Was Nicholas II Fit to Rule?
The Imperial Family: Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, Tsarevich Alexis, Romanov Family, Olga, Maria, Anastasia
EXTRACT: Orlando Figes, A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924 (Pimlico, 1997), p. 19.
Throughout his reign Nicholas gave the impression of being unable to cope with the tasks of ruling a vast Empire in the grips of a deepening revolutionary crisis. True, only a genius could have coped with it. And Nicholas was certainly no genius. Had circumstances and his own inclinations been different, he might have saved his dynasty by moving away from autocratic rule towards a constitutional regime during the first decade of his reign, while there was still hope of appeasing the liberals and isolating the revolutionary movement. Nicholas had many of the personal qualities required to be a good constitutional monarch. In England, where one needed only to be a 'good man' in order to be a good king, he would have made an admirable sovereign. He was certainly no dimmer than his look-alike cousin, George V, who was a model of the constitutional king. Nicholas was mild-mannered, had an excellent memory and a perfect sense of decorum, all of which made him potentially ideal for the largely ceremonial tasks of a constitutional monarch. But Nicholas had not been born to that role: he was the Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias. Family tradition and pressure from the crown's traditional allies compelled him not only to reign, but to rule.