Princess Alix of Hesse – Empress Alexandra Feodorovna
At the end of June 1884, a ball was held at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg on the occasion of the marriage of the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich. His bride, Elizabeth of Hesse, arrived in St. Petersburg with her younger sister, twelve-year-old Alix. At that memorable ball, a meeting of the young princess of Hesse with the heir to the Russian throne, sixteen-year-old Tsarevich Nikolai took place in the Malachite Hall.
No one, of course, thought it was seriously. Meanwhile, it was precisely in those June days that the tragic knot was tied not only in the fate of the royal family, but in the whole future history of Russia. The Queen from the Hesse-Darmstadt House will be remembered for a long time in Russia.
Niki fell in love with golden-haired and blue-eyed Alix immediately – and for the rest of his life!
After a visit to Russia, Alix returned to London, where she lived in the family of Queen Victoria, her grandmother.
The years went by. Meanwhile, a graduate of the ballet school Matilda Kshesinskaya appeared in Niki’s life. Alix was far away; Nicholas only corresponded with her, while Matilda was nearby. He saw her on the ballet stage, visited her at home, gave her gifts. They loved each other, but they had no future. And they understood it.
For some reason, Nicholas’ parents, Alexander the Third, and Maria Fedorovna, didn’t like Alix. They did not really want the marriage of their eldest son with a princess from a small German duchy, because the parents were looking for a bride from the house of Orleans. However, the heir stated that he was ready to get married, but only to Alix, if it was impossible for Matilda.
Alix was German by birth and English by fostering. She was very religious and treated the marriage as a sacrament. So the girl was ready to become a faithful wife and a caring mother. Conservative in her views, she would eventually become an ardent supporter of autocratic power. The girl did not get along well with people, was extremely shy, and preferred a narrow circle of persons close to her.
In the winter of 1889, she came to St. Petersburg to visit her elder sister. But the emperor and the empress did not like her again and she was forced to leave. Alix would never forgive her future mother-in-law for this unsuccessful trip.
In the spring of 1891, Nicholas went to England to woo, but the matchmaking did not take place then. Alix refused to change religion. There was, however, another reason. She knew that Nicholas’s parents did not long to see her as their daughter-in-law. True, August of that year Alix spent in Ilyinsky near Moscow, in the estate of her sister Elizabeth. At that time Nicholas was on a trip to the Far East, they could not meet again.
This marriage probably would not have taken place, but at the beginning of 1894 the emperor fell seriously ill. It soon became clear that his illness was incurable. Nicholas would become an emperor, but he was still not married. Strong and purposeful Matilda Kshesinskaya was next to him. The empress thought with horror about what might happen. She knew her easily inspired son very well. And she managed to persuade her husband to agree to marry their heir to Alix.
In April 1894, Nicholas and Alix met in Coburg in Germany, at the wedding of her brother. The young man made a marriage proposal again. At first she refused. This is what Nicholas wrote to his mother those days: “She cried all the time and only from time to time she said in a whisper: “No, I can’t.” I, however, continued to insist and repeat my arguments. And, although this conversation lasted two hours, it did not lead to anything … I handed her your letter, and after that she could not argue.
God only knows what happened to me. I cried like a baby and she cried too. No, dear mom, I cannot express how happy I am. The whole world immediately changed for me: nature, people – all seemed to me kind, sweet and happy. I can’t even write; my hands are shaking so much … She has completely changed, become cheerful, funny, talkative.”
Easter had come. Letters and gifts from the empress and the emperor were sent to Alix. And then she went to England, and Nicholas to St. Petersburg. When he returned, he stopped driving to Kshesinskaya; true, they still wrote gentle letters to each other. After a month and a half, already as a groom, Nicholas again arrived in England on the imperial yacht Polaris. Alix wrote in her diary: “We spent whole days together, took a ride on a boat, organized picnics on the beach – a real idyll … But then we had to go to Windsor. However, I cannot complain – grandmother (Queen Victoria) was very kind and allowed us to leave without any companions … I confess that I did not expect this from her.” However, everything ever ends – and a month later Nicholas parted with Alix.
In early October 1894, when the royal family lived in the Crimea, the health condition of Alexander the Third was getting critical. Alix sent a telegram. She hastily arrived in Livadia and managed to see the emperor alive. He blessed their marriage.
The attending doctors reported on the progress of the emperor’s illness, first of all, to his wife, Empress Maria Feodorovna. In those tragic days, they hardly paid special attention to Nicholas and his young bride. Alix was deeply indignant. She wrote in her groom’s personal diary: “Do not feel humiliated. Be firm and make the doctors come to you daily and tell you how he feels, so that you always know about it first. Do not allow others to be the first and could get ahead of you. You are the beloved son of a father, and you have to be told everything. Show your own will and don’t let others forget who you are. Forgive me, darling!” She would continue to guide Nicholas in the same style.
On October 20, 1894 Alexander the Third died. Nicholas became emperor. Three weeks later, for the sake of the wedding, the mourning was temporarily canceled. “My wedding was a continuation of the funeral, only they dressed me in white,” Alix later told her friend, Anna Vyrubova.
Nicholas immediately had a lot to do. And Alix, in Orthodox baptism, Alexandra Feodorovna, diligently learned Russian and tried to play the role of the Empress. However, she didn’t like publicity, the atmosphere of court intrigues, the inability to be with her husband every minute. Petersburg society was very cool about the new empress. Russia, which at first seemed her to be a wonderful country, suddenly became cold and terrible.
True, in the life of Alika, as her husband called her, there was a lot of comfort. Her husband loved her and listened to her opinion. In November 1895, their first child was born, their daughter Olga.
In May of the following year, a solemn coronation of young spouses took place in Moscow. And there, in Moscow, the ominous omen of future events was a tragedy on the Khodynka field, when during the distribution of the royal gifts many people were crushed to death. It was the end of the nineteenth century. The twentieth century rose ahead in a terrible glow…