January 08, 2022

Say What?! Britain Had Plan to Smuggle Last Tsar's Family Out


Say What?! Britain Had Plan to Smuggle Last Tsar's Family Out
The ill-starred family in 1913. Wikimedia Commons images, public domain.

British intelligence recently declassified a plan to escort Nicholas II and his family out of Russia after his abdication and before they were executed in Yekaterinburg, according to Komsomolskaya Pravda.

George V, Nicholas' cousin, was king of Great Britain at the time and considered various plans for a dramatic rescue in 1917. But they all seemed too bold and untenable. That, though, was not the biggest obstacle: Nicholas himself misunderstood how much of a wanted man he was and argued that he could live in Crimea as a kind of figurehead after his abdication.

There was another plan to have Nicholas and his servant switch outfits, shave off the tsar's beard, and have the servant don a fake beard. Nicholas would then have been whisked through the back door into an armored car and off to Arkhangelsk with the help of the British, whereupon they would ship him to London. But that plan did not include his family.

Apparently, the British embassy in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) waited with bated breath for an approved plan, but one never came. The British royal family was concerned about what money Nicholas would survive on in England and afraid that the growing social democratic movement there would revolt against harboring the deposed Russian autocrat. Furthermore, Nicholas' wife Alexandra was really German, and let's not forget that World War I was ongoing in 1917.

When the former royal family was arrested and sent to house arrest in Siberia, the British were still considering a bold rescue. Norwegian polar explorer and celebrity Fridtjof Nansen even got involved. He knew the Yenisey River well, and the British asked him to sail those waters and rescue the royal family. The declassified archival data does not indicate whether this plan was actually attempted or not.

Regardless of what else the British government might have had in mind, by July 1918, it no longer mattered. Nicholas, Alexandra, and their five children were shot to death in Yekaterinburg.

Ironically, the British rescued other members of the former royal family about a year later, taking Nicholas' mother and several grand dukes to safety in Europe.

The journalist who broke this story in Komsomolskaya Pravda on December 19, 2021, is skeptical, however, that the British ever really cared enough to try to save Nicholas II.

But Nicholas did have family in England – and family that certainly favored monarchy over communism. Plus, Russia had been Britain's ally in the war until Russia pulled out due to internal chaos. As historians get a chance to look at the newly declassified documents, the picture will certainly become clearer.

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