Although she was a princess of an important German state, Alix was virtually homeless. She had very little money of her own and even the palace she called home in Darmstadt would one day be given to the woman who married her brother, the Grand Duke. Alix had three older sisters, but they were many years older and left Darmstadt to marry when she was quite young. Her brother was close to her in age but he was raised separately from her and she felt very much alone. English was Alix's natural language rather than German. She even spoke it with her brother most of the time, who was also completely fluent in it.
Victoria had intended that Alix marry her first cousin Albert-Victor, The Duke of Clarence and thereby become Queen of England when the Duke reached the throne. The Queen felt that Alix would be the right match to make up for the faults of her shallow and rather dumb grandson. Ignoring the danger of marriage between first-cousins Victoria was intrigued by the idea of a grandson and granddaughter of hers and her dead husband, Albert, to come jointly to the throne of England. As they grew up both Alix and Albert-Victor knew of these plans. While Albert-Victor was willing to marry his cousin Alix she had no romantic feelings for him whatsoever. Alix had already fallen in love with another young man, Nicholas, the Tsarevich of Russia.
Victoria was completely against such a match. She disliked the Russia and thought it a risky throne with a scary and uncertain future - despite the jewels, wealth and power and went with it. She did not want her favorite granddaughter put in danger and living so far away from herself. Alix's sister had already married a Grand Duke and she figured one grand daughter sacrificed to Russia was enough.
The Queen knew the Tsarevich and generally liked him - her opposition to the marriage wasn't personal. His parents were opposed to the marriage as well. They though Alix's personality completely at odds with Russian realities. They thought her unsuited to the role of a Tsar's wife and were worried that dangerous aspects of their son's character - his shy and retreating nature - would be made worse by Alix's similar traits. Also, hesse had a bad reputation in supplying wives to Russia. One had been the unfaithful first wife of Paul I and the second had been the wife of Alexander II... both Tsars had been murdered.
The biggest impediment to marriage wasn't the opposition of the families it was religion. Alix had been raised a devote Lutheran and she had been confirmed in the faith, a serious step for a young princess which was now pushed by her grandmother. According to the Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire and the house of Romanov it was impossible for a non-Orthodox wife to bear a heir to the throne. Alix refused to convert for theological reasons. She was a Protestant and the tenets of Orthodoxy relating to the Intersession of the saints, the use of ikons and the role of the Mother of God, all seemed to be in direct opposition to her deepest beliefs. Although she loved Nicholas Alix refused his marriage proposal cut off contact with him for three months. Over time her love for Nicholas and her serious study of Orthodoxy created a space where she could profess Orthodox belief without reservation. This discovery was a great relief to Alix - and the rest of Europe - which was hoping that the fairy-tale romance between the Russian Tsarevich and his stunning Pre-Raphaelite princess would succeed.
In the end love triumphed and Nicholas and Alix - she was now received into the Russian Church with the Orthodox name of Alexandra - were married. They adored one another and were best friends as well as lovers. They had five children; the first four were girls. Here in this picture we can see her with the first three of her children at the Lower Palace at Alexandria-Peterhof. Here Alexandra holds her daughter Maria, to her right is Tatiana and on her right is Olga. Not seen is Anastasia or her son Aleksey, neither of whom had yet been born in 1900.
Next photograph: The Daughters of the Tsar
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