Alexis Nicolaievitch was about eleven years old when I first saw him in 1915.
I had expected, from the many stories that had been afloat concerning him, to find a very delicate and not very lively boy. Delicate he certainly was, suffering as he did from an illness from which entire recovery was said to be impossible, but in the periods of what may be called his good health he had all the spirits and the mischief of any ordinary boy of that age.
On our first acquaintance he was as shy as one might expect on suddenly being thrown among a big crowd of strangers at the General Headquarters, not only of his own nationality, but of all of us - the Allied representatives.
The shyness soon disappeared, and gradually he became almost a spoilt child among us, if anything could spoil such an attractive and merry little fellow as he was.
On our first meeting he followed his father, the Emperor, round the circle which we made in the ante-room of the Government House at Mohilev, where he stayed, shaking hands with each of us in turn.
At meals he sat next the Emperor, opposite me, as I sat next to Count Fredericks as a rule, and opposite the Emperor. He wore khaki uniform and long Russian boots, and was very proud of himself as a soldier, had excellent manners, and spoke various languages well and clearly.
As time went on and his first shyness wore off, he treated us as old friends, and as he passed each of us to bid us good-day had always some little bit of fun with us. With me it was to make sure that each button on my coat was properly fastened, a habit which naturally made me take great care to have one or two unbuttoned, in which case he used at once to stop and tell me I was 'untidy again,' give a sigh at my lack of attention to these details, and stop and carefully button me all up again.
We then used to be invited by him to go into a small alcove room out of the dining-room while the rest of the party were eating the hors d'oeuvres which always begin a Russian meal at a side table. In that little room every conceivable game went on, a 'rag,' in fact, ending most likely with a game of football with anything that came handy, the Belgian general, of whom he was very fond, and used always to call 'Papa de Ricquel,' being a man of no mean girth, giving great opportunities for attack. The devoted tutor was almost in despair, and it generally ended by the intervention of the Emperor, by which time the small boy was carefully hidden behind the curtain.
He then used to reappear with a twinkle in his eye and solemnly march in to take his place at table.
There he would begin again by a breadpellet attack across the table and a game of what he called polo at me, with more bread pellets, which risked all the Imperial china and glasses pretty considerably.
If, however, he had a stranger sitting next to him he had all the courtesy and charm of his father, talking freely and asking sensible questions. The moment, however, that we adjourned to the anteroom the games used to begin again, and went on fast and furious till either the Emperor or his tutor carried him off.
Nagorny, the big sailor attendant, to whom he was devoted, was always about and somewhere handy - a great big cheerful andadoring servant of his little master. (His figure is no doubt well known from the frequent pictures that have appeared of him with the Tsarevitch, and he is reported to have been murdered with the others in the beginning of June 1918. He would, we may be sure, have stuck to his post and to his charge till the last. His body was found on the scene of the execution two months later.)
In the afternoons the Emperor used to take his son out boating or to play in the sands, where he made little fortifications and enjoyed himself as any other small boy would do.
He was always very well turned out in his uniform, and looked especially smart in his Cossack uniform.
On some occasions he accompanied the Emperor to see the troops at the front, where he was as popular as he was everywhere else.
He had great love for animals, his chief companions being a spaniel and a big grey cat, shown with him in a photograph taken at Headquarters.
At times the illness from which he suffered got hold of him, and it was touching to see the way that everyone at our Headquarters felt for this cheerful and happy boy, who seemed as healthy as could be in ordinary times.
He slept in his father's room at G.H.Q. - always went with him to the church services, turning round very often to see if his 'Allied' friends were there, and giving a wink of his eye as soon as he saw us.
When visiting the troops on 15th November his tutor relates how the Emperor, when inspecting General Chtcherbatchef's troops, told every man who had served right through the war to hold up his hand. Among the thousands present but very few hands were shown, making a great impression on the little soldier standing by his father.
His health was, of course, a continual anxiety, and certainly in the winter he would probably have been better at home than in a place like the G.H.Q., where for a boy of that age there was more or less continual excitement. Latterly this was arranged, and it was a mixture of the Empress's anxiety for him and her wish at the same time that he should be with his father, to whom his visits gave such pleasure, which finally ended in his leaving for Tsarskoye Selo, where also his education could be better continued.
He was bright and quick enough to appreciate, no doubt, the fact of revolution and abdication, but it is probable that his young age, added to the devotion of all around him, prevented the disaster of the end to the throne being a too marked impression. Almost up to the last, and when his already weak health was much overtaxed by discomfort and privations to which he was, of course, totally unaccustomed, his lessons seem to have been continued. Of the final tragedy which put an end to this little life in such a cruel and heartless fashion one prefers not to speak.
There is but one outstanding fact to keep before one, a doubt whether, had lie lived. instead of being murdered, he would ever have had sufficient strength physically to occupy the throne should it have been open to him to do so.
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