(Update of a previous post)
The Tsarevitch Alexei probably knew my grandfather better than I did. In fact, 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 his wife, Empress Alexandra, the Tsarevitch Alexei who is seen in the photo above, being held by my grandfather. My grandmother, in her book Upheaval explained their relationship as one of mutual fondness. My grandfather was particularly devoted to the young boy and Alexei apparently kept a photo of my grandfather by his bedside.
Alexei was the victim of, in my grandmother’s words, a terrible disease, which he bore with patience. The terrible disease my grandmother alluded to is haemophilia, a blood disorder which can cause haemorrhages and even death. Haemophilia is a genetic condition which is passed on by the mother. It was an illness known as the “Royal disease” as it was spread throughout Europe by descendants of Queen Victoria. According to my grandmother, the Empress was devastated when she was told she had passed this dreadful disease to her son, a great-grandson of Queen Victoria. At this time there was no cure and, as a result, the Empress desperately looked for a remedy wherever she could, which ultimately led her to Rasputin.
In her book my grandmother tells of the last time she visited the Imperial Family and saw the Tsarevitch, Empress Alexandra and the four Grand Duchesses. 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, my grandparents were invited to spend the evening with the Empress and her children. My grandmother described this visit in joyful terms, happily portraying Alexei as “rosy cheeked” and looking very healthy. The positive change from when my grandmother had last seen the boy was reflected in the Empress’s smile every time she looked at him.
For the whole time my grandmother spent with that day with the Imperial Family, Alexei kept close to his mother. His sisters, also present, completed the picture of a happy family who were close to one another. It was this picture my grandmother took with her through the eventual turmoil of the Russian Revolution and Civil War. During the chaos she continued to correspond with the Grand Duchesses, and they with her, until it was no longer possible.