On June 18, 1901, the great Tsarina of then Russia, Alexandra gave birth to a beautiful daughter, the fourth daughter of the Tsar, Nicholas, much to his disappointment. After three daughters, all he hoped and prayed for was a son, but his prayers failed. She was christened Anastasia, meaning resurrection.
Three years after Anastasia, was born the heir or Tsarevich of Russia, Alexei, the last of the Tsar’s children and the only son of the royal pair. Like her other sisters, Anastasia deeply loved her brother and was very protective of him and showered him with motherly affection.
Contrary to the stereotypical view of Royal families, the children of of the Tsar and Tsarina were brought up in a very simple and strict environment. All the sisters shared one room, and each had just a cot which they could call their own.
Growing up Anastasia was quite close to her immediate elder sister Maria, often called the “Small Pair” as opposed to the “Big Pair” which comprised of the two eldest sisters, Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana.
As the children of the Tsarina Alexandra, who was the grand daughter of Queen Victoria and was brought up by an English nanny, the girls had absolutely no idle time. From morning till night, their schedules were packed with activities, which started with them getting up early, followed by their lessons and prayers. Apparently the Tsarina and Tsar believed in the notation that idle time was a barrier to the proper development of health and mind.
One aspect of Grand Duchess Anastasia and her sisters that made them seem like any normal family, was the closeness that these sisters had. They fought and shared just like the normal sisters of any normal family.
Growing up Anastasia was given many nicknames, of which one remained famous of all; “The Imp”. She had been a really good mimic and was easily delighted in anything nonsensical or silly. She was destined for the stage, or so as told by her to her tutor once.
The early 20th century was plagued by the infamous World War I, which demanded complete attention from the Tsar of Russia, as Russia played a major role in it, and left the Tsar busy with the planning and overseeing of the Great War. As a result of the continuous absence of the Monarch of the state, the entire matter of state administration fell upon the hands of the Tsarina.
Sadly state administration wasn’t the only thing the Tsarina was bothered with. Alexei, the Tsarevich or the heir apparent, was endowed with too many illnesses. Of all his biggest problem was Hemophilia, a disorder where a person’s blood doesn’t clot. This was something which he inherited from his mother’s side. His condition was so bad that even a nose bleed could threaten his life and thus began a lifetime of worry for the Tsarina.
Alexei was treated unsuccessfully by many physicians who came from every part of the country. That was until Grigori Rasputin made an entry, which not only changed Alexei’s life but played such a part that changed the course of history.
Grigori Rasputin was a Russian mystic and a self proclaimed holy man. But what many did not know was that he not only cured Alexei, but may have cured the loneliness of not only the Tsarina but her daughters as well. Rumours of affairs between Rasputin and the Tsarina as well as her daughters started doing the rounds.
As time passed by Grigori Rasputin’s influence kept on growing, so much so that he began to appear in royal court with the Tsarina, and later started to preside over important matters of the court. This kind of influence of Rasputin over the Royal affairs weren’t liked by many, and thus on December 30th, 1916, a few nobles decided to end his influence once and for all, and were successful in doing so.
This news shocked the State and the Royal family were no exception. But the person who seemed to be the most affected, was none other than 15 year old Anastasia.
Sadly, Rasputin’s influence, the War and Russians’ growing distrust on the royal family led to the begining of the infamous Russian Revolution just a year later, in 1917.
The Tsar abdicated the throne not only for himself, but on behalf of his son as well. Russia was left without monarchy for the first time, and thus began a time of confusion, violence and trouble.
By August 1917, the Romanovs arrived in Tobolsk along with their servants. They weren’t mistreated by any means, but too many restrictions were put on them. In-spite of all that, the children continued with their lessons and learning of other various tasks.
After a short while, the family were put in house arrest. Though it didn’t affect the daily life of the family, the confinement began to take its toll on the family as Alexandra had been ill for months, and Alexei was not doing well. Anastasia herself became regularly upset about being trapped indoors, and at one point attempted to open an upstairs window to get some fresh air. A sentry fired at her, narrowly missing her.
On 17th of July, 1918, almost a year after Russia fell into a full scale civil war, the entire family was executed. Both parents and the five children were taken to a small room in the basement of the house in Yekaterinburg and open fired upon. The Tsar and Tsarina were the first to go, followed by their children, and as per some accounts, were followed by their servants.
But what one would have considered as the end, was actually the beginning. Since the assassination of the Royal family happened overnight, no one had a clue where the assassination took place or where the bodies were dumped. As a result of which not only a ton of conspiracy theories emerged, but a lot of impersonators as well.
Anastasia was the main target of many impersonators. Many cases of such emerged right after the War ended. But one notable case which shook the world and continued doing so for many years was the case of Anna Anderson.
Anna emerged from Berlin in 1920, when she was sent to a mental hospital after an attempt to commit suicide. She refused to reveal her identity and went by Fräulein Unbekannt (German for Miss Unknown).
In march 1922, she decided to reveal her identity as the Grand Duchess Anastasia and received immense attention from the entire world. She claimed that even though she , as Anastasia, was deeply wounded, she still survived and managed to escape thanks to the help of a guard who was sympathetic towards the Royal family.
And there after began a long fight for her recognition as the Grand Duchess. From 1938 till 1970, she fought relentlessly for her right as the long lost princess, only to look at her claim be refuted by the German court based on absence of concrete evidences. She kept on fighting for her rights till she breathed her last breath in the year 1984.
Her fight turned out to be futile, as a decade post her demise, DNA tests revealed her to not be the person who she claimed to be, the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Anna Anderson turned out to be a missing Polish factory worker, who has had a really long history with mental illness, and had been admitted to a mental hospital many a times.
Even though the world finally knew that the most convincing impostor of the century was really not Anastasia, they still had no idea where the bodies of the real members of the Royal family were.The mystery didn’t seem to end, and was considered to be one of the unsolvable mysteries, until 2007.
In 1991, a collection of bodies were found in woods just outside Yekaterinburg, the place where the entire family was assassinated. DNA test confirmed the bodies to be those of the Royal family with two bodies still missing — Alexei and one of his sisters. This puzzled everyone, as where could have the bodies of two children go.
Just as the mystery regarding the disappearance of the bodies was dying out, news reports started airing a case where a Russian builder found some burned remains in a different corner in the same forest which was outside Yekaterinburg. A year later the burned remains turned out to be the remains of the two missing bodies of the Romanovs, thereby putting an end to an almost century old mystery.
The story of the Anastasia and her family has been a matter of gossip, conspiracy theories and even great stories for movies for years. But one thing is for sure, the way this mystery kept the world up on their toes, not many have achieved that feat.