The 16th of July, in 1918, marks the date that the Russian Tsar Nicholas II and his entire family were executed by Bolshevik rebels at Ekaterinberg in Siberia.
Nicholas was the eldest son of the heir to the throne of Russia, and became heir himself in 1881 when his grandfather Alexander II was assassinated, his father ascending to become Tsar Alexander III.
He was well connected to other royal families of the world, his first cousins included Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and King George V of England.
In 1894, Nicholas proposed marriage to a Princess Alix, whom he had fallen in love with many years before, but their religions were too different and initially she refused to consider the marriage. Princess Alix was the grand-daughter of Queen Victoria of Britain, through her late daughter Princess Alice. After some coaching from royal relatives, Nicholas approached her again and she eventually agreed to be his wife.
The wedding was planned to take place in 1895, but after his father died in November of 1894, Nicholas decided to bring the date forward to late November of that year.
His formal coronation took place in 1896.
His father had died relatively young and had not prepared Nicholas fo rthe role of Tsar and he found the pressure difficult to begin with, but having Alix by his side appeared to help him.
She gave him their first child, a daughter named Olga, approximately a year after their marriage in 1895. Three more daughters followed in the form of Tatiana, in 1897, Maria, in 1899 and Anastasia in 1901. The longed for son and heir would arrive in 1904 and was named Alexei.
Unfortunately that son would prove to be ill, suffereing from what is now thought to have been haemophillia. No other children would be forthcoming though, as Nicholas became embroiled in wars outside his home, initially in a war with Japan, in which he would suffer a disastrous defeat. Shortly after, war would erupt in Europe, begun by his cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm.
The war did not go well for Russia and their royal family. In 1917, the Tsar was forced to abdicate and the whole family were arrested by the Bolsheviks, who were increasingly taking control of the country.
The family were moved to the ‘house of special purpose’ in Ekaterinberg in early 1918, and forced to live on meagre rations, with a minimum of servants. Rumours of plots to help the family escape abounded, along with plans for them to live in exile in various Eurpoean countries. Initially Britain agreed to take the exiled family, but the offer was withdrawn within a month.
The family went to bed on the night of the 16th July in 1918, but were woken a few hours later. They were hustled into the basement, along with four of their loyal servants. The commander read out the charge that they were to be executed and the Tsar was shot immediately.
His daughters survived the first round of shots from the firing squad as they had many jewels sewn into their dresses, in readiness for the expected escape, which deflected the bullets to an extent. Instead they are said to have been bayonetted to death.
The bodies were taken into the woods and hidden for many years. Most of the bodies were found in the late 70’s and identified as the Tsar and three of his daughters, along with the four servants who had been killed.
The remains of Alexei and the remaining daughter would not be found and identified until the early 2000’s. The missing daughter was initially thought to have been Anastasia and a woman from America had claimed to be the missing girl, but DNA proved her claims to be false. The missing girl was found to have been Maria, when the last remains were discovered.
And thus ended the Romanov dynasty in Russia, that had ruled for almost three centuries.