Author Topic: Nic II's Plans to go abroad April 1917  (Read 45879 times)

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Offline mcdnab

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Re: Nic II's Plans to go abroad April 1917
« Reply #105 on: April 21, 2010, 09:51:39 AM »
I've read the comments below and agree - but i don't know how much more welcome they could have been - Xenia was naturally quite shy and didn't particularly enjoy large public occassions - however both her and her mother were treated well by the immediate Royal Family - after much debate they were welcomed with full honours at Malta on arrival in London Xenia and her sons went to Buckingham Palace whilst the Empress went to Marlborough House - Xenia and Marie F both attended Royal Weddings - with Marie joining the Royal Family on the Balcony after the York's wedding. Xenia continued to be invited and attend major Royal events into old age.

I don't think that Marie Feodorovna and her daughters were welcomed 'with open arms' as that implies enthusiasm. If you read the van der Kiste book on Xenia there was a fair amount of to-ing and fro-ing with the Foreign Office over visas for their entourage. The Foreign Office didn't allow any Grand Dukes into this country - they seem to have made an exception for Dimitri, but I don't yet know on what basis. Van der Kiste makes the point that Xenia's sons were allowed to stay here because they weren't Grand Dukes. The whole business is interestingly remeniscent of the current controversies over asylum seekers! In the end only Xenia and her family stayed here, and they largely stayed out of the public eye.

Yes, I agree that the best chance of getting the family out was in the immediate aftermath of the February Revolution. The measles made things difficult, but there probably was a window of opportunity  immediately they recovered. I am in the midst of reading the memoirs of Princess Cantacuzene (which BlessOTMA has very kindly entrusted to me). She was American (granddaughter of Ulysses S Grant) and she and her husband sent their children to America via the Trans Siberian Railway in July 1917. Getting the necessary documentation was very difficult, but the journey itself went off without a hitch. If the family had been prepared to travel incognito without a big entourage and a lot of luggage (the three young Cantacuzenes went with a tutor, a governess and a couple of maids) then maybe something similar could have been done.

Ann

Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Nic II's Plans to go abroad April 1917
« Reply #106 on: April 21, 2010, 10:04:39 AM »
I agree that Xenia enjoyed cordial relations with the British royal family, but it probably helped smooth matters along that she never sought a high public profile. Her sons, drones though they seem to have been (did any of them actually earn a living?), also stayed out of the public eye and didn't cause any embarrassment.

Ann

Offline mcdnab

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Re: Nic II's Plans to go abroad April 1917
« Reply #107 on: April 21, 2010, 11:51:53 AM »
Craven and rotten - well far less craven and rotten than that long long long list of countries who refused to give european jews entry visas as Germany increased its anti jewish legislation through the 1930s.
You do have to see it from George V's point of view - and his overriding responsibility was to do what Nicholas II couldn't do or failed to do which was to ensure his country's survival and the survival of the monarchy. That isn't craven or particularly rotten by the standards of the time. The war had dragged on, hundreds of thousands were dying and the British establishment was facing a growing left. With hindsight George V and the British throne seem completely unaisailable but that is with the benefit of hindsight and isn't an accurate picture of the situation. George V's biggest advantage and the key to his survival was his willingness to continue being what he became most admired for - a rather dull and dutiful man.
The interesting part of this is that no matter how many times you read the documents from the British Foreign office and compare them with activities in Russia at the time to show how narrow the window was for Nicholas' escape and the failure of it can't be laid at the British Government or King's feet.
Here's a selection of the UK foreign office files, reports and telegrams relating to the abdication and offer of Asylum
16 March 1917 Report that Empress and her children in Alexander Palace under guard.
16 March 1917 Report suggesting whereabouts of Tsar unknown
18 March 1917 Report suggesting future of Tsar
19 March 1917 Telegram to the Tsar from the King expressing distress at the turn of events, and professing continued friendship
20 March 1917 Miliukhov's enquiry as to the possibility of the Tsar going to England.
21 March 1917 Report of conversation with Dowager Empress about the Tsar's plans, and telegram stating that Tsar given permission to go to Tsarskoe Selo and then to Port Romanoff
21 March 1917 Report of possible arrest of Tsar
21 March 1917 Report that Tsar deprived of his liberty and placed under escort
21 March 1917 Telegram concerning the advisability of the removal of the Tsar from Russia, and the feasibility of him travelling to England
21 March 1917 Telegram conveying the King's offer of asylum to the Tsar
22 March 1917 Minutes of War Cabinet decision to issue invitation to Tsar to come to England for the duration of the war.
23 March 1917 Telegram concerning the provisional invitation to the Tsar to come to England
24 March 1917 Note that Tsar at Headquarters Staff
24 March 1917 Assurances received as regards safety of Tsar
24 March 1917 Telegram concerning request to Russian government to give Tsar safe conduct to Port Romanoff for departure to England.
25 March 1917 Assurance from Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs regarding the Tsar's safety
26 March 1917 Report that King's telegram not delivered to Tsar through fear of misinterpretation
28 March 1917 Thanks conveyed from Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs at being asked to cancel King's telegram
30 March 1917 Letter expressing the King's personal friendship for the Tsar, but doubting the advisability of the Imperial Family coming to England
2 April 1917 History of proposal that Tsar come to England
9 April 1917 Report of conversation with Kerensky concerning delay of Tsar's departure from Russia pending examination of seized documents
13 April 1917  Report that public opinion against Tsar coming to England, and against the King for supporting him. Suggests Tsar go elsewhere
15 April 1917  Telegram expressing agreement with view that Tsar should not come to England if any danger of anti-monarchist movement
17 April 1917 Letter stating that the King, while devoted to the Tsar, was now held to be anxious that the invitation not be taken up, due to public opinion
22 April 1917 Letter expressing relief that British invitation dropped, and opinion that the Imperial Family would not be welcome in France because of the Tsarina's German birth and leanings
23 April 1917 Suggestion that Tsar could go to France for duration of the war
28 April 1917 Parliamentary Question concerning the future domicile of the Tsar
The formal offer was made on the 2rd of march as late as 9th April Kerensky was being asked about delays to the Tsar's departure. Those early critical delays weren't coming from the British end - British doubts only surfaced in mid April culminating in the offer being withdrawn. In fact by the time Britain withdrew the offer the Soviet had already demanded and received assurances.

According to the French Ambassador - Miliukov thought the offer on the 23rd March only a week or so after the abdication was too late for the deposed sovereigns due to the growing anarchy and the power of the Soviet.
In his memoirs the ambassador notes this for March 24th - Saturday, March 24, 1917.
"The Soviet has heard that the King of England is offering the Emperor and Empress the hospitality of British territory. At the bidding of the "Maximalists" the Provisional Government has had to pledge its word to keep the fallen sovereigns in Russia. The Soviet has gone further and appointed a commissary to "supervise the detention of the imperial family."
Sunday March 25th:
"The Provisional Government have informed the Soviet that, with the approval of Buchanan, they have not given the Emperor the telegram in which King George offers the imperial family the hospitality of British territory.
But the executive committee of the Soviet still has its doubts and has posted "revolutionary" guards at Tsarskoïe-Selo and on the roads leading from it, to prevent any surreptitious abduction of the sovereigns."

In effect there was less than a month for Lvov, Kerensky and Miliukov to have the imperial family moved and they didn't do it. Not because of anything their allies did but rather their own inability to risk the widespread condemnation amongst the soviet that the move would have caused. It is clear from other stuff that the French (where there were huge celebrations by the socialist left over the Russian Revolution) weren't keen on offering asylum (despite a more sympathetic ambassador than Britain) and the neutrals didn't offer till 1918.

Constantinople

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Re: Nic II's Plans to go abroad April 1917
« Reply #108 on: April 21, 2010, 01:07:24 PM »
I totally agree about countries that denied jews admission prior and during the second world war.  Your posting was very interesting but I still think that if the British had send a reasonable force, they could have extracted the Imperial family.  As for King George, he probably wasnt thinking so much of his country as his familly's position and his own monarchy. I think that Nicholas had a complete lack of ability to foresee consequences, both during the war and following.

Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Nic II's Plans to go abroad April 1917
« Reply #109 on: April 21, 2010, 01:50:30 PM »
Interesting chronology, Mcdnab.

Am I right in thinking that Port Romanoff is Murmansk?

At what stage did Alexei and the girls recover from measles and so become able to travel?

Realistically, the best the British could have done in spring 1917 was to send a warship to Murmansk. The Baltic and Crimean ports were out of reach. We know that the Provisional Government got the Imperial Family to Tobolsk in August without difficulty, but how easy would it have been to get them to Murmansk in April or May?

Ann

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Re: Nic II's Plans to go abroad April 1917
« Reply #110 on: April 21, 2010, 01:59:57 PM »
it would depend on how they did it.  It would have been possible to do it soon after the abdication but there seemed to be a lack of willingness to take control and everything seemed to be a question of asking the Soviet what they thought.

Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Nic II's Plans to go abroad April 1917
« Reply #111 on: April 21, 2010, 02:15:38 PM »
'it would depend on how they did it.  It would have been possible to do it soon after the abdication but there seemed to be a lack of willingness to take control and everything seemed to be a question of asking the Soviet what they thought.'

Agreed. The Provisional Government let things drift. There was then the attitude of Nicholas and Alexandra themselves. If they had been prepared to split the family up in order to travel, some workable plan could have been hatched, if there had been the will at the top to hatch it.

Ann

Offline mcdnab

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Re: Nic II's Plans to go abroad April 1917
« Reply #112 on: April 21, 2010, 07:54:24 PM »

The problem is the British Government's desperate desire (which was shared by France) that Russia stay in the war. Initially the Government was keen to offer asylum because the request came informally from the Provisional Government. Public reaction persuaded the King who in turn questioned his government about the offer and whether it should be rescinded. By then the Provisional Government had been forced to give guarantees that Nicholas and Alexandra remain in Russia to a strident Soviet (its worth remembering that the Soviet had called for their arrest just a day or so after the abdication and would also call later for the arrests of the Dowager Empress and Grand Duke Michael - who the provisional government had allowed to remain at liberty).
To get a British war ship through the Baltic would have been hazardous enough even had the Imperial German authorities co-operated. But the risk of landing on Russian territory an armed contigent who would then have to travel to the Alexander Palace over come the Soviet and the Provisional Government guards and then take the Imperial family and their entourage back would have been immense - if it failed it could have ended in a blood bath. The Provisional Government was barely holding on and it's commitment to the war was a significant fact in its lack of authority and its inability to push Russia on a path of democratic change once it became clear that the British had taken such action they'd have had no choice but to deny any knowledge or part in it, such an action could have easily forced them out of the war.

I do think that the Provisional Government would have been able to let the children go and I suspect had feelers on those lines been put out in March or April  - many of the neutral states would have been more willing to help - Sweden or Norway for example. I always believe that the Provisional Government was stuck between a rock and a hard place with the imperial family but Nicholas and Alexandra were under guard and showed no great desire to leave Russia immediately equally many members of their family who weren't under arrest were just as reluctant and sadly many of them left it far too late.
And by Summer it was clear to everyone that Kerensky's government was going to collapse it was more a question of when than if and that was his last real chance to help Nicholas and his family by moving them somewhere nearer a border which might have made flight or rescue more likely but he didn't.

I totally agree about countries that denied jews admission prior and during the second world war.  Your posting was very interesting but I still think that if the British had send a reasonable force, they could have extracted the Imperial family.  As for King George, he probably wasnt thinking so much of his country as his familly's position and his own monarchy. I think that Nicholas had a complete lack of ability to foresee consequences, both during the war and following.

Constantinople

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Re: Nic II's Plans to go abroad April 1917
« Reply #113 on: April 21, 2010, 10:10:21 PM »
Your logic and your research are impeccable but probably all it would have taken would have been a fleet of cars flying the British flag. If they had had blacked out windows and an armed guard, I doubt the mob wold have disturbed them.  At any point, all except what actually happened is speculation.  I think that Nicholas was his own worst enemy.  The Allies actually would have had enough arms and equipment in Murmansk that they could have armed a small army of British soldiers and I think that against the mobs in St Petersburg.it would have been effective.  Kerensky's worst move was allowing the arming of the Bolsheviks.

Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Nic II's Plans to go abroad April 1917
« Reply #114 on: April 22, 2010, 05:51:46 AM »
I think negotiating with the Germans to give a British warship safe conduct through the Baltic would have been politically impossible for the British government in spring/summer 1917, so we are left with Murmansk, which was difficult to access by land.

Perhaps the best practical solution would have been to divide the family up, sending Olga and Tatiana in their nurses' uniforms with, say, Prince Vassili Dolgoruky as their uncle, then Nicholas (without his beard) with Maria and Anastasia, and Alexandra with Alexei.

Ann

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Re: Nic II's Plans to go abroad April 1917
« Reply #115 on: April 22, 2010, 06:49:15 AM »
I still think that if they were taken out in a diplomatically flagged car or car convoy, they wouldnt have been stopped.  I think the mistress of GD Michael left this way with a foreign passport.

Alixz

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Re: Nic II's Plans to go abroad April 1917
« Reply #116 on: April 22, 2010, 08:25:57 AM »
I like the idea of separating the family into smaller groups, but I think that pairing Alexandra with Alexei (pardon me) would have been a dead give away.

I was just watching Gilbert's new film of the family in 1916 and Alexei looks very healthy and is jumping out of cars and running up stairs.  I think he could have been paired with his sisters or even with another retainer to get him out.  As long as he took care he could have made a healthy exit.

But paring him with his mother would have run up (again pardon me) a red flag and they probably would have been caught.

I know that Marie of Roumania thought that Alexandra was a "stick in the mud" but Roumania was a popular escape route and I can not imagine Queen Marie not taking in her cousin Nicholas (on her mother's side) and her cousin Alexandra ( on her father's side) and their family.

The problem isn't where they could go or if they could go, I don't think that Nicholas or Alexandra felt the need to go.  They actually thought that they could retire to the Crimea and live the life of simplicity Nicholas always dreamed of.  I think that Nicholas saw his abdication as a relief of the duties that he never wanted to begin with and now he thought he had dropped the "burden" of ruling and could move on but stay within Russia.

I think he underestimated the Reds.  As did Kerensky when he armed them.  It was like he gave the keys to the kingdom to the invaders and expected them to be on his side.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2010, 08:35:13 AM by Alixz »

Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Nic II's Plans to go abroad April 1917
« Reply #117 on: April 22, 2010, 08:44:57 AM »
I did think about pairing Alexei with somebody else, but something tells me that Alexandra would have insisted on having him with her - Alexei's time at the stavka notwithstanding. Alexei plus Nicholas and one of the tutors is a possibility, however.

I don't doubt that Marie of Romania would have taken them in, but with a war raging on Romanian soil getting them there could have been problematical.

Ann

Alixz

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Re: Nic II's Plans to go abroad April 1917
« Reply #118 on: April 23, 2010, 10:30:42 AM »
I was just thinking that pairing Alexei with either of his parents would have made him stand out in a crowd.  I would try to set up the groups so as not to extract a great deal of notice.

The Empress and her son would be a huge target and adding Nicholas would have been even worse - I think.

Constantinople

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Re: Nic II's Plans to go abroad April 1917
« Reply #119 on: April 23, 2010, 12:46:58 PM »
I think that what the mob wanted was to be rid of Nicholas.  I am sure they did not hate the children so quite possibly any combination with the children may have been given safe passage.  Noone harmed them all the way to Tobolsk after all.