- Netflix miniseries The Last Czars tells the story of Czar Nicholas II and the Romanov family's fall from power in early 20th century Russia.
- The series also examines the family's relationship with mystic Rasputin.
- Some viewers are wondering: Did Rasputin sleep with the Czar's wife, Alexandra, in real life?
The blending of fact and fiction in Netflix's docu-drama miniseries about Russia's fallen Romanov family, The Last Czars, has captivated many viewers — but it also has them asking questions. What's the true story behind The Last Czars? Why does the Last Czars cast speak with British accents instead of Russian ones? And, of course, did Grigori Rasputin ever have an affair with Czarina Alexandra?
It might be disappointing to some viewers of the Netflix series, but the answer to that last question is most likely a resounding no. Douglas Smith, a historian and author of the biography Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs, put it this way in an October 2018 interview with Town & Country:
There is no truth to the stories about Rasputin and the Empress Alexandra having been lovers. Alexandra was quite a prudish, Victorian woman. There's no way, and no proof, that she would have looked to Rasputin for sex. Those on the left, who wanted revolution and the overthrow of the Romanovs, spread such tales to indict the monarchy as hopelessly corrupt and debased. Those on the right, who resented the royal couple's embrace of a peasant they viewed as a dangerous charlatan, spread such tales hoping to convince Nicholas and Alexandra to send Rasputin away for good.
Very interesting, indeed. Of course, it's easy to see why many assume there was some sort of sexual relationship between Rasputin and the Czarina: Rasputin himself was known for being rather promiscuous, and in the final years before the fall of the Romanov dynasty, Alexandra certainly maintained a deep connection to him. In fact, her dependency on him (and his influence over her as a result) was widely known and disapproved of by the public.
But looking at everything that we know for sure, it seems fair to say that Alexandra's deep relationship with Rasputin was not one based on her love for him, but rather one based on her love for her young son. Alexei, the heir to the Russian throne, was born with hemophilia (a disorder in which the blood does not clot normally), and Alexandra believed that mystic Rasputin possessed the ability to heal him. Thus, she granted him unprecedented access to the Russian royal family and their affairs.
Still, if you've watched The Last Czars, you might be skeptical that nothing romantic existed between Alexandra and Rasputin — it did seem like there was a lot of sexual chemistry going on between actors Susanna Herbert and Ben Cartwright, after all.As it turns out, though, that intense, boundary-pushing chemistry was intentional on the actors' parts.
"I think Susanna and I felt there was a deep connection between the two," Ben told Express. "From a dramatic point of view, it is obviously brilliant to have tension between the two, a sexual chemistry or religious chemistry or what have you, but we left that out there and left it ambiguous because I don't think anyone really knows."
Maybe that's true — maybe none of us will ever know with 100% certainty what occurred between Rasputin and the Czar's wife. But considering all the information we have right now, we're going to consider this Russian history myth busted.
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