The Romanovs, Rasputin, & Revolution—Fall of the Russian Royal Family—Rasputin and the Russian Revolution, With a Short Account Rasputin: His Influence and His Work from ‘One Year at the Russian Court: 1904-1905
’The astonishing last days of the Russian imperial dynasty
The principal work in this special Leonaur edition caused a sensation when it was first published since it is a ‘tell it all’ from the pen of an insider in the Russian court during the first years of the 20th century. Its revelations upon publication would have brought disaster upon the author, Count Paul Vassili, had he not died, thus putting him beyond the vengeance of all earthly monarchs. However, the author was not in reality the deceased count, but the living Princess Catherine Radziwill, who had written disguised under the dead man’s identity to avoid repercussions. Her deception was successful, and her true identity remained secret until after the catastrophic events that swept away the Romanov, making exposes concerning their lives irrelevant. Nevertheless, there remains a fascination with the affairs of the doomed Russian royal family. The murders of the tsar, his wife and their children, came about as a consequence of the Communist revolution in Russia, which abhorred all that it believed to be decadent and dissolute. No individual represented the disassociation of the royal family from its people more than the infamous ‘mad monk’, Grigori Rasputin, whose excesses, and influence over the Tsarina Alexandra and her circle, were a notorious scandal. Princess Radziwill’s writings open a window into the maelstrom of those incredible times revealing details and perspectives which could only come from an observer close to the events described in these pages. To give another view from a female eye-witness present at the royal court during this period, this Leonaur edition also includes a short account of Rasputin at the height of his influence.
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On the 1st of November, 1916, one of the cousins of the czar, the Grand Duke Nicholas Michaylovitsch, who was perhaps the cleverest member of the Imperial family, a man wonderfully well learned, and who had acquired the reputation of an excellent historian, thanks to the remarkable studies which he had published on the life and times of Alexander I., and the Napoleonic wars, made another effort to shake the influence of Rasputin, Protopopoff and the empress. He asked the czar to receive him, and during a long and heated conversation which he had with the latter, he read to him a letter which he had prepared beforehand, in which were exposed not only the political, but also the private reasons, which made it an imperative necessity to remove Rasputin from Tsarskoie Selo.
As the grand duke told his friends later on, there were in this letter some passages that might have wounded Nicholas II. in his feelings as a husband, not only as a sovereign. But the czar did not reply one single word, only went to fetch the empress, and in his turn read to her the incriminating epistle. When he reached the passage in which remarks were made concerning her, Alexandra Feodorovna rose up in a passion, and snatching the document out of her husband’s hands, she tore it up into a thousand small pieces. In the course of this memorable conversation, the grand duke asked the emperor whether he knew that the appointment of Protopopoff was the work of Rasputin, with whom the former had become acquainted at the house of one of their common friends, a certain Badmaieff.
“Yes,” replied the czar, “I know it.”
“And you find this a matter of course,” exclaimed his cousin.
Nicholas II. replied nothing.
In spite of the angry tone which the discussion had assumed, the emperor remained perfectly civil to the grand duke. The latter afterwards remarked that he had been more than surprised to meet with such utter indifference, and at the same time such kindness, in appearance at least, from his cousin. It seemed as if nothing that he could say could move the czar, who, during the most heated moments of this interview, handed the matches to his kinsman, when he noticed that the cigarette of the latter had gone out. At last the grand duke exclaimed: “You have got Cossacks here, and a great deal of room in your gardens. You can have me killed and buried without anyone being the wiser for it. But I must tell you the truth, and say to you that you are going to your ruin.”
The czar continued to be silent, and his cousin had to take his leave, without having been able to obtain one single word from him by which he might have guessed whether he had been believed or not.
The confessor of the Imperial family, Father Schabelsky, was induced to interfere in his turn, and to warn the emperor of the ever-increasing unpopularity of his consort, advising him at the same time to send her somewhere for the benefit of her health, until the storm had abated which everybody except the few people who surrounded the sovereign saw was on its way. His advice also was disregarded. A lady belonging to the highest social circles, whose family had always been upon terms of intimacy with that of Nicholas II., the Princess Vassiltschikoff, bethought herself to write to the empress, and to entreat her to save the country and the dynasty, and to induce her husband to call together a responsible ministry, in possession of the confidence of the Duma and of the nation.
The only reply which she received was an order commanding her to leave the capital immediately for her country seat, with a prohibition to return to it again. Alexandra Feodorovna remained the only person the czar would listen to, and Alexandra Feodorovna was but the mouthpiece of people like Rasputin, Sturmer, and Protopopoff , who kept telling to her that she must not yield, and that the only thing capable of restoring peace to Russia was to subdue the rebellious spirits who dared talk about the necessity of making concessions to public opinion, coupled with the firm determination to crush, even by force, any manifestations which might be made in that direction.
Acting upon this advice, the empress assumed a power which had never belonged to any consort of a sovereign before. In the absence of Nicholas II. at the front, it was she who gave out orders, not only to the different ministers, but also to the troops composing the garrison of Petrograd; she had people arrested according to her fancy, she caused the houses of others that had displeased her to be searched by the numerous police agents whom she had at her disposal, ready to execute any of her caprices; she showed herself the absolute master in her consort’s dominions, and she held everybody, including himself, in a firm grasp, which (this must be added) was more the grasp of Rasputin and Protopopoff, than her own.
It was evident that such a state of things could not go on indefinitely. There were still some persons left who hoped to be able to save the dynasty by removing its principal enemy, the unscrupulous peasant who had tarnished its prestige. A plot, into which entered different persons belonging to the highest aristocracy of the land as well as some members of the Imperial family, was arranged, and culminated, as I have already related, in the murder of Rasputin. All this has been told, but what has not yet been written is the manner in which the news of the assassination of her favourite was received by the empress.
At first her despair was pitiable to behold, then she quickly rallied, and getting back her energy, proceeded to avenge her murdered friend. The czar was at headquarters, and she happened to find herself alone with her children at Tsarskoie Selo. She sent for one of her husband’s aide de camps, General Maximovitsch, and commanded him to proceed immediately to Petrograd, and to arrest the Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovitsch, allowing him, however, to remain in his own palace, but with strict orders not to leave it, even for a short walk.
The whole Imperial family protested, but it was of no avail. Mr. Protopopoff was on the side of the czarina, and he alone was in command of the police forces of the capital. Any thought of resistance was out of the question. The hated minister would not have hesitated to proceed, even against the relatives of his sovereign, to gratify the revengeful feelings of Alexandra Feodorovna.