One of the biggest reasons I was an Anastasian for almost twenty years, even long after many rounds of DNA testing from different countries and labs, was because this most famous of all pretenders had so many alleged memories only the real Anastasiya could’ve had. How very wrong I was.
A lot of what I believed has been proven to be the result of a decades-long game of telephone of sorts. The initial information was misreported, misunderstood, or selectively reported, and since there were no widely-available rebuttals, more and more people believed it and passed it along themselves.
Peter Kurth’s excellent biography is a prime example. I was led to believe she knew things only the real Anastasiya could’ve known, like a personal nickname for an obscure soldier; Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig’s secret diplomatic mission to Russia in 1916; and Gleb Botkin’s “funny animals.”
But as King and Wilson prove, she learnt these things by reading books and magazine articles, and talking to people with intimate knowledge. In Berlin, she met quite a few Russian émigrés who gave her such printed material and shared stories.
Some people read between lines that weren’t there, or interpreted things a certain way out of a fog of nostalgia or wanting to believe. When she began her decades-long charade, the people fighting over her identity weren’t far removed from the cataclysm that drove them from their homeland. Who could think straight in the midst of such raw emotions?
Franziska Schanzkowska also made many shocking mistakes the real Anastasiya never would’ve, and entirely made up other stories. Among them:
She claimed Nicholas II didn’t have a tattoo, when he had a large dragon on his right arm. He got it in Japan in 1891, and it was so big and colorful, it took seven hours to complete.
She claimed there was a room in the Aleksandr Palace with malachite columns and windowsills. It was quite obvious which palace she made this false claim about, in spite of her supporters insisting she was referring to the famous Malachite Room of the Winter Palace.
She claimed she reviewed her infantry regiment on horseback in 1916. In reality, Anastasiya was named honorary colonel-in-chief of the 148th Caspian Infantry Rifle Regiment in 1915, when they were already at the front.
She said she had a room next to Mariya, when “The Little Pair” always shared a room, in every single palace and residence.
She claimed she visited England several times, when Anastasiya only went in 1909.
When asked who Aunt Ella (Empress Aleksandra’s sister) was, she claimed it was a secret, and only later gave the answer.
She claimed Aleksandra’s favorite child was Mariya, when it was famously Tatyana.
She claimed Nicholas and Aleksandra had different bedrooms, though they always shared a room.
She claimed Trotskiy visited the Aleksandr Palace, was very rude to Nicholas, and stole jewelry in 1916. This visit never happened!
And so many other demonstrably false claims!
One of the things which makes Kurth’s biography so good, in spite of his obvious bias, is that he had a good filter. He knew how to report his subject in a very favorable light, and which things to leave out. The same can’t be said about the awful biography by the late James Blair Lovell.
Lovell not only made many embarrassing, easily-spotted mistakes, but he also reported every rambling, bizarre, mundane thing that ever came out of his subject’s mouth.
This nonsense includes the infamous, disgusting, evidenceless King Kong story (where the entire Imperial Family except 13-year-old Aleksey were gang-raped in front of one another in Yekaterinburg), and the fifth daughter claimant.
Her rescue story was likewise full of holes. She claimed a guard named Aleksandr Chaykovskiy (Tchaikovsky) smuggled her to Romania in a peasant wagon, with his brother Sergey and mother Veronika, and that they had a child conceived of rape.
No record of a guard by this name exists, nor is there evidence it was a pseudonym used by the real Stanislav Mishkevich. Not only that, it made zero sense to take a rescued Anastasiya into the path of the Red Army and away from the then-advancing White Army!
No records of this stay in Romania, their marriage, the birth and adoption of this child, or Chaykovskiy’s death in a street fight have ever been found. Moreover, the real Anastasiya wouldn’t have hesitated to go to her very accepting cousin Queen Marie. Once in Germany, she wouldn’t have hesitated to go to her aunt Irene or uncle Ernie.
To be continued.