One of the most tragic figures of European royalty is the Empress Maria-Feodorovna, widow of Alexander III, and mother of Nicholas II of Russia. She was born to be Princess Dagmar of Denmark and later became Empress consort of Russia spouse of Emperor Alexander III.
Charcoal sketch ca. 1880
Dagmar and her siblings, including Alexandra, became consorts to royal houses throughout Europe and Russia and this formed the basis of alliances for culture, industry and war throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Alexandra married Edward, the Prince of Wales, while Dagmar attracted the attention of her Russian cousin resulting in her marriage to the Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich of the Romanov family in Russia.
Following Romanov court custom, Dagmar adopted the Orthodox religion under the name of Maria-Fyodorovna, after which Alexander and the newly baptized Maria were married in a sumptuous ceremony in St. Petersburg.
"The Empress Dowager"
Maria-Fyodorovna was a devoted, doting mother who spoiled her children. She refused to let her five surviving children to grow, particularly her eldest son, the future Nicholas II. Consequently, the imperial children were completely unprepared for the role history had in store for them. Tsarevich Nicholas was most unsuited for the role of Tsar of Russia, a reality expressed by Nicholas himself soon after his father's death when he lamented "what is going to happen to Russia?....I am not prepared...I know nothing of the business of ruling."
The Imperial court was still in mourning for the death of Tsar Alexander III. It was not an auspicious beginning for the new reign.
Nicholas II married Alix of Hesse and by Rhine (Queen Victoria of England granddaughter) later to be Alexandra. Alix carried the gene for the "royal disease" (hemophilia), which their only son and heir was born with. This brought Nicholas and Alexandra closer to each other, but separated them from the Russian people and the Imperial family, including her powerful mother-in-law The Empress Dowager Maria Feodorovna.
Ultimately, this seclusion resulted in rumors and discontent grew in the country ending with the assassination of the royal family during the Bolshevik revolution.
Maria received reports that her sons, her daughter-in-law and her grandchildren had been murdered. In her diary she comforted herself: "I am sure they all got out of Russia and now the Bolsheviks are trying to hide the truth." She firmly held on to this conviction until her death.