I want people to look and see me, Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova, not the caboose on a train of grand duchesses. Someday, I promise myself, no one will be able to hear my name or look at my picture and suppose they know all about me. Someday I will do something bigger than what I am.” ― Sarah Miller, The Lost Crown
Anastasia Romanov was born in 1901 and was the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra, and the second youngest of the five Romanov children. Anastasia was murdered along with her family in 1918, but for years rumors of her survival persisted due to a lack of a known burial site. Since her death, she has been the subject of plays, movies, and books, and she continues to be a subject of fascination 100 years after her death. Below are 42 imperial facts about the Grand Duchess.
42. Hollywood Comeback
Ingrid Bergman’s turn as Anastasia imposter Anna Anderson was dubbed her comeback role after being blacklisted for having an affair and a child out of wedlock with Roberto Rossellini. At the time of filming, the producers didn’t know that Anna Anderson was still alive, but when they found out, they promptly secured her permission to use her name.
41. Not What He’d Hoped
Tsar Nicholas loved all of his children, but since having a male heir was crucially important, he was just a tad bit upset to discover that his fourth child was also a girl. When he learned the news, he was rumored to have taken a walk to collect himself and get over his disappointment.
40. Full of Mischief
Anastasia was reportedly a naughty child, and often got into trouble for her conduct. She was known to kick and scratch her playmates, pull pranks on household staff, and even to climb trees. Definitely not the behavior of a Duchess.
39. Symbolic Meaning
The name “Anastasia” derives from the Greek word meaning resurrection (fitting considering all of the rumors about her survival), but she was actually named for the 4th century martyr St. Anastasia. St. Anastasia was known as “the breaker of chains,” and she was given the name because of her father’s release of imprisoned Russian students in honor of her birth.
38. Don’t Cut Yourself
Despite her being an energetic and vivacious child, Anastasia suffered from a few health problems. She had bunions on her feet, a weak back muscle, and was believed to have inherited the hemophilia gene from her mother.
37. The Little Imp
One of Anastasia’s nicknames was “imp.” The nickname was reflective of her mischievous personality and her delight in making people laugh. Not a bad talent to have.
36. I Won’t Come Down!
Schoolwork in general was not one of Anastasia’s favorite activities, and she especially hated being stuck in a classroom (who can blame her?). To get out of lessons, she would climb up a tree and refuse to come down. I wonder how well that worked.
35. Raise My Mark, Please?
Not being the studious kind, Anastasia reportedly resorted to other methods to keep her grades up, including bribery. She once offered her English teacher flowers in exchange for a better grade, and when he refused, she gave them to her Russian teacher instead.
34. Little Pair
Anastasia and her sister Maria (the second-youngest daughter) were known as the “Little Pair” by members of their family. They shared a room, dressed almost alike, and spent a lot of their time together. The elder two sisters Olga and Tatiana were known as “The Big Pair,” and also shared a room. No word on whether or not they also dressed alike.
33. No More Talk of Them
When the Soviet Union was formed, any and all discussion of the Romanovs was banned by the communist party. Some older Russians couldn’t abide by the newly ordered state atheism and still held onto their Russian Orthodox faith, continuing to pray to Nicholas in private.
32. Keeping It a Secret
By the time the Romanov grave was discovered in the late 1970s, the Russian government was pretty fed up with the fact that people were still privately worshiping the Romanovs, and they decided to take drastic steps to destroy any remaining connection to the family. Obviously, making the discovery of the bodies known would have undermined their efforts to erase them from the conversation, so the bodies were left where they were and the findings suppressed.
31. Pretty and Charming
Anastasia was a short and chubby child with strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes. According to her governess, someone once called her the most charming child he had ever seen, and her mother’s friend Lili Dehn said her face was clever and her eyes extremely intelligent.
30. Fatal Lie
On July 17, 1918, the Romanov family and servants were woken by their Bolshevik captors, told to get dressed and ready themselves to flee. They gathered in the cellar and waited, not knowing that not only had the local authorities been ordered not to rescue them, but they had been sentenced to death in a secret meeting.
29. Brutal Execution
The execution of the Romanovs was violent and messy. The family was lined up as if to have their portrait taken, only to have a firing squad of men come into the room and gun them down. At the end of it all, anyone who was still breathing was stabbed. While I’m sure it felt longer to the Romanovs, the entire event lasted only about 20 minutes.
28. Furry Friends
All of the Romanovs were pet lovers, and each of the children had at least one pet. Anastasia’s pet was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Jimmy, and he was believed to have been in his mistress’s arms when she was executed, and was also killed. Tatiana’s dog was also killed later on. But Joy, Alexei’s dog, survived, and was eventually taken to the UK and given to Nicholas’ cousin King George, where it lived out the rest of its life at court.
27. Totally Disconnected
Nicholas and Alexandra were highly flawed individuals who, aside from being generally unfit to rule, were completely disconnected from the common folk. They enjoyed tremendous wealth and power, but when it came to their people, they were pretty obtuse. Unhappiness with the Romanovs led at least in part to the revolutions, and in 1917 Nicholas was forced to abdicate.
26. Rigorous Regime
One would think that growing up a princess means beautiful clothes, jewels, and a completely luxurious lifestyle, but that wasn’t how Alexandra raised her daughters. She followed the same strict upbringing that her mother and her grandmother Queen Victoria had imposed, handing down clothes from daughter to daughter, making them sleep on iron beds, and forcing them to take daily cold baths. Would a soft pillow have really killed them?
25. Just Pretty Faces
The Romanov daughters were fortunate (or unfortunate depending on how you look at it) to live a fairly secluded life away from the prying eyes of the press and the public while they were growing up. Due partly to the volatile political climate in Russia, and partly to the fact that they were girls, and therefore not important to the survival of the dynasty, their individuality was hardly considered or known, and all the public saw of them were the pictures released by the palace.
24. No Prince for Her
When the eldest two daughters were of marriageable age, everyone from the press to Queen Victoria started considering who the girls might marry. As hard as her parents tried to find Olga a match, she refused to marry a foreign prince and leave Russia, and her parents refused to force any of the girls into a marriage they didn’t want. Not smart politically, but a pretty cool move as parents.
23. Wartime Effort
At the onset of WWI, all of the Romanov women did their part to contribute to the war effort. Olga and Tatiana trained as Red Cross nurses and worked in the military hospital set up by their mother, while Maria and Anastasia, too young to be nurses, visited the wounded and played games with them to improve morale.
22. Last Alive
On the night of the brutal executions of the Romanov family, Anastasia Romanov was the last one left alive.
21. The Great Pretender
Anastasia wasn’t the only Romanov who had imposters claiming to be a surviving member of the royal family. Michael Goleniewski was a spy who ended up working for the CIA and MI5. After defecting to the United States, he started making claims that he was Alexei Romanov, and that the family was still alive in Europe. He even managed to have a reunion with a fake Anastasia in Rhode Island. Unfortunately for Goleniewski, it was proven that he was a total fake. He was a full 18 years younger than the real Alexei, he likely didn’t have hemophilia, and he was born and raised in Poland. The CIA was understandably ticked at being duped and fired him, but Goleniewski never gave up the charade, and claimed to be the murdered boy until his death.
20. Are You, or Aren’t You?
While Anna Anderson and Eugenia Smith are the most famous of the Anastasia claimants, one imposter, Nadezhda Vasilyeva, seemed to have some difficulty deciding who she actually was. She wrote letters to King George V of England asking for help by first claiming to be Anastasia, then a merchant’s daughter, and then back to Anastasia. She was ultimately institutionalized for her bizarre claims, and died in a mental hospital in Kazan.
19. Losing Their Hair
While under house arrest in 1917, the Romanov sisters contracted measles and started losing their hair. As a result, Alexandra decided to shave their heads. I hope they had a good selection of hats.
18. Revisionist Remake
With the 100th anniversary of the Romanov execution bringing their story back to the public eye, a new live-action fantasy adventure version of Anastasia is set to be released. However, it’s an entirely new story, with young Anastasia escaping through a portal and landing in 1988.
17. On Broadway
The music for the 1997 animated Anastasia film was written by musical theatre veterans Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, so it seemed only natural that the film should be adapted into a full-fledged Broadway musical. Much to the delight of the movie’s fans, the musical debuted on Broadway in 2017. While critical reviews have been mixed, that hasn’t stopped the fans from seeing the show.
16. Anastasia on Amazon
In 2018, Amazon Studios announced a new series called The Romanoffs that is scheduled to air in Fall 2018. Based on the few details that have been released about the show, it appears to focus on modern people who claim to be descendants of the Romanovs, and presumably at least one of the women will claim to be the youngest Romanov daughter.
15. Animated Anastasia
In 1997, Fox animation released the animated musical film Anastasia, based on Anna Anderson, the infamous and now debunked Anastasia imposter. Though the film was full of historical inaccuracies, the animated Anastasia became nearly as iconic as Disney princesses Belle, Snow White, and Cinderella.
14. Welcome to the Fold
At the time of the animated Anastasia’s film release by Fox, Anastasia was not part of the Disney princess canon, but with the merger between Fox and Disney, this Disney-like princess will officially become a full-fledged Disney princess. Look out Elsa, there’s a new princess in town!
13. Roots in Reality
The famous yellow dress worn by Anastasia in the animated film is modeled on a dress worn by the real-life Anastasia. The grand Duchess was seen wearing the dress in one of the last photographs taken of her before her execution.
12. Creating Costumes
The Romanov daughters were taught to sew, knit, and make dresses for their dolls at a young age. Their mother was not a believer in leisure time, and thought that little girls should always be busy.
11. Something in Common
Although Anastasia and Olga were the youngest and eldest of the four sisters, with more than 5 years between them, they were actually quite close. Their letters and diary entries frequently mention each other separately from the other sisters, and they both enjoyed doing physical activities together such as cycling, skiing, and boating.
10. Poetic Names
When the second Romanov daughter was born, her father named her Tatiana after the character in the famous Pushkin novel in verse Eugene Onegin. According to a diary entry, Nicholas liked the idea of having daughters named after Pushkin’s famous literary sisters Olga and Tatiana.
9. Rightful Claimant
Over the years, more than 100 women have surfaced claiming to be the youngest Romanov daughter.
8. She Could Pass
One of the reasons that Anna Anderson was so readily believed was her resemblance (real or imagined) to the real Anastasia. When she turned up in a German mental hospital, members of the Romanov extended family and former servants showed up, some of whom said she had the same eyes and mannerisms as the Duchess.
7. Honorary Commander
A Romanov tradition was to make each of the imperial daughters an honorary commander of a Russian regiment on her 14th birthday. In 1915, Anastasia was made the honorary commander of the Kaspiysky regiment, making its official name “The 148th Kaspiysky Infantry Regiment of Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna.” Unfortunately, with WWI beginning, she never got to be photographed in her uniform or review her regiment as her sisters had.
Not everybody who visited Anna Anderson believed that she was Anastasia. For one thing, she didn’t recognize people she should have known. Her tutor Pierre Gilliard said Anderson was a “vulgar adventuress,” and Anastasia’s grandmother, the Dowager Empress Marie, refused to even meet with her. Anastasia’s aunt Olga did visit, but stated that she was “looking at a stranger.” Everyone wanted so deeply to believe the girl had been saved, but ultimately they could find nothing to cling to. In 1994, 10 years after her death, her tissue was compared with a sample from Prince Philip, but there was no match, disproving her claim once and for all. It’s now widely believed that Anderson was actually Franziska Schanzkowska, a mentally-ill Polish factory worker.
5. Hidden Gems
Alexandra Romanov must have had a hint at what was coming, and before their execution she had the girls sew jewels into their clothes to potentially finance a rescue. On the night of their deaths, perhaps believing rescue was imminent, the girls dressed in their special clothing, which in the end only prolonged their gruesome fate. The initial hail of bullets likely immediately killed her mother and her sisters, but not Anastasia, perhaps because the jewels sewn into her clothing made the bullets ricochet. However, the guards finished her off.
4. Tragic Hope
When Anastasia’s grandmother the Dowager Empress Marie heard that her family had been murdered, she didn’t believe it. She hadn’t been there that night, already having escaped to Crimea with other refugees, and she was certain that they got out of Russia and that the Bolsheviks were keeping the truth from her. While Marie’s daughter believes that in her heart of hearts she did eventually accept their deaths, Marie appeared to hold on to the belief that they had somehow escaped until the day she died.
3. Still Not Buying It
Recently a respected Russian historian released a new book claiming once again that Anastasia Romanov survived her family’s execution and most likely escaped. In his book he stated that the DNA testing proving Anna Anderson to be a fraud was wrong, and that she was truly the lost princess. His assertions were backed up by supposed documents that apparently confirm that Alexandra and her four daughters were saved. Is the whole story truly part of a Russian conspiracy? I’ve got my doubts, but who can truly know what happened that night?
2. Friend and Confidant
Because of their secluded lifestyle, the Romanov children did not have peers to play with, but they did have their mother’s holy man and counselor Grigori Rasputin. The girls were taught to view Rasputin as their friend and confidant, and it was revealed after their deaths that the girls all wore amulets containing Rasputin’s picture.
1. Mystery Solved?
When the mass grave of the Romanov family was discovered, Alexei and Anastasia’s bodies weren’t with the rest of them, leading to questions about what might have happened to her and if she had indeed survived. In 2007, an amateur archaeology group discovered two sets of remains under a mound close to where the rest of the bodies were buried. The bones are believed to belong to Anastasia and Alexei, perhaps closing the book on her tragic story once and for all.
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