The Crucial Connection Between The Romanoffs and the True History of Russia’s Last Imperial Family

The Long View

In the trailer for Amazon Prime’s The Romanoffs, one of the lead characters, looking somewhat frazzled, exclaims, “I’m so tired of this Romanoff s–t.” I know the feeling.

As a Romanov historian who has spent the last 12 years writing about Russia’s last Imperial Family, I have lost track of the number of letters and emails I have received from people claiming to be related in some way to a member of that illustrious family, or whose ancestor was involved in their miraculous escape from Russia. They just keep on coming.

Of all royal connections, one to a resurrected Romanov is the ultimate genealogical fantasy, fueled by popular TV programs like Who Do You Think You Are? and Antiques Roadshow. There’s even an episode of Frasier entitled “A Tsar is Born,” featuring the family excitedly celebrating the royal connections of a Russian clock that had belonged to Alexander II and was brought to America by an ancestor of theirs who was a “Romanoff princess.” Not so; just as Frasier is getting his press release ready, he discovers that a scullery maid stole the clock. She absconded with it to New York where she worked as a prostitute. Their ancestor was not the princess but the scullery maid: “We’re not Romanoffs,” mourns Frasier, “but descended from thieves and whores.”

The fact is, as far as Russian royal blood is concerned, no matter how many DNA tests, scientific papers or authoritative debunkings are published, this is one fantasy that simply will not lie down. The name Romanov offers top-drawer social cachet, links to supposed untold wealth stashed away in foreign banks, and a romantic larger-than-life past where the soundtrack forever plays the theme tune to Ingrid Bergman’s Anastasia.

The problem with Russian ancestry is that, after the 1917 Revolution forced many of them into exile, there was a whole diaspora of largely impoverished Romanov princess, princesses, grand dukes and duchesses. Many of them spelled the name in the Frenchified form as Romanoff. (This in fact more closely mirrors the correct Russian pronunciation than the -ov ending that is favored now.) In exile in Paris, the South of France, London and California, expatriate Romanoffs of one kind or another dined out on the name.

Some were glorious fakes, like the Hollywood restaurateur Michael Romanoff, whose premises were patronized by movie stars such as Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Frank

Source:: Time – Entertainment


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