ANASTASIA THE FAKE
In July of 1918, Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, and their five
children were executed by the Bolsheviks in a basement in Ekaterinburg.
However, rumors soon started to spread that Anastasia, the youngest Romanov
daughter had managed to escape. These rumors were exploited by several
imposters, but one of them went down in history as one of the greatest con
artists ever - Anna Anderson.
In 1920, a nameless woman was pulled out of the Landwehr Canal in Berlin after a failed suicide attempt. She had no identifying documents and refused to talk, so the authorities sent her to a mental institution, where she stayed for 2 years. It was there that people started pointing out her physical resemblance to Grand Dutchess Anastasia, as well as her aloof demeanor and strange scars. When she finally started speaking again, it turned out that she also had a barely noticeable Russian accent.
Many former aides and relatives of the
Russian Royal Family came to visit Anderson to see if there was any truth to
these claims. When she was shown old photographs of the family, her face would
always turn red and she would become increasingly upset while refusing to speak.
Only later that night she told one of the nurses: "The gentleman has a
photo of my grandmother." She appeared to know many small details of the
royal family's personal life. Though there were numerous inconsistencies in her
stories and many doubted her legitimacy, word started to spread that Anderson
was, in fact, Anastasia.
Upon her release from the asylum, Anderson’s circle of supporters grew, and they even began a long battle to win her legal recognition as Anastasia. By 1927, an alleged former roommate of Anderson claimed that her name was Franziska Schanzkowska, not Anna and certainly not Anastasia. This didn’t stop Anderson from indulging in her celebrity life and trying to get hold of the royal inheritance.
She ultimately lost her case in the legal proceedings that
dragged on for decades, but she stuck to her story until her death in 1984.
Years later, the bodies of the Royal Family were recovered and a posthumous DNA
test finally proved that Anderson was indeed a fraud. If anything, she was
likely Franziska Schanzkowska, a Polish factory worker who had gone missing in
Clancy's comment: Interesting story, eh?