The Rise And Fall Of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna

The story of Tsarina Alexandra and Tsar Nicholas has been told in a variety of different ways. And it makes sense, the true history of their family reads more like a fairy tale.

Alexandra was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria and became the Tsarina of Russia. She relied on a mystic healer to help cure her sickly son shortly before the family was then swept up in the Russian revolution. Read about the entire incredible tale below.

Alix Was Born In Darmstadt Germany

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Initially named Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, she was born on June 6th, 1872, in the German city of Darmstadt. Her father was Louis IX, the Grand Duke of Hesse. Her mother was Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, a daughter of Queen Victoria.

Alix was the sixth of her parents, seven children. She spent her early days in the German Empire, and her baptism was held in a Lutheran Church on her parent’s 10th Wedding Anniversary.

Plenty Of Royalty To Go Around

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Historica Graphica Collection/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Young Alix was born into two families with deep royal roots. Her father, Louis IV, had deep roots in the German region of Hesse. He succeeded his uncle as the Grand Duke of Hesse in 1877 when Alix was 5 years old.

As it turns out, Alix’s grandmother was Queen Victoria. Victoria reigned over the United Kingdom for a then-record of 63 years. Following the death of her grandmother, Alix’s uncle, Edward VII, became the King of England.

A Sunny Disposition

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Fine Art Images/Heritage Images via Getty Images

From the day she was born, Alix filled her parents with happiness. She was thought to be an especially pretty child from early on and dubbed “Sunny” by her parents due to her happy disposition.

She was given a different nickname by her British relatives, who referred to her as Alicky. This name was to help differentiate her from her Aunt Alexandria of Wales, who was also called Alix. In her youth, she was inseparable from her sister Marie, who was two years older.

Devastating Family Health Issues

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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Alix’s youth was also beset by tragedy. When she was only a year old, her brother Prince Freidrich passed away at the tender age of two. He was a hemophiliac and died after a tragic fall.

Diptheria swept through the family in 1878. Alix was among the children who caught the illness. Her beloved sister Marie also died after contracting the disease. Her mother Alice, who chose to care for the children rather than send them away, also eventually passed away.

A Large Extended Family

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The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

Alix’s parents had seven children, and she enjoyed playing with her siblings while growing up. But she also had a large extended family that she adored. She commonly visited with the British Royal Family during holidays.

In 1885, at 13 years of age, she served as a bridesmaid when her cousin and godmother Princess Beatrice married Prince Henry of Battenburg. Two years later, she was in attendance when her grandmother, Queen Victoria, celebrated her Golden Jubilee.

She Had A Number Of Suitors

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W. & D. Downey/Getty Images

As Alix entered her teenage years, the family began to think about their daughter’s marriage prospects. She was a young and beautiful princess with many suitors. With her mother deceased, Queen Victoria became intimately involved with her granddaughter’s selection of a husband.

However, Alix was particular about who she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. When she was approached by her cousin Prince Albert Victor who was in line for the British throne turned him down. That’s because she already had her chosen suitor in mind.

Alix Makes Her Choice

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Laski Diffusion/Getty Images

After turning down her cousin, Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence and Avondale, Alix turned her eyes on another suitor with a claim to a royal throne. The Princess fell in love with Grand Duke Nicholas, who was the heir apparent to the Russian throne.

The pair had a number of links. Nicholas’ mother was also Alix’s Godmother, and the couple shared cousins as well. In addition, Alix’s sister Elisabeth would later marry Nicholas’ uncle Sergei Alexandrovich.

Parental Problems

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Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

During Alix’s visit to Russia in 1889, she and Nicholas had fallen in love. Everything wasn’t as perfect as it seemed, though. Nicholas’ father, Tsar Alexander III, opposed the match. He wanted Nicholas to marry Princess Helene of Orleans.

Yet, Nicholas also wanted Alix, though, and made his desires clear to his father. It would end up taking many years, but in 1894 Alexander, in failing health, gave his son the blessing for the match. Tsar Alexander III died shortly afterward.

A Religious Conversion

Portrait of Alexandra in a hat
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Leemage/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

While Alix was in love with Nicholas and eager to marry him, religion was an issue. She had been born and raised in the Lutheran faith. In order to become the next Tsarina of Russia, she would have to convert to Russian Orthodox.

While living in England with her grandmother Queen Victoria, Alix was given instruction on her new faith. Not only did her religion change, but her name also did as well. While she at first preferred the name Catherine, Nicholas suggested the name, Alexandra.

A Grand Wedding

Alexandra and Nicholas being married
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Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Tsar Alexander’s illness meant that the upcoming wedding between Nicholas and Alexandra took on special significance. Although Alexander passed away on November 1st, the marriage was not delayed, and the ceremony took place on November 26th.

While Nicholas was not made Tsar right away, he would succeed his father in time. The wedding was more of a somber affair than a celebration. Alexandra later remarked that she felt that the only difference between the wedding and the mourning period was that she wore white rather than black.

The First Child Is Born

Portrait of Olga
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Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The newly coronated Tsar and Tsarina did not wait long to start a family. Almost exactly a year after the couple was married, their first child, Grand Duchess Olga, was born.

The couple was over the moon about the birth of their first child. The Russian populace, however, was upset that the couple’s first child wasn’t a male heir. There was little need to worry, though, as Alexandra was only 23 and there were more children to come.

Alexandra Was Not Popular With Russians

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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Marrying Nicholas and moving to Russia was a significant change for Alexandra. She had left everything she had ever known, changed her religion, and became one of the most well-known people in a completely new culture.

The Russians blamed her for things out of her control, such as the timing of her father-in-law’s death and her inability to produce a male heir. The people of Russia also found her to be cold and not as charismatic as her mother-in-law Maria Feodorovna.

3 More Children Join The Family

Alexandra And Children
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Photo12/UIG/Getty Images

Alexandra turned out to be an incredibly fertile Tsarina. She and Nicholas soon welcomed three more children into the family. Grand Duchess Tatiana was born in 1897, Grand Duchess Maria followed in 1899, and the Grand Duchess Anastasia was born in 1901.

While the Russian people continued to be irritated by the couple’s inability to bear a male child, Nicholas and Alexandra were thrilled with their growing brood. Olga was smart and shy, Maria and Tatiana were beautiful, and Anastasia was a ball of energy.

Finally, A Son

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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In 1904, the wishes of both Nicholas and Alexandra, as well as the Russian people, were finally answered when Alexandra gave birth to her first son. The boy, the Tsarevich of Russia, was given the name Alexei Nikolaevich.

Alexei soon became the center of the family and was beloved by his parents and his four sisters. The hopes and dreams of the country rested upon his young soldiers. It wouldn’t be long, though, before an unfortunate condition was discovered.

No Boy Was Safe

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ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

It was soon discovered that like many males in Alexandra’s family line, Alexei was a hemophiliac. The royal family realized the male heir was afflicted when his bumps and bruises would take an abnormal amount of time to heal.

At the time, hemophilia was considered a fatal disease, which killed the majority of those afflicted with it. A desperate Alexandra reached out to several mystics and faith healers. Eventually, she asked mystic healer Grigori Rasputin to treat him. When Alexei was 12, Rasputin seemingly healed him from a dangerous bruise and grew in power in the family.

World War I Begins

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George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

The year 1916 began a very tumultuous time for the family. By that time, the Tsarina’s relationship with Rasputin had become more than strange. To the point that some believed Rasputin was pulling strings from behind the scenes. So, Rasputin was assassinated by conservative noblemen who were worried about his relationship with Alexandra.

There was also a war breaking out in which Russia was seriously involved. It was a trying time for the Tsarina, considering Russia was fighting her home country of Germany. In 1915, Nicholas left the family to go lead at the front lines of the Russian military.

Revolution Sweeps Over Russia

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Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Not only did Russia fight in World War I, but the country also fought poorly. The war put a burden on the nation, and many people were hungry and suffering. Much of this was blamed on Tsar Nicholas, who was in control of the military.

Alexandra was also unpopular because of her past relationship with Rasputin. Riots began to form around the country, and the soldiers sent to quell the riots soon joined the protesters. By the end of 1917, the Russian populace was in full-on rebellion.

A Family In Exile

Portrait of the Romanovs
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Universal History Archive/Getty Images

After the military turned on them, Nicholas, Alexandra, and the rest of the family did not have much hope of staying in power. The family members were arrested and kept under house arrest at their royal Alexander Palace.

The family was later moved, in August of 1917, to the town of Tobolsk in Siberia. The destination was far from nearly everything, and the Romanov’s were largely separated from their old lives. In late 1917, the Bolsheviks took power, creating a dangerous situation for the royal family.

They Were Promptly Executed

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Bettmann/Getty Images

During the time of their imprisonment, the royal family was in constant danger. However, that lack of security only increased when Yakov Yurovsky took control of the Bolsheviks. He took all of the family’s valuables and jewelry and gave the order to have them executed.

The execution took place on July 17th of 1918. The family was led into a room with 12 soldiers. The soldiers were armed with rifles and bayonets who then opened fire on the royals, as well as repeatedly stabbing them.

The Legacy Left Behind

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World History Archive/UIG via Getty images
World History Archive/UIG via Getty images

Nicholas, Alexandra and their children were not soon forgotten after their deaths. The story of the royals has regularly made its way into numerous books, television shows, and film. One of the most famous retellings is the legend of Anastasia.

In fact, one imposter went so far as to claim that she was actually Anastasia, the 4th child of the Romanovs. In 2019, there was a Netflix series about the family called The Last Czars. In 1981, the Russian Orthodox Church declared all members of the family to be martyrs.