In my opinion, Mr. King's book centres upon the murderer of Rasputin rather than the murder itself. What fascinates me is that after so many history lessons and reading on Rasputin, I came to sympathize with the murderer rather than the victim. It was cold-blooded murder alright, the plotting of four very different men in the dead of winter when everything seemed to be asleep in the ice-trapped city of St. Petersburg.
What was the motive?
I am not sure what the other three accomplices had in their minds when they participated in this gruesome yet necessary scheme. Prince Felix Youssoupov definitely knew it had to be done. In his mind, it must have been crystal clear or should I say as clear as ice. Prince Felix must have a higher and broader vision when he committed murder. He was the most handsome young man of Europe of his time. He was the richest man and heir to the great title and noble house of Youssoupov in all of Russia. He was married to the beautiful Princess Irina, the Tsar's own niece. Why would he seek to take the life of a seemingly, holy man when he could have an easy way out and still keep his good name, his wealth, his intimate tidings with the royal family and his safety? He could have just left Russia with at least part of his wealth when he sensed that times were unstable, and danger for all aristocrats were at the doorstep. Such was the plan of a very out of the ordinary man, a young prince with such high hopes for his country that he would give up anything.
It must have been love. Love for Russia, and they must have called it, Mother Russia. For Mother Russia, he could have given his life as a murder had its risks. For the vast populace and the Romanov family, he thought he could have taken away the ivy that was poisoning them and became the murderer. The act, though righteous, might not win the understanding of the Romanovs and the peasants. For the good of such a great old country, his own, shared by many, good or bad, rich or poor, he was willing to risk all he had, including his vast wealth, freedom and good name. After the murder, he was banished to the desolate Rakitnoe. Although that was just a little discomfort and temporary, to a Prince who had everything in the world and the richest heir in Russia, that was already much to bear. Why would a spoilt Prince do something like this? Prince Felix was a great man in his own way, a man, like any other peasant, soldier, aristocrat, and any ordinary man, who loved his country and hated to see it go under in the hands of Rasputin, a person regarded by most as a mad monk. A monk is a good holy person. An influential, manipulating, mad, drunken monk can be hazardous and enough to bring down a great country, collapsing like the Tower of Babel. If one can only feel what's in the heart of Prince Felix when he plotted all of these. He must have weighed the pros and cons and still picked to commit the crime. He must have considered the consequences of it all, losing everything he loved and losing the love of his people, family, and the Tsar, and be despised by his country. He must have known he could become a man without a country one way or another. Such were the thoughts of a strange young man, I presume.
And Grand Duke Dimitri. He must have gone through all that had troubled Prince Felix. Worst than that, he seemed to have felt guilt according to the author. From my understanding of the book, he had failing health and was fragile in both body and soul after the incident. Grand Duke Dimitri was the romantic, sad and suffering hero while Prince Felix was the great and righteous hero to me, if murder is an heroic act. They were romantic heroes and the courage and love overwhelmed me as I read about them.
Fame and Glory
After all, I have a small doubt that this act was not out of love of one's own country, but just the game of four young men seizing badly wanted fame which they thought would result from the murder of one mad peasant monk, whom to them was nothing. Were their intentions purely selfish? The author offers insights to this possibility. Rasputin must have known what he thought was the right way to go for his country. Although after all this had happened, people might not agree with him. His presence was felt in the history of Russia even as I read it now. Everything seemed so sadly distant, far away and romantic, as if it was a tragic and beautiful story set in the far away, mysterious, and age old St. Petersburg. Russia, St. Petersburg, Winter Palace, Moika Palace, even the names sound like music. Not to mention that these places are picturesque as if only painted from one's imagination, but they are places that one can see, smell, hear, touch, feel and experience with one's heart.
The Romantic Nature
These times can only be reminisced. If you are romantic in nature, you might shed a tear as these images flashed across your eyes in your mind. A time that is gone and we could only bid it farewell with a sigh. Romance, murders, even life itself, seemed bigger and more intense and poetic during times of war and political change. There could be a murder of a bad person just right around the corner of your block and the whole neighbourhood seemed more secure, yet that is wrong, even a bad person has his rights. War changes some people's point of view. It veils each act of crime with a bit of romance, righteousness, courage, and love, or any virtue that can be used as an excuse, but under the circumstances, the crime had to be done.
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