Alexander II of Russia

Nation: Russia

Emperor

Birth Date: April 29, 1818
Russia Alexander II of Russia Emperor Cover
I. Life Before His Reign
I. Life Before His Reign
The young Alexander Nicolaevitch received the education commonly given to young Russians of good family at that time - a smattering of a great many subjects and a practical acquaintance with the chief modern European languages. Like most of his countrymen, he displayed decided linguistic ability, and learned to speak and write French, German, and English with perfect fluency and correctness. His quick ear caught up even peculiarities of dialect, and in later life he sometimes surprised Scotchmen by addressing them in the language and accent of an "auld nurse," to whom he had been much attached in his childhood.

During the thirty years of his father's reign there is little for his biographer to record. His life was that of an officer of the Guards, modified by the ceremonial duties incumbent upon him as presumptive heir to the throne. In 1841 he married Maximilienne Wilhelmine Marie, thenceforward called Marie Alexandrovna, daughter of Louis II., Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt, and the marriage secured for him during many years a domestic life which, though not altogether free from passing clouds, was, on the whole, much happier than the majority of crowned heads enjoy. He did not travel much abroad, as Russian Grand Dukes are now in the habit of doing; for his father, in accordance with his principles of excluding as far as possible from Holy Russia the subversive ideas then current in Western Europe, disapproved foreign tours, and could not consistently encourage in his own family what he did all in his power to prevent by personal influence and expensive complicated formalities among the rest of his subjects. Nominally, he held the post of director of the military schools, but he did not introduce any important changes into these institutions, and left the ordinary work to his assistant, General Rostoftsew, who afterwards played a leading part in the emancipation of the serfs.

In one of the six commissions constituted successively in the reign of Nicholas for the purpose of improving the condition of the peasantry attached to the soil, Alexander acted as president, but he did not then give any indications of gaining one day the title of the Tsar emancipator. The labours of the Commission have never been published, but it would seem, from a short official paper preserved in the archives of the Council of the Empire, that the president did not take a very active part in the proceedings, and that his sympathies lay rather with the proprietors than with those who wished to curtail their rights. Altogether he remained in the background during his father's lifetime, and there is in this fact nothing that need astonish us. The Tsesarevich in Russia had always played an ornamental rather than a practical part in public affairs.

Times (London, England). (1893). Alexander II. In Eminent persons: Vol. 2; 1876-1881 (pp. 271-272). London: Macmillan and Co.
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