My brother Nicholas was shy, but I have been described as friendly and confident. I loved history, especially Russian, because Russian history also serves as a chronicle of my own family. All we children were quite bright, and most of us had considerable artistic talent besides.
Papa became Tsar when I was still a very young boy, when my grandfather Tsar Alexander II was assassinated. I was only a teenager when my own dear Papa died, in 1894, and my brother Nicky became Tsar at only 26. Until the birth of a son to Nicky and his bride, Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, Georgiy, the middle brother between Nicky and myself, was the Heir Tsesarevich. I was next in line, and didn't especially like that thought.
My brother Georgiy died in 1899, shortly after the birth of Nicky and Alix's third daughter, Maria. It was hard to believe that they had three daughters in a row. Because they still did not have a son, I, only 20, was now the Heir to the Romanov throne. As Heir I traveled fairly often, representing my country at many funerals (such as that of Queen Victoria), weddings, and coronations (Edward VII's, for example) all over Europe. Perhaps due to my foreign travels, I became something of an Anglophile: many of my tastes were English. I was an excellent horsemen, and loved animals and the outdoors. I also liked driving my automobiles, although I had the rather unfortunate habit of falling asleep at the wheel. My sister Olga could tell you of quite an incident. . .
In 1900, while Alix was pregnant with her fourth child, Nicky became deathly ill with typhus. Many thought he would not pull through, and I would become Tsar, or at least the regent for Alix's child should it be a boy. Alix hated the idea, and Nicky was none too pleased either: "No no!" he said, "Misha will get everything into a mess -- he is so easily imposed upon." One could argue that much the same thing could be said of Nicky himself, but that is neither here nor there. Thank God Nicky pulled through! The child, however, was another girl (good God! Four in a row!), and I was unfortunately still the Heir.
On July 30/August 12 of 1904, Nicky and Alix finally had a son. The infant Aleksey Nikolaievich became the Heir Tsesarevich, and I happily told my brother that I was glad to "retire." I would now only be Regent, in the unfortunate event that Nicky died before Aleksey reached age 16 (Alix was named co-Regent).
It was originally thought I would marry Princess Beatrice--whom everyone called "Baby-Bee" and I called "Sima"--the youngest daughter of the Duke of Edinburgh. Her mother was my aunt Marie, my father's sister. We were very fond of each other, and it was a suitably royal match, but Orthodoxy does not permit the marriage of first cousins, as Sima and I were. My poor darling Sima took the news very hard indeed.
My second serious romance involved one of my sister Olga's ladies-in-waiting, Alexandra Kossikovskaya, called Dina. She was admittedly no great beauty, but she was delightful company, very intelligent, witty, and strong-willed--and I loved her devotedly. The relationship was, of course, deemed unsuitable by Mama, and Nicky strongly disapproved as well. In 1906 I asked Nicky for permission to marry Dina: "Thank God, you are well and in perfect health, and so is little Aleksey, and besides, you can yet have other children. Even, if God forbid, I'll have to be Regent, my marriage will not be in the way." At the time I did not know about my young nephew's hemophilia, and my logic seemed convincing. Dina's father, a lawyer, even helped us plead our case to my brother, but he would not be moved. He told me that he only wanted "to see my dear brother happy in his family life," but he would not allow the marriage.
I first met Natalia Sergeyevna in 1906, when she was entangled in her second marriage. It was love at first sight, of this I am sure. Years later, I wrote to her: "I so tenderly remember . . . that afternoon in the riding school when for the first time I saw you and asked 'who's that lady?' and then finally had the courage to come up and be introduced to that unknown lady, and I know that at the same time you were wondering, 'who's that new officer?'"
Natasha was, of course, beautiful. Slender, fair, and with the most beautiful velvet-blue eyes anyone could imagine. She was also clever and oh so very charming. She was in her second marriage, to Lt. Vladimir Wulfert (like the first, to Sergei Mamontov, it was to end in divorce) and was another commoner, so the outcome certainly looked impossible. At the time I even promised Nicky that I would not marry her, and only asked for his help in hurrying her divorce when Natasha became pregnant with our only child. She had a daughter from her first marriage, also named Natalia and called Tata, whom I loved as my own. Natasha gave birth to Georgiy (named for my deceased brother) in 1910, and--Thank God--although he wasn't a Romanov proper, he was officially a Mikhailovich, and not Vladimirovich!
It was only when I heard about the seriousness of my nephew Aleksey's illness at Spala in 1912, that I panicked. If, Heaven forbid, Aleksey died, I would once again be Heir, and being ten years younger then my brother, I would likely succeed him. I would not face this without Natalia Sergeyevna by my side--as my wife. We were married in secret in Vienna, in a Serbian Orthodox Church. Nicky was understandably furious, saw the whole thing as a betrayal: ". . . May the Lord forgive him! . . . How many times did he tell me, without my asking, he himself gave his word that he would not marry her. And I believed him implicitly!" Poor Mama was equally upset: "It is so unspeakably awful in every way, and has completely killed me!"
The rift between Nicky and I would not be healed until WWI. I returned to Russia to command the "Wild Division" in WWI. The Wild Division was all-volunteer, and was made up of Muslims from the Caucasus region. I was very popular with my men. Natalia, like Alix, established several hospitals, and turned our Gatchina estate into a Danish Red Cross hospital. She was eventually granted the title 'Countess Brassova' and our son became 'Count Brassov.' My darling angelushka was never received by my brother and his wife as a sister-in-law, but Natasha born this with dignity.
Despite our differences, I remained loyal to my brother all throughout the "Grand Ducal plots" of 1916-1917. When Nicky abdicated for himself and for Aleksey, and handed the precarious Russian throne to me, I was shocked, stunned, and devastated. While some people consider me "Tsar Mikhail II, the last Tsar of Russia", it may be more proper to simply acknowledge me as Nicky's successor. In my manifesto, I neither accepted nor rejected the crown--I left that up to the Provisional Government:
"A heavy burden had been laid upon me by the will of my brother, who in a time of unexampled strife and popular tumult has transferred to me the imperial throne of Russia. Sharing with the people the thought that the good of the country should stand before everything else, I have firmly decided that I will accept power only if that is the will of our great people, who must by universal suffrage elect their representatives to the Constituent Assembly, in order to determine the form of government and draw up new fundamental laws for Russia. Therefore, calling for the blessing of God, I ask all citizens of Russia to obey the Provisional Government, which has arisen and has been endowed with full authority on the initiative of the Imperial Duma, until such time as the Constituent Assembly, called at the earliest possible date and elected on the basis of universal, direct, equal, and secret suffrage, shall by its decision as to the form of government give expression to the will of the people."
I don't think I was ever fit to be am autocratic Tsar, but I sympathized with the British system, and think I would have made a rather fine Consitutional Monarch.
After the Bolshevik coup, I helped Alexander Kerensky, the Provisional Government's Minister of Justice, escape. Natalia and I were later imprisoned. Georgiy and Tata (neither officially Romanovs) were spared. Georgiy escaped Russia and lived in Paris until his death in an automobile accident at age 21. Nicky and Alix read about our imprisonment while they themselves were imprisoned at Tobolsk, and I hear were dreadfully afraid for us, forgetting their dislike of Natasha amidst the danger. I ordered Natasha out of Russia, by any means possible, when I was called to the Urals in 1918. My darling escaped to London with a Danish passport and disguised as a Red Cross nurse. She died in 1952, a widow and a mother who lost a son. Kirill Vladimirovich, fancying himself Tsar-in-Exile, granted her the title "Her Serene Highness, Princess Romanovskaya-Brassova."
I, however, was not so lucky. I lived in a hotel in Perm, with relative freedom, all things considered, for while, as a prisoner. Natasha was even allowed to visit me, and we looked for an apartment together, before she escaped. I was actually rather popular with the townspeople, but the local Soviet was immune to my charms, so it seems. On June 11, 1918 a band of Bolsheviks entered my hotel room, and asked if I was ready to be moved to a more secure location. My English secretary, Brian Johnson, and I were taken by the Bolsheviks that night, despite the local leader's personal promise to me of my continued 'freedom'. We two were shot in the forest outside of Perm. My brother and his family were murdered some weeks later, as was my saintly aunt Ella and several other members of the Romanov family. My death was only the start of the indiscriminate scourge of the Romanov name.
A Few Photos. . . (very few, more coming soon.)