How many murder attempts, you ask? FIVE was the magic number, that’s right, five, and all in the same night!
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, was a Siberian-born peasant and monk. At the young age of 23, he left his wife and three children to follow his calling and join an Orthodox monastery. After only 3 months however, he quit and began wandering west as a pilgrim, towards the Russian capital. Here remarkably his fame as a self-proclaimed Religious Mystic began to grow. He possessed a certain magnetism and allure that attracted zealots. He was soon believed to be both a proven Healer and Prognosticator.
In 1906, he was introduced to Czar Nicholas II and Czarina Alexandra. The couple was desperate for help to stop the bleeding of their hemophiliac son, and heir to the throne. The 4 year old Czarevich Alexei had been injured and lay dying. Before he even arrived, Rasputin boldly predicted the boy would live! By ordering the discontinuation of aspirin (the newly discovered wonder drug), the bleeding slowed and the boy lived. Thereafter, Rasputin held high favor in the eyes of the Czarina Alexandra. She invited him back often to the Winter and Peterhof Palaces and he became her closest confidant and advisor.
Rasputin began to slowly exert a powerful influence on the royal family, infuriating nobles, priests, and the press alike. He particularly influenced the Czarina, and was rumored to be her Secret Lover! Though an ungroomed , unwashed monk in appearance, he projected a hypnotic animal-magnetism over women (and even some men) in the royal court. Rasputin was no pious, saintly monk however.
He relished his influential position and was widely criticized for his frequent drunken orgies.
When Czar Nicholas departed St. Petersburg to lead the Russian Army in World War I, Rasputin effectively ruled the royal family through Alexandra. Wary of the “Mad Monk’s” growing power, an unlikely trio of nobles planned his murder. Led by Prince Felix Yusupov, husband of the czar’s niece, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, Nicholas’s first cousin, and Vladimir Purishkevich an outspoken member of Parliament. Their plan was simple, poison the monk to avoid the alarm of gunshots.
Prince Felix lured Rasputin to Yusupov Palace on the night of 17 December 1916 with a request to help his supposedly ill wife. In a basement apartment, potassium cyanide crystals were crushed and added to both pastries and his wine glass. Afterwards, they would wrap the body in a rug and dispose of it in a hole cut in the frozen Nevka River.
Rasputin arrived after midnight and over the course of the night ate several pastries and drank numerous glasses of wine, but showed NO ill effects! Beginning to panic, Prince Felix excused himself and returned with Purishkevich’s revolver. The Prince promptly shot Rasputin at close range in the chest. His fellow conspirators rushed into the room and watched the monk convulse, then lie still. They went upstairs to celebrate, planning to dump the body later in the dead of night. The Prince however, remembering well the cyanide’s lack of affect, felt the sudden urge to check Rasputin again. Going downstairs, he discovered the body still warm! Rasputin jumped to his feet and grabbed Prince Felix about the neck. The Prince shook himself free and ran off, screaming:
“He lives! He lives!”
The trio ran back down and found Rasputin dashing across the snowy courtyard, trying to escape! “I will inform the Czarina!” he shouted. Purishkevich’s shot him twice more in the back and the monk fell to the ground, whereupon Vlad kicked him repeatedly in the head for good measure. Dragging his body to the palace, the Prince took his turn, beating the monk’s body with a dumbbell. A policemen arrived at the door, having heard the gunshots, and they managed to convince him all was in order. Not to be outdone, once the officer left, Rasputin moaned. The bastard was still alive! The men tied his hands and feet, then wrapped him in bed linens. Tossing him in Valdimir’s car, they drove to the bridge over the Nevka. By now it was almost dawn! They rushed and neglected to weigh down the body first, dumping him into the hole in the freezing river.
Rasputin’s sodden corpse was discovered downriver two day later. Amazingly, his arms were found over his head, trying to escape the sheets. He was still alive when dumped in the river and had ultimately died by drowning! The Czarina ordered an immediate investigation and the three main conspirators were all exiled. There would be little rest for the royal Romanovs however. Within three months, Lenin’s Bolshevik Revolution put an end to their imperial regime. Nicholas and Alexandra abdicated and were arrested trying to escape into exile. The Czar and Czarina were executed by the Communists, along with all five children, a year later.