It has always bothered me that the British government chickened out of offering sanctuary to the Romanovs. For many years, it was blamed on the Prime Minister, Lloyd George. In fact, it was George V himself who suggested offering Nicholas and his family asylum in England but then decided that it might look bad for him to accept his deposed Russian cousins under his protection. As a result, the British government essentially let the offer of asylum die on the table to avoid actually rescinding their offer.
What I find particularly ridiculous is that because of their cousin’s concern that Nicholas and Alexandra’s presence would cause a communist revolution in England the children were forced to suffer the same fate as their parents. Obviously, the family wanted to stay together if at all possible. However, if the English government had offered asylum only to the children I doubt that Nicholas and Alexandra would have refused to send them (once they realized the danger of their situation, that is.) The Grand Duchesses had no political significance and absolutely no power. The Tsarevich was ill; his doctors doubted that he would live to his sixteenth birthday. The children may have wanted to remain with their parents, but certainly would have agreed to go if given a direct order by their father.
To be honest, I think that it would have been relatively easy to smuggle the children out of Russia. Because they had grown up in such a secluded environment, most of the Russian people did not know what they looked like. When Olga and Tatiana served as nurses during the war, they were rarely recognized in their uniforms. They no longer dressed as royalty. Alexandra records in her diary and letters to friends that everyone’s clothing was wearing out and that she and the girls had to repair and make everything they wore. The last official photographs of the children were taken in 1916 and those were not widely distributed. We know now from their personal photo albums that they looked different in 1917 after the measles than they had when those photographs were taken and certainly by 1918, when they left Tobolsk.
With their short hair and ragged clothing, sympathetic forces could have smuggled them out of Tsarskoe Selo or Tobolsk to the Russian border or to a western port, where a ship would be waiting. Despite the fact that Germany and Russia were at war until 1918 when the Treaty of Brest Litovsk was signed, the Kaiser specifically ordered that any members of the Russian Imperial family who needed to pass through Germany or German waters be allowed to leave unmolested. He even expressed the desire to allow them sanctuary in Germany, which as we know, Nicholas and Alexandra refused.
I believe that ultimately Alexandra would have let her children go, preferring to stay with Nicholas. She made it clear when she decided to accompany her husband to Ekaterinburg, leaving four of her children behind, that Nicholas was her first priority. (That probably seems rather harsh but that is what her actions suggest-not to say she was not a loving mother.) Nicholas knew he was doomed from the beginning and would have been sensible about his children being secretly transported out of Russia.
Had the British government been more proactive and a little creative, perhaps the Grand Duchesses could have lived to be old women who led remarkable lives like their Aunt Olga Alexandrovna. Alexei could have at least died in relative peace and comfort with his sisters by his side.