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11 March 2020Nicholas & Alexandra : Tyrants and Martyrs of Imperial Russia
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Nicholas & Alexandra : Tyrants and Martyrs of Imperial Russia Douglas Skeggs Wednesday 11 March 2020

Although it has been told and retold in books and films, no story in the 20th century has caught the imagination more powerfully and poignantly than the tragic life and execution of Nicholas II, the last of the Romanovs.

From his childhood where he stood sobbing by his grandfather’s bedside in the
Winter Palace as he lay dying from the injuries inflicted by an anarchist bomb, Nicolas’s life seemed to be shadowed by the omens of disaster. At the celebrations for his coronation, the crowd of spectators ran out of control and thousands were trampled to death; when the people appealed to him personally during the strikes of 1905, he assumed they were rioting and had them shot down by the Imperial Guard.

Brought up by a powerful, iron-willed father, he was emotionally unsuited to rule the nation and allowed himself to be dominated by his wife who he loved with a passion that blinded him from her shortcomings. Determined to produce the son and heir to the Romanov dynasty, Alexandra was easily misled by mystical cults and charlatans peddling spiritual cures so that, when the boy she had craved so long was discovered to be suffering from haemophilia, she fell completely under the spell of Rasputin. Hypnotised by the healing powers he appeared to possess, she allowed this peasant monk extraordinary influence in St Petersburg, encouraging Nicolas to follow his garbled demands as though they were heaven sent guidance.

With the war threatening to destroy the nation and the people on the brink of revolution, Nicolas was forced to sign his abdication, the only act of his reign he undertook without the advice of his wife. For a time he was allowed to remain in captivity in one of his own palaces but, with attempts to rescue him mounting, he was moved out east where finally, in one of the most moving and memorable images of the modern world, he and his family were shot in a cellar.

Douglas Skeggs read Fine Art at Magdalene College Cambridge and has been a lecturer on paintings since 1980. He was the director of ‘The New Academy of Art Studies' for three years and is presently a regular lecturer at 'The Study Center', 'Christie's' course 'The History of Art Studies' and other London courses. Among his more improbable venues for lectures are the bar on the QE2, MI5 headquarters, the Captain's Room at Lloyds, and an aircraft hanger in a German NATO base. Overseas he has lectured in Belgium, France, Germany and Spain, and has taken numerous tours around Europe. He helped set up the Abercrombie & Kent “Private Label tours” and is presently cultural adviser to Ultimate travel