Grigory Rasputin was a Russian mystic famous for the influence he is said to have held over Russian Tsar Nicholas II’s family. In particular, he is thought to have had a great deal of influence over Alexandra, the Tsar’s wife and on the treatment of their son Alexei’s haemophilia (a disease that the royal family did not want disclosed.
Rasputin had little real medical training, and his advice to Alexandra sounds pretty trite when quoted today. Examples of the advice he gave Alexandra include the following Rasputin quotes:
“Don’t let the doctors bother him too much; let him rest.”
“God has seen your tears and heard your prayers. Fear not, the child will not die.”
Nonetheless, Alexandra would call on Rasputin every time that her son took a turn for the worse and, every time after Rasputin attended him, it seemed as though Alexei’s condition would improve. It isn’t entirely surprising, therefore, that he would become a respected attendant of the royal family. Indeed, so respected was he that the Tsar reportedly referred to him as “our friend” and as a “holy man”.
Rasputin’s influence was regarded by many in Russia as malign, however. He was certainly not a member of Russia’s professional class, let alone the aristocratic class, and he was known for frequent drunkenness. Rumours circulated about his sexual proclivities as well, which went so far as to accuse him of raping a nun. At a time when Russia was being heavily defeated in the First World War, his influence was believed by many to be distracting the Tsar and damaging to the whole of the Russian Empire.
Such are the rumours and misinformation surrounding Rasputin that even the circumstances surrounding his murder in 1916 are not clear. All that is certain is that his body was found in the Neva river and that he had been shot, beaten, poisoned and drowned. Whoever had killed him had taken no chances. The most likely story is that a number of nobles, most prominent among them Prince Felix Yusupov poisoned him by deception, before shooting him and dumping his body in the river.
There are many who claim that Rasputin predicted his own death, and the subsequent fall of the Russian Empire. His most famous quote is this:
“When the bell tolls three times, it will announce that I have been killed. If I am killed by common men, you and your children will rule Russia for centuries to come; if I am killed by one of your stock, you and your family will be killed by the Russian people! Pray Tsar of Russia. Pray.”
And, indeed, it was only a matter of months before the Tsar abdicated, and not much more than a year before the Tsar and his family were murdered.