A Romanov Fantasy: Life at the Court of Anna Anderson

Frances Welch, Author . Norton $24.95 (357p) ISBN 978-0-393-06577-0

The rumors that one of Nicholas II's daughters survived the Russian imperial family's savage murder led to a slew of claimants to the Russian throne. The most famous was Anna Anderson (1896–1984), whose legal battle for recognition as the youngest daughter, Anastasia, spawned the longest-running German court case of the 20th century, as well as books, a Broadway play and a memorable film with Ingrid Bergman playing Anna. A decade after her death, DNA tests proved that Anderson was not Anastasia but a Polish peasant; an aspiring actress, she had been in and out of German mental sanitariums until, after a 1920 suicide attempt, her claim to be Anastasia brought her to the world's attention. Anderson's bizarre clutch of supporters, comically but sympathetically portrayed by Welch, included social-climbing White Russians and an eccentric American millionaire who married Anderson when she was 72 (he was 23 years her junior). Chief among her true believers were Gleb Botkin, whose father, the Romanov physician, had been murdered alongside the czar. Anderson's denouncers included the czar's sister Xenia and Prince Felix Yussoupov, Rasputin's murderer. Welch (The Romanovs and Mr. Gibbes ) has researched a complex and compelling history, a testament to the power of self-delusion and the desperate human need to believe in something bigger than ourselves. 54 illus. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/23/2007
Release date: 09/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
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