This is the compelling story of the woman credited as a major factor in the destruction of the Russian Empire. It is the first full-scale biography of Alexandra in thirty years, and the first to fully explore her childhood motivations and influences. Just six years of age when her mother died, Alexandra, a princess of Hesse-Darmstadt, a German principality, was reared under the tutelage of various aunts but always remained under the watchful if faraway eye of her grandmother, Queen Victoria. As a shy, unsophisticated teenager, "Alix" visited St. Petersburg, Russia, for a six-week holiday and caught the eye of Nicholas, the young heir to the Russian throne. Nicholas and Alexandra fell in love. They might have lived ever after as a happily married bourgeois couple, but the fates soon placed them on the throne and they were on a collision course with tragedy. A vast cast of supporting players is brought to vivid life in The Last Empress. Sometime overlooked personalities like the Grand Duchess Militza, who introduced Alexandra to Rasputin; Anna Vyrubova, who cemented their friendship; the tsar's uncle, Grand Duke Nicholas, who had almost as little use for the empress as he had for Rasputin (whom he threatened to hang); and a host of military and political figures who either helped fuel the revolutionary flames or stood by helplessly while an era and a way of life vanished. More than just the story of one fated princess, the book carries the saga of the Romanovs to the present day, when recent excavations at the town of Ekaterinburg, where the royal family was murdered, have unearthed their remains. Today the Romanovs have regained a vestige of popularity in Russia and a major exhibit of photographs and artifacts drew capacity crowds in Moscow and will probably do the same in other cities it will tour. Based on hundreds of letters (many hitherto unpublished), diaries, and documents, as well as the author's own research in Russia, Germany, England, and America, The Last Empress presents an insightful yet unbiased account of this important woman's life, including her dominant political role and her dependence on the infamous Rasputin. The rare photographs were assembled from international archives.