Possibly, Kobyla's origins were less spectacular. Not only is Kobyla Russian for mare, but some of his relatives were also nicknamed after horses and other house animals, thus perhaps suggesting descent from one of the royal equerries. One of Kobyla's sons, Fyodor, a boyar in the boyar duma of Dmitri Donskoi, was nicknamed Koshka (cat). His descendants took the surname Koshkin, then changed it to Zakharin, which family later split into two branches: Zakharin-Yakovlev and Zakharin-Yuriev. During the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the former family became known as Yakovlev (Alexander Herzen being the most illustrious of them), whereas grandchildren of Roman Zakharin-Yuriev changed their name to Romanov.
The family fortunes soared when Roman's daughter, Anastasia Zakharyina, married Ivan IV of Muscovy in February 1547. When her husband assumed the title of tsar,or czar which literally means Ceasar, she was crowned the very first Tsarina. Their marriage was an exceedingly happy one, but her untimely and mysterious death in 1560 changed Ivan's character for the worse. Suspecting the boyars of having poisoned his beloved, the tsar started a reign of terror against them. Among his children by Anastasia, the elder (Ivan) was murdered by the tsar in a quarrel; the younger Fyodor, a pious and lethargic prince, inherited the throne upon his father's death.
Throughout Fyodor's reign, the Russian government was contested between his brother-in-law, Boris Godunov, and his Romanov cousins. Upon the death of childless Fyodor, the 700-year-old line of Moscow Ruriks came to an end. After a long struggle, the party of Boris Godunov prevailed over the Romanovs, and the former was elected new Tsar. Godunov's revenge on the Romanovs was terrible: all the family and its relatives were deported to remote corners of the Russian North and Ural, where most of them died of hunger or in chains. The family's leader, Feodor Nikitich Romanov, was exiled to the Antoniev Siysky Monastery and forced to take monastic vows with the name Filaret.
The Romanovs' fortunes again changed dramatically with the fall of the Godunov dynasty in 1606. As a former leader of the anti-Godunov party and cousin of the last legitimate Tsar, Filaret Romanov was valued by several impostors who attempted to claim the Rurik legacy and throne during the Time of Troubles. False Dmitriy I made him a metropolitan, and False Dmitriy II raised him to the dignity of patriarch. Upon expulsion of Poles from Moscow in 1612, the Assembly of the Land offered the Russian crown to several Rurik and Gedimin princes, but all of them declined the honour of it.
On being offered the Russian crown, Filaret's 16-year-old son Mikhail Romanov, then living at the Ipatiev Monastery of Kostroma, burst into tears of fear and despair. He was finally persuaded to accept the throne by his mother Kseniya Ivanovna Shestova, who blessed him with the holy image of Our Lady of St. Theodore. Feeling how insecure his throne was, Mikhail attempted to stress his ties with the last Rurik tsars and sought advice from the Assembly of the Land on every important issue. This strategy proved successful. The early Romanovs were generally loved by the population as in-laws of Ivan the Terrible and innocent martyrs of Godunov's wrath.
Mikhail was succeeded by his only son Alexei, who steered the country quietly through numerous troubles. Upon his death, there was a period of dynastic struggles between his children by his first wife (Feodor III, Sofia Alexeevna, Ivan V) and his son by his second wife, Nataliya Kyrillovna Naryshkina, the future Peter the Great. New dynastic struggles followed the death of Peter, who had his only son Alexei executed and never named another heir. The Romanov male line actually expired in 1730, with the death of Peter II on the very day of his projected wedding. The last female Romanovs were his aunts, Empresses Anna Ioannovna (1693-1740) and Elizabeth Petrovna (1709-1762), who reigned successively for most of the period from 1730 to 1762. As neither Anna nor Elizabeth produced a male heir, the succession could devolve either on a Brunswick grand-nephew of Anna (Ivan VI of Russia) or on a Holstein nephew of Elizabeth (Duke Karl Peter Ulrich of Holstein-Gottorp), who was also an heir presumptive to the throne of Sweden. Elizabeth naturally favoured her own nephew, although he was of petulant character. With the accession of Karl Peter Ulrich as Emperor Peter III in 1762 the new reigning dynasty of Holstein-Gottorp, or Oldenburg-Romanov, began.
The Holstein-Gottorps of Russia, however, kept the surname Romanov and sought to emphasise their female-line descent from Peter the Great. Paul I was particularly proud to be great-grandson of the illustrious Russian monarch, although his German-born mother, Catherine II (of the House of Anhalt-Zerbst), insinuated in her memoirs that Paul's real father had been her lover Serge Saltykov. Painfully aware of the hazards resulting from battles of succession, Paul established the house law of the Romanovs, one of the strictest in Europe, basing the succession to agnatic primogeniture, as well as requiring Orthodox faith from the monarch and dynasts, as well as from the consort of emperor and from those of first heirs in line. Later, Alexander I, facing prospect of a morganatic alliance of his brother and heir, added the requirement that consorts of Russian dynasts had to be of equal birth (i.e., born to a royal or sovereign house). Otherwise their children forfeited all rights to the throne.
Paul I was murdered in his palace in Saint Petersburg. Alexander I succeeded him on the throne, and later died without having left a male heir. Nicholas I, a brother of the latter monarch, was surprised to find himself on the throne. His era, like the one of Paul I, was marked by enormous attention to the army. Nonetheless, Russia lost the Crimean War, although it had some brilliant admirals on its side, including Pavel Nakhimov. Nicholas I fathered four sons, all of whom, he thought, could one day face the challenge of ruling Russia. Trying to prepare all the boys for the future, he provided an excellent education, especially a military one, for all of them.
Alexander II became the next Russian emperor. Alexander was an educated, intelligent man, who held that his task was to keep peace in Europe and Russia. However, he believed only a country with a strong army could keep the peace. By paying attention to the army, giving much freedom to Finland, and freeing the serfs in 1861, he gained much support (Finns still dearly remember him). His family life was not so happy-his beloved wife Maria Alexandrovna had serious problems with her lungs, which led to her death and to the dissolution of the close-knit family due to his quick morganatic remarriage to his long time mistress, Princess Catherine Dolgoruki. His legitimization of his children by Catherine, and rumors that he was about to crown his new wife Empress, ending the morganatic status of his second marriage, caused great tension with the entire extended Romanov family. In particular, the Grand Duchesses were scandalized at the thought of being made permanently subordinate to Catherine Dolgoruki, since as an Empress she would retain precedence over all of them even after her husband's death. She would even have precedence over the future Empress, as Empress Dowagers were ranked higher than Empress Consorts in the Russian system of protocol. On March 13, 1881, Alexander was killed after returning from a military parade. Slavic patriotism, cultural revival, and Panslavist ideas grew in importance in the latter half of this century, drawing the dynasty to look more 'Russian'. Yet tighter commitment to orthodox faith was required of Romanovs. Several marriages were contracted with princesses from other Slavic monarchies and other orthodox kingdoms, and even a couple of cadet-line princesses were allowed to marry Russian high noblemen - when until 1850s, practically all marriages had been with German princelings.
Alexander II was succeeded by his son Alexander III. A gigantic and imposing, if somewhat dull man, with great stamina, great lethargy, and poor manners. Alexander, fearful of the fate which had befallen his father, strengthened autocratic rule in Russia. Many of the reforms the more liberal Alexander II had pushed through were reversed. Alexander, at his brother's death, not only inherited the throne, but also a betrothed - Scandinavian princess Maria Fyodorovna. Despite contrasting natures and size, the pair got on famously, and produced six children.
The eldest, Nicholas, became Tsar upon his father's sudden death (due to kidney disease) at age 49. Unready to inherit the throne, Nicholas reputedly said, "I am not ready, I do not want it. I am not a Czar(or tsar)." Though an intelligent and kind-hearted man, lacking any preparation to rule, he continued his father's harsh polices. His Tsarina, the emotionally fragile German princess Alexandra Fyodorovna, was also a liability. While the Tsar bustled about on the front lines during World War I, the stubborn, traditionalist Tsarina held sway in court and in government.
Constantine Pavlovich and Michael Alexandrovich, although sometimes counted among Russian monarchs, were not crowned and never reigned. They both married morganatically, as did Alexander II with his second wife. Six crowned representatives of the Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov line include: Paul (1796-1801), Alexander I (1801-1825), Nicholas I (1825-55), Alexander II (1855-81), Alexander III (1881-94), and Nicholas II (1894-1917).
All these emperors (except Alexander III) had German-born consorts, a circumstance that cost the Romanovs their popularity during World War I. Nicholas's wife Alexandra Fyodorovna, although devoutly Orthodox, was particularly hated by the populace, largely because of her German origins.
Alexandra Fyodorovna had inherited a mutation gene, causing hemophilia, from her grandmother, Queen Victoria. This caused the hemophilia of her son, the long-awaited heir to the throne, Alexei. Nicholas and Alexandra also had four daughters (Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia).
When the Romanov family celebrated the tercentenary of its rule, in 1913, the solemnities were clouded by numerous bad omens. The face of Our Lady of St. Theodore, the patron icon of the family, became badly blackened. Grigori Rasputin proclaimed that the Romanov's power would not last two years after his death if a Romanov caused his death. He was murdered by a group of nobles, including Nicholas II's nephew by marriage (Felix Yussupov) and a cousin (Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich), on 16 December 1916. Two months later, the February Revolution of 1917 resulted in abdication of Nicholas II in favor of his brother Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich. The latter declined to accept the throne, terminating the Romanov dynasty's rule over Russia.
After the February Revolution, Nicholas II and his family were placed under house arrest. Several members of the Royal Family, including Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich of Russia, managed to establish good relations with the interim government and eventually fled the country during the October Revolution.
On July 17, 1918, Bolshevik authorities, led by Yakov Yurovsky, shot Nicholas II, his immediate family, and four servant members in the cellar of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, Russia. The family was told that they would be photographed to prove to the people that they were still alive. The family was arranged appropriately and left alone for several minutes. Soon the very people that were protecting them entered and shot them. At first, the girls did not die because of the jewels sewn into their corsets. These jewels were for protection but also so that the family could have some money for when they fled the country. The shooters were horrified at how the girls were able to withstand the bullets and feared that the family really was in power due to Divine Right (the idea that Kings and Queens are placed on the throne by God). To solve that problem, the shooters tried to stab them with bayonets. That failed, too, because of the jewels, so then, they were shot in the head at close range. Ironically, the Ipatiev House has the same name as the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma, where Mikhail Romanov had been offered the Russian Crown in 1613. The spot where the Ipatiev House once stood has recently been commemorated by a magnificent cathedral "on the blood." After years of controversy, Nikolai II and his family were proclaimed passion-bearers by the Russian Orthodox church in 2000. (In orthodoxy, a passion-bearer is a saint who was not killed because of his faith like a martyr but died in faith at the hand of murderers.)
To read what the author declared to be a first-person account of the murders and the disposal of the bodies, told to him by the fatally ill Peter Zacharovitch Ermakov, see chapters eight through twelve of Richard Halliburton's "Seven League Boots". With the aid of a translator, Halliburton, who was in Ekaterinburg in 1930, heard the confession of Ermakov, who claimed to have been a member of the party of assassins, and to have been the one who killed the Czarina, Dr. Botkin, and the cook.
In 1991, the bodies of Nicholas II and his wife, along with three of their five children and four of their servants, were exhumed (although some questioned the authenticity of these bones despite DNA testing). Because two bodies were not present, many people believed that two Romanov children escaped the killings. There was much debate as to which two children's bodies are missing. A Russian scientist made photographic superimpositions and determined that Maria and Alexei were not accounted for. Later, an American scientist concluded from dental, vertebral, and other remnants that it was Anastasia and Alexei that were missing. Much mystery surrounded Anastasia's fate. Several films have been produced, including the full length animated feature Anastasia by Twentieth Century Fox, suggesting that she lived on.
After the bodies were exhumed in June, 1991, they sat in laboratories until 1998, while there was a debate as to whether they should be reburied in Yekaterinburg or St. Petersburg. A commission eventually chose St. Petersburg, so they (along with several loyal servants who died with them) were interred in a special chapel in the Peter and Paul Cathedral near the tombs of their ancestors.
In September 2006, Empress Marie Fedorovna, the consort of Alexander III, was buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral beside her husband. Having fled Russia at the time of the Revolution, she had spent her remaining years in exile in her native Denmark, where she was initially buried in Roskilde Cathedral. The transfer of her remains was accompanied by elaborate ceremonies, including at St. Isaac's officiated by the Patriarch. For monarchists, the reburial of the Empress in the former Imperial Capital, so many years after her death, further underscored the downfall of the dynasty. Princes Dmitri and Nicholas Romanov were present at the ceremony, along with Princess Catherine Ioanovna, daughter of Prince Ioann Konstantinovich of Russia. Other members of the Imperial Family present included the descendants of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna including Prince Michael Andreevich of Russia the senior direct male descendant. Princess Catherine who was 90 years old at the time, and passed away in Montevideo Uruguay the following year, was the last member of the Imperial Family to be born before the fall of the dynasty, and was ultimately to become the last surviving uncontested dynast of the Imperial House of Russia.
On August 23, 2007, a Russian archaeologist announced the discovery of two burned, partial skeletons at a bonfire site near Yekaterinburg that appeared to match the site described in Yurovsky's memoirs. The archaeologists said the bones are from a boy who was roughly between the ages of ten and thirteen years at the time of his death and of a young woman who was roughly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three years old.Bones found by Russian builder Anastasia was seventeen years, one month old at the time of the assassination, while Maria was nineteen years, one month old. Alexei was two weeks shy of his fourteenth birthday. Alexei's elder sisters Olga and Tatiana were twenty-two and twenty-one years old at the time of the assassination. Along with the remains of the two bodies, archaeologists found "shards of a container of sulfuric acid, nails, metal strips from a wooden box, and bullets of various caliber." The bones were found using metal detectors and metal rods as probes. Also, striped material was found that appeared to have been from a blue-and-white striped cloth; Alexei commonly wore a blue-and-white striped undershirt. On April 30, 2008, Russian forensic scientists announced that DNA testing proves that the remains belong to the Tsarevich Alexei and to one of his sisters.Eckel, Mike DNA information, made public in July 2008, that has been obtained from Ekaterinburg and repeatedly tested independently by laboratories such as the University of Massachusetts Medical School, USA, reveals that the final two missing Romanov remains are indeed authentic and that the entire Romanov family housed in the Ipatiev House, Ekaterinburg were executed in the early hours of 17 July 1918. DNA Confirms Remains Details relating to the forthcoming burial procedure will have to be discussed by a Russian State commission and by the Moscow Patriarchate.Ceremony
Contrary to common belief, the Romanov family is far from extinct. The proper line of succession to the Russian throne is contested, but the Russian people have so far evidenced little popular support for the resurrection of a Russian monarchy, even on a constitutional basis.
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