Plots against Nicholas II by members of the Imperial Family

PHOTO: detail from a painting of Nicholas II by Pavel Ryzhenko (1970-2014)

Historian and author Brian Moynahan (1941-2018) writes about the plots hatched against Nicholas and Alexandra by members of the Imperial Family, following the murder of Grigory Rasputin, :

“At the weekend, over cards and liqueurs in the Imperial Yacht Club, the grand dukes aired plans to remove Alexandra to a nunnery. Sometimes Nicholas was to go too, to be replaced by one of themselves. [Grand Duke] Mikhail [Alexandrovich], his kindly and weak-willed brother, was one candidate. He had left Russia before the war after a clandestine marriage to the ex-wife of a captain in his own regiment. He had come back with the war, but his command of a Cossack brigade had been disastrous and he had been shuffled off to an obscure inspectorship. [Grand Duke] Nikolai Mikhailovich, the tsar’s cousin, had a more realistic claim, for his relative liberalism had won him the nickname “Nicholas Egalité.” Cynical, disparaging, and jealous by temperament, he was a historian who “worked only with words,” and was “too fond of scandal” to act decisively.

“No secrecy was observed in these intrigues. On Sunday, Petrograd rang with details of a coming coup. One theory was that a famous fighter pilot, Captain Kostenko, intended to crash his aircraft onto the imperial limousine. Another had several grand dukes plotting to use four regiments for a night march on the palace at Tsarskoye Selo to force the emperor to abdicate in favour of his son and a regent. Prince Gabriel Constantinovich gave a supper party for his mistress, a former actress, on Monday, December 26. The guests included Grand Duke Boris [Vladimirovich], the industrialist Alexei Putilov, a dozen officers, and a squad of elegant courtesans. They talked nonstop about the conspiracy and the details of which the regiments were to be seduced. All this was done with “the servants moving about, harlots looking on and listening, gypsies singing.”

“Tongues loosened by streams of Brut Imperial [a French sparkling wine] were heard by Okhrana agents. Nicholas and Alexandra were informed. They sent the grand dukes no Christmas presents that year and soon moved them and Rasputin’s murderers out of Petrograd. Grand Duke Dmitri [Pavlovich] was ordered to join the army staff in Persia, Yusupov was exiled to his family estates in the south. Vladimir Purishkevich had already gone to the front, where the military police were keeping an eye on him. The other grand dukes were sent to their estates or away on urgent naval business. The press was forbidden to mention Rasputin’s name.”

Source: Comrades. 1917 Russia in Revolution (1992) by Brian Moynahan (1941-2018)


The Tsar’s poignant diary entry of March 2nd 1918 bore much truth to the betrayal by his ministers, generals, soldiers, and even members of his extended family who turned their back on their sovereign breaking their oath of allegiance and thus committing treason in the process. Even his distant relations, members of the various royal families of Europe, turned their back on the Emperor. Treachery was indeed everywhere.

© Paul Gilbert. 26 April 2021