European Royalty: Russia--The Tsaraevich Alexei


Figure 1.--The Tsaraevich Alexei in a photgraph taken about 1907. Notice the long ringlet curls. Long hair was less common for small Russian boys than in other European countries.

The ill-fated Tsarevich is one of the most famous boys in history. He was raised in a loving family, but because of hemophillia, had to even more closely supervised than was normal for a young prince. Alexis is perhaps best known for wearing sailor suits, but he wore many other styles as well. This page will describe Alexei and how he was dressed. Information on the family as a whole will be include on the page about his father, Nicholas II.

Alexei's Birth

Nicholaevich Romanov was the last Tsaraevich of all the Russias. He was the Heir to the imperial throne from his birth in 1904, until his fathers abdication in early 1917 as a resut of the military disaster of World War I and the incredible suffering of the Russian peole. At his birth, all of Russia rejoiced. The entire country had waited more than 10 years for an heir to the throne. The Czar and Cazrina had four girls in a row. Czar Nicholas delighted in the princesses and his growing family, but dearly wanted a son. The country began to wonder after a steady string of princesses, however charming the girls were. Finally after four daughters, Tsaraena Alexandra Feodorvna Romanov gave birth to the long awaited heir to the imperial throne--Alexei.

Hemophillia

The family's celebration was tragically ended 6 weeks after the boy's birth. It was discovered by the family's physician, Dr. Botkin, that Alexei suffered from incurable Hemophillia. It became known as the “Royal disease” because it spread to the royal families of Europe through Queen Victoria’s mumrtous descendants. The disease hinders the blood from properly clotting. Alexei could have died from something as little as a nosebleed. Thus extensive precautions had to be taken by the family. Their priority was first and foremost, Alexei's health. Doctors were present at all times. Two sailors, Nagorny and Derevenko, where assigned to take care of the Tsaraevich. The sailors helped him reach things so he wouldn't have to climb and risk falling. They cauht him when he was about to fall. The Royal Family decided to keep the Tsaraevich's disease a secret from the Russian people. They kept word of the boy's disease away from the public. They felt it was important for the Russian people to believe the Tsaraevich was the heir they had long anticipted and that they could trust in to replace his father when when needed. The Tsar and his wife decided that their people didn't need to worry about the Tsaraevich and his disease. When Alexei would sporadically be out of the publics eye because of his illness associated with the disease, no questions were asked.


Figure 2.--The Tsaraevich Alexei in a short pants sailor suit. He sometimes wore short pants as a small boy, but was almost always photgraphed in long pants after about 7 or 8 years of age. Note that is hair is cut in bangs. I rather think he looks like John F. Kennedy Jr.

Alexis

The Tsarevitch is generally reported as a kind and gentle person. An individual who was not deserving of the hand fate had dealt him. During his short life, he was occasionally labeled as a spoiled little brat. A factor here was his hemophillia. It meant that he had to be pampered and closely supervised. And it was frustrating for Alexei who coukld not do many things that normal boys coul do. Over the many years since his death as personal accounts came into the open, another picture was painted. We now see a curious boy. He was constantly touching things, and asking questions. He enjoyed every second of life that he was able to. Unlike many of us, he savored his life.

Alexei's Routine

Alexei's first 6 years of life ran on a monotonous cyclical pattern. Sometimes, he would be able to act as the Tsaraevich. He would go to balls and attend formal functions with his family. Then other times, because of his illness, he was unable to do those things. He would have to lay in bed, unable to do anything but remain still. He would have to suffer through the countless hours of excruciating pain which accompanied his disorder.

Parents

Alexis had perhaps the two most famous parents in the world. Whatever their failures as individuals and public fisgures, both the Tsar and Tsarina appear to have been kind and loving parents.

The Tsar

Nicholas II, the last Russian Czar or Emperor, was the eldest son of Alexander III and was born on May 6, 1868. Nicholas was born on the Alexander Palace, as the first born child of Tsar Alexander III and Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, of the House of Romanov-Holstein-Gottorp, in the small town of Tsarskoe Selo ("The Tsar's Village" in Russian), near St. Petersburg, the 2nd largest city of the Russian Empire, which at the time occupied an area of 1/6th of the globe and had a multi-ethnic population of 130 million subjects. HBRC has not yet required details on the relationship between father and son, we believe, however, it to have been a loving relationsgip.

The Tsarina

Alexis during his time of need could always turn to his mother. Unlike some royal mothers who allowed the nursery staff to raise their children, the Tsarina was a hands-on mother and very involved in Alexis' life. Russian public opinion was hostile to the Tsarina. Many disliked her German origins, and she her as cold hearted, caring nothing for Russia and her people. They could not have been more wrong about her. Yet there was no way for them to know why she wouldn't accompany her husband on certain occasions.

Clothing

As a small boy Alexei like his father wore dresses and then a variety of juvenile outfits, often short pants. By the time he was 5 or 6 years old he began dressing almost exclusively in sailor suits, except for ceremonial occasions. Until World Wat I began, he almost always appeared in sailor suits. Presumably this was due to the preferences of his German mother. After joining his father at the front he almost always appeated in an army uniform. I'm not sure whose idea this was and what say, if any, Alexei had in how he was addressed.

Hair Styles

The Tsarevich Alexis as a baby and toddler wore short ringlet curls. They were not the formal thik ringlets like American boys wore, but look to be rather unformed largely natural curls. Alexei was breeched on his 3rd birthday, but his long curls were not cut. This was a major event in his life because quite a series of photographs were taken of him in his firt boyish outfit. Even so, his curls were not cut. We note his hair being cut and his mother collecting the curls. He was probably about 4 years old, it may have even been his 4th birtday, although we are not sure. For a brief period when he was about 4-5 years old, he wore bangs. After that he wore a standard hair cut that changed little. Many Russian boys at the time had cropped hair. Alexis as a boy had short, but not cropped hair. This was the case until the last months of his life in Siberian captivity where his hair was cut very short--almost cropped.


Figure 3.--The Tsaerevitch Alexei and his mother the Empress Alexander. As a young boy he mostly appeared in a sailor suit, presumably the choice of his German-born mother. Notice the rosary held by Alexis. His mother was very religious and turned increasingly to mystics in her desperate effort to cure the boy.

Chronology

Fuller details on Tsareavich Alexei are available during three chronological periods.

The early years (1904-14)

Tsaeaevich Alexei after his infant and toddler years was usually dressed in sailor suits. Except for ceremonial occasions, most of the photographs of him show him in sailor suits--until World War I. After he joined his father at the front he always appearedin an army uniform. Even after the Revolution and their internment by the Bolshevicks he seems to have worn the army uniform.

The War years (1914-17)

World War I erupted in prosperous Europe as a result of the assassination of, Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne. Nicholas had familily ties through Queen Victoria to both the German and British royal families. Unfortunately the ties with the Kaiser did not prevent the outbreak of war. Nor did the ties with King George V save his family. The British royal family was advised that to make the war a struggle of the demoracies against the Kaiser authoratative rule, it would be seemly to offer sanctuary to the Czar. Ironically, without the Czar army, however poorly it perforned, almost certainly the Germans would have won the war.

Revolution (1917-18)

After about two and a half months in Ekaterinburg, their monotonous stay, came to a bloody end. It was early on the morning of July 17, 1918. Alexandra was sitting up in bed reading silently while Nicholas slept next to her. Alexei was sleeping on a cot nearby. Then, all of a sudden, there was a loud knock at the door. This woke up Nicholas and Alexei. The guard told them to get dressed. So the three of them got dressed, this took about half an hour. Then when they went out into the hall, they met up with the rest of their group. The guards then lead the group slowly through the house. Nicholas lead the way with Alexei. As they walked toward the basement, not a single person in that group revealed that they were aware of what was happening.

Alexei in Modern Russia

Murdered by the Bolshevicks in 1918, Tsar Nicholas was pictured as a villan in Soviet Russia. The Tsar and his regime was dedpicted as "sucking the blood" of the Russian people. The killing of his family was seen as a way of ending a repressive regime permanently. The Tsar and his family are viewed very differently in modern Russia. And Alexei has become an especially popular figure. Alexei has become a very popular figure in modern Russia. This is true among those involved with the recival of the Church as well as those with a secular orientation. Aledxei is now depicted as a sensitive and caring boy who would have overseen the creation of a just and prosperous Russia. One writer puts these words in Alexei's dreams, "Having seen all of these changes going on in front of my very eyes made me want even more. That is what inspired me to plan for a Russia that would be the leader of the whole world. We were going to have a highly educated population that would be even more creative than anyone before. We were going to make everyone happy all through our Empire. Our people were going to be proud for living in our Russia, but were also going to help all people of the world to live happy and fulfilling lives." A Holy Synod of bishops of the Russian Orthodoc Church recommended that Tsar Nicholas should be granted sainthood (1996). There are about 10,000 Russian Orthodox saints. The issue was the subjected of heated debates. Only a few years earlier, Russia children were being taught howecil the Tsae=r was. The Church throughout its history has been a reservoir of Russian natioinalism. The Church appears to be interested in tapping into the popularity of the royal family in Russia today.






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Created: June 6, 1998
Last updated: 3:05 AM 2/5/2010