The British Queen Responsible for the Murder of Tsar Nicholas ll and His Family?

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No 20th century regicide had a greater impact on world history than the execution of Tsar Nicholas ll, Empress Alexandra and their children at the hands of Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1918. In Europe especially, the panicked reaction among its remaining royal families, most of whom were related to both Nicholas and Alexandra, was swift and ultimately devastating. For while publicly embracing more liberal, socialist leaning forms of government, privately most of them aided and abetted the rise of fascism, including the Nazis, as a last line of defense against the onslaught of further worker led revolutions. This directly led to the outbreak of World War ll and the far more devastating loss of life it wrought than the previous war. The unsealing of Cabinet papers kept during the tenure of David Lloyd George, the British prime minister during the First World War, in 1986 revealed it was King George V, rather than the head of his government, who decided not to give the Tsar and his family refuge in Britain when Alexander Kerensky and his Menshevik government, who overthrew Nicholas ll in the initial stage of the Russian revolution, asked the British to accept the Romanovs as exiles. This disclosure made it clear that the King, advised by his private secretary, Lord Stanfordham, was convinced that harboring Europe’s most notorious autocrat at a time when the UK was erupting in worker led anti-war strikes would only further endanger the already fragile stability of the British Monarchy. What these papers don’t clarify, however, is the long held rumor among Europe’s royal and aristocratic elite that the real decision to leave the Russian Imperial Family to their fate wasn’t made by Stamfordham, but by George V’s far more trusted advisor, his consort, Queen Mary.

Gore Vidal recalls Princess Margaret’s thoughts concerning her august grandmother in his memoir, Palimpsest. They became friends in the ’50’s and kept in touch intermittently for the rest of her life. Aside from inviting him for a swim in the pool at her early childhood country estate, Royal Lodge, which he describes as “grubby,” Her Royal Highness revealed to Vidal that she despised Queen Mary because the dowager was rude to all of her grandchildren except Margaret’s older sister, Princess Elizabeth, and that was only because one day she’d be Queen. In the princess’ opinion, Queen Mary suffered from a terminal inferiority complex, and pathological jealousy of most of her grandchildren, because she wasn’t born a Royal Highness and they were. There’s more than a little substance to this observation.

Queen Mary, after all, was born a Serene, rather than Royal Highness owing to her father being the son of an unequal, or morganatic, marriage between a prince of Wurtemburg and a Hungarian countess. In 19th century royal Europe the descendants of such a mésalliance were treated as second class citizens destined for lives of obscurity and marriages to either the most low ranking of royals, or someone who wasn’t royal at all. Her parents’ marriage told its own story. For Prince Francis, Duke of Teck, her virtually penniless father, was forced to settle for her plain, morbidly obese mother, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, who was the daughter of the youngest surviving son of King George lll, and had virtually no dowry. Her lowly status coupled with her parents’ near constant financial straights, which caused the family’s possessions to be sold off at public auction at least once, traumatized their only daughter, Princess Victoria Mary, who later shortened her name to simply Mary, and was known within her family as May. Despite Queen Victoria deciding that Mary’s morganatic taint was no impediment to her first becoming the fiancé of the Queen’s heir presumptive and grandson, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, and then when he suddenly died being passed along to his little brother, Prince George, Princess Mary’s more prominently born in-laws and relatives never tired of chiding her because of her origins, at least until she became Queen consort.

Sarah Bradford writes in Elizabeth R that her sisters-in-law never missed an opportunity to make fun of her “ugly, Wurtemburg hands.” According to Lady Colin Campbell’s recent biography of the Queen Mother, the meanest girl of all toward Princess Mary among her extended family while she was growing up was Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, later Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia. Mary and her itinerant family often spent holidays in Hesse-Darmstadt, where putting her in her lowly place was among Princess Alix’s favorite pastimes. The last Russian Empress’ innate and lifelong snobbery, at least among other royals, is corroborated by Robert K. Massie in his monumental biography, Nicholas and Alexandra. One of the reasons why the Empress so despised her cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm ll, and recoiled every time he kissed her children, was because she deemed him a parvenu emperor. Germany, after all, had only become an empire in 1870. Ironically, had she not been so determined to wed for love, Alix would’ve taken Mary’s place in the annals of British history. She was her grandmother, Queen Victoria’s, initial choice as spouse for Prince Albert Victor.

Lady Campbell plainly states that it was Queen Mary who most strongly persuaded her husband, King George V, not to give asylum to the Romanovs, despite his fondness for his virtual lookalike first cousin, Nicholas ll. While arguing to her husband’s face that their presence would undoubtedly foster revolutionary fervor in Britain, Campbell writes that for years to come her family was convinced that her sole reason for denying the Russian Imperial Family sanctuary was simply to exact revenge on Empress Alexandra for having slighted her for all those years. Lady Colin clarifies, however, that there was no way at that time anyone could’ve predicted the tragic fate that befell the former Tsar and his family. They were still, after all, being kept at their palace at Tsarkoe Selo as prisoners of Kerensky’s Provisional Government, and it wasn’t until he and his regime were overthrown by the Bolsheviks that the tragic bloody fate of the Romanovs was sealed. While one could dismiss this as groundless hearsay, Gore Vidal adds an interesting addendum to this tale in his memoir.

For not only was he friends with Princess Margaret, but was also a friendly acquaintance of her uncle, the Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward Vlll. They were both mutual friends of Countess Mona Von Bismarck, and it was on her estate at Capri one night in the ’50’s when the first born son of George V and Queen Mary revealed to Vidal his own eyewitness account of the morning his parents inadvertently sealed their imperial relatives’ doom.

While eating breakfast at Buckingham Palace in 1917 with his parents and apparently none of his siblings, an aide-de-camp to the King suddenly entered the room carrying a folded note. Despite this being a complete breach of protocol, and George V being furious, the aide immediately handed him the note and awaited his reply. George proceeded to read it, then handed it to his wife, clearly awaiting her response. She read it, turned to her husband and said, “No.” He then handed the note to the aide and declared, “No.” The gentleman left and breakfast proceeded without further interruption. Later that day Prince Edward inquired of his mother what the meaning of that morning’s scene was. She proceeded to tell him that his father’s government was ready to send a battle ship to rescue the former Tsar and his family, but she didn’t think it would be good for them to have their Russian relatives in Britain. The Duke ended the story by blasély mentioning his parents’ decision left no choice for the Bolsheviks but to shoot them all. Vidal then theorizes that Princess Margaret wouldn’t have been shocked by her grandmother’s decision given her resentment of more higher born royals than herself, like Nicholas, Alexandra and their brood.

While the Duke of Windsor may’ve witnessed the exact moment his parents opted to ditch the Romanovs, the declassified government documents from that period make it very clear that George V’s decision to leave his Russian cousins to their fate wasn’t made in a few minutes over breakfast, was also heavily influenced by Lord Stamfordham, and was based on far more than the personal vendetta of his wife. While Queen Mary may’ve had her own personal axe to grind with Empress Alexandra, she was far too intelligent and sensible to persuade her husband’s decision, if in fact she did so, based solely upon her personal feelings. A war that was supposed to have lasted no more than six months had dragged on for three devastating years, killing more young men than any other foreign war in British, with all the sovereign variations therein, history. The economy was in a shambles, worker led, anti-war strikes were occurring daily with ever growing numbers of participants, and a socialist friendly prime minister, that congratulated the Mensheviks when they overthrew Nicholas ll, had just taken power. The threat of a potential revolution erupting in the UK was all too real, and the harboring of the Russian Imperial Family might’ve proven the final spark to make the British Monarchy explode. As Vidal concludes about the Windsors in his memoir, they’re tough as nails when it comes to their own survival. Queen Mary’s teats may’ve been so cold that it was prudent of her not to suckle her children, lest they freeze to death, but her role in deciding the fate of her imperial relatives was ultimately based on justifiable self preservation rather than solely upon malice.

19 thoughts on “The British Queen Responsible for the Murder of Tsar Nicholas ll and His Family?

  1. How much of history has hinged on human emotions, even petty ones! Your posts bring this to the surface and are thereby fascinating. Scholarly historians should take notice. Thanks and “Welcome Back,”

  2. yes and the royal family continued to blame the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, until these papers were opened

  3. It’s because of the massacre of the Romanovs that George was so willing to rescue the Greek Royal Family a few years later. He also sent a battleship to the Crimea to get the remaining Romanovs out of Russia(including the dowager Empress Marie Federovna). I agree with Lady Colin Campbell that they had no idea the revolution would become so deadly. But, you know I can understand Mary thinking that Alix deserved a bit of payback.

  4. This is the 2nd of your recent posts about Queen Mary & she certainly sounds like a cold hearted bitch! Too bad some bad karma didn’t come back her way (other than having an unhappy marriage– but that hardly seems to balance the scales)!

      • Actually, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that they did. While they were genuinely devoted to each other, theirs was nonetheless an arranged marriage that, while successful, wasn’t particularly romantic. Authors have been stating this more and more bluntly in the past few years, especially as the archives at Windsor have become more accessible.

        • It says that even though their marriage was arranged it was a successful one—-that doesn’t mean they were unhappy, surely?

          • I never stated their marriage was unhappy, merely that it was arranged. As I stated, and various biographers have also stated, George and Mary were devoted to each other and were partners in power. However, he frequently cheated on her, though he was never the womanizer his father was, and became particularly fond of being entertained by prostitutes in the seaside town of Bognor Regis toward the end of his life. Mary had nothing in common with him; was the polar opposite of him temperament wise; and various insiders, especially their eldest son, have noted in their memoirs the king and queen treated each other with a certainly coldness and formality even in private. George V is also known to have become an alcoholic in his later years as well, which certainly didn’t make him more agreeable. All in all, theirs was a successful marriage and they were committed to each other, but above all else they were committed to the monarchy, and that’s not only what brought them together, but what sustained their marriage despite all evidence indicating them not being in love with each other.

  5. I wonder where you read that the Queen Mary spent some or her childhood vacations in Hesse-Darmstadt. If she had, then she could have met a 6 year old-below Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt. Princess Alice of UK,the Grand Duchess of Hesse-Darmstadt died when Alix was six, so she spent most of her childhood with Grandmama Victoria in UK. And from what I read, Alix grew up as a very quiet child even while her mother was living. Princess Alice taught her children successfully to be humble since childhood. Alix never became arrogant. She only came across as arrogant because of her introvert personality which made her look serious and haughty in her photos. Because the public never knew who the real Alix was as princess and Empress, even her relatives who barely knew her judged her only through her looks. If only you read much about her (btw, Romanov fan here who read most of Alix’s biographies).
    Saying that, I highly doubt Mary disapproved Nicholas & Alexandra and their children living in UK out of revenge to Alix’s snobbery.
    And I think Mary and Alix only met when Mary was betrothed to Prince Albert Victor. As a child and up to the time she married Nicholas, Alix only had very few close cousins and was a very shy person to impose herself as more important than others like Princess Victoria Mary later Queen Mary.

    • While Alix, who spent the greater part of her childhood in Darmstadt despite her frequent visits with Queen Victoria, may’ve been taught humility by her mother, her mother, who some historians suspect deliberately exposed herself to her child’s diphtheria and in essence killed herself, passed away when she was six, and therefore isn’t likely to have successfully counterbalanced the German pride of birth and rank that was common within courts such as that of Hesse. I specifically read about Princess Alix’s snobbery toward her cousin May in Lady Colin Campbell’s bio of the Queen Mother. While Alix could be humble in her own way, and her shyness and introspection were often misconstrued as snobbery, she nonetheless possessed a certain arrogance that is evident in her correspondence, particularly with relatives. She certainly was a fire breathing advocate for autocracy and the divine right of kings when it came to politics.

      While I’m a fan of Robert Massie’s biography of Nicholas and Alexandra, there’s something rather novelistic about his approach to their story. He often tries to put himself in their heads and justify their actions. One often finds this with the subsequent bios written about them, but particularly Alexandra. Of course, much of what is in the bio is quite useful, but there are occasions where he stretches his interpretations of their motives a bit more than he should’ve.

      Princess Mary’s family, as I’m sure you know, was quite itinerant while she was growing up, Queen Mary was notorious for having an exceptional memory, and like all German royals, even the ones that grew up nominally in Britain like her , she was obsessed with rank, particularly since she had a morganatic taint. It’s quite possible she only visited Darmstadt a handful of times, but remembered the slights she received from her higher ranking Hessian cousins, particularly Alix. Historical personages often are more complicated, and petty, than they seem, particularly in biographies such as Massie’s which clearly intend to romanticize them.

  6. Hmm, I read Robert Massie’s Nicholas & Alexandra two years ago but haven’t read that she thought of her cousin Wilhelm II as a parvenu emperor. It’s true she and Nicholas despised the Kaiser but it’s because of his extreme self-exultation and arrogance. During Alix’s childhood, both in Darmstadt and UK, Willy demonstrated how awful and full of pride he is, showing he can do this and do that. When their yachts met somewhere in the Baltic sea, the Kaiser opened his statement with “The emperor of the Atlantic (he) meets the emperor of the Pacific (Nicholas)”, one which repulsed N&A because Wilhelm is again showing his pompous self, haha. (Btw, they also didn’t like the emperor of the Pacific address).
    The children of N&A themselves dislike their Uncle Willy so that’s the reason why they cringe when they meet Uncle Willy.

    Oh, Royal Foibles, have you done an article about Wilhelm II and Alix’s elder sister, the beautiful Grand Duchess Elisabeth, wife of Grand Duke Serge of Russia (who is Nicholas’ uncle)? Wilhelm II is head over heels over her and their story is super interesting. She was the only person who made the pompous Kaiser melt.
    If you haven’t, then I’ll wait for the time you’d be able to make it ; )

    P.S. Strange that I found this article on Alix’s 143rd birthday (today)!

    • Robert Massie’s book states that, aside from his bombast, Alexandra also didn’t care for her cousin because he was a nouveau riche emperor. The German royal, princely and ducal courts of the late 19th century were notorious for their obsession with titles, lineage and rank. Various royal biographies have reiterated that. It’s far from a coincidence that the Almanac de Gotha emanated from Germany.

  7. This is my first time commenting but I have been reading your articles for a a few years. I have written a book which tells of a friendship in modern times that is affected by historical events surrounding the Tsar, his sister, his godson The Duke of Windsor, the Duchess of Windsor and the death of Sir Harry Oakes.

    I know that you are busy with a new job and all, but if you have a moment could you quickly review my profile on Twitter https://twitter.com/SharonToote?lang=en

    and you can read the first 3 chapters on my blog page on

    https://trinityandsaintgeorge.wordpress.com/

    It is because of you that I got into writing ‘what if’ history and I thank you for the inspiration. Again, thank you for your blog and if you do have a chance to read it, I hope that you enjoy it.

    Sharon Toote

  8. I’ve read that Queen Mary was happy to buy the Romanov’s jewels for a cheap price. They could have rescued the Romanovs and taken them somewhere other than to Brittin.
    Willy was jealous of England and Russia and England was afraid of Russia with their resources and their having a parliamentary type government, which Nicky was for. Russia would have been an awesome powerr on the world stage , power England didn’t want to share.

  9. It was not the Mensheviks but the Liberal Democrats that replaced the Romanovs.The Mensheviks would not have treated the family so leniently.

  10. If any royal has knowingly played a part which led to the extermination of the Tsar and his family, no matter what the provocation or reason, it has been an extremely grave sin and may God forgive them for it.

  11. Hi dear Royal foibles!,
    I have a question not specifically about this foibles buy imo intriguing. It seems MTF trannies are quite common among Euro royalty.

    “As Baal-worshipping Merovingians, these families ar
    e obliged to transgender some of
    their children. Numerous examples could be given bu
    t we will confine ourselves to
    just eight – Queen Margrethe of Denmark (b.1940), Q
    ueen Victoria Eugenie of Spain
    (1887-1969), Princess Auguste of Bavaria (1875-1964
    ), Princess Birgitta of Sweden
    (b.1937), Queen Louise of Sweden (1889-1965), Princ
    ess Helen of Greece and
    Denmark (1896-1982), Queen Maud of Norway (1869-19
    38), and Princess Nicholas
    of Greece and Denmark (1882-1957) [see photos]. ”
    http://www.zephaniah.eu/index_htm_files/Androgyny,%20Royalty,%20and%20the%20War%20on%20Gender.pdf

    What is your considered opinion?
    Thanks
    Kay

    • There’s absolutely no evidence that any of these women were/are transgendered. There’s always been speculation that Queen Christina of Sweden was born with both female and male sex organs, but that might just have been a rumor concocted to explain her lesbianism. Insofar as the worship of Baal by the royal families of Europe is concerned, I’ve uncovered no incontrovertible evidence of that either. Should I find any, I’ll let you know.

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