“[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
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 candacefleming.com.
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 fathernow the new tsarclenched 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 “presentimenta 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
The Romanovs Online 266
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In the book The Family Romanov, several characters come into play that propels the action of their life story further. There is Tsar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, and their five kids. Nicholas is shy, gentle likes reading but doesn't look forward to when he will sit on the Russian throne. Nicholas’ father also publicly stated “Nicholas is a devchonka- a bit of a girlie,”(21). Empress Alexandra was agreed to have been beautiful and the grandchild of Queen Victoria of England. Once Alexandra's mother died, the Queen then stepped in to raise the child and molded her to be stubborn, iron-willed, and controlling. Alexandra often controlled Nicholas to do what she wanted leading him to make poor decisions that would run the country into the ground. Since their youngest child and heir to the throne, Alexei, has hemophilia, the empress found a holy man that can relieve Alexei of the hemophilia symptoms. But the man named Rasputin was clearly in control of the throne which angered the lower class of Russians and pushed the country to revolution. With communism on the rise, Lenin , a political thinker, introduced communism to the workers and led the angry citizens in a civil war that would eventually have the Tsar murdered and establish a communist society. What I liked about this book is on how it puts together the history on the last Romanov family and creates a book with a lot of action in it. Events such as the First World War are mentioned and on how it affected Russia. Then there's Russia's civil war while the World War is going on as well. Then with communism on the rise, the Tsar then just ceased to rule Russia all together which destroys the autocratic society. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy reading about military history or the life of a royal family. This is a good example of a book that accurately talks about a royal family and the troubles they caused the people.
The main characters in the book, The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming, are Alexandra, Nicholas II, Olga, Tatiana, Marie, Anastasia, Alexei(all from the Romanov family), and Rasputin. Alexandra is a gullible person who happens to be stubborn through most of the story while Nicholas is quite positive, but lets his wife tell him what to do. The eldest 3 girls are well behaved and help out their ill mother often. They do as they're told. Anastasia on the other hand, does things her own way and when the tutors come, she is stubborn. Alexei is worse than Anastasia. When his tutors come, he hates to pay attention and he will cause trouble to try to get the tutors fired. Alexei’s rudeness can be justified since he knows no other way to act. He is not allowed to be on his own because he has a disorder called Hemophilia which makes the smallest cut fatal. Rasputin was a friend of Alexandra and the children though Nicholas didn’t care for him. Despite these characters, there were 2 that were more involved than the others. Those 2 are Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra. Nicholas is a very positive person and Candace shows it when she says that, “He knew some of his relatives were disappointed. But there was plenty of time to have a boy,”(36). It shows that even though his wife has not given birth to an heir, he is still fill of hope. The fact that he is very positive, leads into his problem that he is not aware, which is an external problem of his. He thinks that everything is going well with the war and he doesn’t see that the soldiers are starving. The king also lets his wife tell him what to do. She once told him that a man’s,”work cannot be blessed, nor his advice be good” Nicholas was, “easily persuaded,”(Candace 143). This happens to be his next problem which is being too dependent and it hurts his judgment. This is an internal problem which lead to how him and his family’s lives come to an end. Alexandra is gullible and trusting, more than the king is. Candace mentions(page 87) that, “Alexandra believed Rasputin’s healing powers were a gift from God, the answer to all her long hours of prayer.” It may have been simply a coincidence. This is her internal problem of her being to trusting and it causes her to be ill in the story when no one’s there to help her make small decisions. Her next problem is that she is stubborn and this internal problem ends with many people hating the fact that she helps rule over them. She is constantly told, “must we all suffer for your blind stubbornness...you have no right to drag your relatives[down]with you,”(Candace 160). 2 important events that occurred is in the beginning because she was not able to give birth to a boy. Because of this, she is hated through the rest of the book. They call her the German Woman. The next event is later. She now has a boy. Russia now has an heir to the throne but he is ill and no one knows but the family. I liked the book because there were some good parts. Like when the people found another reason to hate the empress(due to Rasputin). Or like when Rasputin died. It helped Alexandra to decide things on her own. The last event I will share is when the king is forced to make a life changing decision for the family leading to how the Romanov family ended. I disliked the book because through the book I lost what it was about and it my reading was unenjoyable. Overall, I would recommend this book to someone who likes to read nonfiction but if not, then I wouldn’t recommend it.
“The Family Romanov” is a biography of the last ruling family of Russia written for teen audiences. Although it has been long since I was a teen I found this book to be interesting and informative. Its subjects are presented as individuals and as a closely-knit household swept away by the turmoil that they never really understood. Readers are introduced to Tsar Nicholas II, who was a much better father to his children than he was to his nation, Empress Alexandra whose protective embrace enveloped her circle and each of the four Grand Duchesses and Tsarevich Alexei as unique personalities. Even though I have read a some about Nicholas and Alexandra and this was written for a juvenile audience I learned much from this work. The heartbreaking succession of four daughters in a dynasty desperately longing for a male heir is felt across the years. An intense religious fervor shaped the royal lives it could not save. The severity of Alexei’s illness is more understandable from this book than it ever was before. The contrast between life in Tsarskoye Selo and as prisoners of the Revolution draws sympathy for this most privileged of families. The writing style, though targeted toward young audiences, is rife with picture words that sketch scenes of Imperial life in the imaginative mind. I recommend it for inquisitive young adults and for older adults seeking an easy and educational read.
The Family Romanov, by Candace Fleming, is the riveting yet tragic true story of the Romanovs, the last royal family of Russia. The events occur in the early 1900s and follow the lives of the imperial family. Tsar Nicholas II was the naïve ruler who surrounded himself with people who told him only what he wanted to hear: “Everyone in the tsar’s government knew it…everyone, that is, except Nicholas himself” (135). Empress Alexandra was deeply religious, cared deeply for her children, and was beguiled by Rasputin, a self-proclaimed man of God: “[Rasputin] acted the role of a holy man…so convincing was his performance that Alexandra firmly believed [he] was God’s messenger” (147). Their four daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia, and their only son, Alexei, were sheltered from the realities of the outside world. The Romanovs continued to live with an incredibly high standard of living compared to the lives of poverty that the common people of Russia led, and their obliviousness to the needs of the people led to plans to overthrow the autocracy and the family’s eventual murders. As Russia entered World War I, division between the wealthy and the poor and the tsar’s failure to calm the political unrest resulted in economic upheaval and heavy loss of life. Following the war, the common people of Russia were tired of the tsar’s failed leadership and fought to overthrow the tsar in a series of rebellions. In all, I enjoyed reading the book; however, there were certain parts that were either confusing or terribly dull. The beginning was quite difficult to read, for there wasn’t much action, and it took a while for the story to actually get interesting, but once I passed the first couple of chapters, I found it much more exciting to read. Fleming did a good job describing the Romanovs and the events during their reign in vivid details. I enjoyed all of the information on Rasputin, his claim of being a man of God, his hidden life of luxury and alcohol, and how he influenced all of the members of the royal family, especially Alexandra. I also quite liked learning about the consequences that World War I had on Russia, including the formation of the Bolshevik, or Communist, party. The most interesting part was the deaths of the Romanovs, how the murders were carried out, and the mystery of the two missing skeletons when their bodies were discovered. The missing skeletons were of Alexei and Anastasia, and because there was no proof that they had died along with the rest of their family, many people claimed to be the children. I would definitely recommend this book, for not only does it recount the lives of the Romanovs, it tells about the people of Russia as well. The entire book was incredibly well researched, and the information was clear and interesting. I would read this book again, and from reading this book, I’ve learned a plethora about the fall of imperial Russia.
Well Done Teen Non-fiction. I learned a lot about the Romanov Family and of the Russian people during Tsars Nicolas reign. I think the book of well reached. You should keep in mind when reading this if you are an adult, that this book is for teens not adults. Overall this is a good book.
Well researched--pages and pages of documentation. Well written; I couldn't put it down! A sad human story of miscommunication and naiveté about governing. A close-knit family living in a cocoon of wealth and privilege and not sensitive to the plight of others.
I have a minor obsession with this area of Romanov/Russian history. And yes, it was brought on by 1997's Anastasia. Since then, I have read a few biographies, a couple of articles, and became once again enraptured with this family in 2007 when the remains of Anastasia (or Marie) and Alexi were found. When given the opportunity to read The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming, I knew I couldn't pass it up. Each time I read a biography I always learn something new and Candace's book was no exception. What I truly loved about The Family Romanov is that Candace doesn't just focus on the Romanov family, she also talks about the state of Russia and her people. Knowing what was going on outside of the Romanov family is eye opening as I understood where its citizens were coming from and why they wanted to overthrow Nicholas II and the monarchy. Sometimes I have trouble with non-fiction novels. I start out excited to read it and learn about these people, but then after a while I feel like I'm being taught by Ben Stein from Ferris Buller's Day Off. With The Family Romanov. With The Family Romanov, I had zero problems. Candace's writing is wonderfully done and doesn't give the book a feeling of non-fiction. I didn't feel like I was being taught, I felt like I was reading a fictional narrative. I was entranced, engaged, and looking forward to turning the page. For any individual interested in the Romanovs, I highly recommend this book. Since Candace focuses on both the family and Russian history, know that going into you're not going to learn a lot about the familial relationships and what they are each going through specifically as she balances her narrative equally between the Romanovs and Russia. She does touch on the Grand Ducheeses and Alexi, but most of her focus is on Nicholas and Alexandra. For me it wasn't a huge deal as I know a lot of the family, but someone who doesn't know so much may be a little disappointed. However, knowing/understanding what the Russian people were going through was exceptionally enlightening in understanding this period of history. Incredibly researched, The Family Romanov is a must for anybody interested in this period or anybody looking to get their toes wet. Even for those who have trouble trudging through facts, I know you'll enjoy this book. I learned so many things and experienced so many emotions - this is by no means an easy read, but it is a read that has stuck with me.
Lots of clear information about the Romanovs and what happened. However, it reads as though it was written for a grade school text or maybe even middle school, and I find it hard to believe that either one would be studying Russian history. I wish I'd known before buying it that she intended it for 'young adults'; that is in the description but I guess I never thought young adults would be all that interested in the causes of the Russian Revolution.
Just started reading this... and will shelve it while a read a couple others. My impression so far is that it isn't so much stressing the historical, as it is the social. If I were a young child reading this, I would be left with a definite distaste for the greedy rich. But we'll see how the author manages they events of the Revolution, the ruthlessness of the Bolsheviks, and the coldness of Lenin.