...On the morning of 3/16 July [1918] Yurovsky made his final dispositions; under his command the House of Special Purpose had become in effect a branch of Cheka (the Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Speculation, or secret police). The young kitchen-boy was sent away from the house. In the afternoon Nicholas and his daughters walked normally in the garden. In the evening Yurovsky assembled his picked guards; the whole Imperial Family, he said, was to be shot. Just after midnight he went up to awaken his prisoners, telling them that there were urgent reasons why they must be moved. Inured to such alarms as these, they washed, dressed and put on their outdoor clothes ready for another journey into the unknown. Alexandra wore her overcoat. Some carried pillows into which jewels had been stitched. Alexis, very sleepy, was in his father's arms. Anastasia was carrying her tiny dog.

Yurovsky led them downstairs into the yard, through a separate doorway to the lower floor, and at length to a vaulted, unfurnished semi-basement room, sixteen feet by eighteen, with a double window heavily grated. They would wait here for a while; at Nicholas's request Yurovsky sent for chairs. When they came Alexandra sat in one by the window and Nicholas took a second, supporting Alexis on his arm and shoulder as the boy rested across the third chair. Behind them, almost as if a group photograph were being taken, were the Grand Duchesses, Dr. Botkin, and cook, valet and maid, the very tall Anna Stepanovna Demidova. One of the pillows she had brought she put now behind Alexandra's back; the other she held tightly.

A fleeting pause; then the Cheka guard tramped in, all with heavy revolvers. Yurovsky stepped forward; it is not known precisely what he said; the last phrase seems to have been: "We are compelled to shoot you." Nicholas half rose, still holding Alexis. He had begun to speak when Yurovsky shot him in the head and he died at once. Alexandra made the sign of the Cross before she, too, was killed. All fell except Demidova; the killers seized rifles from the next room and bayoneted her more than thirty times as she ran screaming by the wall with only a pillow to protect her. Just for a moment Alexis, moaning, moved his hand and Yurovsky fired at him again, twice or three times. Anastasia had merely fainted; coming to suddenly, she screamed, whereupon she was at once bayoneted and beaten to death. A guard smashed her dog's head with the butt of a rifle.

Rolled up in sheets and covered with mats, the corpses were packed into a lorry which reached the Four Brothers by dawn. There in the woods encircled by a cordon of Red Guards, the grim process of hacking, sawing, and burning in a petrol-fed bonfire - with sulphuric acid being used for the larger bones - continued for fully three days. What remained was hurled down the mineshaft. More than a week afterwards a White army took Ekaterinburg. It found the Ipatiev house empty; the semi-basement room, scrubbed though it had been with sand, sawdust, and water, bore blood smears and stains, with the scars of many bullets and bayonet-thrusts; plaster had fallen from the walls. In the courtyard, half starved, was the sole survivor of the Imperial Family, the Tsarevich's spaniel which one of the guards had stolen. Its name was Joy.

(An excerpt from the book "The House of Special Purpose" by John Courtenay Trewin, 1982)

Troparion of the Imperial Martyrs Tsar Nicholas & Family (Tone 1)

Most noble and sublime was your life and death, O Sovereigns; Wise Nicholas and blest Alexandra, we praise you, Acclaiming your piety, meekness, faith, and humility, Whereby ye attained to crowns of glory in Christ our God, With your five renowned and godly children of blessed fame. O passion-bearers decked in purple, intercede for us.