Frightened by European revolutions, Nicholas I became completely reactionary. During the last years of the reign the Emperor's once successful foreign policy collapsed, leading to isolation and to the tragedy of the Crimean War. A dauntless champion of legitimism and a virtual hegemony of eastern and central Europe following the revolutions of 1848-49, Nicholas-in part because of his own miscalculations, rigidity, and bluntness-found himself alone fighting the Crescent (the Ottoman Empire), supported by such countries of the Cross as France, Great Britain, and Sardinia.
Although it is unlikely that Nicholas committed suicide, as several historians have claimed, death did come as liberation to the weary and harassed Russian emperor. An ordinary cold picked up in late February 1855 turned into pneumonia, which the once mighty, but now apparently exhausted, organism refused to fight. To the end the autocrat retained lucidity and dignity.
His last words to his heir and his family were: "Now I shall ascend to pray for Russia and for you. After Russia, I loved you above everything else in the world. Serve Russia."
Nicholas I was survived by his wife, Empress Alexandra, and their six children: Emperor Alexander II, the grand dukes Constantine, Nicholas, and Michael, and the grand duchesses Maria and Olga. Another daughter, Grand Duchess Alexandra, had died in 1844.
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