Grigori Rasputin sprang from Siberian peasant obscurity to the bosom of the Russian royal family, with little grounding in spiritual training, literacy or personal hygiene. How? By using the talents he had. Casting himself as a mystic, he used his charisma to impress the Russian clergy, then found a market as 'healer' to the moneyed matrons of St Petersburg. Rasputin seized his moment by stepping up to 'cure' a bout of bleeding suffered by Tsar Nicholas II's haemophiliac heir. Apparent success made him the Tsarina's closest confidant. Many noble noses were put out of joint by the influence of this oddball, with his less than reputable seductions - many involving their wives. But it was Rasputin's own bragging that brought him a poisoning, several gunshot wounds and death by drowning. Murder plots may not be a staple feature of British business, but Rasputin's gruesome end offers a warning: if you got where you are through a lucky break, keep your head down and work on your weaknesses.
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