2018 marks 100 years since the fall of three major imperial dynasties: the Romanovs in Russia, the Hohenzollerns in Germany and the Hapbsburgs in Austria. The dramatic fall of the Romanovs, which ended with the cold-blooded murder of the imperial children, has drawn the most attention over the last century. But, even in this case, only the most violent moment is truly remembered. When the Tsar, his wife, five children, their staff and even their dog were massacred, the event spawned a cottage industry of true historians and vigilant conspiracy theorists that has generated innumerable books and films, even including an animated movie.
However, the Romanov family was far more extensive than just its most famous martyrs. Indeed, they were not even the only martyrs in the family. Here is Part I of my overview of the imperial ladies of that time.
|Empress Alexandra with her four daughters|
via Wikimedia Commons
Before giving birth, at last to a son and heir Alexei, Alexandra had delivered four daughters at two-year intervals: Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. Just before the war, the two older girls had reached an age when marriages would have been under consideration. In fact, there was even a family visit to their Romanian cousins to try to arrange a match between Olga and the profligate Prince (later King) Carol, but there was no romance between them and neither family pushed the issue. Had the war never happened some, perhaps even all of the Grand Duchesses might have been married by the summer of 1918 as the youngest, Anastasia, was already 17. I think we tend to think of them all as being younger -- they are frozen in time as very young girls, but Olga would have been 23 later that year had she not been murdered.
|via Wikimedia Commons|
Nevertheless rumors persisted that Tsarevich Alexei and various sisters had miraculously survived. The most famous of these was Grand Duchess Anastasia, with one of her pretenders Anna Anderson gaining support from some people close to the family. It is her story that inspired the highly fictionalized 1956 Ingrid Bergman movie and the 1997 animated musical.
|Icon of the Imperial Family as Saints and Martyrs.|
via Wikimedia Commons
The entire family, which had been declared saints and martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church, now rest in the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg.
PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4