The Last of the Warrior Kings

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As most of his soldiers were illiterate, the book was obviously aimed at the upper classes back home, to remind them of the burdens their emperor had to bear. By good news was hard to come by. The army had been pushed out of eastern Prussia and Poland, knocked back on its heels on almost every front, in the process losing 1 million men killed or wounded with another three- quarters of a million captured. No army could sustain such losses. The intensely loyal and modestly trained force that had entered the war had been largely destroyed.

By only one officer in 10 was a veteran; their replacements were conscripts and malcontents. Nicholas tried to stay informed about field operations on every front, rewarding performance and weeding out incompetence, and always in the back of his mind was the belief his position gave him the divine right to assume personal command should he so choose. By the latter half of refugees and dispirited soldiers choked the roads leading out of Russian Poland. Nicholas felt he could remain on the sidelines no longer.

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The only way to save Russia was to take charge of the army himself. Nicholas still saw his own role largely as morale booster rather than field commander, but everyone from his allies to his ministers in Petrograd knew the truth—he was commander in chief in all matters. Defenders of the move have since argued that no one else at his disposal was capable of command, but it is apparent Nicholas believed in some mystical way his hour was at hand. The Russian officer corps met the stunning turn of events with remarkable acquiescence, perhaps due to their avowed loyalty to the czar first and nation second.

But while the way was open for Nicholas to exercise his full royal prerogative, in characteristic fashion he hesitated. Though regularly presiding over councils of war, he tried not to impose his will except when necessary to resolve an argument.

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His officers all knew this, however, thus they often resolved arguments in keeping with his opinions. Nicholas leaned heavily on Alekseyev, a hardheaded and unpopular traditionalist. But unlike his cousin Wilhelm, Nicholas did not feel bound to respect the hierarchy of his general staff. He sometimes ignored them, who then suggested summoning senior commanders for personal meetings, during which he interrogated them closely about their plans.

Indeed, Nicholas generally enjoyed himself at the Stavka. Back in Petrograd he saw nothing but carping and crisis all around.

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At the Stavka he could issue sweeping orders everyone quickly obeyed. On June 14, , he held a council of his ministers and generals, groups that never communicated directly. They met in an open-sided tent erected alongside the imperial train. Nicholas was determined there would be no sur render. He had made that mistake with Japan. Never again. Their collective failures became his personal failures. His doctor and Alexandra each worried he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Adding to his woes on the battlefront was unrest on the home front, and in March politics overtook military matters.

Radicals in the State Duma decided the monarchy had to go. They seized power and formed a provisional gov ernment.


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The czar seemingly believed he would save his empire. In later years historians and czarists alike would criticize his decision to leave army headquarters. Though the Russian army was battered by mutiny, mass desertion and massive casualties, Nicholas was jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

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A brewing revolution awaited him in Petrograd. The Stavka, the sole remaining instrument of his royal authority, was perhaps the safest harbor for him. Regardless, he never made it to Petrograd. In the early morning hours of March 3, , Czar Nicholas met secretly with four men—Duma representatives Aleksandr Guchkov and Vasily Shulgin and generals Nikolai Ruzsky and Yuri Danilov—in a car of the imperial train parked at Pskov, little more than halfway to Petrograd.

They told him that both the general populace and his beloved army were in revolt, more out of disillusionment and war-weariness than any conspiracy. The officials advised him the only way to save the nation and the dynasty was to transfer power—in short, abdicate. They had expected an argument; what they met was meek compliance.


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  • Nicholas signed the papers they drew up, naming his brother Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich successor a decision negated by the provisional government the next day and reappointing Grand Duke Nikolayevich to the post of supreme commander in chief. Having removed himself from all decision-making, Nicholas returned to the Stavka rather than continuing to the capital, perhaps believing it his duty. The next day he addressed the written announcement of his abdication not to the nation or even the Duma but to his beloved army, to the end clinging to his view of himself as warrior-king.

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    As usual the train had already left the station for Nicholas II. No one was more surprised than Nicho las when the army dutifully fell in line with the provisional government. Wilhelm II or Franz Josef might have negotiated a peace settlement as late as the spring of and remained in power. Did his participation in war councils have a positive effect? Did he do his duty? On only one of those points did Nicholas succeed: Whatever else he did or did not do, no one could ever accuse him of not doing his duty.

    Compose your message. Synopsis Program Info. A thousand years ago a Viking, a Norman, and a Saxon fought for glory: the crown of one small island on the edge of Europe. Within a single year, two would be killed in battle, leaving just one of them victorious, rich and powerful. Entering a world of Viking longboats and axe-wielding warriors he'll conduct key experiments to get to grips with supplies, transport and most importantly of all, weapons, to piece together this extraordinary story and bring a brutal ancient world to life.

    Presenter Dan Snow. Language English. Subtitle English. Country United Kingdom. Year Genre Documentary. Expires Expired. Watch Movie. Take a quick 2 minute survey.

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