The love story of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra of Russia has long been considered a fairytale romance with a startlingly tragic ending, when the entire Imperial Romanov Family was shot and bayoneted to death by a Bolshevik firing squad in a cellar in Ekaterinburg on July 17, 1918.
Nicholas and Alexandra were famously devoted to each other, writing each other cooing notes daily, but successive tides of political, military, and then revolutionary, history swept them away.
At least that is the received wisdom, but the truth is somewhat more complicated. Tsar Nicholas never wanted to be Tsar, was never trained to be Tsar, and indeed proved to be catastrophically inept in the role. Empress Alexandra was stunningly beautiful but socially and physically clumsy to the point of being repellent to her mother-in-law, Dowager-Empress Marie, most of the Russian court, and therefore by extension to the Russian people at large.
When King George V of Britain heard of the executions, he remarked that, as they regarded Nicholas and Alexandra, they were probably for the best, but the children’s deaths were truly tragic. The British Ambassador to France, Lord Bertie, reported that seasoned diplomatic observers considered Nicholas to have been criminally weak and Alexandra to have been criminally insane.
So what is the truth, and what was the truth as Empress Alexandra saw it?
Pulling together what is known about Empress Alexandra and her family, and indeed much that is little known, in the ‘Autobiography of Empress Alexandra’ series Kathleen McKenna Hewtson is placing the reader in Empress Alexandra’s shoes and behind her eyes from the moment she first met the heir to the Russian throne, Nicholas Romanov, when she was twelve, to the early morning that she and all five of their children died violently at his side.
All five volumes are (planned) as follows:
1. ‘The Funeral Bride’ 1884-1894 – published November 2015
2. ‘The Empress of Tears’ 1895-1904 – published March 2016
3. ‘The Shaken Throne’ 1904-1907 – published July 2016
4. ‘The Pride of Eagles’ 1907-1914 – to be published by March 2017
5. ‘No Greater Crown’ 1914-1918 – to be published by August 2017