Alexei Nikolaevich, Tsarevich of Russia was the only son of Russian Tsar Nicholas II. Alongside his father and family, Tsarevich Alexei was murdered by Bolshevik troops on July 17, 1918.
Alexei Romanov was born on August 12, 1904 in Peterhof, just east of the Russian capital city of the time, St Petersburg.
He was the youngest of Nicholas II’s five children, but the only boy, making him the heir to the Russian throne. As Nicholas was unlikely to have any more male heirs, he was incredibly precious to his parents.
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Alexei, Hemophilia and Rasputin
Alexei was a hemophiliac, a genetic disorder that prevents the blood clotting properly and can mean that even relatively small cuts can be life threatening. Hemophilia is relatively common among European royal families – his mother, Alexandra, and his great-grandmother, the English Queen Victoria both suffered from the disorder.
As a result, although Alexei was an energetic child, he was a sickly one. His parents – already over-protective of their only son and heir, were additionally protective of him because of his haemophilia. Keen to secure his health, the best doctors from around Russia and Europe were summoned, but unable to cure him.
In desperation, his mother eventually turned to less orthodox healers, including the infamous Rasputin. Over time, Rasputin began to exert more and more influence of the Romanov family, especially Alexei’s mother, Alexandra. The Russian public and nobility were unhappy with Rasputin’s influence, and rumours were spread that he and Alexandra were having an affair, and that he was influencing the Tsar’s politics, to the detriment of the war against Germany. Rasputin was murdered in 1916, but his involvement in Alexei’s care may well have had a real impact in turning the Russian public against the royal family in the lead up to the Russian Revolution.
As Alexei grew older and more responsible, his father began to involve him more and more in the affairs of state, to prepare him for the day when he would become Russian Tsar. He increasingly began to attend meetings and, during the First World War, lived with his father at Stavka as he commanded the Russian war effort.
Nicholas II’s Abdication
When Nicholas II abdicated the Russian throne on 2 March 1917, he initially named Alexei as his successor, allowing for a Regent to rule Russia until Alexei came of age. However, despite no longer being Tsar, Nicholas swiftly changed his mind. Fearing that the sickly Alexei would be separated from him, Nicholas instead named his brother Mikhail as his successor.
Imprisonment and Death
Along with his family, Alexei spent the final year of his life in imprisonment.
In early 1918, he was seriously injured in the groin, after sliding down stairs on a tray. Complications from his hemophilia meant that he spent the remaining months of his life in a wheelchair.
By July 1918, the Bolshevik Government had grown increasingly concerned that the Tsar might be freed by opposition forces in the Russian Civil War, and had ordered his execution. On 17 July 1918, Alexei and his family were woken in the middle of the night by their Bolshevik guards, and taken to the basement of the house they were staying in. Because of his injuries, Alexei was carried by his father. Nicholas, Alexei, his mother and sisters, and the remaining royal staff, were all killed by their captors in the basement. Alexei was killed in his wheelchair after being shot and stabbed multiple times. He proved so difficult to kill because of the number of gemstones secretly sewn into his clothes.
Rumours have persisted for decades that Alexei somehow survived the Romanov Massacre, and it was only in 2008 that his remains were positively identified by DNA testing.