When Prince Felix Yusupov, Grand Duke Dmitri and their associates murdered Rasputin, they hoped that his elimination from the Tsar’s circle would shock him into adopting a more sensible approach to the governance of Russia. In this they are disappointed. When Rasputin’s body is recovered from the Neva, the police soon identify the men behind his murder. Their aristocratic status saves them from the full rigours of the law, but the Tsar orders them exiled from Petrograd. Family members and well wishers are forbidden from bidding them farewell at the station as they leave.
The Tsar becomes more determined to resist all demands to moderate his rule. He exiles another four grand dukes, whose loyalty he deems suspect. He sinks further into the political embrace of the Tsarina, who urges him to stand firm against any suggestion that he create some kind of representative government. He reduces his ties even to the pliant yes-men who populate his court.
Now it is Christmas in Russia. Previously this would have seen the Tsar and Tsarina exchange lavish gifts with the other members of royal family. This year though the event is passed in relative seclusion in their palace at Tsarskoe Selo.