This is the last known photograph depicting Tsar Nicholas II, the final Emperor of Russia. This photo was taken at Nicholas’ royal residence in Tsarskoye Selo in 1917, after his abdication from the throne – an event which signaled the end of over 300-years of the House of Romanov ruling Russia.
Following his abdication as Tsar in March of 1917, the newly-established provisional government of Russia placed Nicholas and his family under house arrest at their royal residence in Tsarskoye Selo. The family was allowed to be undisturbed within the palace, but walks in the palace grounds outside were under strict guard and surveillance – in the background of this picture, a host of guards can be seen monitoring Nicholas. The royal family continued to live in relative comfort during exile, spending their time reading books and playing games together – according to his diary, Nicholas also particularly enjoyed chopping firewood when he was granted time outdoors as a form of exercise.
Nicholas II had increasingly been falling out of favor in the eyes of the public during the years leading up to his abdication. The onset of the First World War brought significant challenges to Russia, and not just in casualties (of which Russia had the highest total) – but also in political instability, civil unrest and riots, and food shortages. Once he and his family were placed under house arrest, public disdain against him continued to increase, and it was not helped by Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks seizing power in November of 1917. Nicholas and his family were repeatedly moved and kept under arrest in various locations, losing more and more freedoms and luxuries each time, until the night of July 17th, 1918 when they were finally executed by the Bolsheviks. After this, nothing more remained of the House of Romanov.