Nicholas was a shy handsome man and heir of Alexander III, Czar of Russia. Alexandra was a tall golden haired granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Neither family encouraged the relationship. The Romanovs had their sights set higher than a minor German princess. As for Alexandra, a marriage was arranged for her with her cousin Prince Albert Victor, son of the Prince of Wales. Alexandra refused, holding out to follow her heart.
Nicholas held out too, finally persuading his father to allow the marriage. It turned out that the Czar died before the wedding took place so that upon their marriage Alexandra became Czarina of Russia. She converted to the Orthodox religion and tried to adapt herself to the Russian culture.
The marriage was a happy one on the personal level, and Alexandra produced four daughters before finally giving birth to Alexei, the male heir so important to the continuation of the Romanov line. The one drawback was the recessive gene for hemophilia that Alexandra carried which was passed on to her son.
On a political level, the marriage did nothing to further the Romanov position. The Russian people never warmed to Alexandra no matter how “Russian’ she tried to become. During their coronation, a stampede to view the couple resulted in thousands of people being trampled to death. When Nicholas and Alexandra proceeded, smiling, to their celebration they were considered heartless and uncaring, when in fact they were unaware of the deaths. Things didn’t improve.
Russia was already in a state of turmoil. Industrialization had brought about poor working conditions and a class of workers who resented their state.
Nicholas had not been trained by his father for the role he had to assume. He believed in his imperial authority but was not a man equipped to wield that authority. He continued with his father’s ministers who soon realized that they could pretty much do as they wished without interference from Nicholas. Alexandra was the strong willed partner in this marriage but, however much she loved and encouraged him, was unable to make a leader of her husband. Nicholas had little interest in governing; his diary showed where his heart lay-all his entries were solely about family matters.
Alexei’s problems with the bleeding disease led his parents to seek advice where they could find it. Unfortunately Alexandra found it in the person of Rasputin, a malevolent, manipulative man who soon had a position of power in Russia.
A demonstration in 1905 against working conditions, begun peacefully, was put down by troops with much bloodshed and was referred to as Bloody Sunday. It was followed by strikes of the workers.
When World War I broke out in 1914, Russian troops were not faring well and Nicholas left Russia to oversee the action. While he was away Rasputin’s power over Alexandra increased and social discontent worsened. In 1917 rioting began and Nicholas had to return home to face the Revolution and the end of the Romanov Czardom in Russia.
The Bolsheviks revolutionaries imprisoned the Romanovs and executed them along with their doctor and other staff members in July of 1918.
The possibility that perhaps one daughter, Anastasia, had survived the execution still persists today and adds to the romance of the Romanovs although DNA and other evidence has pretty much confirmed she died with the rest of her family.
Nicholas and Alexandra were a loving, close couple who, in another situation, could have had a happy ending, but politics cares nothing for romance.