Author Topic: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated  (Read 303648 times)

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NAAOTMA

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #435 on: September 19, 2005, 10:43:33 AM »
Tsaria has put it so well---Alexander III counted on the gift of time, as if he was immortal, and somehow would never have to turn the reins over to his eldest son. His decisions in that regard set a course long before Nicholas met Alix.


Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #436 on: September 19, 2005, 11:14:21 AM »
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I return to the only viable reason - the sudden, totally unexpected and unanticipated illness of Alexander III.   Alexander was only 49.   There was no reason to believe he would not rule Russia for another 20 years.   It was his failure to prepare Nicholas to face HIS destiny, which gave rise to all sorts of unsurmountable problems.


I agree that Alexander III, by his refusal to train and engage Nicholas in government, was culpable in much of what later went wrong.  Even his own daughter Olga said as much in her waning years.  And it probably does signal a hope that most of us harbor for a long life.

But your comment triggered a recollection of some fascinating statistics (from a 1904 magazine article) I came across on the main Alexander Palace website some time ago:

"The family history of the Romanoffs is in striking contrast to that of the Hohenzollerns.  They have been short-reigned and short-lived, and their sons have usually been few.  There have been sixteen tsars and tsarinas of the dynasty, besides the two Catherines who held the scepter by right of their marriage to Romanoffs.  The reigns of these eighteen sovereigns span a period of two hundred and ninety years, an average of only sixteen years to each ruler.  Excepting the second Catherine, a Teutonic princess, only one of the eighteen lived to be sixty.  Only thrice since Peter the Great has the crown descended in regular sequence from father to son."

Very few people step back to look at their situations in life objectively.  But even a moderately-critical analysis of their own family history would have alerted Alexander and Nicholas to two things that might have avoided disastrous mistakes:  tsars needed to prepare their successors as early as possible, and the failure to provide a male heir was no real calamity for the dynasty's fortunes.

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #437 on: September 19, 2005, 12:23:20 PM »
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But the situation was very different after, say, Spala.  For one thing, Alexei had to be carried in public appearances.  People nearer to the throne were aware that something was seriously wrong.  His obvious illness was the source of much public and diplomatic speculation.


I just found a new entry on the main Alexander Palace website.  It's a report from London that ran in the New York Times on November 9, 1912 reporting that Alexei suffered from the "bleeding disease" and looking at the history of the disease as it was then known in the English, Russian, and German royal houses.

So the cat was out of the bag, after all.

Offline RichC

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #438 on: September 19, 2005, 01:12:47 PM »
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This also could, to an extent, answer a question I have never really been able to understand - that of Salic law.  Paul changed the law in reaction to his mother.   Why did Nicholas - powerful autocrat that he was too - not repeal this law?

tsaria


Witte states in him memoirs that Nicholas did bring up the possibility of changing the Salic law after the birth of Olga, but the ministers (including Witte) strongly advised against it.  There was no support for it in the family, either.  So, Nicholas was talked out of it.  I will post the specific passage later, if necessary.



Offline ChristineM

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #439 on: September 19, 2005, 02:00:54 PM »
The 1904 magazine article is wrong in at least one respect so far as I can see.   The Russian throne was passed directly from father to son in FOUR instances from the time of Peter.

Paul I - Alexander I
Nicholas I - Alexander II
Alexander II - Alexander III
Alexander III - Nicholas II

Alexander I reigned for 24 years:  Nicholas I (59 when he died) reigned for 30 years:  Alexander II reigned for 26 years:  Nicholas II reigned for 23 years.

One would have thought that the education of the heir would have been regarded as a paramount responsiblity for a ruler, but Alexander III helped set the whole disastrous chain in motion with his choice of tutor for his son and heir.   The reactionary, Pobedonostsev, was a man riddled with prejudice who failed to prepare the young Nicholas to rule a country which changed more in the last 40 years of the dynasty than in the previous 300.

It would seem Alexander had a problem with his own infallability.

The New York times article of 1912, was eighteen years after the event.   However, it does expose how removed Nicholas and Alexandra were from reality.   Their way of coping with this particular element in the chaos which swamped their lives, seems to have been to stick their heads well and truly into the sand.

tsaria




Offline ChristineM

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #440 on: September 19, 2005, 02:05:12 PM »
Thanks RichC.   That's Nicholas.   Even when it was most likely his instinct which led him in one direction, rather than follow his own instinct, he allowed himself to be influenced by others.  

How different the world might be today had he managed to find the courage of his convictions.

tsaria

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #441 on: September 19, 2005, 02:33:25 PM »
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The 1904 magazine article is wrong in at least one respect so far as I can see.   The Russian throne was passed directly from father to son in FOUR instances from the time of Peter.

Paul I - Alexander I
Nicholas I - Alexander II
Alexander II - Alexander III
Alexander III - Nicholas II

Alexander I reigned for 24 years:  Nicholas I (59 when he died) reigned for 30 years:  Alexander II reigned for 26 years:  Nicholas II reigned for 23 years.


I wonder if by setting the qualification of "regular sequence" the writer excluded the succession of Alexander I because he viewed that as a palace coup in which he felt Alexander to be complicit?

Alexander III certainly went out of his way to undercut Nicholas' confidence in himself.  When one of Alexander's ministers (I forget which) proposed that Alexander give Nicholas a ministry post or council seat on which to cut his teeth, Alexander's retort was, "Have you ever seen a single serious thought come out of his head?"

If Alexander truly felt that way about his son, why would he not have made it his first order of business to address the flaw by giving Nicholas responsiblities to mature, train, and test him?  If Alexander III was divulging such dismissive views to his ministers, what must he have been saying to family members about what a silly boy Nicholas was?  This quite possibly set up the initial distasteful scenario of Nicholas' reign, wherein the uncles and the dowager empress moved in quickly to try to exert influence and wherein Nicholas reacted by reducing ties to them and hewing more to Alexandra and her tendency to pull him into a cocoon.

In fact, I wonder if this, too, was not part of their early disdain of Alexandra.  Had Alexander so undercut the family's confidence in Nicholas' abilities that they were panicked at his being in charge and therefore more prone to resent Alexandra's success in giving Nicholas an alternate place to turn for support?

In trying to decode Alexander's inexplicable and irresponsible conduct, I sometimes think of the abused child syndrome, whereby the abused child grows up to be the abusing adult.  There were rumors that Alexander II was thinking about cutting Alexander III from the succession because he viewed him as too bumptious and reactionary.  In fact, there were some reports that Alexander III's first act after his father's death was to force open a desk and remove a paper from his father's study that purported to do just that.  Whether true or not, the story is at least an echo of a sentiment from the time that Alexander III was thought by many not to enjoy his own father's confidence.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Tsarfan »

Offline isabel

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #442 on: September 19, 2005, 03:06:20 PM »
Dears Tsaria and Tsarfan and the others too..How interesting are all your comments¡¡ more than many books...really, i am going to print all this sure...

How i want to be a good english speaker now , to can add my ideas¡¡

I don´t remember where...but i have read that MF wanted her son Michael to be Tsar one day, is it true ?

All my admiration to U2.

Offline ChristineM

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #443 on: September 19, 2005, 03:42:39 PM »
Isabel - thank you so much.   You must not feel inhibited by language.   Your English is fantastic.   It is not an easy debate to follow and, believe me, there are many native English speakers who might struggle.

Your contributions are so valuable.   Although realising Nicholas and Alexandra's daughters carried with them through their young lives, the taint of being haemophilia carriers and their marriage prospects were probably compromised as a result, I had never really addressed the full implications of this.   It was you who brought to my attention that the entire family was crippled by this disease.

tsaria

Offline ChristineM

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #444 on: September 19, 2005, 03:56:37 PM »
Yes, I read this too.   I wonder how Marie Feodorovna felt when her beloved Michael actually did become Tsar of Russia, he chose to walk away when he asked the delegates of the Duma - "Can you guarantee my life if I take the crown?" and their silence spoke volumes.

Marie Feodorovna almost gave away her feelings when she admitted to her father "Misha could almost be my favourite"

Michael was Alexander III's favourite child.  

Ten years younger than his brother the Tsarevich, he could do no wrong in the eyes of either parent.   Unlike Nicholas, Michael was born to the purple.  I wonder if this impacted on the Tsar's attitude to his first born son and Nicholas' future suffered as a result.

We have wandered well off course, but I think you will agree, if we study the 'trees', it might help us discover the 'wood'.

tsaria

« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by tsaria »

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #445 on: September 19, 2005, 04:07:54 PM »
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How i want to be a good english speaker now , to can add my ideas¡¡


Frankly, Isabel, I cannot always follow my own writing, and I admire you immensely for hanging in there.

I took four year of Spanish in high school and one year of French, to no avail.  I finally hit my stride in a foreign language with German.  Apparently I tend to think in endless strings of dependent clauses and separated modifiers, and German fit my convoluted mind like a deformed glove.

Keep letting us all hear from you.  Your English is fine, and your contributions are intriguing.

NAAOTMA

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #446 on: September 19, 2005, 06:48:08 PM »
A bit off topic, but I have also wondered at the twist of fate that Alexander II's eldest son Nicholas ("Nixa"), the heir to the throne so carefully groomed to follow in his father's footsteps, and so much like his father in his beliefs, dies tragically young---and his younger brother Alexander, his opposite in every way, becomes the Heir. (Not to mention inherits Dagmar as a fiancee.) It is as cruel a twist of fate for Alexander II and his Tsarina as that of the longed for and cherished son of Nicholas and Alexandra being a hemophiliac.

Regarding the "roll of the dice" in producing a child with hemophilia, in that day and age even among the wealthy child mortality rates were very high. Disease such as typhoid, cholera, diptheria and scarlett fever ran rampant in palaces as well as modest homes. It was a rare family of any economic bracket that did not lose at least one child to disease. I think that terrible reality made the viewpoint of that time very different from that of ours. Perhaps more fatalistic, in a way. Or perhaps that there were so many childhood illnesses that killed children, the dangers of hemophilia were viewed as one among many ways a child could die from illness, and so concern about it might have been diluted.

I do believe that Alexandra kept her daughters close to home in part as a way to insulate them from the fact that no glittering marriage proposals came their way. They were lovely and very rich, and nothing of their rank came their way in the marriage department for Olga and Tatiana. Their status as potential hemophilia carriers would explain that, which would be absolute hell for Alix to deal with in addition to her precious son's disease. If Louis B. had in fact married his cousin Maria, the Tsar's third daughter, it would have been a pretty lackluster match considering Maria was an absolute beauty with a big dowery like her sisters. Considering their looks, charm and wealth, the telephone should have been ringing off the hook, so to speak. But they weren't being sought after by other top drawer dynasties. Alexandra's sheltering of her daughters was perhaps the chicken, not the egg as it is usually presumed.

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #447 on: September 19, 2005, 07:20:17 PM »
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Regarding the "roll of the dice" in producing a child with hemophilia, in that day and age even among the wealthy child mortality rates were very high. Disease such as typhoid, cholera, diptheria and scarlett fever ran rampant in palaces as well as modest homes. It was a rare family of any economic bracket that did not lose at least one child to disease. I think that terrible reality made the viewpoint of that time very different from that of ours. Perhaps more fatalistic, in a way. Or perhaps that there were so many childhood illnesses that killed children, the dangers of hemophilia were viewed as one among many ways a child could die from illness, and so concern about it might have been diluted.


I agree completely with this observation about mortality rates.  But I think it could lead to a different conclusion.  With so many other diseases to prey upon children, adding hemophilia into the mix made it even more difficult to ensure a male heir which was, after all, one of the chief duties of a Russian empress.

Consider Marie Feodorovna.  She lost two (i. e., 50%) of her sons without hemophilia in the mix.  One, the original tsarevitch, died in infancy.  The other, although living into adulthood, was diagnosed early with tuberculosis, which was viewed as tantamount to an eventual death sentence in that era.  Can you imagine her willingly adding hemophilia into that brew?

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I do believe that Alexandra kept her daughters close to home in part as a way to insulate them from the fact that no glittering marriage proposals came their way. They were lovely and very rich, and nothing of their rank came their way in the marriage department for Olga and Tatiana. Their status as potential hemophilia carriers would explain that, which would be absolute hell for Alix to deal with in addition to her precious son's disease. If Louis B. had in fact married his cousin Maria, the Tsar's third daughter, it would have been a pretty lackluster match considering Maria was an absolute beauty with a big dowery like her sisters. Considering their looks, charm and wealth, the telephone should have been ringing off the hook, so to speak. But they weren't being sought after by other top drawer dynasties. Alexandra's sheltering of her daughters was perhaps the chicken, not the egg as it is usually presumed.


I agree.  The more I write and read from others on this thread, the more convinced I become that the brooding presence of hemophilia in the family has been significantly underestimated by most historians as a clue to some of the otherwise odd or inexplicable behaviors of Nicholas's immediate family.  We've all been schooled to interpret Alexandra's behavior after 1904 in that light.  But I think it touched her behavior going back to her engagement, I think it touched her relationships with the Romanov clan at large, and I think it touched all her offspring with more than just pity for Alexei.

Offline ChristineM

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #448 on: September 20, 2005, 06:17:35 AM »
NIXA - poor Nixa.   I remembered him during the night, but in a different context, NAAOTMA.   He is probably the heir in the continuum, included by the author in the 1904 article and cited by Tsarfan.   NAAOTMA has brought to our attention a fact worthy of consideration.   Nixa and 'Sasha' were brothers diametrically opposed in character.   Sasha, like his own son, was unprepared to rule.   Whether his character would have responded to 'preparation', is a moot point.  

In addition to the numerous infectious diseases which preyed on young lives, there was the added, very real, danger of peri-natal death.   Nicholas was Marie Feodorovna's first-born son.   Alexander, who died aged eleven months of meningitis, was born a year after Nicholas.   But this is splitting hairs.  

It is difficult for us to imagine from this distance and with all the benefits of modern-day medical science, how different attitudes were in response to the death of a young child.   Not for a moment would I suggest their grief was easier to bear, but given the fact that this was a commonplace event and most, if not every, family, was visited by such tragedy, again we are confronting the difficulty of trying to think ourselves into their 'shoes' (while, hopefully, appreciating our goodfortune.)   I entirely agree with Tsarfan, these factors only served to increase the pressures of duty required of Alexandra as Empress of Russia and, if we are correct in our hypotheseis that Alix was aware of her own vulnerability due to the prevalence of haemophilia in her family, this would only serve to heighten her fear of failure.

According to Coryne Hall's biography of Marie Feodorovna, acceptance of Alix of Hesse by the Russian monarch materialised much sooner than I realised.   (She bears out Isabel's point that Marie Feodorovna was, in part, opposed to a marriage between Nicholas and Alix on the grounds that the Kaiser was in favour of it.)  

In January 1893, Alexander and Marie Feodorovna sent Nicholas to Berlin to represent them at the wedding of the Kaiser's sister, Mossy.   Nicholas was surprised to learn how their attitude to Alix had changed when they give him their permission to ascertain Alix's feelings for him.   In the event, Nicholas and Alix failed to meet on this occasion.   The obvious question is WHY?  

Unfortunately Hall does not provide any references.    It is, therefore, impossible to either validate this or discover the reason for their change of mind.  

Ella began to play the role of go-between.   Sergei and Ella even invited Nicholas to visit them in Coburg where they spent the autumn of 1893.   Nicholas was unable to do so because he had only recently returned to Russia from Denmark and his father did not want him to travel abroad again.

Hall continues - 'Instead the Tsar and Tsarina invited Alicky to accompany Ella and Sergei to St Petersburg.   They refused, saying it would look as if Alicky was running after Nicholas.'   Marie Feodorvna now appears to put the onus on Alix.   She stated to Ella that since her son had been given little hope of Alix accepting his proposal, they could only assume that, had he visited Coburg, it would have been to receive her refusal.   From the Russian point of view, this was a powerful caveat.   The last thing they would want, would be to see, and the world to see, their son and heir spurned in love.  

Ella, rather wickedly, I think, told Marie Feodorovna this was a shame because Nicholas had lost his last chance.  Ella was reportedly taken aback by the Empress' reaction, since she believed her to be opposed to the match.   Understandably, Marie Feodorovna was furious.   Ella had taken them to the brink.   She allowed not only Nicholas, but his parents, to believe his 'dream' of marrying Alicky would soon materialise.   She had failed to tell Nicholas of Alix's continued, implacable opposition to changing her religion.  

The brinkmanship continued.   Grand Duke Sergei and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna placed the blame firmly on the shoulders of the Emperor and Empress citing, as her reason, their refusal to allow Nicholas travel to Coburg.

So, we find, a year before Alexander's declining health appeared to be the excuse for precipitating the Tsar and Tsarina's approval of the match, negotiations between the two families were not just in motion, but advanced.   Haemophilia, certainly at this stage, is not even mentioned as an impediment.

How aware were Nicholas and Alix of the machinations going on on their behalf?   'Games' were being played and Marie Feodorovna and the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna were the principle players.  

As mentioned previously, Ella must have been at least as aware of Alix of the likely problems her sister would confront with haemophilia playing a paramount part in any marriage.   The marriage of Ella and Sergei has been discussed fully elsewhere in the Forum.   The relevance of their relationship and Ella's canvassing on behalf of her sister, can only be speculated upon.   However, given the facts, Sergei and Ella were extremely cavalier in their promotion of the union.

Alix has never come across to me as particularly scheming in so far as her personal relationships were concerned.   We have to assume her reluctance to change her religion as anything other than sincere.   A seriously devout young woman, she regarded the extreme, and public display of spitting on her faith - and the faith of her forebears - an insult, not just to them but, more importantly, to God.

But there is something which doesn't quite click, and for me, this lies not in her relationship with Nicholas, or in his with his parents, but in the relationship between Alix and Ella.   Was haemophilia the source of this tension?   We will never know.

tsaria                              
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by tsaria »

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Alexandra - Slandered and Hated
« Reply #449 on: September 20, 2005, 06:54:09 AM »
Fascinating . . . I wasn't aware of this eddy in the marriage current.

I wonder if Alexander and Marie were making an informed bet.  Could they have had reason to suspect that Alix was resolved to refuse Nicholas, and they knew Nicholas would not drop his suit until he heard it directly from her?

The Berlin ploy having failed, and being informed of her reserved and awkward nature, could they have wanted her to visit Russia so that Nicholas could see for himself the unsuitability of her personality for the Russian court milieu?

Since their direct attacks on her suitability had failed, could they have been resorting to the type of reverse psychology to which other parents in this predicament have turned?  Sort of a "if-he-won't-listen-to-us-then-let-him-find-it-out-for-himself" scenario?

(Sorry for the confusion about the birth order of Marie's sons.  Every time I try to remember this geneaology stuff off the top of my head without rechecking the sources, I get it twisted.)