'The Romanoffs': The chilling story behind the Romanovs, the massacred Russian royal family

Amazon Prime's original anthology series 'The Romanoffs' is based on people around the world, who believe they are descendants of the Russian royal family

'The Romanoffs': The chilling story behind the Romanovs, the massacred Russian royal family

Amazon Prime's 'The Romanoffs' is set to make its debut this Friday. The original anthology series is based on people around the world, who believe they are descendants of the Russian royal family. The show tries to take a dive into the obsession with being a royal, especially this one considering its horrific past. Created, written, directed and produced by nine-time Emmy award winner Matthew Weiner, who was also behind 'Mad Men', the show will reveal its stories in 8 parts.



 

Shot across three continents - Europe, America, and the Far East, each story takes place in a new location with a new cast. The first episode, 'The Violet Hour' stars Marthe Keller, Aaron Eckhart, Ines Melab and Louise Bourgoin and the second story, 'The Royal We,' stars Corey Stoll, Kerry Bishe, Janet Montgomery and Noah Wyle. 

Who were the Romanovs?

On a fateful day in 1918, the members of the Russian imperial family, the House of Romanov, were executed by a firing squad in Yekaterinburg, Russia. It happened during the Russian Civil War and towards the end of the First World War. The soldiers were ordered to shoot them all, women and children included, and the entire family was massacred in their home. Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra, and their five children — Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei — were gunned down and also allegedly stabbed to death. While no one knows for sure who ordered the hit, people believe the murders were connected to Vladimir Lenin.

The Romanov family (Wikipedia)
The Romanov family (Wikipedia)

In 2006, one of the people who claim the family's ancestry as their own, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia, came forward and accused Lenin of the massacre and said her family deserved justice. She claimed she had proof confirming a Bolshevik committee in Yekaterinburg had indeed been responsible for the massacre and that they had discussed the matter with their heads at the time. She also claimed Lenin had been a part of the conversation. However, there is no paper trail and as far as the government was concerned, the massacre was just.

At the time, the monarchy in Russia was on its edge and it had failed to provide relief with regards to the basic necessity of the people - food. People revolted against the royalty and felt they only hoarded their money. There was bloodshed, of course, and as for the imperial family, they ended up being kept on house arrest before being brutally killed. 

Why is it still mysterious? 

After the fire died down, a number of people came forward claiming to have survived the execution. They claimed they were Anastasia's descendants, one of the five children of Nicholas II. They are all deemed liars by the authorities as the skeletal remains of the Imperial family have since been recovered and identified through DNA testing. What's interesting is to this day, a number of people still claim to be members of the Romanov family, often using false titles of nobility or royalty. Why would one want to be associated with this family?



 

In the case of Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia, it certainly does appear to be wealth. If she successfully claimed she was the heir to Nicolas II, she would indeed have a portion of his money which even after these many years has to be quite a bit. Speaking to the Independent, Alexander Zakatov, an aide to Grand Duchess Maria, said it would be kind of the authorities to let them have a "building" in the capital just as "a sign of respect to a dynasty that ruled Russia for 300 years". He denied the Romanovs wanted any money.

The details of the murder itself are still quite cloudy. Some believe the guards couldn't kill the children so they had to get drunk and randomly fire because of which they missed their shots and some children escaped. Some say the royals had so many jewels on them, it shielded them from the firing and did not hurt every one of them fatally. Some theories even suggest they had to stab the children after the firing because of how incoherent the soldiers were. There have also been claims that when the bodies were taken out, two of the daughters were still alive. It is said that the killing took 20 minutes in total.

The basement where the Romanov family was killed. The wall had been torn apart in search of bullets and other evidence by investigators in 1919. The double doors leading to a storeroom were locked during the execution. (Wikipedia)
The basement where the Romanov family was killed. The wall had been torn apart in search of bullets and other evidence by investigators in 1919. The double doors leading to a storeroom were locked during the execution. (Wikipedia)

One of the greatest secrets in the history of Russia was that even their graves were unmarked and they were buried after being stripped and burned with both acid and fire in different locations in the Koptyaki forest. Initially thrown down a mineshaft called Ganina Yama, the bodies were later disposed of in two unmarked graves in a field called Porosenkov Log. The ones who murdered them ensured they couldn't be found. However, an investigation by the White Army revealed they may have been cremated in the mines since there was evidence of a fire found. They couldn't find the gravesite.

The government did release the news that Nicolas II had indeed died at the time, but they never confirmed what happened to the rest of the family.

Who are the modern-day descendants to the Romanovs?

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh raises his hat in his role as Captain General, Royal Marines, makes his final individual public engagement as he attends a parade to mark the finale of the 1664 Global Challenge, on the Buckingham Palace Forecourt on August 2, 2017 in London, England.
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh raises his hat in his role as Captain General, Royal Marines, makes his final individual public engagement as he attends a parade to mark the finale of the 1664 Global Challenge, on the Buckingham Palace Forecourt on August 2, 2017 in London, England.

The names include Prince Philip (grandnephew of the Tsarina Alexandra and another great-great-grandson of Nicholas I), Prince Michael of Kent, Duke of Westminster Hugh Grosvenor, King Constantine II of Greece, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, Grand Duke George Mikhailovich, Olga Andreevna Romanoff, Francis-Alexander Mathew, Nicoletta Romanoff, Olga Andreevna Romanoff, and Prince Rostislav Romanov. In 1917, after Lenin and the Bolsheviks claimed power, some of the royals were able to flee the country. Nicolas II's family may or may not have been successful but there are said to be about two handfuls of them who did run away. Maria Feodorovna, Xenia and Alexandr, who were Nicolas II's mother, sister, and brother-in-law managed to flee to Crimea. They were discovered by King George V of England.