Thursday, 1 May 2008

DNA tests bring to an end 90 year old royal mystery

It's been nearly 90 years since the murder of Czar Nicholas II and his family in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, but an American laboratory has confirmed through DNA the identity of the final two missing members of the Imperial family, Tsarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria.

The results bring to an end almost a century of mystery and intrigue concerning the fate of the Imperial family of Russia. Loyal monarchists had long held out hope that, by some miracle, a member of the Czar's family has survived the brutal massacre. Many believed that Alexei, Maria or Anastasia had escaped to the safety of Western Europe or America and when only five of the seven member of the Imperial family were found, they cited this as proof of their convictions. DNA tests conducted in 2000 later confirmed the identities of the five bodies found as those of the Czar, his wife and three of his daughters putting to an end the speculation that Grand Duchess Anastasia has survived.

Perhaps the most famous member of the Romanov dynasty, the story of Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the last czar of Russia, captured the imagination of royal watchers throughout the 20th century. Hundreds of women came forward claiming to be the grand duchess, none more convincing than Anna Anderson who lived as the grand duchess until her death in 1984 and who split the opinion of those who knew the grand duchess best as to her authenticity. She was eventually proven a fraud when DNA tests confirmed she was in fact Franziska Schanzkowska, a Polish factory worker, and not Anastasia. People claiming to be Tsarevich Alexei or Grand Duchess Maria also came forward but their claims were met with considerable less success than that of Anna Anderson's.

The Czar and his family were eventually interred at St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg on July 17, 1998, eighty years after they were murdered. It is unclear whether or not Tsarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria will join their family.

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