Grigory Rasputin (c.1870-1916), also known as “the Mad Monk,” was a charismatic Russian peasant whose admirers believed he could perform miracles. He became a favorite of the Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra and was eventually assassinated.
Rasputin was a disheveled drunkard and a womanizer who scandalized the royal social circle. The Empress Alexandra was convinced that Rasputin was all that stood between her hemophiliac son and death; she refused to hear any criticism of him.
The traditional story of Rasputin’s assassination is that a group of aristocrats were behind it and found him extremely difficult to kill. According to the story, first they fed him poisoned cakes but he didn’t die. Then they shot him four times and beat him brutally. Still Rasputin lived. Finally, they tied him up and threw him into the Neva River, where he managed to untie himself before drowning.
A post-mortem photo of Rasputin shows a bullet hole in the center of his forehead.
Re-examining the evidence in 2005, Derrick Pounder, professor of forensic medicine at Dundee University, said that of the four shots fired into Rasputin’s body, the third (which entered his forehead) was instantly fatal. According to Pounder, the third bullet came from a Webley .455 inch unjacketed round. The Russian aristocrats may have set him up, but it’s possible that Rasputin was executed by a British secret service agent. Rasputin had already been instrumental in the dismissal of pro-British members of the Russian government, and he wanted the Tsar to withdraw Russian troops. He was seen as a threat to the efforts of the Allies in World War I.
The traditional version makes the more sensational story, of course.