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Messages - Penny_Wilson

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Hi Eric!

We last met at Art's conference -- I think it was in 2001?  2002?  I went to that one and the one in 2006, IIRC.

As for The Fate of the Romanovs, and Greg and I and our research and what we wrote -- well, as far as I know, we both believe what we wrote, and stand by it.


Just a bit of insight from the "inside"...

The last months of the Romanovs cannot ever be definitively described.  The classicist Daniel Mendelsohn suggests historians frequently can only tell “the story of the story.”  Mendelsohn was writing of the Holocaust, but his theory applies equally to the Romanovs, I think.  The main players were murdered.  They are dead.  They cannot tell their own story.  Only those who committed the murder, who witnessed the murder, or who survived the murder can tell about it – and all of them can only tell their story.  In real life, each person is his own “main player” and can at best only peripherally describe what happened to others.

Greg and I agree with Mendelsohn’s theory, and we knew that in certain parts of The Fate of the Romanovs, we could only tell “the story of the story.”  And in telling “the story of the story,” we realized that if we were to competently and inclusively cover all the possibilities and probabilities (and impossibilities and improbabilities) of this story, we would have to include a number of accounts and sources that we knew would kick up controversy. 

In coming to the decision to include these (sometimes previously unacknowledged and unused) sources, we knew we would have to rely on our readership being somewhat sophisticated and discerning in that they would have to be able to sift through all the information we found and decide for themselves what the most likely scenario could have been.  We did not want to tell people what to think.  We did not want to do the sifting for our readers (though we did exclude for the sake of word-count a couple of accounts that were only of the slenderest of interest).  We knew that we would be flying in the face of the decorum and “mist of holiness” that sometimes surrounds the Romanovs if we raised the subjects of sexual violence and rape which were an undertone in many of the accounts we accessed.  But ultimately, we felt that 21st-Century readers would be markedly less sheltered than previous generations, and more open to the idea that an “idealized” prison experience probably – or possibly – didn’t happen for the Romanovs.

Mr King, I wish to know if you could explain in your book the "Felix Dassel' case", in your book. This very story was still confusing for me, even if  I never believed Anna Anderson beeing AN, party because every traumatical death of famous people almost automatically call such an answer as claimant. Even in such a family as mine (nothing famous, I should say) we have our legende, our claim. Is seems to be a psychological reflex of self-defense before death or something else difficult.

Matushka, we take four or five pages to deconstruct the Dassel legend, but the short answer is that the legend relies almost solely on uncorroborated information, and omissions and incorrect information regarding the circumstances of Dassel's meeting with AA.  For example, AA's recognition of "Mandrifolie" as one of MN's nicknames would be far more compelling if anyone other than Dassel had ever recorded it.  And far from not knowing who her intended visitor was, the night before they met, Maria Baumgartner prepared AA to meet her guest by going over with her a commemorative album of MN and AN's hospital at Tsarskoye Selo.

Other pieces of information had been gleaned by AA beforehand:  She knew about the medallions given as souvenirs to the officers who recovered at MN and AN's hospital because she had seen one the year before and had had it explained to her extensively.  She corrected Dassel's "test" of placing the billiard table on the wrong floor of the hospital -- but she had a commemorative album with photos and captions.  All examples of Dassel's "recognition" can be explained away in similar fashion.

And of course, Dassel was a frequent visitor to the von Kleist apartment in Berlin in 1923 -- while AA was in residence.

I think this is an interesting point. (And congratulations and welcome back to both you and Penny!) I never believed that AA was Anastasia but I always felt (with no proof mind you) that she somehow believed it--either because of a mental illness, because she wanted it so badly, because she was sad and lonely, whatever the reason. She just seemed to cling so hard to the idea--not wavering from it--for so long and through so many battles. Other wannabes quickly fell by the wayside but she hung in there. I can agree with the earlier poster (Lisa?) who was 'incensed' with what she put the family through but at the same time feel pity because I don't believe (again, just my opinion) that she had the same hard-bitten motives that many claimants (and perhaps some of those around her) had. I always just found her a sad, pitiful figure.

I had never really thought that she was "in it for the money" because it became evident fairly soon that there wasn't any money to be had -- not really.  She just sort of eked out an existence, sometimes staying in palaces or Fifth Avenue apartments -- but just as often living in psychiatric clinics or a Quonset hut in the Black Forest.  

For a real con-artist, I think, the lack of any real cash and the freedom to do as she wanted would have meant a quick exit.  If she "disappeared" to get into the role, she could just as easily "disappear" to get out of it.  I believe the turning point for Franziska was the one occasion on which she did disappear for a few days and returned to her previous life.  Whatever those few days said to her, they propelled her back into the charade, and she never broke with it again.

I have bought all your books (from FOTR onward) for our library recently and look forward to adding this one as well.  :)

Thank you!

I just wish the Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig one hadn't fallen away. One can always dream, I suppose.  :)

I wouldn't worry too much!   King and Wilson will ride again soon -- and Ernst Ludwig could well be part of things!!!  ;)


Interestingly, I asked two Romanov relatives during two different interviews how the family themselves called the killings.   One said that she thought that the answer to such a question mattered only to a romantic -- and she wasn't going to romanticize the events of July 1918.   And the other said that she's heard her husband and his immediate family use anything from "assassination" to "murder" to "killings" to "execution"  -- not that they spoke about it much.  Life moves on, she said, especially in subsequent generations. 

I wouldn't say that these were the opinions of all Romanovs; they're the opinions of the two I happened to ask.

Thanks, Penny.  It was the "O" that I couldn't figure out.

Anyone who invested in that corporation certainly didn't get their money's worth, did they?

I believe they all went bankrupt, including Edward Fallows, the attorney who set it up.  His daughter (Annette?) was quite bitter about it for a long, long time.

I always think that Grandanor was kind of a cheesy name...

Penny or Greg - would you post just what Grandanor is an acronym for?  I might have missed it, but I didn't think you put it in your book and I have forgotten the exact wording.


Take the capital letters in this: GRANd Duchess Anastasia Of Russia = GRANDANOR.

Of course it's hard to second-guess the motivations of other people, but I just never got the idea that any of the early "Anastasians"  -- those involved before the organization of the Grandanor company -- were all that interested in the money potential.  They seemed to me to be true believers, each with a varying degree of ability to ignore and/or explain away contradictory evidence.

To me, this case is all very psychological -- on almost all sides!!

Hey Everyone!  I thought I'd just stick my head up and say "hello" for the first time in a long time.  I'm pretty busy at work these days -- I manage a bodybuilding gym owned by a bodybuilder friend, so that's sort of a new interest of mine.  =)   But FINALLY our Anastasia book is out there!  I know Greg and I look forward to discussing it, and explaining how it developed and grew.  Writing it was a roller-coaster -- but it's always fun to work with Greg.  So -- I'm here and ready to talk Anastasia whenever you all are!


Philip Remy's 1998 documentary is called Anastasia -- Zarentochter oder Hochstaplerin?.  Copies can occasionally be found on, and as far as I know, it's German-language only.  Mine is in German anyway.

I first saw the film a few years ago, on a visit to Philip in Munich -- it was interesting to watch it with the film-maker sitting right next to me.  He kept stopping it to expand on the story and explain his production decisions.  I learned a hell of a lot about the Schanzkowskis and Franziska in days I spent with Remy -- he kindly allowed me to copy his archive for my research with Greg King (which is still on-going for the next book) and told me lots of traveller's tales about his adventures in research, but I can't recall if he ever mentioned the name of Franziska's fiance.  I'll have to look through the papers that he gave me, but I don't think it's there.  It's certainly the sort of detail that I would remember, if I had ever heard it.


Thank you!

No need to cringe Penny, ;D.You and Greg are both a  lot younger than I imagined.It was on for an hour and I forgot to record it...doh
The first quarter dealt with events leading up to Ekaterinberg with a reconstruction of the murders in the cellar and subsequent burials. Then there was a section about Anna Anderson, DNA with Peter Gill and finally the reburial and some beautiful footage of the Cathedral on the Blood (a beautifully serene and peaceful place by the looks of it). All good stuff.

Well, it was actually very good....but then it was a National Geographic production. There were no "surprises" and plenty of excellent film footage of the Imperial Family. Greg King, Penny Wilson, John Klier and Peter Sarandinaki all took part and it was so nice to put faces to names. The only GRRR factor was the usual misidentification of the girls, at one point "Maria" was actually Olga, Also, all the girls were misidentified in one photo. If you manage to catch it, it is well worth a look  ;)

Oh my gosh, it's out!  We were told that it would be out in April, but I don't think any of us have seen it -- Peter Kurth was in it too, wasn't he?  I'm glad to hear that it was a good job -- the director was actually nominated for an Oscar in short-subject documentary last year, so I thought that it would most likely be very well constructed.

As for putting faces to names -- well, MY face has changed quite a bit since last September when our interviews were made.  In August last year, I took up body-building and I've lost about sixty pounds of fat and gained twenty-five pounds of muscle.  ;D  So I'll be interested to see my old self again....(cringe)    ;)

Can you tell me how long the show turned out to be?   Thanks!

I've been trying to figure out where this woman fits in the story of Michael and Natasha -- but she seems not to fit anywhere.  Off the top of my head -- so my dates might be slightly wrong -- Natasha and Michael met in 1908.  Their son George was born in 1910, and his birth was not hidden or otherwise shrouded in secrecy.  Masters mentioned that George was Nicolina's "little brother," which means Nicolina would had to have been born sometime in the year-and-a-half or two years between M&N meeting and George's birth.  I haven't had time to consult the Crawford's book, but perhaps someone could -- and let us know what M&N were up to in those years?

I do believe that Nicholas and Michael remained on good terms until the time of M&N's marriage, which was in 1912.  I suppose their relationship may have been strained because of Michael's affair with the wife of a brother officer and all the attendant scandal -- but there really seems to have been no serious breach until 1912, and so no need to name "Nicolina" to please NII. 

Also -- by the time Countess Brassova died, she was terribly, terribly impoverished.  REALLY poor.  There could have been no legacy of any size left for anyone anywhere.

Now, Natasha's daughter from her first marriage, Tata Mamontov, married (I think) three times.  She had two daughters only: Pauline Grey and Alexandra Majolier.  George Brassov, of course, died tragically young in a motoring accident in France in 1931.  Nothing about this family seems to have been hidden or secreted away -- so why was the existence of this "Nicolina" hidden?

I'd really like to hear more about the story, but its veracity seems unlikely at this point.  Perhaps a letter to the Grey/Majolier connections would answer some of these questions and clarify this situation for you, Masters.

The Final Chapter / Re: OTMA in Ekaterinburg - Speranski
« on: March 19, 2007, 09:01:38 PM »
Greg and I did consult Speransky's book for parts of FOTR; however, we had to use the book and its information judiciously and carefully as Speransky protected his informants by changing their names for the purpose of publication.  Sometimes it is obvious and clear whom he interviews, and sometimes -- not so much.  There were events in Speransky's book that we would dearly have liked to include in FOTR, but absent any other corroborating testimony, we did not believe we should rely solely on the accounts of pseudonymous individuals.

I have quite a decent copy of the book, signed and dated by the author, who included his address in a personal message to the book's owner.  This address has proved somewhat helpful in an attempt to track down any literary heirs who might just possibly -- I live in hope  -- have notes or records from Speransky's Ekaterinburg interviews which would allow us to identify the interviewees.  It's proving to be a slow and plodding piece of research, but as we plan on posting our translation of the book on the kingandwilson website sometime in the future, we'd like to be able to include as much background and foreground information as possible.

As for why Speransky left Russia -- well, he was invited to leave by the Soviet in 1924.  He chose to depart via the East because he thought it would be safer; he wanted to visit former colleagues in San Francisco; and he thought the work he could do in Ekaterinburg would make an interesting and potentially valuable psychological study.

For me, the most poignant part of the book was his visit to the cellar in which the Imperial Family were murdered.  As he peered into the cracks of the wall and floor -- and those of the steps outside -- he thought he could see traces of blood clinging to the inside of the wood, still untouched after years of the surface being cleaned and washed.  Fanciful thinking?  Maybe -- the maid who let him in certainly created an atmosphere by intimating that the house -- if not actually haunted --  had had some bad juju since the time of the murders.

Perhaps I should get around to posting the book sooner rather than later!


In what year was Nicolina born?


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