On August 12, 1904 Tsarevich Alexei was born

  August 13, 2009 at 9:08 am by

Exactly 105 years ago, in 1904, the only son of Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra was born.

The Emperor wrote in his diary: “An unforgettable great day for us, during which we were clearly visited by the grace of God. At 1.15 during the day Alix gave birth to a son, whom in prayer we have named Alexei.” The great joy he brought into the lives of his family members was marred by the discovery of incurable illness, haemophilia, which meant that any bump or bruise could have fatal consequences for the young Tsarevich. As Grand Duchess Olga put: “You might well say that the birth of a son, which should have been the happiest in the event of the lives of Nicky and Alicky, became their heaviest cross.”

Tsarevich Alexei in 1912

His tutor, Pierre Gilliard, would later write: “Alexei was the centre of this united family, the focus of all its hopes and affection. His sisters worshipped him, he was his parents’ pride and joy. When he was well, the palace was transformed. Everyone and everything in it seemed bathed in sunshine.”

Because of his condition, there were a number of simple activities, like riding a bicycle, Alexei never had a chance to enjoy. When his condition would allow, however, he was a very active and often mischievous boy. There are stories of pranks he would play on guests during state receptions, the most famous of them was ducking under the table during the dinner and removing the shoe of a female guest: when forced to “put it back”, he obeyed but not before placing a large strawberry into the toe of the shoe. He also enjoyed playing outdoors: a movie about the life of the Imperial Family survives, which shows Alexei playing with children of his age. His friends appear to be completely unaware of Alexei’s “status” and just enjoy mischief and fun, as usual kids would do. In a poignant scene from the movie, the kids jump into an ice-cold river, while Alexei is left standing alone on the shore (his condition would not let him join in the fun).

Though pampered and adored, Alexei was never a spoilt child. He charmed everyone he met, was raised respecting elder people, always obeyed his parents and sisters and never used his position to gain or prove anything (apart from getting sweets). Like his sisters, he was “taught” to love their motherland, the great “Mother-Russia”: when anyone but his immediate family members was present, Alexei refused to speak any language but Russian. He had great passion for Russian literature and History and would often exhaust himself reading till dawn.

His tutors noted that he was an exceptionally bright and thoughtful child, who would spend a lot of time pondering about his country’s future. Gilliard noted that Alexei and Olga (the eldest sister) were the ones in the family, who understood the mood of the country and people very well, probably much better than the Emperor himself.

The last Tsarevich of Russia died, along with the rest of his family on July 17, 1918, less than a month before his 14th birthday. In 1981, Alexei and his family were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad as Holy Martyrs. In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church followed the suit and canonized them as Passion Bearers.

The Russian Imperial Family always had a semi-divine status: in recent years, the tradition of praying to the members of the Imperial Family (most commonly, Nicholas II, Alexandra and their children) has resurfaced: a lot of Russian believers have attributed miracles to those prayers.

Filed under Historical Royals, Russian Royals
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5 Responses to On August 12, 1904 Tsarevich Alexei was born

  1. Sonjapearl says:

    Are you sure its August 12th?

    I remember in books and TV documentaries that it was late July.

  2. Marsel says:

    I’m quite sure Alexei was born on August 12. :)

    You must mean his birthday by Old style (Julian calendar), which was indeed on July 30. However, his birthday by the Gregorian calendar (which Russia and most other countries of the world use now) is indeed on August 12.

    It’s like the October Revolution: it is called “October” because of the old-style calendar, although in fact it happened in November (on 7th of November).

  3. Sonjapearl says:

    Ah, I see.

    Thanks for the clarification!

  4. Marsel says:

    My pleasure. :)
    The Old and New style calendars create a lot of confusion in pre-soviet Russian history (that is, before the Gregorian calendar was adopted).

  5. Elizabeth says:

    A delightful, wonderful young prince for the ages. Holy Alexei, pray to God for us! *S*

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