My Grandfather and the Tsarevitch

I feel as if I hardly knew my grandfather, Paul Woronoff (or Pavel Voronov as he was known in Russian). He died when I was nine years old, although I have a few good memories of him. By the time I was born he had already lived a full life and seen much drama. My grandfather served for four years in close proximity to the last Tsar of Russia, Tsar Nicholas II, as an officer on the royal yacht, The Standart. During his time in the Tsar’s service he became quite close to the only son of Nicholas and Alexandra, the Grand Duke Alexis who is seen in the photo above, being held by my grandfather. My grandmother, in her book “Upheaval”, explains:

The little Grand Duke Alexis, heir-apparent to the throne, was particularly fond of him (here she speaks of my grandfather) – the Empress told me once that he always had my husband’s photograph by his bedside – and, of course, my husband was completely devoted to the little boy.

No one, I think, could help loving that child, who, besides his natural charm, won everybody by the kindness of his heart, his responsiveness to other people’s troubles – he was always first to help and comfort – and the patience with which he bore the terrible disease that made him a martyr from time to time.

The terrible disease my grandmother writes about is haemophilia, a blood disorder which can cause haemorrhages and even death. Haemophilia is a genetic condition which is passed on by the mother. According to my grandmother, the Empress was devastated when she was told she had passed this dreadful disease to her son.

In her book my grandmother tells of the last time she saw the Tsarevitch and Empress Alexandra. My grandfather, on account of ill health had been ordered to take a cure at a watering resort in the Caucasus and, just before their departure, they were invited to spend the evening with the Empress and her children. I quote my grandmother again:

The last time I had been to the Palace the Empress had received me in one of the children’s rooms and the Tsarevitch had been wheeled in there in his bed. He was then recovering from one of the attacks of his terrible illness and he looked very thin and pale.

This time, however, the Grand Duke Alexis looked as I had never seen him before. He had grown a great deal and the transparence in his face had disappeared, he was rosy cheeked and really healthy looking. Each time the Empress looked at him her face beamed in a happy smile.

The Tsarevitch kept always close to her, kissing her face and hands from time to time and stroking her hair. This picture of a closely united and happy family will always stay in my mind. It was the last time I was to see it.

It is quite surreal for me to look at these photos and read my grandmother’s book and realise that, not long after the passage above, both my grandparents were flung into the Russian Revolution, a time which would change their lives forever.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Mike Berglund

    I love these memories.

    1. Alex

      Thank you for reading!

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