Saturday, January 26, 2013


Having watched the Disneyesque Anastasia story, which slipped in the hocus pocus of Rasputin and doubled up as a musical, we wondered whether the girls would like the 'real' version from the fifties, starring Bergman and Bryner. Of course there's very little that is real about the post-1918 story of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia. It's now been conclusively proved that she was killed, along with her father Czar Nicholas II and the rest of the immediate royal family, on 17 July 1918 by the Bolshevik secret police. But over the subsequent years there were a number of women who claimed to be her, that she survived, and please could she have her title back and share of the estate. 
Ms Schanzkowska
The most famous was 'Anna Anderson', who lived off the curiosity of various Russian emigres in western Europe while alternately spending time in mental asylums. The Bergman/Bryner film is about her, although in true Hollywood style it suggests she was the real thing. 
'Anna' spent years living off various distant relatives. One such family was the Leuchtenbergs who put her up in their castle, while investigations continued (which ultimately came to the correct conclusion that she was actually a Pole by the name of Franziska Schanzkowska). In the end, Europe grew weary of the whole thing and 'Anna' moved to America, where she was feted for a while, continued to be a bit barking, married a professor of history and genealogy (of all subjects!) and died there in 1984. In the end, DNA tests in 2008 proved that she couldn't have been Anastasia. So that was that.
Except that there's a strange personal twist to the story. The Leuchtenbergs had a British governess called Faith Lavington who helped give testimony in the case. Turns out that she was Liz's grandmum's cousin!
So what did the girls think of all this? "We prefer the cartoon version". And so do I actually.

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