Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov
First cousin to Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany.
Married to Tsaritsa Alexandra Fedorovna Romanova (born Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt).
Nicholas assumed the throne in 1894, on the death of his father. He had not been well prepared to rule, his father having been more concerned about finding him a good wife than in involving him in the details of state. His engagement to Princess Alix only slightly preceeded his father's death, and his wedding to the now Alexandra came very shortly after the last ceremony of his father's funeral. He then faced the task of being autocrat of Russia in a time of major turmoil -- a turmoil which would continue well beyond his death.
He relied heavily on the advice of his cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm -- advice which was not nearly as much in his own best interest as much as the best interest of Cousin Willy. This involved him in an ill-conceived war with Japan which cost him militarily. He would not really understand the duplicitous advice from his dear cousin until the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo would stir up conflict between Germans and Slavs, and he found himself facing Willy as an enemy in what was to become World War I, a war the end of which he would not live to see.
In addition to a tumultuous international situation, Nicholas also faced deep domestic difficulties. His grandfather, Tsar Alexander II, had been assassinated by a bomb set by revolutionaries, and voices of change, ranging from those who would democratize the existing system to those who would simply destroy it without regard to what would follow, were growing louder.
Further complicating domestic matters was the matter of succession. Alexandra bore him four daughters before their son, Alexis, was born on 12 Aug 1904. The young tsarevich proved to be afflicted with hemophilia, which, at that time was virtually untreatable and usually led to untimely deaths. With the fragility the autocracy was facing at this time, the Tsar and Tsaritsa chose to not divulge Alexis' condition to anyone outside the royal household. In desperation, Alexandra sought help from a wandering mystic known as Grigori Rasputin. Rasputin seemed to be able to help when Alexis was suffering from internal bleeding, and Alexandra became increasingly dependent on Rasputin and his advice (which she accepted as coming directly from God through him).
Russia was grossly unprepared for war with Germany when it began, and suffered staggering losses as a result. Nicholas felt it his duty to lead his army directly, and moved closer to the front to oversee the operations of the war, leaving domestic issues essentially in the hands of Alexandra. He did not understand (since he had little input from the common people) how suspicious the common people were of his wife, both because she was German by birth and because of her affiliation with Rasputin. Rasputin was seen by almost everyone other than Alexandra as a charlatan and a satyr, and there was a popular assumption that he must be sleeping with the Empress (although all available evidence indicates that their relationship was entirely platonic -- perhaps the only entirely platonic relationship Rasputin had with a woman during his time in St. Petersberg). Alexandra was widely considered a traitor who was trying to destroy the country. Not knowing the young tsarevich's condition and the role Rasputin played in its treatment, they could see no legitimate reason for the scoundrel to be involved with the tsaritsa. Sadly, the decisions she was making with Rasputin's advice were decisions Rasputin made based on whether an individual respected Rasputin rather than on his ability to serve in whatever role was required, resulting in policy disasters which combined with the losses in the war and the rumors regarding her affair with Rasputin to provide such fuel to the fire of the revolutionaries that it ultimately led to the end of the Romanov dynasty, two revolutions, and the execution of Nicholas and Alexandra and their children and other Romanovs seen as a threat to the Bolsheviks.
Nicholas, Alexandra, and their five children remained in the royal residence with decreasing staff until they were moved to Tobolsk in Siberia in August 1917, an effort by the struggling Kerensky government to keep them safer than was possible in Tsarskoe Selo. They remained there until after the Bolshevik Revolution in November 1917 (the "October Revolution"), and were moved to Soviet controlled Ekaterinburg (later renamed Sverdelovsk Russia, after Jacob Sverdelov, who arranged their execution), and were killed by a group of secret police in the basement of the house they had been imprisoned in on 16 July 1918. Their bodies were disfigured and destroyed, with the remains thrown down an abandoned mine shaft. The remains were eventually found, and DNA evidence indicated that Grand Duchess Anastasia died along with the rest of her family, setting to rest longstanding rumors that she had somehow survived and escaped.