing the monarchy, who could take the issue for propaganda purposes. There was no such thing in Britain. There was such thing in Spain, and the Spanish King (not a relative of them) tried to save the Imperial Family offering them asylum.

Lastly, your proposal about how thing should have been done is plainly ridiculous. According to you, Nicholas II should have taken the 15:00 British Airways flight to Heathrow, stand in the queue at passport control, tell that he and his family wanted to apply for "political refugee" status and fill in the forms like everyone else.

Honestly, I don't know if you are British and this is a case of "my country and my king, right or wrong", but you are being "more Papist than the Pope". Kenneth Rose wrote a semi-official biography of George V which tries to be a sympathetic portrait of a not very likable man and he does not provide so many excuses. In order to explain the lack of remorse in George V after the murder of the Imperial Family he made up a wild theory that George V might have encouraged the British Secret Service to rescue Nicholas II and his family by bribery or force but he has to admit that "all this is mere conjecture" and "no evidence exists".
« Last Edit: August 09, 2016, 01:13:26 PM by NicolasG »

Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #96 on: August 10, 2016, 03:51:51 AM »
What I think Horock means in the first paragraph is that Britain had other and much more pressing priorities in 1917, including strife in Ireland.

You may not find George V a likeable person. However, a successful monarch needs to put the interests of his country and monarchy above all else.

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Offline mcdnab

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #97 on: August 10, 2016, 05:08:57 AM »
Just a few more thoughts:

Though I suspect that all sides will never really agree.

I would say one thing that I think we should all really accept - Nicholas II was the arbiter of his own fate and as the situation worsened he failed to listen or to act on the advice of some of those closest to him in order to save his country and his dynasty from the abyss.

Of course the ultimate responsibility for his death lies with the men who killed him and his fellow countrymen who allowed it to happen and blaming George V won't change it - it also seems rather unfair given the long list of other reigning relatives who escape criticism despite doing nothing much either.

Nicholas II was a nice chap called to do a job he wasn't really suited for made worse by his choice of wife.

To respond to this:

"It's MHO that one of the foremost duties of a consititutional monarch, as George V was, is to set a moral example to his nation. It is thus also my opinion that George V, by refusing to give aid to his kin,  initiated the British Royal family's descent to its present insignificance."

No the duty of a constitutional monarch is to preserve the constitution, the state and its institutions - to do your duty and to uphold your coronation oath and to serve your country to the best of your abilities - the morality comes from doing that well.
Unlike many of his own family and many of his foreign royal relations he actually proved himself pretty capable of getting on with most of his government ministers of all political persuasions despite some of their views and opinions being anathema to a staunch traditionalist like George. George V did give a great deal of aid to many of those relations that lost out in the aftermath of the First World War including financial support to the exiled Queen of Spain and to the mother and sister of Nicholas II for example (all of which continued long after his death).

It is probably true that had he taken in the Romanovs it was unlikely he would have been toppled in some socialist revolution - but it might have dented his popularity or more importantly the popularity of the institution that is the British Monarchy.
And maintaining that wasn't about his vanity it was about surviving as a constitutional monarch during a war that was going badly against countries that were ruled by your close relatives - if you are not seen as doing a good job, caring for your subjects etc when you have virtually no political power people will of course ask what is the point of them or are they really on our side.
Duty to the state, to the monarchy, before his personal feelings was his mantra if you like and the reason why his wife found their son's decision to abdicate to pursue his personal desires completely shocking.

The moral monarchy idea is a bit of a 19th/ 20th century myth based largely on the rather dull and respectable family life of Victoria, George V and his second son George VI as compared to the rather more flashy lifestyles of Edward VII and Edward VIII - it is also in part an inherited approach based on Prince Albert's view that the monarchy's best chances of survival were a) exporting British liberalism and ideas through the marriages of his daughters especially that of the Princess Royal (which of course failed) and b) Respectability, a happy family life (whether real or not) aping the so-called respectable behaviour of the growing British middle class in contrast to the rather more louche behaviour of the aristocracy.

George's morality effectively meant he was faithful to his wife and led a rather quiet private life - that is what he was admired for by many of his subjects.

How a decision he made that was largely hidden from the public for decades could have prompted his family and descendants "decline into insignificance" is rather beyond me and of course ignores the fact that his son George VI and his consort gave incredible leadership (in his case at great personal cost) throughout their lives and that his granddaughter remains highly regarded and hugely popular. If anything George V was the man that prompted the monarchy to adapt in order to survive in a changing world.

He changed his mind based on his own (and more importantly Stamfordham's) assessment of the situation and even if he had not changed his mind the chances of the family actually getting out of Russia (given the situation facing the provisional government) was still pretty remote and again I would remind everyone that the existing documentation is pretty clear that the King's cold feet were pretty much matched by the cold feet of the provisional government.

A final point - George V's post-death reputation has suffered by and large because we now all know that in private he was an extremely difficult individual in terms of his relationship with his sons, he was a bit of a domestic tyrant, very badly educated and rigid in his opinions and views - in private not I suspect a very likable man and therefore an easy target for blame. His public reputation however was pretty good because he was seen as a "good" King.

Did he show any remorse or regret it - well publicly there is little to state either way though I am sure privately he may have been as upset at what happened as we know his mother and sister were we simply can't know - but ultimately Nicholas II was not his responsibility and I am sure he could justify his decision to him self.

Offline TimM

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #98 on: August 10, 2016, 07:08:22 AM »
I guess we'll never really know the answer.
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Offline NicolasG

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #99 on: August 10, 2016, 08:03:26 AM »
Some issues:

1. "Constitutionality". It's becoming a kind of mantra in this thread. We have to accept that George V could not have behaved otherwise because "he was a constitutional monarch".

Let's check the facts:

There's a government in Russia that has been recognized by Britain and that is an ally in the ongoing war. A representative of that government, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Milyukov, officialy requests Britain to grant asylum to the Imperial Family. The Prime Minister, the head of the Cabinet, which has most information about the situation in Britain, decides to comply with that request of an ally. And then, the Constitutional Monarch George V panicks, and based in some letters that he has received, intervenes to block the whole matter via an informal contact through his secretary with Foreign Secretary Balfour.

Is that what a Constitutional Monarch is supposed to do? Block political decisions taken by a Prime Minister? Bypass the whole political system? Lobby Cabinet ministers in his favour? I am not an expert, but I think that isn't very constitutional.

2. "It would have dented his popularity or the popularity of the institution that is the British Monarchy". If a Monarch is called to do something callous (abandoning a close relative he called his friend fell in extremely dangerous circumstances), there's something very wrong with the system. Maybe he should challenge the system or give up his crown, pack his things and settle in Madeira or other island with a good climate.

3. "The chances of the Imperial family actually getting out of Russia were still pretty remote". That's a bogus argument.

A man is involved in a car crash in a small town and taken to the local hospital with very serious injuries. The only surgeon available refuses to operate him. The wounded man is put again in the ambulance and taken to a further hospital. He dies on the way. The autopsy determines that his chances of survival if he had been operated were small, around 5%. Even so, would the surgeon who refused to operate him get off scot-free? Wouldn't he incur at least moral censure?

And now, let's return to the Russian Imperial Family and George V. Maybe all of them could have been saved. Maybe only the children could have been saved. Maybe the Grand Duchesses (but not Alexey) could have been saved. I am not going to assign probabilities to each of those scenarios. You can make the chances as low as you want. The fact is that George V DID think that there was a real chance of taking them out of Russia to safety in Britain. That is why he acted to block it. If he had thought that was something purely hipotetical that would never materialized he would not have panicked.

"What does remain certain is that the King, by persuading his Government to withdraw their original offer of asylum, deprived the Imperial family of their best, perhaps their only, means of escape." Kenneth Rose, King George V

Offline NicolasG

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #100 on: August 10, 2016, 08:05:35 AM »
Some issues:

1. "Constitutionality". It's becoming a kind of mantra in this thread. We have to accept that George V could not have behaved otherwise because "he was a constitutional monarch".

Let's check the facts:

There's a government in Russia that has been recognized by Britain and that is an ally in the ongoing war. A representative of that government, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Milyukov, officialy requests Britain to grant asylum to the Imperial Family. The Prime Minister, the head of the Cabinet, which has most information about the situation in Britain, decides to comply with that request of an ally. And then, the Constitutional Monarch George V panicks, and based in some letters that he has received, intervenes to block the whole matter via an informal contact through his secretary with Foreign Secretary Balfour.

Is that what a Constitutional Monarch is supposed to do? Block political decisions taken by a Prime Minister? Bypass the whole political system? Lobby Cabinet ministers in his favour? I am not an expert, but I think that isn't very constitutional.

2. "It would have dented his popularity or the popularity of the institution that is the British Monarchy". If a Monarch is called to do something callous (abandoning a close relative he called his friend fell in extremely dangerous circumstances) to keep being popular, there's something very wrong with the system. Maybe he should challenge the system or give up his crown, pack his things and settle in Madeira or other island with a good climate.

3. "The chances of the Imperial family actually getting out of Russia were still pretty remote". That's a bogus argument.

A man is involved in a car crash in a small town and taken to the local hospital with very serious injuries. The only surgeon available refuses to operate him. The wounded man is put again in the ambulance and taken to a further hospital. He dies on the way. The autopsy determines that his chances of survival if he had been operated were small, around 5%. Even so, would the surgeon who refused to operate him get off scot-free? Wouldn't he incur at least moral censure?

And now, let's return to the Russian Imperial Family and George V. Maybe all of them could have been saved. Maybe only the children could have been saved. Maybe the Grand Duchesses (but not Alexey) could have been saved. I am not going to assign probabilities to each of those scenarios. You can make the chances as low as you want. The fact is that George V DID think that there was a real chance of taking them out of Russia to safety in Britain. That is why he acted to block it. If he had thought that was something purely hipotetical that would never materialized he would not have panicked.

"What does remain certain is that the King, by persuading his Government to withdraw their original offer of asylum, deprived the Imperial family of their best, perhaps their only, means of escape." Kenneth Rose, King George V


Offline Lochlanach

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #101 on: August 11, 2016, 08:59:15 AM »
Some issues:

1. "Constitutionality". It's becoming a kind of mantra in this thread. We have to accept that George V could not have behaved otherwise because "he was a constitutional monarch".

Let's check the facts:

There's a government in Russia that has been recognized by Britain and that is an ally in the ongoing war. A representative of that government, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Milyukov, officialy requests Britain to grant asylum to the Imperial Family. The Prime Minister, the head of the Cabinet, which has most information about the situation in Britain, decides to comply with that request of an ally. And then, the Constitutional Monarch George V panicks, and based in some letters that he has received, intervenes to block the whole matter via an informal contact through his secretary with Foreign Secretary Balfour.

Is that what a Constitutional Monarch is supposed to do? Block political decisions taken by a Prime Minister? Bypass the whole political system? Lobby Cabinet ministers in his favour? I am not an expert, but I think that isn't very constitutional.

2. "It would have dented his popularity or the popularity of the institution that is the British Monarchy". If a Monarch is called to do something callous (abandoning a close relative he called his friend fell in extremely dangerous circumstances), there's something very wrong with the system. Maybe he should challenge the system or give up his crown, pack his things and settle in Madeira or other island with a good climate.

3. "The chances of the Imperial family actually getting out of Russia were still pretty remote". That's a bogus argument.

A man is involved in a car crash in a small town and taken to the local hospital with very serious injuries. The only surgeon available refuses to operate him. The wounded man is put again in the ambulance and taken to a further hospital. He dies on the way. The autopsy determines that his chances of survival if he had been operated were small, around 5%. Even so, would the surgeon who refused to operate him get off scot-free? Wouldn't he incur at least moral censure?

And now, let's return to the Russian Imperial Family and George V. Maybe all of them could have been saved. Maybe only the children could have been saved. Maybe the Grand Duchesses (but not Alexey) could have been saved. I am not going to assign probabilities to each of those scenarios. You can make the chances as low as you want. The fact is that George V DID think that there was a real chance of taking them out of Russia to safety in Britain. That is why he acted to block it. If he had thought that was something purely hipotetical that would never materialized he would not have panicked.

"What does remain certain is that the King, by persuading his Government to withdraw their original offer of asylum, deprived the Imperial family of their best, perhaps their only, means of escape." Kenneth Rose, King George V


'George V.. Constitutional monarch...bypassing the political system... Lobbying ministers... maybe he should challenge the system or give up his crown , and settle in a remote place like Madeira' -- a forerunner of Charles III perhaps?

'George panicked..'   he  'bottled it'  as we say in England  ; and at that point in 1917 becoming accustomed to taking on slightly alarmist , paranoid advice from ultra-conservatives determined to save the monarchy from PR disasters during wartime by offering platitudes such as this to the 'working classes'  no matter how slight the threat of trouble. George it seems took little persuading ,and it appears , cleansed himself of any guilt or responsibility too - as we are wont to do when faced with unwelcome facts.

Offline Horock

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #102 on: August 12, 2016, 04:00:10 PM »
mcdnab (Reply 97) pretty much wrapped things up in his excellent post.

I would merely add that according to Lloyd George, Britain's offer of asylum was never actually withdrawn and that according to the British Ambassador to Russia, Buchanan the Russian Government ‘were masters in their house.’ Perhaps other people might have evidence as whether this was so?

NicolasG. 
Yes, I am British.  "my country and my king, right or wrong" has nothing to do with it.
Both of my grandfathers were on the Western Front and both told me horror stories of events at that time.  One lost two out of three brothers and the other lost two out four brothers, all, all of them due to enemy action.  There are doubtless thousands upon thousands of families in Britain that endured worse than that. What was happening on the Western Front and the other theatres of war was far, far more important than the fate of the former Tsar. If any judgement was made that the Tsar's presence in Britain might in any way hinder the war effort then so be it.

If you can come on here with reliable evidence that George V acted unconstitutionally then let us see it. If you have any reliable evidence that George V blocked a British Government decision then let us see it.  If you have any reliable evidence that George V 'panicked' then let us see it.

All clear now?

Offline DNAgenie

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #103 on: August 12, 2016, 08:57:24 PM »
In wartime Britain in 1917 the level of animosity against the Germans was incredibly great. The royal family was under great pressure to change their name to sound more British, and as Empress Alexander was seen as a German Princess (of Hesse) rather than as George V's cousin, she would not have been welcome in Britain. Her sister, Princess Victoria, was living in Britain and was married to Prince Louis of Battenberg. He was forced to change his name to Mountbatten, they both lost their titles as Royal Highness, and Louis also lost his job as a senior British naval officer. The taint of 'being German' was far more important to the British public than the fact that Nicholas and Alexandra were George V's cousins.

Also, in 1917  the ultimate fate of the Romanovs was not a forgone conclusion. The Tsar had abdicated and there had been a change of government, but it took a further Bolshevik Revolution and the fall of the Provisional Government to seal their fate. It may seem obvious to us now, in hindsight, but it was certainly not obvious then. When the remnants of the Russian Royal Family were seen to be in danger in 1919 George V did not hesitate to order British naval ships to the Black Sea to rescue them. He might have dithered in 1917 but by 1919 the situation had changed and he did not wait for government approval but ordered the ships to sail himself.


Offline NicolasG

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #104 on: August 13, 2016, 08:37:18 AM »
mcdnab (Reply 97) pretty much wrapped things up in his excellent post.

I would merely add that according to Lloyd George, Britain's offer of asylum was never actually withdrawn and that according to the British Ambassador to Russia, Buchanan the Russian Government ‘were masters in their house.’ Perhaps other people might have evidence as whether this was so?

NicolasG. 
Yes, I am British.  "my country and my king, right or wrong" has nothing to do with it.
Both of my grandfathers were on the Western Front and both told me horror stories of events at that time.  One lost two out of three brothers and the other lost two out four brothers, all, all of them due to enemy action.  There are doubtless thousands upon thousands of families in Britain that endured worse than that. What was happening on the Western Front and the other theatres of war was far, far more important than the fate of the former Tsar. If any judgement was made that the Tsar's presence in Britain might in any way hinder the war effort then so be it.

If you can come on here with reliable evidence that George V acted unconstitutionally then let us see it. If you have any reliable evidence that George V blocked a British Government decision then let us see it.  If you have any reliable evidence that George V 'panicked' then let us see it.

All clear now?


All clear. I DO have reliable evidence for you to see it. It can be found in books widely available.

First, the historians:

Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution, Collins Harvill, 1990, p. 336

"... it came as something of a shock when at the end of March (OS) Britain informed the Provisional Government that she was withdrawing her invitation to the ex-Tsar. It was believed then and for a long time afterward that it was Prime Minister David Lloyd George who had dissuaded George V from following his generous impulses. Lloyd George himself liked to perpetuate this impression. But it has since become known that he did so to protect the King, who had vetoed the earlier decision for fear that it would embarrass the Crown and irritate Labor MPs. who were "expressing adverse opinions to the proposal. The King's role in this dishonourable action was kept in strict secrecy: instructions went out "to keep an eye on anything that may be put into the War Cabinet minutes likely to hurt the King's feelings."