Sunday, August 14, 2011

Nicholas & Alexandra Feodorovna Czar & Czarina of Russia

A great deal has been written during the past few years about the per­sonality of the Russian Czar ­which nevertheless, to many people, remains more or less of a puzzle. He has been de­scribed as a weakling, a coward, and a sort of imperial mollycoddle. Stories have been told of how, on the death of his father, he fell into a state of extreme melancholia, and could hardly be persuaded to assume the crown. It was said that only on the strong urging of his uncle, the Prince of Wales­ - now King Edward VII - did he at last rouse himself sufficiently to accept the terrible bur­dens of his unwieldy and disordered em­pire. Since the Japa­nese war, the news­papers of the world have pictured him as hidden away in his closely guarded palace at Tsarskoye-Selo, surrounded by picked troops and shuddering at the rumblings of revolution.

As a matter of fact, these conceptions of the Czar are more pic­turesque than prob­able. There is no good evidence to show that Nicholas II suffers from personal coward­ice. There is little doubt that, like all Russians, he is some­thing of a fatalist; and like his father, Alex­ander III, he is not a man of much imagina­tion.

Andrew D. White, who observed him very carefully from 1892 to 1894, while serving as American minister at St. Petersburg, has drawn a portrait of the Czar that is exceedingly graphic and con­vincing. Mr. White describes him as being extraordinarily indifferent to what goes on about him, and as possessing neither apprehension nor ambition. Later, since his accession to his father's throne, an official closely associated with him told the Amer­ican diplomat that "he knows nothing of his empire or of his people. He never goes out of his house if he can help it." Mr. White adds his own belief that to a great extent Nicholas is kept in ignorance of the ter­rible conditions that have arisen in Russia. Dr. Dillon, an Irish journalist of wide ex­perience who is - one of the first authorities on Russian affairs, wrote as follows, shortly after the "Bloody Sunday" outbreak of 1905, when it was reported that the Czar was fleeing in terror from one hiding ­place to another:

"If the emperor has changed his place of residence several times of late, he acted solely out of consideration for others, not from any sense of personal insecurity. It is only fair to him to say that he is as absolutely calm and unmoved as he was after the intelligence had arrived that nine­ty-two thousand men had been wounded or killed on the Sha River."

Tolstoy has styled his sovereign "a most commonplace man," and the description seems to be a fair one. Ac­cording to all the best evidence, Nicholas is a good-natured, well meaning man, colorless and self-centered, remarkably indifferent to the world about him, and caring little or nothing for public responsibilities and duties.

His marriage with the Princess Alix of Hesse has greatly added to his domestic happiness; and since his little son Alexis was born, three years ago, the Czar has felt especially content. He is happiest when cruising about with his family in his mag­nificent yacht, the Polar Star.

The little Czarevitch is a beautiful child, as may be seen from the accompanying photograph. His birth dispelled the super­stitious apprehension of many Russians, who had seen an ill omen in the fact that the first four children of the Czar were girls. The portrait of Nicholas II bears out Mr. White's description. His face certainly gives no evidence of anxiety. As he walks the deck of his yacht, he is probably as happy and care-free as any sovereign in Europe.

Originally published in Munsey's Magazine.  August of 1907.


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