When I’m Tsar, there must be no one poor or sad. I want everyone to be happy.
I enjoy the sun and the beauty of summer as long as I can. Who knows whether one of these days I shall not be prevented from doing it?
I am beginning to see the truth. At Tsarskoye everyone lied to me…If I become Tsar no one will dare to lie to me. I will make things right in this country.
His Imperial Highness Sovereign Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Prince Aleksey Nikolayevich Romanov, now Holy Royal Martyr Tsesarevich Aleksey, 30 July/12 August 1904–17 July 1918
This year, my A to Z posts are about people, places, and things from my alternative history, And Aleksey Lived, about the greatest Tsar who never ruled, this unlikeliest of all heroes. For the last 21 years, I’ve felt this suprarational soul connection to that boy, an obligation to give him the happy ending he was cheated out of in real life. My A to Z posts are lovingly dedicated to his memory.
Like his four older sisters, Aleksey was a rather large baby, 11.5 pounds (in the days before that was considered worthy of an automatic C-section). As with all Imperial births, there was a cannon salute across the Neva River in St. Petersburg, 301 blasts for a boy. He was named after Peter the Great’s father, even though a 17th century prophecy had said the dynasty would end with an Aleksey as heir. At his baptism, he raised his hand and extended his fingers, as though blessing the people. This was interpreted as a very good omen for his future rule as Tsar.
Though the story goes that something odd was first noticed about his health at six weeks old, it really happened when the umbilical cord was cut. It took two days for the doctors to bring the bleeding under control. He’d seemed so robust at birth, but the evidence was undeniable.
The hemophilia attacks were more serious and frequent in early childhood, as is common. He got bruises and hemorrhages as he learnt to crawl, and when he was old enough to stand and walk, he received injuries from falling down. A child that young doesn’t have the cognizance to understand he has a serious disease, and how to safeguard against the worst attacks.
Aleksey had long golden curls as a baby and toddler, but as he got older, the curls turned straight, and the blonde hair was replaced by a lovely shade of auburn with coppery highlights. His eyes were a beautiful blue-grey inherited from his mother. Many people felt he was the most beautiful of the five Imperial children, and indeed he developed into a very handsome young man. Unfortunately, he didn’t smile in many pictures, because he felt very self-conscious about the gap between his front teeth. Corrective dental work was out of the question, for obvious reasons.
It’s well-known he was a bit of a spoilt brat and holy terror when he was younger, but a lot of folks make far too much of that. The most important thing was that he eventually grew out of it, as most children do. In particular, the gigantic health emergency at Spała in 1912, and the year or so it took to fully recover, really matured him. He was frequently remorseful, and it may have been caused by frustration, constantly forbidden to do things before he could understand why. And what kid won’t get a bit of a big head from practically being worshipped as the heir to the throne?
Brattiness wasn’t the only thing about him. He was also described as golden-hearted, sensitive to others’ suffering, intelligent, empathetic, kind, pious, and strong-minded.
He was so eager to grow up and become a man, and finally left the childish sailor suit behind for a military uniform when he stayed at military HQ with his father during the Great War. By the final few years of his life, he’d become much healthier and stronger, with attacks fewer and further between. His health only deteriorated at the end because he didn’t exactly have access to the best doctors and medical care in captivity. In normal circumstances, he wouldn’t have been so bored he rode a sled down a staircase. He’d also had measles in 1917, which is notorious for weakening the immune system for about three years afterwards.
So many things went wrong when Nicholas II illegally abdicated. The Russian people loved their heir, and preferred him to his inept father. Many contemporaries felt he would’ve been a much better Tsar, since he had more empathy, sensitivity, and intelligence, got appropriate experience from a young age, and personally knew what suffering was like.
It would’ve been such a happier 20th century if he’d been allowed to rule, even if he hadn’t lived long into adulthood. He would’ve ruled with love, fairness, kindness, and sensitivity to the suffering of the Russian people. Ruling with sensitivity doesn’t automatically mean being a spineless pushover. I’d like to believe that in some alternative universe, he got the chance to prove himself instead of condemned to be forever thirteen.