ALEXANDRA (1872–1918), empress of Russia.
Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, wife of the last Romanov emperor of Russia, Nicholas II (r. 1894–1917), lived in revolutionary times fatally dangerous to a ruler with so little instinct for political self-preservation. Born in 1872 to Grand Duke Louis IV of the German principality of Hesse-Darmstadt and Princess Alice of England, she was left motherless at the age of six and grew up in Hesse-Darmstadt with close attention from her grandmother, Queen Victoria of England. Several prestigious matches were proposed to her in her youth, including one with the heir to the British throne. But she had met the young heir to the Russian throne at the age of fourteen and risked spinsterhood rather than give up her attachment to him, though his parents were initially no more enthusiastic about the match than was Queen Victoria. Acceptance of the match by their elders and an ardent proposal from Nicholas led at first to new reservations, as Alexandra would be obliged to give up her Lutheran faith for Russian Orthodoxy; but ultimately she opened the way for their marriage by converting wholeheartedly. They were married in 1894 and entered into a marriage and family life of emotional intimacy and warmth.
Yet Alexandra found it difficult to adapt to Romanov clan and court life, and was quickly over-whelmed by its complex partisan networks. She watched as her husband, newly anointed emperor yet ill-trained for leadership, struggled against the domination of other powerful Romanovs. Nicholas II's mother, Maria Fyodorovna, tended to compete with Alexandra rather than to mentor her in learning the duties of a Russian empress. As serious about Orthodoxy as she had once been about her Lutheran faith, Alexandra alienated many in the Russian court through her condemnation of some of its members as frivolous and immoral. These difficulties contributed to Alexandra's and Nicholas's growing isolation from clan, court, and high society as they retreated into private life. Other contributing factors were the births of four daughters, each a disappointment, because a male child was necessary to ensure the Romanov succession. A son, Alexis, was finally born in 1904; but the discovery that he had hemophilia, inherited through his mother from his grandmother Queen Victoria, led the royal family to withdraw even more as its members joined forces to preserve his health and to keep his illness secret from all but domestic intimates.
Alexandra allowed only a few outsiders into the family circle; noteworthy among these was the charismatic peasant Orthodox monk Grigory Rasputin. In the royal presence, Rasputin offered a spiritual counterpoint to what Alexandra experienced as the artificiality and corruption of Russia's capital, St. Petersburg. Despite his raucous and lascivious conduct elsewhere, he had a hypnotic calming effect on members of the royal family; this was invaluable to the young Alexis, whose hemophiliac bleeding episodes may have been worsened by anxiety and who made several striking recoveries after Rasputin's interventions. Rasputin also fed Alexandra's spiritual identity as the Matyushka, or mother of the Russian peasantry. She believed that the peasants were the true Russians, and that they loved her as she loved them, unlike the "false" Russians of St. Petersburg court and high society among whom she was unpopular.
The influence of Rasputin over Alexandra and the royal family circle might have had little historical impact but for two events: the Revolution of 1905 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914. The Revolution of 1905 brought into existence a system of elected Dumas, or parliaments, to which Nicholas and Alexandra, believing themselves chosen by God to rule Russia, found it impossible to fully reconcile themselves. World War I placed severe pressures on the Russian military, economy, and society, and Nicholas's leadership was widely questioned. In 1915 Nicholas chose to demonstrate his military commitment as emperor by ousting his powerful Romanov cousin Grand Duke Nicholas as head of the Russian army, and by departing St. Petersburg for military headquarters in the field. He left leadership of the country to Alexandra.
Alexandra was eager to exert power but oblivious to the political importance of the Duma as well as to the significance of the growing dissatisfaction and disorder across the empire. She enlisted Rasputin's aid in an attempt to bring the Duma under her control; together they created a highly unstable political environment by hiring and firing a series of cabinet ministers as they sought unquestioning personal loyalty. Their efforts led to a national uproar. Alexandra was believed to have excessive influence over the tsar and his policies. The involvement of Rasputin, by now notorious for his sexual proclivities, stained the reputation of the royal family; Alexandra herself was reputed to engage in sexual relations with him. She and Rasputin were also accused of conspiring in the interest of Russia's enemy, Germany. There is no evidence to support the former accusation, and little to support the latter.
As the events of the Russian Revolution of 1917 began to unfold, Alexandra and her family found themselves isolated, abandoned even by their own relatives. Nicholas's cousin Grand Duke Kirill withdrew the military battalion protecting them and joined the revolution, then declared himself head of the Romanov family, while another cousin, King George V of England, refused to accept them in Great Britain as refugees. Following Nicholas's abdication on 15 March 1917, the royal family was held at Tsarskoye Selo (now Pushkin) for several months, then transferred under guard first to Tobolsk, and finally to Yekaterinburg. Alexandra, Nicholas, and their five children were killed by members of the Bolshevik secret police in Yekaterinburg on the night of 16–17 July 1918.
See alsoNicholas II.
Alexandra, Empress. Letters of the Tsaritsa to the Tsar, 1914–1916. Introduction by Bernard Pares. London, 1923. Reprint, Westport, Conn., 1979.
Kozlov, Vladimir A., and Vladimir M. Khrustalev, eds. The Last Diary of Tsaritsa Alexandra. New Haven, Conn., 1997.
Steinberg, Mark D., and Vladimir M. eds. The Fall of the Romanovs: Political Dreams and Personal Struggles in a Time of Revolution. Russian documents translated by Elizabeth Tucker. New Haven, Conn., 1995.
Erickson, Carolly. Alexandra: The Last Tsarina. New York, 2001.
Ferro, Marc. Nicholas II: Last of the Tsars. Translated by Brian Pearce. New York, 1993.
Massie, Robert K. Nicholas and Alexandra. New York, 1967.
Radzinsky, Edvard. The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II. Translated by Marian Schwartz. New York, 1992.
ALEXANDRA (d. 28 b.c.e.), daughter of *Hyrcanus ii; wife of *Alexander, the son of Aristobulus ii; and mother of Aristobulus iii and of *Mariamne, Herod's wife. Alexandra regarded Herod's appointment of the Babylonian (or Egyptian) Ananel (Hananel) to the high priesthood as a violation of the
Hasmonean family's right of succession to the office and attempted to secure it for her son Aristobulus. Though Herod acceded to her request, he was unable to forgive her, and did not allow her to leave the palace. When Alexandra tried to escape with her son, Herod foiled the attempt. He then affected a reconciliation. When, however, her son was drowned in a swimming pool, Alexandra accused Herod before Cleo patra of engineering his death and asked her to have Mark Antony charge Herod with the murder. Herod was summoned to Laodicea, but cleared himself by bribery.
After the battle of Actium (31 b.c.e.), it seemed certain that Herod could not escape punishment, since he had sided with Antony against Octavian (Augustus). When Herod returned from a meeting with Octavian with added honors, Herod's sister Salome, Queen Mariamne's implacable enemy, slandered her and Alexandra to her brother, and Mariamne was condemned to death for treason. According to Josephus' biased account, Alexandra escaped the same fate by dishonorably accusing her condemned daughter of disloyalty to her husband. Her own fate was not long delayed. After Mariamne's death Herod fell ill and appeared likely to die. Alexandra, thinking that her opportunity had now come, attempted to obtain control of the two fortresses in Jerusalem. When this was reported to Herod, he ordered her immediate execution. With Alexandra's death, the last member of the Hasmonean dynasty to play an active role in history disappeared. Alexandra cannot be considered exceptionally sagacious or gifted with insight into Herod's character. In all, she seemed to resemble her grandfather Alexander Yannai; she was courageous, but lacked flexibility and guile, and hence was no match for Herod.
Jos., Ant., 15:23, 80, 232 ff., 247 ff.; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 4 (19502), 12 ff.; Graetz, Gesch, 3 (19055), 186, 199 ff., 216 ff.; Schuerer, Gesch, 1 (1901), 378 ff., 386; H. Willrich, Das Haus des Herodes (1929), 48 ff.; A.H.M. Jones, The Herods of Judaea (1938), 52 ff., 58, 61; A. Schalit, Hordos ha-Melekh (19643), index; Pauly-Wissowa, suppl. 3 (1918), 79.
Sue Minna Cannon
ALEXANDRA , Hasmonean princess, daughter of *Aristobulus ii, king of Judea. Captured by Pompey, Alexandra was brought to Rome in 63 b.c.e. together with her father, her two sisters, and her brother *Antigonus ii. The family was released in 56 b.c.e. and returned to Jerusalem. After the death of her father in 49 b.c.e., Alexandra was sent with Antigonus and her two sisters to Chalcis in Lebanon at the invitation of its ruler, Ptolemy, the son of Mennaeus. Alexandra married Ptolemy's son, Philippion. But Ptolemy, jealous of his son, executed him, and then married Alexandra himself. Nothing more is known of her.
Jos., Ant., 14:79, 126; A. Schalit, Hordos ha-Melekh (19643), 29; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 3 (19502), 226; Schuerer, Gesch, 1 (19014), 300.