Author Topic: The Alleged 1916 Visit to Russia  (Read 209821 times)

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Offline Eric_Lowe

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Re: The Alleged 1916 Visit to Russia
« Reply #270 on: May 21, 2007, 03:29:37 AM »
Well...believe what you may but I am convinced that it is highly possible that it did. The fact that such a simple statement from an unknown woman can touch the nerve of the highest German Royal Family is unpresidented The trestimony of Crown Princess Cecilie and Victoria Luise, Duchess of Brunswick is worth serious and careful consideration and cannot be discounted out of hand. This coupled with the nature of Kaiser Bill, who believe in the fact that monarchs should settle wars by themselves assed to the mix. No I am convinced that it did, or at least the possibility of it.  ;)

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Re: The Alleged 1916 Visit to Russia
« Reply #271 on: May 21, 2007, 09:05:46 AM »
Well...believe what you may but I am convinced that it is highly possible that it did. The fact that such a simple statement from an unknown woman can touch the nerve of the highest German Royal Family is unpresidented The trestimony of Crown Princess Cecilie and Victoria Luise, Duchess of Brunswick is worth serious and careful consideration and cannot be discounted out of hand. This coupled with the nature of Kaiser Bill, who believe in the fact that monarchs should settle wars by themselves assed to the mix. No I am convinced that it did, or at least the possibility of it.  ;)

For the THIRD and final time: Please show in the historical record where Victoria Louise, Duchess of Brunswick gave such "testimony" when in fact her own words as I quoted above say the OPPOSITE? Should you post this again without the supporting testimony, that post will be deleted without notice. period. Full Stop.

FA

Bob_the_builder

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Re: The Alleged 1916 Visit to Russia
« Reply #272 on: May 21, 2007, 04:01:20 PM »
You are right Robert about there being no hard proof of this visit, but there is strong circumstantial evidence. In my opinion, it dosen't just rest on "gossip".

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: The Alleged 1916 Visit to Russia
« Reply #273 on: May 21, 2007, 05:43:44 PM »
What "strong circumstantial evidence" is there, then?
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Bob_the_builder

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Re: The Alleged 1916 Visit to Russia
« Reply #274 on: May 21, 2007, 06:39:09 PM »
I'm going to post Greg King's article here for everyone to read:

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The topic of the "1916 Hesse Trip to Russia" has probably been discussed at length on every royalty message board. For the sake of a comprehensive approach, however, let¹s reiterate the known facts, discuss the evidence for and against, and try to determine what exactly it all means.

In the 1920s, Anastasia Tchaikovsky-in her claim to be Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaievna-first raised allegations that Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse had himself personally gone to Russia during the First World War. When asked when she had last seen him, she replied, "Im Kriege, bei uns zu hause" ("In the War, with us at home").(See Peter Kurth, Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1983, page 92) This visit, she said, had been undertaken to propose a separate peace to his brother-in-law Nicholas II or, barring this, to urge the Imperial Family to leave Russia if the political situation deteriorated. The Grand Duke vehemently denied the assertions, though a number of witnesses came forward to testify that it had indeed taken place.

The alleged visit is generally supposed to have taken place in February 1916. During Anna Anderson¹s first and second trials in West Germany in the 1950s and 1960s, the issue was once again raised as evidence to support her claim to be Anastasia. The two presiding court tribunals heard and accepted evidence from numerous witnesses who deposed that the trip had occurred.




Bob_the_builder

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Re: The Alleged 1916 Visit to Russia
« Reply #275 on: May 21, 2007, 06:40:12 PM »
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Before going any farther, it might be well to consider the basic hypothetical details of the alleged visit, drawn from sworn testimony and published materials as well as private information from the late Princess Vera Konstantinovna as below, and unpublished archival materials from GARF and from RGIA. This is, again, merely a working hypothesis, intended to synthesize some of what has been discovered on the assumption that such a visit may have occurred. What the evidence in favor of the visit having taken place suggests is that the Grand Duke, assisted by the King of Sweden, traveled across Sweden to Finland and entered Russia using the alias of Prince Thurn und Taxis. His arrival was known a few days in advance by Nicholas and Alexandra, who were alerted by letters from the Crown Princess of Sweden; thus, Nicholas II-having just left Petrograd for Mogilev only three days earlier-abruptly and without explanation hastily returned to Tsarskoye Selo for three days. To avoid any possibility of discovery, the Grand Duke was taken directly to Pavlovsk, where he stayed for two days with Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mavrikievna, widow of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich. On his second day in Russia he furtively visited the Alexander Palace to meet Nicholas and Alexandra. The Emperor rejected any suggestion of a separate peace and, on the following day, the Grand Duke left Petrograd and returned, via Finland, Sweden, Norway, and East Prussia, to Field Headquarters in France.

Prince Dimitri Golitsyn was attached to Prince Vladimir von Mekk during World War I after being wounded. Mekk had previously served as head of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna's Chancellery and, in 1916, was Chief of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna's Red Cross Relief Services. Golitsyn testified under oath: "We were at Tsarskoye Selo twice in 1916, once in the spring and once again in the autumn. During one of these trips I was waiting for Mekk in a large hall at the Alexander Palace as he gave his report to the Empress; suddenly I saw a gentleman in civilian clothes come in rather furtively, and then disappear through another door." The sight of a man in civilian dress was so unusual that, when Mekk returned, Golitsyn asked him if he knew his identity. "That¹s not your affair!" Mekk told his aide. Then, "either that evening, or the next day," Mekk confided, "It was the Empress's brother, the Grand Duke of Hesse, that you saw." (Sworn testimony of Prince Dimitri Golitsyn before the Hamburg Tribunal, in the case of Anna Anderson v. Barbara, Duchess of Mecklenburg, Ober-landesgericht-Hamburg, Volume 37, ZPO 6595)

Colonel Dimitri von Wonlar-Larsky was a Commander in the Russian Imperial Guard in 1916. Wonlar-Larsky testified under oath: "In 1915 and 1916, I had to be treated at a sanatorium, Raula, on Lake Solma not far from the Imata Waterfall, in Finland. It was while I was there that one evening I had the opportunity to notice a foreign dignitary passing through; I immediately recognized him as Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse-Darmstadt. Colonel Mordinov, the Emperor's Adjutant, accompanied him. The Tsaritsa's brother was someone well known to me. When Mordvinov saw that I had recognized the Grade Duke, he asked that I not let it be noticed, and to maintain my silence on the issue. He confided to me that the Tsaritsa's brother was traveling incognito; indeed, he was using the name of a Prince of Thurn und Taxis." (Colonel Dimitri von Wonlar-Larsky, Sworn deposition admitted in evidence before the Hamburg Tribunal, in the case of Anna Anderson v. Barbara, Duchess of Mecklenburg, Ober-landesgericht-Hamburg, Volume 1, ZPO 186)

The Princess Thurn und Taxis was an Infanta of Portugal and niece of Archduke Josef of Austria-Hungary, who had been a member of the Austro-Hungarian High Command in 1916. The Princess deposed under oath: "I learned of the secret visit of Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse from my uncle Archduke Josef of Austria-Hungary. He learned of it not as a member of the High Command, but from within the Imperial Family." (Princess Thurn und Taxis, sworn testimony under oath before the Hamburg Tribunal, in the case of Anna Anderson v. Barbara, Duchess of Mecklenburg, Ober-landesgericht-Hamburg, Volume 18, ZPO 3658)


Bob_the_builder

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Re: The Alleged 1916 Visit to Russia
« Reply #276 on: May 21, 2007, 06:40:52 PM »
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Prince Ferdinand of Schoenaich-Carolath was the son of Wilhelm II's second wife Empress Hermine, and lived with the Kaiser in exile in Doorn. The Prince testified under oath: "I learned about the secret trip of the Grand Duke of Hesse directly from my stepfather the Kaiser. His Majesty said that he himself had authorized the Grand Duke to undertake the mission to seek a separate peace with Russia in 1916." (Prince Ferdinand of Schoenaich-Carolath, sworn testimony under oath before the Hamburg Tribunal, in the case of Anna Anderson v. Barbara, Duchess of Mecklenburg, Ober-landesgericht-Hamburg, Volume 31, ZPO 5826)

Crown Princess Cecilie of Prussia was Kaiser Wilhelm II's daughter-in-law. In a sworn deposition, she testified: "If the view is still held today that such a visit never took place, I can assert from personal knowledge-the source is my late father-in-law-that this visit was already known in our circles at the time." (Crown Princess Cecilie of Prussia, sworn deposition under oath, admitted as evidence before the Hamburg Tribunal, in the case of Anna Anderson v. Barbara, Duchess of Mecklenburg, Ober-landesgericht-Hamburg, Volume 24, ZPO 4996)

Baroness Marie Pilar von Pilchau testified about the alleged visit during the first trial in 1957. She declared under oath: "My brother was well-known to the late Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt. In the year 1916, my brother was working as a councilor at the Imperial Russian Legation in Oslo. During that period, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse sent an adjutant to Oslo, to my brother, to ask for his assistance in arranging a journey to Russian by way of Haparanda. With my brother's assistance, the trip to Russia did take place." (Baroness Marie Pilar von Pilchau, sworn testimony under oath before the Hamburg Tribunal, in the case of Anna Anderson v. Barbara, Duchess of Mecklenburg, Ober-landesgericht-Hamburg, Volume 7, ZPO 299)

Fritz von Unruh was a Nobel Prize winner and a man who had served as a tutor to the Grand Duke's two sons Don and Lu. He knew that the visit had indeed taken place, he testified, as he was in the Neues Palais in Darmstadt at the time. According to his sworn testimony under oath, "The Grand Duke traveled through East Prussia, crossed the Baltic into Sweden, and from there went through Finland to Petrograd." The trip, Unruh said, "was undertaken in complete secrecy." (Fritz von Unruh, sworn testimony under oath before the Hamburg Tribunal, in the case of Anna Anderson v. Barbara, Duchess of Mecklenburg, Ober-landesgericht-Hamburg, Volume 20, ZPO 3932)

Reportedly, there were others who knew of the trip, but who refused to testify to it in court, all because they apparently did not want to be viewed as lending support to Anderson's claim. Respected French journalist Dominique Aucleres stated that she knew of seven such witnesses who refused to give evidence.(See Peter Kurth, pages 95 and 344)

Against this, Dr. Gunther von Berenberg-Gossler, lawyer for Barbara, Duchess of Mecklenburg in the Anderson trials, introduced a number of documents from the Staatsarkhiv in Darmstadt that undermined the claim. Among the first exhibit was Ernie's diary; for the crucial period in question, it recorded him as being "in the field, near Verdun," with members of the Hessian regiments. Then, too, he offered the Grand Duke's letters to wife Eleonore, reporting on his activities in the field, as evidence of his continued presence in France at the time the supposed visit had taken place. Taken together, these materials suggested that the Grand Duke had not left France in February of 1916.

The Hamburg Tribunal overseeing the Anderson case eventually ruled, "The trip did not take place." (Peter Kurth, page 364)

In her memoirs, Viktoria Luise, Wilhelm II's daughter, wrote: "I personally know of no one who has any evidence of the Grand Duke's trip to St. Petersburg, neither did I hear anything from my father about it. But I also know that the proposal to send a prince over there was discussed, and also with the military commanders, but Ludendorff was strictly against it. So if such a step had been taken, it was taken without the knowledge of the High Command. That would explain why my father had wanted the strictest secrecy, and it would also explain the Grand Duke's absolute silence, too, particularly as regards his own family. They certainly never got the slightest indication from him." (Viktoria Luise, The Kaiser¹s Daughter, New York, Viking, 1977, page 101)


Bob_the_builder

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Re: The Alleged 1916 Visit to Russia
« Reply #277 on: May 21, 2007, 06:42:07 PM »
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This, then, has been the bulk of the evidence both for and against the visit.

There is little doubt that there was indeed serious discussion, as Princess Viktoria Luise wrote, about sending some royal envoy to Petrograd to raise the issue of a separate peace between Germany and Russia; the evidence on this point is consistent, and Kaiser Wilhelm II was particularly keen to circumvent the objections of his High Command and work through family channels-as he had done many times previously in his former relations with Nicholas II and other European monarchs. Thus the basic premise of a German approach to investigate a separate peace is well founded in historical scholarship.

The Kaiser is also known to have used Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig directly in such approaches with his sister Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. One known example is a letter written by Ernst Ludwig to his sister, which was smuggled into Russia by Princess Marie Vassilchikova to Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, who then was to pass it on to the Empress. This effort resulted in the Princess's expulsion from Petrograd and her exile to one of her family estates, and a particularly acrimonious breach between Nicholas and Alexandra and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna. (See Alexander Bokhanov, Sumerki Monarkhii, Moscow, Orbis, 1993; Materialy k Zhitiu prepodobnomuchenitsi Velokoi Knyagini Yeizavety; Pis¹ma, Dnevnikii, Vospominaniya, v Dokumenty, published by Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii (State Archives of the Russian Federation, hereafter GARF); and Hugo Major, Elizabeth, Grand Duchess of Russia, New York, Carol & Graf, 1998)

It is thus a distinct possibility that if, in 1916, the Kaiser once again wished to push for a separate peace with Russia, he would naturally have turned to Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig who, as Alexandra Feodorovna's brother, would at least have been granted the courtesy of a hearing. Such a possible approach, however, remains unproven.

In the 1920s, the Soviet Government published two obscure collections of archival materials, Monarkhia pered Khrusheniem, 1914-1917, and Romanovyi germanskie vliyania, 1914-1917. These two books stated as fact that the 1916 visit by Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig had indeed taken place, based on archival documents in the possession of the Soviet Government. It is important to note that the first mention of the alleged visit by Anastasia Tchaikovsky (later Anna Anderson) was made in 1925, but news of this claim did not become public knowledge for several years. The first apparent Soviet confirmation, in Romanovyi germanskie vliyania, 1914-1917, appeared in 1924-25, before word of the claimant's assertion had been made public, while Monarkhia pered Khrusheniem was published in 1927. Thus, the first Soviet mention of the alleged visit was published prior to Anastasia Tchaikovsky's claim, while the second was published two years after her claim, but before the issue itself had become public.

The two books concern themselves with Russian policy during World War I, and with the Empire's relations with Germany during that period. The assertion that Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig made a secret trip to undertake negotiations for a separate peace is given little space in either work-less than ten pages altogether in both books. This would indicate that the Soviet editors considered the issue of little importance, and itself underlies any modern day contention that the materials contained within are clumsy Bolshevik forgeries designed to further undermine the Imperial Regime. Had the Soviets wished to use the materials related to the alleged trip as evidence against Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, simple logic dictates that they would scarcely have dropped them into the middle of two obscure books and not instead ensure that the claims received intense publicity. It has been-and remains today-a common fallacy that any startling, controversial, or revisionist materials related to the Romanovs emanating from the former Soviet archives or from former Soviet sources must be deliberately false propaganda designed to cast the Imperial Family in a negative light. In fact, there are numerous instances where the Soviet Government possessed embarrassing information on members of the former Dynasty-witness the diaries of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich detailing his homosexuality-and never used it for propaganda purposes. And, particularly in the case of the alleged 1916 Hessian visit, there was nothing at all of propaganda value to be gained, for all sources-both Western and Russian-agree that Nicholas II routinely rejected such suggestions out of hand. In short, there is no evidence nor any logic at all to suggest that the contents of the books-in relation to the alleged 1916 Hessian trip-do not represent actual documentary materials.


Bob_the_builder

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Re: The Alleged 1916 Visit to Russia
« Reply #278 on: May 21, 2007, 06:43:18 PM »
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Nor is it possible, based on the facts, to argue that this information and its publication was a clumsy Soviet plot to latch on to the claims of Anastasia Tchaikovsky and promote her in an effort to undermine the unity of the Russian émigré community in Europe. As noted above, the first Soviet publication of information regarding the alleged visit came before Anastasia Tchaikovsky made her claims, undermining any contention of a correlation between them, and of any possible collusion.

What the two Soviet books do show-particularly Monarkhia pered Krusheniem, 1914-1917, is that the alleged trip was widely discussed amongst numerous people. Monarkhia pered Khrusheniem includes archival letters written to Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra from King Gustav of Sweden and the Crown Princess of Sweden in which the alleged visit-which they helped to facilitate-is widely discussed, and we may post copies of this correspondence here. Drawing on this correspondence, as well as archival reports in GARF, both books accept-on the basis of the evidence they present-that the visit did indeed take place.

Many years later, as author and genealogist Marlene Eilers has noted elsewhere, the late Princess Vera Konstantinovna confided that she, too, knew of the alleged 1916 visit. The Princess related that Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig had actually stayed at Pavlovsk during his brief time in Russia, and that she had seen him there herself. The Princess confided this information to an author then working with her relatives and other members of the Romanov Family in exile. I myself first heard this story of the Princess's revelations in 1989, and a select other few have also been privy to the same information over the years. In respect of the author's privacy, I cannot reveal their name, but this is not a recent claim.

In ongoing research for a biography of Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig, both Penny Wilson and myself have attempted to fully investigate these stories and the truth behind the allegations. In the course of this research, we have also gained access to further confirming documents and information. We have a number of unpublished documents and materials from the Staatsarkhiv in Darmstadt that undermine the contention that Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig undertook such a visit; on the other hand, we also have new, contradictory archival evidence that does indeed suggest that the alleged visit may well have taken place. Unfortunately, owing to the ongoing nature of this work, it is not possible to elaborate, and there is still a great deal of archival research left to be done before a more clear picture of what may have happened emerges. What we can do is to discuss the quality of the public evidence in a cautious and even-handed manner. First, let us turn to the evidence-sworn testimonies and depositions-that support the idea that the visit took place.

There are a number of sworn witnesses before the West German Court who attested that the visit had taken place. We assume, for the sake of argument, that their testimony is true, but it is also often less than compelling. Prince Dimitri Golitsyn did not recognize Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig at Tsarskoye Selo, but rather he was told the mysterious man's identity by Prince Vladimir von Mekk; as such, this is second-hand identification. It is difficult to fathom why von Mekk would deliberately lie to Golitsyn-which is the only means by which the identification can be dismissed-but because Golitsyn himself did not know the man's identity, the claim that it was, in fact, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig, cannot, in and of itself, be considered conclusive evidence.

The evidence given by the Princess Thurn und Taxis likewise depended not on personal knowledge or identification, but instead on information received from her uncle Archduke Josef of Austria-Hungary, who himself presumably learned of the alleged visit from either the Emperor or perhaps from the Kaiser. As such, the Princess's declaration is not only hearsay, but came to her third-hand at best. In attempting to unravel this tangled tale, hearsay evidence plays a large role; it cannot simply be dismissed merely on the basis of being hearsay-indeed, the West German Tribunals accepted it as admissible evidence-but it does make the claim somewhat less than compelling.

The testimony of Baroness Marie Pilar von Pilchau fares somewhat better, as she heard the story directly from her brother, who declared himself an eyewitness to the alleged visit, but it remains second-hand hearsay evidence, albeit evidence strengthened by her brother's apparent instantaneous recognition of the Grand Duke of Hesse. The deposition by Prince Ferdinand of Schoenaich-Carolath falls into something of the same category-hearsay second-hand evidence although-as this information was derived directly from Kaiser Wilhelm II-it bears a more impressive pedigree and presumably should therefore be accorded somewhat more weight.


Bob_the_builder

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Re: The Alleged 1916 Visit to Russia
« Reply #279 on: May 21, 2007, 06:44:13 PM »
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The deposition by Crown Princess Cecilie of Prussia ranks even higher on the credibility scale though it, too, partially falls under the category of hearsay, second-hand evidence-again directly from Kaiser Wilhelm II. The Crown Princess's deposition does indicate that she learned of the alleged visit contemporaneous with its presumed occurrence, which strengthens her claim-hence her statement that "this visit was already known in our circles at the time." This implicitly suggests that Crown Princess Cecilie knew of the alleged visit, and later had this confirmed by the Kaiser. As such, it is a stronger piece of evidence supporting the alleged visit.

Only two of the deposed witnesses gave direct testimony indicating their own personal knowledge of the alleged trip. Colonel Dimitri von Wonlar-Larsky, who declared that he knew the Grand Duke of Hesse, attested that he personally saw him in Finland during a portion of the journey, accompanied by Nicholas II¹s adjutant Colonel Mordvinov. Wonlar-Larsky was thus a direct, firsthand witness to a portion of the trip and, as such, his sworn testimony must be accorded great weight.

And then there was the direct testimony of Fritz von Unruh, who was unquestionably in the Neues Palais at Darmstadt at the time, and who was in a position to have firsthand knowledge of the alleged trip-indeed, he declared he had helped plan the actual route the Grand Duke took to Russia. Like Wonlar-Larsky, von Unruh was an eyewitness, unquestionably on the scene and in a position to know the truth of what took place. It is hard to see on what grounds his evidence could reasonably be dismissed.

As to the seven alleged witnesses to the trip reported by respected French journalist Dominique Aucleres, such stories-however compelling-cannot be considered evidence and bear no weight in analyzing the truth of the matter.

In all evidentiary issues, the motivation of the witnesses must be considered. There has never been any suggestion that Fritz von Unruh supported Anna Anderson's claims, and there is no motive that can be assigned to his testimony to undermine his statement. He stood to gain nothing from his declaration. Prince Dimitri Golitsyn took no side in the Anna Anderson claims and, indeed, following his appearance in court, his Russian landlady in Paris threw him out of his flat; he had nothing to gain and indeed in the end lost by his testimony. Colonel Dimitri von Wonlar-Larsky likewise was never a supporter of Anna Anderson's claims, and stood to gain nothing from his testimony. It is not known what, if any, ties may have existed between the Princess Thurn und Taxis and Baroness Marie Pilar von Pilchau and Anna Anderson, though they were apparently never among the claimant's supporters and, as such, bore no motive to present dishonest information to the Court.

The issue of motivation is somewhat shaded with the testimony of Prince Ferdinand of Schoenaich-Carolath, whose mother Empress Hermine-while not formally recognizing Anna Anderson's claims-nevertheless supported her with money and gifts. And Crown Princess Cecilie of Prussia was one of those who made no secret of the fact that she believed Anna Anderson was Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaievna; while there is no hard proof that such personal views affected her credibility, her support of the claimant does somewhat undermine the idea that she was free of personal bias in the matter.

The potential veracity-and problems-with the materials and assertions presented in the two Soviet books Romanovyi germanskie vliyania, 1914-1917, and in Monarkhia pered Khrusheniem, have been delineated above, and any objections-without any hard and fast contradictory evidence-have already been discussed. Again, in short, failing the introduction of firm facts in the argument against their content-there is no reasonable excuse to simply dismiss them as propaganda.

Finally, we have the statements made by the late Princess Vera Konstantinovna, which place the Grand Duke at Pavlovsk during his secret trip to Russia. The Princess is now dead, and thus cannot confirm her remarks but, as pointed out, news of her revelations was disseminated amongst a small group of people at the time they were made (1989), along with certain clarifying details and written confirmation. If the time comes when the full details are published, the public can then assess the totality of the story, but again one must ask what possible motive Princess Vera Konstantinovna, who never recognized Anna Anderson's claims, would possibly have had in relating the information. Nor does it do to simply dismiss them as the remarks of an elderly lady not in full possession of her faculties-in the case of Princess Vera Konstantinovna, as all who were privileged to know her can readily attest-nothing could be further from the truth. As such, her statements must be accorded significant weight.

While we cannot address the specifics of additional unpublished archival information Penny and I have uncovered and continue to investigate related to the alleged 1916 Hessian trip, both from Russian archival sources and from the Staatsarkhiv in Darmstadt, suffice it to say that all materials must be subjected to these rigorous standards in an attempt to reach some consensus of the truth.




Bob_the_builder

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Re: The Alleged 1916 Visit to Russia
« Reply #280 on: May 21, 2007, 06:46:16 PM »
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If such a trip took place, some have argued, there would be definitive evidence of it in the Russian archives. Thus far, in the fifteen years since the Soviet Union collapsed, no documents have been published from either GARF in Moscow or from the Rossiiskoi Gosudarstvennyi Istoricheskii Arkhiv (Russian State Historical Archives, or RGIA) in St. Petersburg to support the alleged trip. This, in and of itself, is scarcely surprising. Any such remaining documents would only see the light of day as the result of a deliberate search for materials related to the alleged 1916 trip, and such an area of interest has not yet been explored in depth in any recent Russian publication. Even the Soviet Government treated the issue of the alleged trip as little more than a historical footnote in its two publications that dealt with the subject. And the cataloguing of materials in the various fonds continues to this day, as Penny and I can attest, with the personal papers of many members of the Imperial Family and of the Court awaiting careful analysis and arrangement in the record books. This is not, however, to say that nothing exists in the Russian archives on the subject; in the course of our research on Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig, Penny and I have indeed discovered further information and evidence related to the alleged 1916 trip, but this must, understandably, await publication in the intended biography of the Grand Duke. There are, for example, a number of letters in English to Nicholas II from King Gustav of Sweden in which the alleged trip is discussed.

The Russian Archives, and particularly GARF and RGIA, are vast depositories of hundreds of years of information, letters, diaries, files, and documents, and no one can make a sweeping generalization suggesting that they contain nothing about the alleged visit; indeed, as pointed out above, Penny and I have already accessed some unpublished materials directly related to the alleged 1916 Hessian trip. This is an ongoing process and involves not only a great deal of skill and dedication on the parts of the archival workers but also substantial sums of money and, in our case, the results are intended for publication in the biography of Ernst Ludwig. But rest assured that anyone who claims that there is nothing about the alleged visit in GARF or in RGIA is not only making a broad statement but also, as we can reveal, an erroneous one.

Some people may not be satisfied unless they find the day and hour of the alleged visit diligently recorded in the record books of the police guarding the Alexander Palace, but such a stance-if the visit did indeed take place-defies simple logic. Had Ernst Ludwig undertaken such a mission and arranged a secret journey and meetings, there are scarcely liable to be timely records recording the various sundry details; if this visit occurred, it was an extremely sensitive and potentially compromising event, and details would undoubtedly have been kept from recorded officialdom.

It is quite true that the letters and diaries of Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra do not contain any reference to the alleged visit but, again, this should not be surprising. While any such visit was clearly instituted by the Kaiser and thus could not be in any way construed as a treasonous act on the part of either the Emperor or the Empress, it was also a potentially dangerous event for their personal prestige. And here we come to a reasonable-if conjectural-explanation that helps to put in context the lack of direct evidence on the parts of Nicholas and Alexandra to support the theoretical visit. In the days immediately following the February Revolution, Empress Alexandra diligently went through many of her personal papers, burning not only volumes of her diaries but also personal letters, suspecting that-with the Emperor's abdication-her correspondence would not remain inviolate. (See Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden, The Life and Times of Alexandra Feodorovna, London, Longmans, Green, 1928, page 91; and Lili Dehn, The Real Tsaritsa, London, Thornton Butterworth, 1922, page 176) When the former Nicholas II returned to Tsarskoye Selo following his abdication he, too, sorted through his private papers and destroyed many letters; others were hidden in a safe in his study. Had either the Emperor or the Empress confided details of the alleged Hessian visit in any of their private papers, this, then, was almost certainly when they divested themselves of the presumably incriminating evidence. In reality, had the visit taken place, they had nothing to hide, as it had not occurred at their suggestion nor had they compromised Russia's principals to consider the proposal for a separate peace, but in the heady and uncertain days following the Revolution they may well have decided that a policy of pre-emptive safety was the best course of action, in order to avoid any unwelcome questions in what both sensed was the official inquiry of their war-time activities still to come. This is, as said, conjecture, but it is conjecture based on known facts, and it accords with a reasonable explanation of what may have taken place.


Bob_the_builder

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Re: The Alleged 1916 Visit to Russia
« Reply #281 on: May 21, 2007, 06:47:21 PM »
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The witnesses who offered sworn testimony during the Anna Anderson trials-and the varying reports of others who could do the same but who refused to get involved for fear of lending support to the claimant's story, do provide a fragmented tapestry of evidence. Thus the arguments that mitigated in favor of the possible trip rested not with one or two accounts, but with a multitude of evidence, however tenuous portions of it may have been.

Turning to the extant letters, there are some hints suggesting the possibility of the secret trip. As previously noted, less than a week after leaving Petrograd for Stavka at Mogilev, Nicholas II abruptly and unexpectedly returned to Tsarskoye Selo for three days. On his second departure from Tsarskoye Selo for Stavka, Empress Alexandra wrote of "worry without end," and said, "The good will come and you are patient and will be blessed. I feel so sure, only much to be gone through still. When I think what the losses of lives mean to your heart-I can imagine poor Ernie's suffering now. Oh, this hideously bloody war!" (Empress Alexandra Feodorovna to Nicholas II, Letter of March 2/15, 1916, in GARF, F. 601, Op. 1, D. 1150) The reference to her brother was unusual in the Empress's correspondence, and in this letter she definitely linked it to the War. It is possible that the letter came after Ernst Ludwig had visited the palace and offered a proposal to end the hostilities, one that Nicholas II rejected.

This, again, is merely conjecture. The materials from the Staatsarkhiv in Darmstadt introduced by Dr. Berenberg-Gossler to refute the idea of any such trip should have been conclusive, but on closer examination they contain a number of inconsistencies and internal problems.

First was Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig's diary, though this proved somewhat less than compelling; for the crucial period in question, it simply recorded him as being "in the field, near Verdun," with members of the Hessian regiments. There were no details, no lengthy discussion of troop movements, and no hint as to life in the field. Then, too, he offered the Grand Duke's letters to wife as evidence of his continued presence in France at the time the supposed visit had taken place. These letters, though, bore their own curiosity: they had been franked and postmarked in France, unique among Ernst Ludwig's correspondence, which was normally conveyed to his wife by a special courier and thus required no posting, even when he was out of Germany and with the army in France. On February 20, 1916, the Grand Duke had written ambiguously to his wife: "In all I reckon on nine days: three for the first part, three for the new, and three for the end." (Quoted in Peter Kurth, page 347) The letter contained no internal reference to clarify this timetable, though its date corresponded to Nicholas II's return from Headquarters.

The Grand Duke's letters themselves were filled with inexplicable references. During the Siege of Douaumont the last week of February, the Hessian regiments Ernst Ludwig was leading were almost completely decimated, losing 600 men over three days-the largest casualty figures suffered by any of the Grand Duke's soldiers. Yet his letters to his wife, written during this battle, reported that "all is going well," followed on the next day by the curious statement that Ernst Ludwig was "satisfied because everything is going so well." (Quoted in Peter Kurth, page 347)

The content of this correspondence stood in stark contrast to the reality of the battle, and it was suggested that the Grand Duke had simply composed a number of letters in advance and had arranged for them to be sent though regular postal channels to provide a seemingly unassailable alibi during the alleged trip. Taken together, and viewed as part of the larger picture, it does nothing to prove that the Grand Duke made the journey, and indeed suggests the opposite; yet on closer examination, the diary entries and the correspondence do not provide quite the ironclad alibi that Dr. Berenberg-Gossler suggested. Unless and until proved false, however, they must stand at face value, and weighed along with the remainder of the evidence in an attempt to reach a conclusion.



Bob_the_builder

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Re: The Alleged 1916 Visit to Russia
« Reply #282 on: May 21, 2007, 06:47:59 PM »
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If the visit did indeed take place-and if Anastasia Tchaikovsky had never raised the issue in her struggle for recognition as Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaievna-it is likely that the matter of the 1916 trip would have been resolved decades ago, perhaps revealed if it indeed took place after the Grand Duke's death, for there was nothing traitorous in his efforts. During the 1920s, when the claimant first made the declaration, however, the former Grand Duke of Hesse was in something of a tenuous position. Far from being embarrassing to the Romanovs, revelation of the alleged trip might well have damaged Ernst Ludwig both personally and financially. Had such a visit taken place, the Grand Duke would scarcely have admitted it, particularly in the volatile political climate of Weimar Germany. Ernst Ludwig had lost his Throne in November 1918, in a scene reminiscent of the horrors suffered by his Russian relatives, sending his sleeping sons off into the night as bullets rang out and facing an angry mob that literally stormed the Neues Palais in Darmstadt to demand vengeance. He barely managed to save his own life and that of his family, and memories of the Russian executions preyed upon his mind for the years to come. Ernst Ludwig, almost uniquely among the German Empire's former ruling princes, managed to remain in Darmstadt and hold his family's former possessions, but this was a feat accomplished only through the continued loyalty of his former subjects. That comfort, that financial security, and that assurance of benevolent indulgence, rested heavily on the Grand Duke's ability to draw on the credit of his reign. But by the middle of the 1920s, the old order was changing amidst widespread Leftist upheaval; many members of the former German High Command were assassinated by zealous extremists, hoping to finally cast off the last vestiges of inherited privilege. Ernst Ludwig's continued existence and well being in Darmstadt-as well as that of his wife and sons-relied on the cultivation of his image as a German patriot, and an important patron of the arts. He may well have feared that any revelation of the alleged trip in 1916 might have undermined this fragile prestige.

But more importantly, once Anastasia Tchaikovsky made the claim, Ernst Ludwig could never admit that it had occurred. Even if he escaped public opprobrium, any hint that the claimant in Berlin knew what the shadow court at Darmstadt considered to be an intimate family secret would inevitably be taken as evidence in support of her efforts to be recognized as Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaievna. And this is likely the key to the veil of silence that descended over the issue-and continues to shroud it to this day. Ernst Ludwig never met the young woman who claimed to be his Russian niece, and his actual thoughts on the case remain largely unknown. He had heard only contradictory evidence and information regarding her claim, and relied on the word of others, notably his sister Irene, Baroness Buxhoeveden, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, and Pierre Gilliard, to formulate his own opinion. All of those to whom he spoke-despite evidence that later surfaced regarding their own conflicting impressions and opinions-publicly maintained that the young woman was not Grand Duchess Anastasia. Ernst Ludwig had no reason to doubt his sister or, indeed, any of the others involved.

Anastasia Tchaikovsky's claim of his secret 1916 visit underlined this decision. If he acknowledged the hypothetical trip as having actually taken place, it would undoubtedly have been viewed-no matter what the Grand Duke's wishes-as an overt endorsement of her position. The alleged 1916 Hessian trip, therefore, became an armored wall, to be denied at every turn, lest any admission be seen as lending credence to the young woman's story. This, more than anything else, was undoubtedly responsible for the immediate hostility with which Darmstadt greeted word of the claim, and the attitude that continues to this day that insists there is no possibility that the Grand Duke undertook a secret journey to Russia.

And this, in reality, is the tragedy of the entire episode. In many other Alexander Palace forum posts on this subject, I have repeatedly tried to emphasize the necessity of divorcing the issue of Anastasia Tchaikovsky's claim to be Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaievna from the very different historical issue of the alleged 1916 visit to Russia, for the two are only tenuously linked, and it is a linkage that has done more harm than good for those of us who have a genuine interest in exploring Ernst Ludwig's life. Given the number of witnesses who testified about the visit-as well as the nebulous, nameless "others" who told Dominique Aucleres that they also knew of the visit, if it took place-it can scarcely be considered a great historical secret held within the intimate bosom of the Imperial Family. Knowledge of this alleged visit in no way proves Anastasia Manahan's claim to be Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaievna, yet such are the sensitivities involved that very few can separate the two issues and logically discuss the hypothetical journey without considering it as either supporting or refuting data to the Anna Anderson story as a whole.


Bob_the_builder

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Re: The Alleged 1916 Visit to Russia
« Reply #283 on: May 21, 2007, 06:48:31 PM »
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My contention is quite simple: if the visit did occur, Anastasia Tchaikovsky's knowledge of it goes no further than to demonstrate that she was privy to some highly placed gossip; given that any number of people apparently stipulated that the trip took place, such knowledge would scarcely be confined to Nicholas II, his wife, and his children. Yes, Anastasia Manahan could have learned of it from firsthand knowledge, but she could also have learned of it from the aristocratic émigrés who surrounded her in her first five years in Berlin. In short, evidence in support of the trip does not necessarily equal evidence in support of her claim to have been Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaievna. Such an interpretation is indeed possible, but it is only one of many possibilities. But to Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig in the 1920s-and indeed to those who disbelieved Anna Anderson's claim over the decades and continue to do so-any admission that the journey may have been undertaken is apparently only viewed through the prism of her questionable identity. This is sad, as the evidence is far from conclusive regarding the alleged trip, and efforts to either definitively establish or refute its occurrence are most often seen only in terms of the question of the identity of Anna Anderson. The alleged trip is, however, an important historical enigma in its own right, and must be treated as such-a position that won¹t please those who support Anderson's identity as Anastasia and those who oppose it. But the cautious and sane historical approach demands that the two issues be divorced one from the other, and it is this that Penny and I have tried and continue to do as we pursue answers.

In closing, then, given the above, and given the still unpublished archival materials and other information we have collected for the biography of Ernst Ludwig, it is simply impossible to make any black and white statement about the alleged 1916 visit. Quite a bit of evidence does indeed suggest the strong possibility that it did occur, but this must be weighed against contradictory information and, above all, the entire question must be severed from the issue of Anna Anderson in an attempt to get at the most complete picture of what may have taken place.
 

 

Offline Eric_Lowe

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Re: The Alleged 1916 Visit to Russia
« Reply #284 on: May 21, 2007, 08:04:37 PM »
Thanks for posting it up for us all to see and retract.