Going only by Peter Kurth’s biography, one can be led to believe this most famous of all pretenders never slipped out of her role, always behaved, spoke, reacted like the woman she claimed to be. Every good, decent person accepted her claim and had sympathy for less than Imperial behaviour, understanding it was due to trauma, a strong personality, amnesia, etc.
Except that’s not how it happened at all.
While Franziska may have grown to believe she indeed was Anastasiya by the end of her life, after almost 64 years of playing the part, there were so many clues lying out in the open for decades. They either weren’t widely reported (due to not wanting to spoil the fairytale story the public preferred), or were brushed aside as unfounded accusations from people with agendas.
The claimant was famous for frequently covering her face or mouth, hiding under bedcovers, turning her back to her guests, running away, refusing to meet people she suspected wouldn’t believe her claim, and holing herself up in her room instead of interacting even with sympathetic hosts.
She told the von Kleists not to observe the etiquette normally demanded of her supposed position. Other times, she just refused to speak.
In the first photo, one can clearly see Franziska copying the angle and pose of a photograph of Anastasiya. In the second, the blurriness works to her advantage. The third is a photo of a drawing, printed in international newspapers in 1935 when she began her decades-long German legal battle. They all deliberately obfuscate glaring differences between the two women’s facial features, and don’t give many details for comparison.
If one carefully examines a lot of Franziska’s photos, it also quickly becomes obvious she’s sucking in or biting her lips to hide her large mouth. Anastasiya had a small, thin mouth, and Franziska knew it. In some photos, like the middle one, her bottom teeth can clearly be seen bulging through the skin!
As mentioned in previous posts, none of the people who accepted her claim knew the real Anastasiya very well, a fact they all admitted. While some of the people who rejected her likewise hadn’t known her very well either, more weight should be given to the fifteen people who knew her very well and rejected her.
Yes, most of the surviving Romanovs and other people from their extended family never met her, but that’s hardly a horrible slight. Some, like the Dowager Empress, refused to believe the Imperial Family had been murdered, while most of the rest were emotionally and mentally scarred, and wanted to get on with their lives as best they could.
There were also many Romanov pretenders who sprung up in the wake of the murder. Why should anyone be bothered to entertain all these people’s delusions, and constantly revisit that anguish?
Much blame goes to the Soviet government for not ending this charade when it started. They could’ve nipped it in the bud at any time by announcing, “We murdered the entire Imperial Family, and here are their bodies to prove it!” They kept a tight veil of secrecy for decades, creating fertile breeding-ground for conspiracy theories and vain hopes.
It also wouldn’t have mattered which of the five Imperial children anyone impersonated. Because their mother kept them in a gilded cage, they had no real friends outside of one another and some very trusted courtiers and servants. They didn’t even know many people in their extended family very well. Thus, it was harder to find people who knew the real Anastasiya very well, and could authoritatively state that wasn’t their friend, classmate, pupil, regular customer, etc.
Some supporters, like Gleb Botkin and his sister Tatyana, admitted they were forced to search for physical similarities, since the claimant didn’t resemble the person they remembered (and admitted they hadn’t known very well). Others, like Lili Dehn, Xenia Leeds, and Prince Sigismund of Prussia, only met her after years of studying and practicing.
Had everyone who knew the real Anastasiya well met the claimant, they would’ve rejected her just as the other fifteen close relatives and courtiers did. Also, neither side wanted to call in Anna Vyrubova, Empress Aleksandra’s best friend, who saw Anastasiya almost every day, because she was a fervent disciple of the late Rasputin. No one wanted to introduce that spectre into the case!
To be continued.