Animosity toward Russia’s ruling class had been building for centuries when the House of Romanov took power, but a series of violent suppressions and a mounting death toll during World War I ultimately led to the fall of the last empire in Russia, the final tsar Nicholas II, and his family. These haunting photos depict the lives of the Romanovs before their executions in 1918.
A Day at the Beach
This photograph of the Romanov family was found in six recovered family albums that are housed in the Beinecke Library at Yale University. Many of the photos in the recovered albums were shot by the Russian Imperial family’s head of household—Tsar Nicholas II himself. Pictured below, the last tsar of Russia’s children pose for a photo while standing in shallow water during a day at the beach. The photo captures three of his daughters, Maria, Olga, and Tatiana, and their younger brother Alexei Nikolaevich, the heir apparent to the throne of the Russian Empire. He would’ve been about 13 years old at the time.
Prince Alexei and His Father
This photograph from the Beinecke Library is also part of the Romanov family’s personal collection. The photo captures a very young Prince Alexei sitting at the table with his father, Tsar Nicholas II. This candid moment reveals none of the political turmoil that was brewing beneath the surface. Prince Alexei was the only male child of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Tsarina Alexandra, who also had four daughters. As the heir apparent, Alexei was doted on by his parents and sisters, and was affectionately referred to as Alyosha. Alexei’s health was always a concern; he inherited hemophilia from his mother, which made trivial injuries like a bruise potentially life threatening.