August 12, 1904
BULLETIN: The Empress of Russia gave birth to a son today at 12:30 p.m., in St. Petersburg. The empress and her infant son are "doing well," according to the New York Times.
Empress Alexandra, the consort of Nicholas II, gave birth not at the "great palace at Peterhof," but at the Alexandra Villa, one of a group of "small palaces in a secluded corner of the magnificent Peterhof Park."
The Empress had been staying in this palace for several weeks. The other three palaces have been occupied by other members of the Imperial family, including the Dowager Empress Marie, and her two daughters, Grand Duchess Xenia and Grand Duchess Olga, and her younger son, Grand Duke Michael, as they awaited the birth of Nicholas and Alexandra's fifth child.
The Alexandra Villa is a "more private spot" than the main palace. The public has been excluded from this part of the park for "days past," as the four small palaces are hidden from view, "set in a thick forest of oaks, birches and lindens," hidden from view on "every side except toward the Gulf of Finland.
The announcement of the birth was followed immediately by a 101 gun salute from the "imperial yacht lying at anchor off the palace. It was not until 2:45 p.m., when the "guns of the St. Peter and St. Paul Fortress," opposite the Winter Palace, "conveyed the glad tidings to the people of the Russian capital."
The effect of the announcement was "electrical," especially when the 32 gun was fired. Only thirty-one guns are fired for a girl. When the local citizens realized that the Empress had finally given birth to a son, the "whole city had blossomed out with flags and bunting."
Then the church bells began to "ring wildly." The news of the birth was soon "telegraphed to the most remote corners of the empire. The "clangor of bells" and the sounds of cannons reverberated throughout the country. Services of Thanksgiving soon followed.
Tonight, the Emperor and members of the Imperial family attended a Te Deum at the chapel in the Villa Alexandra.
The baby will be named Alexis. Should he come to the throne, he will be known as Emperor Alexis II.
Nicholas II released a statement tonight in response to the congratulations from court officials: "I am happier at the birth of a son and heir than at a victory of my troops, for now I face the future calmly and without alarm, knowing by this sign that the war will be brought to a happy conclusion."
Nicholas married Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine in November 1894. The couple's first child, Grand Duchess Olga, was born a year later. Grand Duchess Tatiana was born in 1897, and followed by Grand Duchess Marie (1899) and Grand Duchess Anastasia (1901.)
Nicholas is not in robust health, and if he dies within the next few years, there will be a "long regency." But many believe that the birth of Alexis will "bring the Czar and his people closer together." Certainly the "enmity of the people", which has "hardly been concealed," will dissipate now that Alexandra has given birth to a son an heir.
Nicholas' younger brother, Grand Duke Michael, moves down to second in line to the throne. The birth of Alexis also puts a damper on the "ambitions" of Grand Duke Vladimir and his family. Vladimir, the eldest of Nicholas' uncle, will be "shattered" by the birth of a direct heir.
Grand Duke Michael is said to suffer from consumption, and Vladimir and his three sons, Grand Dukes Kirill, Boris and Andrew, are the next heirs in the line of succession.
Some see the accession of one of Vladimir's sons to the throne as a "national calamity," due to the "constant intrigues" by members of Nicholas' family.