Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich, 22 November/4 December 1878–13 June 1918
Grand Duke Mikhail was the penultimate of the six children born to Tsar Aleksandr III and Empress Mariya Fyodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark). His younger sister Olga called him Floppy, for the way he flopped into chairs, and everyone else called him Misha. This is somewhat noteworthy, considering how a number of other Romanovs over the years either went by decidedly non-Russian nicknames (e.g., Nixa, Nicky, Sandro, Miche-Miche) or went by their full names.
Mikhail was born at Anichkov Palace, and moved with his family to Gatchina Palace when his parents became Tsar and Tsaritsa in March 1881. During summer holidays, they lived at Peterhof Palace and visited his maternal grandparents in Denmark. He and his little sister Olga were closest to their father.
With his family at the Small Palace in Livadiya, circa 1892
Mikhail’s father passed away shortly before his 16th birthday, and he became second-in-line the throne. He, his mother, and his sister Olga returned to Anichkov. Like most other Romanov males, Mikhail also had military training, and served in the Horse Guards Artillery and Blue Cuirassiers. In August 1899, after the death of his older brother Georgiy from TB, Mikhail became heir presumptive.
After he became a legal adult, Mikhail moved back to Gatchina, and inherited Georgiy’s massive estate in Brasovo. This estate contained nine villages, including a sugar refinery, numerous farms and chemical factories, sawmills, a hospital, and schools. Mikhail also had a large automobile collection. In August 1904, he was relieved to be moved back to second-in-line when his brother finally had a son. Mikhail had never particularly liked the idea of becoming Tsar.
Mikhail wasn’t only known for the very successful management of his millions of rubles, his estate, and his farms, but also his forbidden love affairs. He wasn’t one to strictly obey the draconian House Laws established by his great-great-grandfather, Tsar Pavel, and so had affairs with his first-cousin Princess Beatrice of Saxe–Coburg and Gotha, his sister Olga’s lady-in-waiting Dina (who was also three years his senior), and, finally, Natalya Sergeyevna Vulfert.
Mikhail had been forbidden from marrying Beatrice and Dina, because God forbid someone marry for love instead of kowtowing to laws written in 1797 and only marrying a foreign-born princess of the royal blood. However, when it came to Natalya, enough was enough. He refused to give this one up so easily, no matter how upset it made his family.
In 1910, Natalya gave birth to their only child, Georgiy, named for Mikhail’s brother. Since Georgiy was born while Natalya was still legally married to her second husband, they had to go through quite a bit of trouble both to secure a divorce and to make sure the child wasn’t legally considered her husband’s. Finally, Mikhail and Natalya secretly married in Vienna in October 1912.
This marriage was planned months in advance, but Mikhail claimed he married at this particular time because Aleksey was hovering near Death in Spała, Poland, of a serious hemorrhage in the groin and stomach. It’s not that he didn’t love his nephew, but rather that Mikhail was terrified of having to become heir presumptive again. If he became either Tsar or heir presumptive, he’d be absolutely forbidden from marrying a commoner. Thus, his morganatic marriage removed him from the line of succession.
Mikhail was banished from Russia, and he, Natalya, and Georgiy spent the next few years living in England, Switzerland, and France. All his assets had also been frozen, and his brother seized control of his estates. As aforementioned, these House Laws were absolutely draconian, and divorced from realistic, normal human feelings and modern developments.
Mikhail got permission to come home to serve in the Great War, and Natalya and Georgiy came with him. He served very bravely in the Caucasian Native Cavalry, as a major-general, and was quite popular among his men. Unlike his inept brother, he was a great military leader. In 1915, Georgiy was made legitimate, and he and Natalya were created Count and Countess Brasov(a).
When Nicholas II illegally abdicated, he offered the throne to Mikhail, who abdicated after all of a day. Mikhail’s family was initially under house arrest, and then in March 1918, he and his secretary, Brian Johnson, were arrested and sent to Perm. Both were murdered in June 1918. Their remains have never been found. Natalya and Georgiy escaped to England.
In my alternative history, Mikhail is rescued, and becomes Aleksey’s Regent. He’s a wonderful guardian to his nephew and nieces, even if he has to use some tough love at the beginning. He even relaxes the House Laws, though not as radically as his nephew will. No matter what, he’s always got his nephew’s back, and helps to prepare him for coming to the throne in his own right when he feels he’s ready.