Wednesday, March 10, 2010

anastasia's grandfather, alexander III

Marie Feodorovna with her husband, Alexander III

Today is the birthday of Alexander III, grandfather to Anastasia and her siblings. On what would have been his 165th birthday, Alexander is remembered for being a man who did not want the throne, but who is relatively unknown when compared to his father Alexander II and son Nicholas II.

Alexander was not raised with the idea that he would inherit all of Russia. He had an older brother, the tsarevich Nicholas, and was content to let him handle the pressure of becoming tsar. Alexander hated the court - he was a bit more scruffy than most of the grand dukes, something he liked, and was prone to fits of temper, especially early in his life as the tsarevich. Two tragedies shaped his life: the assassination of his father, Alexander II, and the sudden death of his brother, Nicholas. Nicholas was engaged at the time of his death to a Danish princess, Dagmar. On his deathbed the tsarevich made Alexander promise to marry his fiancee in his place. It was a marriage that would remain faithful and full of love.

Alexander and Dagmar, who took the name Maria Feodorovna upon her marriage, eventually had five children - and when their first was born, they could not name him anything but Nicholas after the man who had united them. Alexander died suddenly at the age of 49 due to kidney failure - tragically early, as Nicholas was not yet ready (in his own words) to become tsar, and I wonder how differently the Russian world would have turned out had Alexander lived longer.

Alexander's impact was also felt in a different way. A plot to assassinate him was discovered in 1887, and the perpetrators were hanged. One of them was Alexander Ulyanov - the brother of Lenin.

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