According to what I learned this morning from the Foreign Minister, His Majesty has not yet been approached about it by the Government, as they want first of all to get rid of left-wing opposition to the proposal.
The majority of Duma's leaders were Monarchists. Rodzianko, up to the last, had hoped to save the Emperor by draft- ing a manifesto for him to sign granting a constitution. Guchkoff and Miliukoff had both supported the Grand Duke Michael's claim to the succession.
Maklakoff — one of the most brilhant of its orators — was also a Monarchist. I remember how, at a luncheon given la-ter on by Tereschenko (the then Foreign Minister) to Kerensky, he roused the latter's wrath by saying, " I have always been a Monarchist." '' Et maitenant" exclaimed Kerensky, pointing an indignant finger at him. Instead of replying, Maklakoff proceeded to denounce those who had cringed to the Emperor when he was all-powerful and who had declared themselves ardent Republicans when his star had set. I have nothing to reproach myself with for having cultivated the friendship of these men. They disappointed me, it is true, by failing, when the crisis came, to keep control of the situation ; but they were, I must admit, confronted wath colossal difficulties, and, unfortunately, they were none of them supermen. I would further remind Princess Paley that the real pro- moters of the revolution were people like Rasputin, Stiirmer, Protopopoff, and Mme. Wyrobouwa. I was careful to keep them at a distance, while Mme. Wyrobouwa, who was directly responsible for the influence gained by Rasputin over the Empress, was, as well as, if I mistake not, other disciples of the saint, an honoured guest in her house. I have even been told that the Princess herself had at least one interview with Rasputin.
I will leave Princess Paley for a moment and briefly explain my attitude throughout the crisis. I had been at one with the Duma leaders in holding that the course of the military operations must not be com- promised by any grave internal crisis ; and it was in order to avert such a catastrophe that I repeatedly warned the Emperor of his danger. Apart, moreover, from purely military considerations, I believed that it was by a process of gradual evolution, and not by revolution, that Russia would find salvation.
Miliukoff told me that they had not yet broached the subject of this projected journey to the Emperor, as before doing so they wanted to overcome the opposition of the Soviet, and that Their Majesties could not in any case start till their children got better.
As I have no intention of sheltering myself behind any imaginary instructions from home, I may at once state that I accept the full responsibility for our attitude towards the revolution. It was on my advice that His Majesty's Government consistently acted. Needless to say, I never engaged in any revolutionary propaganda, and Mr. Lloyd George had our national interests far too much at heart ever to have authorized me to promote a revolution in Russia in the middle of a world war. See more
It is perfectly true that I did receive at the Embassy the Liberal leaders named by Princess Paley, for it was my duty as Ambassador to keep in touch with the leaders of all parties. I was, moreover, in sympathy wath their aims, and, as already stated, I consulted Rodzianko on the subject of those aims before my final audience with the Emperor. They did not want to provoke a revolution so long as the war lasted. On the contrary, they practised such patience and restraint that the Government regarded the Duma as a negligible quantity and imagined that they could go all lengths. When the revolution came, the Duma sought to control it by giving it the sanction of the only legally constituted organ in the country.
Yesterday I told the Foreign Minister the purport of your message, and today I communicated to him the contents of your telegram of the 22nd about this matter and stressed the point that our invitation was made solely in response to the suggestion of his Government. See more
He was very anxious that this fact should not be made public, because the extreme Left Wing were stirring up opinion against letting the Czar leave Russia. While he was hopeful that this opposition could be surmounted by the Government, they had not yet made final decision. In any case, the Czar could not set out until his children had got over the measles. When I hinted at the question of the Czar’s means I was informed that according to the Foreign Minister’s information he had ample private resources. The financial issue would in any case be handled generously
He was emphatic that in regard to His Majesty’s safety there was no ground at all for anxiety.
A firm believer and a fatalist, The Emperor was always ready to accept anything that God might send him. As illus- trating his general frame of mind, I may quote a story which Isvolsky tells in his " Souvenirs de mon Ministere." It was during the summer of 1906, and Isvolsky, who was then Minister for Foreign Affairs, had gone to Peterhof , where the Court was in residence, to make his usual weekly report to the Emperor. A serious mutiny had just broken out at Cronstadt, as a protest against the recent dissolution of the Duma, and the fortress was being bombarded by the fleet. Though the cannonade continued during the whole of the audience, the Emperor followed his report with the greatest attention, as if nothing unusual was happen- ing, discussing all the more important points with him. When, at its close, the Emperor got up and looked out of the window towards Cronstadt, some ten miles distant on the other side of the gulf, Isvolsky could not resist asking him how he could remain so calm at a moment when the fate of his dynasty hung in the balance. The Emperor, turning to him, said — I give His Majesty's reply in Isvolsky's own words, and it forms a fitting ending to this review of his reign : Si vous me voyez si peu trouble, c'est que j'ai la ferme, I'absolue croyance, que le sort de la Russie — que mon propre sort et eelui de ma famille — est entre ]es mains de Dieu, qui m'a place la ou je suis. Quoi qu'il arrive, je m'in- clinerai devant sa volonte, avec la conscience de n'avoir jamais eu d 'autre pensee que celle de servir le pays qu'il m'a confie.
I had, unfortunately, been laid up for a few days with a bad chill, and it was only on the afternoon of the 24th that I was allowed to get up and go with my French and Italian colleagues to the Ministry, where Prince Lvoff and all the members of his Govern- ment were waiting to receive us. As doyen, I had to make the first speech. After expressing my pleasure at entering into relations with them and assuring them of my support in all matters touching the strengthening of our alliance and the conduct of the war, I proceeded to say :
"A cette heure solennelle ou une nouvelle ere de progres et de gloire s'ouvre devant la Russie, il est plus que jamais necessaire de ne pas laisser detourner les yeux de I'Alle- magne. Car le triomphe de I'Allemagne aura pour suite I'ecroulement de ce beau monument, que le peuple Russe vient d'elever a la Liberte. La Grande Bretagne tend la main au Gouvernement Provisoire, persuadee que ce dernier, fidele aux engagements pris par ses predecesseurs, fera tout son possible pour mener la guerre a une fin victorieuse, en veillant surtout au maintien de I'ordre et de I'unite nationale, a la reprise du travail normal dans les usines et a I'enseigne- ment et a la discipline de I'armee. Oui, Messieurs les Ministres, si aujourd'hui j'ai I'honneur de vous apporter les salutations d'une nation amie et alliee, c'est parceque mon Gouvernement aime a croire que, sous votre haute direction, la Nouvelle Russie ne reculera devant aucun sacrifice at que, solidaire avec ses Allies, elle ne deposera pas les armes avant que ces grands principes de droit et de justice, de liberte et de nationality, dont nous avons pris la defense, soient ferme- ment soutenus et ^tablis."
After the other two Ambassadors had also spoken, Miliukoff , in the name of his colleagues, assured us that the Provisional Government were determined to uphold the agreements and alliances concluded w^ith their predecessors and to continue the war to a victorious finish.
My speech was, on the whole, well received, though one journal warned me that I could not hold the same language to the representatives of free Russia as I had to " the minions of the Tsar."
The king and His Majesty's government would be happy to oblige the request of the Provisional Government and to offer the emperor and his family asylum in England, of which they hope, their majesties will make use for the duration of the war. In case this offer is accepted the Russian government of course will be obliged to allocate the necessary funds for their living expenses.
We believe that the Russian government will do everything necessary to provide for the protection of the imperial family. If something terrible were to happen to the family, then the government would be discredited in the eyes of the civilised world.
The Emperor Nicholas II is one of the most pathetic figures in history. He loved his country. He had its welfare and greatness at heart. Yet it was he who was to precipitate the catastrophe, which has brought it to utter ruin and misery. Had he lived in classic times, the story of his life and death would have been made the subject of some great tragedy by the poets of ancient Greece. They would have represented him as a predestined victim pursued, in each successive act, by some relentless fate.
The Emperor's marriage with Princess Alix of Hesse had not been prompted by reasons of State. They had from the first been drawn together by feel- ings of mutual affection, and their love for each other had grown stronger with every passing year. Ideally happy though they .were in their married life, the Emperor's choice was nevertheless an unfortunate one. Despite her many good qualities — her warm heart, her devotion to husband and children, her well-meant but ill-advised endeavours to inspire him with the firmness and decision which his character lacked — the Empress Alexandra was not a fitting helpmate for a Sovereign in his difficult position. Of a shy and retiring dis- position, though a born autocrat, she failed to win the affection of her subjects. She misjudged the situation from the first, encouraging him, when the political waters were already running dangerously high, to steer a course fraught with danger to the ship of State. The tragic element is already discernible in the first act of the drama. A good woman, bent on serving her husband's interests, she is to prove the chosen instru- ment of his ruin. Diffident and irresolute, the Emperor was bound to fall under the influence of a will stronger than his. It was her blind faith in an unbridled autocracy that was to be his undoing. Had he had as his consort a woman with broader views and better insight, who would have grasped the fact that such a regime was an anachronism in the twentieth century, the history of his reign would have been different and he might still be Emperor of Russia.
But, baneful as was her influence over her husband in matters of internal policy, the Empress must be acquitted of the charge, so often brought against her, of having worked in Germany's interest. Kerensky himself once told me that not a single compromising document had been found to show that either she or the Emperor had ever contemplated making a separate peace with Germany. He had, he said, had a long private conversation with the Empress after the revolu- tion, in which Her Majesty had indignantly protested against the idea that she was pro-German. " I am Enghsh," she had declared, " and not German, and I have always been true to Russia." She was, he was convinced, speaking the truth, and though she uncon- sciously played the German game by inducing the Emperor to pursue a reactionary policy, she aimed solely at maintaining the autocracy intact, and not at bringing about a closer understanding mth Germany. There jvere, however, he added, German agents in Rasputin's entourage.
I informed Miliukoff that the King and His Majesty's Government were happy to accede to the request of the Provisional Government, and to offer the Emperor and his family a refuge in England, of which they hoped that Their majesties would avail themselves for the duration of the war. In the event of this offer being accepted, the Russian Government would naturally, I added, have to make suitable provision for their maintenance. While assuring me that a liberal allowance would be made them, Miliukoff begged that the fact that the Provisional Government had taken the initiative in the matter should not be published. I subsequently expressed the hope that no time would be lost in arranging for Their Majesties' journey to Port Romanoff. We relied, I said, on the Provisional Government taking all the necessary measures for their protection, and I warned him that, if any mischance befell them, that Government would be discredited in the eyes of the civilized world.
The Emperor was brought to Tsarskoe, where he and the Empress were placed under arrest. When the news of his abdication had first reached the palace the Empress had refused to credit it, and she was almost stunned on being told by the Grand Duke Paul that it was an accomplished fact. But, when the first shock was over, she behaved with wonderful dignity and courage. " I am now only a nursing sister," she said; and on one occasion, when a conflict seemed imminent between the insurgent troops and the palace guard, she went out with one of her daughters and implored the officers to arrange terms with the latter so that no blood should be shed. Her children had all fallen ill with the measles, which, in the case of the Tsarevitch and the Grand Duchess Marie, had taken a somewhat serious turn, so that all her time was spent in going from one sick-room to the other.
Though, during their stay at Tsarskoe, Their Majesties were under constant guard, and could not even walk in their private garden without being stared at by a little crowd of curious spectators who watched them through the park railings, they were spared any ill-treatment. Special measures for their protection were taken by Kerensky, as at one moment the extremists, who clamoured for their punishment, had threatened to seize them and to imprison them in the fortress. In the first speech which he delivered at Moscow, Kerensky had declared that he would not allow more blood to be shed, and that he was not going to be the Marat of the Russian revolution. One of his reasons for abolishing the death penalty was to fore- stall a possible demand for the Emperor's execution.
The United States Ambassador was the first to recognize the Provisional Government officially on March 22, an achievement of which he was always very proud.
This morning I asked the Foreign Minister about the announcement in the papers that the Czar had been placed under the arrest. I was informed by His Excellency that this was not strictly accurate. The position was that the Emperor was no longer his liberty, and that a delegation of the Duma and an escort provided by General Alexeieff would accompany him to Tsarskoe Selo. See more
Pointing out to the Minister that the Czar was closely related to our own King and on intimate terms of friendship with him, I urged that I wished to be in a position to reassure His Majesty that the Emperor’s safety would be fully safeguarded. I enquired if the Russian Government would agree to the Czar being accompanied by our Military Representative as a further precaution. I was answered that there was not the slightest need for this and that the Government would much rather it was not done.
His Excellency proceeded to enquire whether we were making any plans for the Czar to stay in England, and when I said not, he declared himself most anxious for His Majesty to leave Russia, and said he would be most glad if our King and Government would invite the Czar to take refuge with them. Should such invitation be made, it should include condition that the Emperor would be kept in England for the remainder of the War. He wishes for an answer to this without avoidable delay.
I asked Miliukoff w^hether it was true, as had been stated in the Press, that the Emperor had been arrested. He replied that this was not quite correct. His Majesty had been deprived of his liberty — a pretty euphemism — and would be brought to Tsarskoe under an escort furnished by General Alexeieif . I therefore reminded him that the Emperor w^as the King's near relative and intimate friend, adding that I should be glad to receive an assurance that every precaution would be taken for his safety. Miliukoff gave me this assurance. He was not, he said, in favour of the Emperor proceeding to the Crimea, as His Majesty had originally suggested, and would prefer that he should remain at Tsarskoe till his children had sufficiently recovered from the measles for the Imperial family to travel to England. He then asked w^hether we were making any arrangements for their reception. On my replying in the negative, he said that he was most anxious that the Emperor should leave Russia at once. He would, therefore, be grateful if His Majesty's Government would offer him an asylum in England, and if they would accompany this offer with an assurance that the Emperor would not be allowed to leave England during the war. I at once telegraphed to the Foreign Office for the necessary authorization.
THE Emperor — who after his abdication had returned to his former headquarters at Mohileff — was now styled " Colonel " Romanoff, according to his official rank in the army.
The speedy recog- nition of the Provisional Government was therefore, in my opinion, necessary ; but when, on March 18, Miliukoff broached the subject to me, I told him that before acting on the authorization already given me I must have an assurance that the new Government was prepared to fight the war out to a finish and to restore discipline in the army. Miliukoff gave me this assurance, but said that they were obliged to proceed cautiously on account of the extremists, and that his own position was a very difficult one. He was regarded with suspicion for having supported the Grand Duke Michael's claim to the throne, and he must either make some concessions or resign. Which course, he asked, would I prefer him to take? The former, I unhesitatingly replied.
The question of the Grand Duke Michael's claim to the throne had still to be decided, and during the whole of Thursday (the 16th) the members of the Provisional Government were in consultation with him on the subject. Miliukoff and Guchkoff alone supported his claim, contending that it was necessary that someone should be appointed head of the State. The others held that the fact that the Emperor had confirmed Prince Lvoff's appointment as head of the Provisional Government sufficed. Finally, the Grand Duke, who personally had no ambition to assume the burden of Empire, yielded to Kerensky's passionate appeal and signed a manifesto, declaring that he could only accept the supreme power should such be the desire of the nation, clearly expressed in a constituent assembly elected for the purpose of definitely deciding the form of government to be adopted. He further called on all citizens to obey the Provisional Government. The new Government of Russia was thus not, strictly speak- ing, a Republican Government; and, on my once referring to it as such, Miliukoff caught me up, saying that it was only a Provisional Government pending the decision of the future constituent assembly.
The Emperor's last official act was to appoint the Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaievich commander-in-chief and Prince Lvoff (the popular leader of the Zemstvos) as the new President of the Council. For, as the result of a compromise between the Duma committee and the Soviet, a Provisional Government had been formed to carry on the administration of the country till a con- stituent assembly had decided whether Russia was to be a Repubic or a Monarchy.
The principal members of this Government belonged to the Cadet and Octobrist parties. Miliukoff, the leader of the former, was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Guchkoff , the leader of the latter. Minister of War. Kerensky, who was made Minister of Justice, served as a link between the Soviet and the Government, and it had been mainly thanks to him that the opposition of the former had been overcome. During the heated discussion that had taken place on the question of the regency he had, in announcing his appointment as Minister of Justice, said in the Soviet: "No one is a more ardent Republican than I; but we must bide our time. Nothing can come to its full height at once. We shall have our Republic, but we must win the war; then we can do what we will."
Meanwhile the Emperor had left the Stavka for Tsarskoe on the night; but finding on arriving at Bologoi that the rails in front of the train had been pulled up by workmen, His Majesty had proceeded to Pskoff, the headquarters of General Ruszki, the commander-in-chief of the northern front.