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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Jean Desprez ~ Bal a Versailles

In this perfume campaign for Bal a Versailles, Swedish fashion model Anna Anderson (popular during the late 1970s/early 1980s) captures some of the mystery of the Grand Duchess Anastasia, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last autocratic ruler of Imperial Russia, and his wife Tsarina Alexandra.

Strangely enough the Princess Anastasia Manahan was also known as Anna Anderson. She was rumored to have survived the regicide of the Romanov’s in 1918 and showed up years later in Paris. DNA tests proved conclusively that she did not survive and that the Anastasia of Paris society was a fraud named Franziska Schanzkowska, who was really a Polish factory worker.

No pretender in the modern history of monarchy has created as much controversy as Anna Anderson, born Franziska Schanzkowska in Pomerania in 1896. The unstable 24 year old factory worker abruptly disappeared in 1920. Until pulled from the Landwehr Canal in Berlin shortly afterwards in a failed suicide attempt, and committed to the Dalldorf Asylum she refused to tell authorities her identity until 18 months later when she declared herself the Grand Duchess Anastasia.

Franziska Schanzkowska (Anna Anderson) was the right person, at the right place, at the right time. When word circulated of an articulate young woman in Berlin claiming to be Anastasia the opportunity was seized by people with differing objectives, financial and political.

The Russian Refugee Office in Berlin, presided over by Serge Botkin, represented the interests of exiles in Germany and came to the aid of Anderson (then calling herself Mrs Tschaikovsky). The organization was basically a monarchist support group and the suicidally depressed woman soon found herself embraced by sympathetic exiles, many sending or bringing her flowers, sweets and letters of encouragement.

As the months passed they won her confidence and when released from the asylum she moved in with the first of a long line of supporters, who fed her information and encouraged her delusions. In time an impressive entourage formed around her, at first credulous exiles seeking a sizable finders fee from the Dowager Empress before yielding to opportunists with sights set on imperial bank accounts. In the years ahead there were constant power struggles, clashes of egos, firing and rehiring, every dispute among them short of murder.

Anna Anderson made a good, if not inconstant, living out of being Anastasia. Her entourage perpetually solicited donations from well heeled Russian expatriates and others, who gave generously. She toured Europe and America, attended fashion shows, was mobbed by the press and feted as a celebrity wherever she went. Living at other peoples' expense in fashionable hotels, Park Avenue apartments and private estates where she socialized with fashionable notables of the day who flocked to parties to see and be seen with her.

Anderson's body was cremated upon her death in 1984. Ten years later, DNA tests were conducted on samples of her tissue that had been stored at a Charlottesville, Virginia hospital following a medical procedure. The DNA tests showed that Anderson's DNA did not match the Romanov remains or Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (a great-nephew of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna), but was consistent with the mitochondrial DNA profile of Karl Maucher, a great-nephew of Franziska Schanzkowska. Some supporters of Anderson continued to doubt she was Franziska Schanzkowska, despite the mitochondrial DNA match between Anderson's remains and the Schanzkowski family.

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