To the royal family, Gregory Rasputin was literally a godsend, a faith healer who was able to relieve their young son, Prince Alexei’s sufferings. Alexei was a descendant of the British Queen Victoria, whose considerable progeny all suffered from hemophilia, causing uncontrollable bleeding. When the court’s best physicians found themselves helpless before the disease, the Queen called on peasant healer Rasputin, whose techniques seemingly helped improve Alexei. Rasputin’s growing favor with the queen caused much jealousy among the nobles, to the point where a plot to kill him off was made.
On this day, December 16, in 1916, the group of Russian noblemen executed their plan to assassinate the “Mad Monk.” He was invited into the home of one of the plotters and served with poisoned food.
To the surprise of the plotters, Rasputin seemed alive and well after consuming the potassium cyanide-laced pastries. So they moved to a more brute method – they shot him in the back. That seemed to do the trick – but then several hours later, as one of them prepared to drag out Rasputin’s corpse to the river, the monk seemingly resurrected. Rasputin may have run out to the courtyard, or maybe not – either way he was subdued again with a couple of shots, and then cast into the river – where supposedly he broke free of his bindings and tried to swim out. In the end, Rasputin succumbed to the freezing river – but there are plenty who still believe that if the bullets and poison did not get him, surely the river couldn’t; that Gregory Rasputin lived, or lives on still.