Who's Who - Tsarina Alexandra

Tsarina Alexandra A tragic if not sympathetic figure, the Tsarina Alexandra (1872-1918) suffered a tragic life that ended with the murder of both her and her family at the hands of the Bolsheviks in July 1918.

Born on 6 June 1872 in Darmstadt, Germany, Alexandra was a granddaughter of Britain's Queen Victoria and the daughter of Louis IV, the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt.

Orphaned at the age of six she married Tsar Nicholas II in 1894 and moved to Russia - a country she greatly disliked - there giving birth to four daughters before giving the Tsar a son, Alexis.  Tragically her new-born son proved to suffer from haemophilia.

The Tsarina's anxious concern for her son's illness led her to embrace Rasputin, a debauched 'holy man' who proved able to stem Alexis' loss of blood (it has been suggested through hypnosis).

Already unpopular at court - where she firmly held sway over her husband - Alexandra's unswerving loyalty to Rasputin (whom she believed had been sent by God to save the Russian throne) led her to continually excuse his notorious excesses, and further damaged her reputation both at court and in the public at large (whom she gave every indication of despising).

A fanatical believer in Russian Orthodoxy and a firm believer in the principles of autocratic rule, Alexandra lost no opportunity in asserting her husband's right to lead his country.  She routinely dismissed her husband's political advisers, even those who were both competent and remained loyal to the Tsar.

With the Tsarina having helped to engineer the dismissal of Grand Duke Nikolai - the Tsar's uncle - from his position as Commander in Chief of the army, the Tsar subsequently announced his intention (against all advice) to take personal command of his armed forces.

Her husband having left for the front in August 1915, the Tsarina's conduct in determining policy became ever more arbitrary and wanting in political judgement.  Vindictive and jealous, Alexandra continued to dismiss from office anyone she deemed disloyal to the Tsar, fairly or otherwise.

In an attempt to halt the seemingly endless stream of scandal emanating from the court, a group of conspirators led by Prince Felix Yusupov resolved to arrange Rasputin's murder, which consequently took place on 16 December 1916.

Nevertheless it was too late to recover any semblance of credibility let alone popularity for the monarchy, particularly given that the Tsar's ill-advised gamble in publicly associating himself so closely with the success of his army had backfired, the  latter continuing to perform badly in the field.

Unfounded rumours abounded of the Tsarina's collaboration with Germany (along with Prime Minister Sturmer), further cementing Alexandra's deep unpopularity in the country.

She was nevertheless surprised by the February Revolution.  She joined her family (including the Tsar) in internal exile and was eventually executed, shot to death, by the Bolsheviks on the night of 16/17 July 1918 at Yekaterinburg.  She was 46.

Click here to view footage of the Tsar and Tsarina filmed prior to the outbreak of war in 1914

"Plugstreet" was British slang to describe the Belgian village of Ploegsteert.

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