Essay by spwclarkCollege, UndergraduateA, March 2008

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Hemophilia, also called the “bleeder's disease”, is a disease in which blood does not clot normally because of an X chromosome recessive disorder. The lack of the X chromosome causes a lower level of protein needed for normal blood clotting. Hemophilia is a inherited disorder which major signs and symptoms are bleeding and bruising. If not treated properly internal bleeding can lead to damage to the joints and muscles including death if left untreated. It became known as the “Royal disease” because it spread to the royal families of Europe through Queen Victoria. England's Queen Victoria was a carrier for this disease. Victoria passed the gene on to some of her children and grandchildren. Queen Victoria’s third daughter, Alice had a daughter named Alexandria. Had she accepted the offer of marriage from Prince Eddy or George, hemophilia would have been reintroduced into the British royal family. But Princess Alexandra married Nicholas II, Tsar of Russia, in 1894 she carried the disease into the Russian Imperial family. By 1903, the couple had produced four daughters. The next year, the long awaited male heir appeared - His Imperial Highness Alexis Nicolaievich, Sovereign Heir Tsarevich, and the Grand Duke of Russia was born.

From his father, the baby Alexis inherited the undisputed claim to the throne of all the Russias. From his mother, he inherited an X chromosome carrying a copy of the mutant gene for hemophilia. Soon after his birth, signs of Alexis' mutant gene appeared. At six weeks, he experienced a period of uncontrolled bleeding and by early 1905 the royal physicians had concluded that he was suffering from hemophilia. It was at that time Gregory Effimovitch, known as Rasputin, was introduced to the royal family.

Rasputin arrived in St. Petersburg, accompanied by his reputation as a man of God with miraculous healing powers. Rasputin played a special role in the royal court, because Princess Alexandra believed that her prayers may have been answered and that Rasputin would be able to save her son from the hemophilia. It appeared Rasputin was the only one that could ease Alexis’ pain on several occasions. Because of this ability Rasputin had a large influence over Princess Alexandra. Because of this influence Rasputin was able to secure his position with in the royal family.

At the time, Russia was the world's largest and most absolute autocracy. Nicholas and Alexandra insisted that Alexis' hemophilia be kept secret. Without knowledge of the hemophilia, no one could understand Rasputin's power over the royal family. Given Rasputin's reputation of a promiscuous life, rumors of royal debauchery began to spread, undermining the respect for the Empress, the Tsar, and the monarchy.

While World War I raged and political turmoil churned in the country, Alexandra agreed with Rasputin beliefs and encouraged Nicholas to reject all attempts to reform and not share Imperial power. In an effort to break Rasputin's hold over the royal family, several conspirators murdered Rasputin in December of 1916. This was almost exactly 100 years after the first mutation in Russia. Nicholas, Alexandra, and all of their children were believed to be murdered by their Bolshevik guards. This appeared to be the end of the Russian Imperial family. That is until 1995, when a sixty three year old man proclaimed himself the grandson of Nickolas II’s youngest daughter, Anastasia. Anastasia’s body had never been recovered after the family had been murdered. It was told Anastasia survived and was raised by a farmer. She later married and had a daughter which had son. This lone survivor not only shared the last name of Romanov, but also the disease hemophilia. The Imperial family of Czarist Russia was alive again.

Could it be that the single mutation in the single cell that became Victoria was responsible for the rise of communism? Yes. Had it not been for the agony of Alexis' hemophilia Alexandra would have not been desperate to find a way to save him, which made her turn to Rasputin. Guided by Rasputin, Alexandra objected to any sharing of the Imperial power. By Nicholas giving way to his wife and fighting to save the autocracy and he denied every plea for responsible government. This is what allowed communists to gain power. Perhaps a single genetic event can change the course of history.