Wednesday, 17 July 2013

95 years ago today, Queen Victoria's granddaughter was shot dead...

After spending some years living in London, it's very much impressed upon me that many of the city's most celebrated places owe their existence to Queen Victoria's reign. In one day, I can wander through the Victoria and Albert Museum, or take in a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. There is also the fact that I live in a Victorian house, and never want to live anywhere else.

The adjective 'Victorian' is so vivid and stirs up so many mental visuals, that it can be used effectively to describe a situation or an item of clothing or a mode of thought. Queen Victoria's influence and spirit live on. As the longest reigning British monarch in history, in her 63 years on the throne, her character was etched in the public mind as very emotional, prone to melancholy, frank and most of all, headstrong. Her influence lives on, and it's almost as though her ghost walks through the dusty streets, checking to make sure that the buildings erected in her honour, are maintained to her standards.

Alexandra, the granddaughter of Victoria
But it came as a shock to me that Queen Victoria's granddaughter Alexandra...was married to the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas. And that 95 years ago today, she was led into a freezing room, in darkest Siberia and shot dead, as bullets ripped through her body and hit the wall behind her, leaving trails of blood raining down the walls. She was Tsarina Alexandra or Empress Alexandra, and she was slain, along with her five children and her beloved husband Nicholas.

The blood connection between Queen Victoria and Empress Alexandra  may not ring many bells with a modern audience. When you stand before the gold memorial to Victoria in front of Buckingham Palace, you don't think that her granddaughter was ravaged by little lead bullets in Russia in 1918 by Bolsheviks.

But what will ring a distinct bell - is the medical condition that was an unfortunate legacy of the family's genetic inheritance.  Queen Victoria's youngest son, Leopold, had hemophilia, 'the bleeding disease'. And so, too, did Empress Alexandra's youngest child, her son, the young Tsar, who was plunged in agony if he got a bruise or a cut. Alexandra's only son was seen as their only hope of succession, as the heir to the Tsar's throne. It is often argued, that despite the fact that the last Tsar was not the most entrepid ruler and his wife rather naive and easily fooled, that the great grief of their lives, the disease that  was ravaging their little boy, was the cause of the last Tsar's fatal distraction from successfully ruling Russia.

If you can bear the ghoulishly polyester wigs that they drape on Rasputin, or the way all the characters speak as though they are giving speeches in the House of Commons, then the best film that captures the life of Nicholas and Alexandra, and the circumstances that led to their execution is Nicholas and Alexandra, the 1971 film, based on Robert K Massie's bestselling book.



I also include the final scene of the film. It is very poignant, and the callous, indifferent way that the gunmen fired at the children will make your blood run cold.


4 comments:

  1. And July 18th is the anniversary of the murder of another of Queen Victoria's grand-daughters - Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna, who was Alexandra'a sister, and who is venerated in the Orthodox Church as St Elizabeth the New Martyr. Elizabeth married Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia (one of Emperor Alexander's sons). After her husband was assassinated in 1905 she became a nun and founded a convent. She was killed by the Communists in Yekaterinburg (there are some very moving accounts of her martyrdom).

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  2. Thank you so much for this highly interesting point, Mark. Do you have a link to a reliable site with this info?

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  3. Mary, I hope you find these links useful.

    OrthodoxWiki.
    http://orthodoxwiki.org/Elizabeth_the_New_Martyr

    An account of her murder.
    http://www.serfes.org/lives/grandduchess/murder.htm

    A good introduction from a Russian Orthodox source.
    http://www.pravmir.com/a-sacrificing-love-new-martyr-grand-duchess-elizabeth/

    Life of the Holy New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth by Metropolitan Anastassy (written in 1925)
    http://orthodoxinfo.com/general/duchess.aspx

    A reminiscence by Countess Alexandra Olsoufieff, Mistress of the Robes to Elizabeth, published in 1923.
    http://www.alexanderpalace.org/palace/GDElisabeth.html

    Pictorial biography.
    http://life.orthomed.ru/st-elizabeth/pics/efs_e.htm

    "Pilgrimage to the place of martyrdom of St Elizabeth Feodorovna Romanova".
    http://life.orthomed.ru/st-elizabeth/palom_e.htm

    A very impressive Orthodox convent in Minsk inspired by Elizabeth.
    http://www.obitel-minsk.by/welcome_text-1_mid33.html



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  4. I also noted this day. Sadly their life was littered with personal tragedies. Their death was the biggest of all. They were good people. I like Nicholas and Alexandra both. Also I fail to comprehend what political advantage is gained by killing innocent children.

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