In July 1918, the last Russian Royal Family disappeared without a trace. The seven Romanovs, along with four servants, were kept in a secluded Siberian prison house with a high fence and blacked-out windows for over a year until, one day, they were gone.
Almost 100 years later, scientists uncovered three human skulls which could provide answers to this infamous Royal mystery: what really happened to the Romanovs and did any of them manage to escape?
The Brief History Of Russia’s Last Royal Family
Crowned in 1894, Tsar Nicholas II became king after the unexpected death of his father. The 26-year-old Tsar had no idea how to rule the country: Nicholas’s father, who died young, had not included his son in matters of state, leaving the new ruler to take on a role he was not prepared for.
Nicholas met the love of his life, Queen Alexandra, when he was sixteen and she was twelve. Unlike many Royal rulers at the time, the last Tsar married out of love when Alexandra was old enough. The Romanovs lived a life of luxury in Alexandra Palace, a huge building which looked like an illustration in a fairy-tale. They had over 100 rooms, more than 1,000 servants, and a collection of crown jewels worth over 80 million dollars. It was definitely good to be the king.
The people of Russia were not happy, however. They blamed the establishment and the Royal Family for the poverty they had to endure, resenting, in turn, the Tsar’s lavish lifestyle. By 1917, Russia was in the midst of a brutal political uprising which would change the country forever. After the Russian revolution, Nicholas had little choice but to abdicate his throne, leaving Russia to be run by a series of political usurpers.
The Romanovs were initially put under house arrest, but when the Bolsheviks seized power they moved the family to Ekaterinburg, Siberia to their final prison: a mansion renamed the ‘House of Special Purpose’.
With all their former luxuries taken away, the Romanovs dined on black bread and tea and lived on constant boredom. Despite this, they didn’t appear particularly worried about their fate until Yakov Yurovskyy became the new commander of the House of Special Purpose on July 1918. As a committed revolutionary, Yurovskyy was determined to make sure the Romanovs would never return to power.
July 16th was a normal day, or as normal as life can be when you’re under house arrest. The Romanovs had dinner, the parents played cards and they went to bed at 10: 30 pm. Little did they know this was the last time they would ever be seen alive.
The Search For The Romanovs
The Soviets said that Tsar Nicholas had been executed, but they reassured everyone that the rest of the family had been taken to a ‘place of safety’. With no other official information, rumours ran wild.
Some sources insisted the Romanovs were in Poland, others spotted them on a cruise in the Atlantic, while a telegram sent to Lenin suggested a ‘train of valuables’ was being sent to the Siberian city of Pern, which some took to be code for the Romanovs.
In late July 1918, an anti-communist army, headed by Nikolai Sokolov, captured Ekaterinburg from Lenin and headed to the Romanovs former prison. They found a basement dented by 27 bullet holes, floorboards soaked in blood and the Romanovs’ suitcases and earthly possessions abandoned.
The army didn’t find any bodies or traces of the Romanovs themselves, but the scene they had witnessed wasn’t exactly hopeful. They launched an investigation into the suspected murder of the family and thoroughly searched the basement for any clues.
According to an uncovered telegram sent to Moscow, all the family suffered the same fate as Nicholas, while interviews with house guards confirmed that all members of the family had been shot. The guards claimed the bodies had been dumped in a nearby forest.
The army found belt buckles, blood, melted fat, broken jewels, dentures and, shockingly, some skin. Sokolov concluded that the family had been murdered, but there was one problem: there were no bodies to prove it.
Did Anastasia Romanov Escape?
In 1920, a mysterious woman was dragged out of a canal in Germany. She had no identification papers and was first referred to as ‘Miss Unknown’. As Miss Unknown had attempted suicide, she was taken to a German mental asylum. One day, a fellow inmate became the first of many to suggest that Miss Unknown was none other than Anastasia, the youngest Romanov daughter.
According to Miss Unknown, her family was shot in the basement but she survived thanks to jewels on her corset protecting her body. She was left for dead, but a soldier who came to collect the bodies found her alive, took her to his house before allowing her to escape Russia by fleeing to Romania and eventually settle in Berlin.
There was a striking resemblance between Miss Unknown and the Grand Duchess Anastasia. She had shrapnel scars, which made her story more believable, and she even had the same toe deformation as the Duchess. Her handwriting was also a perfect match with the missing Romanov girl.
Was Anderson the real Anastasia, or simply a good actress trying to get the role of a lifetime? Find out in Remains of the Romanovs exclusively on True Royalty TV.