Tsar Nicholas II & King George V together, 22 August 1913

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Nicholas II of Russia photographed alongside similar looking and cousin King George V of the United Kingdom, while wearing military uniform.
Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (left) & King George V of the United Kingdom (right) together wearing military uniform in Berlin, Germany, 1913. Library of Congress // Public Domain

Perhaps surprising to people upon realization, the last Czar of Russia was actually closely related to the Windsor Royal Family of Britain. Regularly mistaken for twins, the striking similarities in looks is the main giveaway that these two rulers were related. Remarkable blue eyes and exact mustaches defined these men. King George V (who was of German blood – ultimately leading him to change his name to Windsor on the back of anti-German public unrest in Britain) was direct cousins with both Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Russia’s last Romanov Czar Nicholas II. The line is directly related back to Victoria who was known as ‘the grandmother of Europe’ for her extensive role in royal families across the continent.

Pictured here, King George is pictured alongside his identical cousin Czar Nicholas II in 1913 when their relationship was still intact. Throughout their reigns, they had close connections not least between the countries they ruled but also on a personal level. So close they were in fact that in the constant stream of private letters these men sent to each other they called each other ‘Georgie’ and ‘Nicky’. In this photo, they sport German military uniforms as they attend their other cousins, Kaiser Wilhelm II’s daughter’s wedding in Berlin. This would be the final meeting of the European royalty before the start of WWI. This would perhaps be the last amiable photo the two got together before the demise of Nicholas and the Romanov dynasty in Russia.

In 1917, following the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, the Romanov Royal dynasty would be overturned to make way for the new communist agenda. Only a year later, after going into hiding and actually being offered asylum by cousin King George V, Czar Nicholas, his wife, and five children would be horrifically bludgeoned to death as a mark of the new power shift in Russia. Sent to a basement for execution, this brutal death sent ripples across Europe during the ongoing WWI crisis. It was probably most felt by the reigning British royals who had such a strong bond. Despite the slight loss of power in 1905, the Czarist regime remained in Russia until it was overturned in October 1917 by Lenin and the Bolsheviks. This would result in King George initially planning to send a boat to Russia to escort the abdicated Romanovs and provide them asylum in the United Kingdom.

This extension of generosity was cut short however, as increasing anti-German and anti- Russin tendencies were growing in Britain which meant the public were no longer welcoming of the Czars asylum. In a brutal appeasement of the British people, King George rescinded his commitment to the asylum of his cousin, and left him in Russia. This ultimately sealed the Romanov family’s fate, leaving them in Russia at the hands of the Bolsheviks. Guilt and remorse would be felt by the British royal family who attended a low key event at a Russian Orthodox church in London upon hearing the news of the murder of the abdicated royals. ‘Nicholas the bloody’ was too much for King George to risk. It seems water is actually thicker than blood…

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