5. Alexei Romanov’s Hemophilia May Have Destroyed the Empire
Alexei Romanov, the grandson of Queen Victoria, inherited what came to be known as the “royal disease” for how it was inherited by a disproportionately large number of European royals: hemophilia. His frequent bouts of bleeding were so life-threatening that his mother, Tsarina Alexandra, sought help from the mythical Rasputin.
Rasputin went on to gain an unwieldy amount of influence over the royal court in his efforts to save Alexei from the most severe effects of the disease. Alexandra and her husband, Tsar Nicholas, were sure that his treatments were healing their son. However, aristocrats and others close to the royal family weren’t quite so sure. Rasputin’s character was tainted with alcoholism and sexual promiscuity, as well as dabblings in the occult. While he may or may not have been guilty of those things, to the Russian people as well as the aristocracy, he symbolized everything that was wrong with the royal family. Disorder and discontent grew, and in 1917, the Russian Revolution began.
The jury is still out on whether or not Alexei’s illness could be considered a causative factor in the Russian Revolution, the fall of the Romanovs, and the execution of the royal family. However, it certainly didn’t help.
Age: 14 (1904-1918)
Birthplace: St. Petersburg, Russia