Nicholas and his brothers were linked to other European nobility, notably first cousins George V (future King of England) and Wilhelm II, Germany's final Kaiser (Emperor). In the year 1881, when Nicholas was studying in St. Petersburg, his father, Alexander III, was declared emperor of Russia.
Alexander III had no children of his own, so when he died in 1894 his titles and lands passed to Nicholas. The new Emperor wanted to show that he was not a "tsar", but a real ruler with a government of his own, so he decided to call himself "Czar" instead of "Emperor".
This decision caused some confusion because Russia was still part of the Eastern Orthodox Church, while Austria-Hungary had converted to Roman Catholicism. In fact, when Nicholas announced this decision, there were shouts of "Long live the Pope!" during a public ceremony where he received the title "Defender of Christians Everywhere."
The relationship between Russia and Austria-Hungary became more tense as time went by. In 1914, when Nicholas II was assassinated at Sarajevo, this country was finally going to war against its former ally.
Belgrade and Bucharest both claimed that they should be the true successor state to the Russian Empire, but neither one agreed to give up their claims peacefully.
Nicholas was linked to numerous European rulers. Nicholas and Alexandra were second cousins once removed, descended from Louis II, Grand Duke of Hesse and his wife, Princess Wilhelmine of Baden. They were also third cousins once removed, descended from King Frederick William II of Prussia. Additionally, they were both first cousins, twice removed from their common ancestor, Emperor Francis I.
Their marriage was not only political, but also religious; the couple began as Protestants but converted to Orthodoxy after they married. However, there is no evidence that Nicholas met with any resistance from the Russian Imperial Family regarding their different religions.
In Russia at that time, the imperial family was considered separate from other noble families. It had its own laws, officials and institutions. There were no equal rights for women in Russia at that time. The empress was regarded as a sacred figure who could never be opposed or judged by others. Men who offended against this idea were punished by exile or death.
Thus, the marriage of Nicholas and Alexandra was intended to strengthen Russia's alliance with Austria-Hungary by bringing together two royal families with similar traditions and politics. Also, the marriage was seen as a way for Russia to escape the political chaos that existed within Europe at that time. Finally, the couple was in love and wanted to have children. However, due to her illness, this did not happen until after she died.
In reality, they were all cousins: Wilhelm and George were first cousins, George and Nicholas were second cousins, and Wilhelm and Nicholas were third cousins. Wilhelm's mother was George's father's sister; George's mother and Nicholas' mother were Danish royal family sisters. Therefore, all four men were first-degree relatives.
Wilhelm and George were both born in Denmark, but their families moved to Germany when they were young. They grew up in Berlin and were close friends who shared many interests including hunting, dancing, and music. In 1730, when Wilhelm became the prime minister of Prussia, he made George his secretary. Two years later, George married Wilhelmine von Baden, who was a wealthy widow with children. She was a cousin of Wilhelm and Nicholas and their spouses. The couple had two sons and two daughters together. George was 46 years old when he died in 1765.
Nicholas I was crowned king of Poland in 1733 at the age of 19. He was an orphan and was raised by his grandmother, Anna Ivanovna, and her husband, Peter II. When Peter II died, Nicholas married Anne Marie of Austria, the daughter of the emperor Charles VI. She was also a first cousin of Wilhelm and George. The couple had three children: a son who died in infancy, a daughter who lived only a few months, and a third child who was stillborn.
Wilhelm II and Nicholas II were third cousins (both were great-great-grandsons of Paul I of Russia) and second cousins once removed (both were derived from Frederick William III of Prussia), and Wilhelm was a first cousin of Nicholas' wife, Alix of Hesse, and Queen Victoria's eldest grandson. They were all children of Prince William of Wales and his wife, Princess Mary of Cambridge.
Kaiser Wilhelm II was the emperor of Germany from 1888 to 1918. He was the son of German Emperor William IV and his wife, Empress Augusta Viktoria. Wilhelm had several mental problems and was mentally unfit to rule during his last years on the throne. After he was declared insane and unable to rule Germany, his nephew Charles I became emperor.
Nicholas II was the emperor of Russia from 1894 to 1917. He was the son of Tsar Alexander III and his wife, Marie of Hesse and by Rhine. Nicholas II married Alix of Sweden, a daughter of King Gustav V and Victoria of Britain. They had two daughters: Anastasia and Maria.
Both Kaiser Wilhelm II and Nicholas II were monarchs of their countries at the time they were born. However, only one of them survived to see his country become a republic after his death: Nicholas II. The cause of Kaiser Wilhelm's early death has been debated among historians.