A Royal Mystery Solved
June 5, 2018
Hers was a story which inspired novels, movies and mini-series and, for 89 years, the question remained: had she survived?
The woman in question was Anastasia Nikolaevna, better known as the Grand Duchess, daughter of the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II. She was born on June 5, 1901.
No doubt most people know how the Tsar and all his family were murdered by the Bolsheviks in August 1918. Yet rumors persisted for years that the youngest daughter of the family, Anastasia, somehow survived the event. From the Infallible Wikipedia:
“Rumors of Anastasia’s survival were embellished with various contemporary reports of trains and houses being searched for ‘Anastasia Romanov’ by Bolshevik soldiers and secret police. When she was briefly imprisoned at Perm in 1918, Princess Helena Petrovna, the wife of Anastasia’s distant cousin, Prince John Constantinovich of Russia, reported that a guard brought a girl who called herself Anastasia Romanova to her cell and asked if the girl was the daughter of the Tsar. Helena Petrovna said she did not recognize the girl and the guard took her away.”
To add to the intrigue, no less than ten women claimed to have been Anastasia. The most famous was a woman by the name of Anna Anderson who insisted she was the Grand Duchess until the day she died.
It was technology which paved the way for the puzzle to be solved. Although Anderson died in 1984, DNA testing on some kept pieces of her tissue in 1994 told the truth: she was not Anastasia.
The rumors that Anastasia – and possibly others – survived the execution were fueled by the very people who had killed them. Fearing backlash from Germany and damage to a recently signed peace treaty, the Russians told the Germans that the royal women had been moved to a safer location.
With those assurances – and no way to prove or disprove the claim – rumors persisted. The first Anastasia ‘sightings’ cropped up shortly thereafter.
After the fall of the Soviet Union it was revealed that the burial site of the family had been discovered in 1991. Was the mystery finally solved? Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:
“However, on 23 August 2007, a Russian archaeologist announced the discovery of two burned, partial skeletons at a bonfire site near Yekaterinburg that appeared to match the site described in Yurovsky’s memoirs. The archaeologists said the bones were from a boy who was roughly between the ages of ten and thirteen years at the time of his death and of a young woman who was roughly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three years old. Anastasia was seventeen years and one month old at the time of the assassination, while her sister Maria was nineteen years, one month old and her brother Alexei was two weeks shy of his fourteenth birthday. Anastasia’s elder sisters Olga and Tatiana were twenty-two and twenty-one years old respectively at the time of the assassination. Along with the remains of the two bodies, archaeologists found ‘shards of a container of sulfuric acid, nails, metal strips from a wooden box, and bullets of various caliber’. The site was initially found with metal detectors and by using metal rods as probes.
DNA testing by multiple international laboratories such as the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory and Innsbruck Medical University confirmed that the remains belong to the Tsarevich Alexei and to one of his sisters, proving conclusively that all family members, including Anastasia, died in 1918. The parents and all five children are now accounted for, and each has his or her own unique DNA profile.”
And thus ended years of questions and impostors and the mystery of Anastasia turned out not to be a mystery after all.
Last year for my birthday my sister and niece gave me a DNA kit. I think it’s about time I take a swab and send it in since I’m pretty certain I must be related to royalty somewhere. Not the Grand Duchess perhaps but some nice British royalty would be good. I’m still unhappy that I didn’t receive an invite to Harry and Meghan’s wedding.
For more on Anastasia and also Anna Anderson, two links: