Alexander II was the eldest son of Nicholas I (1825-55), who was nick-named the 'gendarme of Europe' from his autocratic attitudes. His son was more liberally minded and his reign is remembered for his wide-reaching reforms in the laws of the Empire, and for the abolition of serfdom. As a consequence he was known as 'The Liberator', but he was unable to control the rapidly changing attitudes among his population, in which certain elements became more radical and anarchic. His reign ended when a terrorist threw a bomb at his carriage in St. Petersburg on 1/13 March 1881, on the spot where the newly restored Church of the Blood now stands, as he descended from his carriage to assist the Cossack injured in the blast of the first bomb thrown seconds earlier.
The Tsar was wearing the watch and handkerchief when he was assassinated.
Married from 1841 to Princess Maria of Hesse-Rhine in 1841, who bore him eight children, the Emperor began a passionate affair with the young Princess Ekaterina Dolgorukaia in 1866. Her family sent her to Italy, but she was reunited with the Tsar in Paris, which he was visiting at the invitation of Napoleon III and to see the International Exhibition. Their relationship resulted in the birth of a son Georgii (1872-1913), and two daughters, Ol'ga (1873-1925) and Ekaterina (1878-1959). Forty days after the death of the Empress in 1880, the Tsar married the Princess morganatically granting her the title of 'Princess Iur'evskaia'. He died before he could elevate her to the rank of Empress.
After his death she was given the various personal effects he bequeathed to her in his will. In her will made in 1883 she included all these personal belongings with the intention of founding a museum in his memory. In this document she refers to the watch as a gift of Queen Victoria, however no evidence has been found to confirm this. Some objects were sold after the death of her son and the remainder after her own death.