Why Some Speculate That Great Britain Had A Hand In Rasputin's Murder

On the night of December 19, 1916, Professor Dmitrii Kosorotov began his autopsy on the still-frozen corpse of Grigori Rasputin, which had pulled out of the Neva River in St. Petersburg, three days after the Russian mystic and advisor to Czarina Alexandra had gone missing. Among the various horrific wounds were three bullet holes, including one in his forehead, according to "Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs."

Each of the bullets came from different caliber pistols, with the killing shot to the forehead, most likely from a British-made .455 Webley revolver. This was the type of gun owned by Oswald Rayner, an agent from the British Secret Intelligence Service, the precursor to MI6, per the Daily Mail. Rayner, who British intelligence sent to Russia the year before, was a close friend of Prince Felix Yusupov, the alleged mastermind behind Rasputin's killing. And Oswald had been at his friend's palace the night of the murder.

Rasputin's rise to power  

Grigori Rasputin was a Siberian peasant born in 1869 who rose to the highest heights of power in the Imperial Russian empire through his association with the last of the Romanov dynasty that had ruled Russia for more than 300 years, per Britannica. Czar Nicholas II, and especially his wife Czarina Alexandra, were devoted to Rasputin for his strange ability to ease the suffering of their son and heir to the throne, Alexei, who had hemophilia, an incurable blood disease.

While the royal family may have loved Rasputin, there were many in their circle who did not, including Prince Felix Yusupov, one of the richest men in Russia who was married to the czar's only niece, per Sky History. He believed the "Mad Monk" held undue sway on the Czarina. He and two others, Vladimir Purishkevich, a member of parliament, and Grand Duke Dmitri, the czar's cousin, conspired to murder Rasputin.

Britain's involvement? 

The British also had a problem with the Russian mystic. This was the height of World War I and there were rumors that Rasputin planned to use his influence to sue for a separate peace with Germany, leaving the other Allies in the lurch, according to History Extra. The evidence is pretty thin that Oswald Rayner, acting on behalf of the British government, dealt the fatal blow to Rasputin. Still, rumors have lingered for more than 100 years that began soon after they dragged the mystic's body from the river. At the time, German intelligence believed the British were involved, as did many Russians.

What's for certain is that Prince Felix Yusupov and his co-conspirators lured Rasputin to Yusupov's palace before brutally beating, then murdering him on the night of Dec. 16, 1916, and dumping his body in the icy Neva River, per Smithsonian. Yusupov later claimed that he was the one who shot Rasputin, but that he'd told Rayner about his plans and that the two met up after the killing, per History Extra. The truth of the matter remains hazy, waiting for another historian to uncover incontrovertible evidence to prove or disprove whether the British had an official hand in Rasputin's murder.