Nicholas II, The Last Tsar

Written by Michael Paterson
Review by Doug Kemp

This is a brief, but very well written account of the life of Nicholas II, whose life and that of his family were notoriously cut short by the Bolsheviks in revolutionary Russia, the 100-year anniversary of which occurs in 2018. Nicholas was mostly a decent man, conscientious and affable, but was not made of the same authoritarian mettle of his predecessors, such as his father Alexander, whose sudden early death from illness forced Nicholas’s early advent to the imperial throne. Nicholas was widely seen as being too weak and ineffective in his role as the country’s leader and sat hopelessly around as unrest threatened to wholly engulf the country in 1905. But it can be argued that nobody, even the most dictatorial Tsar, could have resisted the social and military forces which prompted the seismic political shifts in Russia in the first two decades of the 20th century.

There are no new sources or unusual revelations in this account, and there is perhaps just a little too much on the splendours of the Tsarist military fashions and their elegant manners. It is also frustrating that there is no bibliography, yet apparently space can be found for a timeline of main events, which does not serve a significant purpose. Nevertheless, it is a highly readable and enjoyable story of a flawed, misunderstood but essentially decent man and his tragic family.