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In 1904 Russia, Tsar Nicholas II is overjoyed when his wife, Imperial Highness Alexandra Fedorovna, known as Alix, gives birth to their fifth child and first son, Alexis. The tsarevitch and heir to the throne joins his older sisters, the four grand duchesses, Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia. A few weeks after the birth, Nicholas inquires about a bruise on baby Alexis' elbow, but Alix dismisses his concern. Nicholas then meets with his advisor, Count Sergius Witte, to discuss Russia's deteriorating war with Japan over Korea. The minister cautions Nicholas that Russia can ill afford a defeat and reminds Nicholas that the Russian people long for a constitution and government representation. Nicholas' uncle, Grand Duke Nicholas, nicknamed Nickolasha, also advises the tsar to bring a rapid end to the war, but Nicholas remains confident in the devotion of his subjects and assured that he leads by God's will. When Witte insists that a prolonged conflict will result in strikes and riots, Nicholas angrily asserts that he will not surrender his sovereign rights as have his English cousins, King George and the Hohensollerns. A few evenings later at a formal party for the Queen Mother, Marie Fedorovna, the reticent Alix, sensitive to her outsider status as a native-born German, spends most of the evening away from the festivity. Nickolasha piques Alix's interest when he mentions a fellow guest, Gregory Rasputin, a peasant holy man from Siberia who claims to have visions and cure the sick. Alix asks to meet Rasputin and although taken aback by his coarse appearance, is moved by his spiritual demeanor. After the party, Nicholas and Alix meet with the court physician, Dr. Eugene Botkin, and three other specialists who inform them that Alexis has the blood disease hemophilia, which is untreatable. Mortified to learn that she has transmitted the gene responsible for the disease, Alix insists that her son will live a long life, but grows despondent and seeks refuge in religious rituals. Over the next several months, as the war with Japan continues to go badly, the Imperial family maintains their public duties while keeping Alexis' illness secret. Increasingly in despair over her son's health, Alix sends for Rasputin. When the holy man arrives and correctly analyzes Alexis' illness without seeing the baby, then declares that he has visions from God, Alix is convinced of his abilities and demands that he have free access to the palace. Meanwhile, there is increasing public unrest over the unsuccessful war, widespread impoverishment and the apparent detachment of the tsar from daily events. As the discontent grows, a priest leads a peaceful march to the palace to speak with Nicholas, but the army meets the assembly and when the crowd panics, the soldiers open fire, killing many. Nicholas is horrified by the event, but when he demands an explanation from Witte, the minister declares that because the peoples' hopes for political representation are continually met with arrests and execution, ordered by the tsar, a violent reaction is inevitable. When the war with Japan ends in failure, Witte, now the president of the Council of Ministers, draws up a memorandum on the nation's continuing political turmoil that concludes there are only two alternatives for Russia: a military dictatorship or a constitution. Nicholas reluctantly agrees to modernize his government with the Imperial Manifesto, which transforms Russia into a semi-constitutional monarchy, with an elected parliament, the Duma. Leader of the Bolshevik faction of the Social Democratic Labor Party Vladimir Lenin meets with fellow Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky to discuss how the new Manifesto might be used to overturn the monarchy altogether. Eight years pass of an uneasy peace in Russia, during which Nicholas and Alix continue to dote on their daughters and the boisterous Alexis, who has a full-time companion, sailor Nagorny, to keep the energetic boy from physical harm. Prime Minister Peter Arkadyevich Stolypin meets with the Imperial family while they are on vacation in the Crimea to discuss the increasingly lurid rumors of Rasputin's relationship with Alix. Nicholas states that he is unable to challenge his deeply religious wife on Rasputin's presence in the palace and ruefully admits his awareness of the priest's reputation as a drunken womanizer. Stolypin also advises Nicholas to make a public tour to celebrate three hundred years of the Romanov family's rule, which will negate the lingering impression that Nicholas is detached from the continued unrest and strikes spreading across the country. Later, Nicholas meets with Rasputin to banish him to St. Petersburg to halt the rumors. Rasputin agrees and counsels Nicholas to help Alix and trust that God speaks through the tsar. Upon learning of Rasputin's banishment, Alix reacts with fury, insisting that should Alexis die, Nicholas will be to blame. Shortly afterward in Kiev, Nicholas takes his eldest daughters, Olga and Tatiana, to the opera where they witness a young revolutionary assassinate Stolypin. Deeply mortified and convinced the political strife is to blame, Nicholas recalls the assassination of his grandfather Alexander and orders harsh public reprisals, then threatens to shut down the Duma. Alexander Fedorovich Kerensky, a member of the Duma and known as a harsh critic of the government, becomes the new prime minister and pleads in vain with Minister Vladimir Kokovtsov not to allow Nicholas to shut down the Duma. Soon after, while the Imperial family vacations in Spala, Poland, Alexis suffers a fall resulting in serious internal bleeding and great pain. Kokovtsov reports to the tsar that the strikes have continued to multiply and that the hundreds shot and hanged in reprisal have had no effect. The minister pleads with Nicholas to stop the killing and reconvene the Duma. Meanwhile a distraught Alix begs Nicholas to allow Rasputin's return. Nicholas agrees to restore the Duma and to the return of Rasputin. When Alix receives a telegram from the holy man assuring her that Alexis will recover, she is ecstatic. In August of 1914 after the assassination of the Austrian archduke by a native Serbian and an ultimatum from Austria to Serbia demanding the Serbs accept responsibility, Nicholas believes Russia should mobilize its army as a show of support for its longtime Serbian protectorate. Witte fervently protests, reminding Nicholas that his cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, will view the action as a declaration of war that will surely extend to France and England. Confident that his cousin will understand his motives, Nicholas proceeds with the mobilization and is shocked when Wilhelm, coming to the aid of his Austrian ally, declares war. Hoping that a war will unite the country, Kerensky calls for public and political support of the tsar. Over the next several months, as Russia faces crucial losses, Nicholas is angered by Alix's determination to pass on war strategy from Rasputin, yet defends his wife to the ministers. While Alix ministers to the soldiers, despite their bitter resentment of her Germanic heritage, Nicholas takes Alexis on numerous trips throughout the countryside to lift the sagging morale of the soldiers. A year into the war with the army in full retreat, Nicholas relieves Nickolasha as commander-in-chief of the Russian armies. Welcoming the tsar to the battlefront, the grand duke advises Nicholas to continue with a cautious retreat to preserve the army, and to rid himself of Rasputin's unwieldy influence in the palace. Marie Federovna visits Nicholas in the field to rebuke him for ignoring the continued riots and starving populace in Petersburg. When the queen mother declares that the public believes Alix is a German spy who allows Rasputin to meddle in government affairs, Nicholas insists the holy man is from God and must be supported. In late 1916, as the Russian economy founders and the war drags on, Rasputin attends a private party at the Petrograd residence of young Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich and Prince Felix Yussoupov. Unknown to Rasputin, Dmitry and Yussoupov, with the help of Dr. Lazovert, are conspiring to kill the priest. Lazovert laces the dessert cakes and wine with cyanide, while the young royals get drunk and smoke opium. After Rasputin consumes several cakes and drinks the poisoned wine, he collapses, then shocks the men by reviving and accusing them of treachery. Although befuddled, Yussoupov fires a pistol at Rasputin who staggers down to the cellar in an attempt to escape. The doctor and Youssoupov follow and finding Rasputin semi-conscious, shoot him and beat him with chains. Rasputin's body is later discovered bound and chained in the river. Distraught over the brutal assassination, Alix falls into mourning and refuses to assume responsibility when Sazonov brings her a decree to aid the starving masses. In the Duma, Kerensky presides over the celebration of Rasputin's demise, and vows to attend to the critical national troubles that Nicholas continues to avoid. In late winter, when the populace begins rioting for food, Nicholas, still at the front, is dismayed by reports that the army not only refuses to fire upon the protesters, but is actively assisting them. Deciding to visit the family at Tsarskoe Selo, Nicholas finds his trip prohibited by remnants of the splintered army, many of whom are siding with revolutionaries. Soon after, General Michael Vasilevich Alexeiev reports to Nicholas that his ministers in Petrograd have been arrested and the Duma has set up a provisional government demanding his abdication. Staggered to learn from Alexeiev that the generals support this solution, Nicholas realizes he has no hope of resisting. Nicholas agrees to give up the throne, but after a realistic consultation with Dr. Fedorov on the possibilities of Alexis' future, surprises members of the governing committee by abdicating for both himself and his son. Knowing that he and the family will likely be arrested and taken into exile, Nicholas returns to the palace at Tsarkoe Selo and finds its great halls filled with peasants and soldiers. Nicholas salutes them all, but upon finding Alix waiting alone in a back room, he collapses in grief and shame at his capitulation after three centuries of Romanov rule. As Lenin counters Kerensky by meeting with the German consul to arrange Russia's withdrawal from the war, Nicholas, Alix and their children are moved to a small farm. A short time later, Kerensky, the provisional head of the government, visits Nicholas to inform him that his request to go to exile in England has been refused by his cousin King George and the other allies. Explaining that he must contend with the workers, Lenin's Bolsheviks, the army and the Socialists, Kerensky emphasizes that his protection has kept Nicholas alive and announces the royal family will be transported to Tobolsk, Siberia. Over the next few weeks, Kerensky's government begins to waver under the organized power of Lenin and the Bolshevik party, which takes over banks, communications and transportation. After Kerensky's government falls, Lenin declares a Socialist order, but soon a civil war breaks out between the conservatives, nicknamed the Whites and the revolutionary Bolsheviks, called the Reds. In Tobolsk, the Romanovs are guarded by members of the army led by Col. Eugene Kobylinsky, who tells Nicholas that with end of the provisional government and the revolution, he no longer has any reason to keep the family imprisoned. At Easter, 1918, a member of the Red faction, Commissar Vasily Vaslevich Yakovlev, arrives at the encampment to replace Kobylinsky and move the Romanovs to Moscow for a trial. After the family boards a train, however, Yakovlev is met by representatives of the Ural Soviet who declare they have been ordered to take custody of the family as the civil war is not boding well for the Reds. With only the faithful Botkin and Nagorny allowed to remain with the family, they are transported to Ekaterinburg and the Ipatiev house under the control of longtime revolutionary Filipp Isiah Goloshchekin. Nicholas and Alix are told they are to remain there under protection until their trial can be finalized. When Alexis is taunted by rough soldiers who attempt to steal the last of his personal belongings, Nagorny comes to his aid and is immediately sentenced to execution. Unknown to Nicholas and the others, Goloshchekin is waiting for orders to assassinate either Nicholas alone or the entire family. Upon receiving the confirmation to kill the entire Imperial family in July, Goloshchekin awakens the Romanovs early one morning and asks them to dress and wait in a downstairs room. Having previously arranged to burn and bury the bodies, Goloshchekin leads a small party to the room where the Romanovs are shot to death.