Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich Romanov (Цесаревич Алексей Николаевич), full title: Heir, Tsarevich and Grand Duke (Наследник-Цесаревич и Великий Князь) (12 August, 1904 — July 17, 1918), of the House of Romanov, was Tsarevich - the heir apparent - of Russia, being the youngest child and the only son of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Alexandra Feodorovna. His mother's reliance on the starets Grigori Rasputin to treat Alexei's haemophilia helped bring about the end of Imperial Russia. His murder following the Russian Revolution of 1917 resulted in his canonization as a passion bearer of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Alexei was christened on 3 September 1904 in the chapel in Peterhof Palace. His principal godparents were his paternal grandmother and his great-uncle, Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich. His other godparents included his oldest sister, Olga; his great-grandfather King Christian IX of Denmark; King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, the Prince of Wales and the William II, Kaiser of Germany. As Russia was at war with Japan, all the soldiers and officers of the Russian Army and Navy were named honorary godfathers.
The christening marked the first time some of the younger members of the Imperial Family, including some of the younger sons of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich, as well as the Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana, and their cousin Princess Irina Alexandrovna, were present at an official ceremony. For the occasion, the boys wore miniature military uniforms, and the girls wore a smaller version of the court dress and little kokoshniks. The sermon was delivered by John of Kronstadt, and the baby was carried to the font by the elderly Mistress of the Robes, Princess Galitzine. As a precaution, she had rubber soles put to her shoes to avoid falling and dropping the august infant. Countess Sophie Buxhoeveden recalled:
"The baby lay on a pillow of cloth of gold, slung to the Princess's shoulders by a broad gold band. He was covered with the heavy cloth-of-gold mantle, lined with ermine, worn by the heir to the crown. The mantle was supported on one side by Prince Alexander Sergeiovich Dolgorouky, the Grand Marshal of the Court, and on the other by Count [Paul] Benckendorff, as decreed by custom and wise precaution. The baby wept loudly, as might any ordinary baby, when old Father Yanishev dipped him in the font. His four small sisters, in short Court dresses, gazed open-eyed at the ceremony, Olga Nicholaevna, then nine years old, being in the important position of one of the godmothers. According to Russian custom, the Emperor and Empress were not present at the baptism, but directly after the ceremony the Emperor went to the church. Both he and the Empress always confessed to feeling very nervous on these occasions, for fear that the Princess might slip, or that Father Yanishev, who was very old, might drop the baby in the font.
"Alexei was the center of this united family, the focus of all its hopes and affections," wrote his tutor, Pierre Gilliard. "His sisters worshipped him. He was his parents' pride and joy. When he was well, the palace was transformed. Everyone and everything in it seemed bathed in sunshine. The boy bore a striking resemblance to his mother, wrote his tutor Gilliard. He was tall for his age, with "a long, finely chiseled face, delicate features, auburn hair with a coppery glint, and large grey-blue eyes like his mother, Though intelligent and affectionate, his education was frequently interrupted by bouts of haemophilia and he was spoiled because his parents couldn't bear to discipline him. His parents appointed two sailors from the Imperial Navy, Nagorny and Derevenko, to serve as nannies and to follow him about so he would not hurt himself. He was prohibited from riding a bicycle or playing too roughly. Because his blood didn't clot properly, any bump or bruise could kill him. Despite the restrictions on his activity, Alexei was by nature active and mischievous and had simple tastes. He refused to speak anything but Russian and enjoyed wearing Russian costume. As a small child, he occasionally played pranks on guests. The most famous of these involved the little prince at a formal dinner party, ducking underneath the table, removing the shoe of a female guest and showing it to his father. Nicholas sternly told his boy to put the 'trophy' back. Alexei did so, but not before having placed a large ripe strawberry into the toe of the shoe. For several weeks afterwards the Tsarevich was not allowed to make an appearance at state dinners. Alexei made fun of the stocky Derevenko, one of the sailors who cared for him, and taunted him for his inability to keep up with the more nimble Alexei. "Look at Fatty run!" he would yell during public processions. Sometimes he greeted people who bowed to him by hitting them in the face and giving them a bloody nose. Parents told Alexei's victims that he was a "mischievous child. At age seven, his behavior at a family dinner embarrassed his parents. The spoiled Alexei teased others at the table, refused to sit up in his chair, wouldn't eat his food and licked his plate. His father turned his head and tried to ignore Alexei's behavior. His mother rebuked his older sister Olga for not controlling him. Her expectation was unreasonable, said Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich of Russia, a distant cousin of the imperial family. "Olga cannot deal with him," he wrote in his diary on March 18, 1912.
His tutor, Pierre Gilliard, argued with Alexei's parents, eventually convincing them that greater autonomy would help the child develop better self control. A growing Alexei took advantage of his unaccustomed freedom, and began to outgrow some of his earlier foibles. Courtiers reported that his illness also made him sensitive to the hurts of others. During World War I, he lived with his father at army headquarters in Mogilev for long stretches of time and observed military life. In December 1916, British General John Hanbury Williams received word of the death of his son in action with the British army in France. Tsar Nicholas sent twelve-year-old Alexei to sit with the grieving father. "Papa told me to come sit with you as he thought you might feel lonely tonight," Alexei told the general. Alexei, like all the Romanov men, grew up wearing sailor uniforms and playing at war from the time he was a toddler. His father began to prepare him for his future role as Tsar by inviting Alexei to sit in on long meetings with government ministers.
Tsarevich Alexei was one of the first Boy Scouts in Russia.
The Tsar's ADC Colonel Mordinov remembered Alexei:
He had what we Russians usually call "a golden heart." He easily felt an attachment to people, he liked them and tried to do his best to help them, especially when it seemed to him that someone was unjustly hurt. His love, like that of his parents, was based mainly on pity. Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich was an awfully lazy, but very capable boy (I think, he was lazy precisely because he was capable), he easily grasped everything, he was thoughtful and keen beyond his years ... Despite his good nature and compassion, he undoubtedly promised to possess a firm and independent character in the future.
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.
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.
Details relating to the forthcoming burial procedure will have to be discussed by a Russian State commission and by the Moscow Patriarchate.
In 2000, Alexei and his family were canonized as passion bearers by the Russian Orthodox Church. The family had previously been canonized in 1981 by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad as holy martyrs. The bodies of Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, and three of their daughters were finally interred at St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg on July 17, 1998, eighty years after they were murdered. The bodies of Alexei and one of his sisters, generally thought to be Anastasia or Maria, were missing. In recent years, believers have attributed miracles to their prayers to Alexei and his family.
Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate on 15 March 1917. He did this in favour of his twelve-year-old son Alexei who ascended the throne under a regency. Nicholas later decided to alter his original abdication. Whether that act had any legal validity is open to speculation. Nicholas consulting with Doctors and others present and realised that he would have to be separated from Alexei. Not wanting Alexei to be parted from the family, Nicholas altered the abdication document in favour of his younger brother Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia. After receiving advice about whether his personal security could be guaranteed, Michael declined to accept the throne without the people's approval through an election held by the proposed Constituent Assembly.
Alexei's hemophilia was integral to the rise of Grigori Rasputin. One of the many things Rasputin did that unintentionally facilitated the fall of the Romanovs was to tell the Tsar that the war would be won once he (Tsar Nicholas II) took command of the Russian Army. Following this advice was a serious mistake as the Tsar had no military experience. The tsaritsa, Empress Alexandra, a deeply religious woman, came to rely upon Grigori Rasputin and believe in his ability to help Alexei where conventional doctors had failed. This theme is explored in Robert K. Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra. It is possible that if Alexei had not suffered so terribly, Rasputin could never have gained such influence over Russian politics during World War I, which at the very least hastened the collapse of Romanov rule.
Caring for Alexei seriously diverted the attention of his father, Nicholas II, and the rest of the Romanovs from the business of war and government, which may have further compromised their control of the state and contributed to the Russian Revolution.