For decades, the truth behind what happened to the last Romanov was one of the greatest mysteries of modern history. Thanks to Prince Philip, all the legends and myths were finally clarified.
The sordid way in which the Romanov dynasty ended gave their story a morbid aura that, even after a century, still permeates in our collective imagination. Despite the obvious morbid nature of the story, what kept the world obsessing over the Romanov was the mystery and the conditions surrounding their demise. To understand what the hell the late Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, had to do with the solving of the mystery, first, we have to understand that mystery.
What happened to the last Romanov family?
Let’s make a summary. In February 1917, a revolt sparked what became known as the Russian Revolution. By March, Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate, and together with his family, was sent to exile to Tobolsk. After months secluded, in July 1918, the royal family was moved to what would become their last residence in Yekaterinburg. They were brutally massacred on July 17.
Now, the murder, approved by Lenin, wasn’t kept a secret; however, the provisional government only accepted the execution of the Tsar and Tsarina Alexandra. Still, it was an open secret that Nicholas and Alexandra’s five children had also shared the same terrible ending. The lack of information and the fact that the government didn’t provide the bodies, or where they were buried, sparked all sorts of theories around the Romanovs; being that of Princess Anastasia the one that really intrigued the world.
The legend of Anastasia Romanov
Even right after the execution, the Great Empress Maria (Nicholas’ mother) was certain it all had been a ruse played by the Soviets and that her family was still alive and being kept captive. In the upcoming years, over 10 women would claim to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia with very convincing arguments. However, it wasn’t until the seventies that the mystery would start to be solved.
Solving the Romanov mystery
During the seventies, geologist and filmmaker Alexander Avdonin started a project to find the remains of the last Romanovs. Although his investigation led him to the bodies of some of the seven members of the royal family, the information was soon hidden by the Soviet government. It would be until the nineties, after the fall of the USSR, when Avdonin’s investigation would take the next step.
Avdonin’s investigation led, in 1991, to the finding of five bodies, two adults and three young women. They were sure these were the bodies of Nicholas, Alexandra, and their three elder daughters. By the time, their closest Russian relatives had been long dead; they had to go to the closest relative alive to have a close DNA match. Enter Prince Philip. He gladly agreed to give a blood sample that proved to be a match, but the results were kept a secret for over fifteen years.
Now, the fact that the bodies of the Tsarevich Alexei and the Great Duchess Anastasia weren’t found, only made the myth about her escaping even bigger (I mean, the animated film was released a couple of years after the finding of the bodies). This would remain a mystery until 2007. For over a decade, historians and archaeologists were desperate to solve the great mystery of the youngest Romanovs.
In 2007, they finally found the remains of what appeared to be bodies of a child and a teenager, really close to the Romanov’s last residence and where the other bodies were found. They only needed to prove these belonged to Alexei and Anastasia. Once again, Prince Philip agreed for his blood to be used to identify those bodies. They were, in fact, the youngest Romanov.
How was Prince Philip Related to the Romanovs
You might already know that basically all European monarchies are somehow related. With some of them, the blood relation dates back centuries, while the majority can trace back a mutual ancestor, Queen Victoria. So, although every living European royal is somehow related to the Romanov family, to properly identify the bodies they needed a stronger and closer match, that was Prince Philip. How?
Prince Philip was related to both Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra. Philip’s father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, descended from Tsar Nicholas I through one of the Tsar’s sons, the Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich. But the bloodline that really mattered for the DNA test was that of his mother. To get an accurate match, they needed to test the mitochondrial DNA that comes from the matrilineal line.
In that case, Prince Philip shared a closer bond with the Romanov through his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg. Tsarina Alexandra, formerly known as Princess Alix of Hesse, was the sister of Princess Alice’s mother; this makes Alexandra Prince Philip’s great aunt.
Prince Philip always showed great love towards his family and always felt sorrow about the tragic end of the Romanovs. In an interview during the sixties, he was asked if he planned on visiting Russia, and he bluntly replied: “I would like to go to Russia very much, though the bastards murdered half my family.”