Stories from real families tend to be fascinating. No wonder his novels, intrigues and controversies continue to provoke a stir among the public even when the monarch in question does not have great powers (as occurs in parliamentary monarchies) or has been deposed for decades. Of the dozens of kings and queens who ruled Europe until the beginning of the 20th century – when only France, Switzerland, Portugal and San Marino adopted republicanism -, few arouse as much interest as the last imperial family to govern Russia, deposed and assassinated by bloody revolution that would transform the country forever.
While the history of the Romanov family was deliberately buried under communism – before the fall of the Soviet Union, tourists were not even informed of the location of the residence of Tsar Nicolas II and his family, and anyone who asked for letters and historical documents would be suspect – on the other hand, the tragedy that marked the end of the dynasty added to the weight of the Iron Curtain ended up fostering a universe of legends that they go beyond the borders of Russia and populate the cultural imagination of the West. In cinema, successful films such as “Anastacia, the Forgotten Princess” (1918) and “Nicolau and Alexandra” (1964) marked generations, as well as the controversies resulting from the whereabouts of the family’s remains, found only in 1971. Until then, false heirs of the Romanovs appeared even in Poços de Caldas (MG) and Cuiabá (MT).
It was this framework of mysteries, curiosities and unanswered (or little known) questions that led to the author Paulo Rezzutti, winner of the Jabuti Prize for his “D. Pedro – Untold History”, writing the recently published “The Last Tsars: A Brief Untold History of the Romanovs” (Ed. Leya). “I should have 15, years when I had the first contact with the history of the Romanov family, through cinema, and the world was different at that time. There was still the Soviet bloc and the Iron Curtain. Researching what had happened in Russia 53 years before was an unimaginable business. Furthermore, the story has a tragic fairy tale feel to it: a beautiful royal family, who could do anything and ends up dead – not just the monarch, but the heirs, the young daughters, everyone. This tragedy hooked me and I think it is also behind the general interest”, explains Rezzutti, who describes a universe of “luxury and pleasures, loves and mysticism, beauty and sweetness”. Check out five interesting facts about the imperial family below:
Marriage for love
In times when marriages for love were not yet the rule, Nicolas II and Alexandra – born Alix of Hesse – were a passionate couple. They met very young, at the marriage of Alexandra’s sister, Ella, and Nicolas II’s uncle, Sergio, and soon fell in love. The biggest opposition to marriage, however, came from Alix herself, who, raised in Protestantism, resisted the idea of embracing Orthodox Catholicism to govern Russia. Meanwhile, Nicholas refused any bride other than the princess of Hesse.
Having overcome the challenges, Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna – as he would come to be called – were married in 26 November 1897 and, although they owned their own apartments in the Alexander Palace, the couple used to sleep together – a rarity among royal families at the time. It is said that she was disorganized and he strict, but he preferred to spend his free time amid the mess of his wife, whom he used to call with a whistle that imitated a bird’s song. “Even after many years of marriage, upon hearing this, she blushed like a teenager and got up running to meet him,” writes the author.
The Prince’s Secret Illness
Few people know, but Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna was a direct descendant of a royal family whose story is quite popular in the West: Alix was the favorite granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England. This lineage, however, would bring problems: like many ancestors of the maternal family linked to the English crown, the Tsarevich Alexei, the long-awaited heir of the Romanovs, born in 1904, he had hemophilia, a serious congenital disease that would often leave him on the brink of death, and would end up influencing the direction of the country.
While trying to hide the deficiency of the Even the son of the palace employees, Nicolau and Alexandra would become increasingly detached from their subjects, which helped to amplify the feeling of popular dissatisfaction that grew against the government, amid the sudden transformations that marked the 20th century, bringing hunger and misery to Russia. Added to this is the fact that the Tsarina – victim of crises of physical and emotional exhaustion due to her son’s health – had become attached to controversial mystical figures that would eventually foster public antipathy and, consequently, revolutionary impulses. The best known of these mystics would be Rasputin.
Between miracles and fake-news
Presented to the tsar on November 1st
, Rasputin’s story with the Romanov family had so many implications for the country’s future that it deserves a separate chapter. After 35 years old, he made a pilgrimage to the monastery of St. Nicholas of Verkhoturye – yes, the same as Dad Noel – in 1897, Rasputin became a starets – in Russian tradition, a man “touched by the Holy Spirit” – so that by the time he arrived at the Romanov home he was already gaining some reputation as a miracle worker. After supposedly curing Tsarevich Alexei, then two years old, from one of his hemophilia crises, the mystic became part of Nicolas and Alexandra’s court, exerting special influence on the Tsarina.
Se , on the one hand, Rasputin’s relationship with the empress would have opened the way for many “miracles” – in 1904, the monk would have managed to “cure” a crisis from Alexei via a telegram, most likely his merit having been to calm his mother – on the other hand, Alexandra’s dependence would also lead him to infiltrate politics and acquire privileges. He started to dress luxuriously, spent a lot of money in bars and restaurants, got involved with married women and prostitutes. The public’s general antipathy towards Rasputin and Alexandra herself (in her case, on account of her English ancestry) added to the mystic’s growing influence led to the circulation of intense rumors about an alleged affair between the two, as well as family intrigues that descended. in the murder of Rasputin by members of the Romanov family.
“It has been said that if there was no hemophilia, there would be no Rasputin, and without him there would be no revolution. It is a simplistic idea, on the one hand , but on the other hand it shows how the intimate drama of the last Russian imperial family may have helped to defame it and fuel anti-regime propaganda”, writes the author.
In 1917, the Russian imperial family was brutally murdered by the Bolshevik revolutionaries. Their bodies were found in 1971 by researchers Alexander Avdonin and Geli Ryabov, but the discovery was only made public in 1989, year of the fall of the Wall of Berlin. Eight years earlier, however, the Romanov family achieved unprecedented recognition: Nicholas, Alexandra and their five children were canonized as neo-martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church abroad, an autonomous branch of the Orthodox Church that understood that Nicholas II had been sacrificed for their faith, well like all the other executed Romanovs.
The Russian Orthodox Church, for its part, took longer to canonize the tsar and his family as “passion bearers”: people who faced death with resignation. “The evidence of this would be the sign of the cross made by Alexandra and Olga before they died” records the book. Today, at the place where the Romanovs were murdered, a church known as the Church of Blood was built, from which a procession leaves every day 15 of July towards the place where bodies were deposited shortly after death.
Real-life black widow?
Although the Bolsheviks intended to exterminate the entire Romanov dynasty, from the 35 relatives who lived in Russia at the time of the revolution, 35 managed to escape – most of them being women. One of them was the mother of Tsar Nicholas II, the dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna who had to be rescued by her nephew, British King George V, grandfather of Queen Elizabeth. to the virtually unknown story of a Romanov who escaped the onslaught and whose name may sound familiar to new generations. Born in Petrograd on February 5, 1917, Princess Natalia Androsova Iskander-Romanov was taken to Uzbekistan when the revolution began. When his father was presumed dead in action by the White Army fighting the Bolsheviks, his mother remarried in Moscow and changed the children’s surname to Androsov.
Light-haired and Blue eyes, Natalia Romanov has always known her origins, but she had to hide them to survive. She became a professional motorcyclist and even performed in high-risk numbers, until she was discovered by the Soviet police and forced to become a secret agent for Stalin’s government. She served in World War II neutralizing and collecting German bombs and as a messenger, until resuming her career as a motorcyclist in 1918. She was described as an “exceptionally tough, strong and charismatic” woman by writer Constantine Pleshakov, and ended her career in 1964, the year Stan Lee, then editor of Marvel Comics, introduced to the world Natalia Alianova Romanova: the Black Widow.