Friday, June 20, 2014

How to Become A Grand Duchess.

This is, in part, a shout-out to those few people from Russia and the Ukraine who apparently keep reading this.  Hey, folks, I love y'all, even though I'm not sure what intrigues you about weird crap being posted from Richmond.

Among the more classic cases of "wrong place at the wrong time" are the stories of the Royal House of France and the Imperial House of Russia.  The Bourbon and the Romanov were minding their own business, not doing a particularly wonderful job of ruling their nations--and ended up having their heads removed (case 1) and being brutally shot to pieces (case 2).

I do understand that civil strife can lead to a lot of unpleasantness, but being so incredibly brutal is just horrifying.  The murder of the Imperial Family of Russia continues to astound me but, I must admit, fascinates as well.  The Tsar, Tsarina and their children were shot repeatedly, bayoneted and rifle-butted.  The Tsarevitch, in his death agony, tried to clutch at his father's shirt until someone noticed he was still alive, and shot him through the ear.  Even the Grand Duchess Anastasia's pet spaniel was clubbed to death--because, of course, the poor dog had been responsible for multiple wrongs against The People.  One of the murderers even wrote that he could "die happy, because I have squeezed the Empress's ____.  It was still warm." The word was blacked out in documents, but I think we can figure out what he meant.

Many years ago, Robert Massie wrote the definitive biography/history of the last Imperial pair and their reign.  My reading this week is his follow-up work; The Romanovs: The Final Chapter.  While much of the book is devoted to the discovery of the Imperial Family's remains near Ekaterinburg--which I steadfastly refuse to call Sverdlovsk--there is a goodly bit of text devoted to the various pretenders to the Throne, and particularly the women who, over the past almost-a-century, have claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia.

I have always been curious to know why all of these women wanted to be Anastasia.  The youngest of the four Grand Duchesses was known to be a happy girl and a very clever young woman, but why not elegant Olga, brilliant and exotic Tatiana, or breathtakingly lovely Marie?  Apparently, one of the claimants did make an effort to be Tatiana, until a relative of the German Imperial House visited and said "She's too short to be Tatiana." She then decided that she was Anastasia after all.

It is interesting as well to note that when people discover they are a reincarnation of a previously-deceased person, they are invariably the reincarnation of a very well-known historical figure.  No one is just the reincarnation of a Maryland farm boy; everyone is Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, Bismarck or Augustus Caesar.  After all, if one is being free and easy with one's past life, it must be considerably more impressive to be the Queen of the French than to be an 1880s housemaid in Lynchburg.  If everyone currently alive who believes that he (or she) is Napoleon's reincarnation, then Napoleon must have had the most incredible case of split personalities ever to appear in the DSM-IV.

I suppose that it's comforting, in a rather morbid way, to know that poor murdered Anastasia has been such a cult figure over the decades.  What an honor, after a horrid death, to be the object of so much attention! But what of Olga, who was denied her debut because of the War? What of Alexey, who in his death agony tried to reach to his Daddy for help?

I don't know that I believe in reincarnation, anyway; it seems a pipe dream meant for those who just can't get over the idea that when you're dead, you're dead.  That said, perhaps it does exist--and if so, I'd like to think that the Imperial Family has been reincarnated in the unspoiled form of happy domestic pets, or pretty songbirds, and not in the form of grasping people who want to cash in on their terror, pain and awful deaths.

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