Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia - Military Career and Public Duties

Military Career and Public Duties

Michael's mother, Dowager Empress Marie, moved back to Anichkov Palace with Michael and Olga. Like most members of his family, Michael was enrolled in the military. He completed training at a gunnery school and joined the Horse Guards Artillery. In November 1898, he attained legal adulthood, and just eight months later became heir presumptive to Nicholas as the middle brother, George, was killed in a motorcycle accident. George's death and the subsequent change in the line of succession highlighted that Nicholas did not yet have a son. As the succession was limited to males, his three daughters were ineligible. When Nicholas's wife, Alexandra, became pregnant in 1900 she hoped that the child would be male. She manoeuvred to get herself declared Regent for her unborn child in the event of Nicholas's death, but the government disagreed and determined Michael would succeed regardless of the unborn child's gender. She was delivered of a fourth daughter the following year.

Michael was perceived as unremarkable, quiet and good-natured. He performed the usual public duties expected of an heir to the throne. In 1901, he represented Russia at the funeral of Queen Victoria, and was given the Order of the Bath. The following year he was made a Knight of the Garter in King Edward VII's coronation honours. In June 1902, Michael transferred to the Blue Cuirassier Regiment, and moved to Gatchina, where the regiment was based. Since coming of age, Michael had assumed financial independence and his assets included the largest sugar refinery in the country, capital amounting to millions of roubles, a collection of motor vehicles, and country estates at Otrovo in Russian Poland and Brasovo near Orel.

Michael was heir presumptive until 12 August 1904, when the birth of Tsarevich Alexei to Nicholas and Alexandra provided an heir apparent. Michael again became second-in-line to the throne, but was named as co-Regent for the boy, along with Alexandra, in the event of Nicholas's death.

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