By the end of 1916, the extended Romanov family was desperate.
Someone had to put a stop to Rasputin. For some reason, the tsar and tsarina appeared to be completely bamboozled by this drunken, filthy man who took bribes and sold government appointments.
Perhaps Rasputin sensed he had gone too far. He sent this prophetic letter to the tsarina in early December:
I write and leave behind me this letter at St. Petersburg. I feel that I shall leave life before January 1st.
I wish to make known to the Russian people to Papa to the Russian Mother and to the children to the land of Russia what they must understand. If I am killed by common assassins and especially by my brothers the Russian peasants, you Tsar of Russia, have nothing to fear. Remain on your throne and govern and you, Russian Tsar, will have nothing to fear for your children, they will reign for hundreds of years in Russia.
But if I am murdered by boyars, nobles and if they shed my blood, their hands will remain soiled with my blood for twenty-five years they will not wash their hands from my blood. They will leave Russia. Brothers will kill brothers, and they will kill each other and hate each other, and for twenty-five years there will be no peace in the country.
The Tsar of the land of Russia, if you hear the sound of the bell which will tell you that Grigory has been killed, you must know this: if it was your relations who have wrought my death, then none of your children will remain alive for more than two years. And if they do, they will beg for death as they will see the defeat of Russia, see the Antichrist coming, plague, poverty, destroyed churches, and desecrated sanctuaries where everyone is dead.
The Russian Tsar, you will be killed by the Russian people and the people will be cursed and will serve as the devil’s weapon killing each other everywhere. Three times for 25 years they will destroy the Russian people and the orthodox faith and the Russian land will die.
I shall be killed. I am no longer among the living. Pray, pray, be strong, and think of your blessed family.
Rasputin did not see 1917.
Inevitably, a plot was hatched. Five nobles, including the tsar’s cousin and his nephew by marriage, conspired to poison the monk.
Late on the night of December 29, 1916, Rasputin was invited to Prince Felix Yusupov’s palace on the River Neva to meet his wife Princess Irina.
Apparently, Rasputin not suspicious. He readily entered Prince Yusupov’s wine cellar, supposedly to wait for the princess to appear, and accepted the pastries and wine. The noblemen stared in amazement as the monk consumed enough cyanide to kill five men. Rasputin rose, as if to go. Prince Yusupov panicked and shot him. The monk slumped to the ground.
In his memoir, co-conspirator Colonel Lazovert wrote, “We left the room to let him die alone, and to plan for his removal and obliteration.” Yusupov eventually became nervous, and returned to the cellar. He bent over the monk and to his shock, Rasputin’s eyes opened and he roared in rage. His thick hands gripped Yusupov. The prince struggled away and ran from the room, crying out that Rasputin was alive.
“We heard a strange and unearthly sound behind the huge door that led into the library. The door was slowly pushed open, and there was Rasputin on his hands and knees, the bloody froth gushing from his mouth, his terrible eyes bulging from their sockets.”
The monk staggered into the garden, and the nobles shot him twice more – once in the back and once in the head. Yusupov beat Rasputin with a club until he was dragged away. Though convinced he was dead, the conspirators bound him, wrapped him in a sheet, and cut a hole in the ice covering the River Neva, so they could throw monk’s body into the freezing water.
Alexandra insisted the police drag the river, and Rasputin’s body was recovered. Onlookers were astonished to find the monk had freed an arm, which was upraised – as though he died clawing at the ice above him. Water in his lungs proved he died by drowning.
Rasputin was buried in secret to avoid desecration.
Two conspirators were exiled, and the others escaped.