Mystery has surrounded the story of the last Imperial Family of Russia since they disappeared during the night of July 16-17, 1918, and words like secrecy, conspiracy and deceit are frequently used to narrate the events that followed their obscure fate.
Historians, Romanov scholars, members of royal families and intrigued civilians have followed the developments around this case, and discussed the facts in lectures, royal forums, blogs, family meetings, etc. Movies have been produced, books and plays have been written in all languages, and the topic still attracts the attention of hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. The controversy re-emerged after the exhumation of the alleged bones of the Romanovs in 1991, and their subsequent interment seven years later, at the Cathedral of Peter and Paul in Saint Petersburg, Russia in July of 1998.
Keeping the debate alive about the true fate of Nicholas II and his family, is a very significant fact: The Orthodox Church inside Russia totally refuses to accept those bones exhumed at Ekaterinburg, Siberia, as authentic; and together with other private organizations inside and outside Russia are still waiting for the answers to ten questions posted many years ago to the Russian Committee investigating the murder and the identifications of the remains. In 2012 no satisfactory answers have been provided.
The story of Anna Anderson, the woman who surfaced in Berlin in 1920 and claimed to be Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the Tsar, has been a huge enigma closely related to the Romanov mystery. Her story has been told in numerous books, plays, movies and documentaries. She had the same eye and hair colour, the same birthmarks and scars, as well as a bilateral congenital foot defect called “hallux valgus”, which she had suffered from childhood, and is popularly known as "bunions." Her smile and demeanour were just like the real Anastasia’s. She spoke other languages the way the historical Anastasia did, but refused to speak Russian because of the psychological trauma from the last days in her beloved motherland. Her refined mannerisms, tone of voice, delicate hands and the impressive knowledge of facts and things related to the Imperial Family is something even her opponents cannot explain. Also both women had the same height and wore the same shoe size. She was recognized by several people as the authentic Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia.
In 1938 a tedious battle started in different Courts in Germany, where the claimant, using the assumed name of Anna Anderson, expected to gain recognition as the real Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia. The lengthy and costly process is recorded as the longest legal case in history.
During the Court trials, several expert opinions were submitted to the Court. Dr Otto Reche, German anthropologist and professor at Glatz (Klodzko) in the Prussian Silesia was requested by the Court to make a study of her ears and facial features. He concluded that she was Grand Duchess Anastasia, or her identical twin. Dr Minna Becker, a renowned graphologist who had assisted in the identification of Anna Frank’s diaries also determined that the two women's handwriting was exactly the same and declared: “There can be no mistake. After thirty four years as s sworn expert for the German Courts, I am ready to state on my oath and on my honour that Mrs Anderson and Grand Duchess Anastasia are identical.”
After countless Court hearings where hundreds of witnesses gave their testimonies in her favour, the Hamburg Court gave its last negative verdict in 1967. An appeal was presented later to the Supreme Court in Karlsruhe.
In July 1968 Anna Anderson moved to the United States, and settled in Charlottesville, Virginia. She married Prof John E. Manahan (Jack) on December 23th, that same year, and her legal name became Anastasia Manahan, although many people continued calling her: Anna Anderson.
Finally, on February 17, 1970, exactly fifty years after the day that the undocumented young woman was rescued from the freezing waters of the Landwehr Canal in Berlin, and was named ”Fraulein Unbekannt,” her real identity was still a mystery. The Supreme Court rejected the appeal, which not necessary meant that the case was closed. The judgment held that Anastasia’s claim must be regarded as "non- liquet," and so remained. The option of starting a new legal battle still existed, but Anastasia wanted to live peacefully in her new home in USA, away from all the controversy.
She was living quietly in the US in 1974 when Anthony Summers and Tom Mangold, two journalists from BBC of London went to her house and interviewed her about the events at Ekaterinburg in 1918. She was not very cooperative, but suddenly she told them: “There was no massacre, but I cannot tell the rest.” The British journalists produced a documentary that was broadcasted by BBC and in 1976 published the book The File on the Tsar, which include a comprehensive chapter on Anna Anderson/Anastasia. It also reveals a series of facts and testimonies of witnesses that contradict the “official” version of the massacre. The book immediately became an international bestseller.
In October 1976, Anastasia Manahan, then 75 years old, sat in front of the cameras of ABC television to be interviewed by a renowned journalist of the program Good Morning America. The reason for this interview was to get her opinion about Summers and Mangold’s book, that had just arrived in the United States, raising a lot of controversy.
Distant, thoughtful and almost reluctant to speak, it was a challenge for the experienced reporter to get some recollections or statements from her, but when questioned directly about what exactly the book The File on the Tsar meant to reveal, regarding the true fate of her sisters, she looked at her husband, Professor Jack Manahan, and said in German: "I cannot answer to these things. I cannot tell it. I cannot. I will be killed at once.” Then she went silent. She died eight years later without revealing the truth, the real truth.
Another significant fact, supporting her claim of being the real Anastasia Romanov happened in 1977. Dr Moritz Furtmayr, one of West Germany’s most prominent forensic experts, made an extremely comprehensive analysis of the pictures of Anna Anderson’s ears taken at different angles and with different lighting, and compared them with photos of the historical Anastasia’s ears. Furtmayr found 17 points of anatomical similarities, five more than the 12 points that the Court considered sufficient to identify and confirm a person’s identity.
Her lawyers and friends in Germany considered that it was a great opportunity to start a new battle in Court for her recognition; but it was already too late. The strange woman did not want to get involved in any other legal process. She wished to be let alone with her memories, and live peacefully the rest of her life. However, the legend around her was impossible to end, and she continued attracting the attention of some writers, more journalists, and curious people from all over the world. She kept receiving the support of a group of people, some of them royals, who believed she was the real Anastasia, and they continued trying to reveal the truth.
Time passed and she became more and more eccentric, ill and difficult to deal with. In 1979 she went into surgery at Martha Jefferson Hospital, to remove a gangrenous part of her intestine. Although she survived the operation, she did not recover completely and never walked again. On February 12, 1984 she died, and the same day she was cremated, following her instructions, due to her belief in the principles of the Anthroposophical Society. The mystery around her remained the same.
But her loyal supporters never forgot her, and never altered their belief that she was who she said she was.
When the “alleged” bones of the Romanovs were unearthed from the mass grave in 1991, there were two skeletons missing. A team of anthropologists from the United States headed by D. William Maples was invited to participate in the identification. The Russian forensic team believed they were those of Maria and her brother Tsarevitch Alexei; Dr Maples however maintained that those were the ones of Alexis and Anastasia. That fact immediately encouraged the supporters of Anna Anderson, mostly in the United States, to prove her identity as the historical Anastasia scientifically, through DNA. A piece of her intestine that was removed in 1979 had been kept at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville. But the hospital released the sample only after the Court decided who had the right to have it tested. Since Anastasia Manahan did not have any legal descendant and her husband, John Eacott Manahan, had also died in 1990, the Court appointed Mr Ed Deets as administrator of Anastasia Manahan’s state. Several people wanted to have access to the sample, including the Russian Nobility Association. The whole situation revived the hostilities between former loyal supporters and furious opponents. Finally, after an intense legal battle, the Court granted the right to the samples to Mr and Mrs Richard Schweitzer, and they turned them over to Dr Peter Gill for testing. Some hair strands, which appeared inside an envelope in a bookstore in North Carolina were also tested in a separate lab, as well as a blood sample of the claimant kept by Dr Stephan Sandkuhler since the fifties.
Dr Gill’s results were revealed on October 5, 1994, during a press conference in London: the mtDNA extracted from the “putative” tissue sample of Anastasia Manahan did not match that of the Duke of Edinburgh (who is supposed to carry the same maternal blood line of Queen Victoria),-and therefore the same mtDNA of the Tsarina Alexandra,- but matched the mtDNA of Karl Maucher, “allegedly” a grandnephew of Franziska Schanzkowska, a Polish peasant. This announcement shocked thousands of Anna Anderson’s supporters, who immediately claimed that the tests were fraudulent and engaged in ardent discussions around the globe.
Julian Nott, a TV producer in England had been keeping visual records of all what was happening during the process; from the legal battle in Charlottesville, Virginia, to gain access to the “putative” sample, till the analysis made by Dr Peter Gill in London. Also on October 5, 1994 and despite the DNA results which linked the claimant to a relative of the Polish peasant, Nott broadcast his documentary. Dr Peter Vanesis, anthropologist and professor of Forensic Medicine at Glasgow University had been hired by the producers to perform, once again, a comparative analysis between Anna Anderson’s ears and those of the historical Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia; the disclosure of his findings did not surprise the world. Dr Vanesis, who was also a frequent consultant to the police, based his analysis on a careful study of photos of the face and ears of the two women, concluding that they were probably one and the same person. That was exactly what Dr Otto Reche, and Dr Furtmayr had stated many years before, in Germany.
To this day, believers on the authenticity of Anna Anderson’s claim hold strong opinions about the hidden and obscure facts in this entire saga. Based on their own experiences, those who knew the claimant personally or have studied her case deeply, refuse to accept that she was an impostor or an insane woman with great acting skills, capable of maintaining her charade for over sixty years. It is absurd that she fooled a wide range of people, from doctors and illustrious people like Ambassador Herluf Zahle and Duke George of Leuchtenberg to friends from childhood like Gleb and Tatiana Botkin, as well as family members like Prince Sigismund of Prussia, Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich of Russia, Crown Princess Cecilie of Prussia or Princess Xenia Georgievna of Russia. That is why, despite the efforts of opponents and detractors of Anna Anderson to close the case and gain control of any information still unexamined, the supporters keep a strong alliance that will never give up maintaining the truth.
In July 2007, another amazing discovery of bones was made by members of a Russian Military Club in Ekaterinburg. Looking in the southern part of the site known as "The Pig's Meadow" they found the remains of a campfire that contained 44 scorched bone fragments and 7 teeth, which they said possibly belonged to Tsarevitch Alexis and his missing sister, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna. Some scientists in Ekaterinburg, like Dr. Nevolin, disputed that possibility from the very beginning, arguing that "44 bone fragments were not sufficient to identify a person, much less two!" After DNA tests were performed on those "putative" remains, the Russian government made the official announcement in December 2008, that the bones indeed belonged to the bodies of the missing children and therefore the case was closed.
Those remains have not been buried yet, and the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia urges not to rush into confirming their identification. The Moscow Patriarchate believes it is necessary to compare "results of the investigation held under Kolchak to the current investigation…” To this day, those 44 bone fragments are kept inside a plastic bag somewhere in Moscow, and probably will end in a common grave in a Russian cemetery.
In August 2010, at the request of the self-proclaimed Head of the Russian Imperial Family, Maria Vladimirovna Romanova, the Basmanny Court ordered the government of Russia to re-open the investigation into the case of the death of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, given the controversy that has existed since they disappeared in 1918, and also because during all these years of mystery, there have been strong rumours that support the theory of the survival of other members of the Romanov family.
But on January 17th, 2011, Russia’s investigative committee announced that it was closing the case on the murder of the Imperial Family. Immediately, the members of the House of Romanov involved in the legal battle protested. “Until now the church has found no grounds to accept the Prosecutor General’s conclusion that the remains belong to members of the Tsar's family, canonized by the church,” said Alexander Zakatov, director of the office of the House of Romanov to Komsomolskaya Pravda. “If these are the true remains, they automatically become holy relics to the orthodox people, but while questions remain and there is no complete clarity, neither the Church nor the Imperial Family can make such a statement.”
About the living descendants of the Romanov Family I can only say what many people know: they are divided with respect to the identification of the remains. Some grouped in the “Romanov Family Association” believe and accept what the Russian Government proclaims. Others around Maria Vladimirovna and her son George, Heir Presumptive to the Throne of Russia, take the side of the Orthodox Church inside Russia and demand new investigations.
In late 2011 a group of former members of the Russian government commission investigating the fate of Nicholas II and his family, as well as the remains found and their dubious origins, decided to make public a series of facts which reveal serious problems with respect to the mass grave "discovered" in Ekaterinburg. In a book written in Russian and entitled “???? ?e ??????? Andrei K. Golitsyn reveals the mistakes made from the very moment that the bones were exhumed, until the DNA tests were performed. The content of such book suggests many wrong doings to hide the true facts and close the controversial case. However, regarding the version of the massacre, Golitsyn and his group adhere to the report of Nicholas A. Sokolov published in 1924.
Anastasia’s case has been one of the most complex and compelling mysteries of the twentieth century that still captures the attention of thousands of people around the world in this new century. Rumours of family and state secrets, intrigues, political and diplomatic implications of catastrophic proportions, and claims of extraordinary amounts of money and jewels supposedly deposited by Tsar Nicholas II in different foreign banks before World War I, have circulated since 1918, at a time when nearly all the crowned heads of Europe had lost their thrones.
Coming now to agitate the waters of history, another fact supporting the claim in favour of Anna Anderson adds to this endless saga: The whereabouts of a lost icon; a holy relic from the XV century that was given to Anna Anderson/Anastasia Manahan when she became the godmother of a baby boy, the heir of one of the most ancient and respected royal houses of Europe in 1946, as a lifetime loan, and was supposed to be returned to Germany upon her death.
This historical novel is set in the year 1994, when scientists from different countries were still examining the alleged remains of Nicholas and his family, and were preparing to present the results of the DNA tests, in an attempt to clarify the events that occurred in the summer of 1918. That same year a legal battle took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, to seek control of the tissue sample from Anastasia Manahan, in order to get her DNA.
We present here what we believe is an interesting plot that is very easy to read and understand, despite the complexity of the case. As the main character we choose Rodney Mundy, who was Carlos’ father and also a former MI6 agent in real life. The adventures of Rodney where narrated in a previous book by Carlos Mundy titled “Gestapo Lodge”. This time, Rodney introduces the readers to a new dimension of knowledge and secrets never before revealed about the true fate of the Russian Imperial Family. Anastasia was caught up in this vortex, making her a slave of a "Pact of Silence" that had to be protected at all costs; and a victim of the dramatic circumstances that she created when she mistakenly surfaced in Berlin and revealed details about secret dealings of her family.
The new version of the facts that this novel subtly reveals is surprising and even at times incredible. The complicity of The Vatican and the documents found in the Secret Archives were not invented to imitate or emulate any other thriller; it is absolutely true and is fully supported by documents, newspaper articles, letters, books, as well as testimonials from honourable persons, acute historians and priests,- some still alive,- who knew the real actors and the hidden facts.
The lost Icon indeed existed. It was a valuable and sacred object, which belonged to Grand Duke Carl August of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and his wife Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (born Baroness Elisabeth of Wangenheim-Winterstein). After World War II, she (Anna/Anastasia) took shelter in the castle of Winterstein, property of Princess Louisa of Saxe-Meiningen, together with the Grand Dukes of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and other members of royal houses and the nobility who escaped from the areas occupied by the Soviets. The Dukes gave the religious relic to Anna Anderson/Anastasia Manahan as a lifetime loan in 1946, when she became the godmother of their only male heir, Prince Michael Benedict of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, current head of the Grand Ducal House of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. During the baptismal ceremony she shared the honour with Queen Juliana of The Netherlands.
The story behind the Icon takes us back to August 3, 1804, when Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia (1786-1859), married the Grand Duke Charles Frederick of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (1783-1853). After moving to Germany, she carried the precious icon with her, and for 142 years, her descendants,-who considered it a very dear and valuable treasure, - guarded it. It was similarly highly appreciated by Anna Anderson/Anastasia Manahan, since it represented her family and spiritual roots. She always believed that the Icon protected her and kept it besides her bed in Unterlengenhardt, Germany. After she moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, in the United States, she had it displayed inside a vaulted shelf in the living room of her house at University Circle.
The disappearance of this marvellous relic after the death of Anastasia Manahan in 1984 remains a mystery. The investigations never could determine what happened to it. Readers may now decide to start a new search, when modern technology and amazing electronic resources might help to locate it and return it to its rightful owners: the Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach family.
The historical moment in which this work is presented to the public could not be more timely. 2013 is the year of the Four Hundredth Anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty, and the celebration is about to start, not only with ceremonies, musicals, plays, art exhibitions and new publications inside Russia, but also with a parade of festivities around the globe.
Now, ninety four years after the disappearance of the last Imperial Family, and twenty eight years after the death of Anastasia Manahan, new voices rise demanding answers; demanding convincing, scientific, legal and unquestionable answers.
The emblem of the double headed eagle emerges from the waters of history to stir them. Those waters that seem to be stagnant pools will move to bring to the surface all the new information and evidence, for people to see it, analyse it and judge it. And then history will reveal itself. Only then will those waters be able to move slowly and continue flowing peacefully, until they merge into the endless river of life that nourishes the fields of history.