July 1918. Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg.
In the night a single bell sound causes Nicholas and Alexandra to remember the joyful tolling of the bells on their wedding day years before. In another room their daughter Olga admonishes her younger sister, Anastasia, for flirting with Pavko, a soldier on duty to stand guard. Anastasia continues her flirtation in hopes that he will give into her pleading and open a window to relieve the stifling condition of the sweltering room. In yet another room Alexis, Nicholas' young son and heir, is comforted by Nagorny, his caretaker. While the frail hemophiliac boy complains of pain, Nagorny soothes him with reassurances that soon they will all be setting sail for Finland and beyond. The quiet is broken by the arrival of two nuns from a local convent who bring food for the Tsar's family and secretly give Nicholas news that a midnight escape is planned in two days' time and that the family should be ready.
1894. Livadia Palace in the Crimea.
Twenty-four years earlier, a young Nicholas is distraught at the approaching death of his father, Tsar Alexander III. The dying ruler laments being in the Crimea and so far away from the heartland of Russia, where he says a Tsar should die among his Russian people. When Nicholas demands that there be no talk of death, his mother, Maria, takes him and pleads with him not to upset his father but to accept the responsibility of being heir to the throne. Nicholas obeys her and tells his father that he will do whatever he asks. Alexander III requests that Nicholas marry soon. Nicholas informs his father that he is in love with Alexandra, the half-German granddaughter of Victoria, Queen of England.
A short time later. Another room in the Livadia Palace.
A discussion between the Empress Maria and Alexandra regarding religion and faith is interrupted by the arrival of Nicholas. As Maria leaves them alone, Nicholas and Alexandra declare their love for one another. Alexandra declares that she loves him just as completely as her grandmother, Queen Victoria, loved her husband, Prince Albert. When Alexandra remarks that the widowed Victoria mourned her husband's death for the last thirty years of her life, Nicholas assures her that their own future will not be defined by this bittersweet past.
November 1905. A salon in the Winter Palace.
It is the eleventh year of Tsar Nicholas II's reign. Princess Lapishchev and two other ladies of the court are trying to convince the Countess Zavolsky of the holy powers of Rasputin, a religious monk who has been rumored to cure the dying and restore sight to the blind. The Countess remains skeptical even when Rasputin himself enters the room. She accuses Rasputin of being a debauched, lecherous peasant in the robes of a monk. As he compares himself instead to Saint Paul, Alexandra enters and explains that she has sent for him to pray and heal her son, Alexis.
July 1914. The Tsar's hunting villa at Spala, Poland.
Nine years later Alexis is suffering another dangerous episode. The court physician, Dr. Botkin, is unable to stop the boy's bleeding. Alexandra wishes Alexis to be attended by Rasputin, since he seems to be the only one able to relieve the child's pain. Nicholas, however, because of popular hatred of the monk, has banished Rasputin to his home province. Unbeknownst to her husband, Alexandra has sent for Rasputin. Nicholas reluctantly agrees that he may attend their son. When Alexandra promises Rasputin that the Tsar will never again banish him, the monk, claiming to have the same foreknowledge as Christ, prophesies that his next banishment will be by poison, dagger, and pistol shot.
1916. A sitting room in Count Obolensky's palace in St. Petersburg.
Two years later, Prince Orlov and Count Obolensky, court ministers, are appalled at the control wielded over the court by Rasputin and at the blind faith the Tsarina has placed in him. Determined to prove his debauchery, they spy on Rasputin as he meets several ladies of the court, including the skeptical Countess Zavolsky. The monk's hypnotic spell mesmerizes the countess who falls into a trance- like state while the other women work themselves into a frenzy.
March 1916. A fashionable St. Petersburg street.
An angry protesting crowd attacks a chauffeur who is driving Prince Orlov and Princess Lapishchev when the car strikes a child. The chauffeur, unable to fend off the mob, is beaten severely before they turn their attention to his noble passengers. As they begin to attack the Princess Lapishchev they are interrupted by the arrival of Rasputin who admonishes them for behaving as animals. His words become hypnotic to them as he prophecies the end of Russia and the death of the Russian people.
Late 1916. The Yusupov Palace in St. Petersburg.
A court minister, Yusupov, lures Rasputin to his house with the help of Prince Orlov and Count Obolensky. They have prepared poison wine and pastries, which they believe will facilitate their assassination. During the fateful last evening of Rasputin':s life, when the wine fails to kill him, the conspirators resort to stabbing then shooting him.
March 1917. The Tsar's family sitting room in The Palace of Tsarskoe Selo.
Anarchy has taken over the city of St. Petersburg. The revolutionaries ignore all orders from the councilors. The palace guard has deserted. Alexandra and Princess Lapischev mourn the death of Rasputin and pray for the health and safety of young Alexis. Meanwhile, in a discussion with Nicholas and General Brusilov, Prince Orlov advises the Tsar to abdicate. Fearing for the safety of his young son, Nicholas names his brother, as his heir and the next Tsar. Knowing that his brother will not be accepted and that the house of Romanov will fall, Nicholas nevertheless makes it an imperial decree.
July 1918. Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg.
Nagorny is removed from the company of the Romanovs by Avdeev, the commander of the squadron of Bolshevik soldiers who run Ipatiev House. He claims that Nagorny has attacked a soldier of the revolution and must be put where he can’t oppose the revolution. Nagorny is led away despite the pleas of Alexis and his parents. While the girls pray, Nicholas and Alexandra speak of her cousin, King George V of England, and consider that he will send for them to join him in England.
Commandant Avdeev is replaced by a new man, Yakov Yurovsky, who brings with him the future execution squadron. Yurovsky tells Nicholas that the battleship, Dreadnaught, has been dispatched by King George V to convey his family to England. Yurovsky informs him that Yekaterinburg will fall in a matter of hours, therefore in order to reach the point of embarkation, they must quickly gather all their belongings and be ready to leave in five minutes. The Romanovs reflect on their love for Russia as they prepare for their journey.
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