Tall and physically strong, Alexander III seemed to embody the legendary Russian bear. His autocratic grip on the enormous country was equally powerful. Alexander became Emperor of Russia at a difficult time. Indeed, at his coronation in Moscow in 1883, he said, “I do not consider this day a holiday and do not accept any congratulations.”

After the assassination of his father in 1881, the Tsar moved away from the seething unrest of the Imperial capital to the security of the Gatchina Palace, 28 miles from St. Petersburg. People called him the Gatchina Hostage. Alexander lived a simple life in his great-grandfather’s favorite palace, together with his beloved wife Maria Fedorovna, born a Danish princess, and their six children.

His modest tastes are reflected in his plain white coronation service decorated with the Imperial Eagle. Alexander pursued peace not only in his domestic life—his reign is unique in Russia’s history as no wars were waged. A skillful diplomat, he was cautious in his dealings with other governments. His famous saying is, “Russia has only two allies – its Army and its Navy.”

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