A Brief History
On May 11, 1891, while paying a State visit to Lake Biwa, Otsu, Japan, heir to the throne of the Russian Empire Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (the future Czar Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia) was attacked with a sword by one of the Japanese policemen escorting him, wounding the Tsesarevich.
Lucky for Nicholas his cousin, Prince George of Greece and Denmark (seriously, Greece and Denmark? How did that happen?) was on the spot with his cane, with which he blocked the second sword strike, saving the life of Nicholas. The first strike had landed on Nicholas’s forehead, causing a nasty cut that left a permanent scar, but was not life threatening.
The would-be assassin, Tsuda Sanzo, attempted to flee, but was run down by a pair of rickshaw pullers (this stuff cannot be made up!) who tackled and captured Sanzo. With some tension between Japan and Russia, the incident threatened to precipitate an International Incident that could possibly lead to war between the 2 countries, a war Japan was woefully ill prepared for. Emperor Meijii and his staff immediately began damage control, catering to the every need of Nicholas and eliciting an outpouring of support by the Japanese public that included 10,000 telegrams wishing Nicholas well. The Japanese public was so embarrassed by the attack that one town banned the names “Tsuda” and “Sanzo” and a girl slit her own throat in public to protest the dastardly murder attempt! (Note: Tsuda is the Japanese family or “last” name, while “Sanzo” is the given or “first” name.)
Tsuda Sanzo was convicted of attempted murder and despite government and public sentiment that he be put to death, he was given a sentence of life in prison by a judge eager to prove the independence of the Japanese judiciary. (Sanzo died in prison of an illness later that year.)
The heroic rickshaw drivers were well rewarded by the Russians, with medals and monetary rewards. The Japanese Foreign Minister and Japanese Home Minister were forced to resign in disgrace for failing to prevent the incident.
In spite of all the efforts to minimize the diplomatic damage caused by the assassination attempt, Russia and Japan would indeed go to war in 1904-1905 while Nicholas II sat on the throne of Russia. This war did not go well for the Russians, with American President Teddy Roosevelt eventually brokering a peace at the Treaty of Portsmouth, the first major victory by an Far East Asian power over a European power.
Unfortunately for Czar (can be spelled “Tsar”) Nicholas II, his reign would be cut short by the Russian Revolution when the Czar and his family were murdered by the Communists in 1918.
Many national leaders and heirs apparent have survived assassination attempts over the years, including US Presidents. Question for students (and subscribers): Which incidents of this type strike you as most interesting? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Radzinsky, Edvard. The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II. Anchor, 1993.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of Russian Tsarivich Nicholas (future Tsar Nicholas II) at Nagasaki, 1891, is in the public domain in Japan because its copyright has expired according to Article 23 of the 1899 Copyright Act of Japan (English translation) and Article 2 of Supplemental Provisions of Copyright Act of 1970. This is when the photograph meets one of the following conditions:
- It was published before January 1, 1957.
- It was photographed before January 1, 1947.