Icon Of Royal Martyr Tsarina Alexandra Of Russia
The Faithful Royal Martyr Tsarina Alexandra Of Russia
By Father Nektarios Serfes
15 August 2001
"It is a rare treasure to have the life of a woman so near to us in time that we feel her struggles to be our own; her mistakes reflect our own inclinations; her virtue, our potential. Her sainthood, far from removing her from our sight should only make her dearer and closer, for in the goodness of her life we touch our own humanity and the struggle for heaven." - Nun Nectaria (McLees)
Speak of me well while I live, and speak of me with a tongue that does not defy me, which would only lead me away from the Kingdom of my Lord and my God! Who among is so holy but Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Pray for me a sinner!
Her Imperial Highness, Tsarina Alexandra was the wife of His Imperial Highness Tsar Nicholas II, and beloved mother to four daughters, the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia, and one son, the Grand Duke Tsarevich Alexis. Here we have a gracious wife and mother, completely devoted to her husband, her most beloved children, and also to Russia. Russia and its people became so dear to this Tsarina that she gave herself completely to her loving Royal family, preparing them well in the conduct of their everyday lives, and especially never neglecting their spiritual life as devout Russian Orthodox Christians.
Faithfulness to Christ Our Lord and His Church was vitally important to the Tsarina, as well as faithfulness to each other as a family. The family was both her joy and her peace, notably when they were all together living the everyday life of the Russian court that brought so many demands upon them as the Imperial Family.
Of course the Tsarina had assistance in bringing up her precious children, with ladies-in-waiting and tutors helping her in her goals to guide and educate her Royal children. However she at the same time still played an important role as a faithful mother and Empress, and she hardly ever neglected her duties in this regard. In some cases Royal Families had a tendency to allow only those assigned to their children to bring them up, perhaps because of the demands of the court life. Empress Alexandra however would not allow herself to neglect her faithful duties, and she thus became a great example of a loving mother, and a friend to all the members of her Family.
Whenever her beloved husband the Tsar and children were not in her presence and had other Royal duties to perform, or if they were away from her for more then one day, she wrote devoted letters to them in a most loving manner, as one can see also in the remarks she made about her family in her diaries. The Tsar and Royal Children in return wrote right back to her, and in a most loving fashion. Faithfulness to her family was her top priority, and consistency in her prayers was a daily act. These motherly prayers for her August loving family continued even up until her own martyrdom.
Now the question is often asked as to whether or not she was so devoted to Russia, and the Empire she was entrusted to as Empress?
In dealing with this matter we find that Empress Tsarina Alexandra was most devoted and faithful to not only her family, but also to the Russian Empire and its people!
First and most importantly Tsarina Alexandra would never betray her family, or Russia: She simply loved her family and loved Russia! Although born in into a German noble family, and brought up in England at the Court of her grandmother, Queen Victoria (who she loved deeply), when she married the future Tsar Nicholas, she gave herself completely to him and his country, converting to the Russian Orthodox Christian faith, and devoting much of her future life to the study of the Holy Bible and the teachings of the Church.
In writing about the complete devotion and faithfulness of the Tsarina let us not forget her nursing duties, as a Red Cross Nurse when the war between Germany and Russia began in 1914. Her influence as Empress enabled her to set up hospital wards in many of the Russian palaces, and encouraged the use of hospital trains which were sent across the vast Empire to assist the wounded. Let me humbly also speak of the great charitable work in which the Empress Alexandra was involved. She set up work houses for the poor around the country. She also established a School for Nurses, and an Orthopedic Hospital for children. In addition, she assisted widows, and orphans, and did all she could to relieve hunger. The Empress also gave her support for the School of Popular Art, setting up a two-year program designed to assist girls on low incomes. She was also constant in her support for nuns and their convents.
The Empress Tsarina Alexandra was a enthusiastic philanthropist, but most of the time she did a great deal of her work in secret, and many people did not know she was assisting them, only discovering this later.
Often the Empress would visit the very ill and widows at their homes, as well as inviting them to the Palace, and sent them flowers, personal books, and wrote to them encouraging letters, assuring them of her prayers. All of this well indicates that this was hardly an Empress who was stiff, cold and unfeeling.
In addition the Empress had a deep interest in the many Sanitariums for tuberculosis victims near Livadia, the family's estate in the Crimea. Those who could not afford the expense of being treated for this illness, the Empress paid from her own pocket, as well as setting up bazaars to help assist and support the Sanitariums.
Then again the Empress also taught her children the need to help others, as Grand Duchess Olga and Grand Duchess Tatiana both became Red Cross Nurses during the war with Germany. Her eldest daughter, Grand Duchess Olga, herself set up charitable assistance for the refugees in Serbia, as well as assisting many children who needed further medical care, these funds coming personally from the pocket of the Grand Duchess.
As World War I began, the Empress Alexandra characteristically threw herself into the war effort, and she took training courses to qualify as a Red Cross Nurse, along with her two loving daughters, the Grand Duchesses Olga, and Tatiana. Both the younger Grand Duchesses, Marie and Anastasia, also did voluntary work at the local hospitals that were set up by the Empress at The Petrovsky and Poteshny Palaces in Moscow, the Nicholas Palace, and Catherine Palace.
The Empress also set up and constantly supervised 85 military hospitals and ten medical transport trains, and to ease the plight of wounded soldiers and their families she caused apartment blocks to be set aside for them in St. Petersburg.
Empress Alexandra saw herself not only as a Empress of Russia, but also as the Mother of Russia, personally responsible for her "children", the Russian people, and this care can be clearly seen in her attention to war relief and the other programs she helped that I have indicated.
On a regular basis the Empress sent comforting letters to the soldiers and their families, and despatched gift parcels which delighted them. For those soldiers who perished during the war, she was very concerned as to the plight of their widows.
There have been, sadly, historians who have written that all the Empress did was stay in bed throughout the morning, imply that she was pampered and lazy. However, due to her heart condition and her exhausting charitable work, as well as the relief work she undertook from 1914-1916, the Empress was genuinely exhausted from her constant work, and her doctors advised total rest. But once the Empress regained her strength she was back again at her faithful duties.
Let us turn to the matter of her loving devotion to her family and to Russia. The turmoil began with the rumors of her husband's abdication at Tsar, the months being February and March 1917, The place was the Alexander Palace, in which the Tsarina, all her children, and lady-in-waiting were all very ill with the measles. Ever the caring mother, and despite her own weakness and worries, the Empress went from child to child in her complete devotion to them, as well as assisting her friend Anna Vyrubova.
Then came the time when the Empress and the Tsar, their Royal Children, and a number of friends and servants who are devoted to them, were under house arrest in Tolbolsk. Once the Tsarina discovered that her loving husband the Tsar might be taken to Moscow to be put on trial, her faithfulness to Russia became a token of her love: As a mother she was torn within: should she leave her most beloved children behind, and go with the Tsar? Because of her love for Russia she decided to leave behind her sweet and precious children, including the ill Tsarevich Alexis, her daughters the Grand Duchesses, and her friends - a brave and courageous decision.
In the end, however, the Tsar and Tsarina decided to take the Grand Duchess Marie with them, the Tsar believing that in time all of the family would be required to go to Moscow. The Tsarina knew that her husband's journey to Moscow, and whatever might happen there, would be a great trial of strength for him, and she knew she had to be with him as a constant, faithful support. This decision was truly an act of faithfulness to Russia, and to her August Family! Every mother knows that when they are separated from their children the hour when they can be with them again is their joy and happiness! In the end however, the train trip to Moscow was canceled and the Tsar, Tsarina, and their daughter Grand Duchess Marie instead traveled to Ykaterinburg, once again to be placed under house arrest at the Ipatiev house. Finally, after a further month of worry and concern, the rest of the members of the Royal Family, together with their friends, were reunited with them.
As all of the Royal Family members arrived at the Ipatiev house, the faithful Empress Alexandra noticed the inner turmoil being felt by the soldiers who guarded them, rifles at the ready. She gathered her family, and they joined together in prayer, and continued in their study of the Holy Scriptures and the lives of the saints. Only two weeks before their martyrdom the Empress read the account of the life of St. Seraphim of Sarov to her loving child Tsarevich Alexis, who was ill with fever.
During those horrific, cruel days of constant unfair remarks towards the Royal Family, we never hear of unkind or critical words expressed by the faithful Empress, but instead only words of kindness and great Christian love. Nothing was more important to the Empress than keeping her loving family close to God, and to prayer. These intentions were frequently to be read in the personal letters that the Empress wrote to her friends. In spite of the hardships the Imperial Family of Russia were experiencing, she continued to express kindness and great love for all!
Faithfulness and love to Our Lord God, love for her sweet innocent children, the Empress Alexandra remained ever faithful, even to Russia to which she was devoted, right up to the time she made the sign of the cross just as the bullets struck her, as she fell to the floor in the basement at the Ipatiev house, a Martyred Empress, and Martyred Mother of Russia, with her faithful husband and Tsar, and her loving as well as faithful children, and the faithful friends!
Faithful to the end was Her Imperial Highness Empress Alexandra. What a blessing, and such a honorable woman and Empress who loved us all!
I would like to humbly thank John Wilson Smith, who assisted me with this text.
Holy Royal Martyr Tsarina Alexandra
Pray Unto God For Us!
b a c k - t o p e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org. August 23, 2001