Rasputin certainly played an important role in the Romanov’s downfall. But I’m not sure their story would have turned out differently if the monk hadn’t been a part of it. After all, Rasputin only held sway with the imperial couple because they believed he could save their hemophiliac son, Alexei. Heir to the throne – their only son – they were desperate to cure him. Before Rasputin appeared on the scene, they’d already called in dozens of medical specialists. When that didn’t work they turned to herbalists and mystics. Alexandra especially believed in the healing power of faith and prayer. She spent hours on her knees, either in the small room off her bedroom or in the place chapel, begging God for a miracle. She agonized. She blamed herself for passing on the terrible disease. Then she heard about Rasputin and his miraculous powers of healing. Of course she believed the monk was the answer to her prayers. She was ripe for it. Did it actually matter that it was Rasputin? I don’t think so. I believe she would have seized on anyone who claimed to have healing powers. If not Rasputin, some other charlatan. That’s why I say the story probably wouldn’t have turned out differently. Some other charlatan would have played Rasputin’s role. And he or she would have been just as exploitative. Alexandra was ripe for that, too.
So what might have changed the Romanov’s story? Genetics. Imagine how differently events might have played out if Alexei had not been born with hemophilia. Out from under the daily anguish of her son’s disease, with no need for a Rasputin, Alexandra might have responded differently to the Russian people. They might have responded differently to her. Would it have stopped the Revolution? No. And yet, it might have quelled the torrent of hatred the people ultimately felt towards the Empress. It might even have saved the monarchy.