Returning to his wife at Tanganroy, he was seized with a fever, probably caused by care and toil. The disease was so rapid in its progress as to lead many to suppose that he was falling a victim to poison. On the approach of death, perceiving that he was dying, he requested that he might be raised upon his pillow, that he might once more behold the light of the sun. He simply remarked, “How beautiful is the day!” and fell back upon his pillow to die. The empress was weeping by his side. He took her hand, pressed it tenderly as if bidding her an eternal adieu, and died. It was the 1st of December, 1825.
The empress Elizabeth in this sad hour forgot all her wrongs; for the emperor had by no means been to her a faithful husband. She wrote to her friends, “Our angel is in heaven; and, as for me, I still linger on earth: but I hope soon to be reunited with him in the skies!”
The cry immediately resounded through Europe that Alexander had fallen by poison. As the emperor had no children living, the crown, by hereditary descent, passed to his next brother, Constantine. Alexander had long been conscious that Constantine did not possess suitable qualifications to govern, and Constantine himself, frivolous and pleasure-loving, was not at all emulous of imperial power. When a mere boy he had been married to a German princess, but fifteen years of age. They endured each other through the angry strifes of four years and then separated. Constantine became enamored of the daughter of a Polish count, and sought a divorce. Alexander consented to this arrangement on condition that Constantine would resign all right to the throne. The terms were gladly accepted, and Constantine signed the following renunciation, which was kept secret until the occasion should arise for it to be promulgated.
“Conscious that I do not possess the genius, the talents or the strength necessary to fit me for the dignity of a sovereign, to which my birth would give me a right, I entreat your imperial majesty to transfer that right to him to whom it belongs after me, and thus assure for ever the stability of the empire. As to myself, I shall add, by this renunciation, a new guarantee and a new force to the engagements which I spontaneously and solemnly contracted on the occasion of my divorce from my first wife. All the circumstances in which I find myself strengthen my determination to adhere to this resolution, which will prove to the empire and to the whole world the sincerity of my sentiments.”
Another document had also been prepared which declared Alexander’s second brother, Nicholas, heir to the empire. Napoleon, at St. Helena, speaking of the King of Prussia and of Alexander, said,
“Frederic William, as a private character, is an honorable, good and worthy man, but in his political capacity he is naturally disposed to yield to necessity. He is always commanded by whoever has power on his side, and is about to strike.