Saturday, January 16, 2010

My father and fitness and ruling

Papa, the tsar, is a fitness buff. He walks. He runs. He rides his bicycle. He had his bathroom in the Alexander Palace designed so that his bathtub is really an indoor pool. Once in a great while we get to bathe in it. It's splendid! There are two servants whose only job is to look after it. There is a huge fireplace in it too, as well as a bar for doing chin-ups. Here's a picture:

Papa works very hard as well, and is always in meetings and consulting with his ministers, especially Count Witte. But we all know that deep down, he did not want to be tsar.

He acceeded to the throne seven years before I was born, when my uncle, his brother, Alexander III died of kidney failure. Uncle Alexander was young—not yet 50. Papa, I have heard some of the maids of honor say when they thought I wasn't listening, was not well prepared to be tsar.

Here he is the year he became tsar, which was the same year he was engaged to Mama and they married:

He and Mama are very in love still. He calls her Sunny, because she always smiled when they first met. Now, as I said, she doesn't smile very much, because of Alexei.

I love my papa. He is a very handsome man. See him here in his full formal dress:

He doesn't pay much attention to me though, except when I'm clowning around or doing amateur theatricals. He only listens to Mama or Olga. Olga is very like him in the way she looks. She can go and visit him in his study, and talks about politics and such.

Two years ago, Olga, Tatiana and Papa were at the opera in Kiev, and the prime minister, Piotr Stolypin, was there too. Suddenly an assassin shot Stolypin twice, right in front of my family. He was in the stalls, Papa, Olga and Tatiana were in a box. He was mortally wounded, but he stood and said, "I am happy to die for the tsar," and made the sign of the cross to my Papa. I was only 10, but I remember all that my sisters told me. Papa was distraught. He stayed at Stolypin's bedside. He died four days after being shot.

That was like Papa. He is very loyal to those who agree with him, but he can get very cross with people who don't. He doesn't get along with his mother—but that's too complicated to get into here. I'll save it for another time.

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