A brief look at the House of Romanov
The Romanovs were one of the aristocratic families of Moscow. In 1613, the Russian crown was offered to Mikhail Romanov, and he became Michael I, the first Tsar of Russia from the House of Romanovs.
Peter the Great was his grandson, and it was he that established the first Russian empire and transformed the country through his social reforms and wars. The direct male line of the Romanovs came to an end with Peter’s daughter, Empress Elizabeth, who died in 1762 with no children.
However, the Holstein-Gottorps of Russia were related to the Romanovs through their matrilineal descent through Anna Petrovna (Peter the Great’s elder daughter by his second wife). In 1742, Empress Elizabeth brought Anna’s son, her nephew Peter of Holstein-Gottorp, to St. Petersburg and proclaimed him her heir.
He married the German princess, Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst who took the Russian name Catherine upon her marriage. She overthrew her husband, and with the aid of her lover Grigory Orlov, went on to reign as Catherine the Great.
Catherine’s grandson Alexander II (who was assassinated at the future location of the Church of the Spilled Blood) is best known for liberating the serfs in 1861. He was succeeded by his son Alexander III who was very conservative and reversed some of the liberal reforms of his father. There were no major wars during his reign.
His eldest son, Nicholas II, was the last Romanov Emperor. Nicholas II abdicated on behalf of himself and his son, in March 1917, during the February Revolution ending over 300 years of Romanov rule. He was executed, along with members of his family, by the Bolsheviks in July 1918.