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From a photograph taken shortly before the Czar's downfall. 

of the Czarina 


Author of 





Confessions of the Czarina 

Copyright, 1918, by Harper & Brothers 

Printed in the United States of America 

Published April, 1918 





Publishers' Note . . . • ix 

Introduction . . / xi 

I. Betrothal and Marriage i 

II. Marriage and Loneliness i8 

III. My Country, My Beloved Country, Why 

AM I Parted from Thee? .... 25 

IV. A Sad Coronation 34 

V. Daughters, Daughters, and No Son . . 44 

VI. The Empress's Opinions about Russia . 53 

VII. What the Imperial Family Thought about 

THE Empress 66 

VIII. Sorrow and Unexpected Consolation . . 76 

IX. Philippe and His Work 88 

X. Anna Wyrubewa Appears on the Scene and 

He Saw Her Pass 99 

XI. And He Saw Her Pass 112 

XII. Loved at Last 127 

XIII. He Died to Save Her Honor 137 

XIV. A Nation in Revolt 147 

XV. A Prophet of God 157 

XVI. She Saw Him Once More 166 

XVII. My Son! I Must Save My Son! .... 177 

XVIII. Another War 188 

XIX. My Fatherland, Must I Forsake Thee? . 199 














It Is Your Husband Who Is Losing the 

Throne of Your Son 208 

Peace, We Must Have Peace 219 

The Removal of the "Prophet" . . . 229 

Anna Comes to the Rescue 240 

You Must Become the Empress .... 251 

The Nation Wants Your Head .... 261 

A Crown Is Lost 271 

A Prisoner After Having Been a Queen . 281 

The Exile 291 


A FEW months before the great war broke 1 
out, there appeared a book, which, under the I 
title Behind the Veil of the Russian Court, 
bearing the signature of Count Paul Vassili, 
a name that had become famous through the 
publication of the volume called La Societe 
de Berlin. A lively interest was aroused by 
Behind the Veil of the Russian Court, dealing 
as it did with the intimate existence of four 
Russian Sovereigns and their respective Courts. 
The author of this book was declared to be 
already dead, out of a very natural feeling of 
precaution for his personal safety. Count 
Vassili was living in Petrograd at the time, 
and most certainly would have been banished 
to Siberia, and perhaps tried for lese-majeste, 
if that fact had been discovered. At the 
present moment the reasons for concealing it 
exist no longer, and Count Vassili is free to 
live once more and to publish another work 
of even greater interest — the life of the former 
Czarina Alexandra. In relating it, together with 
some most characteristic incidents which so far 
are but little known, Count Vassili remarks to 


the public what a small circle only have known ; 
persons more or less interested in keeping the 
facts as secret as possible. Count Vassili had 
known the Empress personally, in fact was 
regularly and most exactly informed by numer- 
ous friends as to all that went on at the Russian 
Court, and with all manner of intimate details 
concerning the existence led by the Czar and 
by his Consort in their Palace of Tsarskoye Selo. 
It is interesting to note that in Behind the 
Veil of the Russian Court, written at a time 
when but few people foresaw the fall of the 
dynasty of Romanoff, Count Vassili declared 
the event bound to take place in the then very 
near future. 


I AM not a coward, and it was not out of a 
feeling of uneasiness in regard to my personal 
safety, that I had not the courage to publish in 
my own name the book which, some thirty 
years ago, produced such a sensation when it 
appeared in the Nouvelle Revue of Madame 
Adam, under the title of "La Societe de 
Berlin." But I was living in Germany at the 
time, and though I would have felt delighted 
had the publication of this volume driven me 
out of the Prussian capital, from which I was 
to shake the dust from my shoes with such joy, 
a few years later, I had there relatives who 
would most undoubtedly have fared very badly 
at Bismarck's hands, had my identity been 
disclosed. And once I am alluding to these 
distant times, it is just as well to say that the 
book in question had not at first been written 
for the benefit of the general public, but con- 
sisted of private letters addressed to Madame 
Adam, who, being happily still in the land of 
the living, can add many corroborative details. 
She suggested to me to publish some of these 
letters ; I assented without suspecting the scan- 


dal which would follow, and which I do not 
regret in the very least, now that events have 
justified the mistrust with which the Prussian 
monster inspired me. The secret was well kept 
and one of the victims of it was poor Mr. 
Gerard, the secretary of Queen Augusta, who 
was accused of being the author of this book, 
an accusation that has clung to him ever since, 
and from which I am happy to relieve him. 

The success of La Societe de Berlin in- 
duced Madame Adam to publish other letters 
in the same style, devoted to other European 
capitals, with which, however, I had nothing 
to do, except those dealing with St. Peters- 
burg life. The pseudonym of Count Paul 
Vassili remained a kind of public property 
divided between the Nouvelle Revue and my 
poor self. Just before the war, when, indignant 
at the manner in which Nicholas II. was com- 
promising the work of his great father, I wrote 
the book Behind the Veil of the Russian 
Court, I bethought myself of assuming once 
more the old pseudonym. I was living at the 
time in St. Petersburg, as Petrograd was still 
called, and my brothers were in the Russian 
military service. I did not wish them to get 
into trouble. As it happened, my identity was 
suspected, and unpleasantness followed; but 
it is no stigma to have been ostracized by the 
Russian police under the old regime, so I did 
not mind or care. 


- ■*■■ 

I had not written the book out of any motives 
of revenge ; on the contrary, I had many reasons 
to be personally grateful to Nicholas 11. for 
various kindnesses I had met with at his hands; 
but it was impossible for any real Russian 
patriot to gaze unmoved at the German propa- 
ganda that was going on in the Empire, or to 
forgive its Sovereign Lady for disgracing her- 
self together with the crown she wore, by the 
superstitious practices that had put her into 
the power of intriguing persons who ultimately 
brought about her own destruction, together 
with the ruin of the dynasty. It was im- 
possible for any one who had known Russia 
during the reign of Alexander III., when the 
whole of Europe had its eyes turned upon her, 
and was clamoring for her alliance, not to feel 
deeply grieved in noticing the signs of the com- 
ing catastrophe which had been hovering in the 
air ever since the fatal Japanese war. The 
Monarch had become estranged from his people 
and his wife was the person responsible for it; 
or rather the people who had succeeded in 
getting hold of her mind. I do not wish here 
to throw stones at Alexandra Feodorowna, and 
in relating now what I know concerning her 
life, I will try not to forget that misfortune 
has got claims upon human sympathy, and 
that where a woman is concerned one is bound 
to be even more careful than in the case of a 


The former Empress of All the Russias is 
to-day a prisoner, condemned to a horrible 
exile. She deserves indulgence; the more so 
that her follies, errors, and mistakes were 
partly due to a morbid state of mind, verging 
if not achieving actual insanity. Her existence, 
like that of the hero in the beautiful poem of 
Felix d'Arvers, had its secrets, and her soul its 
mysteries. The fact that she was a Sovereign 
did not shield her from feminine weaknesses, 
and, though she had always remained an inno- 
cent woman — a fact upon which one cannot 
sufficiently insist — in view of all the calumnies 
which have been heaped upon her, yet, like the 
unfortunate Marie Antoinette, to whom she 
has been more than once compared, she had 
also met on her path the devotion of a Fersen, 
as accomplished, as brave, and as handsome, 
as the Swedish officer whose name has gone 
down to posterity, thanks to his love for the 
poor Queen who perished on the scaffold of the 
Champs Elysees. While the latter was spared 
the sorrow of losing such a faithful friend, 
Alexandra Feodorowna was destined to be an 
unwilling witness of a cruel and unexpected 
tragedy, which ended brutally any dreams she 
might have nursed in the secret of her heart, 
and put her good name at the mercy of an 
infuriated man. Therein lies the drama of her 
life; a drama the remembrance of which prob- 
ably haunts her to this day in the solitude of the 


lonely Siberian town, to which she has been 
banished by a triumphant Revolution. 

This drama, which I am going to relate in 
the pages about to follow, was made the sub- 
ject of a shameless exploitation that took ad- 
vantage of the sorrow and despair to which it 
gave rise, that neither spared the woman nor 
respected the Sovereign, and that finally over- 
threw the Romanoff dynasty, and brought 
about the ruin of Russia. It seems to me that 
the revelation of it can harm neither its heroine, 
nor the country over which she reigned for 
twenty-two years ; while, on the other hand, it 
may help the public to understand some of the 
causes of the great Revolution which was to be 
followed by such momentous consequences, not 
only for Russia, but also for the whole world. 

Before relating it, I must, however, beg my 
readers to keep always in mind the fact that 
the Consort of Nicholas II. was not a normal 
woman; that madness was hereditary in the 
Hesse-Darmstadt family to which she belonged, 
twenty-two members of whom had, during the 
last hundred years or so, been confined in 
lunatic asylums; that consequently a different 
standard of criticism must be applied to 
Alexandra Feodorowna than to an ordinary 
person in full possession of all her intellectual 
faculties. The whole course of her history 
proves the truth of what I have just said, and 
claims indulgence for her conduct. 


As for this history, I think that, such as it 
really was, few people have so far come to an 
exact knowledge of it, and that no one yet has 
related it as I am going to do. The information 
that has reached me has come almost day by 
day from sources which I have every reason to 
know are excellent. I have applied myself to 
eliminate many facts which appeared to me 
to be of too sensational a nature. I want also 
to point out to the reader that, though this 
book is called the Confessions of the CzarinUy 
yet it does not contain one single word which 
I would like him to believe to have been uttered 
personally by the former Czarina. It is a story- 
written ONLY by Count Paul Vassili, who accepts 
its responsibility in signing his name to it. 

Paul Vassili. 

February, 1918. 




TOWARD the close of February in the year 
1894 the health of the Czar Alexander 
III. of Russia began to fail. 

Those in the confidence of the inner circle 
of the Imperial Family, who constituted the 
small society which used to form the immediate 
surroundings of the Sovereign, whispered that 
the Emperor was taking a long time to rally 
from the attack of influenza which had pros- 
trated him in the beginning of the winter, and 
that steps ought to be taken to ascertain 
whether or not he was suffering from some- 
thing other than the weakness which generally 
follows upon this perfidious ailment. But they 
did not dare to mention openly their fears, 
because it was the tradition at the Russian 


Court that the Czar ought not, and could not, 
be ill; whenever any bulletins were published 
concerning his health or that of any other 
member of the Imperial Family, it was imme- 
diately accepted by the general public as mean- 
ing that the end was approaching. In the case 
of Alexander III., his robust appearance, gi- 
gantic height and strength, seemed to exclude 
the possibility of sickness ever laying its grip 
upon him. In reality things were very dif- 
ferent. The Czar had been suffering for years 
from a kidney complaint, which had been al- 
lowed to develop itself without anything being 
done to stop, or at least to arrest, its progress. 
He was by nature and temperament an in- 
defatigable worker, accustomed to spending the 
best part of the day and a considerable portion 
of the night, seated at his writing-desk; he 
rarely allowed himself any vacations, except 
during his summer trips to Denmark, and he 
never complained when he felt unwell, or 
would admit that his strength was no longer 
what it had been. He had a most wonderful 
power of self-control and a very high idea of 
his duties as a Sovereign. On the day of his 
accession to the Throne, when, on his entering 
for the first time the Anitchkoff Palace, which 
was to remain his residence until his death, 
he was greeted by the members of his house- 
hold with the traditional bread and salt, which 
is always offered in Russia upon occasions of 



the kind. When implored to show himself a 
father to his subjects, the giant's blue eyes 
had shone with even more kindness in their 
expression than was generally the case, and 
in a very distinct and quiet voice he had replied : 

"Yes, I will try to be always a father to my 

This promise, given in the solemn moment 
when the weight of his new duties and re- 
sponsibilities was laid upon him, the late Czar 
had always kept faithfully, honestly, with a 
steadfast purpose and an indomitable will. 
He had put upon his program among other 
things the resolution never to complain at any 
personal ailment or misfortune that he might 
find himself obliged to bear. This resolution 
he kept up to the last moment, and he went on 
working at his daily task until at last the pen 
fell from his weary fingers and he had to own 
himself beaten. But during the last memorable 
year of his life he must have more than once 
felt that the end was drawing near, though he 
never spoke about it, with the exception of 
once, when finding himself alone with one of 
his intimate friends, General Tcherewine, he 
told him that he did not think he had long to 
live, adding, sadly: 

''And what will happen to this country when 
I am no longer here?" 

The General became so alarmed at this 
avowal of a state of things he had suspected, 



without daring to acknowledge, that he tried to 
open the eyes of Empress Marie as to the 
state of health of her husband. But the 
Czarina refused to see that anything was the 
matter, and angrily reproved the General for 
daring to suggest such a thing. The latter 
subsided, and sought one of the doctors who 
were generally in attendance on the Emperor, 
asking him to tell him honestly his opinion 
concerning the Czar. The doctor retrenched 
himself behind professional secrecy, and only 
replied vaguely. The truth of the matter was 
that he did not wish to own that he had been 
rebuffed by Alexander III. when he had asked 
the latter to allow him to make an examination 
of him, and that he had never dared to insist 
on its necessity. 

At this time, when his father's life was 
trembling in the balance, the heir to the Rus- 
sian Throne, the Grand-Duke Cesarewitsch, was 
twenty-six years old. If the traditions of the 
House of Romanoff had been adhered to in 
regard to him, he ought to have been married 
already, as it had been settled by custom that 
the eldest son of the Czar ought as early as 
possible to bring home a bride, so as to insure 
the succession to the crown. But the Empress 
Marie had never looked with favor at the pos- 
sibility of seeing her family circle widened by 
the advent of a daughter-in-law, and whenever 
the question of the establishment of her eldest 



son was raised she always found objections to 
offer against any princess whose name was 
mentioned to her as that of a possible wife. 
The French party at the Imperial Court, which 
at that moment was in possession of great in- 
fluence, tried hard to bring about the betrothal 
of the future Czar with the Princess H6lene of 
Orleans, and at one time it seemed as if it would 
be really possible to arrange such a marriage, 
in spite of the difference of religion. 

But another circumstance interfered; during 
one of his visits to Germany, where he often 
repaired as the guest of his aunt, the Grand^ 
Duchess Marie Alexandrowna of Coburg, the 
Grand Duke had fallen in love with the Prin- 
cess Margaret of Prussia, the youngest daugh- 
ter of the Empress Frederick, and the sister of 
William II., and had declared that he would 
not marry any one else. To this, however, 
Alexander III. decidedly objected, saying that 
he would never consent to a Prussian princess 
wearing again the crown of the Romanoffs. 
He expressed himself in such positive terms in 
regard to this matter that the Grand Duke did 
not dare to push it forward, and it was soon 
after this that he was sent on a journey round 
the world, while the Princess Margaret was 
hurried into a marriage with a Prince of Hesse 
by her brother, who, furious at her rejection by 
the Czar, decided to wed her offhand to the 
first eligible suitor who presented himself. The 



young girl wept profusely, but had to obey, and 
the Cesarewitsch for the first time in his Ufe 
showed some independence, and declared to 
his friends that since he had not been allowed 
to marry the woman he loved, he would not 
marry at all. 

Before this, however, there had been made 
by his aunt, the Grand-Duchess Elisabeth, an 
attempt to betroth him with the latter's sister, 
the Princess Alix of Hesse, who had spent a 
winter season in St. Petersburg as her guest, 
and who was spoken of as likely to be consid- 
ered an eligible bride for the future Emperor of 
All the Russias. She was not yet as beautiful 
as she was to become later on. The awkward- 
ness of her manners had not impressed favor- 
ably St. Petersburg society. Smart women had 
ridiculed her and made fun of her dresses, all 
"made in Germany,'* and had objected to the 
ungraceful way in which she danced, and de- 
clared her to be dull and stupid. If one is to 
believe all that was said at the time, the Grand- 
Duke Nicholas Alexandrowitch shared this 
opinion, and it was related that, one evening 
during a supper at the mess of the Hussar regi- 
ment of which he was captain, he had declared 
to his comrades that there was as much likeli- 
hood of his marrying the Princess Alix as there 
was of his uniting himself to the Krzesinska, 
the dancer who for some years already had been 
his mistress. But during the spring of the 



year 1894 things had changed. As the Czar's 
health became indiflferent, his Ministers be- 
thought themselves that it was almost a ques- 
tion of state to marry as soon as possible the 
Heir to the Throne. 

Mr. de Giers, who was in possession of the 
portfolio of Foreign Affairs, and who (this by 
the way) had always been pro-German in his 
sympathies, gathered sufficient courage to men- 
tion the subject to Alexander III., saying that 
the nation wished to see the young Grand Duke 
married and father of a family. The Em- 
peror understood, and a few days later, in 
despatching his son to Coburg to attend the 
nuptials of his cousin, the Princess Victoria 
Melita, with the Grand Duke of Hesse, he told 
him that he would like him to ask for the hand 
of the Princess Alix, and to offer to the latter 
the diadem of the Romanoffs. 

The Cesarewitsch did not object this time. 
For one thing, he did not think his father was 
really ill, and he was becoming very impatient 
at the state of subjection in which he was 
being kept by his parents. He imagined that, 
once he was married, he would be free to live 
his own life; what he had seen of the Princess 
Alix had not given him a very high opinion of 
her mental capacities, and therefore he believed 
that she would be contented with the grandeur 
that was being put in her way, and would shut 
her eyes to any little excursions he might make 



outside the beaten tracks of holy matrimony. 
The woman he had loved had been removed 
from his path, and perhaps in the secret of his 
soul he was not so very sorry, after all, to show 
her that he had consoled himself. It seems 
also that Miss Krzesinska, the Polish dancer 
by whom he had had two sons, had been won 
over to the marriage by means about which 
the less said the better, and had used her in- 
fluence over her lover to persuade him that 
the Princess Alix was of so meek and mild a 
temperament that they would be able to con- 
tinue their relations after his marriage with her, 
which perhaps would not be the case were he 
to wed some one gifted with more independence 
and more intellect. Nicholas has always been 
of the same opinion as that of the last person 
with whom he spoke. He therefore yielded, 
went dutifully to Coburg, and just as dutifully 
proposed to the young Princess whose arrival in 
Russia was to herald so much misfortune to her 
new family, as well as to her new country. 

The engagement was announced on the 
20th of April, 1894, but was not made in Russia 
the subject of welcome it had been expected. 
Everybody felt that love had played no part in 
this union, which politics alone had inspired. 
The open repugnance which the bride dis- 
played for everything that was Russian, and 
the hesitation she had shown before consenting 
to adopt the orthodox faith, had not predis- 



posed in her favor St. Petersburg society. The 
Empress Marie, whose consent had been a 
matter of necessity, did not hide the want of 
sympathy with which this marriage inspired her; 
the Imperial Family did not care to see put 
over its head the insignificant Princess it had 
snubbed two years before ; the nation, violently 
anti-German as it had become, wondered why 
it had not been possible to find for its future 
Sovereign a wife in some other country than 
the one which seemed to consider as its right 
the privilege of furnishing Russia with its 

By a curious anomaly, in Darmstadt, and in 
Berlin, the betrothal was exceedingly unpop- 
ular, and the press spoke of it as of an open 
scandal, on account of the change of religion 
imposed upon the Princess Alix. The only two 
people who rejoiced at her good luck were 
Queen Victoria, who always liked to see her 
daughters and granddaughters well married; 
and the Kaiser, who, since his earliest years, 
had been the particular friend of the future 
Czarina, and who had succeeded, at the time 
when she had shown herself reticent in regard 
to all her other relatives, in winning her confi- 
dence and her affection, perhaps out of grati- 
tude, because he had been the only one who 
had troubled about her in general. 

The first weeks which followed upon the 
engagement of the Cesarewitsch were spent by 



him in England, whither his fiancee had re- 
paired, and while there he had been very much 
impressed with the grandeur of Great Britain, 
and with the kindness which Queen Victoria 
showed him. He would have hked nothing 
better than to be allowed to remain where he 
was for an indefinite time, forgetting all about 
Russia, which (this is unfortunately an un- 
contested fact) he never liked nor troubled 

Events, however, were progressing, and very 
soon it became evident even to the most in- 
different onlooker that the days of Alexander 
III. were numbered. The dying Sovereign was 
taken to Livadia in the Crimea, whither his 
son was hastily recalled. When the latter 
arrived there took place a small incident 
which, better, perhaps, than anything else, will 
give an idea of the young man's utter want of 
comprehension of the gravity of the events 
which went on around him. A few hours after 
he had reached Livadia his father's friend, 
General Tcherewine, called upon him, to make 
him a report concerning the health of the Czar. 
The Grand Duke listened to him in silence, 
then suddenly inquired : 

'"What have you been doing the whole time 
you have been here.?* Have you been at the 
theater, and are there any pretty actresses this 

The General, surprised, replied: 



"But, Sir, I could not possibly go to the 
theater while the Emperor is so ill." 

''Well, what has this got to do with going 
or not to the theater; one must spend one's 
evenings somewhere." 

Tcherewine, who related to me himself this 
story a few weeks later, added : 

"He will always remain the same; he will 
never understand anything that goes on 
around him." 

It was during the last days of the useful life 
of Alexander III. that the plan of marrying 
immediately his son and future successor to 
the Princess Alix of Hesse, and of performing 
the ceremony at Livadia, was suggested, at the 
instigation, it is said, of the German Ambassa- 
dor in St. Petersburg, General von Schweinitz, 
who had received instructions from Berlin to 
try and hasten the event as much as possible. 
But the Czar would not hear of it, declaring 
that the Heir to the Russian Throne could not 
be married privately. He consented, however, 
to a telegram being sent to the Princess Alix, 
inviting her to come at once to Livadia, to be 
presented to him. She obeyed the summons, 
but not without reluctance. She did not care 
for her future husband, and as she elegantly 
expressed it, to a lady whom she honored with 
her confidence, she "did not care to find herself 
in the Crimea at a time when no one would 
think of her, and when she would be compelled 



to be the fifth wheel to a coach." She was, 
however, persuaded, and left for Warsaw, where 
her sister, the Grand-Duchess EHsabeth, was to 
receive her, and to accompany her farther. 

At Beriin she was met by William XL, who 
traveled with her a part of the way, and during 
a long interview which lasted over five hours 
gave her his instructions as to what she ought 
to do in the future. As we shall see, she was to 
follow them but too well. 

The Princess reached Livadia three days 
before the Czar breathed his last. He found 
sufficient strength to receive her, bless her, and 
wish her happiness in her new life. She re- 
plied (this must be conceded to her) with great 
tact to those solemn words of farewell, and, 
suddenly surmounting her previous repugnance, 
she declared herself ready to abjure at once the 
Protestant faith, and to embrace that of her 
future husband and subjects. Some people 
say that she declared she wished to procure 
this last joy for Alexander III., but this is 
doubtful, considering the fact that her con- 
version took place only on the morrow of the 
death of the latter. 

As soon as it had become an accomplished 
fact, she was given the title of a Russian Grand 
Duchess and of an Imperial Highness. Her 
name appeared in the liturgy, and she was 
treated with all the honors pertaining to a 
future Empress. But she found herself lonely 



and forsaken amid her newly acquired gran- 
deur. The Dowager Empress was too entirely- 
taken up by her grief to pay any attention to 
the haughty girl, who, already during those 
first few days of her new life, showed herself 
resentful when she thought that she was not 
awarded sufficient importance. The young 
Czar was so absorbed by the many duties and 
obligations which fell upon his shoulders that 
he had no time to remain with her as long as 
she would have wished, perhaps, and his family 
simply ignored her. Her days were spent in 
attending the many funeral services which, 
according to etiquette, took place twice, and 
sometimes thrice, daily beside the bier of the 
deceased Monarch. She found herself placed 
not only in an awkward, but also in an absurd, 
position, and if she did not realize other things, 
she understood this one but too well. 

When the body of Alexander III. was brought 
back to St. Petersburg, the Princess Alix ac- 
companied it, together with the other members 
of the Imperial Family, and one could see her, 
deeply veiled, during the funeral ceremonies 
which took place at the fortress, standing 
beside the Dowager Empress, silent and at- 
tentive to all that was going on around her, 
and making mental notes as to everything 
that was taking place. She began to assume a 
Sovereign's attitude, and she tried to take, as 
if accidentally, precedence over the Grand 

2 13 


Duchesses. One of them, the Princess Marie 
Pawlowna, soon perceived the game, and one 
afternoon as the future bride was keeping 
close to her prospective mother-in-law, seeming 
to dance attendance upon the latter, the Grand 
Duchess pushed her aside most unceremonious- 
ly, saying as she did so : 

"Not yet, not yet, Alix; this place belongs 
still to me." 

Affronted, the young girl withdrew ; but when 
she got home to the Palace belonging to her 
sister, where she had taken up her abode, she 
declared that she wished to return to Darmstadt 
because her position was too false in Russia. 

Scene followed upon scene^ and Nicholas II. 
was treated for the first time to the hysterics 
of which he was to see, later on, so many 
repetitions. At last the Prince of Wales, the 
future Edward VII., interfered, and it was 
partly at his instigation, and that of Queen 
Victoria, who wrote upon the subject to the 
Empress Marie, that it was at last decided 
that the marriage of the new Czar with the 
Princess Alix was to take place immediately 
after the funeral of the former's father. 

I shall never forget that day. In the vast 
halls of the Winter Palace the whole of Russia 
was represented, eager to witness this unique 
ceremony, the marriage of a Reigning Emperor, 
an event which had never taken place before. 
The bride was on that day the object of great 



When she was Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, before her 
betrothal to the Czar, 1894. 


sympathy. One pitied her for finding herself 
so suddenly placed in a position for which she 
had not been at all prepared, and one felt dis- 
posed to grant her every indulgence in case she 
made a mistake of some kind or other, which 
was almost an unavoidable thing. Some people, 
whose English sympathies predisposed them 
in her favor, rejoiced openly to see the Throne 
occupied by a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, 
and hoped that the latter's influence and 
example would induce the new Empress to 
try and persuade her husband to renounce the 
principles of the tyrannous autocracy followed 
by his predecessors. The man in the street, 
however, remarked that nothing but bad omens 
surrounded this hurried marriage, and re- 
called the old Russian proverb, that "wedding- 
bells ought never to be heard in conjunction, 
with funeral ones." 

The most unconcerned person seemed to 
be the bride herself as, amid the hushed ex- 
pectation of the crowd assembled on her 
passage, she entered the chapel of the Winter 
Palace on the arm of him who since a few 
days was Nicholas II., Emperor and Autocrat 
of All the Russias. 

A murmur of admiration followed her as she 
passed. Seldom has anything more beautiful 
graced human eye than Alexandra Feodorowna 
in her wedding-dress, as she slowly walked 
along, with a diamond crown on her head and 



a long mantle of cloth of gold lined with ermine 
falling from her shoulders, and carried by Court 
officials in embroidered uniforms. She was a 
real vision of loveliness, "divinely tall and 
divinely fair,'' and in the general feeling of 
admiration excited by her radiant beauty but 
few people noticed the thin, set lips, pressed 
together in firm determination, and the hard 
chin, which gave a disagreeable expression to 
what otherwise would have been a faultless 
face. Behind her, also in white attired, walked 
the Empress Marie, sobbing the whole time, 
and leaning on the arm of her aged father, the 
King of Denmark. Every heart went out to 
her in her widowhood and loneliness; while 
many wondered whether her successor, on the 
Throne she had graced so well, would ever 
become as popular as she had been during her 
short reign of thirteen years. 

An hour later a State carriage with outrid- 
ers drove the newly wedded couple from the 
Winter Palace to that of Anitchkoff where 
they were to take up their residence with the 
Dowager Empress until their own apartments 
were made ready for them. The bride was 
greeted with vociferous cheers by the crowds. 
It was the one solitary occasion in her life 
when she could have the illusion of being 
popular with her newly acquired subjects. 
Eighteen months later these were to show to 
her in an unmistakable manner that such was 



far from being the case, when she was making 
her entry into that old town of Moscow, where 
the Imperial Crown was to be put on her 
brow, to replace the orange flowers which had 
adorned her head on her wedding morning. 



ONE must be fair. The first months of the 
wedded life of the young Empress Alexan- 
dra were not months of unmixed happiness. 
This, though partly her fault, was also due to 
circumstances and the people who surrounded 
he-r. Though the Consort of one of the mightiest 
monarchs in Europe, she yet found herself 
relegated to an absolutely secondary position; 
she discovered very quickly that no one con- 
sidered her to be of any importance whatsoever 
beside her mother-in-law, the Dowager-Em- 
press Marie. The latter had been one of the 
most popular Sovereigns who ever graced a 
throne, and from the very first days after her 
arrival in Russia she had applied herself to 
the task of pleasing the people. Like her 
sister, Queen Alexandra, she identified herself 
completely with the nation that now claimed 
her as its own, and she entered into all its 
interests and pursuits, without any exaggera- 
tion, but with that quiet, lovely dignity which 
never failed her, no matter in what position 



she found herself. Her Influence over her 
husband had been immense, but no one had 
ever noticed it; on the contrary, she had per- 
sistently remained in the background and tried 
to pass for a pleasant, amiable, and just a little f 
frivolous, woman who cared for balls, pretty I 
clothes, fine jewels, \and the pomp which sur- " 
rounded her at every step she took. She held 
very properly the idea that it lowers a Sovereign 
to appear to be under the sway and influence 
of his wife, and so, though Alexander III. 
never took any decision of any importance 
without having first of all discussed it with 
her, in public she avoided not only talking 
politics, but even the appearance of being in- 
terested in them. 

On the other hand, she had always been, not 
only conscious, but also very jealous, of her 
power. She did not in the least care to give 
it up after her widowhood. Her children, 
strange to say, had always stood in awe of 
her, much more than of the Czar, who was a 
most affectionate and loving father, while 
Marie Feodorowna had always treated them 
more from the point of view of Sovereign than 
mother. This had been especially the case 
with the Grand-Duke Nicholas, who, when he 
found himself Emperor, discovered that he 
could not avoid taking the Dowager Empress's 
opinion, especially in matters concerning his 
domestic life. He was told by her that the 



inexperience of his young wife made it im- 
perative she should be guided by the advices 
of people older than herself. 

This, however, did not suit at all Alexandra 
Feodorowna, and she found an unexpected 
support in the person of her own Mistress of 
the Robes, the Princess Galitzyne, who did 
not like Marie Feodorowna and was but too 
glad to put spokes in the latter's wheels. That 
was the cause of much trouble, and brought 
about strife in the Imperial Family, which 
might have been avoided by the exercise of a 
small amount of tact. 

The young Empress, compelled to live in 
two badly furnished, poky little rooms on the 
ground floor of the AnitchKofi Palace, became 
impatient and fretful, and did not care to make 
a secret of the fact. She felt hurt, too, at 
several incidents which occurred about that 
time, the first one of which was connected 
with the introduction of her name in the 
liturgy. She wished it to figure immediately 
after that of the Emperor, while Marie 
Feodorowna pretended that hers ought not to 
be relegated to a secondary place, but be 
mentioned before that of her daughter-in-law. 

The two ladies quarreled desperately on this 
subject, and at last the matter was referred to 
the Synod, which decided, in view of the ex- 
istent precedents, that the name of the Consort 
of the Sovereign ought to be called before that 


of his mother. The Dowager was furious, 
while Alexandra Feodorowna was triumphant, 
and not wise enough to hide it from the world, 
expressing herself quite loudly in regard to the 
pleasure which she experienced in seeing de- 
feated the attempt made by her mother-in-law 
to relegate her to an inferior place which she 
did not in the least wish to occupy. 

Another cause of discontent arose in con- 
nection with the Crown Jewels. Marie Feo- 
dorowna had liked to wear them more often 
than any of her predecessors on the Throne, 
and, though her own private collection of 
pearls and diamonds was one of the most 
magnificent in Europe, yet she loved to put 
on the exceptional stones, tiaras, and necklaces 
which were the property of the State. Her 
husband. Czar Alexander III., also liked to see 
them adorn the person of his idolized wife, 
and in order to spare her the annoyance of 
going through the long ceremony associated 
with the demand of any parure it pleased her 
to require from the Treasury, he had had the 
jewels she cared for the most transferred to the 
Anitchkoff Palace, where they were kept in a 
special safe in the Empress's bedroom. After 
the latter's widowhood, the question arose 
as to whether she was to be allowed to retain 
the custody of all these precious stones, or 
whether, properly speaking, it was only the 
reigning Empress who had' the right to wear 



them; had they not better be returned to the 
place which they had occupied before in the 
Imperial Treasury ? 

Some Court officials considered that this was 
the proper thing to do; the more so that, as it 
happened, the young Empress had not personal 
diamonds or pearls at all worthy of her new 
position. She had received some wonderful 
presents from her husband when they had 
become engaged, but the usual amount of 
jewels bestowed upon marriage on all the 
Grand Duchesses of Russia had not been 
offered to her, on account of the hurry with 
which this marriage had been achieved. It 
« was therefore essential that she should be given 
the opportunity to adorn herself on all State 
occasions with the brilliants that the Crown 
held in reserve for the use of the Sovereign's 
Consorts. No one thought of subjecting the 
Empress to the ordeal of going to her mother- 
in-law, to beg from the latter the permission to 
j use the things to which she was legally entitled, 
I and one would have thought that the best way 
out of the difficulty would be to have the jewels 
returned to their original place of abode, and 
reinstated in the Treasury. 

But one had not reckoned with the Dowager 
Empress! She absolutely refused to give up 
the ornaments she had been so fond of, and 
when driven out of her last intrenchments, 
and obliged to capitulate, she protested that 



it was not usual for an Empress to wear what 
belonged to the Crown, before that Crown had 
been officially laid upon her head, and said 
that she would relinquish the possession of 
the famous jewels only after the Coronation i 
of her son and daughter-in-law. The Czar, ' 
weak as usual, yielded. Alexandra Feodorowna 
declared that she did not care for the ''hateful 
things," and proceeded to buy out of her 
allowance the most gorgeous ornaments she 
could lay her hands upon, getting heavily into 
debt in consequence, a fact which did not help 
to make her popular with her subjects. 

She had an unpleasant manner that told 
against her. Not affable by nature, timid to a 
certain extent, she imagined that her position 
as Empress of Russia required her to show j 
herself haughty and disdainful with the people 
who were introduced to her. Her extremely 
indifferent knowledge of the French language, 
which was the only one in use in Court circles, 
also added to her unpopularity. Her mistakes 
in that respect were repeated everywhere and 
ridiculed by the old ladies whom her want of 
politeness had contributed to offend, and be- 
fore she had been married three months she 
found herself not only unpopular, but even 
disliked by almost every person she had met. 

Then, again, Alexandra Feodorowna was pos- 
sessed of a wonderful, but most unfortunate 
talent for drawing caricatures, of which she 





made no secret, but which, on the contrary, 
used against all those she disliked, and their 
name was legion! She found herself, of course, 
extremely lonely, without any friends of her 
own rank, and deprived of that liberty of go- 
ing about she had enjoyed so much at Darm- 
stadt. She had taken a violent dislike for all 
the Princesses belonging to her new family, 
and even the grace and liveliness of the Grand- 
Duchess Xenia Alexandrowna, her sister-in- 
law, had failed to win her heart. She did not 
care for Russia; its climate did not agree with 
her, its language she could not learn ; its religion 
she despised in those early days which followed 
upon her marriage, though she was later to 
become a fanatical adherent of the Greek 
Orthodox Church; its manners and customs 
she could not assimilate. All these circum- 
stances put together made her sullen and angry, 
and added to her general discontent. She at 
last determined to try and assert herself, and, 
though secretly despising the weakness of 
character of her husband, whom she continually 
chaffed for his blind submission to his mother, 
she endeavored to supplant the latter in his 
heart and mind, and to substitute herself for 
Marie Feodorowna, not only in domestic, but 
also in political matters. 

We shall presently see how this experiment 
was to be tried, and what were its ultimate 




THE spring of 1895 brought few changes in 
the existence of the young Empress. 
For one thing, she contrived to influence the 
Czar to take up his residence in the small 
Palace of Tsarskoye Selo, which later on they 
were to inhabit permanently, but which at 
that time was still badly furnished and rather 
forlorn in appearance, owing to the fact that 
no one had ever lived there since the death of 
Alexander II. It had been a favorite resort of 
his, and of his morganatic wife, the Princess 
Youriewsky, and for that reason had been 
shunned by his successor, who had elected to 
establish himself in the huge castle of Gats- 
china. This place was left to the Dowager 
Empress for life, and thither she repaired in the 
beginning of the spring, not, however, without 
having made a feeble attempt to influence her 
son and daughter-in-law to accompany her. 
But for once Nicholas II. did not react, and 
ignored the invitation. His wife was expecting 



the birth of her first child, and this circum- 
stance gave her more influence, and to her 
wishes more weight, than would perhaps have 
been the case under ordinary circumstances. 

Though at Tsarskoye Selo Alexandra Feo- 
dorowna obtained more liberty than had been 
the case throughout the weary months of the 
preceding winter, yet she found that she had 
to keep in mind the necessity not to give any 
reason for the criticisms which she knew but 
too well were directed against her from every 

I side. Needless to say, she might have avoided 
these criticisms by the display of some elemen- 
tary notions of tact. In her way she was a 

i very truthful woman; she even carried her 
love for veracity sometimes too far. She had 
no experience of the world, and her life at 
Darmstadt had not prepared her for the 
responsibilities of her position as Empress. 
She did not care for St. Petersburg society, 
which she considered frivolous, and she made 
no secret of this fact. Of course people re- 

* sented it. 

Her mother-in-law, the Empress Marie, 
though she had always kept herself very well 
informed as to all that was going on in the 
select circles of those privileged beings who 
were received at Court, yet had taken good 
care to appear to ignore the many love-affairs 
which were either known or suspected in re- 
gard to these people. She had so much tact 



that whenever anything she disapproved of 
occurred, among these Upper Ten Thousand of i C^ 
people, she let them see that such was the case, » 
but never mentioned it in pubHc. 

The Empress Alexandra, on the contrary, 
spoke with acerbity of every small incident 
which came to her knowledge, and declared 
loudly that she would refuse to admit in her 
presence the persons guilty of indiscretions. 
During the second season which followed upon 
her marriage, when Court receptions inter- 
rupted by the mourning for the late Czar 
were once more resumed, the Empress struck 
off from the list of invitations submitted to 
her the names of some of the most prominent 
members of St. Petersburg society, giving her 
reasons for doing so. The result was that b 
nothing but old frumps, or mothers with 
marriageable daughters, attended this particu- 
lar ball, and that the Empress in her turn was 
boycotted by almost everybody of note in the 
capital, who did not care to have themselves 
or their relatives publicly branded as not 
worthy to be admitted within the gates of the ^ 
Winter Palace. The effects of this ostracism \ 
became apparent on the New- Year's reception | 
which followed upon this incident, which only 
four women attended, wives of Ministers, who, 
in virtue of their husbands' position, could not 
well do anything else. The Emperor, surprised 
at this absence of the feminine element, on an oc- 



casion when it was generally very conspicuous, 
inquired into the matter. When told the story 
which had given rise to it he forthwith consulted 
his mother, and the latter, profiting by the 
occasion, told her son that he had better have 
the nanies of the people about to be invited at 
Court balls submitted to her for inspection, 
and not to the young Empress. Of course 
this became known at once, with the result 
that the popularity of Marie Feodorowna in- 
creased, while that of her daughter-in-law, on 
the contrary, diminished with every day that 

Rebuffed on every side, Alexandra Feo- 
dorowna first sought comfort and advice from 
her sister, the Grand-Duchess Elisabeth, who, 
by reason of her residing in Moscow, where her 
husband, the Grand-Duke Sergius, occupied 
the position of Governor-General, did not often 
see her. The Grand Duchess, in response to 
an invitation which she received to come to 
Tsarskoye Selo, took the first train. When 
consulted by the Empress in regard to the dif- 
ficulties with which she found her path beset, 
she could not find a solution for them, perhaps 
because she did not honestly seek it. Elisa- 
beth, as well as her husband, was very ambi- 
tious, and they would not have been sorry to 
see Alexandra Feodorowna estranged from all 
her new family, in order to have her entirely 
under their influence and control, and to 



dominate through her the weak Nicholas II., 
whose character was already beginning to be 
known, with all its faults and defects, by his 
near relatives, as well as by his Ministers and 
advisers. Elisabeth, therefore, advised her 
sister to try and keep at arm's-length from her 
mother-in-law, uncles, aunts, and cousins, and 
especially to be suspicious of her two brothers- 
in-law, who were represented to her as being 
her natural enemies, notwithstanding the fact 
that one of them, the Grand-Duke George, 
was consumptive and did not live in St. Peters- 
burg, the climate of which he could not endure, 
while the second, the Grand-Duke Michael, was 
a youth of sixteen, hardly out of school. 

Alexandra Feodorowna, however, became 
suspicious of this advice, perhaps because she 
distrusted the Grand-Duke Sergius just as 
much as her other relatives. Yet advice she 
felt she must have. It would have been natural 
for her to seek that of her brother, the Grand 
Duke of Hesse, and of her other sisters, the 
Princess Victoria of Battenberg and the Prin- 
cess Henry of Prussia, but while the former 
had never been her favorite, the latter refused — 
at the instigation of her husband, most probably 
— to be mixed up in things which did not 
concern her, and intrenched herself behind her 
ignorance of Russian customs and Russian 
society. The Empress felt frantic, and it was 
then that she was seized with violent attacks of 

3 29 


homesickness, which she did not attempt to 
conceal. More than once she was heard to 
say that she wished she were back in Germany, 
where at least she would find people capable 
of understanding her and of advising her well 
and soundly. 

Germany has always, as is but too well 
known to-day, maintained an army of spies in 
Russia. Very quickly a report of what was 
going on in Tsarskoye Selo reached the ears of 
William II. He saw his opportunity and 
forthwith wrote to his cousin, reminding her of 
their former friendship and telling her that he 
was entirely at her disposal to help her, by his 
knowledge of Russian affairs, which he pro- 
fessed was very great, and by his experience of 
the world. 

The Empress caught at the opportunity, 
and from that day there was established be- 
tween them relations of the closest intimacy, 
linking the Empress and the Lord of Potsdam. 
She took the habit of sending him a kind of 
diary of what she was doing and of what went 
on at the Russian Court — a diary in which she 
did not spare her mother-in-law, or her hus- 
band, whom she reproached with not taking 
her part more openly. 

Of course it was not easy to carry on such a 
correspondence. The young Empress was 
closely watched, a fact of which she was but 
too well aware. She tried the medium of the 



German Embassy, but apart from the fact 
that it would have seemed a suspicious thing 
to send there letters in a regular way, the 
Ambassador, Prince Radolin, refused to be 
the means of forwarding messages of which he 
did not know the import, and did not care to 
be involved in an intrigue that would inevitably 
have brought him to grief if discovered. Some 
other way, therefore, had to be devised, and 
for a time it seemed as if it would be next to 
impossible to find any. Once or twice the 
Princess Hohenlohe, wife of the Imperial 
Chancellor, who, through the fact that she 
was the owner of large estates in Lithuania, 
often visited St. Petersburg, brought with her 
messages from the Kaiser to the Empress 
Alexandra, and took back with her to Berlin 
the latter's replies. But this was not suflScient, 
and during the first visit paid by the Czar and 
his Consort to the German Court William and 
the young Czarina came to an understanding, 
after which their correspondence continued 
through the medium of friends of the Kaiser, 
who somehow appeared regularly in Russia 
whenever this was considered necessary. 

People, and there were some, who happened 
to be in the secret of this intercourse pretended 
that one of the things which William II. urged 
upon his cousin was the necessity of getting 
rid of the influence of the Empress Marie, who, 
by reason of her avowed French sympathies, 



I constituted a danger to German expansion and 
to German progress in the Muscovite Empire. 
The fact that for the present Alexandra 
i Feodorowna was still considered a nonentity 
1 at the Russian Court was not of much im- 
portance because it was thought that if she 
were once to become the mother of a son she 
would immediately be raised to the position of 
an important personage in her husband's 
house and country. And it must not be for- 
gotten that in the course of the summer of 
1895 the Empress was known to be about to 
give birth to her first child, who of course had 
to be a boy and an Heir to the Russian Throne. 
Alas, alas for these hopes! 
It was a Grand Duchess, Olga Nicholaiewna, 
who saw the light of day on a November 
morning in the Imperial Palace of Tsarskoye 
Selo. The disappointment was intense and 
extended to all classes of the nation, except 
among the members of the Imperial Family, 
who made no secret of the fact that they were 
delighted the little Hessian Princess they all 
disliked so intensely had not fulfilled her 
husband's and her subjects' expectations. The 
news of their joy reached the ears of Alexandra 
Feodorowna through the channel of the Kaiser, 
and added to her bitterness against her Russian 
relatives, which made itself felt in the affected 
manner with which she continually made 
allusions in their presence to her regrets at 



having accepted the position of Empress of 
All the Russias. She openly spoke of her 
contempt for this "land of savages'* as she 
called it, and more than once her attendants 
heard her give vent to the exclamation of 
"My country, my beloved country, why am 
I parted from Thee?" 



CONTRARY to the custom observed at 
the Imperial Court of Russia, the young 
Empress insisted herself on nursing her baby. 
This met with general disapproval, not only 
from Marie Feodorowna, who, never having 
thought of the possibility of such an infraction 
\^ of the traditions of the House of Romanoff, felt 
I considerably affronted at this piece of in- 
dependence on the part of her daughter-in-law; 
* also from all the dowagers of St. Petersburg, 
who considered the innovation as infra dig. 
and declared that such a breach of etiquette 
constituted a public scandal. 

Some enterprising ladies, who, by virtue of 
their own unimpeachable positions, thought 
themselves entitled to express their opinions, 
ventured to say so to Alexandra Feodorowna 
herself. She was indignant at what she termed 
an insult, turned her back on those voluntary 
advisers, and flatly declared that she would 
refuse henceforward to admit into her presence 
people who had forgotten to such an extent 



the respect due to her and to her position as the 
wife of their Sovereign. 

Matters assumed an acute form, and during 
the first ball which took place that season in 
the Winter Palace the incident was discussed 
most vehemently. One wondered what would 
happen later on, and how the Empress would 
behave in regard to those givers of unsought 
advice in the future. But Providence inter- 
fered in favor of Alexandra Feodorowna, be- 
cause she suddenly was taken with an attack of 
the measles, not the German ones this time, 
but the real, authentic thing, and the Court 
festivities about to take place were imme- 
diately postponed in spite of the protestations 
of different Court officials, who urged that they 
could very well take place in the absence of the 
Empress, and that their abandonment would 
be a serious blow to trade, which already was 
very bad, and which had discounted the 
profits it generally made during a winter 
season when the gates of the Winter Palace 
were thrown open with the usual lavishness 
and luxury displayed there on such occasions. 
Trade and its requirements were about the last 
thing which troubled the mind of Alexandra 
Feodorowna. She was of the opinion prevalent 
in Poland at the time of the Saxon dynasty 
that when Augustus was intoxicated the whole 
nation had to get drunk, and though she de- 
tested or pretended she detested Court balls 



and festivities, yet she was adverse to others 
enjoying them while she herself was debarred 
from doing so. Girls in their first season eager 
for showing off their pretty frocks, and lively 
young married women in quest of gaiety, were 
told to forego expectations of such pleasure, 
and the gates of the Palace remained closed for 
the first time in many years, to the general 
disappointment of St. Petersburg society and 
of its prominent members. 

This disappointment, however, was soon for- 
gotten in the expectation of the Coronation 
about to take place, the date of which had been 
fixed for the 15th of May. Great preparations 
were made for it. Those who remembered the 
pomp which had attended that of Alexander 
III., thirteen years before, wondered whether 
the ceremony about to be repeated would be 
as brilliant as the one which they had not yet 
forgotten. The whole of St. Petersburg society, 
with few exceptions, repaired to Moscow for the 
solemn occasion, and all the Foreign Courts 
sent representatives to attend the festival. 
One tried to guess how the young Empress 
would carry herself through the trying ordeal, 
and whether she would condescend for once to 
show herself amiable toward her subjects in 
the ancient capital of Muscovy, the population 
of which had always professed far more in- 
dependence of opinions than that of St. Peters- 
burg, where conversations were more restrained 



and guarded, in view of the constant presence 
of the Imperial Family within its walls. The 
one thing which everybody was looking for- 
ward to was the public entry of the young 
Sovereigns in the old town, an entry which was 
to be made with unusual pomp and solemnity. 

I remember very well the day of the cere- 
mony. I had a seat in a house situated on the 
great square opposite the residence of the 
Governor-General of the town, a position which 
was still occupied by the Grand-Duke Sergius. 
Together with some friends, we watched the 
long line of troops, followed by representatives 
from all classes in the country; by Court officials 
on horseback, in gold-embroidered uniforms, 
behind whom rode, surrounded by a brilliant 
staff, the Czar himself, mounted on a gray 
charger; a small, slight figure, contrasting 
vividly with his father thirteen years before. 
Nicholas II. had already acquired the expression 
of utter impassibility which was never to change 
in the future. He surveyed with a grim look 
the vast crowds massed in the streets, who 
cheered him vociferously, but he did so with a 
look that expressed neither pleasure nor dis- 
appointment, but simply indifference mixed 
with tediousness. 

Behind him came a long row of State car- 
riages all gold and precious stones, the dia- 
monds which glittered on them being valued at 
several millions of rubles. In the foremost, 



the carriage of Catherine the Great, with an 
immense Imperial Crown on its top, rode the 
Dowager Empress dressed in white and looking 
as young almost as she had done on the day of 
her own Coronation. Hurrahs without end 
greeted her appearance; the people cheered her 
with an enthusiasm such as had rarely been 
seen in Russia, while, pale and trembling, she 
bowed incessantly from right to left, with tears 
streaming down her cheeks. These hurrahs 
followed her all along her way from the dis- 
tant Petrowsky Palace to the gates of the 
Kremlin, which she entered at last, amid the 
acclamations of the multitude assembled to 
see her pass. 

Immediately behind her, divided only by a 
squadron of cavalry, drove her daughter-in- 
law, also dressed in a white gown, and sparkling 
with all the jewels belonging to the Crown, 
which she had assumed for the first time on 
that solemn day. A dead silence, contrasting 
painfully with the frenzied reception awarded 
to Marie Feodorowna, greeted her successor 
on the Throne of Russia. This contrast was so 
evident that everybody present was struck 
with it, and something like a presentiment of 
evil passed through the mind of most of the 
assistants of this strange scene. One remem- 
bered Marie Antoinette at Rheims during the 
Coronation of Louis XVI. when she also had 
been received with silence and contempt by the 




French nation, who a few years later was to 
send her to the scaffold. 

Perhaps something of the kind crossed the 
mind of Alexandra Feodorowna herself, be- 
cause it was evident that she was suffering 
from a violent desire to give vent to tears and 
rage. I saw her from the place where I stood, 
through the open large windows of the State 
carriage in which she sat quite alone, according 
to the requirements of etiquette, immovable 
like an Indian goddess, looking neither right 
nor left, but straight before her, her haughty- 
head thrown back, two red spots on her cheeks, 
and a set expression on her thin lips closely 
joined together. She understood but too well 
the meaning of this strange reception she was 
awarded ; too proud to complain, she seemed to 
ignore it. Once and once only did I see her 
start, and that was when, amid the profound 
silence which prevailed around her, a voice, 
that of a child, was heard exclaiming: 

*'Show me the German, mamma, show me 
the German!" 

And with this cry in her ears and in those of 
other listeners, the big coach with Alexandra 
Feodorowna sitting in it, in all the splendor 
of her white dress and glorious jewels, vanished 
in the distance within the walls of that old 
fortress called the Kremlin, which, seen in the 
glamour of dusk already falling, looked more 
like a prison than a palace. 



Three days later I was to look once more on 
the sHght and erect figure of the Consort of 
Nicholas II. as she emerged out of the bronze 
gates of the Cathedral of the Assumption 
walking under a canopy of cloth of gold and 
ermine, with ostrich plumes towering on its 
top, the Crown of the Russian Empresses stand- 
ing high upon her small head and the long 
mantle of brocade embroidered with the black 
eagles of the Romanoffs trailing from her 
shoulders. She looked magnificent, but there 
was something in the expression of her haughty 
features which reminded one of the prophecy 
of the Italian sculptor in regard to Charles 
Stuart: "Something evil will befall that man; 
he has got misfortune written on his face." 

Beside his wife, Nicholas II. looked the In- 
significant personage he was to remain until the 
end of his reign and very probably of his life. 
He could no more bear the weight of his 
Crown physically than he was able later on to 
carry the burden of his responsibilities. As he 
walked, he staggered and trembled; and one 
could distinctly notice the signs of the extreme 
fatigue under which he labored. Supported on 
either side by two attendants, who carried the 
folds of his Imperial mantle, he tried to keep 
erect the scepter which he held in his right 
hand, and the orb which reposed in his left. 

And then occurred the memorable incident 

of that memorable day. 



When the long procession reached the doors 
of the Cathedral of the Archangels where, 
according to custom, the newly crowned Czar 
was obliged to repair for a short service of 
thanksgiving, I saw Nicholas II. reel from right 
to left as would have done a drunken man, 
and suddenly the scepter which he grasped fell 
heavily from his hand to the stone floor, before 
the altar of the church. 

It would be difficult to describe the emotion 
produced by this untoward incident, which 
was at once interpreted by the superstitious ij 
Russian people as a bad omen for the reign '^ 
which had just begun. Strange though this 
may seem, yet it is absolutely true, that the 
faith of the Russian nation in Nicholas II. was 
shattered from that day when it had found him 
unable to carry the symbol of his supreme 
power and Imperial might and not strong 
enough to bear its weight. 

This was not, however, the only unlucky 
incident which was connected with this sad 
Coronation, which in so many respects re- 
minded one of several others that had marked 
the marriage festivities of Marie Antoinette, 
and the anointing of Louis XVI. at Rheims. 
I will not describe here the horrors which were 
enacted on the Khodinka field, when more 
than twenty thousand people were crushed to 
death during a popular festival given in honor 
of the Czar's assuming the Crown of his an- 



cestors; I shall only mention the part played 
by Alexandra Feodorowna in the gruesome 
tragedy. As everybody knows, unfortunately 
for her reputation in history, she danced the 
night which followed upon it, at the French 
Embassy. But what is not so well known is 
the fact that when she and the Emperor were 
asked by Count de Montebello, the French 
Ambassador, whether the ball which they had 
promised to attend had not better be postponed 
until the next day, which would have been an 
easy matter, Alexandra Feodorowna had ex- 
claimed that she could not understand why 
such a fuss was made because "a few peasants 
had been victims of an accident likely to happen 
anywhere," while Nicholas II. had replied that 
he did not see any necessity to make any 
alteration in the program which had been 
officially sanctioned and adopted since a long 

It was only on the third day following upon 
the catastrophe, when the clamors of public 
opinion reached even the deaf ears of the Czar 
and of his Consort, that they decided them- 
selves at last to pay a visit to the various 
hospitals where the victims of the tragedy had 
been carried. They went there in great state 
and ceremony, the Empress dressed in lace 
and satin, holding in her hands a large bouquet 
of flowers which had been presented to her by 

the officials to whom had been deputed the 



charge of receiving her at the gates of the houses 
of suffering and death, whither her duties had 
called her, much against her will. It was related 
later on that a little girl ten years old or so, 
perceiving the roses held by the Sovereign, had 
exclaimed : 

"Oh, the pretty roses!" 

"Give them to her," said the Emperor. 

"Certainly not. Flowers are most unwhole- 
some in a sick-room," replied Alexandra Feo- 
dorowna, and she turned away without an- 
other word. 


IT was not generally known at the time of 
the Coronation that the Empress was 
about to become a mother for the second time. 
She had not mentioned the fact to her family 
and not to her mother-in-law, not wishing to 
be bothered with advice as to the manner in 
which she should take care of herself — advice 
which she was beforehand determined not to 
follow. But the strain of the Coronation 
festivities, with their attendant emotions and 
unavoidable fatigue, told upon her, and this 
was the principal reason which induced the 
Emperor to repair with her to Illinskoye, the 
country-seat of the Grand-Duke Sergius, close 
to Moscow, immediately after the departure of 
the Foreign Envoys, who had been sent to Rus- 
sia to represent their respective Governments. 
The public wondered at this decision, the 
more so that it was openly said that the 
responsibility for the disaster of Khodinka 
rested with the Grand Duke, who had not 
known how to take the necessary precautions, 
which, if resorted to, would have prevented 



the catastrophe. No one suspected that the 
real reason for this determination of Nicholas 
11. to spend a few quiet weeks with his uncle 
and brother-in-law was due to the state of 
health of Alexandra Feodorowna. 

The measure, however, was not to prove 
successful, because a very few days after the 
arrival of the Imperial pair at Illinskoye its 
hopes of an increase in the family were dashed 
to the ground, and an unlucky accident de- 
prived the Empress of a son and the country of 
an heir, it having been proved that the child 
born too early was of the male sex. The fact 
was kept a close secret, as those in authority 
did not care for the nation to become aware 
of the disappointment which had overtaken 
its Monarch, and even Alexandra Feodorowna 
was not told of the full extent of the mis- 
fortune. She learned of it much later, after 
the birth of the only boy she ever had. To her 
anxious questions concerning the sex of the 
prematurely born infant she never got any 
satisfactory reply, and though she might have 
suspected the truth, yet it was not revealed to 
her at the time. She was only adjured to take 
care of herself and to avoid every kind of 
fatigue, a difficult thing to do, considering the 
fact that the Russian Sovereigns were about 
to start for a tour of visits at the different 
European Courts. These visits, with the ex- 
ception of the stay in Paris where they were 

4 45 


received with a burst of the most extraordinary 
enthusiasm ever witnessed in the French 
capital, did not turn out so successfully as had 
been hoped and expected. For one thing, 
Prince Lobanoff, who held the portfolio of 
Foreign Affairs and was by common consent 
considered as the ablest statesman in Russia 
and one of the cleverest in Europe, died sud- 
denly on the Imperial train at a little station 
of the Southwestern Railway line, called Schep- 
etowka, almost in the arms of the Emperor. 
Nicholas, seeing him stagger, rushed to his help. 
This sad event gave rise to many comments, 
and it was then that people began to whisper 
in Russia that the young Empress had got the 
evil eye and brought bad luck to all those who 
came into too close contact with her. 

Nicholas and his Consort first proceeded to 
Breslau, where William II. with the Empress 
came to meet them and received them with the 
greatest cordiality. It was at that time that 
arrangements for his correspondence with the 
Czarina were made, much to the joy of the 
latter, who, as time went on, felt more and more 
in need of the help and advice of members of 
her own family. From Breslau, the Emperor 
and Empress proceeded to Vienna, but there a 
succession of unpleasant small incidents, in- 
significant in themselves, but destined in the 
course of time to bring about totally un- 
expected results, took place. Francis Joseph 



had decided to receive his Russian guests with 
all the pomp and splendor for which the Aus- 
trian Court had always been famous, and the 
Empress Elisabeth, after much pleading, had 
at last been persuaded to come to Vienna and 
to do the honors of the Hofburg to them. At 
the State banquet which was given there, she 
appeared, regal and magnificent, clothed in 
that deep mourning which she never gave up 
after the tragic death of her only son, the 
Archduke Rudolph, and she was far more 
observed and looked at than the young wife 
of Nicholas II., who resented the fact deeply. 
It is not generally known that at that time 
(later she outlived the feeling) Alexandra 
Feodorowna had a very high opinion of her 
own beauty and could not bear to play second 
fiddle in that respect to any one. She always 
hated pretty women whenever she saw them 
in a position to rival her, and the fact that 
Elisabeth of Bavaria, in spite of her fifty- 
seven years, eclipsed in many respects her own 
young and radiant beauty did not help to put 
the Czarina into a good temper. The inter- 
view, therefore, passed according to the rules of 
strict courtesy, but no cordiality permeated it. 
Wise politicians and diplomats began shaking 
their heads and murmuring that after this ex- 
periment it would become hard indeed to bring 
about pleasant relations between the Court of 
the Hofburg and that of Tsarskoye Selo. 



From Vienna, the Russian Sovereigns went 
on to Copenhagen to pay to the aged King 
and Queen of Denmark their respects, but there 
also things did not go smoothly. The Russian 
Imperial Family had always been popular in 
Denmark, which the late Czar Alexander III. 
liked extremely, and where he used to spend 
happy weeks every summer. One had hoped 
that this tradition would continue, but after 
having seen Alexandra Feodorowna for three 
days Queen Louise had remarked that it would 
be just as well if she did not visit too often. 

But what everybody in Russia looked for- 
ward to was the visits which Nicholas II. and 
his wife were about to pay to Balmoral and to 
Paris. In the first of these places they were 
made the objects of a warm and entirely home- 
like reception on the part of Queen Victoria. 
The latter had always been interested in the 
children of her favorite daughter, the Princess 
Alice, and had immensely rejoiced to see her 
youngest grandchild ascend the Throne of 
Russia. The Queen, however, was beginning 
to feel some misgivings as to the latter's fitness 
for the high position that she had been thrust 
into. She was perhaps the best informed 
person in Europe as to all that went on in 
Foreign Courts, and she had heard, not without 
serious apprehensions, of the growing unpopu- 
larity of Alexandra Feodorowna. She took the 

first opportunity which presented itself to talk 



seriously to her granddaughter and to try and 
persuade her that she ought to make some 
effort to win the respect and the affection 
of her subjects. To Victoria's surprise, the 
old lady never having been thwarted or con- 
tradicted, the Czarina repHed that she did 
not know in the least what she was talking 
about, and that what Russians required was 
not amiable words but a sound administra- 
tion of the whip. Under these circumstances 
the conversation very quickly came to an end, 
though the Queen, astounded as she was at 
Alexandra's impertinence, tried, nevertheless, 
to renew it with the Czar. The latter simply 
replied that his grandmother must have been 
misinformed, because everybody loved the 
Empress. After that Victoria gave up the 
subject, and she would probably never have 
mentioned it to any one had it not subsequently 
reached her ears that the Empress boasted 
among her friends about the way in which she 
had snubbed her grandmother. This was 
rather more than the equanimity of the Queen 
could stand, and in her turn she related her 
unsuccessful attempts to make the young 
Czarina listen to reason, not making any secret 
of the fact that the future of the latter filled 
her with the greatest apprehensions. 

In Paris, the Empress found herself more at 
her ease. Flattery was poured down upon her 
in buckets. All the newspapers praised her 



looks, her jewels, her general demeanor, and it 
was only here and there that a dissenting voice 
was raised, as in the person of a dressmaker 
who remarked on the want of taste which had 
presided at the confection of the dresses with 
which Alexandra Feodorowna tried to astonish 
the Parisian natives. On the whole the visit 
was a success, and it inspired with new zeal 
all the promoters of the Franco-Russian alli- 
ance, among whom the Empress was most 
certainly not to be reckoned. 

Very soon after this triumphal journey, a 
second child was born to Nicholas II. and his 
wife; another girl, to the intense disappoint- 
ment of everybody. I am informed that the 
first words of Alexandra Feodorowna upon be- 
ing told of the sex of the infant were : 

"What will the nation say, what will it say?" 

As a fact the nation said nothing; it had 
already begun to lose interest in the family 
affairs of its rulers. 

As time went on this indifference to the joys 
and the woes of the Reigning House grew 
and grew, until at last it became a recognized 
fact in the whole of Russia that, as far as 
Nicholas II. was concerned, whatever happened 
to him or to his relatives was an object which 
presented no interest whatever to the millions 
of Russian men and women, who all of them 
were looking forward for a change in the 
destinies and the Government of their country. 



When he had ascended the Throne, any amount 
of expectations had been connected with him 
and with his name. These were very quickly 
dashed to the ground by his first public speech 
— the one which he made in reply to the con- 
gratulations of the zemstvos, or Russian local 
assemblies, on his accession and marriage, 
when he told the representatives of these in- 
stitutions that they must not indulge "in 
senseless dreams" or hope that he would ever 
sacrifice the least little bit of his Imperial 
prerogatives or autocratic leanings. The Revo- 
lutionary committees, which had begun at that 
time and from the very day of the death of 
Alexander III. to renew their political activity, 
addressed to him a letter which, read to-day in 
the light of the events which have happened 
during the last twelvemonth, seems almost 
prophetic. They warned him that the struggle 
begun by him would only come to an end with 
his downfall, and the whole tone of this re- 
markable epistle, which I have reproduced in 
my volume. Behind the Veil of the Russian Court, 
reminds one at present that the prophesied blow 
has fallen, of the writing on the wall which 
appeared during the banquet of the Persian 
King, warning him of his approaching ruin. 

Neither the Czar nor his Consort thought 
about these things. As time went on, the 
attention of the latter became more and more 
concentrated on the one fixed idea of having a 



son. She imagined that the secret of her un- 
popularity, which she had at last discovered, 
lay in the fact that she had not been able to 
give an Heir to the Russian Throne. Four 
times in succession daughters were born to 
her, each one received with increased dis- 
appointment, as the years went on, bringing 
into prominence the youngest brother of Nich- 
olas II., the Grand-Duke Michael, whom the 
Empress began hating with all her heart and 
soul. She imagined that wherever she went 
she was greeted with reproaches for having 
failed to fulfil the first duty of a Sovereign's 
Consort, that of assuring his succession in the 
direct line. The hysterical part of her temper- 
ament rose to the surface more and more 
with each day that passed. She locked herself 
up in her private apartments, refusing to see 
the members of her family and denying her- 
self to all visitors, until at last it began to be 
whispered in Court circles that Alexandra 
Feodorowna's mind was getting unhinged and 
that she was suffering from religious mania, 
mixed up with the dread of persecution from 
her relatives. She used to sob for hours at a 
stretch, when no one could comfort her, and 
during those attacks of despair one cry con- 
tinually escaped her lips, and was repeated 
until she could utter it no longer, out of sheer 
excitement and fatigue: 

"Why, why will God not grant me a son.?'* 



ONE of the points about which there has 
been the most discussion in Russia is as 
to whether the Empress Alexandra had ever 
cared for the country which had become her 
own. Her friends have repeatedly asserted 
that she had become an ardent Russian 
patriot, and that her great, particular mis- 
fortune was that every action, word, or thought 
of hers had been misunderstood and this 

As for her enemies, they declared, from the 
very first days which followed upon her un- 
lucky marriage, that she had arrived in Russia 
imbued with the feelings of the deepest con- 
tempt for the country and its people, and that 
all her efforts had been applied toward making 
out of the Empire over which she reigned a 
vassal of her own native land. 

It seems to me, who have had the opportunity 
to approach her personally, as well as that of 
hearing about her from persons who nourished 
no animosity against her, that neither the one 



nor the other of these two opinions was ab- 
solutely correct, though both were right, each 
in its way. When one attempts to judge the 
personality and the character of Alexandra 
-Feodorowna, one must first of all take into 
account the fact that she belonged to that class 
of individuals who, while being fools, never- 
theless think themselves clever. To this must 
be added a highly strung, hysterical tempera- 
ment and the fact which was unknown in Russia 
at the time of her marriage, that madness was 
a family disease in the House of Hesse, to which 
she belonged by birth. The circumstances 
attending her rearing and education also had 
a good deal to do with the strangeness of her 
conduct after she had reached the years of 
discretion. She had been a mere baby, five 
or six years old, when she had lost her mother, 
the charming, clever, and accomplished Princess 
Alice of Great Britain, and she had been brought 
up partly at Windsor by Queen Victoria and 
partly at Darmstadt, where, however, she had 
not found any of the good examples its Court 
might have afforded her had her mother re- 
mained alive. She was the youngest member 
of her family, and as such treated with negli- 
gence and made to give way to her elder sisters, 
who were neither kind nor affectionate in regard 
to her — a fact which must have helped her a 
good deal to develop the haughty, disagreeable 
temper which was later on to play her so many 



bad tricks in life. On the other hand, the person 
who had charge of her education, as well as of 
that of the other Princesses, had conceived a 
great and most ill-advised affection for her; 
ill-advised in so far that she used to repeat to 
her that she was handsomer and cleverer than 
her sisters, and that she ought not to mind 
any slights which the latter might try to put 
upon her, because she was sure to make a 
better marriage than they. 

When she was about twelve years old there 
occurred in the Grand-Ducal Palace of Darm- 
stadt the tragedy or romance, call it as one 
likes, of the Grand Duke's morganatic union 
with a lovely Russian, Madame Kolemine, 
which came to such a sad end, owing to the 
interference of Queen Victoria and to the 
stupidity of the Grand Duke himself, who, in 
any case, ought first of all to have made careful 
inquiries as to the past life and conduct of his 
intended bride, and then — once he had plighted 
his troth to her — to have held the promises 
which he had made to her. He allowed her 
to be sent away from his Court and country in 
disgrace ; the lady herself would have been but 
too willing to come to honorable terms with 
a man for whom she could no longer feel any 
esteem or affection, because in the whole long 
story of his intercourse with her Grand-Duke 
Louis never showed himself otherwise than the 
true German he really was. Of course, the 



object of his transient affections was repre- 
sented to his children as being merely an 
intriguing, base woman who had tried to make 
a great marriage and to supplant their mother. 
Whether the eider Darmstadt Princesses be- 
lieved this calumny to have been the truth 
remains a matter of doubt. Judging im- 
partially, this would seem to be hardly likely 
if one takes into consideration the fact that their 
ages hovered between eighteen and twenty- 
two, and that consequently one could reason- 
ably assume that they knew what they were 
about when they showered one proof of affec- 
tion after another on Madame Kolemine, and 
when they declared to her in many letters that 
there was nothing they wished for more than 
to see her become their father's wife. 

This whole story, together with its heroine, 
is about one of the most perplexing affairs 
that ever occurred in any Royal House, and 
everything connected with it is to this very day 
shrouded in mystery. Madame Kolemine, who 
(this by the way)'married again, after her divorce 
from the Grand Duke, a Russian diplomat, 
may or may not have been a bad woman. 
I hold no brief for or against her. Many people 
assert that in regard to certain scandals con- 
nected with the time of her early married life 
she was more sinned against than sinning, and 
that she became the victim of calumnies 
launched against her by unscrupulous enemies. 



But, true or not, the breath of suspicion had 
hovered around her good name to a sufficiently 
strong degree to have absolutely justified the 
objections of Queen Victoria to her becoming 
even the morganatic wife of the Grand Duke of 

It ought also to have influenced the latter 
into not admitting the fascinating Russian 
into the intimacy of his young daughters, 
which was precisely what he did. The girls 
could not be told every kind of gossip going 
about in the world, but they ought to have 
been shielded from the possibility of contract- 
ing friendships likely to lead them into un- 
pleasantnesses in the future. On the other 
hand, considering the fact that this intimacy 
had once been established, one does not very 
well see how any of the Darmstadt Princesses 
could have been led to believe, after the three 
years or more that it had lasted, that Madame 
Kolemine was base and intriguing and cared 
only for a great marriage. Because this last 
accusation, leaving aside all others, was ab- 
solutely false, a fact no one was better able to 
know than themselves, who had repeatedly 
begged and implored her to accept their 
father's offer and to make him, together with 
themselves, happy people. 

I have had some of these letters in my hands, 
and can therefore vouch for the truth of this 
last assertion, and to put an end to the questions 



of a suspicious public that may wonder how 
it came that such a correspondence was ever 
communicated to me, I will say at once that 
the reason for it was that I am a blood relation 
of Madame Kolemine, who after her divorce 
had thought I might be of some help to her in 
her troubles, and had herself asked me to read 
them. The impossibility in which I found 
myself to be of any use to the poor woman, 
whom I had never seen in my life before, and 
of interfering in a business which did not 
concern me in the very least, led her to take a 
most bitter attitude in regard to me and to 
become my enemy, so that in trying to take 
her part to-day I am doing so out of a feeling 
of justice and nothing else. 

I have mentioned the story in general only 
because it explains to a certain degree the un- 
disguised aversion of the Empress Alexandra 
for everything that was Russian or that had 
anything to do with Russia. She had never 
shared her sisters' admiration for Madame 
Kolemine; on the contrary, she had always 
nourished a pronounced antipathy for the lady, 
and whatever the three other Darmstadt 
Princesses may have felt in regard to the woman 
whom their father was to marry and divorce 
on the same day, she, at least, had made no 
secret of her hatred for her. One of the first 
remarks which she made after she had become 
acquainted with St. Petersburg society was; 



"I shall never like it; all the women remind 
me of Madame Kolemine/' 

This episode in the career of the Grand Duke 
of Hesse brought about, as might have been 
expected, a change in his relations with Queen 
Victoria, and he was no longer such a desired 
guest at Windsor or Balmoral as had been the 
case. His elder daughters married in quick 
succession, the second one wedding the Grand- 
Duke Sergius of Russia. The little Alice was 
left alone at home, and though she was often 
requested by her grandmother to join her in 
England, she did not care so much for these 
invitations as formerly. The fact was that 
she was gradually acquiring a considerable 
influence over her father's mind, whose weak- 
ness of intellect rendered him an easy tool in 
his enterprising daughter's hands. She became 
the virtual mistress of his house, and developed 
during those years, where she remained ab- 
solutely without any feminine control over her, 
the imperious, disagreeable temper which was 
to play her such sorry tricks in the future. 
Small as was the Hessian Court, it yet was 
administered with that strict respect for eti- 
quette always in vogue in Germany, and it 
pleased the Princess Alix to find herself the^ 
first lady in the land in her father's Dukedom. 
She preferred it to being the second in Rome. 

It was during those years that she was taken 
on a visit to the Russian Court. This did not 



turn out a success, because no one in St. 
Petersburg was in the very least impressed by 
the beauty of the young girl. Russia, being 
celebrated for the lovehness of its women, 
would have required something more than she 
possessed to fall on its knees and worship her. 
Then, again, she was dressed with bad taste, 
her manners left much to be desired, and the 
rumor which began to circulate at the time 
of the possibility of her wedding the Heir to 
the Russian Throne did not appeal to public 
feeling. Alice thought herself slighted, and 
returned to her beloved Darmstadt more anti- 
Russian than she had ever been. 

Two years went by, and the Grand Duke of 
Hesse died, carried off by a disease of the brain, 
difficult to account for if one takes into con- 
sideration the fact that he had never had any 
brains to lose. His son succeeded him, and, 
together with his sister, continued to inhabit 
the Darmstadt Palace, where nothing was 
changed except the master of the house, whom 
no one missed. For eighteen months Princess 
Alice reigned supreme, as she had done before; 
then one fine morning her brother announced 
to her that he was about to ask their cousin, 
the Princess Victoria Melita of Coburg, to 
become his wife. A fit of hysterics followed 
upon this announcement. Alice could not 
resign herself to the necessity of playing second 
fiddle at her brother's Court, where she had 



been the center of attraction for such a long 
time. The fact that her future sister-in-law 
was just as young and more beautiful than 
she did not help her to get over her mortifica- 
tion. She was of a terribly jealous character 
and temperament, and she began from that 
very day to hate, with a ferocious hatred which 
went on increasing as time passed, the innocent 
girl for whom this Hessian marriage was to 
prove the source of so much sorrow. But about 
this I shall speak later on. 

It was at this precise moment that talk about 
a Russian marriage for her began again. Many 
people wished for it. The Berlin Court was 
actively intriguing in favor of it, and during 
the whole of that winter of 1893-94 the news- 
papers were busy with it. The chancelleries 
of the different European capitals were very 
much preoccupied as to whether or not it 
would take place. 

Perhaps few people will believe me when I 
say that had it not been for her brother's en- 
gagement nothing in the world would have 
ever decided the Princess Alice to give her 
consent to a union for which she did not feel 
the least sympathy. She was not at all dazzled 
by the prospect of becoming the Empress of 
Russia, because in her vanity and with her 
ideas of German grandeur she thought herself 
far superior to the Romanoffs, thanks to her 
long and unbroken line of ancestry. Her 
5 61 


unimpeachable quarterings seemed to her to 
be so immeasurably above their doubtful ones 
that she considered it would be she who would 
do him an incommensurable honor by accept- 
ing as her wedded husband the Heir to the 
Throne of All the Russias. She would have 
infinitely preferred going on queening it in 
Darmstadt, or in any other small German 
town, than to have been chosen as the bride 
of the future Nicholas II., for whom she felt 
neither sympathy, affection, nor esteem. 

But her brother's prospective marriage 
changed considerably her position. She would 
no longer occupy the position of the first lady 
of her beloved Hesse; she would find installed 
in the place which had been her own for so 
many happy years a woman younger than 
herself, with an independent character, a de- 
termined mind, a woman who would most 
probably grow very quickly to impose herself 
and her ways of thinking, not only on the 
whole Hessian Court, but also on the Grand 
Duke, whose sister was condemned beforehand to 
be neglected and treated as a negligible quantity. 

This was gall and wormwood to the passion- 
ate, selfish girl, and this feeling of hers, which 
she allowed her cousin the Kaiser to guess, was 
very cleverly exploited by the latter in view of 
a marriage which none desired more ardently 
than himself. Next to his own sister, there was 
no one in the whole world whom he would have 



more ardently wished to become Empress of 
Russia than his cousin AHx. He invited him- 
self to Darmstadt for a short visit, and while 
there took the first opportunity to discuss the 
subject with her. He told her what very few 
people knew at the time, and what the general 
public was entirely ignorant of — the serious nat- 
ure of the illness with which Alexander HI. 
was attacked, an illness which gave no hope 
whatever of recovery. By marrying the young 
Grand-Duke Nicholas the Princess would find 
herself but for a short time in a so to say 
subordinate position. A few months would see 
her raised to one of the greatest thrones in 
Europe, from the height of which she would be 
enabled to look down with contempt and pity 
on the cousin who was about to take at the 
Darmstadt Court the place she had occupied so 
long she had grown to consider it as her very own. 

Moreover, she would be able to win back 
Russia and its ruler to the cause of the German 
alliance, and thus accomplish one of her 
duties as a loyal German woman. He appealed 
to her worst instincts while seeming to call on 
her noblest ones to assert themselves, and once 
more he won the day. 

In St. Petersburg, too, Hohenzollern influence 
and intrigues had worked actively, until at 
last the Czar, feeling perhaps that his days were 
numbered and perhaps also no longer strong 
enough to resist perfidious advice given to 



him by interested people, yielded the point, 
and when his eldest son started for Coburg to 
attend there the Princess Victoria Melita's 
wedding, he authorized him to ask for the 
hand of Alix of Hesse. 

As I have related, tne marriage was at 
once announced, and we have seen already its 
first results. The reason why I have once 
more returned to its subject was to explain 
some of the causes which led the Empress 
Alexandra to conceive such a bad opinion 
about Russia, and to detest so cordially the 
Russian people. Her early dislike for Madame 
Kolemine had given her a natural antipathy 
for everything connected with the latter coun- 
try; her visits there had strengthened this 
feeling; her vanity had been hurt by finding 
that St. Petersburg's society had paid abso- 
lutely no attention to her; and her slow, 
commonplace mind had been utterly unable to 
understand the refinement and high breeding 
of the Russian upper classes. Her natural 
coldness and ignorance had been repulsed in- 
stead of attracted by the simpHcity but genuine 
kind-heartedness of the lower ones. She thought 
the nation one of savages and she made no 
secret whatever of that opinion, expressing her 
intention of correcting those "awful Russian 
manners," which had seemed to her young 
and inexperienced eyes so very dreadful when 

she had first become acquainted with them. 



It is most likely that if she had married a 
small German Prince or Potentate she would 
have put herself out of the way to please his 
subjects. But she did not think the Russians 
worth her while. She considered that they 
ought to feel themselves highly honored by the 
fact that she had consented to come and reign 
over them, and in her own mind she did not 
attach any more importance to the judgments 
they might be inclined to bestow in regard to 
her person than she would have done to the 
criticisms of the first beggar in the street. She 
arrived in her new country despising it, to- 
gether with its people, determined to ignore 
the wishes it might have or the necessities it 
might require. She arrived there prejudiced 
and bigoted, and so full of contempt for the 
land that hailed her as its Queen that she did 
not admit the possibility of treating it as one 
inhabited by human beings, but determined to 
apply to it some of the methods used by the 
Germans in their treatment of their Colonies. 

For the opinion held by Alix of Hesse- 
Darmstadt in regard to Russia was simply 
that it ought to be nothing else but a Colony 
of the vast German Empire, and she felt more 
pride at the thought that she might re- 
duce it to this condition than at the idea that 
she had been chosen out of so many other 
women to become the Empress of that Realm. 




IT would not have been human on the part 
of the Imperial Family to like the young 
wife of Nicholas II. in those early days which 
followed upon her marriage. The feminine 
portion of it especially could have been ex- 
pected, before even the wedding of Alexandra 
Feodorowna had been solemnized, to look upon 
her with eyes full of criticism and with the de- 
sire to find fault with whatever she might say 
or do. Here she was, a young, lovely girl, in 
the full bloom of her beauty, put into the place 
of the first lady in the Realm, at a moment's 
notice, before even she had gone through that 
period of probation which falls as a general 
rule to the lot of every Consort of a Sovereign 
when she is but the wife of the Heir to the 
Throne. Had the haughty Imperial ladies, 
who for so many years had ruled according to 
their fancies St. Petersburg society, found 
themselves in presence of a Grand-Duchess 

Czarevna whom they would have been able 



to advise, scold, or pet, according to their 
fancy, they might have taken, from the height 
of their own unassailable positions, a more 
indulgent view of her unavoidable mistakes. 
They would have thought of her as of a young 
niece who owed them respect and submission, 
and whom it was their duty to train according 
to the exigencies of Russian etiquette. It must 
be remembered that Nicholas II. to the very 
day of his accession had been treated by his 
family like a mere boy without any importance. 
All of a sudden he found himself a Sovereign 
and, what was even worse, his wife, the little 
Hessian Princess, upon whom everybody had 
looked down with pity mixed with contempt, 
was the Empress of All the Russias. This was 
more than the Romanoffs could endure, es- 
pecially when they remembered the cool, 
authoritative manner which the late Czar 
Alexander III. had always adopted in regard 
to them, and when they thought it might be 
possible his successor would imitate him in 
that respect at least, if not in others. 

They need not have been in any apprehen- 
sion as to this last point. Nicholas II., though 
he detested his uncles, yet stood in such awe 
of them that he would never have dared assert 
himself in their presence, far less contradict 
them. But the Empress had a different char- 
acter, and she very quickly realized that all her 
relatives were furious at the fact of her being 



placed so far above them in rank and position. 
Fully conscious as she was of that rank, she 
determined that she would use its advantages 
to crush those in whom she saw but enemies,, 
which in some cases was not quite exact, be- 
cause there were then still some persons who, 
had she only appealed to them, would have 
responded to her call for sympathy and put 
themselves at her disposal, if only out of the 
motive that in rallying around her they were 
at the same time establishing their own in- 

Alexandra had no tact, and she never could 
hide her feelings in regard to the people who 
surrounded her. This explains the number of 
her enemies and the antagonism to which her 
mere presence anywhere gave rise. She knew 
very well that it would be very hard, if not 
impossible, for her to overcome certain prej- 
udices existing against her. Instead, however, 
of trying to make for herself friends in other 
circles than purely aristocratic ones, she ap- 
plied herself to wound those in whom she saw 
adversaries, and to discourage her friends by 
her utter disregard of the warnings that the 
latter sometimes thought it their duty to give 
to her. Her relations with the Empress Dow- 
ager had begun by being very cordial and 
affectionate, and it was she who had proposed 
to the Czar to take their abode in the Anitch- 
koff Palace with his mother, until their own 



apartments in the Winter Palace had been 
got ready for them. The arrangement had not 
been a successful one, and it is probable that 
Marie Feodorowna would have got on better 
later on with her daughter-in-law had the two 
ladies not lived under the same roof for about 
half a year. As it was they grew to know each 
other "not wisely, but too well," and the 
result was profound contempt on one side and 
sullen anger on the other. Servants' gossip 
did the rest; and the two incidents which I 
have already described, concerning the Crown 
Jewels and the liturgy, added the last drop of 
venom in a cup already full to overflowing. 
The Dowager began to criticize discreetly the 
young Empress, together with some of her 
intimate friends. These did not scruple to 
repeat what they had heard to their own near 
chums, and soon it became common property. 
The Grand Duchesses took their cue from 
Marie Feodorowna, and in an underhand way 
lamented over the failings of "dear Alexandra," 
her coldness, her want of politeness, and so 
forth, helping her in the mean while as much 
as they could to accentuate the shortcomings of 
an attitude which very soon came to displease 
everybody, even the people who had been the 
most enthusiastic about the young Empress. 

As a proof of this fact I will relate a little 
incident which, at the time it occurred, proved 
the subject of much gossip in some select circles 



of St. Petersburg society. During one of the 
first receptions held at the Winter Palace, 
after the marriage of Nicholas XL, there made 
her appearance an old lady who for the sake 
of convenience we shall call Madame A. She 
wished to be presented to the new Empress, 
an honor to which her own position, together 
with that of her late husband, gave her every 
right, besides the fact that she was one of the 
few ladies left in the capital who had adhered 
to the old Russian custom of keeping open 
house for her friends, and whose salon was a 
social authority in its way. The Empress, 
upon being shown the list of the people about 
to be presented to her, wanted to know who 
they were, and, seeing near her her aunt, the 
Grand-Duchess Marie Pawlowna, the wife of 
the Grand-Duke Wladimir, asked her whether 
Madame A. was or was not a person of im- 
portance. The Grand Duchess, who for rea- 
sons of her own disliked the latter, replied to 
her niece: 

"Oh, she is an old frump. Give her your hand 
to kiss, and she will be satisfied." 

Now this was the one thing which would 
not have satisfied Madame A. at all, who con- 
sidered herself entitled to quite special con- 
sideration. Alexandra Feodorowna, believing 
her aunt, executed the latter's advice to the 
letter. She extended her much-bejeweled 
fingers to the astonished old lady, and then 



coolly turned her back upon her and passed on 
without having said one single word. The 
scandal was immense, so immense that the 
whole ballroom rang with it within a few 
minutes, and one of the Empress's ladies in 
waiting actually went up to her and tried to 
enlighten her as to the extent of the enormity 
which she had committed, advising her at the 
same time to seek out the irate Madame A. 
and to make her some kind of apology, under 
the pretext that she had not heard her name 
when it had been mentioned to her. 

Alexandra Feodorowna in her turn, and 
with a certain amount of reason, became 
furious against the Grand-Duchess Marie 
Pawlowna for having thus led her into a snare, 
and, boiling with rage, she crossed the room, 
went up to where Madame A. was discussing 
with volubility, together with some of her 
friends, the slight to which she had been sub- 
jected, and told her quite loudly: 

"I am sorry, Madame, not to have treated 
you with the respect to which you are entitled, 
but it was the Grand-Duchess Marie Pawlowna, 
my aunt, who had advised me to do it." 

One may imagine the effect produced by 
this short sentence, which, instead of soothing 
the ruffled feelings of Madame A., added to her 
indignation. She turned round and replied 
quite distinctly, so that all the people standing 
near her heard her plainly: 



*'Ce n'est pas a Vaide (Tune trahison, Madame, 
que Von excuse une impolite ssel'' ("It is not 
with the help of a treachery, Madame, that one 
can excuse a rudeness"). 

And making a deep courtesy to thediscomfited 
Sovereign, Madame A. proudly retired and 
drove away from the Palace, leaving the 
Empress with the consciousness that in the 
space of five short minutes she had contrived 
to make for herself two mortal enemies. 

The whole of the Imperial Family took up 
the cause of the Grand-Duchess Marie Paw- 
lowna. The latter's husband, the Grand-Duke 
Wladimir, went to the Emperor and complained 
bitterly of the conduct of Alexandra Feo- 
dorowna. The other Grand Duchesses de- 
clared that, dating from that day, they would 
have nothing to do with her, except when the 
necessities of etiquette compelled them to 
appear at Court, but that personal relations 
with a person capable of such a grave piece of 
indiscretion were quite out of the question. 
The Grand-Duchess Marie swore that she had 
never meant to advise her niece to show herself 
rude to such a respectable personage as Madame 
A. ; that her words had been a mere joke, to 
which she had never imagined that any im- 
portance could be attached, and that it had 
been a cruel thing to denounce her in such a 
'ruthless way to the worst gossip and most 
malicious tongue in St. Petersburg. 



Even the Dowager Empress expressed her- 
self as shocked beyond words at her daughter- 
in-law's behavior, but when she had tried to 
speak with the latter on the subject Alexandra 
Feodorowna had exclaimed that she recognized 
the right of no one to criticize her actions, and 
forthwith produced for her mother-in-law's edifi- 
cation a caricature which she had drawn of the 
Emperor in swaddling-clothes, seated at a 
dinner-table in a high-backed chair, with his 
uncles and aunts standing around him, and 
threatening him with their fingers, adding that 
she was not going to follow the example of her 
spouse, and that if he chose to forget before 
his relatives that he was the Emperor of All 
the Russias, she would not do so for one single 
minute. After this the conversation came to 
an end, as was to be expected, but its con- 
sequences survived, with a vengeance into the 

Of course incidents of the kind could not 
be productive of good relations. It did not 
take a long while before the general public, 
which, at that time, looked very much for its 
inspirations toward the Imperial Family, had 
come to the conclusion that the young Empress 
was a capricious, rude, and most disagreeable 
kind of person to whom it was preferable to 
give a wide berth. Once this legend had been 
transferred into the domain of history, every 
action, every word, every gesture of Alexandra 



Feodorowna was watched with attentive and 
critical eyes, always ready to make capital 
out of all her mistakes and to amplify all her 
errors into crimes. The fact of her having no 
son added to the resentful feelings of the nation 
against her, and that of her undisguised Ger- 
man sympathies did not contribute to make 
her popular. She in her turn, angry with her 
family, furious with St. Petersburg society, 
unable to seek friends among the Russian 
people, all of whom seemed in her inexperienced 
and prejudiced eyes to be more or less savage, 
set herself a task to show her contempt and 
dislike to those persons whom she had found so 
ready to throw stones against her on occasions 
when her conscience had told her that she did 
not deserve the insult. She retired more and 
more into the seclusion and privacy of her home 
at Tsarskoye Selo, and she announced to 
whoever wished to hear her that she did not 
see why she should spend her money in giving 
balls and entertaining a society that seemed 
to have made up its mind to insult her on 
every possible occasion. The words were re- 
peated, and immediately taken up by the 
public in the light of another affront. One 
declared that for a penniless Hessian Princess 
to talk about "her money" was, to say the 
least, ridiculous, and one added that she ought 
to remember that it was part of the duties of 
a Russian Empress to entertain her subjects 



and to give them some pleasures in return for 
their fidehty. 

Such was the position after Alexandra Feo- 
dorowna had been married three or four years. 
She might still at that time, had she attempted 
it in earnest, won back at least the respect 
if not the sympathies of the Russian nation. 
But to do so she would have had to bend down 
from the height of the Throne upon which 
she was seated, and to make some efforts to 
clear the misunderstandings which had arisen 
between her, her family, and her subjects. 
Unfortunately for her, the haughty Princess 
believed so firmly that she had been sinned 
against without having the least sin to her 
own credit that this "injustice," as she called 
it, in the world's judgments of her personality 
made her rebellious, and, not being clever 
enough either to forgive or to disdain it, she 
could find nothing else to do but to seek to 
revenge herself upon imaginary wrongs by 
making herself guilty of real ones. 



IT was not only her family and St. Peters- 
burg society with whom the Empress 
could not agree. Her relations with her 
husband were also not of the best during the 
first years of her married life. Later on, when 
Alexandra Feodorowna had fallen into the 
hands of the clever gang of adventurers whose 
tool she was to remain until the final catas- 
trophe which drove her from her Throne had 
taken place, she contrived to get hold of the 
feeble mind of Nicholas IL, and to influence 
him absolutely, thanks to his love for his 
children, especially for his son. 

During the first five years or so that followed 
upon his marriage the Czar, though he never 
quarreled with his wife, yet thought far less 
about her than he did about his mistress, the 
dancer Mathilde Krzesinska, a Pole of extreme 
intelligence, little beauty, but enormous at- 
traction. Their friendship had begun when 
Nicholas was but a boy, or about that, rumor 
would have it, though I have reason for knowing 




that in this rumor was mistaken, as happens so 
often to the old lady, that the dancer had been 
chosen by the Empress Marie herself as a fit 
friend for her eldest son. The fact was that 
this liaison had started almost immediately 
after the Grand Duke's return from his journey 
round the world, which had had such a dramatic 
incident to enliven it in Japan, when a fanatic 
had attempted to take the life of the Heir 
to the Russian Throne, inflicting upon him a 
deep wound with his sword. 

The Cesarewitsch had seen Mademoiselle 
Krzesinska on the stage of the Marinsky 
Theater, and had been very much impressed 
by her talent and grace. He had asked to be 
introduced to her, and had forthwith carried 
her off to supper at a fashionable restaurant 
called Cubat, where all the jeunesse doree 
of St. Petersburg used to meet, eat, drink, and 
be merry. This supper, in which had taken part 
several of Nicholas's friends, officers in the 
same Hussar regiment where he was a captain, , 
as well as one or two ladies of great beauty | 
and doubtful reputation, had ended in a ' 
scandal, which for several weeks had been 
almost the only subject of discussion in the 
aristocratic salons of the capital. The com- 
pany had been enjoying itself so much that 
glasses and plates had been broken; when, at 
two o'clock in the morning, the owner of the 
restaurant had ventured to suggest that it 

6 77 


would be high time the entertainment came to 
an end, he had been sent to mind his own busi- 
ness. This the poor man would have been 
but too glad to do, but pohce regulations were 
very strict at that time, and he knew that if a 
patrol should see light in his windows from the 
outside that he would be fined heavily, no 
matter who had elected to remain in his es- 
tablishment after the curfew had sounded. 

This was precisely what happened. 

A police officer walked up and knocked at 
the door of the private room where the Heir to 
the Russian Throne and his companions were 
disporting themselves, and ordered them to 
get out. The Grand Duke's aide-de-camp did 
not care to disclose the identity of his master, 
so he came out alone and tried to remonstrate 
with the man, asking him to give them another 
half-hour to finish their supper and pay for it. 
The officer refused and tried to force his way 
into the room, but was violently thrust aside. 
He had not the right to enforce his author- 
ity against a colonel in the army, which was 
the rank of the aide-de-camp, so he withdrew 
and telephoned to the Prefect of the town, 
General Wahl. The latter, who was an oflS- 
cious busybody, thought it a splendid occasion 
to assert his authority. He immediately pro- 
ceeded himself to Cubat, where, in spite of the 
efforts made by the companions of the Grand 
Duke to keep him out, he rushed into the room, 



to find himself confronted by the Heir to the 
Throne. Nicholas became very angry and asked 
the General how he dared intrude upon his 
privacy. Wahl, furious in his turn, retorted 
that it was his duty to see that order was 
maintained in the capital, no matter who was 
troubling it, upon which, in one of the un- 
controllable fits of rage to which he was some- 
times subject, the Cesarewitsch seized hold of a 
dish full of caviar which stood on the table 
and threw its contents in the face of Wahl, 
A scene of indescribable disorder followed. At 
last Prince Bariatinsky, one of the generals 
in waiting on the Czar, who had accompanied 
the young Grand Duke during the latter's 
journey round the world, was sent for. He 
succeeded in putting an end to an incident 
which reflected credit upon none of those who 
had taken part in it. 

The next day Alexander HI. was apprised 
of what had taken place. History does not 
say what he told his son, but it was supposed 
that it had not been anything in the way of 
praise, because there was nothing that the 
Emperor hated more than a drunken brawl, 
and it must have been very painful for him to 
find that his Heir had become involved in one. 
But when General Wahl arrived, full of com- 
plaints and indignation at the treatment to 
which he had been subjected, the Monarch 
expressed to him his entire disapproval of his 



conduct, saying that he had had no right to 
intrude upon the privacy of the Grand Duke, 
and that he ought not to have forgotten the 
immense difference of rank which existed be- 
tween him and the future Emperor of Russia. 
Wahl did not require to be told twice the same 
thing, and in the future he never attempted 
to interfere with the pleasures of any member 
of the Imperial Family. 

People who were present at this ill-fated 
supper told afterward, when relating all the 
incidents which had made it a memorable one, 
that Nicholas wished to do something worse 
than pour the contents of a caviar-dish on 
General Wahl's head, but that Mademoiselle 
Krzesinska had thrown herself between them. 
True or not, it is certain that after this night 
the Grand Duke took to visiting the beautiful 
dancer in her home, and very soon their re- 
lations became an established fact. She bore 
him two sons, which gave her distinct ad- 
vantages over all the other flirtations in which 
her Imperial lover indulged from time to time, 
flirtations which she was far too clever and 
careful to notice. What she aspired to after- 
ward was to become a power in the land, a 
Maitresse de Rot, such as had been seen at the 
French Court during the reigns of the last 
Bourbons. Her Polish propensity for intrigue 
coming to her help, she very soon contrived to 
make for herself an excellent position in the 



world as well as to earn a considerable fortune. 
She was a very reasonable, matter-of-fact 
woman; she knew very well that Nicholas had 
to marry, whether he liked it or not, and her 
only preoccupation, if we are to believe all that 
was related in St. Petersburg at the time, was 
whether he should marry a clever or a stupid 
woman. It is not difficult to guess the one 
she would have preferred had the choice been 
left to her discretion. 

When the betrothal of the Cesarewitsch with 
the Princess Alix of Hesse was announced 
Mademoiselle Krzesinska, far from objecting to 
it, applied herself, on the contrary, to persuading 
him that he had done quite right and that he 
could not have chosen a better wife. She 
imagined that the placid German temperament 
of the bride-to-be would look with innocent 
eyes on the continuation of her intrigue with 
Nicholas, in which supposition she was vastly 
mistaken, because Alice, though she did not 
care for the husband she had been compelled 
to marry, did not mean to let him wander away 
from the conjugal home in search of a happi- 
ness she believed herself quite capable of alone 
procuring for him. She tried to separate the 
Grand Duke from the clever dancer who held 
him in her bondage, and of course she failed. 

Nicholas kept up his former habits of going 
to see Mademoiselle Krzesinska whenever he 
had the time to do so; what was even worse, 



he continued to consult her on many matters 
which he never discussed with his wife. The 
latter became very unhappy, and it was then 
that even her affection for her children was not 
sufficient to prevent her from uttering aloud 
her despair at having been obHged to leave her 
dear Darmstadt for a country where every- 
thing and everybody conspired against her 
and her peace of mind, and where she could 
not even win the love of the husband who had 
been imposed upon her. 

Among the few people whom she used to 
see more frequently than others was the 
Montenegrin Princess Stana, who had been 
married to Duke George of Leuchtenberg, 
with whom she had led a most unhappy, un- 
canny sort of existence. Stana, like all the 
Montenegrin daughters of King Nicholas, was 
a charming and attractive woman, clever into 
the bargain. In spite of her unhappy conjugal 
experiences she had grown very fond of Russia, 
and especially of her position as a member of 
the Russian Imperial Family. She was very 
willing to divorce the miserable husband to 
whom she had been united, who had insulted 
and outraged her without the least com- 
punction from the very first day of their 
marriage; but she would have liked to find 
another one whose affection, and especially 
whose worldly situation, were such that her 

future would be assured on even more brilliant 



lines than the present. Her elder sister, Prin- | 
cess Militza, was the wife of the Grand-Duke i 
Peter Nicholaievitch, whose brother was that i 
Grand-Duke Nicholas who was later on to 
acquire such a reputation as Commander-in- 
chief of the Russian armies during the first 
months of the present war. Grand-Duke 
Nicholas was not considered as a marriageable 
man, being bound by ties of close friendship 
since a good number of years with an attractive 
woman, Madame Bourenine. Nevertheless, 
Princess Stana made up her mind to marry 
him, an enterprise which seemed the more 
hopeless that it was against the canons of the 
Greek Orthodox Church for two sisters to 
marry two brothers. As we have seen, her 
sister was Grand-Duke Nicholas's sister-in- 

This, however, did not much trouble the 
determined Stana, but she knew very well 
that it would be quite impossible for her to 
succeed in her designs unless she managed to 
enlist on her side the sympathies of somebody 
strong enough to protect her and to lend her 
the support which she needed. It was useless 
to think of the Empress Dowager, because the 
latter had never looked kindly upon the 
Montenegrin Princesses, to whom she had been 
very good at the time that they were being 
brought up in the Smolny Convent in St. 
Petersburg, and who had rewarded her with 



the basest ingratitude later on. The Emperor 
was a mere puppet in the hands of his advisers, 
and these, Stana knew but too well, would 
be against any idea of her becoming the wife 
of Nicholas Nicholaievitch. Remained the 
young Empress, to whom no one to that day 
had ever dared to apply for anything, who had 
been considered by general consent as not be- 
ing worthy of any attention or consideration. 
Stana imagined that any proofs of respect 
which she might give to her were bound to be 
more appreciated than they would have been 
( under different circumstances. She forthwith 
i proceeded to lay siege with great care and tact 
I to the heart and the sympathies of Alexandra 

At first her advances were met with rebuff; 
then gradually, seeing how attentive and full 
of deference her cousin showed herself in 
respect to her person, the young Empress 
began to thaw; and soon a friendship, the more 
surprising that the two ladies did not seem to 
have anything whatever in common in their 
respective characters — even a close friendship — 
established itself between them, and the miser- 
able wife of Nicholas II. poured out the sorrows 
which racked her heart to the willing ears of 
Stana Leuchtenberg, who, in her turn, related 
all her own misfortunes. At last Alexandra 
interested herself so much in the welfare of this 
other victim of an unhappy marriage that she 



exerted all her influence to persuade the 
Emperor to grant her the permission to sue for 
a divorce. At the same time she apphed her- 
self to invite the Grand-Duke Nicholas as 
often as possible either at Tsarskoye Selo or at 
Livadia, and to make him meet there the 
beautiful Stana Leuchtenberg. The expected 
happened, and soon poor Madame Bourenine 
was forgotten, and the betrothal of the Em- 
press's two proteges was announced, much to 
the indignation of the man in the street, who 
did not approve of it by any means. 

The Grand-Duke Nicholas was in his way 
just as ambitious a man as the fair Montenegrin 
he had married. To the Crimea they both re- 
paired as soon as the divorce of the Princess 
had been pronounced. He knew very well the 
weakness which characterized his nephew, 
the Czar, and he would have dearly liked to 
become the latter's chief adviser and even his 
Prime Minister. He therefore favored his 
new wife's intimacy with the Empress, so that 
the couple were often seen at Tsarskoye Selo, 
much more so, in fact, than any other members 
of the Imperial Family. 

Now the Grand Duke had one weakness. 
He believed in spiritualism, in turning tables, 
and all kinds of superstitious extravagances. 
The Empress's leanings had also since some 
time been directed toward the same subject, 
but she had felt afraid to speak about it, 



knowing very well that this would not be looked 
upon with lenient eyes by the Czar or by his 
mother. When she discovered, however, that 
Nicholas Nicholaievitch did not feel in the 
I least ashamed if he were caught trying to 
\ communicate, through the medium of a table 
! or of a pencil, with the inhabitants of the other 
world, she confided to him her great desire to 
do the same thing. The Grand Duke replied 
that nothing could be easier. They held several 
seances to which the Emperor also came, at- 
tracted by the descriptions which his cousin 
had made to him. Nicholas Nicholaievitch 
promised the Empress that he would bring to 
her a famous French medium called Philippe, 
who would most certainly make her witness 
most extraordinary performances in regard to 
the evocation of the spirits of people dead long 

Alexandra Feodorowna was delighted. She 
had already derived great comfort from her 
intercourse with her cousins, and her feeling of 
affection for Stana had acquired considerable 
warmth since the beginning of their friendship. 
Moreover, she knew that the Grand-Duke 
Nicholas was considered the strong man in the 
Romanoff family, and she realized that to have 
him on her side would be a distinct advantage 
for her, and that his support might help her to 
overcome many difficulties. Therefore she ap- 
preciated very much all the acts of attention 



which both Stana and her husband were fond 
of pouring upon her. When Nicholas told her 
that he would gratify her wish to see a real 
medium she was more than delighted. She did 
not foresee whither this fatal introduction 
was to lead her, nor realize the ill turn that her % 
cousin was doing her by giving her an op- -^ 
portunity of indulging her tastes for the 
supernatural, to which she was to owe so many 
of the misfortunes which were to assail her in 
later years, and which were to play such an 
important part in the tragedy that ended with 
her downfall. She was looking for the con- 
solation of the moment without thinking of the 
possibihty of the catastrophe of the morrow. 



THE Grand-Duke Nicholas kept his word, 
and one afternoon he brought to Tsar- 
skoye Selo the famous Philippe, about whom his 
wife had spoken so often and with such en- 
thusiasm to the young Empress. Before re- 
lating what followed upon this hasty and ill- 
advised introduction of an adventurer in the 
family circle of the Czar, it may not be out of 
place to say a few words concerning this 
personage, as well as to give a short description 
of his person. 

Philippe was a Frenchman who, if all that 
has been related about him is true, had come 
to grief in his native land, to which he had 
thought it wiser to bid good-by for a time at 
least. He had spent several years in Germany, 
studying at German universities (at least he 
said so) and had given a great deal of attention 
to occultism and everything connected with 
it. Why he came to St. Petersburg no one ever 
knew, and though he has been accused of 

having tried from the very first months of his 



arrival in Russia to get introduced to the 
Sovereigns, yet I do not personally believe in 
this part of the story, because at that time no 
one suspected Alexandra Feodorowna or Nich- 
olas 11. of being interested in the super- 
natural. What is more likely is that he only 
attempted to get acquainted with the aristo- 
cratic circles of the capital, some of which were 
known to be attracted by these manifestations 
which begin by turning tables and end in more 
or less genuine hysteria. Later on when it 
became known that the Emperor and Empress 
themselves had given a welcome to the spirit- 
ualistic doctrines which Philippe preached, it 
is probable that the idea was suggested to him, 
by people who realized what capital might be 
made out of this circumstance, that he might 
come to acquire political influence, if he would 
but make use of his science to enslave the weak 
persons who had come to believe in him. 

Personal ambition and vanity did the rest, 
combined with a good deal of German money, 
cleverly and judiciously spent in the further- 
ance of deep schemes, the real purport of which 
he was never allowed to suspect. He was en- 
couraged to consider himself as a personage of 
great importance, and one upon whose shoulders 
rested some of the responsibilities which, prop- 
erly speaking, belonged to the Czar alone. He 
was clever, bright, and assimilated very quickly 
all that he heard or saw, and knew how to turn 



to the best advantage every possible circum- 
stance with which his personal welfare or inter- 
est was connected. As soon as he found himself 
in the presence of Alexandra Feodorowna he 
\ understood how easy it would be for him to get 
hold of a mind which he judged at once, and 
this quite rightly, not to be well balanced. 
He therefore played upon it; he ministered to 
it; he took advantage of it and of its vagaries; 
and he soon acquired over the young Sovereign 
an influence such as no one before him had 
ever wielded, and such as no one in the future 
was to have, with the exception of the famous 
Raspoutine of evil memory. 

At first Philippe proceeded with great cau- 
tion — so great, indeed, as to elude even the 
suspicious eyes of the Grand-Duke Nicholas, 
who, though he had been instrumental in 
bringing this impostor to Court, yet would not 
at all have liked to see him become influential 
there, and who watched him very carefully 
during the seances which were held every 
Saturday evening at Tsarskoye Selo. Even 
the suspicious eyes of the Grand-Duke Nicholas 
could not detect anything the least dangerous 
in his manner of proceeding. Philippe acted 
the medium to perfection. He used to go into 
regular trances, during which he replied to the 
various questions put to him with more or less 
accuracy; he never could be detected, once he 

was awake again, as having the slightest 




knowledge or remembrance of what had taken 
place while he had been asleep. Several times 
he prophesied with such exactitude that it 
seemed marvelous. 

On one of these occasions he announced to 
the small circle assembled to listen to him in 
the Empress's boudoir that a serious mis- 
fortune was threatening the State through the 
death of one of its most important functionaries. 
He was still plunged in the hypnotic sleep dur- 
ing which he made this startling announcement 
when Count Lamsdorff, who occupied the 
position of Under Secretary of State for 
Foreign Affairs, arrived at Tsarskoye Selo and 
asked to be received by the Emperor on urgent 
and important business. He had come to 
communicate to the Monarch the news of the 
sudden death that same evening of the Minister 
for Foreign Affairs, Count Mourawieff. Of 
course this set the seal to Philippe's reputation 
as a prophet. Afterward some meddlesome 
people assumed that he had become aware of 
the sad event before he had left St. Petersburg 
to proceed to the Imperial country Palace by 
one of those singular accidents which happen 
sometimes in life, and that he had very in- 
telligently made use of this knowledge during 
the trance in which he had pretended to be 
plunged. True or not, the story circulated 
freely, and was repeated everywhere, but the 
people who ought to have been the most in- 



tcrested in it did not, of course, hear it. 
On the contrary, the influence of the impostor 
was considerably strengthened by the incident, 
even in regard to the Grand-Duke Nicholas, 
who from that moment began himself to con- 
sult Philippe in various matters. Then the 
Grand Duke had to leave for the Crimea, 
where he usually spent part of the year, on 
account of the health of the Grand Duchess, 
which had never been of the strongest, and he 
left Philippe in possession of the field. 

In spite of Nicholas Nicholaievitch's ab- 
sence, the seances with the medium continued, 
and they became even longer and more frequent 
than had been the case before. The Empress 
developed more and more interest in their 
progress, and at last one day, when Philippe 
asked her whether she would not try to be 
sent to sleep by him in order to get rid of the 
cruel headaches from which she suffered, she 
did not object; on the contrary, expressed 
herself as quite willing to make the experiment. 
Philippe, however, insisted on one condition, 
which was that he should be left alone with her 
while it proceeded. 

Here comes the surprising part of this 
singular business. Instead of protesting against 
this pretension of the adventurer, Alexandra 
Feodorowna accepted it as a matter of course, 
and, what is more surprising even, she induced 
the Czar to give his consent. Philippe sent her 



to sleep, with the result that her headaches 
really improved and that she began to get into 
the habit of talking with him, either willingly 
or unwillingly, about all the events of her 
daily life and of consulting him whenever she 
thought that she found herself confronted by 
any difficulty. 

She confided to him — what he knew already 
— her passionate desire to become the mother 
of a son, as well as the many disillusions of her 
married life. Philippe encouraged her, and he 
was the first one who suggested to her the 
advisability of taking an interest in public 
affairs, instead of holding herself aloof from 
them, and to point out to her the necessity 
which existed for her, in order to consolidate 
her personal position, to try and acquire some 
influence over her husband's mind, and in this 
way to eliminate that of the Empress Dowager. 
When Alexandra Feodorowna protested, the 
adventurer declared to her that he had been 
sent from heaven to come to her help, that 
it had been suggested to him by the invisible 
spirits which always inspired him to go to 
Russia and to give her the benefit of his ex- 
perience so as to deliver her from her numerous 

When she declared that she understood noth- 
ing about politics, he replied that it was her 
duty to learn, and that if she did not find any 
one in Russia willing to teach her, there was 
7 93 


her own family in Germany who would be but 
too glad to come to her rescue, together with 
their knowledge of the art of government and 
of handling men and facts. He added that 
this was the more indispensable that she was 
about to give birth at last to the son she had 
been longing for since so many years, and that 
this son would grow to be an honor to her, as 
well as the greatest Sovereign Russia had ever 

Poor infatuated Alexandra believed the 
adventurer, believed in him so thoroughly that 
she imagined that she was really about to 
become a mother once more, and solemnly an- 
nounced the fact to the Emperor and to the 
Imperial Family. 

Great preparations were made for the auspi- 
cious event, and once more the hopes that 
Nicholas II. might have at last an Heir to his 
Throne and Crown were awakened. It is re- 
lated that everything had been got ready, 
that even the guns which were to announce 
the birth of a new memxber of the Romanoff 
dynasty had been placed on the ramparts of 
the fortress of SS. Peter and Paul to be fired as 
soon as the event had taken place, when the 
suspicions of the Empress Dowager were 
awakened by the attitude of her daughter-in- 
law as well as by her physical appearance. She 
began to watch her, and to do so with the more 
care. The time for the latter's presumed con- 



finement had passed without that confinement 
having occurred. Alexandra Feodorowna was 
observed to be in tears, and her nervous 
condition became almost alarming, but she 
refused to see a doctor, and declared that she 
felt sure she would be better as soon as the 
suspense under which she was laboring was 
over. She remained long hours closeted alone 
with Philippe, who seemed to be the only man 
capable of bringing some calm to her over- 
excited system. 

Some member of the Court took upon him- 
self the task of writing to the Grand-Duke 
Nicholas Nicholaievitch in the Crimea, ad- 
vising him that something had gone wrong 
with the Empress, and that Philippe was con- 
cerned in it. One must give the Grand Duke 
his due. He had never meant any harm to his 
cousin's wife when he had brought the impostor 
to Court. As we have seen, the latter had been 
most careful in his whole demeanor while the 
Grand Duke had remained at hand to control 
his conduct and his actions. This did not pre- 
vent him from rushing back to St. Peters- 
burg as soon as he heard of the strange doings 
which were shaking the equanimity of the in- 
habitants of Tsarskoye Selo. He had no 
sooner seen the Emperor and the Empress 
than he guessed what had really occurred. He 
forthwith proceeded to tell the Monarch that 
the medical attendants of Alexandra Feodo- 



rowna must see and examine her, whether she 
liked it or not, because her state of health was 
a question which did not interest her alone, 
but was of the utmost importance to the 
whole country as well as to the dynasty. He 
hinted at certain gossip which was going 
about, to the effect that it was the intention 
of the Empress to palm off a supposed son on 
her husband and on his family. Altogether 
he spoke so strongly that Nicholas II. became 
seriously alarmed, and for once in his life 
asserted his authority and compelled his wife 
to submit to a medical examination. 

The result stupefied him as well as other 
people, because it was ascertained that the 
hopes of motherhood of Alexandra Feodorowna 
had only existed in her imagination ; that there 
was no prospect whatever of her giving to 
Russia that Heir for whose advent the whole 
country was so eager. Of course the scandal 
was great, though an attempt was made to 
soften it by the publication of an official 
bulletin stating that an unfortunate accident 
had destroyed the hopes of the Imperial 
Family. For those who had perforce to become 
aware of the true circumstances of this whole 
adventure, the Empress remained under the 
shadow of a ridicule which was to cling to her 
for a long time and was not forgotten even 
when the present war broke out. 

The Grand-Duke Nicholas had a stormy 



interview with Philippe. The impostor pre- 
tended that he was not to blame, that the 
Empress had misunderstood him altogether, 
and that he, together with the rest of the world, 
had honestly believed in her supposed hopes of 
maternity. But in the mean while it had been 
discovered that during the seances which he 
had held at Tsarskoye Selo he had mesmerized 
Alexandra Feodorowna, and abused the con- 
fidence she had reposed in him by trying to 
worm out of her State secrets she was believed 
to know. The Grand Duke kicked the man 
out of the Palace, and told him that if he ever 
dared to set his foot in it again he would have 
him sent to Siberia under escort. He pro- 
ceeded to acquaint the Emperor with all that 
he had discovered and to request the latter to 
issue orders for the expulsion from Russia of 
the impostor who had thrown so much ridicule 
on him as well as on the whole dynasty, who 
had acquired, thanks to his underhand ma- 
neuvers, such a disastrous influence over the 
mind of his Imperial Consort. 

Philippe disappeared and was never seen any 
more. No one knew what happened to him, 
or where he was sent, and no one troubled. I 
He had been a nine days' wonder and he sank , 
into oblivion, but the Empress's mad infatua- . 
tion for him was not forgotten so easily. The 
more so because she did not attempt to hide 
her grief at his removal, and bitterly re- 



preached the Grand-Duke Nicholas for his 
interference in a matter which, as she de- 
clared, did not concern him. Angry words 
were exchanged and the old intimacy which 
had existed between the Grand-Duchess Stana, 
her husband, and Alexandra Feodorowna not 
only came to an end, but was replaced by a 
hatred the more bitter that it had perforce 
to be concealed under the veil of politeness and 
amiability. The Empress's nature, as we know 
already, was essentially a vindictive one, and 
the insult, as she considered it, to which she had 
been subjected on the part of Nicholas Nicho- 
laievitch was to be avenged by her many years 
later on the day when, thanks to her and to her 
new favorite, Raspoutine, he was deprived of 
his position as Commander-in-chief of the 
Russian armies in the field. 



AFTER the disastrous Philippe incident, 
l\ the character of the Empress Alexandra 
changed considerably. She became a sullen, 
morose, melancholy woman, with a grudge 
against the world in general and the people 
with whom she lived in particular. Her 
sisters-in-law, the Grand-Duchess Xenia Alex- 
androwna and the Grand-Duchess Olga of 
Oldenburg, tried to come to her help and to 
enliven her by attempting to bring her out of 
the solitude in which she shut herself up, and 
if she would only have responded to these 
efforts it is possible that the whole course of 
her life might have run differently. But the 
Empress persisted in seeing enemies in every 
one of her relatives, and, instead of trying to 
break through this wall of hostility with which 
she believed herself surrounded, she used all 
her powers of persuasion to induce her husband 
to take the same attitude of antagonism in 



regard to his family which she had adopted 
herself. Of course this was not forgiven her. 

Nicholas II. 's sisters, who loved him dearly, 
were affronted when they discovered that their 
former intimate relations with their brother 
had come to an end, and that for some reason 
or other he looked upon them with suspicious 
eyes. Xenia simply shrugged her shoulders, 
and, being very wisely advised by her husband, 
the Grand-Duke Alexander Michaylovitch, 
who, like all the members of that branch of 
the Romanoff family, was exceedingly intelli- 
gent, refrained from saying anything. But Olga, 
who was of a more enterprising turn of mind, 
accosted the Czar one day and talked to him 
quite seriously about the conduct of the 
Empress, pointing out to him the harm which 
she was doing him by her rudeness toward the 
members of the Imperial Family, and expressing 
the conviction that times were sufficiently 
serious. This was during the Japanese war. 
The Emperor listened to her, as he listened to 
everybody who spoke to him, with courtesy 
and attention, but the only reply which she 
could obtain from him was to the effect that 
the Empress was in a bad state of health, that 
her nerves were quite unstrung, and that it 
would be wrong to take anything she said or 
did too seriously. 

"But you are not nervous or ill," exclaimed 
the Grand Duchess. "How does it come, then, 



that you avoid us, your sisters, and even our 
mother just as much as does your wife. What 
have we done to you, except to love you, for 
you to treat us as if we were strangers?" 

Nicholas II. pulled his mustache, but would ; 
not explain himself further, and Olga Alex- ] 
androwna had to own herself baffled. 

The Empress heard of this conversation 
and it did not reconcile her to her sisters-in-law. 
She was in that morbid state of mind which I 
gives an undue importance to the smallest in- 
cident which would not arrest for five minutes | 
the attention of any normal person. The 
predisposition to insanity which existed in the 
Hesse-Darmstadt family had probably some- 
thing to do with her condition, because she 
most certainly suffered from the mania of 
persecution; being a Sovereign, and a powerful 
one into the bargain, she imagined that the best 
use she could make of her unlimited power 
was to crush those in whom she persisted in 
seeing enemies bent on her destruction. 

Rumors had reached her ears that some 
members of the Imperial Family (it had been 
the Grand-Duke Nicholas Nicholaievitch, in 
fact) had said that her place ought to be in a 
convent rather than on the Throne, and she had 
immediately made out of the remark a desire 
on the part of her kinsman to shut her up in a 
monastery, as had been done in the Middle Ages 
with other Russian Czarinas, so as to give the 



Emperor the possibility to marry another 
woman who could bear him a son. 

The supposition was a preposterous one, 
because such an idea had never crossed the 
Grand Duke's mind, but it could not be driven 
away out of the imagination of Alexandra Feo- 
dorowna. Hence her continual efforts to 
estrange her husband from his people, and to 
keep him entirely in her own hands, far away 
from any influence hostile to herself or to her 
daughters. There was, after all, some method 
in her madness. As things turned out, she was 
given several opportunities to exert her vengeful 
feelings in regard to the Imperial Family by the 
conduct of a few of its members. 

I will here mention briefly two or three 
occasions when her intervention caused any 
amount of trouble and brought upon her head 
storms of abuse and indignation. The first one 
was the morganatic marriage of the Grand- 
Duke Paul, the Emperor's uncle. This event 
was brought about principally through the 
want of tact and the stupidity of the people 
concerned in it, and it would have been far 
better for the Empress not to have interested 
herself in it at all, considering the fact that the 
personages concerned in this affair were cer- 
tainly beneath her notice. 

The Grand Duke had been upon terms of 
intimate friendship with a lady very well 
known in social circles of St. Petersburg, the 



wife of one of the officers of the regiment of 
which he was the commander. The thing had 
been going on for a number of years, and society 
had turned away its head and affected not to 
notice it ; the more so that the husband of the 
lady in question seemed to ignore it, and to 
keep his eyes firmly closed as to her indis- 
cretions. But one fine day the Grand Duke 
thought to make to Madame Pistolkors a 
present of some jewels which had belonged to 
his mother first, and to his wife afterward, and 
which had been locked up in a safe since the 
latter's death. This again might have passed 
unnoticed, had Madame Pistolkors not thought 
to put them on at a Court reception to which 
she was bidden. The Empress Dowager, who 
was present, recognized the unlucky ornaments, 
and, burning with wrath, forgot for once her 
strained relations with her daughter-in-law, 
and went up to her to draw her notice to the 
"scandal," as she termed it. Alexandra Feo- 
dorowna, as we know, had never been a tactful 
woman. She called a chamberlain and ordered 
him to invite Madame Pistolkors to leave the 
Palace immediately, and to escort her to her 
carriage. The next day Colonel Pistolkors, 
finding that matters had gone too far, intro- 
duced an action for divorce against his wife, and 
the latter, shunned by all her former friends, 
utterly disgraced before the world, had to flee 

abroad to hide her diminished head and her 



lost social prestige, in the solitude of a small 
Italian town. But then the unexpected, or 
rather the expected, occurred. The Grand-Dukc 
Paul took the only course left to him com- 
patible with his honor as a gentleman. He 
followed the lady to Italy and married her 
there without asking anybody's leave, to the 
general scandal of St. Petersburg society, who 
declared that the incident with the diamond 
necklace that had been the primary cause of 
the catastrophe had been artfully engineered 
by its heroine in view of the result which was 
ultimately achieved. 

The Emperor was furious ; his mother equally 
so, but it is not likely that anything would 
have been done, or in general any notice taken 
of the action of the Grand Duke, had it not 
been for the intervention of the young Empress, 
who insisted on her uncle-by-marriage being 
, deprived of his rank in the army and exiled 
abroad. It was the first time that she had the 
opportunity to satisfy her instincts of hatred 
and of revenge in regard to a member of her 
husband's family, and she took a special de- 
light, not only in doing so, but also in letting 
the world know that such was the case. Fate, 
for once kind to her, had delivered one of her 
enemies into her hands, and she was but too 
ready to seize this occasion for scoring her 
personal real or imaginary wrongs. 

A few years later another incident of the 


same kind afforded her a second opportunity 
of exercising her powers of retaliation in re- 
gard to a Romanoff. The eldest son of the 
Grand-Duke Wladimir, the young Grand-Duke 
Cyril, the same who had nearly perished during 
the Japanese war in the catastrophe of the 
ship Petropawlosky married also without law 
or leave his first cousin, the divorced Grand 
Duchess of Hesse, the former sister-in-law of 
the Empress. The latter had always hated her, 
ever since the day that she had been obliged 
to play second fiddle to her at Darmstadt, and 
she had done her best to bring about an 
estrangement between her and her husband. 
This had not been difficult, because anything 
more brutal than the Grand Duke of Hesse 
had never existed. His young wife had had 
more to bear than the public knew, or that she 
cared herself to relate, but her own conduct 
had always been beyond reproach, and she had 
carried herself with remarkable tact and dignity. 
When at last she obtained her divorce, her only 
child, a little girl, was not even left entirely 
in her custody, but had to spend half of the 
year with the father. The latter did not well 
know what to do with the baby and most 
probably would never have availed himself 
of his rights had not his sister, the Empress 
Alexandra, interfered and persuaded him to 
confide to her own care the small Elisabeth, 
knowing very well that this would be about the 



most painful thing that could happen to the 
divorced Grand Duchess. 

In accordance with this wish, the Grand 
Duke of Hesse brought his daughter to Spala 
in Poland, where the Russian Imperial Family 
were spending the autumn. The child sick- 
ened a few days later, and soon her condition 
became desperate. The doctors declared that 
the mother ought to be warned and asked to 
come, the more so that the little girl kept 
continually crying for her. But to this the 
Empress would never agree, until she knew 
it was positively too late. At last a telegram 
was sent to the Grand-Duchess Victoria 
Melita; it preceded but by a few hours the 
one advising her that her journey would be 
useless, as the end had come. One may 
imagine the feelings of the heartbroken mother 
and the natural resentment she must have felt 
at this piece of heartlessness on the part of 
her former sister-in-law. For a long time she 
would not be comforted, but at last she was 
induced to listen to her cousin, the Grand- 
Duke Cyril, and she married him at Tegernsee 
in Bavaria, without the Czar's consent to this 
union having been so much as asked. 

The rage of the Empress would be difficult 
to describe. Here was the sister-in-law whom 
she had hated for so many years the wife of a 
Russian Grand Duke, and of one, too, whose 

position put him very near to the succession to 

1 06 


the Throne. One of those fits of hysterics to 
which Alexandra used to give way whenever 
she was crossed followed upon the news, and 
she insisted on the Czar declaring that he 
would never recognize the marriage and exiling 
the young couple. But here she met with an 
unexpected rebuff. Cyril's father, the Grand- 
Duke Wladimir, was still alive at the time, and 
he was not a man to endure any slight offered 
either to him or to his children. He sought 
the Emperor and in a stormy interview re- 
minded the latter that his new daughter-in-law 
was also the granddaughter of the Czar 
Alexander II., and asked him what he thought 
the latter would have said had he seen a 
Princess with Romanoff blood in her veins 
banished from the Russian Court. Nicholas 
was scared, and revoked the orders he had 
issued a few hours before, insisting only on the 
newly married pair not coming back to Russia 
for a few months, after which he left them free 
to do what they liked. 

Alexandra Feodorowna was defeated, and 
this did not improve by any means her temper 
nor her feelings in regard to the Imperial 
Family. She then bethought herself to win over 
to her side that same Grand-Duke Paul against 
whom she had been so incensed at the time 
he had married Madame Pistolkors. It must 
here be added that one of the reasons for her 

change of opinion in that respect lay in the 



fact that she had by that time struck up the 
extraordinary intimacy with Madame Wyru- 
bewa which was to have such sinister con- 
sequences later on, and that this lady had 
always been one of the closest friends of the 
morganatic wife of Paul Alexandrowitch. The 
latter was therefore invited to return to Rus- 
sia and given to understand that it depended 
on him to be reinstated in favor, if only he 
would take the Empress's part against their 
other relatives. Of course he promised he 
would do so, and we shall see presently what 
resulted of this intrigue in the years which 

Cyril and his wife returned to Tsarskoye 
Selo and to St. Petersburg in due course. 
They were received by both the Czar and 
Czarina coldly but civilly. Alexandra, how- 
ever, persisted in her determination to keep 
her former sister-in-law at arm's-length, and 
the relations between the two ladies remained 
official, without the least attempt at any 
intimacy, until the Revolution sent the Em- 
press into exile and threw into the arms of 
its leaders both Cyril Wladimirowitch and 
Victoria Melita. 

It was known already at the time that one 
of the persons who had the most contributed 
to excite Alexandra Feodorowna against her 
cousins had been Madame Wyrubewa. The 
latter was a new importation at Court, who, 



thanks to a very clever piece of strategy, had 
won the good graces of the Empress, whom she 
had met under rather peculiar circumstances. 
She was the daughter of a certain Mr. Tanieiew, 
who occupied important official functions at 
Court, and she had contrived to let the Czarina 
hear, through her father, that she was engaged 
in the occupation of writing a history of Hesse, 
which she meant to present to a public-school 
library or other institution of the same kind. 
Alexandra was immediately interested and 
asked to see the work. She sent for Madame 
Wyrubewa and soon the latter became her 
friend and confidante. 

Madame Wyrubewa knew very well what 
she was about, even before circumstances 
turnad out favorably in regard to her views 
and designs. She fully meant to become the 
Gray Eminence of the Empress, and, like the 
famous Pere Joseph of Richelieu, to rule her, 
and through her the whole of Russia. We 
shall presently see how she proceeded to reach 
her aim, which in the mean while she knew very 
well she could never attain so long as there 
were near the Czar people whose close re- 
lationship with him allowed them to speak 
quite frankly with him on all subjects, even 
on that of the caprices and extraordinary be- 
havior of his wife. 

Anna Wyrubewa contrived to create a 
deadly feud between the Imperial pair and 
8 109 


the whole clan of the Grand-Duke Wladimir's 
family, who in a certain way was most powerful. 
The other members of the family were not 
dangerous in so far that the only thing they 
aspired to was to be left severely alone, and 
that they never cared to trouble with their 
presence the Emperor and Empress, for whom 
their dislike was only equaled by their con- 
tempt. There was only to be feared the Grand- 
Duke Michael, the only brother of Nicholas 
II. and his Heir so long as the Empress had not 
given birth to a son. It was therefore against 
him that the new favorite turned her attention 
and against him that she excited the revengeful 
feelings of Alexandra Feodorowna. 

What I wish to point out at present is that 
one of the secrets of the extraordinary influence 
which Anna Wyrubewa acquired over the mind 
of her Imperial mistress lay in the extreme 
ability which she displayed in appealing to all 
the bad sentiments of the latter, under the 
pretext of pitying her, and condoling with her 
on all the real or imaginary troubles of her life. 
She soon made herself indispensable to the 
Sovereign, who liked to visit her in her house, 
where she knew that no one would interfere 
with her and where she could meet the few 
people with whom she thoroughly sympathized, 
who in their turn were but too glad to have an 
opportunity of seeing almost in tete-a-tete the 
otherwise unapproachable Empress of Russia. 



The small drawing-room full of flowers, 
where Alexandra Feodorowna was to spend so 
many happy and peaceful hours, and which 
was to witness in time such memorable events, 
filled itself with all manner of people, who, by 
common accord, never spoke of having been 
admitted within its precincts, or of having met 
one another there. It became also the meeting- 
place of a party, small at first, important later 
on; not, perhaps, on account of its number, but 
by the character of those who constituted it; 
a party that came to be known by the name of 
the "Empress's Party/' It was to number 
among its adherents men like Mr. Sturmer, the 
latter's secretary, the too-famous Manassa- 
vitch-Maniuloff, Mr. Protopopoff, and, last 
but not least, the vagrant preacher who for a 
short time was to be the dominant figure in 
Russian politics, Grigory Raspoutine. 



clever woman, and an ambitious one 
into the bargain. Her ambition, however, was 
absolutely different from what might have 
been expected of a person brought up in the 
atmosphere of a Court and having been, if not 
actually mixed up, at least well posted, thanks 
to the position occupied by her father and 
family. She knew all the intrigues which 
always flourished and made the Court of St. 
Petersburg such a slippery ground for those 
who did not possess sufficient support to 
hold their own amid the rivalries and gossip 
which constituted the daily existence of the 
Imperial Family and of their friends. She 
did not care in the least for money, having got 
enough for her wants, nor for rank or position, 
which she knew too well could be lost or ob- 
tained according to circumstances, and which, 
besides, were never sufficient in Russia to make 
or mar an individual whose social worth 
depended only on the manner in which he was 



viewed by the Sovereign — the words of Paul I., 
when he said that the only persons deserving of 
any notice in his Empire were those "to whom 
he spoke, and only while he spoke with them/' 
These words, about which one had laughed 
all through the three preceding reigns, had 
come to be absolutely true during that of 
Nicholas II., when favoritism assumed hitherto 
unknown proportions, as none knew better 
than Anna Wyrubewa, whose quick wit and 
ever-alert intelligence discovered very soon 
that she would become a far more important 
personage if she remained in the background 
content with being the Empress's friend, if 
she did not work toward obtaining for herself 
or for her husband a Court appointment or a 
lucrative official post. She aspired to some- 
thing much more tangible, and at the same time 
much more amusing. She wanted to rule the 
Empress, and through her the whole of the vast 
Russian Empire. This young and delicate 
woman had the head of a statesman, and she 
might have risen to unheard-of might if she 
had not allowed those superstitious leanings 
which are inherent in the Russian character 
in so many cases to get the upper hand of her 
reason and lead her, together with her Imperial 
mistress, into the manifold mistakes which 
culminated in the catastrophe that destroyed 
the Throne of the Romanoffs. 
At the same time Madame Wyrubewa sin- 


cerely loved the Empress. About this there 
is no doubt. She began by feehng sorry for the 
sad, miserable woman, so lonely amid her 
luxury and splendor, who stood friendless and 
defenseless among implacable enemies. She 
did not stop to consider whether this situation 
had arisen out of the personal fault of Alex- 
andra Feodorowna, or out of other circum- 
stances. She simply saw the fact, and hearing, 
as she did, all the different rumors concerning 
the Czarina which were going about in St. 
Petersburg society, she conceived the idea of 
coming to her help, and trying to be to her that 
friend in need she had never found since she 
came to Russia in quest of a Crown. This 
latter had certainly turned out to be, for her, 
one of thorns ! 

When her relations with the unfortunate 
Sovereign in whose life she was to play such an 
important part began, Anna Wyrubewa did 
not look beyond this simple fact, finding out 
how she could best be useful to her. The whole 
of St. Petersburg was discussing the question 
of a possible divorce which would send 
Alexandra Feodorowna into a convent, and 
bets had been made in select circles of Court 
society as to whether or not this would really 
take place. It was known that her relations 
with the Emperor were anything but tender, 
and that numerous quarrels had taken place 
between them. 



Nicholas II., after an interval of several years, 
had resumed his former relations with Made- 
moiselle Krzesinska, and the dancer was con- 
tributing perhaps more than she herself sus- 
pected to sow dissension in the Imperial 
menage. The Empress, as we know, was 
exceedingly proud, and as soon as she perceived, 
which did not take very long, that her husband 
was seeking amusement outside his home, she 
retired once more in haughty silence into the 
solitude of her own apartments and refused 
to fulfil the social duties required from her 
by her position, to the disgust of her friends 
and the joy of her numerous enemies. Matters 
had got to such a pass that sometimes days 
used to go by without the Czar and Czarina 
exchanging one single word beyond what was 
absolutely necessary during meals, and even 
these were not always taken together, Alex- 
andra Feodorowna often putting forward her 
health as an excuse for having her dinner or 
lunch served in her own apartments. She was 
simply playing into her enemies' hands, and, 
whether consciously or unconsciously, herself 
tightening around her neck the rope which 
had been put within her reach. 

It was this that made Anna Wyrubewa de- 
termined to come to the help of the unfortunate 
Sovereign whom she saw going with rapid 
steps toward ultimate destruction. She tried 
to reason with her, to speak to her of the 



necessity of not giving up the game, and of her 
imperative duty to remain upon good terms 
with her husband, so as to be able to bear him 
the son whose absence contributed so much to 
the bad relations that had taken the place of 
the affectionate ones which had undoubtedly 
existed at one time between her and Nicholas 
II. But the Empress would not listen, de- 
claring that she was tired of always giving 
birth to girls, whose advent into the world only 
added to her unhappiness, and that, besides, 
she was sick of a husband whose deplorable 
weakness of character made him an easy prey 
for the first intriguing person who approached 
him. The only thing which she wished was to 
return to Darmstadt, together with her daugh- 
ters ; but as she knew very well that she would 
never be allowed to take them out of Russia, 
she preferred to be sent to a convent, where she 
could end her days in prayer, and where she 
could bring up her children without any in- 
terference from the outside world. The Em- 
peror could divorce her and marry again; she 
did not care; all she wished for was a quiet 
life, far from those detestable Court intrigues 
that had wrecked all the hopes of happiness 
she had ever had. 

Anna Wyrubewa listened, and very gently 
applied herself to reason with the sorely tried 
woman. She told her that it would be un- 
worthy to throw up the game, but, on the 



contrary, that her duty toward her daughters 
required her to fight vigorously against destiny 
represented by the Empress Dowager, the 
Grand Dukes, the Court, and the nation, who 
judged her according to what it had been told 
of her. She repeated to her that if once she 
had a son her position would change im- 
mediately, and the affection of her husband 
would return to her, together with the popu- 
larity she had lost in the country. Alexandra 
only replied by floods of tears and complaints 
that she did not know how such a desirable 
event could happen. She loathed the Emperor 
and she knew that he did not care for her; 
that, in fact, no one cared for her; and that was 
the calamity which to her sensitive heart ap- 
peared the most terrible one among all those 
that had befallen her. 

Madame Wyrubewa was at her wits' end, 
but she did not despair. She felt, however, 
that she could not cope alone with the many 
difficulties which she found in her way, and so 
she looked round her to see whether she could 
not find any one in whom she could confide, and 
from whom she might, in her turn, seek advice. 

I don't know whether I have related that the 
lady had always been a favorite in society. 
At that time she was going out a great deal, 
which was not the case later on, when her whole 
position changed and when she became the 
Empress's principal confidante, and had per- 


force to live in retirement. But twelve or 
fifteen years ago her house in Tsarskoye Selo 
was the meeting-place of a select circle, and 
especially of the officers of the regiments con- 
stituting the garrison of the Imperial Residence, 
who liked to drop in of an evening, and find a 
pleasant hostess, together with an excellent 
supper which was always waiting for them. 
Mr. Wyrubew, too, was a general favorite, 
and altogether the little house occupied by 
the young couple was very popular with the 
inhabitants of the Imperial Borough. 

Among the special friends of Anna Wyru- 
bewa was a dashing officer called Colonel 
Orloff^. He had a commission in the regiment 
of Lancers of the Guard, the chief of whom was 
the Empress Alexandra. A wonderfully hand- 
some man, he was also clever, brave, chivalrous, 
and altogether different from his comrades 
in so far that he had never cared for the 
boisterous pleasures which made up their 
daily existence. One day as he was going 
to call on Madame Wyrubewa he saw the 
Czarina leave her house in a state of evident 
agitation. Alexandra was alone and on foot, 
having walked from the Palace to her friend's 
house, and the Colonel, who, on recognizing 
the Sovereign, had respectfully stood aside, 
was much surprised to notice her red eyes and 
her general attitude of dejection. He waited 
until she had disappeared among the trees in 



the park and then rang the door-bell of Madame 

He found her just as agitated as the Empress, 
and when he asked her what was the matter 
he was much surprised to see her begin to weep. 

She related to him that she was terribly 
anxious about the fate of the unlucky Consort 
of Nicholas II., whose safety and person were 
threatened as much by her own stupidity as 
by the intrigues of her numerous enemies. 
Colonel Orloff listened in silence. He, too, was 
troubled by this unexpected revelation; the 
more so that for years he had nourished a 
secret adoration and worship for Alexandra 
Feodorowna, which he had hoped no one had, 
or would ever discover, and the news of her 
danger was terrible for him. His emotion was 
so evident that Anna noticed it at once, and 
an idea which was yet vague and misty began 
to take shape in her active brain, and induced 
her to seek the help of this unexpected ally 
whom circumstances and accident had brought 
to her. She started to discuss the situation 
seriously with the young officer, and together 
they determined to try and save the Empress, 
even against her own will, from the snares into 
which she was walking with an unconsciousness 
which was almost too pitiful to look upon 
otherwise than with a wild desire to snatch her 
away from the abyss whither she was sinking 
with what promised to become rapidity. 



Colonel Orloff had a wonderful talent for 
music. On the very next day following upon 
the conversation which I have related, Madame 
Wyrubewa asked him to call on her in the 
afternoon, and to perform for her some melo- 
dies of Chopin which she knew were the 
favorite ones of the Empress. She also begged 
the latter to allow the Colonel to play for 
them, saying that it might interest her to 
hear him. Alexandra consented and, as in the 
case of David and Saul, she found a solace 
in listening to the wonderful music. Very 
soon she got into the habit of dropping in 
at her friend's whenever she had a spare mo- 
ment, and then Orloff would be telephoned 
for, and he used to come and hold the two 
ladies under the spell of his rare talent. Of 
course no one was admitted to these meetings 
and no one knew anything about them. At 
that time people did not trouble about the 
Empress of All the Russias, and her actions 
did not offer the slightest interest to any one, 
to the Emperor least of all. 

Colonel Orloff was something in character 
like the famous Count Fersen, the admirer 
and devoted friend of Marie Antoinette. He, 
too, had conceived a passion for his Sovereign, 
in whom he only saw the unfortunate, ill- 
treated, and misunderstood woman, and he 
conceived the thought to sacrifice everything 
for her service, to try and save her from the 

1 20 


perils with which he saw her surrounded. 
And gradually, when his relations with her 
became more real and intimate, he, too, began 
to speak to her in the same sense as Anna 
Wyrubewa had done, of the necessity of trying 
to reconcile herself with her husband so as to 
be able to bring into the world that Heir after 
whom the whole of Russia had been longing for 
the last nine years or so. 

One day Madame Wyrubewa, whether ac- 
cidentally or intentionally, left the Colonel 
alone with the Czarina. He saw his oppor- 
tunity, and began more seriously than he had 
ever done before to implore her to make an 
effort to save herself. The young man grew 
quite eloquent, until Alexandra, moved beyond 
words, started weeping in real earnest and 
asked him how he could suggest the possibility 
of a reconciliation between her and the Czar, in 
view of his own feelings for her, the nature of 
which she had guessed for some time. To her 
surprise, the Colonel fell on his knees before her 
and told her that it was because of these very 
feelings that he had felt himself justified in 
speaking to her as he had done. He was noth- 
ing beside her, and all he could do was to 
worship her from afar, and to try to come to 
her help, both for her own sake and for that of 
their country, that required from them both 
the supreme sacrifice he was asking of her. 
For once the cold and haughty Czarina was 



startled out of her usual indifference, and 
when they parted she had promised her 
devoted knight and admirer that, though she 
might not make an effort to win back the love 
of her husband, yet she would not repulse him, 
as she had done lately, if he made any at- 
tempt to return to her. She promised that 
on the love she owned to him that she felt for 
him, and on that of the one which they both 
had for this great Russia, which Orloff had 
never forgotten even amid the fervor of his 
passion. When Madame Wyrubewa came 
back to the room where she had left her two 
friends, she saw that something had happened, 
but she was far too clever to question them, 
and when the Empress said it was time for her 
to go home she simply offered to accompany 
her, hoping that something might be told to 
her during their walk back to the Palace. For 
once Alexandra was silent, and parted from 
Anna without betraying anything of what had 
passed during that half-hour when she had been 
left alone with the first man who had aroused 
some interest in her otherwise impassible 

Colonel Orloff was not so discreet, in the 
sense that he related to his friend all that had 
taken place between him and the Czarina — 
related it with such agitation and poignant 
regret that she saw at once that she was 
in the presence of a feeling capable of driv- 



ing the man who was under its influence to 
any heights of personal sacrifice. She then 
communicated to him a plan out of which she 
hoped to find the solution of the troubles 
against which the Empress was struggling so 
bravely, but apparently so uselessly. It was 
a daring plan and it required much daring to 
accomplish it; but the future of the woman 
they both loved was at stake, and she thought 
they ought to risk it. 

Nicholas II. was fond of Colonel Orloff, 
whom he had recently appointed one of his 
aides-de-camp. The Sovereign liked from 
time to time to go and dine or have supper at 
the mess of some regiment or other of the 
Guards, either at Tsarskoye Selo, Peterhof, or 
St. Petersburg. These entertainments used 
to last generally into the small hours of the 
morning, and ill-natured people said that the 
Czar when in this company of young men, 
which was more congenial to him than the one 
he was compelled to see generally, allowed 
himself to have more glasses of wine than were 
good for him, and to indulge in subjects of 
conversation he would have done better to 
avoid. Whether this was true or not, it is of 
course difficult to say, but the fact remains 
that Nicholas liked these "family festivities," 
as he used to call them, and that he always re- 
turned home in a good temper after having 
attended them. Colonel Orloff was aware of 



this weakness of the Sovereign, and one day he 
proposed to him to go and hear some regimental 
singers at the mess of his own Lancer regiment, 
stationed at Peterhof, the same regiment of 
which the Empress was Colonel - in - chief. 
Nicholas ll. consented and a day was fixed. 
On the morning of that day Colonel Orloff 
sought Madame Wyrubewa ; the two had a long 
conversation, the result of which was their read- 
ing together a certain page in French history 
relating how Louis XIII. had been compelled 
to seek the hospitality of his wife, Anne of 
Austria, on a stormy night when it had not 
been possible for him to return from Paris to 
St.-Germain, where he resided, an incident 
that had had world-wide consequences in the 
birth of the child who was to become in time 
Louis XIV. After that the Colonel returned 
to the Palace, where he was on duty that day, 
and his friend went to seek the Empress and 
to try to induce her to lend a helping hand to 
the plot which they had both engineered. 

The supper took place, and it was nearly 
dawn when the Czar left the mess of the 
Lancers of the Guard, where he declared that 
he had spent a most pleasant evening. He 
drove in a motor-car back to Tsarskoye Selo 
in a very enjoyable frame of mind, which did 
not require the encouragement of his aide-de- 
camp, who sat next to him, to become a 

boisterous one. Lots of champagne had been 



drunk during the meal, and even after, and 
when some one in the gay assembly had 
ventured to say that the only pity of the 
whole thing was that no representatives of the 
fair sex had been invited to enliven the party 
with their presence, Nicholas II. had heartily 
echoed the regret expressed by the officer in 
question. Orloff, when alone with the Sover- 
eign, had very cleverly turned the conversation 
into the same channel, and at last had wormed 
out of his Imperial Master the confession that 
he was very unhappy at the extreme coldness 
of character of his Consort, whose beauty he 
admired just as much as on the day he had 
married her. The Colonel, upon this, had 
ventured to express the conviction that this 
coldness was only assumed, and proceeded 
perhaps from jealousy more than from any- 
thing else. When at last Tsarskoye Selo was 
reached, instead of accompanying Nicholas 
to his own apartments, as it was part of his 
duties to do, he brought him to the door of 
the Empress's room, which he opened and closed 
upon him. 

The next day a pale and haggard woman 
appeared in Anna Wyrubewa's house, coming 
to seek consolation in what she considered an 
overwhelming misfortune, and while she was 
sobbing out the agony of her soul with her head 
hidden in her friend's lap, a strong man who 
had borne many a misfortune without flinching, 
9 125 


and who had stood calm and unmoved while 
his heart had been breaking, was sitting alone 
in his room, his head hidden in his hands, and 
hot tears dropping one by one between his 
fingers on the table over which he was leaning, 
in his overwhelming despair. 



AFTER a storm there comes, generally, so 
iV they say, at least, a great calm. And in 
a certain sense this happened in regard to the 
troubled mind of the Empress Alexandra. As 
time went on, she recognized the value of the 
good advice which she had received from 
Madame Wyrubewa as well as from Colonel 
Orloff. Her relations with the Czar, which 
had been more than strained for long months, 
became gradually better when she could at 
last tell him that she had once again, and this 
time without any mistake, the hope of giving 
him the Heir for which they had been longing. 
She saw his former confidence in her return, 
together with his affection; an affection to 
which she did not perhaps respond, but which 
she nevertheless appreciated, perhaps because 
she was told she ought to do so. 

The fact was that her two friends were 
doing their best to get her to take a healthier 
view of her own position than had been the 
case until then. Intrigues at the Court were 



getting worse and worse, as the various events 
which finally brought about the Japanese war 
were slowly unfolding themselves, and it be- 
came every day more important for the 
security of the Empress that she should not 
disinterest herself from all that was going on 
around her, as had been her wont, since she 
had allowed disappointment and sorrow to 
overpower her. 

It was an anxious and a critical time for 
the dynasty as well as for the country that 
was coming on, and Anna Wyrubewa with 
her clear mind was very well aware that 
such was the case. She used to hear all the 
gossip in the various circles of St. Peters- 
burg society, and she knew very well that a 
war was wished for by the enemies of the 
existing order of things. They saw in it 
the possibility of overthrowing the dynasty, as 
the mistakes inevitable in dealing with such 
a corrupt administration as the Russian one 
would appear in a new, bold light before the 
horrified eyes of the public. She was also 
perfectly aware of the growing unpopularity 
of Nicholas II., and of the way in which he 
was daily losing what still remained of the 
former short-lived aff^ection his subjects had 
felt for him. She would have liked the Em- 
press to assert herself, and to claim as her 
right to be initiated in what was going on in 

the domain of public affairs, but it was still 



too early for Alexandra to avail herself of this 
advice. The Czarina did not feel sure of her 
ground as yet, and she only replied to her 
friend's adjurations that, if she were lucky 
enough to give birth to a son, she would fol- 
low her advice to the letter; in the mean 
while she felt afraid of being snubbed by the 
Emperor, who, though he treated her with 
far more consideration than he had done for 
a long time, still kept her in total ignorance of 
all questions relating to the affairs of the State. 
On the other hand, he did not hesitate to dis- 
cuss them with his mother, the Dowager Em- 
press, and even occasionally with his sisters 
and his brother-in-law, the Grand-Duke Alex- 
ander Michaylovitch, who had always been 
his great friend and favorite. 

The delicate condition of health of Alexan- 
dra Feodorowna furnished her with the pretext 
she required to isolate herself more than ever 
from her family, and she used to spend long 
hours with Madame Wyrubewa in the latter's 
small house, and whenever she went there she 
met, as if accidentally, Colonel Orloff, whose 
faithful, devoted eyes followed her with a love 
which she could not have helped noticing, 
even if she had not been aware of its existence. 
She was a woman gifted with a very pure 
mind, given to idealize the people she cared for 
and her own feelings in regard to them. She 
soon grew to think of the young officer as of a 



kind of guardian angel sent by Providence to 
help her in the various difficulties of her daily 
existence, and with a selfishness almost touching 
in its unconsciousness she took to confiding to 
him her various doubts and perplexities, and 
to initiate him into all the details of her married 
life, together with the constant disgust and 
struggles which attended it, not suspecting 
that by doing so she was breaking the heart 
of this one faithful friend who had sacrificed 
himself so entirely to her welfare. 

In the mean while events had been rapidly 
unfolding themselves. The war with Japan 
had begun and was progressing, together with 
its long series of appalling disasters coming 
one on top of the other. Mukden had been 
fought, the Petropawlosk had gone down in 
the waves of the Pacific, with brave Admiral 
Makharoff and its whole crew of officers and 
men, and the catastrophe of Tsu Shima had 
also taken place. These had been met by the 
utter indiff^erence of Nicholas II., who had not 
even thought it worth while to interrupt the 
game of tennis he had been playing when the 
telegram with the news of this unprecedented 
misfortune had been brought to him. In the 
interior of the country trouble was also brewing. 
The Grand-Duke Sergius, the uncle of the 
Czar and the husband of the Empress's 
eldest sister, Elisabeth, had fallen under the 
bomb of an assassin in Moscow, and the 



famous Minister of the Interior, Von Plehwe, 
whose very name was a horror to all the liberal 
elements in the land, had met with the same 

It was evident that grave events were at 
hand, and that unless something was at- 
tempted to meet them the very foundations 
of the Throne might come to be shaken by 
this rising tide of discontent which threatened 
to engulf the dynasty in its waves. It was high 
time something were done, and that some one 
should interfere to save Nicholas II. from im- 
pending calamity. Who could do so better 
than his wife and the mother of his children ? 
Thus reasoned Anna Wyrubewa, and it was 
also what her friend, Colonel Orloff, thought; 
but that was not at all what was wished 
by the various other forces at work trying to 
dictate to the weak-minded Czar the conduct 
he ought to hold in the presence of these un- 
expected difficulties with which he found him- 
self confronted, to his dismay and surprise. 
There had got about among the public an 
inkling as to the possibility of the Empress 
becoming all at once a factor to be reckoned 
with in the general situation. Immediately the 
efforts of all her enemies became concentrated 
on that one point — how best to eliminate this 
new element, which they understood but too 
well would necessarily counteract their own 


A careful watch was set on the person and 
the conduct of the young Sovereign. It did 
not bring any of the hoped-for results, because 
both Anna Wyrubewa and Colonel Orloff were 
prudent people, who contrived to arrange 
matters in such a way, that no one suspected 
they used to see Alexandra Feodorowna every 
day, and who had persuaded the latter to 
resort to all kinds of precautions whenever she 
visited her friend. 

One day, however, an officer who was serving 
in that very same regiment of Lancers to which 
Colonel Orloff belonged made a playful remark 
to the effect that he was believed to be a 
favorite with the lovely and cold Czarina, who 
had never hitherto allowed her glances to fall 
on any man whatsoever. The young Colonel 
became immediately alarmed, the more 
so that he could not discover the source 
whence this piece of gossip had arisen. He 
sought Madame Wyrubewa and told her that 
he had made up his mind to ask to be trans- 
ferred to a regiment at the front, so as to put a 
quick end to any possible unpleasantness. 
She heartily agreed with him in the opinion 
that this was the best thing he could do, for 
the sake of everybody, and especially for that 
of the Empress. 

The latter had to be told of Orloff's resolu- 
tion. But when he broke to her his intention 

to request the favor of risking his life in dis- 



tant Manchuria, she gave way to a fit of 
despair that absolutely frightened her two 
devoted friends, and implored him not to 
leave her, at least not until her child had been 
born, saying with sobs and tears that she would 
never be able to undergo the trial which 
awaited her if she did not know that he was 
there, as near to her as possible, and that she 
could see him after all was over, to wish her 
joy, if the expected babe were a son, and to 
comfort her if it turned out to be another 
girl, the one thing which she feared above all 

At first the Colonel protested. He tried to 
explain to the despairing and over-excited 
woman that it was for her sake he wished to 
go away, at least for a while, and that it cost 
him more than he could say to come to such a 
resolution, but that he loved her far too much 
to let her run any risk. The Empress would 
not listen to anything, and at last she told him 
that if he went away she would consider it as 
a proof that he did not love her, and that all 
he had said to her had been nothing but 
empty phrases, such as no doubt he had re- 
peated already to many more women than he 
even cared to remember. Orloff was stung 
to the quick, but he remained, nevertheless, 
firm until Alexandra Feodorowna exclaimed 
that unless he promised her to remain by her 
side she would make a scandal and depart 



for Darmstadt, whether the Emperor allowed 
her to do so or not. Man-like, he yielded, 
without suspecting whither this weakness was 
to lead him sooner than he could imagine. 

While this drama was going on in the pretty 
little house whither Anna Wyrubewa received 
the Empress of All the Russias, unknown to the 
rest of the world, so she believed, at least, 
speculations were rife as to the eventual sex 
of the child expected by the Czar and Czarina. 
Everybody, with few exceptions, hoped that 
it would be another daughter, none more 
ardently than the Dowager Empress, who 
would have infinitely preferred the Throne 
passing to her youngest son than to any boy 
born to a daughter-in-law whom she made no 
secret of disliking, and whom she distrusted 
even more than she disliked. She realized very 
well that Alexandra Feodorowna, if she was 
the mother of an Heir to the Imperial Crown, 
would become a most important personage in 
the State, as well as in the eyes of her husband. 
This was not to be desired, in view of her strong 
German sympathies, which she had lately 
exhibited more than she had ever dared to do 

The French alliance was very popular at the 
time I am talking about, and the Empress was 
considered as its principal and most bitter 
adversary. This was one more reason for not 
wishing her to acquire suddenly an importance 



that had never been awarded to her by the 
nation since she had become its Sovereign. 

For months this kind of thing went on. 
Alexandra Feodorowna knew herself to be 
watched with anything but kind eyes, and this 
consciousness of the ill-will of which she was the 
object added to her anxiety and moral suffer- 
ings. As the weary months dragged on, she 
thought more and more of Orloff, and suddenly 
she realized that she loved him more than any 
one in the world, and she began to understand 
all that she must have cost him, in pain and 
vain regret. 

But for her, at least, consolation was at 
hand. One July morning the Imperial Family 
were called together with the principal Court 
and State functionaries in all haste to Peterhof. 
The long-expected event was at hand, and a 
few hours would decide as to the future of the 
Romanoff dynasty. People with anxious faces 
thronged the vast halls of the Palace, waiting 
for news which seemed to be very long in 

At last, just as the clock struck noon, a doctor 
entered the room, and told the assistants that 
Nicholas IL was the father of a son. 

There was one person present who listened 
to this announcement with an impassible face 
but with a breaking heart, and who could 
barely find sufficient strength to reach the 
little cottage where Anna Wyrubewa was 



sitting pale and anxious, in expectation of — 
she did not know well herself what. When 
she saw Colonel Orloff she extended toward 
him her two hands in a gesture of passionate 
greeting. But what was her surprise to see him 
fall on the sofa beside her and bury his head 
in the silk cushions, with such sobs as rarely 
shake the frame of a strong man. He had had 
the courage to sacrifice his personal happiness 
at the shrine of the woman whom he adored 
with such religious fervor, but it was more than 
he could bear to find how thoroughly this 
sacrifice had been accepted by Providence, 
and for just a few minutes he had hated this 
new-born child, whom he knew but too well 
was going to usurp the place he had hoped to 
keep forever in the heart and the affections of 
Alexandra Feodorowna. 



THE christening of the little Grand-Duke 
Alexis was solemnized with great pomp 
at Peterhof, and there is no doubt but that the 
position of his mother became, after his birth, 
quite different from what it had been before this 
much-wished-for baby had appeared. For one 
thing, the talk of a divorce between her and the 
Czar, which had been so frequently indulged 
in, came to an end, and it was felt, even by the 
most bitter enemies of the Empress, that it 
would be waste of time to think about the 
possibiHty of its ever taking place. 

Nicholas II., in his joy at having at last an 
Heir, seemed to have returned to his former 
allegiance in regard to his wife, and he began to 
confide in her far more than he had done for- 
merly, even consulting her on different occa- 
sions. She was the mother of the future Sov- 
ereign, and as such entitled to a consideration a 
childless Empress Dowager could never aspire 
to in the case of widowhood. It became, there- 
fore, necessary to initiate her in matters con- 



cerning the government of the country, and 
the Czar did this the more wilHngty that at 
heart he distrusted his brother, and his numer- 
ous uncles and cousins, and feared that in 
case he died before the small Cesarewitsch had 
reached his majority the interests of the latter 
would not be looked after as well as would be 
necessary, unless his mother were there to pro- 
tect them. 

Alexandra Feodorowna, on the other hand, 
urged by her two friends, Madame Wyrubewa 
and Colonel Orloff, began to show far more 
interest in public affairs than she had ever 
done since her marriage, and she tried to estab- 
lish between herself and her husband more inti- 
mate relations than she had cared to do formerly, 
when she used to spend her days lamenting 
over sorrows, imaginary most of the time, but 
sufficiently acute to render her intensely miser- 
able. Her son became the principal pre- 
occupation of her existence, and she would not 
intrust his care to any one, but transformed 
herself into his nurse, governess, and constant 
attendant, forgetting everything else, even the 
care of her daughters,,^ in her nervous solicitude 
for him. Unfortunately the child was born 
"Excessively delicate, and had a curious and 
rare disease, a weakness of the blood-vessels, 
which were affected in such a way that he 
was attacked with hemorrhage at the slightest 
touch; the smallest of knocks or wounds would 



endanger his life. He might bleed to death 
from an ordinary bruise. An unfortunate acci- 
dent which occurred when he was two years 
old, and which brought about a rupture that 
necessitated an operation from which he re- 
covered only by a kind of miracle, only aggra- 
vated the chronic ailment with which he was 

One may imagine how terrible this state of 
things proved for the Empress, who very 
stupidly, as it seemed to some people, ap- 
plied herself to hide from the public the 
state of physical health of her son, which 
had, among other results, that of people sup- 
posing him to be even more dangerously ill 
than was the case. The truth was that Alex- 
andra feared that if it were known the boy was 
afflicted with an incurable disease, it might 
add to her own unpopularity. Her friends 
hoped that she might bear another son in time, 
but after the birth of Alexis she never had any 
more hopes of maternity, and so there remained 
nothing else to do but to try and rear this 
weak, frail, and puny infant, in whom were 
centered all the future hopes of the proud 
Romanoff dynasty. 

Anna Wyrubewa did her best to comfort 
the sorrowing mother, and both she and 
Colonel Orlofl agreed that the only thing to 
do in order to turn her thoughts into another 
channel than that of her child's state of health, 



over which she brooded until she had become 
absolutely morbid in her constant preoccupa- 
tion of the painful subject, was to speak to her 
of the necessity of becoming the Czar's princi- 
pal adviser and counselor. They tried to 
induce her to assert herself in the interest of 
Alexis, who they assured her would one day 
outgrow his native weakness and require her 
help in the numerous duties entailed upon him 
by his position as Heir to the Throne. In a 
certain sense they succeeded, and the Empress 
began to develop an independence of opinions 
and views in which she had never dared to 
indulge before. Ministers were surprised to 
hear the Czar say to them, when they pressed 
him for a reply to some decision or order they 
presented to him for confirmation, that he first 
wished to discuss the subject with his wife. 
Somehow there arose among the public, and 
especially among the Imperial Family, an im- 
pression that Alexandra had at last completely 
subjugated her husband, and that she was 
henceforward a factor to be reckoned with 
in every important State affair which might 
arise in regard to foreign or home politics. 

Of course people did not like it. One had 
been used for such a long time to consider 
the Czarina as a nonentity that it seemed a 
strange thing to have suddenly to take her into 
account ; one began to wonder what could have 

brought about such an unexpected change in 



her whole conduct and demeanor. Maternal 
love was not sufficient to explain it, and the 
cause of it had to be looked for elsewhere, 
and one fine day her constant intercourse with 
Anna Wyrubewa was noticed. Once people 
were started on that path, there was but one 
step to take — to try and find out whether or 
not these suspicions were founded on anything 
tangible. Some inquisitive persons took to 
watching the actions of Anna Wyrubewa, and 
they were not long in discovering that her 
house served as a meeting-place for several 
people in whom Alexandra Feodorowna was f 
interested, among others Colonel Orloff, whose i 
hopeless passion for his Sovereign had been j 
already suspected at different times. 

Foremost among these voluntary observa- 
tors, not to give them another name, figured 
members of the Imperial Family who had 
never taken kindly to the Consort of Nicho- 
las II., and who hated the idea of her be- - 
coming a power in the State. They tried 
to find out something to her detriment, and j 
who also attempted to enroll among their 
number the Dowager-Empress Marie, who, 
however, refused to listen to them, and whose 
affection for her eldest son induced her to 
make an effort to warn her daughter-in-law of 
the dangers which were threatening her. But 
the young Czarina would not hear anything, 
and haughtily refused the hand that was ex- 

lo 141 


tended to her in sincere friendship. She 
snubbed Marie Feodorowna in such a manner 
that the latter, wounded to the quick in finding 
her good intentions misunderstood, swore that 
she would never again attempt to come to the 
help of a person who was so prejudiced against 

In the mean while, ignorant of the con- 
spiracy which was being engineered against 
her, Alexandra continued to spend her after- 
noons with Madame Wyrubewa, often taking 
her little boy with her. The two women 
watched the child sleeping in his cradle, and 
often Colonel Orloff shared their vigil with a 
bleeding heart, the baby reminding him of all 
that he had suffered for the sake of its mother, 
but with the consciousness of having done his 
duty to both. But one day rumors again 
reached his ears that his name had once more 
become associated with that of the Empress. 
This time he made up his mind to go away 
definitely, no matter how much she might ask 
him to stay. He realized, if neither she nor 
Anna Wyrubewa did so, that the position 
was becoming threatening, and that he ought 
to put an end to it in some way or other. 
Unfortunately, when he came to this con- 
clusion it was already too late. 

Madame Wyrubewa's husband was a naval 
officer, not gifted with a superabundance of 
brains, but honest in his way, and incapable of 



intrigues of any kind. He had troubled very- 
little about his wife, and was perhaps the only 
man in St. Petersburg and in Tsarskoye Selo 
who was not aware of the high favor in which 
she stood with the Empress. His duties 
generally kept him far from his home most of 
the year, and when he was there he rarely 
troubled Anna with his presence. But he was 
known to be of a violent disposition, and as a 
fellow who would not suffer any stain to rest 
upon his honor. It was of this man that the 
enemies of Alexandra Feodorowna determined 
to make use in order to ruin her. 

Anonymous letters were sent to him accusing 
his wife of carrying on a guilty intrigue with 
Colonel OrlofT, intrigue which he was assured 
the Empress knew and favored. He was ad- 
vised to return home unexpectedly any after- 
noon between four and five o'clock, when he 
would find proofs of the information vouch- 
safed to him by his unknown friend. The 
young man, instead of putting these denuncia- 
tions in the fire, became so enraged that he 
determined to follow the advice of his anony- 
mous correspondent. After having advised 
Anna that he was going away on a few days* 
cruise, he waited until the hour that had been 
indicated to him, and boldlv walked back to 
his house. 

He was met at the door by the Cossack in 
personal attendance on the Empress, who in- 



formed him that he could not get in. Wyru- 
bew protested, and was quietly told that the 
Sovereign was visiting his wife, and that accord- 
ing to etiquette no one could be allowed to enter 
a place where she was unless by her special per- 
mission. The officer became furious, brushed 
the Cossack aside, and penetrated into the 
sitting-room, after having noticed that a 
military overcoat was hanging in his hall. 
He found the apartment empty, but in the 
adjoining one, which was Anna's boudoir, he 
could hear voices, one of which was distinctly 
masculine. He did not hesitate, but made his 
way inside, to find that his wife was not there, 
but that the Empress, pale and lovely, was 
standing by the mantelpiece, while Colonel 
Orloff, on his knees before her, was kissing 
passionately the hem of her skirt. 

Alexandra Feodorowna gave one cry, which 
echoed through the whole building and brought 
Madame Wyrubewa to her help. Wyrubew 
himself remained silent and dazed by the 
unexpected sight. The only one not to lose 
presence of mind was Colonel Orloff, who, 
starting to his feet, went up to the intruder 
with the stern words: 

"You are going to give me your word of 
honor to remain silent." 

Wyrubew passed his hand over his eyes. 
He could hardly believe his own senses, and 
the terrible idea crossed his mind that his wife 


he: died to save her honor 

had been helping the Czarina in an amorous 
intrigue, and that very probably he would 
have to pay the penalty for this piece of 
complaisance, which he did not in the least 
care to do. He thought that insolence was the 
best way to get out of an impossible position 
with flying colors, and so he simply sneered 
in the face of Orlofi^, with the remark: 

"Not I. If you have chosen to abuse my 
confidence, together with my wife, you cannot 
expect me to help you in your villainy." 

Anna rushed to the Empress and took her 
in her arms, trying to lead her out of the room. 
Orloff made a movement forward as if he 
wanted to strangle Wyrubew; then he con- 
tained himself and said in a low voice: 

"You know that you are not speaking the 
truth. Once more I implore you not to 
mention to any one what has taken place here, 
and I give you my word of honor to meet you 
whenever and wherever you like." 

"You are not a man from whom one can 
expect satisfaction," replied Wyrubew, "and 
I will not claim it from you. There are other 
means at my disposal to punish you," and he 
turned away contemptuously. 

The young Colonel's face became by turns 
deadly pale and fiery red. It was evident that 
he could hardly contain the tumultuous feel- 
ings which were racking him. Before him stood 
the Czarina looking at him with haggard eyes 



and trying to free herself from the encircling 
arms of her friend. Anna was weeping pro- 
fusely and vainly struggling with an emotion 
she absolutely could not control. Orloff went 
up to the two women, and once more knelt 
before the Empress. 

"Forgive me," he said. "I ought to have 
known better, but believe me, I shall atone." 

He kissed once more the hem of her garment 
and went out of the room, without looking 
round, brushing past Wyrubew as if he had 
not seen him, and went back to his own house, 
calm and determined, but probably with the feel- 
ings of a man about to be taken to the scaffold. 

Madame Wyrubewa seized her husband by 
the arm. 

**Go now," she cried. "You have done enough 
evil for to-day, but remember that henceforth 
everything is at end between us." 

He laughed sardonically, but obeyed her, 
and the couple never set eyes upon each other 
again after that terrible afternoon. The next 
day St. Petersburg was electrified by hearing 
that the popular Colonel Orloff had been found 
dead in his room, shot through the temple. He 
had atoned. 

And two months later the Synod pronounced 
the decree of divorce between Anna Wyrubewa 
and her husband. The tragedy, like so many 
others of the same kind, had come to an end, 
by breaking two women's hearts. 




THE suicide of Colonel Orloff was perhaps 
one of the events which provoked the 
most sensation in St. Petersburg in recent 
years. Everybody had known him, and he 
had been a general favorite, not only in his 
regiment, but also among all the circles of 
society which he had frequented. The Czar, 
who had also liked him very much, was deeply 
affected by the catastrophe, and everybody 
kept wondering what could have induced a 
man who apparently had not a single thing 
in the world to trouble him to take his own 
life in such an unexpected manner. 

The Empress alone said nothing. She was 
present at all the funeral services which were 
celebrated over the coffin of the young officer, 
but so was Nicholas II. Her attendance could 
not be considered as an extraordinary thing. 
No one, with the exception of Anna Wyrubewa, 
who had accompanied her, knew that on the 
night preceding the funeral of her friend 
Alexandra Feodorowna had proceeded alone 



and unattended, save for her, to the house 
where his mortal remains lay in state, and had 
spent an hour praying beside his dead body 
and weeping bitter tears. Outwardly, how- 
ever, her calm had remained unshaken; and she 
had succeeded in quite a wonderful way in 
keeping her feelings under control. The only 
thing which she had insisted upon was to have 
Colonel Orloff buried in the cemetery of Tsar- 
koye Selo, where she had a simple monument, 
consisting of a large white marble cross, 
erected. She used to go every day to pray 
there, and to leave flowers on this tomb which 
represented for her so many hopes, and perhaps 
something else besides. 

Of course these visits became known, but 
by a wonderful miracle they were not com- 
mented upon in the way they might have 
been. The reputation for eccentricity of 
Alexandra Feodorowna had by that time be- 
come so well established that people had left 
off wondering at anything she might attempt 
to do, and, besides, every one believed that the 
Colonel's death had been somehow connected 
with a love intrigue he had carried on with 
Anna Wyrubewa, whose divorce lent ground 
for such a theory. It was suspected or guessed 
that something had taken place in her house, 
but no one could exactly ascertain what this 
something had been, and Wyrubew himself 
had been for once thoroughly frightened, and 



had come to the conclusion that the best thing 
he could do for his own sake as well as for 
that of others was to hold his tongue, and 
to accept the divorce upon which his wife 
insisted. Later on, however, he unburdened 
his soul to some of his particular friends, but 
that happened at a time when people were 
thinking of other things than the tragical 
death of an officer whose existence was already- 
forgotten by most of those who had known 

As for the Empress, she had, as we have 
seen, borne herself wonderfully well in the first 
moments which had followed upon the tragedy, 
but afterward her nerves gave way entirely, 
and it was then that she had to be kept in 
strict seclusion, and under the care of trained 
nurses. It was said that her reason had given 
way under the load of her anxiety for her small 
son, and that the thought of his serious con- 
dition had weighed down so thoroughly on 
her mind that she had grown melancholy to 
an alarming extent. The story was believed 
perhaps because it suited so many people to 
think that it was true, and, besides, the political 
situation in Russia was becoming so alarming 
that it entirely absorbed public attention. 
The war with Japan had come to an ignomin- 
ious end, and shown the many failings, as well as 
the thorough insufficiency, of the Government. 
The first symptoms of the Revolution were 



clearly appearing on the horizon, with its at- 
tendant horrors. Everybody felt that some- 
thing had to be done in order to avert a catas- 
trophe the extent of which it was impossible 
to foresee, but which was generally considered 
as being inevitable, unless the Czar made up 
his mind to grant the reforms for which his 
whole Empire was clamoring. 

During those years, which were the prelude 
of other even more eventful ones that were 
later on to sweep away the Throne of the 
Romanoffs, Nicholas II. might still have re- 
gained the popularity which he had lost. If 
he had only bravely and courageously faced 
his people, and tried to get into direct contact 
with them, he could have secured for his 
dynasty a new lease of life. He was not liked, 
it is true, and he was not trusted, which was 
still worse; but nations are sometimes apt to 
be led by impulse, and it is certain that Russia 
would have felt grateful to him if he had only 
made an appeal to its loyalty for his person, 
and asked of her to help him in the task of 
repairing the wounds caused by the disastrous 
campaign that had come to an end with the 
signature of the Treaty of Portsmouth. 

But the Czar ignored the wishes of his 

subjects and refused to acknowledge the justice 

of their claims to be taken into his confidence. 

He was narrow-minded, cruel by disposition, 

and though not at all an autocrat, yet every 



inch a tyrant. He was even something worse 
than that ; he was a coward, and this is a defect 
which neither nations nor women forgive in 
those to whom they find their destinies in- 

The remembrance of that dreadful Sunday 
when a crowd of peaceful workmen, under the 
leadership of the afterward notorious priest, 
Gapone, marched toward the Winter Palace, 
to be met with the firing of machine-guns that 
laid them low by hundreds on the pavement — 
the remembrance of this bloody deed has never 
been effaced from the mind of the Russian 
nation. It traced between itself and its Czar 
a line of demarcation which could never be re- 
moved later on. 

Many versions exist as to the conduct of 
Nicholas II. on that awful day. Some people 
have said that it was the Empress who had 
entreated him to fly to Tsarskoye Selo, where 
she thought that they would be in greater 
safety than in St. Petersburg; others have 
asserted that it was he who of his own accord 
had decided that it would be better for him to 
leave the capital and to abandon to his uncle, 
the Grand-Duke Wladimir, the task of drown- 
ing in blood this attempt of his subjects to 
enter into direct communication with him. 
Probably both versions are right, in a sense, 
at least, because it is certain that Alexandra 
Feodorowna was always in fear something 



might happen to her son, and very likely she 
tried to induce her husband to consider how 
best to insure the safety of their only boy; 
on the other hand, the Emperor might, had 
he only come himself to take a sane view of 
the situation such as it presented itself at the 
time, have been able to reassure his wife and 
to explain to her that neither she nor their 
children were in any danger. Nicholas II., 
however, had only one thought in his small 
mind, and that was how to punish this "inso- 
lence," as he termed it, of his people. For him 
a mob was always a mob, except when it was 
ordered to cheer him, and lately he had had to 
acknowledge that, in regard to St. Petersburg, 
cheering had become rather a rare event. 

I am not trying to relate here any of the 
numerous episodes which have made the un- 
successful Revolution of 1905 memorable. I 
am not writing the history of Nicholas II. 
Others have done so, and will do so, better 
than I could. What I only want to point out 
is the utter callousness shown by both the 
Czar and the Czarina in presence of the abomi- 
nable repression which the police, together with 
some military commanders, inaugurated in 
regard to the people compromised even in a 
slight degree in the movement of emancipation 
which had shaken the existence of the dynasty. 
It was in vain that some wise people, like 
Count Witte, for instance, had tried to explain 



to Nicholas II. that unless he frankly granted 
some reforms without which it would be im- 
possible to govern Russia in the future he 
might expect an explosion of wrath on the part 
of the nation which it would be almost im- 
possible to subdue or to destroy. The Czar 
refused to listen, and when at last he yielded 
to the demands of his Ministry and signed 
the famous Manifest of the 17th of October, 
with its " simulacre " of constitution, it was 
with the firm intention not to keep any of the 
promises which it contained, and to try, on the 
contrary, to reduce to absolute powerlessness 
the National Assembly, or Duma, as it was 
called, the election of which he had allowed 
only because he could not help it, but not at 
all because he believed or hoped it might 
prove useful to him in the solution of the many 
problems which were waiting to be unraveled. 
What followed upon the first convocation 
of the first Parliament Russia was to know is 
already a matter of history. It did not live 
for more than a few weeks, and very probably 
the Czar had never intended it to exist for 
any length of time. What he wished was to 
appear before the eyes of Europe as a Sovereign 
who had been willing to make any amount 
of sacrifices in order to insure the welfare of 
his subjects, who, instead of showing them- 
selves grateful to him for his good intentions, 
had rewarded him with the basest ingratitude. 



He thought this a clever piece of policy, for- 
getting that any politician worthy of the 
name could see at once through his game, 
and that this game could have only one result — 
that of inspiring an utter contempt for his 
person as well as for his moral character. 

Therein lies the great, the supreme, fault of 
Nicholas IT. He never could bring himself to 
act frankly in regard to any serious matter in 
which his people were concerned. The Em- 
press, in her strange way, was far more honest, 
because she did not hesitate to follow the 
instincts of her heart, and in her most mistaken 
actions she was at least sincere. 

During the years that followed upon the 
insurrectionary movement of 1905 Alexandra 
Feodorowna was in such a state of health that 
it was almost impossible for her to take any 
part in what went on around her. Her rea- 
son had been seriously compromised by the 
shock caused by the tragical ending of the only 
romance she had known in her life, and she 
used to spend hours weeping in her room, 
absorbed in the contemplation of her own 
grief. It was in vain that Anna Wyrubewa, 
who had become more intimate with her than 
had even been the case before, had tried to in- 
duce her to fight the morbid ideas which were 
torturing her. The Empress would not listen 
to her friend, and insisted on secluding herself 
from the world and even from her own daugh- 



ters, whose presence irritated her and made 
her give way to fits of impatience that were 
very nearly akin to madness. The girls were 
perfectly charming and had the luck to have 
an excellent governess, who tried to give them 
the love their own mother refused or was 
unable to award them; nevertheless their lives 
were blighted by the illness of the Empress, 
and it is not extraordinary that they came to 
care for their father more than for her, whom 
they were always more or less afraid to ap- 
proach, whom they were constantly told they 
must not bother by questions of any kind or 
manifestations of affection. 

It was only the little Cesarewitsch who was 
allowed to share his mother's solitude, whom 
she would never let out of her sight. He was 
the only preoccupation her diseased mind 
would admit, and when she saw that his state 
of health did not improve she became more 
and more desperate, until one day she confided 
to Anna Wyrubewa that she was sure God 
was punishing her for the affection which she 
acknowledged now that she had borne for 
Orloff, and that her boy would never get well. 
Her despair was so evident, and her mind was 
getting so unhinged, that at last the question 
of putting her in some retreat where she could 
be under a doctor's continual care was seriously 
considered by her medical attendants, who even 
informed the Czar of their fears in regard to 



the sanity of his Consort. Of course the fact 
that they had done so reached the knowledge 
of Madame Wyrubewa, and it was then that 
the latter began to consider whether it would 
not be possible to restore by some way or 
other the equanimity of Alexandra Feodorowna 
and to procure for her some kind of consola- 
tion for the seemingly incurable grief which 
was destroying her life and her reason. Un- 
fortunately for all parties concerned, she was 
to make at that time the acquaintance of the 
notorious Raspoutine, whom she introduced, 
under the circumstances which I am going 
presently to relate, to the miserable, half- 
demented Empress, an introduction which 
was to prove so fatal not only to the unhappy 
Sovereign, but also through her to the whole 
of Russia. 



ANNA WYRUBEWA had always been in- 
Jr\ clined toward religious exaggeration, and 
this was perhaps one of the reasons why the 
Empress, who for years had buried herself in 
the exercise of all kinds of devotional practices, 
had taken to her so quickly. They were both 
of a mystical turn of mind, and never so happy 
as when enabled to spend long hours absorbed 
in prayer before some icon or other. And 
besides this, Anna was in the habit of frequent- 
ing certain circles of St. Petersburg society 
that were considered as the supporters of or- 
thodoxy in its most rigid form, where all ques- 
tions concerning the discipline of the Church 
were discussed and in some cases decided. 

Such, for instance, was the house of the 
Countess Sophy Ignatieff, where the higher 
clergy used to meet at weekly assemblies, 
during which the laxity of the younger genera- 
tion in regard to religious matters was dis- 
cussed with many a sigh and many a shak- 
ing of wise heads, disposed to admit that 

" 157 


this religious indifference, which was getting 
stronger and stronger every day, was bound 
to bring Russia to the brink of terrible mis- 
fortunes. Countess Ignatieff had traveled all 
over her native country in search of its sacred 
shrines and places, and was very well known 
personally in almost all the principal convents 
in the Empire. She had been suspected at one 
time of sympathies with dissenters, but this 
has never been proved ; on the contrary, in her 
old age she gained the reputation of being 
fanatically orthodox, one who saw no salvation 
outside the fold of her own creed, who favored 
persecution of all others on account of her con- 
viction that people ought to be brought back 
to the bosom of the Greek Church by any 
means, even through violence if other ones 

During one of the yearly pilgrimages in 
which so much of her time was spent she 
had had occasion to meet a kind of vagrant 
preacher whose wild eloquence had captivated 
her fancy and her imagination, and she had 
been partly instrumental in his coming to 
St. Petersburg, where she had arranged for 
him to hold religious meetings in her house, 
to which she had invited prominent church 
dignitaries, together with a few ladies of an 
enthusiastic turn of mind whom she believed 
would be inclined to listen to the wild ravings, 

for they were nothing else, of her new protege, 



At first people laughed at her, as well as at 
the uncouth appearance of the "Prophet of 
God," as she called him, who, while not blessed 
with the eloquence of a Savonarola, yet pos- 
sessed sufficient persuasive gifts and talents 
to shake the equanimity of the hysterically 
inclined women who listened to him. This 
"Prophet" was none other than Grigory 
Raspoutine, who later on was to become such 
an important personage in Russia. 

Madame Wyrubewa had heard about Ras- 
poutine a long time before she ever came to hear 
him. But after she had had the oppportunity 
of meeting him she thought that it would 
not be a bad thing to bring him to Tsarskoye 
Selo, where the poor Empress was eating away 
her heart in her grief at the loss of all that 
she had cared for in life, and to try to induce 
Alexandra to listen to him, and to pray to- 
gether with him. He was supposed to perform 
wonders by the intensity and the fervor of his 
prayers, and it might just be possible that the 
very fact of his being a complete stranger to her, 
and moreover a man totally outside Court circles 
and Court intrigues, would influence the Czarina 
to give him her confidence and to permit him 
to cheer her up. At all events, she spoke about 
him several times, and pleaded hard with the 
Empress to allow him to be brought to her. 
This Alexandra Feodorowna absolutely refused, 
but she was induced at last to consent to see 



him at the house of Anna Wyrubewa, and 
thither came one winter evening the adventurer 
who was in time to become the CagHostro of a 
reign which was not even worthy to have any 
one else but a common, uncouth peasant for 
its jester. 

Now, as has been ultimately proved, Ras- 
pontine was far from being the saintly man 
his admirers thought he was, but he was 
endowed with an unusual amount of cunning, 
and far more spirit of observation than he 
was credited with. When he was told that 
he would have the honor of meeting the 
Empress of Russia, and to pray in her presence 
for the health of her delicate little boy, he had 
at once perceived the advantages which might 
result for him out of this introduction, if only 
in regard to his personal prestige before his 
disciples and followers. He was above every- 
thing else a man who cared for his enjoyment 
as well as for the good things of life, and who, 
in the way of Paradise, only admitted the one 
described by Mohammed in his Koran. He had 
led a licentious, godless kind of existence, which 
he had contrived to persuade the weak women 
who had succumbed to his exhortations was in 
accord with the spirit of the doctrine which he 
preached, the principal points of which con- 
sisted in blind submission to his will and to 
his fancies. He had told them that they would 

be cleansed of their sins by a complete union 



with him, which he meant in the physical as 
well as in the moral sense of the word. It is 
probable that in his dealings with all the people 
who had grown to believe in him he had had 
recourse to his incontestable hypnotical powers 
and to practices of magnetic influence which 
he had learned amid some wild tribes of Siberia, 
where he had spent his childhood and early 
youth, who are to this day adepts in the art 
of witchcraft as well as in all kinds of magical 
rites and customs. At the same time the crafty 
adventurer knew very well that it would 
be unwise of him at the beginning of his in- 
tercourse with the Consort of his Sovereign, an 
intercourse which he was fully determined 
should be continued and not be limited to a 
single interview, to do aught else but assume 
the attitude of a man entirely absorbed in 
God and in the practices of religion. When he 
was introduced to Alexandra Feodorowna at 
the house of Anna Wyrubewa, he therefore 
remained standing before her, in an attitude of 
apparent humility, and he waited quietly until 
she should begin talking with him, which she 
immediately did, saying that she had heard 
so much about him that she had wished to 
see him and to ask him to pray for her little 
boy, whose state of health gave rise to so much 
anxiety and worry. 

Raspoutine looked at her, then replied 
quietly that he would be happy to pray for 



the child, but that he thought she was just as 
much in need of prayer as her son because her 
state of moral health was far more alarming 
than Alexis's physical one. 

The Empress was so amazed that she could 
not find a reply to what appeared to her in the 
first moment to be an unsurpassed piece of 
insolence. Anna Wyrubewa saw what was 
taking place in her mind, and, addressing her 
in English, a language which they always spoke 
together, implored her not to feel offended, as 
the man really did not know what he was say- 
ing, sometimes being urged by a strength su- 
perior to his own to give utterance to thoughts 
he would never have dared to express other- 
wise. She then urged the Czarina not to carry- 
on the conversation further, but to ask Ras- 
poutine to begin at once praying for her 
welfare, and also for that of Russia and of the 
Imperial Family. 

Alexandra acquiesced, and the preacher pro- 
ceeded to set himself before the icon which, 
as is usual in all Russian houses, was hanging 
in a corner of the room. He began long litanies 
which he recited in a peculiar deep tone of 
voice, that rose up louder and louder as grad- 
ually he worked himself up into a state of re- 
ligious frenzy akin to the one displayed by the 
dancing and howling dervishes in Turkey. But 
whether or not his manner or the tone of his 
his supplications or his personal influence was 



the cause of it, the Empress as she listened to 
him felt calmer and quieter than she had done 
for years. It seemed to her as if a great peace 
was stealing upon her after the despair and the 
sadness in which her days had been spent 
during the last months. When at last Ras- 
poutine's orisons came to an end she was weep- 
ing silently, but all the nervous excitement 
under which she had been laboring at the be- 
ginning of the interview seemed to have dis- 
appeared and she looked more like a normal 
woman than she had done since the day when 
Orloff had said his last good-by to her in the 
boudoir of Anna Wyrubewa. 

She silently extended her hand to the 
*' Prophet," saying as she did so: 

"You have done me a great deal of good, 
and I thank you with all my heart. I shall ask 
you again to pray for me." 

It was thus that Alexandra Feodorowna met 
the man who was to have such a baneful in- 
fluence over her whole life, whose fatal influence 
was to estrange her, still deeper than was al- 
ready the case, from her subjects, and to give 
rise to the flood of calumnies in which she was 
ultimately to be drowned ; and to perish, drag- 
ging along with her this mighty Russian Empire 
whose Crown she wore and whose people she 
had never understood nor even tried to under- 

Anna Wyrubewa was delighted to see that 


her beloved Czarina had really found some 
comfort in listening to Raspoutine's prayers. 
She believed in the "' Prophet " who had found 
favor in the eyes of the Lord, and whose inter- 
cession in regard to the Httle Alexis would be 
crowned with success. The woman was super- 
stitious to the backbone, and perhaps more 
mystically inclined even than most Russians 
are, which is saying a good deal. She thought, 
at all events, that, once the Empress got to be 
persuaded that she had to look to God alone 
for the recovery of her son from a disease that 
had been pronounced to be incurable by the 
best medical authorities, she would no longer 
fret as she had done, but begin to look at things 
from a religiously fatalistic point of view. She 
hoped also for another thing, and that was 
that the Czarina, once she had been taught 
to look above for comfort and consolation, 
would cease to lament over the ''might have 
been" that has already caused so much heart- 
burnings in this world, and that she would leave 
off reproaching herself, as she was constantly 
doing, for the death of the one man she had 
cared for, whom in all innocence she had sent 
to his destruction, and who had bravely pre- 
ferred to disappear rather than allow a stain to 
rest upon her honor. She had guessed the 
agony of the self-reproach under which the soul 
of Alexandra Feodorowna had almost collapsed, 

and the remorse which had racked it until her 



intelligence had almost snapped, through the 
moral as well as through the physical pain 
which had clouded all her faculties. She hoped, 
therefore, seriously and earnestly, that the 
prayers of Raspoutine might ease this mental 
distress which had transformed the Empress 
of All the Russias into a half-demented woman. 
When she saw that his prayers had over the 
latter the beneficent influence she had ex- 
pected, she determined to do her best to induce 
her to give her confidence to this man in whom 
her exalted imagination saw a savior as well 
as a friend. 

This was the real beginning of the Raspoutine 
intrigue, and it would have been a lucky thing 
for all those who came afterward to be con- 
cerned in it if it had stopped at this stage, and 
not been transferred to a more dangerous 
one, the stage upon which European politics 
had to be played and, unfortunately for Russia, 
played by utterly unskilful hands. The com- 
edy of Raspoutine did not last longer than a 
few months. Its drama dragged on for years, 
and is not yet over by a long way. 



AFTER she had made the acquaintance 
I\. of Raspoutine the Empress changed con- 
siderably. For one thing, she became more 
cheerful and seemed once more to interest 
herself in what went on around her. She tried 
also to keep her mind away from the one 
morbid thought which had been haunting her, 
the thought that her son's bad health was a 
punishment which God had sent her on account 
of her conduct in regard to Colonel Orloff. 
She had most undoubtedly loved the young 
officer, and she realized with a painful but clear 
perspicacity that if she had allowed him to go 
away when he wished to do so the tragedy 
which had culminated with his suicide would 
never have taken place. Her mind, which was 
dimmed as to so many other points, was quite 
awake to the terrible one that the man to whom 
her whole heart had belonged had died to save 
her honor and to prevent her good name from 
being compromised. This was quite sufficient 
to fill her soul with acute remorse, but apart 



from this she missed the companionship of this 
faithful friend before whom she could allow 
herself to speak about her sorrows and her 
trials just as if she had been an ordinary woman 
and not an Empress. 

There were times when her grandeur op- 
pressed her, and then it was that she longed for 
a confidant and friend before whom she would 
not be ashamed to bare her heart and unburden 
it. She felt so lonely amid the pomp and 
splendor which surrounded her, so solitary in 
her great Palace which was so very different 
from the simple house in which her childhood 
and youth had been spent, and she was such 
a stranger in a land she had not learned to love 
and where she had found herself confronted 
with hostility from the very first day that she 
had set her foot in it. Of course her children, 
and especially her son, constituted a great 
interest and a great preoccupation in her life, 
but their existence was not sufficient to fill 
it entirely. In moments when she thought 
herself forsaken by the world she would have 
given ten years of her future existence to be 
able to see once more the man who had died 
for her because he had found it impossible to 
consecrate his whole life to her service. 

Raspoutine was a keen observer of human 
nature. Lurking behind his hopeless ignorance 
there were immense cunning and a natural in- 
tuition of what was going on in other people's 



minds. Apart from this faculty, he always 
made it a point to try and find out as much as 
he could concerning the past of all persons 
with whom he happened to have dealings. He 
understood quite admirably the art of "drawing 
out" those with whom he conversed, and he 
could put together quite nicely the tangled 
threads which another man would never have 
gone to the trouble of trying to untwine. As 
soon as he had looked upon the Empress he had 
understood that she must have gone through 
some great grief which was not concerned with 
the state of health of her child alone, but which 
had deeper foundations. In the fashionable 
drawing-rooms where he was a welcome guest 
he had heard discussed more than once the 
personality as well as the conduct of Alexandra 
Feodorowna; he had come to the conclusion 
that the mystery which surrounded the death 
of Colonel Orloff was in some way connected 
with her, and not with Madame Wyrubewa 
alone. He applied himself, therefore, to dis- 
cover what had really taken place. 

For some time he could learn nothing, as no 
one seemed to know anything more than the 
bare fact of the suicide of the young officer. 
It is true that when he had asked Anna for the 
true version the latter had angrily denied any 
connection implying guilt, but Raspoutine, 
peasant though he was, understood sufficiently 
the character of a woman of the world to know 



that such denials were not worth much. Al- 
together he was puzzled, but continued, how- 
ever, to put in an appearance at Tsarskoye 
Selo whenever he was asked to do so, and he 
was shown several times the little Heir to the 
Throne. The Empress had brought the babe 
to Madame Wyrubewa's cottage several times 
for him to pray over. The "Prophet'' had at 
once declared that the child would not die, 
and that there was every likelihood he would 
outgrow his weakness, a prophecy it had been 
relatively easy for him to make, considering 
the fact that before doing so he had taken 
good care to talk with a doctor of his acquaint- 
ance about the illness of Alexis, and had heard 
from him all that there was to hear on the 
subject, which was not much. The boy might 
live with care, and even get strong, once he had 
reached the years of adolescence; he might die 
from the effect of a hemorrhage, which the 
slightest accident might bring about. The 
whole thing was a matter of chance, and 
nothing else. 

The Empress, however, became full of hope 
when Raspoutine told her not to worry un- 
necessarily, but to trust more to Providence 
than she had been doing. It happened just 
at that time that the little boy got stronger 
and better than he had been since his birth, 
and this fact inspired her with a hope such as 

she had never allowed herself to nurse since 



the day when she had realized to what a weak 
and frail piece of humanity she had given 
birth in the person of the only son and Heir of 
Nicholas II. She began to speak of the future, 
which she had hitherto not dared to do, and 
she seemed suddenly to think that this future 
might still hold some joys for her in reserve. 
As was but natural, she attributed this change 
in her feelings and mind to the influence of 
Raspoutine's prayers, and as was also natural 
she felt grateful to him for having brought it 

The crafty peasant, however, was not so 
satisfied as the Empress. He had begun to 
make great plans concerning her and the in- 
fluence he meant to acquire over her person. 
Somehow he could not bring them to realization. 
He might have gone on for a long time in this 
state of uncertainty if he had not made just 
at that moment the acquaintance of one of the 
cleverest secret police agents the Russian 
Government had in its pay, Manassavitch- 
Maniuloff. This personage, whom I have de- 
scribed at length in another book, knew more 
about what went on in the Imperial Palace of 
Tsarskoye Selo than any one else in the world. 
During the time when the famous Plehwe oc- 
cupied the post of Minister of the Interior he 
had had the Palace watched just as much as the 
houses of the people whom he suspected of not 

favoring his views and policy. Among the 



agents whom he had intrusted with this task 
Manassavitch-Maniuloff had occupied a fore- 
most place. He was one of the most unscrupu- 
lous men ahve, and, as the future proved, had 
but one aim in his existence, that of enriching 
himself, thanks to all kinds of shady specula- 
tions and blackmail he practised on a large 
scale. He knew, if others did not, all that had 
taken place in the house of Anna Wyrubewa 
on the day when Colonel Orloff had left it for 
the last time, but he had never divulged this 
secret, and had been content with waiting 
patiently until the day when he might be able 
to turn it into account and to make capital 
out of it. Always on the alert, and just as keen 
an observer as Raspoutine himself of the weak- 
nesses of human nature, with the additional 
advantage of being a very well educated and 
cultured man, he very quickly grasped the im- 
portance of what the "Prophet" confided to 
him when he started to relate to his friend 
the details of his first interview with the Em- 
press of All the Russias. 

Maniuloff was very well posted as to all the 
details of the Philippe incident, together with 
its ridiculous end. When he had heard how 
much Alexandra Feodorowna had been im- 
pressed by the fervor of Raspoutine's prayers, 
he suggested to the latter that he make use of 
the hypnotic faculties which he possessed in 
order to get the inexperienced and weak-minded 



Sovereign to become a tool in the hands of 
both. He gave him very detailed instructions 
as to how he was to proceed. 

Armed with these instructions, Raspoutine 
started upon a campaign which brought Mr. 
Maniuloff to penal servitude, sent the Czarina 
to exile in Siberia, and himself to an untimely 
and bloody grave. 

At the meetings at Anna Wyrubewa's house, 
during which the "Prophet" not only prayed 
himself for the prosperity of the House of 
Romanoff, he also persuaded the Empress to 
pray, too, in accordance with the particular rites 
which he declared were indispensable to a 
perfect communion of the human spirit with 
God, and which consisted in numerous genu- 
flexions, and other things of the same kind; 
in long fasts and hours spent in meditation 
with the face on the floor, in what grew in 
time to be a hysterical state of ecstasy. These 
meetings went on undisturbed for a consider- 
able length of time, until one day Raspoutine 
informed Alexandra Feodorowna that he 
thought it wiser to discontinue them because 
certain things had been revealed to him by the 
Holy Ghost which had caused him to think 
that it would be better if he went away; 
otherwise he would be compelled to try and 
take her spiritually with him into regions 
whither perhaps she would not care to follow 
him. The Empress, of course, eagerly asked 



what he meant, upon which he replied that 
to perfect people such as he and she the Lord 
could grant the privilege of entering into re- 
lations with dead and gone people whom they 
had loved in this world; he did not know 
whether she would be able to go through this 
ordeal; therefore he thought it better to dis- 
continue their meetings for the present. 

The Czarina went home brooding upon what 
she had heard and with all her superstitious 
curiosity awakened. At first she tried not to 
think of what the "Prophet" had told her. 
Then she wondered whether she would be 
strong enough to face the ordeal of entering 
into communion with the other world, that 
world for which she had been longing, where 
had gone the one man she had loved beyond 
every other earthly thing. For some weeks 
she struggled against the temptation as it had 
been presented to her by Raspoutine; then at 
last she yielded to it, and asked Anna Wyru- 
bewa to bring the "Prophet" once more to 
her house, as she wanted to speak with him 

The adventurer demurred at first, finding 
one obstacle after another in order to de- 
cline the invitation which had been extended 
to him. At last he consented to an interview, 
but declared that he would insist that no one 
else be present at it, as the things which the 
"spirit" had commanded him to say to Alex- 

12 173 


andra Feodorowna were of such a secret nature 
that no one but herself could hear them. 
When he was introduced into the presence of 
the Sovereign he began by falHng on his knees 
and praying with a fervor such as she had never 
seen him display before. At last he told the 
miserable, deluded woman that he had been 
commanded to say to her that there was one 
pure spirit now in another world who had been 
allowed to communicate with her through his 
medium ; that he did not know who it was, but 
that if she wished to try the experiment she 
must, before attempting it, prepare herself for 
it, with long prayers and fastings, so as to be 
in a complete state of grace; otherwise the 
favor about to be conferred on her could not 
be awarded. By that time the Czarina had 
reached a nervous condition where anything 
Raspoutine told her would have been ac- 
ceptable to her over-excited brain. She 
promised to conform herself to all the directions 
given to her, and three days later she met 
again the impostor in a place which he in- 
dicated to her, whither she went, accompanied 
by the faithful Anna. Madame Wyrubewa, 
however, was not admitted to the room where 
Raspoutine was waiting for the Empress. He 
stood before several holy images, with lamps 
burning before them. 

The Empress had scarcely touched any food 
for three days; she had spent the time in long 



and almost continual orisons. She was just in 
a condition when any appeal to her supersti- 
tion would be sure to meet with response. 
"When she prostrated herself beside the " Proph- 
et/* she had reached a state of exhaustion 
and excitement which made her an easy prey 
to any imposture practised by the unscrupu- 
lous. For about an hour Raspoutine kept 
praying aloud, invoking the spirits of heaven 
in an impressive voice, every word of which 
went deep into the heart of Alexandra Feo- 
dorowna. Suddenly he seized her by the arm, 
exclaiming as he did so: *Xook! look! and 
then believe!" 

She raised her eyes, and saw distinctly on 
the white wall the image of Colonel Orloff, 
which, by a clever trick had been flashed on it 
by a magic lantern held for the purpose by 

The Empress gave one terrible cry and fell 
in a dead faint on the floor. Anna Wyrubewa, 
hearing her scream of agony, rushed into the 
room to find nothing but Raspoutine absorbed 
in deep prayer beside the inanimate form of his 

This was but the first scene of many of the 
same character. The Czarina recovered her 
scared senses with the full conviction that she 
had really seen the spirit of the man she had 
loved so dearly; she was very soon persuaded 
that he had been allowed to show himself to 



her and that he would henceforward watch 
over her and guide her with advice and en- 
couragement in her future Hfe. She quite be- 
heved that Raspoutine, whom she sincerely- 
thought to be in total ignorance as to that 
episode in her life, was a real Prophet of God, 
and that, thanks to him, she would be able to 
communicate with the dead. Whether Anna 
Wyrubewa shared this conviction or not it is 
difficult to say, but it is not likely that either 
Raspoutine or Maniuloff confided in her. They 
knew too well the small reliance that, as a rule, 
can be placed upon feminine secrecy, and the 
game they were playing was far too serious for 
them to run the risk of compromising it by an 
indiscretion. It is therefore far more probable 
that they also played upon the superstitious 
feelings of the Empress's friend, and that they 
used both ladies for the furtherance of their 
own nefarious schemes with as much un- 
scrupulousness as consummate art. 



AFTER the episode which I have just re- 
L lated, there was no longer any question 
of Raspoutine being allowed to leave the 
proximity of the Imperial Court. The Empress 
came to have such utter confidence in him that 
she even tried to induce the Czar to consult 
him; this he refused to do, but, seeing how much 
brighter his wife had become since her ac- 
quaintance with the "Prophet," he made no 
objection to her seeing him. 

One must here remark that both Raspoutine 
and his chief adviser, Manassavitch-Maniuloff, 
played their cards wonderfully well by avoiding 
every appearance of mixing themselves up with 
politics. The "Prophet" talked with the 
Empress when he had the opportunity to do 
so, which, by the way, was not so frequent as 
might have been supposed. His conversations 
were always confined to religious subjects. He 
was very carefully coached by his accomplice 
every time he had to meet Alexandra Feodor- 
owna, and he used to relate to her some sensa- 



tional supernatural stories, which a man of his 
ignorance could not possibly have learned if 
he had not been inspired by the Almighty, as 
she fondly imagined. Her superstitious feel- 
ings had entirely taken the upper hand of her 
reason in all matters where Raspoutine was 
concerned, and she truly believed him to be a 
Prophet of God, whose every word was in- 
spired by Heaven, whose intercession in her 
behalf had decided the Almighty to cure her 
son of a disease which all the doctors who 
had seen him had pronounced to be quite in- 

In the mean while, although the relations of 
the Czarina with the crafty adventurer who 
had succeeded in captivating her confidence 
remained restricted to the purely religious 
ground, people were talking about them, trying 
to turn them into a vast agency where every- 
thing in the world could be bought and sold, 
providing the necessary money was forthcoming 
to do it. Manassavitch-Maniulofl, thanks to 
the numerous spies whose services he could 
command for a consideration, started to spread 
the rumor that Raspoutine had become all 
powerful in Court circles, and that if only one 
applied to him one could bring through the 
most difficult kind of business. It must be 
remembered that at the time I am referring 
to (the five years or so immediately preceding 
the war) Russia had been transformed into a 



vast stock-exchange, thanks to the mania for 
speculation which, since the Japanese war, 
had seized hold of the pubHc. Industry always 
more or less neglected had suddenly taken a 
new and unexpected lease of life, and banks did 
a roaring business in selling and buying for the 
account of the innumerable speculators who 
rushed to invest their money. Nothing mat- 
tered in that respect save the quotation of 
yesterday and the one expected or hoped for 

Government contracts for all kinds of things, 
especially contracts connected with the railway 
business and with factories of every sort, were 
eagerly sought for. In the fight which was 
taking place to obtain them every possible 
argument was employed. The art of Maniuloff 
and of his friends, because he was not alone 
in this detestable business, consisted in per- 
suading others, even men in power who ought 
to have known better, that Raspoutine, through 
his connection with the powers who ruled at 
Tsarskoye Selo, could get for them such con- 
tracts that he expected in return a solid com- 
mission, which, of course, was never refused to 

How long this kind of thing would have gone 
on it is difficult to say if Mr. Stolypine, who 
was at the time Prime Minister, had not had 
his attention drawn toward the activity of the 
"Prophet.'' Not knowing very well what to 



make of the conflicting reports which were 
brought to him, he expressed one day the desire 
to meet Raspoutine. After the interview he 
uttered his famous phrase: 

*'The only use the man could be put to was 
to light the furnace of the house he was living 

The words were repeated, of course, to the 
person whom they concerned, and they proved 
the death sentence of Stolypine, because his 
"removal" by fair or by foul means was de- 
cided immediately after he had uttered them. 
Stolypine, however, in spite of his apparent 
disdain for the strange personality of Ras- 
poutine, was far too clever not to realize that 
the constant presence of this man by the side 
of the Empress of Russia was likely to lead to 
gossip of a dangerous kind, if not to various 
complications. He tried at first to get rid of 
him by diplomatic means, and enrolled the 
sympathies of the Grand-Duchess Elisabeth, 
the eldest sister of Alexandra Feodorowna, who, 
by reason of her having embraced a religious 
life, was in possession of great respect every- 
where and could say what she liked to the 
Czar as well as to the Czarina. The Prime 
Minister explained to her that it was to the 
highest degree harmful for the reputation of 
the Imperial dynasty in general to see its heads 
give way to a superstition which only evoked 
ridicule on the part of reasonable people. 



Elisabeth Feodorowna promised that she would 
try what she could do, but after a while she had 
to acknowledge that at the first words she had 
spoken concerning the advisability of sending 
Raspoutine back to his native village of 
Pokrowskoye in Siberia the Empress had in- 
terrupted her so angrily that she had not been 
able to go on with the conversation. 

Stolypine was not a man to stop at half- 
measures. He asked no one's law or leave, 
and in virtue of his powers as Prime Minister 
he had the "Prophet" exiled from the capital 
at twenty-four hours' notice. 

Raspoutine wished to communicate with the 
Empress as soon as the order to leave St. 
Petersburg was signified to him, but he was 
prevented from doing so by his friend, Manas- 
savitch-Maniuloff, who assured him that it 
would be far wiser not to murmur, and to accept 
the decree of banishment issued against him; 
because in that way he would acquire far more 
sympathy than would be the case if he rebelled ; 
besides, in his absence it would be relatively 
easy to play upon the nervous temperament of 
the Empress to such an extent that after he 
had been recalled he would never stand again 
the risk of a second dismissal. This was ac- 
cordingly done and Alexandra Feodorowna 
found herself alone, deprived of the possibility 
of going on with religious practices that had 
gradually assumed the character of those in- 



dulged in by that sect of the Khlystys to which 
Raspoutine belonged. 

By a strange coincidence, which was nothing 
but a coincidence because, weak and foohsh 
as was Anna Wyrubewa, she did not lend 
herself to the conspiracy which was so falsely 
attributed to her, which in reality did not 
exist, the conspiracy of drugging the little 
Cesarewitsch for the purpose of proving to his 
mother that he could not be well so long as 
Raspoutine was not there to pray for him — 
the child suddenly sickened in a more danger- 
ous manner than ever before. The poor 
Empress again went out of her mind. She 
used to cry aloud that God was punishing her 
for not having known how to protect His 
"Prophet," and things of the same kind. At 
last the baby grew better, and the Court could 
remove to the Crimea, where it was hoped he 
would more rapidly recover than in the damp 
climate of St. Petersburg. It was during this 
journey that Stolypine was murdered by 
secret police agents, a crime in which it was 
generally believed that Raspoutine, together 
with his accomplices, had been mixed up. The 
Empress, who had hated the Prime Minister 
ever since she had ascertained that it was he 
who had banished her favorite, did not disarm 
even in the presence of death, and it was re- 
lated that she publicly prided herself upon 
having persuaded the Emperor not to attend 



the funeral of the man who had died for him, 
but to leave Kieff for Livadia on the eve of the 
day when it was to take place. 

She had become very bitter just then, and 
she never missed any opportunity which pre- 
sented itself to show her want of affection for 
the Imperial Family, as well as her contempt for 
the Russian people. The morganatic marriage 
of the only brother of Nicholas II., the Grand- 
Duke Michael, which took place at about that 
time, procured her a new occasion to prove the 
unbounded influence which since the birth of 
her son she had acquired over the mind of the 
weak Emperor, and to exercise her revengeful 
feelings in an unexpected manner. This mar- 
riage, so much must be conceded, was of a 
nature to give rise to unpleasantness, and could 
not in any case have been viewed with favor- 
able eyes either by the Czar or by the Imperial 
Family. The lady had already been divorced 
twice, and the fact of her last husband having 
been an officer in the same regiment as the 
Grand Duke was also a reason why the match 
would have been disapproved of in any case. 
But, on the other hand, Michael Alexandrowitch, 
in uniting himself to the woman who had 
captivated his heart and his fancy, was acting 
as a man of honor, considering several facts 
which made it almost imperative for him not 
to forsake a person who had sacrificed much 
for his sake. It would certainly have been 



sufficient to oblige him to leave the army and 
to reside for some time abroad as a punishment, 
and no one imagined that worse could befall 

The Empress had always intensely disliked 
her brother-in-law, who would have been 
Regent of the Empire in case the Czar had died 
before the Heir to the Throne had reached his 
majority, and she determined to make use of 
the opportunity which had arisen to vent her 
bad feelings on a man in whom she saw a rival 
to the claims of her own son. She induced 
Nicholas II. to deprive the Grand Duke of his 
fortune as well as of his civil rights, and to make 
out of him a ward in chancery. The scandal 
was immense, and it did not procure any friends 
for Alexandra Feodorowna. 

In the mean while the Cesarewitsch sickened 
again, and the frantic mother implored Anna 
Wyrubewa to write to Raspoutine and to 
implore the latter to work a miracle of some 
kind in favor of her son. The ''Prophet" 
replied that he would pray with all his heart 
for the child, but that he doubted very much 
whether this would avail, because the Empress 
had neglected her duties in regard to the 
Almighty and forgotten to continue the practices 
of mortification and of devotion she had been 
wrapped up in the whole time he had been near 
her to urge her to go on with them. Alexandra 
Feodorowna could not stand this last reproach, 



and she forthwith started to implore the Czar 
to recall the "Prophet." But Nicholas 11. 
had been warned against him quite recently 
and refused to grant her request. This brought 
about a renewal of tears and hysterics on the 
part of the Czarina, and at last, one day that 
she was alone with Anna, she unburdened her 
soul to the latter, exclaiming that she knew her 
beloved boy was going to die and that it would 
be her fault, ending her confession with the 
agonized cry: 

" My son ! I must save my son !" 

Madame Wyrubewa saw that the poor 
creature was in such an over-excited state that 
she might really be facing a collapse of her 
reason. She then proposed to the infatuated 
Alexandra to have recourse to a bold measure, 
which consisted in bringing back Raspoutine 
quite secretly to St. Petersburg, where he could 
stay at her house without any one getting to 
hear of it. If, then, his prayers brought about 
the amelioration required in the state of health 
of the little Alexis, the Empress would be able 
to tell the Czar what she had done, and perhaps 
to convince the latter of the efficacy of the 
holy man's intervention and intercession on 
behalf of their boy. 

The Czarina caught eagerly at the idea, and 
after long negotiations, which very nearly failed 
because Raspoutine did not yield at once to the 
entreaties sent to him, he at last consented to 



return to St. Petersburg. He was secretly in- 
troduced into the room where the Heir to the 
Russian Throne was lying, in what every one 
thought were already the throes of death. He 
prayed for the child, he prayed for the Empress, 
and he urged the latter to submit to certain 
mysterious passes which he proceeded to per- 
form over her head. A few days after this 
secret interview Alexis suddenly began to 
improve; not only this, but he became stronger 
and brighter than he had been for a long time. 

Alexandra Feodorowna was radiant, and one 
day when Nicholas II. was rejoicing at the 
happy change which had taken place in the 
condition of their son she informed him of 
what she had done and begged from him 
permission to bring Raspoutine to him and 
to allow him to remain in the vicinity of the 
Court in the future. Nicholas II. was con- 
vinced and granted the necessary authorization. 
After this the question of Raspoutine's return 
to Siberia was not raised again, and he never 
left, except for short vacations, the Sovereigns 
who had at last been persuaded to give to him 
their complete confidence. 

He refused, however, to take up his abode 
in Tsarskoye Selo, and showed himself very 
discreet in his demeanor. He was admirably 
advised, and he prepared himself in silence for 
the part it was intended for him to play in the 

future. But at stated intervals, and upon 



stated days, he used to see the Empress, either 
in her own rooms or, most frequently, at the 
house of Anna Wyrubewa, when he evoked for 
her the spirit of Colonel Orlofif and transmitted 
messages which he was supposed to have re- 
ceived. Alexandra Feodorowna believed him, 
and this new understanding, which she firmly 
thought had, thanks to the prayers of the 
" Prophet," established itself between her and 
the man who had possessed her heart, proved 
to her the greatest consolation she had 
known. It induced her to come out of her 
retirement and to begin to take part in the 
management of public affairs, which she in- 
sisted upon the Czar communicating to her. 
The time was coming when it would become 
known in Russia that if the Sovereign was a 
weak man his Consort was trying to show herself 
a strong woman, and comparisons between 
Alexandra Feodorowna and Catherine the 
Great began to be heard in the yet small circle 
which affected to admire the new qualities it 
prided itself upon having discovered in the 
young Empress. 



THE years which followed upon Raspoutine's 
triumphant return to Tsarskoye Selo 
were most eventful ones for Russia as well as 
for the Imperial Family. Europe, too, went 
through political convulsions which were the 
preliminary of the disaster that was to sweep 
over it in 19 14, but in which very few people 
in 19 1 2 were able to discern danger. I am 
referring to the annexation by Austria of Bosnia 
and Herzegovina and to the two Balkan wars. 
When Servia was threatened by Bulgarian 
ambition there existed a powerful party in 
Russia which would have liked the Czar to 
interfere on her behalf, and to lend her his aid 
against King Ferdinand, on one side, and the 
Austrian spirit of conquest, on the other. 
Popular feeling was very much in favor of a 
Russian demonstration, and for some weeks St. 
Petersburg was the scene of a violent agitation 
which, in the opinion of many people, was 
destined to end in a war with the Austro- 



Hungarian monarchy. It was not a secret that 
the Servian Government would not have ob- 
jected, had such a contingency presented itself, 
and during the whole of the summer and 
autumn of 19 13 different Servian politicians 
came to Russia to discuss the situation. In 
Moscow, as well as in St. Petersburg, they ap- 
plied themselves to the task of awakening in 
favor of their country the sympathies of all the 
Russian Slavophils. At one time it seemed as 
if they were going to succeed and as if the Czar 
would be compelled to yield to the general 
wishes of his subjects. 

Here Raspoutine interfered, and, thanks to 
his influence over the Empress, he contrived 
to prevent the spread of a conflagration which 
threatened to extend itself far beyond the 
Balkan Peninsula. It must not be assumed, 
however, that in doing so he was actuated by 
any patriotic motives. He was a man for whom 
the word '* patriotism" had absolutely no mean- 
ing. But his friends, as well as himself, were 
plunged head foremost in financial schemes 
which a war would in all probability have 
wrecked, and therefore he applied himself with 
all his energy to set hindrances in the path of the 
chauvinists who tried to induce the Emperor 
to assert the might of his Empire, to rush to 
the rescue of those Slav nationalities that had 
refused to conform themselves to the anti- 
Russian policy which Bulgaria had been 
13 189 


pursuing ever since King Ferdinand had been 
put in control of her destinies. 

This interference on the part of the " Proph- 
et'* in matters which did not concern him in 
the least became known very quickly, not only 
in Russia, but also abroad, and one of the most 
active members of the German Embassy in St. 
Petersburg, who was persona grata in the 
Wilhelmstrasse, wrote a whole report on the 
subject, raising at the same time the question 
as to whether it would not be worth while to 
try, with the help of substantial arguments, to 
win Raspoutine over to the idea of a rapproche^ 
ment between Russia and Germany. The latter 
was steadily making preparations for the war 
which she was quite determined to provoke 
within a very few months. She had always 
worked toward the destruction of the Franco- 
Russian understanding, which stood in her way, 
which she feared might come to endanger her 
dreams of a world-wide Empire. Every effort 
had been made on the part of the Berlin Court 
to win over the Czar to the idea of renewing 
the intimate bonds which, during the whole 
time of his grandfather's reign, had united the 
HohenzoUerns and the Romanoffs. When Nich- 
olas II. had repaired to BerHn for the marriage 
of the Kaiser's only daughter with the son of 
the Duke of Cumberland he had been made the 
object of one of the warmest welcomes he had 

ever received in his life, a welcome which had 



touched him so much that he had come back 
to Tsarskoye Selo full of enthusiasm for his 
Prussian relatives. If the truth need be told, 
he was also slightly disillusioned as to the ad- 
vantages which his country might obtain 
through its alliance with the French Republic. 
This feeling of distrust which had thus been 
sown in his mind in regard to the good intentions 
of his Latin ally was of course at once reported 
to the Kaiser by the many friends which the 
latter had in St. Petersburg, and it made him 
doubly anxious to win over to his side the good- 
will as well as the sympathies of Nicholas II. 
At the same time William was very well aware 
that it was most difficult to rely on anything 
promised by a man with such a weak character, 
or rather with such a lack of character, as his 
Russian cousin. An ally who would con- 
tinually whisper in the latter's ear all the ad- 
vantages which a friendly treaty and under- 
standing with Germany could bring to him, as 
well as to the whole Russian Empire, was in- 
dispensable ; of course, when it was suggested to 
those who controlled the actions and the 
politics of the Wilhelmstrasse that he might be 
found in the person of the Empress Alexandra's 
favorite, the Kaiser came very quickly to the 
conclusion it would be worth while to obtain 
the good offices of this remarkable man. 

This, however, would have proved difficult, 
even for the experienced spies which Prussia 



maintained in all circles of Russian society, 
as it was not easy to discover means of getting 
into contact with the formidable adventurer 
whose name had already become one of the 
most powerful to conjure with in the vast 
Russian Empire. At this juncture Mr. Man- 
assavitch-Maniuloff interfered and volunteered 
his services to William II. The crafty fox had 
heard that the Czar's confidence in France was 
slightly shaken. Maniuloff at once bethought 
himself of the possibility of turning his knowl- 
edge to his personal advantage, and he managed, 
no one knows how, to impart to the German 
Ambassador in St. Petersburg, Count Pour- 
tales, his willingness to persuade Nicholas II., 
through Raspoutine, that he would do well to 
throw France overboard and to conclude a 
treaty with the Prussian Government, which 
eventually might prove of immense advantage 
to himself by assuring him of German pro- 
tection in the not improbable case of a new 
Revolution taking place in his Empire. 

This sort of thing went on for some time, 
and it is quite likely that if events had not 
precipitated themselves one upon the other 
with the most startling rapidity, the policy 
of Raspoutine and his friend might have borne 
fruit in some way or other, and the rela- 
tions between the Cabinet of St. Petersburg 
and that of Paris, which had already sensibly 
cooled down, would have become even fresher 



than was already the case. In fact, the an- 
nounced visit of President Poincare had not 
appealed to the Czar, who, while unable to 
decHne it, yet had expressed himself quite 
loudly as to the small amount of pleasure 
which he expected to get out of it. Of course 
Berlin heard about the remarks that had 
escaped the lips of the Russian Sovereign, and 
it was not slow to draw its own conclusions 
from them. In fact, if we are to believe all that 
was related at the time by person^ well up as 
to what went on in European politics, it was 
confidently expected by the Kaiser that in- 
stead of drawing France and Russia closer 
together the journey of the French President, 
thanks to personal frictions he felt sure would 
arise, would, on the contrary, irritate Nicholas 
II. and make him look with more favorable 
eyes than he had done before on the possibility 
of a change in the conduct of Russian Foreign 

Whether this would have taken place or not 
it is difficult to say, because at the last moment 
Germany lost her most devoted ally, and the 
influence of the man who had, more than any 
one else, worked in its interests was eliminated 
for the time being. A woman, who had just 
reasons for feeling revengeful against Raspou- 
tine, stabbed him as he was coming out of 
church in his native village of Pokrowskoye in 
Siberia, whither he had gone on a short visit, 



He was ill for a long time, and during the weeks 
that he was laid up, to the intense consternation 
of the Empress, who was only with great 
difficulty prevented from going herself to nurse 
him, the Austrian ultimatum consequent on 
the assassination of the Heir to Francis Joseph's 
Throne was presented to Servia, and followed 
by the declaration of war launched by Germany 
almost simultaneously against Russia and 

This proved for Alexandra Feodorowna the 
most terrible blow that had yet befallen her 
since the day when she had plighted her troth 
to the mighty Czar of All the Russias. During 
the eventful hours that preceded the initial 
act of the tragedy which was to change the 
face of the whole world she went about like a 
demented woman, crying and praying in turns, 
and imploring her husband to pause before he 
allowed the accomplishment of a calamity 
which she vaguely guessed would claim her for 
one of its first victims. But this time there was 
no Raspoutine at her side to play on the feelings 
of humanity of the weak-minded Nicholas, to 
persuade him that he ought rather to submit 
to the humiliation of Russian prestige than to 
allow another war to throw its shadow on his 
already too unfortunate reign. On the con- 
trary, all the advisers of the Emperor, all his 
Ministers, public opinion, the press, and the 
army, eager to wipe out the remembrance of 



the Japanese disaster, poured into his ears their 
conviction that if he did not rush to the help 
of poor threatened Servia he would not only 
lose the last fragments of popularity which 
were left to him, but also put Russia before 
the whole world in a most shameful and dis- 
honorable position. 

As usual, the Czar yielded, with the results 
which we know and have seen. He could 
hardly have done anything else, if we take into 
consideration that Germany was absolutely 
determined to start the abominable war, from 
which she hoped to obtain the realization 
of her schemes of domination of the whole 
earth. But — ^and this must be told here — the 
Kaiser in letters far more authentic than the 
famous Willy and Nicky correspondence, which 
personally I consider as subject to much doubt, 
in view of certain improbabilities which it 
contains, the Kaiser did propose at that time 
to his cousin to conclude with him a defensive 
and offensive alliance against France and 
England. In return for which he engaged him- 
self to uphold any designs which Russia might 
nurse in regard to the Balkans and the Straits. 

It may not be to the advantage of his in- 
tellectual faculties that Nicholas failed to see 
the vast political scheme which lay behind 
this offer; it is certainly to the honor of his 
moral character that he refused it, and this in 
spite of the supplications of his wife, who en- 



treated him not to plunge their country into 
a war which, as she repeated, could only prove 
disastrous for its future, as well as for that of 
the dynasty. In spite of his natural defects, 
of his cruelty, harshness of heart, and utter 
disregard of the rights of others, the Czar was 
still a gentleman and he could not be induced 
to do anything capable of dishonoring him as a 
gentleman, though he may have lent himself 
to actions degrading for a Sovereign. During 
the terribly responsible days which preceded 
the declaration of war he behaved quite irre- 
proachably. It was later on that he was 
influenced by Raspoutine and by the Empress 
to lend himself to political schemes unworthy 
of him, as well as of the nation over which he 

On the 1st of August, 19 14, twelve hours 
after Germany had thrown her gauntlet into 
his face, he showed himself for the last time to 
his people on the balcony of the Winter Palace. 
An immense crowd had gathered together in 
the big square which it faces, and for the last 
time, too, cheered him vociferously, forgetting 
in this solemn moment all the follies, mistakes, 
and errors which had saddened his reign and 
raised a barrier between him and this great 
Russia that his father had made so prosperous 
and so mighty. If in that supreme moment he 
had been able to find words capable of electrify- 
ing this crowd into believing in him again, who 



knows but that the reverses which were to 
crowd upon him could not have been avoided, 
or at least diminished! But Nicholas II. 
never knew how to speak to his subjects or how 
to touch their hearts. He remained impassible 
and indifferent in the most critical hours of his 
life and of theirs, and this incapacity to rise 
to the height of the situation of the moment 
was perhaps one of the things which contributed 
the most to his fall. 

I remember him so well on that August 
afternoon, facing the multitude assembled to 
greet him as its Czar and leader, and I remember, 
too, the thought which swept through my mind, 
that it was a thousand pities it was not his 
father who stood there in his place. Alexander 
III. would have known how to address Russia 
in an hour of national danger. He was neither 
a brilliant nor an extremely intelligent man, 
but he was a man and a Sovereign, who realized 
the duties of a Monarch and of a man. He 
was, moreover, a Russian who thought and who 
felt as a Russian alone could think and feel, 
in questions where the honor and the future 
of the country were involved. Nicholas 11. 
was simply an Emperor who wished to be an 
autocrat. It was too much and not enough 
at the same time, and many among those who 
looked upon him, as he appeared before his 
people on that historical balcony whence it 
was the custom to announce to the popula- 



tion of the capital the death of a Sover- 
eign whenever it took place, many wondered 
whether they were not going to hear that 
another one had started on the long jour- 
ney whence there is no return. His presence 
seemed to herald a funeral rather than the 
hope of a triumph, and this impression which 
he produced was so vivid that more than 
one acknowledged having experienced it when 
talking about this famous day which, though 
we knew it not, proved to be the last upon 
which a Russian Czar faced the Russian people 
before the latter overthrew the chief of the 
House of Romanoff from the Throne which he 
had disgraced. 



IT would not have been human on the part 
of the Empress Alexandra if she had not 
felt deeply aggrieved at the war which had so 
unexpectedly broken out between the country 
of her birth and that of her adoption. She 
had never really become a Russian at heart 
and her sympathies had remained exclusively 
German all through her married life. Apart 
from this, she had experienced from the inter- 
course which she had kept up with her own 
family the only pleasure which she had frankly 
enjoyed since the Crown of the Russian 
Czarinas had been put upon her head. She 
dearly loved her two sisters, the Princess 
Victoria of Battenberg and the Princess Irene 
of Prussia, far more, indeed, than she did her 
other one, the Grand-Duchess Elisabeth, whom 
she considered more or less as a rival and whom 
in the secret of her heart she could not forgive 
for having won in Russia a popularity which 
had always been denied to her own self. 

Then there was her brother, the Grand Duke 
of Hesse, with whom she had remained in 



correspondence, who paid her frequent visits 
in Tsarskoye Selo; there was also her cousin, 
the Kaiser, who had been the first person to 
point out to her the responsibihties which were 
inseparable from the exalted position she oc- 
cupied as Empress of All the Russias, who had 
applied himself to persuade her that she had 
great political talents, and that she could 
undoubtedly, if she only wished it, become a 
most important factor in European politics. 
Strange to say, though she had been brought 
up partly in England, though her mother had 
been an English Princess, though she was the 
grandchild of Queen Victoria, she intensely 
disliked everything that was English, and had 
for English customs, English ambitions, and 
English politics the same hatred which charac- 
terized William II. Perhaps this common 
aversion was one of the reasons why they had 
always got on so well together, and why they 
had been able to be of so much use to each 
other. At all events, the fact that it existed 
in an equal degree in both of them had drawn 
them together, and at last, after she had con- 
trived to eliminate the influence of her anti- 
German mother-in-law, Alexandra Feodorowna 
had been able to give herself up body and soul 
to the task of drawing together her husband 
and her own kindred. She had tried to per- 
suade the former that the only means to insure 
the prosperity and the welfare of the Russian 



Empire in the future consisted in a closer 
union with Germany, with whom there existed 
absolutely no reason to quarrel, because there 
were no interests capable of clashing between 
the two people. She had represented to the 
weak-minded Nicholas that Russia had ob- 
tained from France all that she could hope to 
get, and that the latter had become weary of 
always being called upon to invest money in 
Russian bonds without any return being made 
for her generosity. 

Nicholas 11. had always detested republics, 
and though he had been made much of during 
his visits to Paris, which he had thoroughly 
enjoyed, he yet had never felt quite at home 
amid the Republican society he had been called 
upon to get acquainted with; in the secret of 
his heart he despised all French political men, 
whom he considered as much inferior to him- 
self. But a natural inclination to dissimulation, 
which he carried so far that many people called 
it by quite another name, had made him care- 
fully conceal the real state of his feelings in 
regard to his French ally. It is, however, 
quite certain that if the war had not broken 
out the Franco-Russian alliance would have 
died a natural death. As things occurred, it 
was for a short space of time to appear more 
complete than ever; this was not the merit of 
Nicholas, but the result of the honesty which 
the French Government brought to bear in all 

20 X 


that happened in 1914. In Russian Court 
circles, which were all of them, more or less, 
given up to Germany, the news that the country 
was going to war was received with conster- 
nation, and there were many people who de- 
clared that it was a shame for Russia to be 
drawn into a struggle which was essentially a 
personal quarrel between France and Germany, 
with which she had nothing to do. 

At first and before the anti-German feeling 
became fierce in St. Petersburg, the Empress, 
in spite of political complications, remained in 
private correspondence with her brother, and 
through him with the Kaiser, to whom she 
promised that she would spare no efforts to 
induce the Czar to conclude peace as soon as 
it became practicable. She had never been 
able to form an idea of the power which public 
opinion, especially in times of national danger, 
can exercise over a nation. She imagined that 
the authority wielded by the Crown would be 
sufficient to put an end to any manifestations 
of sympathy in regard to France on the part 
of the Russian people. She therefore felt con- 
fident that the struggle which had just begun 
would not last long, and that Russia could 
come out of it, if not with flying colors, at least 
without any serious losses. 

No one during those early days of the war 

admitted for one moment the possibility that 

Warsaw and the line of fortresses which de- 



fended the Russian frontier on the side of the 
Niemen could fall into the hands of the enemy; 
all that the Empress expected was a defeat of 
the Russian armies which would not seriously 
compromise their prestige, but at the same 
time convince the country that an advantageous 
peace was, after all, the best way of getting out 
of a situation where all the time one adversary 
had either willingly or unwillingly misunder- 
stood the good intentions of the other. 

She was consequently working along this 
line when Raspoutine returned to Tsarskoye 
Selo. He did this as soon as the doctors had 
pronounced him fit to travel. She began 
once more to pray with him and to ask him to 
put her again into communication with that 
other world where she imagined that Colonel 
Orloff was waiting to advise her as to what she 
ought to do in regard to the war and to the 
necessity of putting an end to it as soon as 
possible. But while she believed that none 
outside the few people she had admitted into 
her confidence — one of whom was Anna Wyru- 
bewa, and another Sturmer, who was later on 
to play such an important part in the tragedy 
of her fall — could guess what she was about, 
Sazonoff began to suspect that it was due to 
her influence that the Emperor was no longer 
so amenable to the advice which he ventured 
to offer. It was partly to put an obstacle in 

the way of any independent act of the Sovereign 



that might have been interpreted as not quite 
loyal in regard to Russia's Allies, that he had 
suggested the drawing up of the document 
known by the name of the Treaty of London, 
in which the Allied Powers engaged themselves 
not to conclude any individual or separate 
peace with Germany. He thought, and others 
did the same, that this would prove the best 
means to hold together the Entente without 
exposing it to mutual suspicion. He concluded 
this pact of his own authority, only acquaint- 
ing the Czar with what he had done after it 
had become an accomplished fact. 

Nicholas understood for once the significance 
of his Minister's bold action, but he could not 
disavow it; therefore he had to make the best 
of it. But he refrained from telling the Em- 
press of this new complication which would 
surely interfere with her hopes of a prompt 
peace, and it was through a letter from her 
brother that she heard at last what had taken 
place in London. Her wrath was intense, the 
more so that her German relatives blamed her 
for a thing she had known nothing about and 
for which they tried to make her responsible. 
Alexandra Feodorowna had never understood 
what self-control meant, and she gave public 
vent to her indignation, accusing Sazonoff of 
having betrayed his Imperial Master's con- 
fidence, and vowing that he would be made to 
repent for this piece of audacity. 



The Empress was still smarting under the 
sense of her personal defeat in a struggle against 
the people who were trying to control Russian 
politics and to lead them in a road she strongly 
objected taking, when the news of the defeat of 
the Russian army at Tannenberg came like 
a thunderbolt out of the blue, to stir up all the 
patriotic feelings of the Russian nation and to 
put an end to any idea of peace which may have 
existed in some timorous minds. The Empress 
had perforce to appear to share the general 
indignation against the ruthless conduct of 
Germany, and she had to acknowledge her 
momentary helplessness to speak what she 
considered to be the language of reason, and 
to try to persuade her subjects that it would 
be to their advantage to abandon their Allies 
to their fate, and to apply themselves to with- 
draw their own pawns out of the game. 

In these days of suspense Raspoutine turned 
out to be the greatest comfort in the world to 
her. For one thing, he made it possible for her 
to begin again seeking in Berlin inspirations as 
to the course of conduct she ought to pursue. 
Thanks to him, Mr. Manassavitch-Maniuloff 
was persuaded to undertake a journey abroad, 
during which he was to see the leading political 
men in Europe and to ascertain their views on 
the subject of the conduct of the war in general, 
as well as of its chances of success. Ostensibly 

it was a newspaper on which he was assistant 
14 205 


editor, the Nowoie Wremia^ that sent him on 
this perilous mission. In reahty, he started as 
the agent of the Empress, and he saw several 
German officials in Stockholm, as well as in 
Copenhagen, where he spent a few days. He 
proceeded to London and to Paris, only to lend 
coloring to what otherwise would have been 
an impossible trip. When he returned to 
Russia he brought along with him a whole 
program drawn out by the Kaiser, which 
Alexandra Feodorowna proceeded at once to 

But here again she found obstacles in her 
path, the principal of which was the stubborn- 
ness of the Grand-Duke Nicholas, who, in spite 
of the fact that he had to acknowledge that 
Russia had neither guns nor ammunition in 
sufficient quantity to be able to hold her own 
against the hordes of William II., yet refused 
to consider his country as beaten. The Grand 
Duke was popular in the army. The fact that 
it began to be known that he represented at 
Court the Russian party, in opposition to the 
hated Empress, who was supposed to head the 
German one, gave him considerable prestige. 
When the Czar had consulted him as to what 
ought to be done, he had replied : 

*'Do anything you like except conclude 
peace, because if you do I shall be the first one 
to lead the army against you, and to compel 

you to go on with the struggle." 



Nicholas had repeated to the Czarina the 
threat of his cousin, and this had been sufficient 
to incense the latter, even more than she had 
been before, against a man whom she con- 
sidered, perhaps not quite without reason, as 
her most formidable enemy. 

Nevertheless, she tried to persuade him to 
change his mind, and made an appeal to his 
feelings of humanity, asking him whether it 
was right to go on with a war in which hundreds 
of thousands of Russian soldiers had already 
fallen, which would probably entail more 
sacrifices in the future than the country could 
afford. She spoke eloquently, but the Grand 
Duke remained unmoved, and at last Alexandra 
Feodorowna, worn out by the supreme effort 
which she had made, gave way to her uncon- 
trollable grief, exclaiming in her deep distress : 

" My country, my poor country, must I for- 
sake thee?" 

Nicholas Nicholaievitch turned round and 
said, with a withering contempt: 

"To what country do you allude. Madam — 
to Russia or to Germany?" 

The Empress jumped up, her eyes blazing 
with rage. She rang the bell, and told the lady 
in waiting who came in response to her call: 

"Show the Grand Duke out. He must never 
be allowed to enter this room any more." 

And Nicholas Nicholaievitch never did so 




THIS interview with the Grand Duke, 
Commander-in-chief of the armies in the 
field, could not fail to produce a deep im- 
pression on the troubled mind of the Empress. 
Her proud and unforgiving character had been 
goaded to the extreme by the irony with which 
her husband's cousin had received the over- 
tures which she had made to him, and she 
could not bring herself to forgive him for the 
calm disdain with which he had asked her 
whether she considered Russia or Germany as 
her Fatherland. 

Of course she flew to Anna Wyrubewa to 
seek consolation, but when the latter advised 
her to ask Raspoutine to pray for her in this 
crisis of her life, Alexandra Feodorowna for 
once did not accept this suggestion, saying that 
a man absorbed in religious practices like the 
"Prophet" could not be expected to take a sane 
view of a position which was getting so in- 
tricate that it would require a statesman of 



unusual ability to unravel it. But she ex- 
pressed herself willing to talk to Mr. Sturmer 
about it, and to ask him what he thought of 
the Grand Duke's insolence, as she termed it, 
and what he would suggest as to the means of 
putting it down. 

It is time here to say a word concerning Mr. 
Sturmer, who was so soon to play a prominent 
part in the drama of the Romanoffs' fate. He 
was a man of moderate intelligence, great am- 
bition, and above everything else an oppor- 
tunist — a perfect type of the class called in 
Russian Tchinownikis, who always and in 
everything it does approves the government 
of the day. He had for years paraded ultra- 
conservative opinions, and while he had per- 
formed the functions of Master of the Cere- 
monies at the Imperial Court, he had professed 
great sympathies for England and for every- 
thing British, playing the European, while at 
heart he was the personification of the Tartar 
hidden under the Russian flag. He was, more- 
over, an excellent talker and a well-read, well- 
educated man. His German origin had imbued 
him, as was to be expected, with considerable 
admiration for the Kultur, such as it was under- 
stood at the time I am referring to. The late 
Czar Alexander III. had always abominated 
him and shown him that such was the case 
in an unmistakable manner. But Mr. Sturmer 
had the happy knack never to notice what it 



was inconvenient for him to be caught looking 
at; he stuck to his post until he contrived to 
get another appointment, that of President of 
the zemstwo of the province of Twer, where he 
possessed a large estate. This position, how- 
ever, he had to abandon soon, because his 
colleagues happened all of them to be very 
ardent liberals who refused to accept his 
monarchical views. 

Sturmer retired to private life, but at the 
time of the accession to the Throne of Nicholas 
IL he came to St. Petersburg, and managed 
to convey to the new Czar a detailed report as 
to the wave of liberalism that, to use his words, 
"infected" the province of Twer. If we are to 
believe a rumor which was persistently cir- 
culated in the capital, this had a good deal to do 
with the famous speech in which the Emperor 
told the deputies of the zemstwos (come to 
congratulate him on his marriage) that they 
need not in the future indulge in "senseless 
dreams," as it was his firm intention to uphold 
intact the principles of autocracy. 

Sturmer was clever enough to conceal his 
extreme delight at the Sovereign's attitude, 
and he went on with his attempt to worm 
himself into the latter's favor. Very soon after- 
ward he re-entered public life, was appointed 
Governor of that same province of Twer where 
he had met with such unsuccess, and pro- 
ceeded steadily to work out for himself the 



reputation of being a first-rate statesman. 
He was shrewd enough to see what others had 
failed to perceive, and this was that, with the 
weak character of Nicholas II., it would require 
very little trouble on the part of the Empress 
to obtain complete mastery over his mind. 
He therefore applied himself to persuade the 
latter that it was her duty to make the attempt. 
He had always been a fanatical orthodox, per- 
haps because he had not been born one, and 
he was in great favor with several high Church 
dignitaries, including the new confessor of the 
Imperial Family, Father Schabelsky, whom the 
Czarina liked very much, and in whom she had 
great confidence. This made it relatively 
easy for him to carry to the ears of Alexandra 
Feodorowna his opinions on the current events 
of the day, and he did not fail to do so during 
the troubled times of the Revolution of 1905, 
and of the repression which followed upon it, 
in which he took an active part. He occupied 
then a post in the Ministry. However, he had 
to give up this upon his appointment as a 
member of the Council of State, which promo- 
tion had covered an attempt on the part of his 
colleagues to get rid of him. He took an im- 
portant share in the deliberations of this 
Assembly, and very soon was recognized as one 
of the leaders of the ultra-conservative party 
there, and as a strong supporter of an alliance 
with Germany. 



This attitude alone would have been sufficient: 
to win for him the good-will of the Czarina, 
and when the war broke out she often talked 
with him over the sad consequences it was sure 
to bring; she discussed with this faithful friend 
the possibility of putting an end to it, in a sense 
favorable to Russian interests, not likely to 
harm Russian prestige abroad nor the dynasty 
at home. 

Sturmer had been introduced to Raspoutine 
by the good offices of Manassavitch-Maniuloff, 
whose services he had had the opportunity to 
appreciate when they were both in the employ 
of the Government, and he soon played a 
prominent part in all the designs of these two 
sinister personages. It has even been related 
that it was due to his special suggestion that 
the comedy of the Empress being put into 
direct communication with the spirit of Colonel 
Orloff had been engineered ; of this there exists 
so far no proof, and we must therefore accept 
the tale under the reserve that, according to the 
French proverb, it is only the rich to whom one 
lends money. 

When Sturmer heard about the conversation 
which had terminated with such violence be- 
tween Alexandra Feodorowna and the Grand- 
Duke Nicholas he saw at once the capital that 
could be made out of the incident. He also 
disliked the Grand Duke; it was therefore easy 
for him to enter with alacrity and zeal into the 


plans of revenge that were being harbored by 
the Czarina, to whom he reported that Nicholas 
Nicholaievitch was trying to supplant the 
Czar, to get himself appointed Dictator of the 
Empire; that he had, moreover, the most 
sinister designs against the little Cesarewitsch, 
as well as against her, who, as he had openly 
declared, ought to be locked up in a convent. 
He pointed out further to the distracted Em- 
press that the weakness of character of her 
husband might easily make him a prey to the 
ambitions of his cousin and cause him to lend 
himself to the latter's schemes. Besides this, 
it was against all the traditions of autocracy 
for a member of the Imperial Family to aspire 
to make for himself an independent position 
outside the Czar, and if the Grand Duke was 
allowed to work out the consolidation of his 
popularity among the army and the military 
party a Palace revolution could easily follow, 
which would overthrow Nicholas II. and de- 
throne him in favor of some other Romanoff, 
willing to become an easy tool in the hands of 
the Grand-Duke Commander-in-chief. 

After this it became the one object of Alex- 
andra Feodorowna's ambition to deprive her 
cousin of his command, to have him exiled 
somewhere far from St. Petersburg, which by 
this time had been renamed Petrograd. 

This, however, was a difficult piece of work 
to perform, precisely on account of the weak- 



ness of temperament of Nicholas II. and of the 
awe with which any violent decision to be 
taken in regard to any one whom he knew to 
be stronger than himself inspired him. Re- 
Hgious superstition was therefore brought to 
bear upon him; he was told by his wife, by a 
few people who were devoted to her, and last 
but not least by Raspoutine, that it was part 
of the duties of a Russian Czar to lead his 
nation in times of peril; that the enthusiasm 
which his presence at the head of the army would 
be sure to provoke would prove a great element 
in the achievement of a complete victory against 
a formidable foe, the strength of which had 
never been properly appreciated. At first Nich- 
olas grew impatient and would not listen. At 
heart he had the vague consciousness of his own 
incapacity to command a big army in the field ; 
he feared to take such a perilous responsibility 
upon his shoulders. He also knew that it was 
not the fault of the Grand Duke that he had 
been compelled to retreat before the invading 
German forces, but of the men who had failed 
to supply him with the necessary ammunition, 
artillery, and provisions. The Emperor did 
not care to make out of his cousin the scape- 
goat for all the sins of Israel. On the other 
hand, he dreaded the ascendency which Nicholas 
Nicholaievitch was undoubtedly acquiring in 
public opinion, and he did not care for any 
member of his family to become popular at 



his own expense. Still, he would not come to a 
decision. Even when the Grand-Duke Com- 
mander-in-chief had objected to the presence 
of the Empress at headquarters, which she 
had wished to visit, he had refrained from in- 
sisting on the point. He had, on the contrary, 
appHed himself to soothe his wife's ruffled 

This hesitation on the part of the Sovereign 
did not please at all the small group of men 
who had entered into the schemes of the 
Empress. They knew very well that so long 
as Nicholas Nicholaievitch remained in power 
it would be impossible to bring to the front the 
question of a separate peace with Germany 
for which they were steadily working. It was 
therefore determined to force the Empress to 
extort from her husband the decision they 
wished for; consequently Raspoutine asked her 
to attend a prayer-meeting he wanted to hold, 
during which he said that it had been revealed 
to him that she would come to learn many things 
hitherto kept from her knowledge, but which 
it was time she should hear. What occurred 
at this meeting no one ever could ascertain 
exactly. It seems pretty certain that Ras- 
poutine evoked the spirit of Colonel Orloff, 
and that the customary game of making a 
pencil write by itself was resorted to, with the 
result that Alexandra Feodorowna returned to 
the Palace fully convinced that, in resisting her 



demand for the removal of the Grand-Dukc 
Nicholas from his position as Commander-in- 
chief of the army, the Czar was endangering 
not only his own life, but also the Throne, and 
the chances of succession to it of his only son. 

The Empress implored her husband to listen 
to her, telling him that if he really felt alarmed 
about taking any violent measures against the 
Grand Duke, he ought at least to dismiss the 
latter's head of the staff, General Januchevitch, 
to whose blunders all the disasters that had 
overpowered the Russian armies were due. 
She represented to her bewildered spouse that 
public opinion claimed some one should be 
punished for all the unsuccesses which had 
attended the war, and that it would be satisfied 
to a small degree if the General were removed 
from his command. 

This was a compromise which Nicholas II. 
seized hold of with alacrity. It had been pro- 
posed to him because it was known very well 
that the Grand Duke would not consent to be 
parted from his faithful adviser with whom he 
had shared all the anxieties of the disastrous 
campaign that had been carried on amid such 
terrible difficulties, that he would rather re- 
sign his own command than give him up. 
The surmise proved quite correct. When 
Nicholas Nicholaievitch was informed of the 
change that had been made in the direction of 
the staff, without his having been consulted, he 



telegraphed to the Emperor, asking him to be 
also relieved as soon as possible from the 
duties of his responsible position. The Empress, 
Sturmer, and Raspoutine were jubilant. It 
was easy to persuade the Czar that his cousin, 
in thus resisting his orders, had rendered himself 
guilty of insubordination. It was decided not 
to accept his resignation, but simply to dismiss 
him and to appoint him at the same time 
Viceroy in the Caucasus, a position that had 
just been rendered vacant by the departure 
of Count Worontzoff-Daschkoflf for reasons of 
health. This they thought would be a cour- 
teous way of getting rid once for all of a per- 
sonality so strong and so encumbering at the 
same time as that of the Grand Duke, and of 
doing it in a manner to which no one could 
raise any objections. 

The Emperor said yes to everything. He 
had been thoroughly frightened, and was no 
longer in a condition of mind capable of judging 
impartially of the events taking place around 
him. A solemn religious service was celebrated 
in the private chapel of the Imperial Palace of 
Tsarskoye Selo, to implore the protection of 
Heaven on the new Commander-in-chief of 
the Russian troops, after which Nicholas 11. 
started for the headquarters of the army. 
He was received with great pomp and ceremony 
by the Grand Duke, and at once assumed the 

supreme command over demoralized regiments 



who were full of regret at the departure of 
their former leader. 

Nicholas Nicholaievitch behaved with im- 
mense dignity. In this crisis of his life he only- 
remembered that he was a Romanoff, and he 
showed an absolute submission to the decisions 
of the head of his dynasty. In words of in- 
comparable nobility he issued an army order 
in which he thanked his soldiers for their good 
services, and expressed the hope that the 
presence of their Sovereign at their head would 
inspire them with a new energy in the struggle 
that lay before them. Then he left for his new 
post, accompanied to the railway station by the 
Czar himself, from whom he parted solemnly 
and respectfully, and whom he was never to 
see again, at least not as Emperor of All the 



THE removal of the Grand-Duke Nicholas 
from the position of Commander-in-chief 
of the army did not meet with the general sat- 
isfaction that his enemies had hoped it would 
provoke. The sane elements of the nation 
understood quite well that, whatever mistakes 
he had been guilty of, they had proceeded more 
from the many difficulties which he had found 
in his way than from his own incapacity. No 
one liked the thought of his place having been 
taken by the Czar himself, who had long ago 
lost his personal prestige, whom no political 
party in the country trusted. The influence 
of the Empress was also dreaded, and the fact 
of her German leanings was openly discussed. 
The demand for a responsible Cabinet, from 
whom explanations could be demanded by the 
nation, was already to be heard everywhere. 
The Duma, when it had met, had been the scene 
of furious discussions during which the conduct 
of the Government had been severely censured. 

Russia was beginning to get tired of the 



tyrannous hand which was weighing it down 
and crushing every attempt at independence 
on the part of those who were in possession of 
her confidence. 

The Ministry was neither respected nor 
considered, the Sovereign was despised, and his 
wife was hated. Dissatisfaction was spreading 
even in the spheres which out of old traditions 
and principles had kept it within bounds. 
The aristocracy had become weary of finding 
aiyts good intentions disdained or misconstrued ; 
in all classes of society people were cursing the 
hidden "dark powers," as they were called, 
that disposed of the fate of the nation and that 
ruled the feeble and weak-minded Monarch who 
had been converted into a figurehead for whom 
no one cared except the unscrupulous people 
who were abusing his credulity and who had 
contrived to get hold of his confidence. 

The Czarina was openly accused of working 
hand in hand with her cousin, the Kaiser, and 
of assisting him in his dreams of a world-wide 
Empire into whose power the Russian one was 
to be delivered. And when the old, feeble, 
opinionated, but at any rate honest, Goremy- 
kine had been replaced as Prime Minister by 
the hated Sturmer, who by this time had risen 
to the position of leader of the ultra-conser- 
vative and reactionary party in the Council 
of State, the general indignation against the 
weakness of Nicholas 11. could no longer be 



repressed, and the possibility of a Palace revolu- 
tion came to be spoken of as the next thing 
likely to happen. 

In the mean while Raspoutine and his friends 
were daily becoming more powerful. The 
*' Prophet" had by that time completely mas- 
tered the details of the intrigue into which he 
had been drawn by the clever people of whom 
he had been the tool. These had been at first 
Count Witte, who in his hatred of the men who 
had driven him out of power had willingly 
lent himself to the conspiracy which trans- 
formed the Empress into one of the most active 
agents the Kaiser had ever had at his disposal 
in Russia. When this much-discussed states- 
man died at the very moment he might have 
been called again to play a part in the history 
of his country, his place had been taken by 
Sturmer, Manassavitch-Maniuloff, and other 
adventurers of the same kind, all eager to 
enrich themselves at the expense of their own 
Fatherland, all of them men who only looked 
for their personal financial advantage, who re- 
mained perfectly indifferent to the disasters 
which one after the other were crowding upon 
unfortunate Russia. Germany was clever 
enough to see through the game played by these 
sharks and she did not hesitate an instant in buy- 
ing their services for all that they were worth. 

Raspoutine had very accurately taken stock 

of the mental caliber of the half-demented 

15 221 


Czarina, and while carefully avoiding discussing 
or even touching upon the subject of poHtics 
with her, he had contrived to persuade her to 
trust those so-called statesmen of whom he 
was but the instrument. As time went on she 
became more and more anxious to communicate 
with these spirits of the other world, in whose 
existence she had been led to believe as firmly 
as in that of the Divinity itself. Raspoutine, 
whenever he prayed in her presence, pretended 
to get into trances during which he told her 
things which he assured her he did not remem- 
ber later on, but which he persuaded her he had 
been inspired by the celestial powers to tell. 
She was kept by him and by Anna Wyrubewa 
in a state of semi-hypnotism, which went so 
far that sometimes she was herself seized with 
attacks of convulsions bordering on epilepsy, 
during the long prayers in which she used to 
spend half of her days and most of her nights. 
The superstitious fears which had always 
haunted her were played upon by these clever 
adventurers whom she had admitted into the 
secret of her thoughts. She was finally con- 
vinced that her duty as a Russian Empress 
required of her to sacrifice herself for the 
welfare of her subjects, and to induce her 
husband to sign a peace that would put an 
end to the useless and terrible slaughter that 
had transformed the whole of Russia into one 
vast churchyard. 



She still labored under the illusion that the 
dynasty was popular and that every decision 
of the Czar would be received with respect and 
gratitude by the nation. Though she knew 
that she was personally disliked, she did not 
imagine that this dislike extended itself to the 
Emperor, and she never supposed that, even 
in regard to her own person, the hatred of 
which she was the object existed an)^where else 
than among the aristocratic circles of Petrograd 
society. In one word, she believed in the power 
of autocracy, and she worked as hard as she 
could to consolidate it by getting Nicholas II. 
to appoint as his Ministers and advisers men 
who shared her opinions on this point, and 
who were ready to crush with the greatest 
vigor and the utmost severity every attempt 
to shake the prestige and the authority of the 

Of course, the fact that the country was at 
war made her path most difficult ; for this very 
reason she thought it was indispensable for the 
safety of the dynasty and of her son that peace 
should be concluded. She did not care in the 
least for the secret treaties or obligations 
Russia had assumed. To her, honor was but a 
question of opportunism. She set the existence 
of the Romanoffs before their self-respect. Her 
German blood made her lose sight of the real 
interests of her husband and of her children. 

Here we must pause a moment and touch 



upon a point that has been as much discussed 
as it has remained mysterious to this day. 
Was Raspoutine a German agent directly em- 
ployed by the Kaiser to persuade the half- 
demented Czarina that it was her duty to put 
an end to the war? Or was he simply the 
instrument of other people more in possession 
of the secret of Germany's schemes than him- 
self? Personally I am inclined to believe this 
second version of his activity. Raspoutine was 
far too ignorant and uncouth to have been 
taken into the confidence of William II., but 
Mr. Sturmer, Mr. Manassavitch-ManiulofT, and 
Mr. Protopopoff undoubtedly were confidants 
of the Kaiser. They had been promised, most 
likely, large sums of money for their co-opera- 
tion in this vile intrigue, which even after their 
fall was to be renewed and, as we have unfort- 
unately seen, renewed with success. 

I shall not repeat here the story of Mr. 
Protopopoff's famous journey to Sweden, where 
he got into direct touch with agents of the 
German Government. I shall not even return 
to the subject of the negotiations begun by 
him and continued by Mr. Sturmer. All this 
is now a matter of history, and what I am writ- 
ing here only concerns the personal part played 
by the Empress in this dark plot, directed 
against all the Allies of Russia in the war as 
well as against Russia herself. I am only con- 
cerned with Alexandra Feodorowna and her 



share in the catastrophe which was to send her 
a captive and an exile to that distant Siberia 
whither so many innocent people had been ban- 
ished by her husband. 

I wish to explain how it could have become 
possible for her to be transformed into an active 
agent of German ambition on the Russian 
Throne. She was, as we have seen, only half- 
responsible for her actions. Her intelligence 
had never been properly balanced and self- 
control had never been taught her. She had, 
however, principles, and very strong ones, 
too, which had stood between her and tempta- 
tion in the serious sentimental crisis of her life. 
But this resistance to what perhaps had been 
the one passion she had known, except her love 
for her son, had helped to overthrow her mental 
balance. She had given to God, represented 
by a Divinity of her own created by her 
imagination, all the affection she had not been 
allowed to expend on earth, and full of a spirit 
of self-sacrifice as stupid as it was devoid of 
any ground to stand upon. She had fancied 
that she could work out her personal salvation, 
together with that of her family and subjects, 
in restoring to the country whose Empress she 
happened to be the blessings of a peace that 
would stop the effusion of blood the thought 
of which robbed her of sleep at night and repose 
by day. 

She was living in a state which most certainly 


was bordering on insanity, and she had entirely 
lost the faculty of discriminating between what 
was reality and what was a dream. Raspoutine 
held her in a kind of trance, which was further 
aggravated by the long fasts to which he 
obliged her to submit. She was told that she 
was the victim chosen by the Almighty to 
expiate all the sins of the Russian Empire, 
that it was only through constant prayer, 
combined with all kinds of other mortifications, 
that she could hope to see restored the peace 
of her mind and the health of her son. It is 
probable that she suffered from hallucinations 
during which she saw, as in a cloud, the rising 
shapes of soldiers killed in battle, clamoring to 
her to stop the useless massacres going on in 
the Polish plains where they had fallen. Is it 
a wonder that, unconscious of aught else than 
this condition of self-reproach to which she 
had been reduced, she tried to end her own 
sufferings, as well as the misery which had fallen 
upon her country, by disregarding all the 
advice she received from her real friends and 
making the most frantic efforts to induce her 
husband to accept the peace terms which the 
Kaiser had more than once caused to be 
secretly conveyed to him.? 

Nicholas II. was also weary of the struggle, 
but he realized better than his wife the im- 
possibility which existed for him of acting in- 
dependently of his Allies. He had Ministers 



who, in spite of their respect for his person and 
authority, would not have hesitated to point 
out to him the grave consequences which a 
defection of Russia would mean for the whole 
cause of the Allied nations, who, after all, had 
been entangled in this disastrous war because 
they had rushed to his help and to that of his 

Sturmer, who had for a short time taken the 
conduct of Foreign Affairs in his hands, had 
been compelled to resign, owing to the opposi- 
tion which he had encountered in the Duma, 
and especially owing to the masterful speech 
in which Professor Miliukoff had exposed all 
the vices and all the crimes of his administra- 
tion. His retreat had not had for consequence 
a diminution of his favor or of his influence; 
he still remained the trusted adviser of both 
Czar and Czarina. Together with him were 
working Protopopoff, who pretended that he 
would be strong enough, with the help of the 
hundreds, nay thousands of police agents he 
had at his disposal, to crush every attempt at a 
revolution; Madame Wyrubewa; and, last but 
not least, the formidable Raspoutine, whose 
influence had proved wide enough to cause the 
postponement of the trial for blackmail of his 
confederate, Manassavitch-Maniuloff. A bank 
director from whom he had tried to extort 
25,000 rubles had denounced the latter to 
the military authorities, and, in spite of the 



angry protest of Mr. Sturmer, whose con- 
fidential adviser he had become, he had been 
imprisoned and sent before a jury. 

But even the efforts of these people combined 
could not move Nicholas II. to act in accord- 
ance with their wishes, because, as I have said, 
he still had Ministers unwilling to betray the 
country into the hands of its enemies. The 
head of the Cabinet was Mr. Trepoff, an 
honest man credited with liberal sympathies, 
who, at all events, would not lend himself to 
anything that could be interpreted into the 
light of a treason of Russia in regard to her 
Allies. Unfortunately, he could not hold out 
against the attacks that were directed against 
him by all the pro-German party, and after he 
had fallen the latter felt at last free to act as it 
liked, because Prince Galitzyne, who had ac- 
cepted the difficult position of Prime Minister 
in a country already standing on the brink of 
ruin, was far too timid a man to dare express 
an opinion of his own, after the Sovereign had 
once spoken and signified his will to him. 



THERE is a well-known Latin proverb 
which says that the gods begin by de- 
priving of their reason those whom they mean 
to destroy. 

Never was its truth more forcibly illustrated 
than in the tragedy which brought about the 
fall of the autocratic system of government 
under which Russia had been suffering for 
centuries. Its last representative had incar- 
nated in his person all the follies, the crimes, the 
mistakes, and the ruthless cruelty of his pred- 
ecessors. Unlike them, he had not known how 
to temper them by personal authority or 
personal sympathy. He was an effeminate, 
degenerate descendant of strong ancestors; the 
whole atavism of a doomed race seemed to have 
become embodied in his weak individuality. 
If outside catastrophes had not occurred in his 
reign, it is still likely that he would have been 
compelled by a revolution of some kind or 
other to step back into an obscurity out of 
which he ought never to have emerged, be- 



cause he was most certainly not able to bear 
the rays of the "fierce light which beats upon 
a throne." It is, however, possible that none 
of those supreme calamities which destroy the 
independence and self-respect of nations as 
well as of individuals would have been con- 
nected with his name and history. But destiny 
condemned him to remain forever, in the 
annals of the world, a living proof of the 
degeneracy which threatens all royal houses 
who do not possess sufficient energy to stand in 
perfect union with their people whenever a 
trial of some kind comes to threaten their 
mutual existence. 

It would have been hard enough to be 
branded by the centuries to come as the last 
of the Romanoffs and as an unworthy Heir of 
Peter the Great. It was worse than hard for 
Russia, even more than for Nicholas II., to 
have to realize that, through stupidity, weak- 
ness of character, and an exaggerated opinion 
of his own power and might, he had been the 
direct cause of the ruin of his country and the 
means of plunging it into an abyss of distress 
and of anarchy from which it will take the 
work of several generations to redeem it. 

His wife was the instrument of his destruction. 
About this last point there cannot exist any 
doubt whatever. She had a character stronger 
than his and she could speak to him in the 

name of the son to whom they were both so 



completely devoted. She could also appeal 
to his religious and superstitious feelings, 
which, though not as exaggerated as her own 
and not quite so foolishly carried to extremes, 
were yet also devoid of sound common sense. 
They were connected with the conviction that 
he had a mission to perform in regard to the 
future of his subjects, and to their welfare both 
in this world and in the next. Nicholas II. 
had in his character something of the traits of 
Caligula and other Roman emperors — a mixt- 
ure of cruelty and theatrical sentimentality 
combined with cowardice in presence of danger 
and indecision before immediate peril. He 
never knew what it meant to play the game, 
and he perished because he refused to fight it 
out on the day that he discovered his adversary 
held all the trumps. 

In the mean while the war was going on, 
claiming every day new victims. The in- 
sufficiency of the Government to face its 
various problems became more patent. In- 
stead of applying himself to the task of coping 
with them, the Czar became absorbed, thanks 
to the remonstrances of his wife, in the one 
thought of how to consolidate his own authority, 
reduce to silence the protestations of the 
country and those of its representatives in the 
Duma, and conclude a peace with Germany 
which would allow him to make an appeal to 
his troops to help him to crush once more the 



Revolution which was hammering at his door, 
which he imagined he could subdue as easily 
as he had annihilated the one that had broken 
out after the Japanese campaign. 

These were splendid plans indeed, and the 
Empress was already rejoicing at their suc- 
cess, in ignorance of the revolt which was shak- 
ing public opinion out of its previous apathy, 
a revolt which had extended itself to her own 
family. Bad as were most of the Grand Dukes, 
dissolute as their conduct had ever been, yet 
they had in their veins the blood of Catherine 
the Great and of all the dead and gone Ro- 
manoffs. They rose in rebellion against the 
gang of adventurers who were dishonoring the 
chief of their race and of their dynasty. 

By that time the name of the Empress was 
being dragged in the dirt by every street boy, 
and open comments were made in public 
places in regard to her friendship, not to call 
it by another name, for Raspoutine — comments 
which were devoid of truth, because there was 
never any immorality in their relations, but 
which were generally believed, perhaps, be- 
cause it would have been impossible for any 
one to guess that it was through superstitious 
practices that the "Prophet'' had contrived to 
get absolute hold of her mind. 

The Imperial Family felt the degradation to 
which this common peasant had reduced it, and 
though they had no reason in the world to like 



Nicholas II., yet they resented the humiliation 
which any slur upon the reputation of his wife 
conferred upon him as well. After all, Alexandra 
Feodorowna was the mother of the future Czar, 
and as such she ought to inspire respect in the 
Russian nation. If she did not realize this fact 
herself, others had to do it for her and rid her 
of a contact which was a slur. Besides, there 
was the hope that if once the adventurer was 
removed she could be brought to look upon the 
world from a more reasonable point of view. 
The principal thing was to deliver her from 
this evil adviser who was fast leading her, as 
well as the dynasty, to inevitable destruction 
and ruin. 

The story of Raspoutine's assassination is 
too well known to be repeated here. At any 
time it would have broken the heart of the 
poor, misguided Czarina. But coming at the 
moment it took place, it did something more — 
it deprived her of what she considered to be 
her only moral support amid the troubles of 
her life, the possibility of communicating with 
the spirit of the man whom she had loved, 
who she felt sure was watching over her and 
over her child, from the heavens. 

In the weeks preceding the murder of the 
"Prophet" he had subjected the Empress 
almost every evening to the agony of these 
prayer-meetings during which he communicated 
to her the so-called wishes of her dead friend, 



who, as he said, advised her, through his 
medium, as to what she ought to do to avert 
the dangers which were hovering over her 
head. The miserable woman used to listen to 
these revelations with anxious eagerness, and 
pray, pray, with a fervor she had never known 
before, for the strength to obey the command- 
ments of a spirit who in death, as well as in life, 
had proved to be her best, and indeed her only, 
friend. Is it a wonder that the last remnants 
of sanity which were still left to her snapped 
under this terrible strain, and that at last she 
became the mere shadow of her former self, 
a fit subject for a lunatic asylum, where, in- 
deed, she ought, for the good of everybody, to 
have been confined ? 

Her conduct after she had been told of the 
murder of the creature whom she revered as a 
Prophet of God was quite in accord with her 
character, such as it had developed itself 
through all the years during which she had 
allowed her mind to be invaded with supersti- 
tious notions, which would have been laughable 
if they had not been so pathetic. Her only 
thought was that of vengeance. She exercised 
it with a relentlessness which set against her 
the few people left in Petrograd who might 
have felt inclined to take her part and to pity 
her in this tragedy of her life. She left no 
peace for the Czar until he had exiled the 
persons whom she knew to have been the 



authors of the deed. When she was implored 
to take pity on the young Grand-Duke Dmitry, 
and not have him sent to the Persian front, 
where there existed so many epidemics that it 
was hardly likely he would ever come back 
again, she had merely smiled and coldly said: 

"Why should I pity him? He did not pity 

And yet public feeling was so strong against 
her, and so entirely in favor of those who had 
had the courage to rid Russia of a man who had 
proved so fatal to it, that the schemes of revenge 
of Alexandra Feodorowna suffered a collapse. 
Mighty and powerful as Nicholas II. believed 
himself to be, yet he understood that the best 
thing he could do would be to let silence and 
oblivion fall over a crime that was eminently 
popular in the whole country. He had heard 
of the telegrams of congratulation, and of the 
flowers which had been sent to both his cousin 
Dmitry Pawlowitch and to the husband of his 
niece, young Prince Youssoupoff, as well as 
the joy to which the population of Petrograd 
had given way when it had become aware of 
the fate of the adventurer whose name had 
been so prominently and so sadly associated 
with that of the Empress of All the Russias. 
Perhaps at heart he was not so very sorry at an 
event which had certainly rid him of a great 

Nicholas II. had always practised dissimula- 


tion to a considerable extent, and he had never 
allowed outsiders to guess what was going on 
in his mind. During the days which followed 
upon the disappearance of Raspoutine he cer- 
tainly expressed great sympathy for the grief 
of his wife, but at the same time he did not, 
as she expected, cause the perpetrators of the 
murder of this low adventurer to be prosecuted 
publicly for their daring action. This apathy 
exasperated Alexandra Feodorowna. 

During the last weeks of Raspoutine's life 
he had been working, conjointly with Sturmer 
and Protopopoff, toward convincing her to 
lend herself to a Palace revolution which would 
have overturned her husband and made little 
Alexis Czar under her own Regency. She had 
been told over and over again that she pos- 
sessed all the great talents of Catherine II., 
that the Emperor was not a better man than 
Peter III. She had been made acquainted 
with his unpopularity, but at the same time 
persuaded that this unpopularity was a purely 
personal thing and that it did not extend itself 
to the person of the Heir to the Throne, nor 
even to her own. As Regent she could do any 
amount of good, and conclude peace with 
Germany the more easily that she was not 
bound by the terms of the agreement entered 
into by Mr. Sazonoff with the Entente, in the 
name of Nicholas II. 

The foolish woman believed absolutely all 


the nonsense which was being constantly 
poured into her ears. Her ambition and lust 
for revenge over her enemies also played a 
part in this whole tragedy. She therefore began 
wondering whether, after all, she ought not to 
follow the advice which she had received from 
Heaven, as she fondly imagined, through the 
mouth of Raspoutine. She would have liked 
to be able to consult once again the spirit of 
Colonel Orloff so as to relieve her perplexity, 
because she had still sufficient scruples to hesi- 
tate before allowing those whom she considered 
to be her friends to use her name for the exe- 
cution of a Palace revolution directed against 
her own husband, whom she may not have loved, 
but whom she still respected as the Czar of All 
the Russias. 

It is at this juncture that a new incident 
occurred, the real details of which have never 
yet transpired. Raspoutine, just before he had 
been murdered, had introduced to the Empress 
a Tibetan doctor with whom he was on terms 
of intimate friendship, telling her that he was a 
man of great ability, devoted to occult sciences, 
had studied them in the convents of his country, 
and who was quite able to perform miracles. 
This man, whose name was Badmaieff, certainly 
saw Alexandra Feodorowna several times, and 
it was reported that he gave her certain drugs 
which he told her she ought to administer to 
the Emperor in secret, drugs which would make 

i6 237 


him quite subservient to her will. Whether she 
used them or not it is impossible to say. 
Young Prince Youssoupoff declared imme- 
diately after the Revolution that she had done 
so, and that in consequence of this experiment 
Nicholas II. 's will, which had always been a 
weak one, had completely disappeared, until 
he had been reduced to the condition of a 
puppet in the strong hands of his wife. But 
this assertion, coming as it did from a personage 
who could not have nursed kind feelings in 
regard to the Empress, must be accepted with 

It is a fact, however, that those in attendance 
on the Sovereign remarked more than once 
that he seemed at times to have lost the real 
consciousness of what was going on around 
him, that his eyes had acquired a vague, dazed 
look they had never worn before. 

It is out of this introduction of Badmaieff 
into the intimacy of the Czarina that the 
rumor arose that Raspoutine, together with 
Anna Wyrubewa, had tried to administer slow 
poison to the small Grand-Duke Alexis. Such 
a thing had never taken place, and indeed it 
could never have occurred if one considers 
the fact that the strongest trump in the game 
played by the pro-German agents who were 
leading Russia to its ruin was precisely the 
little Cesarewitsch, without whose existence it 
would have been impossible for them to think 



of making out of Alexandra Feodorowna a 
Regent of the Russian Empire. They had, 
therefore, the greatest interest in keeping the 
child in as good a state of health as possible, 
and he was far too deUcate for them to try any 
experiment upon him. On the other hand, the 
necessity of getting rid by natural means of the 
Czar himself was so evident that it would not 
be surprising if the superstitious mind of his 
Consort had been influenced so as to persuade 
her to lend herself to what she had been told 
was nothing but a religious practice, but which 
in reality was an attempt to accomplish by 
this means what it would perhaps not have 
proved wise to try and bring about in another 



IN the course of an interview which Anna 
Wyrubewa gave to a foreign newspaper 
correspondent a short while after she had been 
released from the fortress of SS. Peter and 
Paul, where she was confined for about three 
months following the outbreak of the Revolu- 
tion, she said that the Empress Alexandra had 
never been so near to insanity as during the 
weeks which followed upon the murder of 
Raspoutine. What she failed to relate, how- 
ever, was the manner in which she succeeded 
in preventing the half-balanced mind of the 
miserable woman from snapping altogether 
under the strain put upon it by circumstances. 
When the outsider tries to form an opinion 
as to all the events which preceded the re- 
bellion that destroyed the Throne of the 
Komanoffs, it is essential he should remember 
the state of mind of the Czarina at this particu- 
lar time, as well as the condition of her nerves — 
a condition which was very nearly akin to the 

one into which a man falls when, after having 



been the victim of a pernicious drug habit, he 
finds himself unexpectedly and suddenly de- 
prived of his favorite morphia or cocaine. The 
Empress had been living for months under the 
influence of these mysterious night sittings 
during which Raspoutine evoked for her, as 
she firmly believed, spirits of another world 
from whom she sought inspiration and in whom 
she found comfort. All at once this moral aid, 
which had helped her to live, was denied to her, 
and she did not know any longer what she was 
to do, surrounded as she felt herself to be by 
ever-increasing dangers which threatened not 
only her own person, but that of her beloved 
child, that son in whom she firmly believed 
Russia would find its salvation and who was 
destined to become one of the greatest and 
mightiest Sovereigns the country had ever 
seen reign over it since the days of Peter the 
Great. She felt absolutely at sea, like a ship 
deprived of its pilot and abandoned to in- 
experienced hands, ignorant of the first prin- 
ciples of navigation. Neither her husband, 
whom at heart she despised, nor her friend, 
Anna Wyrubewa, whom she had never entirely 
initiated into all the details of her secret inter- 
course with the dead, nor her faithful advisers, 
Sturmer and Protopopofi^, could make up to 
her for the irreparable loss of the companion- 
ship which, thanks to Raspoutine, she believed 
she had succeeded in establishing between 



herself and the soul of the only man she had 
ever truly loved. 

It is only after having grasped these essential 
facts in the life of the misguided Empress of 
Russia that it is possible to come to a reasonable 
appreciation of her person, character, and in- 

Once this has been done, it becomes relatively 
easy to understand the influence which Ras- 
poutine had acquired over her mind, and not 
to share the general opinion that there existed 
something immoral in her relations with him. 
Immorality alone could not explain this entire 
submission on the part of a cultured, well- 
educated, elegant woman to the will of a dirty, 
uncouth, ignorant peasant. Besides that, Alex- 
andra Feodorowna was far too proud to forget 
for one moment the social difference which 
separated her from the "Prophet.'" In her 
intercourse with him she remained the Empress, 
and on his side he was far too shrewd not to 
remember it also. He knew very well that one 
indiscreet word, one imprudent gesture, would 
have put an end at once to his influence, and 
the man as well as his accomplices were working 
for far too great and far too important an object 
to compromise its success by anything which 
might have savored of immoral intrigue. 

The state of health of the little Cesarewitsch 
also was not the real reason why the latter's 
mother would not allow Raspoutine to leave 




her. She believed in the efficacy of his prayers 
for her son, but this beHef alone would not 
have been sufficient to make her so entirely 
submissive to his will and to reduce her to the 
state of slavery into which she had been en- 
tranced. No, the secret of Raspoutine's in- 
fluence lay in the simple fact that, thanks to 
the hypnotic faculties which he undoubtedly 
possessed, he had contrived to acquire an 
absolute dominion over her mind, and to 
persuade her that every time she prayed 
with him she was put into direct communication 
with her dead lover; that this lover had been 
allowed by the Almighty to come to her help 
in the troubles and perplexities of her life, to 
guide her in her conduct as a woman and a 
mother and in her duties as a Sovereign. 

During the hours of agony which followed 
upon the news of the murder of that man whom 
she had considered as a holy creature and a 
real Prophet of God, Alexandra Feodorowna 
blurted out something of what lay on her mind 
to her devoted friend and companion, Anna 
Wyrubewa. The latter had removed from her 
own house to the Palace of Tsarskoye Selo, 
so as to be able to remain in constant attend- 
ance on the miserable Empress. Seeing her so 
forlorn and desolate, she bethought herself of 
rousing her faculties, and tried to persuade her 
that, though she had lost her advisers and 
counselors, she had yet a duty to perform, 



which consisted in going on with the work they 
had suggested to her to start. Peace was more 
than ever necessary to Russia, as well as to the 
dynasty, against which such fierce attacks 
were being launched. The sacred principles 
of autocracy that were being everywhere 
challenged ought to be maintained, and how 
could this be done when the army which was 
the only force on which the Czar could rely was 
being kept at the frontier and uselessly butch- 
ered in battles it could not by any possibility 
win ? There were other mothers besides herself 
in Russia who were crying over their dead sons 
and appealing to her to spare those who were 
still left to them. This war was a monstrous 
crime against humanity, as well as against the 
whole of the Russian nation. It must be stopped 
because otherwise worse calamities even than 
those that had already fallen on the country 
would occur. The performance of a duty was 
sometimes painful, but this ought not to pre- 
vent any right-minded person from trying to 
accomplish it. It was quite evident that the 
duty of the Empress required her to work 
toward the conclusion of peace with Germany, 
and this had been already suggested to her 
not only by the devoted friends she still had 
in the world, but by the spirit of the dead 
ones who had loved and honored her while they 
had been alive on earth. 
Whether Anna Wyrubewa was sincere or not 


in thus pleading a cause which she knew her 
Imperial mistress had but too much at heart 
even without her interference, I shall not 
attempt to guess. Russia was most certainly 
going through a terrible crisis, and those who 
thought that the quick conclusion of a peace 
after which so many were secretly longing and 
sighing was indispensable were by no means a 
small minority in the country. It is quite 
likely that the Empress's confidante was sin- 
cere in her conduct, and it seems pretty certain 
that she had no pecuniary or material ad- 
vantages in view when she lent herself to the 
dangerous scheme suggested to her by Sturmer 
and the latter's accomplices. They were not 
disinterested; they had decidedly ambitious 
views as to their own future, and they were 
most certainly in the employ of Germany, to 
which they had promised their co-operation. 
Protopopoff was a man who, in regard to the 
large fortune he was credited with possessing, 
was entirely self-made; he had never shown 
any hesitation as to the choice of the means by 
which he had acquired it. Sturmer thought 
himself endowed with the genius of a Bis- 
marck or of a Richelieu, and dreamed of the 
glory of a peace that would leave Russia in ap- 
pearance as strong as ever, but united by the 
closest of ties to the German Empire, of which 
he had been all through his political career a 
devoted admirer and servant. He had always 



preached the necessity of the renewal of the 
former alliance that in bygone times had united 
the Hohenzollerns and the Romanoffs. His 
vanity felt deeply flattered upon hearing from 
his friends in Berlin that the Kaiser, as well as 
the latter's Government, considered him the one 
great Minister Russia had ever possessed and 
were looking up to him to heal all the evils and 
all the miseries which the war had brought 
about. He did not care for the treaties that 
had been signed between Russia and her Allies, 
and probably shared the opinion of Mr. von 
Bethmann-HoUweg that all such documents 
were nothing but scraps of paper, not worthy 
of any notice on the part of intelligent people. 
He cared only for success, for titles, decorations, 
power, and a crowd of flatterers about him. 
Russia had ceased to be for him a matter for 
consideration. She would always fare well, in 
his opinion, if only he were allowed to direct 
her destinies. The war itself, with all the 
terrible breakage it had brought about, did 
not trouble him. It had begun with broken 
treaties and broken faith, broken honor and 
broken word ; its result had been broken houses 
in broken lands, broken men, and broken 
hearts, but about these last Mr. Sturmer did 
not think at all. 

And what about the third personage in this 
sinister tragedy? What about Manassavitch- 
Maniuloff, who had been all along the Deus ex 



machina of this dark intrigue, and the chief 
spy and accomplice of William II. ? It was he 
who had engineered the conspiracy for peace 
which was being carried on by the Empress 
under his supervision. It was he who had been 
the real creator of the Raspoutine legend, and 
he was perhaps the one who at first suffered 
the most through the collapse of the ad- 
venturer. When the " Prophet" was murdered, 
Maniuloff was in prison under the accusation 
of blackmail. Once before he had escaped a 
trial that had been postponed on the personal 
order of Nicholas 11. addressed to the president 
of the court. But after Raspoutine's dis- 
appearance the influence of Sturmer alone had 
not been able to help him. He was sent before 
a jury and sentenced to two years' penal 
servitude, which, however, he was never to 
undergo. The man had more than one arrow 
to his bow, and when the Revolution broke out 
he contrived to let Kerensky know that he 
could put at his disposal most incriminating 
documents in regard to the part played by the 
Empress in the peace negotiations which had 
taken place in the preceding February be- 
tween Petrograd and Berlin. The bait probably 
took, because the spy who had for a long 
number of years cheated everybody was sent 
across the frontier to expiate his sins and most 
probably to go on for the benefit of the new 
masters of Russia with the nefarious game he 



had been playing in regard to all those who had 
had the misfortune to employ him. 

After Sturmer had been compelled to resign 
his position of Prime Minister and leader of the 
Foreign Office he had, nevertheless, remained, 
as I have had already the occasion to tell, in 
close relations with the Court and with the 
Emperor and Empress. He had acquired 
a new ally in the person of the Metropoli- 
tan of Petrograd, Monseigneur Pitirim, a 
friend and favorite of Raspoutine, who now 
came to offer his consolations to the half- 
distracted Alexandra, and who also told her 
that it was henceforward her duty to go on 
doing all that the dead "Prophet'' had sug- 
gested to her, no matter how much it might 
cost her. Between his preachings, the advice 
of Sturmer and Protopopoff, and the adjura- 
tions of Anna Wyrubewa, the Empress was at 
last persuaded to forget for a while the deep 
grief into which she had allowed herself to fall 
and to resume her political activity. But when 
she attempted to influence the Czar to approve 
of what she was about to do she found, to her 
surprise, that he did not show the same en- 
thusiasm for her schemes as he had done before. 

What had happened was this : The Imperial 
Family had once more tried to open the eyes of 
the Sovereign as to the folly of his wife's con- 
duct. Nearly all the Grand Dukes and Grand 
Duchesses in Petrograd had sought his presence 



in succession, implored him to save the dynasty 
before it was too late, and to call together a 
responsible Ministry, chosen from among the 
men who had the confidence of the country and 
who represented it in the Duma. Their re- 
monstrances had not convinced Nicholas IL, 
but they had caused him to pause before con- 
senting to the conclusion of a peace with 
Germany, which he began to fear he would not 
have the power or the strength to impose upon 
public opinion in Russia. He believed in his 
wife, and he felt convinced that she was the 
only disinterested friend left to him; at the 
same time he could not make up his mind to 
take a decision which — this much he knew — 
would be deeply resented by his Allies as well 
as by his own subjects. In his perplexity he 
preferred to wait for events to develop them- 
selves in one sense or in the other, totally 
oblivious of the fact that there are periods in 
the life of nations when waiting is also a crime. 
And while this struggle was going on in his 
mind, that of his wife was becoming more and 
more the prey of the evil advisers who had 
secured her sympathies and were abusing her 
confidence. They were becoming bolder and 
bolder as time went on, and at last they sug- 
gested to her to urge upon the Czar the neces- 
sity of returning to the front, where, they told 
her, he could come to a better understanding 
of the feelings of the army and be at last con- 



vinced that it was, like the rest of Russia, only 
longing for peace. Nicholas caught eagerly 
at the suggestion and departed, leaving the 
Empress mistress of the field and free to do 
what she liked, together with her friends. 



WHEN the Czar left Tsarskoye Sel( 
for the last time, as it turned out, as a 
powerful, dreaded Sovereign — the Empress had 
not yet made up her mind as to what she ought 
to do. She was being urged by Sturmer and 
Protopopoff to come to a decision in regard to 
the future of the dynasty, which they declared 
to her was entirely in her hands; at the same 
time she lacked the moral courage to put 
herself boldly at the head of a movement to 
dethrone her husband. She had not the 
audacity of Catherine the Great, nor the 
latter's unscrupulousness, and, moreover, her 
mind was so weakened by the superstitious 
practices in which she had become absorbed 
that it is to be questioned whether or not she 
was given a true account of what was going 
on around her. She was entirely at the mercy 
of the first determined man who came along, 
audacious enough to compel her to sing accord- 
ing to his tune. But neither Sturmer nor 

Protopopoff were clever enough to be that. 



And they had no political party on whom they 
could rely to help them execute any plans they 
might form. They depended for their inspira- 
' tion on the directions which they received from 
j Berlin. By a lucky accident this inspiration 
failed them at the very moment they most 
needed it. 

What had happened was this: The Allies 
had begun to get some inkling as to the intrigue 
which was going on under the Czar's own roof, 
an intrigue in which his wife held the foremost 
role. They contrived to put obstacles in the 
way of Mr. Protopopoff and of his friends, and 
to stop for a while the active correspondence 
which he was carrying on with the German 
Government via Stockholm. At the same time 
they arranged matters in such a way that the 

1 liberal leaders in the Duma became apprised 
of the negotiations pending between the Kaiser 
and his kinswoman at Tsarskoye Selo. 

The story of the eventful days which pre- 
ceded the Revolution have nothing to do with 
the present book, and I shall refer to them only 
in so far as they concern the Empress. She 
was mostly responsible for the rapidity with 
which rebellion spread and for the unexpected 
way in which it broke out. Had she remained 
quiet, it is likely that things might have dragged 
on for a few weeks, perhaps even for a few 
months, longer, because no one at this particu- 
lar moment cared to see a change in the 



Government. But when it was ascertained that 
she had become a danger to the nation in 
general there was no longer any question of a 
delay, and events had to be forced on in some 
way or other. 

What Sturmer proposed to the Czarina was 
to provoke a movement against the war in the 
garrisons of Petrograd and the towns in its 
neighborhood; this to be further accentuated 
by false news concerning the Czar, who would 
be represented as having died suddenly. The 
Government had at its disposal all the tele- 
graph and telephone wires. It was, therefore, 
an easy matter to cut off the capital from all 
communication with the headquarters of the 
army. In the confusion inseparable from the 
consternation caused by the news of the Sover- 
eign's demise it would have been but a matter of 
a few hours to get the little Grand-Duke Alexis 
proclaimed Emperor under the Regency of his 
mother, who would thus have been left free to 
sign a peace which nothing and no treaty 
prevented her from concluding. Nicholas 
would be easily persuaded to accept accom- 
plished facts and most likely would surrender 
with pleasure, or at least with absolute in- 
difference, a Throne he had never cared for. 
So they thought that an act of formal abdica- 
tion would not be difficult to obtain from him. 

The country also would not feel sorry to be 

rid of a Monarch who had never been in pos- 

17 253 


session of its affection or respect, and the army, 
glad to return to its homes, would most likely 
rally with alacrity around the Regent and the 
little Czar. The very fact that it was a woman 
and a delicate child upon whom the whole 
burden of an immense responsibility had fallen 
would predispose public opinion in their favor, 
and most likely this Palace revolution would 
end with complete success. 

The Empress allowed herself to be won over 
to the conspiracy, and it was decided to put it 
into execution about the middle of the month 
of February. Protopopoff declared that he 
required that much time to gather together a 
sufficient number of police agents in Petrograd, 
without whom he did not dare to risk the 
adventure. Alexandra Feodorowna assented to 
everything that was proposed to her. She went 
about like one in a dream, unconscious of the 
abominable plot in which she had been induced 
to participate, thinking only of the time when 
she would be able at last to renew with her own 
family and with her own people the tender and 
intimate relations which the war had forcbly 

In the mean time the Emperor remained at 
the front, and if we are to believe all that was 
subsequently related about his conduct there, 
he changed considerably his opinion and point 
of view after having resumed direct contact 

with his troops. He convinced himself that 



they were not at all as anxious for peace as he 
had been led to expect, and that the feelings of 
the men in regard to Germany were revengeful 
more than anything else. His generals, and 
especially Alexieieflf, who was Head of the Staff, 
kept urging upon him the necessity of prepar- 
ing a formidable offensive, this time on the 
Riga front. The General gave him hopes that 
it would turn out to be a successful one, 
provided (and this was the one everlasting and 
burning question) that the War Office sent 
sufficient ammunition to the front. The Em- 
peror was persuaded that this could be done, 
but Alexieieff was not so sanguine, and he 
started a private inquiry of his own as to what 
was going on in Petrograd in that respect. 
The result of it was that he was convinced 
that the Ministry had lately completely neg- 
lected this important item and had spent its 
time in arresting workmen whom it suspected 
of harboring democratic opinions, as well as in 
curtailing the hours of labor at the different 
factories where ammunition was manufact- 
ured. Protopopoff wanted the war to end, and 
he hoped that in limiting the output of shells 
and guns he would be able to place the country 
in such a position that a cessation of hostilities 
would become unavoidable. 

A report to the Emperor, in which the situa- 
tion such as it presented itself was exposed 
with great details, was brought to him by the 



Staff. As usual, it left him unmoved. He 
merely said that he would give orders to the 
War Office to take henceforward its orders 
from the Commander-in-chief of the Armies in 
the Field, meaning himself, but he refused to 
blame Protopopoff or to hear anything con- 
cerning the appointment of a liberal and 
responsible Cabinet from whom the Duma 
could require accounts. He did not mean to 
lessen his own prerogatives by the merest 
fraction, and he still thought that Russia might 
hold its own against her formidable foes with- 
out arms, provisions, shells, or big guns, and in 
general without means of defense capable of 
stopping the progress of the invaders in their 
triumphal march through his Empire. 

The commanders of the different fronts held 
a consultation, and one of them, whose name 
I cannot mention at the present moment, first 
suggested the idea that it would not be a bad 
thing to try and bring about a military con- 
spiracy which would overthrow the weak 
Monarch whom it was impossible to bring to 
take a sane view of the position in which the 
army found itself placed. Another general 
suggested that such an upheaval would only 
bring to the foreground the personality of the 
Empress, who would insist on being consulted 
in all matters in which the welfare of her son 
might be concerned. And no one wanted 
Alexandra Feodorowna to be raised to a position 



in which her voice might come to exercise an 
influence of any kind on the destinies of the 
country. It was by far preferable to let 
Nicholas 11. remain where he was, and try to 
persuade him to allow the Staff, instead of the 
Cabinet, to have the last word to say in all 
questions connected with the national defense. 

This secret, or rather not secret, conference, 
because its purport became known on the very 
same day it took place, thus accomplished 
nothing. In the mean while the object of its 
deliberations was communicated to the Minis- 
try in Petrograd, and Protopopoff triumphantly 
informed the Empress of the fact that it had 
come to almost the same conclusions which he 
and his friends had arrived at long before. 
It was necessary to change the person of the 
Sovereign. He carefully refrained, however, 
from acquainting her with the knowledge of the 
opposition that the idea of a Regency had 

It is a curious but certain fact that at this 
very time large sums of money were distributed 
to the troops quartered in Petrograd, Tsarskoye 
Selo, Peterhof, and Gatschina by unknown 
people in the name of the Empress. The latter 
declared, later on, when questioned on the 
subject by the Provisional Government, that 
she had known nothing about it; certainly it 
had not been her money which had been 
scattered about with such reckless generosity. 



I believe that in saying so she spoke the ab- 
solute truth. But then the question arises, 
by whose orders was this money thrown into the 
arena of the battle-field, where the fate of a 
nation and of a dynasty was about to be 
decided? Some people have declared that it 
was Protopopoff together with Sturmer who 
had hit upon the idea of making Alexandra 
Feodorowna popular among the army by ap- 
pearances of a generosity with which no one 
had credited her before. But against this 
theory comes the probability that if either of 
the above-mentioned gentlemen had been able 
to draw from the Treasury several millions of 
rubles to be applied to secret purposes, they 
would have begun by putting them into their 
own pockets and trusting to the future and to 
Providence for the success of any enterprise 
they embarked upon. Therefore the question 
arises again as to the origin of this money which 
was circulated with such a generous hand 
among the regiments considered as likely to 
lend themselves to a Palace revolution in favor 
of the delicate little boy who was the sole 
Heir to all the glory and the splendor of the 

I think that very few people, among those 
who knew how vital was Germany's interest at 
this particular moment to see a peace con- 
cluded, will doubt whence came these funds. 
They were certainly spent to favor the appoint- 



meat of the Czarina as Regent of the Russian 
Empire. Who had procured them for the 
benefit of a vast conspiracy, the object of 
which was to deliver Russia, bound hand and 
foot, to the tender mercies of her formidable 
neighbor and enemy? 

On the other hand, the liberal parties, now 
thoroughly awakened to the dangers of the 
situation, were also working earnestly toward 
the defeat of the plans conceived by Messrs. 
Sturmer, Protopopoff & Co. Several meetings 
of the leaders of the different factions in the 
Duma took place at the Tauride Palace, but 
none seemed to come to anything serious in the 
way of a revolution, which had been by that 
time recognized as absolutely inevitable. 

The Cabinet saw this hesitation, and would 
undoubtedly have struck a serious blow at its 
adversaries if, just at the time, the children of 
the Empress had not sickened from the measles 
in a serious form. The mother forgot all her 
political intrigues in her anxiety; the plot about 
to be executed had perforce to be put off until 
a more favorable day. It must be here re- 
marked that the Czar, when he heard about 
his son's and daughters' illness, telegraphed 
to his wife asking her whether she wished him 
to come back to Tsarskoye Selo. This did not 
suit in the least the people who were only wait- 
ing for a favorable opportunity to dethrone 
their Sovereign. Alexandra Feodorowna was 



easily persuaded to oppose herself to this desire 
of her husband and to wire back to him not to re- 
turn. By a singular coincidence the presence of 
Nicholas II. at Tsarskoye Selo, which would 
without doubt have given quite another color- 
ing to events which were going to happen 
within a few days, was desired neither by his 
friends nor by his foes nor even by his family. 
They all of them knew that something terrible 
was about to take place, but they also felt that, 
for the sake of everybody, it would be better he 
should be absent. 

And in the silence of his study at Potsdam 
the Kaiser was secretly discounting this Rus- 
sian Revolution which he saw quite clearly 
was approaching with quickening strides. He 
knew 'what he was about, and little did it 
matter to him if those whom he had used as 
pawns in the difficult game he had been playing 
would perish or not in the storm which his 
efforts had contributed to let loose. 



I FEEL personally sure — and others who 
were in Petrograd at the time of the fall 
of the Romanoffs told me the same thing — 
that in this whole history of the overthrow of 
one of the most formidable powers the world 
had ever known there are yet details which we 
do not know. In fact, no one knows them, but 
perhaps they will be explained to us later on. 
The catastrophe occurred with such startling 
rapidity that even those who were the most 
concerned in it were hardly able to realize 
its importance, even while recognizing its 

There is also another curious feature con- 
nected with the tragedy. All its principal 
actors, the men who were really instrumental 
in bringing about the change which trans- 
formed Russia from an autocratic — the most 
autocratic Government in the world, in fact — 
into a democratic Republic disappeared before 
even their task was done. It was the Duma 
in the person of its president, Mr. Rodzianko, 



it was the zemstwos who had taken up the 
cause of the Hberal movement from the very 
beginning of the war, who really were respon- 
sible for the abdication of Nicholas IL And 
yet the Duma disappeared, melted into space 
with an unbelievable rapidity; Mr. Rodzianko 
has hardly been heard of since the activity of 
the zemstwos was suddenly interrupted. 

How did all this happen ? Who was responsi- 
ble for the chaos into which Russia is plunged 
at the present moment ? It is next to impossible 
to say to-day, though one may easily guess. 
All that the world knows is that chaos has 
supervened, and that, thanks to this chaos, 
Germans have once more re-entered Petrograd, 
by the back door, perhaps, but still re-entered 
it, and what does this detail matter to them! 
What they wanted was only to get there again ; 
the rest would adjust itself as time went on, 
and the general confusion became even more 
complete than it was at the beginning. 

Another feature in this extraordinary Revo- 
tion was the swiftness with which the country 
accepted it and accornmodated itself to its 
consequences. In the space of a few hours 
the portraits of the Czar had disappeared from 
all public places, the Imperial arms, wherever 
these had graced a shop or concern of some 
kind, had followed suit. Ushers in the former 
Imperial theaters had discarded their liveries, 

sentinels at the Winter Palace had been re- 



moved, and the Red flag had taken the place 
of the Romanoff standard on top of the Im- 
perial Residence. All this had been performed 
quietly, joyously, and in a perfectly orderly 
manner. It seemed almost as if people had 
been prepared for a long time for what was to 
come and had practised beforehand the various 
manifestations of their joy to which they gave 
vent as soon as it became known that the 
Guard regiments quartered in the capital had 
gone over to the Duma and sworn allegiance 
to Mr. Rodzianko, its president. 

Of the war there was no longer any question. 
It seemed to be forgotten in the excitement of 
the hour, and somehow a general impression 
prevailed that, once the Czar had been over- 
turned, peace was but a question of days. By 
one of those strange anomalies such as happen 
so often in life, the Czar had been accused of 
wishing to bring this peace about ; yet when he 
was no longer there the world rejoiced at the 
thought that peace would surely be concluded 
before any unreasonable quantity of water had 
run through the Neva. It is also a singular 
feature of this singular time that while Petro- 
grad was in the throes of revolution, while 
Ministers with Mr. Protopopoff at their head 
were being arrested and transferred to the 
fortress, the Czar at headquarters and the 
Empress at Tsarskoye Selo did not in the least 
suspect what was taking place in the capital. 



It was said later that the Grand-Duke Paul had 
forced his way into the apartments of Alex- 
andra Feodorowna and had acquainted her 
with the details of the upheaval which was 
to carry away her Throne. 

I can hardly bring myself to believe this. 
For one thing, no one in the Imperial Family 
cared sufficiently for the Czarina to take the 
trouble to warn her of any peril in which she 
u might find herself. And then she had not been 
upon good terms with the Grand-Duke Paul 
in particular; it is to be questioned if she would, 
in view of the fact that it was his son who had 
I helped to slay Raspoutine, have consented to 
receive him in general. I think it far more 
likely that it was only through the indiscretion 
of some of her attendants that the Empress 
heard of what was taking place. It is probable 
her first thought was that her friends had been 
working in her behalf, and that the insurrec- 
tionary movement which was shaking Petrograd 
was distinctly in her favor; that its aim was to 
make out of her the Regent of the Russian 

It would be difficult, otherwise, to under- 
stand her apathy in the presence of this over- 
whelming catastrophe, or the resistance which 
she opposed to the advice which the few at- 
tendants who were still faithful to her and who 
had remained at Tsarskoye Selo, gave to her — 
to telegraph immediately to the Czar to return 



home. Up to the last minute she refused to 
do so, saying that she felt quite capable of 
resisting the mob in case it chose to invade the 
Imperial Residence. And at last it was not 
she, but the officer in command of the troops 
quartered in the town, who took it upon himself 
to inform General Woyeikoff, head of the 
Okhrana, or personal police service of the 
Czar, that it was high time for the Sovereign 
to return home, as he could no longer guarantee 
the safety of the Empress and of her children. 
All the regiments under his orders had gone 
over to the enemy. 

Alexandra Feodorowna was waiting the 
whole time for Protopopoff and Sturmer; she 
was only wondering why they were so long 
in coming to her. When at last she was in- 
formed that they had been arrested by the 
mob and taken to the fortress, whither they 
had sent so many innocent people, she began 
to realize that things were not going so smoothly 
as she had fondly imagined, that something 
quite out of the common had taken place. 
Then she remembered certain words which J 
Raspoutine had told her: so long as he was at I 
her side no harm would befall her, but that, if 
he were once removed, misfortune upon mis- I; 
fortune would crowd on the House of Romanoff 
and sweep away the Crown to which she had 
become so attached. 

In that acute moment when there flashed 



• across her mind this prediction of a man in 
whom she had seen a Prophet of the Almighty, 
i and the Empress reahzed the tragedy of her 
' destiny, all the courage of which she had 
boasted earlier fell flat to the ground. She 
no longer thought of struggling against an 
implacable fate, and a complete indifference as 
to her possible future took the place of her 
previous energy and determination. The game 
was lost, absolutely lost, and she had better 
confess herself beaten before any more harm 
was done. 

News of her husband's abdication reached 
her, and did not even rouse her sentiments of 
revolt at a piece of weakness which, under 
different circumstances, would have brought 
on one of those hysterical attacks to which she 
had been subject. She understood that she 
was alone, quite alone with the burden of her 
past sins and mistakes. She accepted with 
stoical resignation the decrees of Destiny. Not 
one single feeling of pity for the miserable 
Monarch for whose fall she was so responsible, 
or for the children about to lose a glorious in- 
heritance, moved her heart. She was thinking 
the whole time of the dead man who had loved 
her and of the murdered adventurer who had 
comforted her in the hours of her greatest 
moral agony. 

Nothing seemed to make any impression on 
her blurred mind — not even the angry crowd 



when it appeared in the courtyard of the Palace 
where she was still staying, carrying before it 
great banners upon which were written the 
ominous words : . 

^'Give us the head of Alexandra Feodorowna! I 
'We want the head of that German woman, | 
Alexandra Feodorowna!" 

When asked to leave the window and not 
to appear before this multitude clamoring for 
her blood, she merely shrugged her shoulders 
and remained where she was. She certainly 
was not courageous, but she did not lack j 
bravery — the bravery born of fatalism or of 
indifference, which renders those who are en- 
dowed with it impassible before danger, be- 
cause they fail to realize its importance or its 
imminence. This woman is a historical riddle 
which only history will be able to unravel, but 
not so soon as one imagines, because it is likely 
that she has not yet come to the end of her 
sinister and mischievous career. 

While the life of his wife was threatened, 

while his Ministers were imprisoned, and while 

the nation was preparing to claim his abdica- . 

tion, Nicholas II., at Mohilew, where head- I 

quarters were stationed, remained just as in- | 

different to the convulsions which were shaking 

his country as the Empress watching by the 

bedside of her sick children. He also did not 

understand; he also failed to realize that what 

was taking place in Petrograd was the first act 



of a big game the stakes of which might easily 
come to be his own head and those of his 
family. The thought of Louis XVI. never 
once crossed his mind. At least it is allowed 
one to suppose so, because, when some officers 
of his suite remarked to him that the rebellion 
(the news of which had by that time reached 
him) bore many traits of resemblance to the 
premonitory riots that had heralded the in- 
troduction of the Terror in France, he simply 
replied : 

''Oh, it is not at all the same thing. Rus- 
sians are not Frenchmen — and the Romanoffs 
are not the Bourbons.'' 

The Czar might at this early stage of the 
Revolution have returned to Tsarskoye Selo 
if he had only energetically insisted upon doing 
so. But he spent three days in complete in- 
decision, and when at last he made up his mind 
to go home it was too late. By that time 
General Alexieieff had been won over to the 
cause of the Duma, which was supposed to 
represent the only responsible authority in 
Russia; he put every possible obstacle in his 
way, going so far as to interfere with the ar- 
rangements made by General Woyeikoff for 
the departure of the Imperial train. It seems 
also that he sent telegrams asking for this 
train to be either stopped or at least delayed 
on its way. 

No one at this stage wished Nicholas II. to 


go back to Petrograd, where it was feared his 
presence would prevent, if not stop, the es- 
tablishment of the new Government ; a useless 
fear, because, even if he had reached his former 
capital, he would never have found sufficient 
courage or energy to fight against an adverse 
fate or to do aught else but submit to the will 
of the multitude eager for his fall. The man 
who signed without one word of protest an 
abdication against which his whole soul ought 
to have protested, such a man was not to be 
feared, he could only be despised. 

This was also the feeling which the whole 
nation began to entertain for him. People had 
pitied him in the beginning, but as the details 
of his conduct at Pskow became known, con- 
tempt took the place of any commiseration 
which the tragedy of his fate might have pro- 
voked. This opinion was so general that a 
friend of mine happening to discuss with one 
of the Deputies of the Workmen in those 
Soviets which were being organized just then the 
conduct of the former Czar, asked if he thought 
it likely the life of the deposed ruler was in 
danger. He received this characteristic reply: 
"In danger.? No. He is not worth a shot." 
It is likely that the Empress, if she had been 
asked her opinion, would have agreed with this 
judgment. Though she had also thrown up her 
hands and renounced the game, she would 
not have given up her rights to the Crown 

1 8 269 


that had been put upon her brow with such 
pomp and ceremony at Moscow twenty-one 
years before. She would have fought against 
the insolence of those who had come to demand 
it from her. Here I must say that, according 
to the words of one of the two Deputies sent 
by the Duma to interview Nicholas II. at 
Pskow, the prestige of the latter's personaHty 
as the anointed Czar of All the Russias was still 
so great that if he had mustered sufficient 
energy to throw out of the railway carriage the 
men audacious enough to claim his abdication, 
this gesture of Imperial rage would have 
brought back to him the allegiance of the 
troops. He was living through a terrible 
drama, and he was accepting it like a comedy. 
After having disgraced himself, he was dis- 
honoring by his attitude the misfortunes which 
had fallen on his country, on his dynasty, and 
on his race. 



THE Monarchy of the Romanoffs had 
fallen Hke a house of cards which crumbles 
on the ground at the sHghtest touch. It had 
been considered one of the strongest, one of the 
most powerful, in Europe; yet its collapse had | 
come with an amazing promptitude and there | 
had not been found in the whole vast Empire 
over which it had ruled one single man or 
woman willing to arrest its downward course 
toward the abyss into which it finally dis- 
appeared. What the tyranny of Nicholas I., 
the selfishness of Alexander II., and the iron k 
rule of Alexander III. had failed to produce, I 
the weakness, indecision, and incapacity of | 
Nicholas II. had made easy. What a German 
Princess, Catherine II., had maintained, an- 
other German Princess compromised and lost 

Without wishing to add to the faults and 
mistakes of Alexandra Feodorowna, it is never- 
theless quite impossible to acquit her of blame 
in the catastrophe which finally wrecked poor, 




unfortunate Russia. Without her it is likely 
that the Crown would have kept some prestige, 
at least in the eyes of those whose family 
traditions were linked with the fate of the 
Monarchy in their country. She destroyed 
this prestige by the singularity of her conduct, 

\ the want of balance of her mind, and her proud, 
haughty, and totally false conception of the 
Russian character. She firmly believed that 
nothing she could do would be criticized and 
that even those who disliked her, whose number 
was legion, as she knew very well, would never 
dare to question her right to do whatever she 
pleased, or to choose her friends no matter in 
what circles or among what kind of people. 

) This woman, whom misfortune associated 
with the fate of the House of Romanoff at the 

i very time when the latter ought to have had 

* the aid of an intelligent, well-intentioned, and 
unselfish Princess to help it face the dangers 
which were threatening it, had never known 
how to put herself at the level of the persons 
by whom she found herself surrounded. She 
lacked not only tact, but also generosity, and 
she never could hold broad views about any- 
thing or about anybody. She was as scathing 
as she was hasty in her judgments. From the 
very first day she was raised to the Throne of 
Russia she abused the privileges which her 
position conferred upon her, and either through 
stupidity — or willingly — because of her dislike 



for the nation whose Crown she wore, she 
applied herself to wound those whom she 
ought to have spared and to propitiate persons 
whom it would have been imperative for her 
to keep away as far as possible from her person 
and from that of her husband. , 

Of course she was in a certain sense a strong i 
character, in so far, at least, as she never would 
yield to reason or accept any compromise. She 
had principles of her own, which, however, did 
not help her to win respect for herself or esteem 
for her conduct. Without ever allowing herself 
to be led by impulse, she failed to perceive 
that in most of her actions she was influenced 
by superstition of a most foolish kind. The 
fact that insanity existed in her family may 
excuse her to a certain point, but should not 
blind us to faults which might easily have been 
corrected had she only realized their existence. 

She was a blameless wife; about this there 
cannot be any doubt. But she never loved 
her husband and she only cared for his posi- 
tion. She was a tender mother, at least 
to her son, whatever may have been her 
feelings in regard to her daughters, whom she 
most unjustly blamed for their sex, if we are 
to believe all that we have been told on the 
subject. But she lacked sympathy, which she 
never could give to others or win for herself. | 
She was a cold, ambitious, stern creature, so ' 
convinced of her own perfection that she never 



could be brought to see good in anything with 
which she was not connected in some way or 
other. Her life certainly had tragedy entwined 
with its course. Perhaps the most cruel blow, 
until the final catastrophe that wrecked all her 
hopes, had been her unfortunate affection for 
the dashing officer. Colonel Orloff, who had 
died to save her honor and good name, whose 
post-mortem influence had been so cleverly 
made use of by unscrupulous adventurers in 
order to win her confidence. Alexandra had 
always at heart despised the weak man to 
whom she was married, but she had loved the 
high position which, thanks to her union with 
him, she had acquired; she would have liked 
to remain alone in control of it and to revenge 
her supposed wrongs at the hands of the 
Russian nation, by delivering it into the power 
of that German Fatherland of hers to which 
she had always remained attached. Her desire 
for peace was sincere (at least we must hope so), 
and everything we know about her and about 
her conduct during that momentous time 
when she kept working toward its conclusion 
points to the truth of this supposition. It had 
all along been a terrible trial for her to find the 
land of her birth at war with that of her 
adoption, and to this initial agony was added 
the superstitious terror which Raspoutine had 
inspired in her, thanks to the hypnotic practices 

in which he had induced her to participate — 



terror which ended by completely wrecking her 
already badly balanced mind. 

But the supreme misfortune of the last 
Empress of Russia, a misfortune for which she 
was not responsible, was the fact of her having 
been married to a being who was too weak to 
lead her, too selfish to understand her, too 
cruelly inclined to sympathize with her; who 
at the same time did not acquire sufficient 
authority over her to inspire her with respect 
for his individuality as a man and for his 
position as a Sovereign. Had she been the 
wife of Alexander III., it is likely that she 
would have turned out entirely another woman 
from the one which she ultimately became ; on 
the other hand, had Nicholas 11. had for 
Consort a person different from the one to 
whom destiny had linked him, it is also probable 
that he would have contrived to avoid some of 
the mistakes into which he fell. He might have 
shown himself more plucky and more human 
in the different moments of crisis which made 
his reign such a sad and such an unfortunate 

One of the most tragical things with which a 
student of history finds himself confronted 
when he analyzes any of the great catastrophes 
that come to change the fate of nations is the 
total insufficiency of the people who have to 
meet them or to handle them. There is no 
more pitiful spectacle than the vacillations of 



Louis XVI. during the first days of the great 
Revolution which sent him to the scaffold. 
Witness the want of character of the miserable 
Czar who is meditating at present in Tobolsk 
over the misfortunes that have landed him into 
exile; it is another of those sights one should 
have liked^ to see spared to posterity. During 
the twenty-two years he occupied the Russian 
Throne Nicholas 11. constantly opposed himself 
to the wishes of his people, even the most reason- 
able ones, when he thought that they implied 
any diminution of his personal prerogatives or 
power. He sent hundreds of thousands of 
innocent people to the gallows or to horrible 
Siberian prisons under the slightest of pretexts. 
He had no hesitation at spilling the blood of his 
subjects either on the battle-field or on the 
scaffold. He allowed the detestable police 
system, which became, under his rule, stronger 
than it had ever been before, to interfere with 
private liberty and private opinions to an 
extent that had never been witnessed in his 
country even in the times of Nicholas I. or of 
Paul. While he reigned no one felt secure in 
his home or could go to bed with the con- 
sciousness that he would not be wakened in the 
middle of the night by an army of police agents 
come to search his drawers, or to arrest him 
under the most futile of pretexts or simply 
because he had refused to pay a bribe. And 

yet that man in whose name the most terrible 



injustices had been committed, who did not 
admit any resistance to his will, who beHeved 
in his unlimited power over one hundred and 
eighty millions of human beings — that man did 
not find sufficient courage to resist the only 
demand, among the many which were ad- 
dressed to him during the course of his nefarious 
reign, that he ought never to have granted; 
and without one single thought of the future 
of his country or of his son he gave up without 
a murmur the Crown of which he was the 
bearer, when two determined men came to 
claim it from him, and he did so without even 
noticing that they were far more awed by the 
solemnity of the scene in which they found 
themselves unwilling actors than he was himself. 

There never was a Throne relinquished with 
less dignity, there never was an act of abdication 
accomplished with less consciousness of the 
importance of its meaning. When one re- 
capitulates all the details of the drama which 
was performed at Pskow, one can, when one is 
a Russian, feel but one passionate regret — 
that no one was found by the side of the last 
crowned Romanoff to drive a knife into his 
heart or put a bullet through his brain, and 
thus spare this haughty dynasty the shame of 
having been dragged into the gutter by its 

It is scarcely to be doubted that if Nicholas 
11. had only given more thought to the im- 



portance of the act he was invited to perform 
he might at least have saved his dynasty, if 
not himself. His brother, the Grand-Duke 
Michael, who could easily renounce the Crown 
for himself, would hardly have been able to 
refuse the Regency on behalf of his little 
nephew. A man with the slightest political 
knowledge would have put the interests of his 
country before his own selfish feelings of 
paternal affection, and the Czar ought to have 
abdicated in favor of his son, and not have 
put forward this stupid pretext of lacking the 
courage to part from him. This very remark 
proves how little he understood the situation 
in which he found himself. It also shows us 
how utterly helpless he was when confronted 
by any difficulties of an overpowering and 
potential character. When one considers his 
whole conduct during those eventful hours 
when he lost not only his own, but his pos- 
terity's. Crown, it is impossible not to wonder 
as to whether or not there was any truth in 
the rumor that the Empress had been giving 
him drugs of some kind with the purpose of 
annihilating his will. It seems almost in- 
credible that any man should have so quietly 
and so spontaneously lent a hand to his own 

It is to be doubted, also, whether he re- 
gretted what he had done. Certainly he never 
imagined to what it would lead him. The idea 



that his people would have the courage to 
make him a prisoner does not seem to have 
crossed his mind, any more than did the fact 
that, once he had lost his position, he had 
become not only a useless, but an embarrassing 
factor in Russian politics. He went back to 
Mohilew, to the headquarters of that army 
of which he had been the Commander-in-chief 
as well as the Sovereign, quite naturally and 
in the same quiet manner he might have done 
in the days gone by. He did not even seem 
to yearn after his wife and children, and never 
once did he suggest the advisability of returning 
to Tsarskoye Selo. Of all the people assembled 
around him he appeared the most unconcerned. 
This indiflfercnce lasted even when he found 
himself faced with captivity and when the 
former Head of his Staff, General Alexieieff, 
came to acquaint him with the decision of the 
Provisional Government to arrest him. 

His wife, left alone in the Palace where she 
had spent so many happy days, did not perhaps 
share his indifference; she certainly displayed 
the same apathy. Alexandra Feodorowna, from 
the moment that she saw her schemes of per- 
sonal grandeur frustrated, gave up the game; 
she gave it up with more dignity than her 
husband had ever shown — this much must be 
conceded to her. She never flinched before the 
insults that were poured down upon her; she 
never gave a sign that she was moved to any- 



thing else but disdain when General KornilofF 
read to her the orders of the Government in 
regard to her person, and acquainted her with 
the fact that she was a prisoner. She declared 
to the few people left with her that she con- 
sidered herself only as a Sister of Charity in 
attendance on her sick children. The Empress 
had disappeared, outwardly at least, and per- 
haps it was just as well that she accepted the 
situation in this way, rather than attempt a 
useless resistance, which could only have added 
to her unpopularity. 

But still the fact remained that the whole 
Russian Revolution had been conducted after 
the style of a comic opera of Offenbach. No 
one at first had recognized its serious character. 
No one had seemed to realize that it consti- 
tuted the most portentous event of the last 
hundred years or so. Those who had carried 
it out had done it on the spur of the moment, 
without thinking of what would follow; and the 
Monarch who had bowed his head under its 
decrees also had not suspected that a morrow 
was there, waiting for the results of what was 
being done to-day. The historical stick that 
had been wielded by Peter the Great had been 
transformed into the ridiculous sword of the 
Grand Duchess of Gerolstein. 



ANEW life began for Alexandra Feodorowna. 
Until that fatal day when she was taken 
into captivity her existence had been one of 
ease and luxury. She had been the Empress of 
All the Russias, being revered by some as 
almost a divinity, the absolute mistress of all 
her surroundings, with servants in attendance 
on her, eager to execute any commands it 
might please her to lay upon them. She had 
not a wish which was not instantly gratified; 
the misfortunes that had assailed her (I am not 
speaking now of those that fell upon Russia) had 
always left her indifferent; they had existed 
more in her imagination than in reality. Sud- 
denly without warning and, what was even 
worse, at the very moment when she had ex- 
pected to reach even loftier heights than the one 
upon which she was placed, she had been hurled 
down into an abyss of sorrow, of misery, and of 
pain such as she had never imagined she could 
ever know. She was no longer a Sovereign; 
her courtiers, servants, attendants, had all 



vanished with the exception of a very few, and 
those she had never cared for much, in the 
days of her prosperity. Her children were sick 
and she could not even obtain for them a 
doctor's help. Her friends had fled or were in 
prison; her Crown had been wrested from her; 
she was a prisoner, deprived of the means of 
communicating with her own people and 
relatives; the guards who surrounded her 
Palace were no longer placed there to protect 
her safety; they were intrusted with another 
mission, that of watching over every one of 
her movements and of preventing her from 
getting any news from the outside world. 
Instead of crowds gathered to cheer her, she 
saw assembled under her windows an angry 
multitude asking for her blood and calling out 
to her that she ought to be punished as a 
traitor. She had no friends, no money, no 
influence any longer. The dream had come to 
an end, and she found herself facing stern 
reality, a reality against which it was useless to 

Her husband came back to her, a prisoner, 
likewise, but with perhaps less consciousness 
of the horror of their position than she had. 
They had to settle down to a new life entirely 
different from the previous one — a life of idle- 
ness, of inaction; an existence which made 
them realize with every step they took the 

awful change that had overtaken them. When 



they wished to go out they had to ask 
permission to do so from an officer who often 
refused it out of pure malice. They had to 
pass before sentinels who no longer presented 
arms to them, who only sneered in their faces 
as they saw them hurry through a room or a 
corridor, anxious to escape insult or outrage. 
No one was allowed to come near them. They 
were condemned to a solitude in which they 
were continually reminded of the days gone by 

A few faithful attendants had been left 
them, it is true, but these last friends were just 
as badly ojBf as themselves, and could do but 
very little to alleviate the miseries of a position 
which was an illustration of the famous verses 
of Dante, that there is nothing more dreadful 
during days of misery than to remember the 
past joyful ones. Even religion, which for 
such a long period of years had consoled the 
Empress in many sad and troubled hours, had 
ceased to be a comfort to her; divine service, 
during which her name and that of her husband 
were carefully omitted from the liturgy, was 
only one new source of torment for her. It 
seemed to her as if the Church as well as the 
Russian nation repulsed her and treated her as 
a pariah and an outcast. Another woman, 
with higher, loftier views, would have looked 
with more philosophy on these small sides in a 
great tragedy, might perhaps even have failed 



to notice them. But for Alexandra Fcodorowna 
they constituted something far more tangible 
and real than the fact that the House of 
Romanoff had lost its Throne. 

She would most probably have wished to 
discuss with the Czar all the events which had 
brought about the catastrophe, but even this 
comfort was denied to her. The Provisional 
Government had issued orders that husband 
and wife should not be permitted to com- 
nunicate with or see each other, except in 
presence of witnesses. Some people have said 
that this was an unnecessary cruelty, but it 
seems that there was some reason for this 
decision. A strong party at that time was 
clamoring for repressive measures in regard 
to the ex-Empress. Papers had been found in 
which her negotiations with the Kaiser had 
been revealed, and the question of bringing her 
to trial had been seriously discussed. But no 
one wished to see the former Czar mixed up 
with this business, as it was generally felt it 
would be a great political mistake to make a 
martyr out of him. 

There was, however, ground to fear that if 
he were permitted to speak with his wife alone, 
she would contrive in some way or other to 
entangle him in her personal intrigues. This 
Mr. MiliukofT, then Minister for Foreign 
Affairs, wished to avoid, for reasons of a general 
political order, and Mr. Kerensky for other 



ones of a purely personal character. It seems 
that this leader of the Socialist party in the 
Duma had, before events had transformed him 
into a Minister, spoken also with certain agents 
of the Kaiser who had contrived to remain in 
the Russian capital. Nicholas 11. had friends 
who, knowing this fact, warned the radical 
chiejf that if any harm was done to the former 
Sovereign his own participation in eventual 
peace negotiations with the enemy would be 
exposed. Can one imagine that when Nicholas 
was told of this fact he only blamed those who 
had thus attempted to save him, saying that 
he did not like blackmail of any kind, even 
when it was performed for his advantage.^ 
That man who had been one of the most im- 
portant political factors of his time was not 
even shrewd enough to see that it was only 
politics which could save his life after they 
had dispossessed him of his Throne. 

The Provisional Government, so long as 
decent men composed it, would have been 
willing to spare any unnecessary humiliations 
to the former Czar and his family. Unfortu- 
nately, the military men who had been put in 
charge of the Palace of Tsarskoye Selo and of 
its inhabitants did not share this opinion, and 
there is no doubt but that the deposed Monarch 
was subjected to insult, as well as to all kinds 
of small and petty annoyances calculated to 
make him feel bitterly the change in his 
19 28s 


position. I do not believe personally in the 
tales which were put into circulation as to his 
having been hustled about by the soldiers on 
guard at the castle the day he had returned 
there a State prisoner from Mohilew, a few 
short weeks after he had left it a powerful 
Sovereign. For one thing, his devoted aide- 
de-camp, Prince Dolgoroukoff, was with him, 
and he would most certainly have interfered 
had any violence been used in regard to his 
master. But the unfortunate Nicholas was 
made in other ways to drink the cup of humilia- 
tion to the dregs. The troops were told not to 
salute him; the sentries were forbidden to pre- 
sent arms to him; he was addressed as Colonel 
Romanoff by his jailers ; his letters were opened 
and his expenses controlled in a searching, in- 
sulting manner which must have been terribly 
bitter for him to bear. Every kind of news- 
paper containing insults addressed to him 
or to the Empress were sent to him or 
put in his way. When he went out in the 
park he was often accosted by people who 
upbraided him for all the misfortunes that 
had fallen upon Russia, for which they made 
him responsible. I do not mention insignificant 
daily worries, such as the shutting off of the 
electric light, or of the water-pipes, so that the 
unfortunate Imperial Family was left without 
baths, and other small unpleasantnesses of the 

same kind. These would perhaps not have 



been noticed if the other ones had not been 
there to remind the once powerful Czar of All 
the Russias that he was at the mercy of the 
subjects whose rights he had not respected and 
whose cries for freedom he had quenched in 

But Nicholas, in the midst of all these 
miseries, preserved the same impassibility he 
had displayed when the news of the disasters 
of Mukden and Tsu Shima had been brought 
to him, or when he had heard that Warsaw 
and the long line of fortresses that had de- 
fended the Russian frontier on the Niemen and 
the Vistula had fallen into German hands. He 
accepted everything with stoicism; he ex- 
pressed no surprise at the blows which were 
bring hurled at his head. He simply remained 
indifferent, perhaps because he was too much 
of a fatalist to rebel, but most probably because 
he had not yet grasped the real significance of 
all that was happening to him. 

The Empress was not so resigned, in spite of 
her apparent apathy. She had more reasons to 
fear for her personal safety than her husband, 
and she knew very well that in case of a rising 
of the anarchists in Petrograd she would be the 
first victim they would claim. This dread led 
her into another of the mistakes which she was 
continually perpetrating, the mistake of trying 
to call to her rescue her German cousin. 

According to people whom I have reason to 



believe exceptionally well informed, she caused 
certain information to be carried to the Kaiser. 
In return for this she implored him to try and 
save her, together with her children. Of course 
this became known to the Provisional Govern- 
ment, but the latter wished to spare her, partly 
because it feared that if her new misdeeds were 
published nothing could save her from the 
wrath of the public, and it did not wish the 
Revolution to be dishonored by the murder of a 
defenseless woman, whatever that woman might 
have done. But the question of the transfer 
of Nicholas 11. and of his family to a place 
where he could be guarded more closely than 
at Tsarskoye Selo was discussed seriously. 
It is likely that this would have been executed 
already during the first six weeks which 
followed upon his abdication if other things 
had not interfered, and if in rapid succession 
the men who had taken up the task he had been 
unable to fulfil had not in their turn disappeared 
one after the other, making room for Ministers 
more advanced in their opinions and more 
devoid of scruples as to the punishment which 
they believed ought to be inflicted on the 
former Emperor. 

Alexandra Feodorowna had been subjected 
to a strict examination of her political activity 
by the military authorities in charge of the 
district of Petrograd, and particularly by 
General Korniloff, who had a personal grudge 



against her and who did not spare her in the 
scathing reproaches which he addressed to her. 
But nothing could shake the equanimity of the 
haughty Czarina. She sneered at the General, 
she scorned his threats, and proudly declared 
to him that she would not reply to any of his 
questions, as she did not recognize his right 
to address them to her. While her husband 
showed no sign of impatience under the affronts 
which were showered down upon him (on the 
contrary, he exhibited absolute submission to 
the will of those who had taken him captive), 
the Empress remembered the position which she 
had occupied a few days before, and simply 
smiled at her persecutors with a disdain that 
had certainly something exasperating about it 
if one considers the intellectual and moral 
standard of the people to whom this proof of 
her contempt was addressed. 

Alexandra refused to show that she suffered 
from the change that had taken place in her 
position, while her husband hardly knew 
whether he was suffering from it or not. There 
lay the difference in their two characters and 
in their way of meeting the catastrophe which 
had changed their whole lives and destinies. 

There came, however, a day when the 
composure of the Consort of Nicholas II. 
failed, when she at last gave way to de- 
spair. It was during the afternoon when her 

friend and the confidante of all her thoughts, 



Anna Wyrubewa, was taken away from her, 
and carried off to the fortress of SS. Peter 
and Paul in Petrograd. Until that day the 
Empress had not felt quite alone in her mis- 
ery. There was at least near her one person 
with whom she could speak about all those 
dear dead ones whose memory she either 
cherished or worshiped. So long as that friend 
was there the miserable Empress could talk 
about Orloif, Raspoutine, and the prayer- 
meetings during which the latter evoked for 
her the spirit of the former. When Anna was 
taken away from her this last consolation 
came also to an end. Henceforward the 
solitude of Alexandra Feodorowna was to be 
complete; and nothing was left to her except 
her eyes to weep, and her memory to remind 
her of those whom she had loved and lost. 
The horrors which were to follow, the Siberian 
exile whither she was to be sent, were to leave 
her unmoved. She had inwardly died in that 
terrible hour when the last friend and the 
sharer of all the secrets of her life had been 
snatched away from her arms. 



THESE days in Tsarskoye Selo which seemed 
so hard to bear were Paradise compared 
with what awaited the previous masters of this 
Imperial place. 

Soon there came one August morning when 
a man who a few months before had been known 
only as one of the leaders of that Socialist party 
which the Government of Nicholas 11. had 
taken such trouble to suppress, and whom the 
tide of events had transformed into one of the 
Ministers of the new Russian Republic, Alex- 
ander Feodorovitch Kerensky, entered, un- 
called for and unannounced, into the private 
apartments of the former Czar, and acquainted 
him with the new decision to which the Govern- 
ment of the day had come in regard to his 
person and to the fate of his family. How he 
did it, how he mustered the courage to inform 
the fallen Monarch that he was about to be 
exiled to that distant Siberia, where so many 
people had been sent during his reign and had 
gone cursing his name, no one knows. None 



of the actors in this scene ever revealed its 

It is probable, however, that Kerensky had 
experienced far more emotion in signifying to 
the deposed Sovereign the horrible punishment 
to which he had been condemned than the 
latter had displayed when receiving the terrible 
news, the nature of which must have completely 
bewildered him. Of all the things he had 
expected, this was certainly the last. The 
possibility of a public trial, in imitation of the 
one of Louis XVI. in France, had been dis- 
cussed between the Emperor and the Empress, 
and they had in a certain sense both schooled 
themselves for such a supreme ordeal. But 
exile in cold, bleak Siberia, in that land of 
mystery and of crime, of heroic deeds and 
ignoble deaths — this solution of the difficulties 
of a position which was daily growing more 
threatening had never presented itself to the 
mind of the last Russian Autocrat. Tobolsk, 
too ! This dreariest spot in a dreary country ; this 
accursed place from which all those who could 
do so fled away with alacrity! What could 
have been more awful than to have chosen it 
as the future residence of a Monarch who, if 
all was well considered, had by his own act 
rendered himself impossible as a ruler in the 
future.? No political necessity required his 
being sent so far and there were many other 
places where he might have been just as safe, 



and not quite so unhappy, as in that small 
Siberian town. Can one wonder if despair took 
hold of the souls of the unhappy Czar and of 
his wife ? Can one wonder if he exclaimed that 
he would have preferred to die rather than 
have to meet such an atrocious fate ? 

There were his children, too; his innocent 
children, who had done no harm and who were 
to share this miserable destiny to which he was 
condemned. Kerensky had told him that the 
young Grand Duchesses and their brother 
would be left free to follow their parents in 
that distant land whither they were to depart, 
or to remain in Russia if they preferred. 
But this was almost adding insult to an abomi- 
nable injury, because the children could hardly 
do anything else than decide to accompany 
their father and mother. Verily nothing was 
to be spared to Nicholas II., not even the 
knowledge that his daughters and his idolized 
boy were about to be exposed to hard- 
ships which it was hardly likely they could 

Nevertheless, he took the news bravely, and 
neither he nor Alexandra Feodorowna mur- 
mured. The latter is credited with having re- 
marked that the new Government had evidently 
wanted to please her by sending them to a 
place that could only be dear to her on account 
of its associations with Raspoutine, who had 

been born there. Whether this is exact or not 



I will not undertake to say. What is true, 
however, is that she left with dry eyes the place 
where she had spent so many happy years, 
and that not even during the religious service, 
which was celebrated in the private chapel of 
the Palace, when the blessings of Heaven 
were invoked in favor of people about to start 
on a long journey, did she shed a tear. All 
the other assistants, including her daughters, 
sobbed passionately and bitterly the whole 
time that it lasted. 

Though the hour of the departure of Nicholas 
had been kept as secret as possible, the whole 
town of Tsarskoye Selo knew that he was about 
to leave it forever. The population for once 
was awed before the immensity of the disaster. 
One was used in Russia to people being sent to 
Siberia; one had seen a Menschikoff, a Biren, 
a Dolgorouky, and more recently a Prince 
Troubetskoy, and a Mourawieff-Apostol, start 
on this dreaded journey whence so few ever 
returned. But here was something different. 
Here was a Romanoff about to go there where 
his ancestors and himself had deported so many, 
so many, entirely innocent people. Here was 
the dreaded Sovereign, whose name had been 
for such a long time mentioned only with 
reverence and with fear, exiled like one of 
those persons whom he had sent to Siberia with 
a mere stroke of his pen. Here was Nicholas 

11.^ formerly Emperor and Autocrat of All the 



Russias, here was the mighty Czar who had 
been crowned at Moscow, reduced to the con- 
dition of a common criminal by the subjects 
whose rights he had violated, whose con- 
sciences he had trampled upon, whose liberty 
he had taken away, and whose lives he had 
in so many instances tried to destroy. Truly 
the sight was appalling, and there were but 
few among those who in the early twilight 
of a summer morning looked at that mournful 
train which was carrying away toward the 
distant north so much dead grandeur and such 
awful misfortune, there were but few who did 
not realize that they were witnessing something 
more tragic and more solemn even than a 
funeral, that they were looking upon the end 
of a great chapter in Russian history, and that 
it was not only a Czar who lay buried under all 
these ruins, but also something of the past 
glories of the country. 

They had been, after all, together with the 
future of the Romanoff dynasty, a great race 
that had produced great men and they de- 
served to have, as their last crowned descend- 
ant, some one better than Nicholas II. had 
proved to be. They had often been cruel, 
more frequently even unjust; they had never 
respected what the world is used to venerate 
and to esteem; they had shown themselves 
hard in regard to their subjects; but they had 
made out of dark, ignorant Russia an immense 



Empire on which even more immense hopes 
had been built. They had exercised on several 
occasions a restraining influence over the ex- 
aggerations of half-educated and half-instructed 
men with all the instincts of the savage and 
but few of the qualities of the civilized being. 
They had led their people through danger, 
through war, through many momentous days 
of rejoicing as well as of anguish. They 
had been a part of the Russian nation, and 
with their disgrace and fall something in 
that nation, too, had been dishonored and had 

With the personal failure of Nicholas II. 
this book has nothing to do. From the very 
first day that he had ascended the Throne of 
Russia it had been evident to any person gifted 
with the talent of observation that his reign 
was bound to end in disaster and in ruin; that 
all the work performed by his late father, who, 
after all, when things are well considered, had 
been a great man and a wise Sovereign, would 
very soon be destroyed by his want of character 
and of principle and by his abominable selfish- 
ness. People, however, had hoped that during 
the years supreme power remained concen- 
trated in his hands at least blood would not 
flow. No one's imagination had conceived the 
horrors of Mukden and of Tsu Shima, nor the 
massacres which took place at Tannenberg and 
in the Polish plains. No one had suspected 



that the rivers would be dyed red while he 
went on living unconscious and unconcerned 
about all the misery which would remain for- 
ever associated with his name. When destiny 
was at last fulfilled in regard to him, it was 
discovered that it had also been fulfilled in 
regard to Russia, and this was what the 
country could not bring itself to forgive him; 
this is what his ancestors also would not have 
pardoned him had they been able to arise out 
of their graves, and to 

Rend the gold brocade 

Whereof their shroud was made* 

in horror at all the evil perpetrated by their 
unworthy descendant. 

Yes, in the past they had been a strong race, 
these Romanoffs, about whom no one thinks any 
longer to-day in the vast realm that owned them 
once as its masters and lords. But it would 
be useless to deny that crimes without number 
were committed by them and that injustice 
flourished during the centuries when they could 
dispose absolutely of the fate of millions and 
millions of human creatures whom they killed 
and tortured at their will and according to their 
fancies. Perhaps it was a just punishment for 
the ruthless cruelty of some of them that the 
glories of their race came to an end and perished, 
♦Longfellow, "The WTiite Czar." 


together with all the traditions that had sur- 
rounded them for such a long time, because of 
the foUies, sins, mistakes, blunderings, iniq- 
uities, and indecisions of a weak, characterless, 
and half-witted man and of a superstitious, 
intriguing, and half-demented woman. 



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