lost grand duchesses

On 17 July 1918, four young women walked down twenty-three steps into the cellar of a house in Ekaterinburg. The eldest was twenty-two, the youngest only seventeen. Together with their parents and their thirteen-year-old brother, they were all brutally murdered. Their crime: to be the daughters of the last Tsar and Tsaritsa of All the Russias.

{Holliday Grainger as Olga, Michelle Dockery as Tatiana, Jessica Brown Findlay as Maria, and Georgie Henley as Anastasia.}

Luke Skywalker? I thought he was a myth.

Rey, The Force Awakens

I’ve seen some comments that this line is silly because only 30 years have passed since ROTJ, and only 50 years since there were thousands of Jedi running around. But this is how I see it. In 1918 the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas Romanov II, was executed along with his wife, their five children, and four members of their household. Rumors that one or more of the family escaped their fate persisted for nearly 100 years (in 2007 the remains of the final two unaccounted for Romanovs were identified by DNA analysis, I’m writing a paper on it which is why this has been haunting me). Rey’s line reminds me of the legend of Anastasia Romanova.

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ANASTASIA had blue eyes, fine light-red hair and a thin, delicate nose like her mother’s. People close to the family thought she could have become a real beauty when she grew up. As a child she was small and impish. As she grew into her teens she put on weight and become rather round and pudgy in Siberia. Alexandra dispared of her weight and hoped it was baby fat to be naturally lost as she grew older. Her weight was a constant source of affectionate harassment in the family.

Aleksey and Anastasia had a close relationship, they seemed to communicate without speaking using some sort of sixth sense. She was always running to his rooms to entertain him with her antics - or steal food from his buffet tables. When the Tsarevich was ill, Anastasia seemed to ‘feel’ his illness herself. She knew how to distract him, how to make him forget his pain.

Maria and Anastasia were close as well. They had a phonograph player in their room, with a large collection of records. They liked playing them as loud as possible while dancing about their room, pounding on the floor with their feet. They knew the noise could be plainly heard below in their mother’s rooms. They thought it great fun to make a big racket for Mama and her guests below. Anastasia played the balalaika and the guitar very well. She and Aleksey liked performing duets or accompany their sisters on piano.

Anastasia was extremely intelligent, but prone to be lazy and inattentive. Her teachers found she learned much faster than her sisters. On the other hand she was easily bored and had trouble focusing on her lessons. She was a cut-up, freely dispensing her own kind of dead-pan, sarcastic humour at the expense of others. The whole family would crack up at her jokes. Nobody was safe from her tongue and brutal observations of other foibles. She had a cutting wit and knew it, it was one of her chief ways of getting attention. Painting was one of her passions, dogs were another. She had one dog named Shivbzig, who died of a brain disorder, which left Anastasia inconsolable. She and her canine companion had been inseparable and his death was a great shock to her. For a while after she lost him Anastasia became humorless, quiet and pensive. Little Shibzyg was buried on the Children’s Island near the other family dog graves, surrounded by lily-of-the-valley. The children had a special service for him with special hymns and prayers.