The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia

by Candace Fleming


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“[A] superb history.... In these thrilling, highly readable pages, we meet Rasputin, the shaggy, lecherous mystic...; we visit the gilded ballrooms of the doomed aristocracy; and we pause in the sickroom of little Alexei, the hemophiliac heir who, with his parents and four sisters, would be murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918.” —The Wall Street Journal
Here is the tumultuous, heartrending, true story of the Romanovs—at once an intimate portrait of Russia's last royal family and a gripping account of its undoing. Using captivating photos and compelling first person accounts, award-winning author Candace Fleming (Amelia Lost; The Lincolns) deftly maneuvers between the imperial family’s extravagant lives and the plight of Russia's poor masses, making this an utterly mesmerizing read as well as a perfect resource for meeting Common Core standards.

"An exhilarating narrative history of a doomed and clueless family and empire." —Jim Murphy, author of Newbery Honor Books An American Plague and The Great Fire

"For readers who regard history as dull, Fleming’s extraordinary book is proof positive that, on the contrary, it is endlessly fascinating, absorbing as any novel, and the stuff of an altogether memorable reading experience." —Booklist, Starred

"Marrying the intimate family portrait of Heiligman’s Charles and Emma with the politics and intrigue of Sheinkin’s Bomb, Fleming has outdone herself with this riveting work of narrative nonfiction that appeals to the imagination as much as the intellect." —The Horn Book, Starred

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature
Winner of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Nonfiction
A Robert F. Sibert Honor Book
A YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award Finalist 
Winner of the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375867828
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 07/08/2014
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 52,934
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile: 950L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Candace Fleming is the prolific and highly acclaimed author of numerous books for young adults and children, including the nonfiction titles The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary, winner of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Nonfiction; Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart, a New York Times Notable Children’s Book of the Year; and The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum, an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults. She lives in Oak Park, Illinois. Visit her at

Read an Excerpt


The Boy Who Would Be Tsar

On a frosty March day in 1881, the boy who would become Russia’s last ruler glimpsed his future. That morning, Nicholas’s grandfather, Tsar Alexander II, was riding through the streets of St. Petersburg when a man stepped off the sidewalk. He hurled a bomb at the imperial carriage. Miraculously, the tsar went uninjured, but many in his retinue were not as lucky. Concerned about his people, Alexander stepped from his carriage. That’s when a second bomb was thrown. This one landed between his feet. An explosion of fire and shrapnel tore away Alexander’s left leg, ripped open his abdomen, and mangled his face. Barely conscious, he managed one last command: “To the palace, to die there.”

Horrified members of the imperial family rushed to his side. Thirteen-year-old Nicholas, dressed in a blue sailor suit, followed a thick trail of dark blood up the white marble stairs to his grandfather’s study. There he found Alexander lying on a couch, one eye closed, the other staring blankly at the ceiling. Nicholas’s father, also named Alexander, was already in the room. “My father took me up to the bed,” Nicholas later recalled. “ ‘Papa,’ [my father] said, raising his voice, ‘your ray of sunshine is here.’ I saw the eyelashes tremble. . . . [Grandfather] moved a finger. He could not raise his hands, nor say what he wanted to, but he undoubtedly recognized me.” Deathly pale, Nicholas stood helplessly at the end of the bed as his beloved grandfather took his last breath.

“The emperor is dead,” announced the court physician.

Nicholas’s father—now the new tsar—clenched his fists. The Russian people would pay for this. Alexander II had been a reformer, the most liberal tsar in centuries. He’d freed the serfs (peasant slaves) and modernized the courts. But his murder convinced his son, Alexander III, that the people had been treated too softly. If order was to be maintained, they needed to “feel the whip.” And for the next thirteen years of his reign, Alexander III made sure they did.

Young Nicholas, standing beside his grandfather’s deathbed, knew nothing of politics. Frightened, he covered his face with his hands and sobbed bitterly. He was left, he later confessed, with a “presentiment—a secret conviction . . . that I am destined for terrible trials.”

Table of Contents

Before You Begin vii

Russia, 1903 1

Beyond the Palace Gates: Peasant Turned Worker 11

Part 1 Before the Storm

Chapter 1 "I Dreamed That I Was Loved" 17

Beyond the Palace Gates: A Peasant Boyhood 23

Chapter 2 "What a Disappointment!" 35

Beyond the Palace Gates: Lullabies for Peasant Babies 40

Chapter 3 "A Small Family Circle" 45

Beyond the Palace Gates: Another Family Circle 48

Part 2 Dark Clouds Gathering

Chapter 4 The Year of Nightmares 59

Chapter 5 Lenin, the Duma, and a Mystic Named Rasputin 68

Beyond the Palace Gates: House No. 13 71

Chapter 6 "Pig and Filth" and Family Fun 88

Beyond the Palace Gates: An Occupation for Workers' Daughters 96

Chapter 7 Gathering Clouds 100

Chapter 8 Three Centuries of Romanovs 113

Beyond the Palace Gates: A Different Kind of Education for a Different Kind of Boy 120

Part 3 The Storm Breaks

Chapter 9 "My God! My God! What Madness!" 125

Chapter 10 In Defense of Mother Russia 133

Beyond the Palace Gates: Vasily's Diary 135

Chapter 11 "The Reign of Rasputin" 146

Chapter 12 It All Comes Tumbling Down 156

Beyond the Palace Gates: Molecule in a Storm 168

Chapter 13 "Ye Tyrants Quake, Your Day Is Over" 170

Beyond the Palace Gates: "Ye Tyrants Quake, Your Day Is Over" 177

Part 4 Final Days

Chapter 14 "Survivors of a Shipwreck" 181

Beyond the Palace Gates: The "Tsar's Surprise Party" 192

Chapter 15 Into Siberia 196

Beyond the Palace Gates: Swarming the Palace 202

Chapter 16 The House of Special Purpose 215

Chapter 17 Deadly Intent 227

Chapter 18 "The World Will Never Know What Has Become of Them" 241

Beyond the Palace Gates: Life Under Lenin 247

Acknowledgments 255

Bibliography 256

The Romanovs Online 266

Notes 267

Index 288

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