Nicholas II was born on May 18, 1868 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. He was the second son of Emperor Alexander III and his wife, Maria Fyodorovna. His grandfather was Alexander II, former Emperor of Russia. Nicholas' older brother, Alexander IV, died as an infant, leaving the throne to Nicholas.
As a child, Nicholas was quite shy and sensitive, and this personality trait led his father to bully him in an attempt to toughen him up. When Nicholas was hanging out with his friends, his father would even go so far as to mock him and call him a "girly girl". His mother, on the other hand, was very protective of him and spoiled him relentlessly.
As a youth, Nicholas fell in love with the daughter of Louis IV, Princess Alix. His father, Alexander III, did not approve of the relationship since he wanted his son to marry French royalty to solidify ties between the two nations. In spite of this, Nicholas married her without his father's approval.
In his free time, Nicholas enjoyed traveling the world. On one occasion, he traveled to Japan, where an attempted assassination by a swordsman left him with a scar on his forehead. Nicholas' life was saved by his cousin, Prince George of Greece, who blocked the second sword blow with his cane. The assassin's motivations were never revealed and it is possible that he was simply insane.
In 1894, Nicholas' father, Alexander III, died of kidney failure, leaving the throne to Nicholas. On his deathbed, the king reportedly finally reconciled with his son and approved his marriage. At the age of 26, Nicholas II took the throne, with minimal preparation for the important role. A tearful Nicholas reportedly said to his cousin, "What is going to happen to me and all of Russia?"
Over the next several years, Nicholas took over his role with vigor and seemed to be doing a good job. However, on January 22, 1905, a protest march in St. Petersburg revealed widespread disappointment with the working conditions in Russia and the government. The protests called for Tsar Nicholas II to establish democratic elections and reforms for working class citizens.
Nicholas rebuffed these demands, even declaring that 90% of the protesters were Jewish. On October of 1905, Nicholas delivered a manifesto in which he promised to protect the civil liberties of citizens and endorse the Duma (Russian Parliament) with legislative powers. In 1906, the Fundamental Law was established, which limited the power of the Duma and assured the Tsar's absolute control over Russia.
On August 12, 1904, Nicholas' wife bore him their fifth child, a son, Alexei, who became Tsarevich (heir apparent). Unfortunately, the young child was afflicted with hemophilia, a disorder that prevented his blood from clotting properly. The gene was reportedly carried by Nicholas' wife, Alexandra, who had received it from Queen Victoria. Nicholas did not reveal that his son carried the illness to the public for fear of further weakening his royal house's influence in Russia.
Nicholas' wife sought the help of a monk named Grigori Rasputin, who quickly came to their aid. He was reportedly able to help stop the bleeding, possibly by using hypnosis, but Alexandra believed that his powers came directly from God. Rasputin gained a great deal of influence in the royal family until he was ultimately executed in 1916. Some Russians believed that Rasputin had the royal family under a spell and was a negative influence on the throne.
On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by a Serbian named Gavrilo Princip. A great deal of tension erupted between the European countries, leading Nicholas to align himself with Serbia and establish protection treaties for the country. The Germans and Austrians did not take very kindly to this move, despite Nicholas' claims that he only desired peace. On July 31, 1914, Nicholas called for mobilization of Russian forces to the border with Austria, leading to German mobilization and World War I.
World War I officially started on August 1, 1914, and Nicholas found himself and Russia unprepared for what lay ahead. He ordered an attack on East Prussia, but the Germans quickly moved to defend the region and defeated the invading Russians. The war continued, with Russia achieving victories against Austrian and Ottoman forces. Despite these small victories, Russia continued to suffer heavy losses along the Austrian border.
In September of 1915, the Russian territory of Poland was lost to German forces. Nicholas, desperate for a change in tides, decided to dismiss his cousin Nikolai Nikolaevich as commander of the Russian Military and assumed command himself. To take command, Nicholas had to leave command of Russia to his wife, Alexandra. She was already unpopular since she was German and she failed to address the political unrest in the populace. The public began to wildly speculate about Rasputin, who was still a close associate with Alexandra, and his influence on her. He was eventually murdered on December 16, 1916 by a group of nobles who believed he was having a negative influence on the Russian war effort.
On the eastern front, Nicholas continued to lead the Russian forces, but the situation was quickly declining. Many of the soldiers began to strike during the winter and St. Petersburg was eventually overtaken by mutineering soldiers and strikers. In February of 1917, the Communist Revolution of Russia began in full force, eventually leading Nicholas II to abdicate his throne to Grand Duke Mikhail. The new provisional government of Russia arrested Nicholas and his family, keeping them prisoner in the Alexander Palace south of St. Petersburg. In August of 1917, they were moved to Tobolsk, Siberia to stay for the duration of the October Revolution. Later, they were moved to Yekaterinburg.
At 2:33AM on July 17, 1918, Nicholas and his family were led outside, where they were met by Yakov Yurovsky. Yurovsky declared, "In view of the fact that your relatives continue their offensive against Soviet Russia, the Presidium of the Ural Regional Soviet has decided to sentence you to death." At this, Nicholas reportedly said, "Lord, oh my God! Oh my God! What is this? I can't understand you!" At that point, Yurovsky shot Nicholas and his entire family dead, leaving their bodies to be dumped in a nearby forest. Their bodies were reportedly placed in acid and burned, before being dumped into a mineshaft.