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Authors: Susanne Dunlap

Anastasia's Secret

BOOK: Anastasia's Secret
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Anastasia’s Secret


To my mother,
who never lived to see me an author,
and to my father,
who reads my books for both of them


The life of Russia’s last imperial family was full of people. Running the court that resided at five or six different palaces and on several yachts, and caring for the five children—one of whom lived with a debilitating disease—required an army of courtiers, servants, and doctors. Most of them don’t appear in this novel.

But a vivid picture of their existence and all they went through would not be complete without some idea of the many people who devoted themselves to the Romanov family, some choosing to share their privations to the very end. It can be confusing keeping track of everyone, especially because the imperial family gave nicknames to all the people who surrounded them. Given the way Russian names and titles were constructed, it’s hardly surprising.

A quick word about those tricky Russian names: if you know the function of each part of a name, it’s not very hard to understand who’s who.

1. First name or Christian name
. This is the name your parents gave you when you were born.
2. Patronymic
. A Slavic tradition, this name follows the first name and literally means son of or daughter of [father’s first name]. Since Anastasia was the daughter of Nicholas, her patronymic was Nicholaevna. Alexei, the boy, was Alexei Nicholaevich. Acquaintances and friends might easily have called Anastasia Anastasia Nicholaevna.
3. Family name
. The same as a last name in English, except that names are altered to be gender specific. Romanov was the imperial family’s last name, but the girls were all Romanova, while the boys were Romanov.


Tsar Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov
—Called Nicky by the tsaritsa, otherwise Papa or Father. The people often called him Batyushka, which means “Little Father,” a term of combined affection and reverence.
Tsaritsa Alexandra Fyodorovna Romanova
—Her nickname was Sunny, given to her by the tsar when he first met her.
Grand Duchess Olga Nicholaevna Romanova
—Always referred to as Olga.
Grand Duchess Tatiana Nicholaevna Romanova
—Always referred to as Tatiana.
Grand Duchess Maria Nicholaevna Romanova
—Called Marie by her mother and relatives and Mashka by her sisters.
Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholaevna Romanova
—Called Anastasie by her mother and relatives, Nastya by her sisters, and sometimes Shvybz.
Tsarevich Alexei Nicholaevich Romanov
—Called Baby, Sunshine, Alyosha, or Alexis.


Sometimes referred to as the Household, these are the ladies and gentlemen with court appointments, who had specific jobs to perform to help the court function in its ceremonial and practical way. There were dozens of suite members, but this story features only those who were closely involved with the family immediately before and during their captivity.

Anna Alexandrovna Vyrubova
—The tsaritsa’s closest friend, called Anya by the family. She did not at first have a court appointment, but was later made an honorary maid of honor.
Countess Anastasia Vasilyevna Hendrikova
—Maid of honor to the tsaritsa, but also a good friend. She was called Nastinka or Nastenka by the family.
Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden
—Maid of honor, called Isa by the family.
Catherine Adolphovna Schneider
—Known as Trina by the family, she originally joined the court to teach Alexandra Russian when she became engaged to Nicholas, and remained as a friend, tutor, and general helper to the family.
Lili Dehn
—Maid of honor and friend to Alexandra. She remained with the family during their captivity in Tsarskoe but stayed in her own house under arrest because her son was dangerously ill.
Count Paul Benckendorff
—General aide-de-camp and grand marshal of the court. Served as “gatekeeper” for those who wished to have an audience with the tsar, and a very loyal member of the suite through their imprisonment at Tsarskoe Selo. He was quite elderly and did not follow the family into exile.
Count Vladimir Borisovich Fredericks
—Chief Minister of the court and old friend of the family. Called the royal couple
mes enfants
, “my children” in French. He did not go into exile with them because of his age.
Prince Vasily Alexandrovich Dolgoruky/Dolgorukov
—Most commonly he seems to be referred to as Prince Dolgorukov. He was another aide-de-camp to the tsar and marshal of the court, and went into exile with the family.
General Ilia Leonodovich Tatischev
—General aide-de-camp to the tsar and marshal of the court, also went with them into exile.
Colonel Grooten
—One of the palace commanders of the guard, friendly with the family, and responsible for commanding the Composite Infantry Regiment of the Household Troops, also known as the Composites, the elite corps of guards that protected the imperial family.


Lessons continued for all the children throughout their captivity at Tsarskoe Selo, Tobolsk, and Yekaterinburg. Several of those responsible for educating these spirited and sheltered young people were eventually considered privileged members of the family. The tsaritsa suffered from a heart condition, and the tsarevich was a hemophiliac. Two different doctors became the devoted caregivers of the imperial family.

Pierre Gilliard
—Called Zhilik by the children and others, he taught them French at first, then became the primary tutor to the tsarevich, eventually taking on more responsibilities for all of them when they were in exile.
Sidney Gibbes
—English teacher. The children called him Mr. Gibbes; the tsar and tsaritsa called him Sid.
Alexandra Alexandrovna Tegleva
—The children’s governess, more of a supervisor than a teacher. She and Gilliard eventually married and returned to Gilliard’s native Switzerland.
Eugene Sergeevich Botkin
—Doctor to the imperial family.
Vladimir Nicholaevich Derevenko
—Also sometimes spelled Derevanko, doctor in charge of Alexei’s care. His son, Kolya, often served as a playmate to Alexei.


The army of servants that attended to the Romanov family before the revolution was vast. The twenty or so who went with the family into exile in Tobolsk must have seemed to them like a fraction of what they needed. The ones named here are those who have relatively important roles to play in the Romanovs’ exile. In general, the servants are referred to by last name.

Anna Stepanovna Demidova
—The tsaritsa’s personal maid.
Alexei Ivanovich Volkov
—Valet to the tsaritsa.
Magdalena Franzevna Zanotti
—Madeleine Zanotti, who was in charge of the jewels and gowns of the tsaritsa and the grand duchesses.
Klementi Grigorievich Nagorny
—Alexei’s servant, who carried him whenever he was ill.
Ivan Dmitrievich Sednev
—Valet to the children.
Ivan Mikhailovich Kharitonov
—Chief cook.
Terenti Ivanovich Chemodurov
—One of the tsar’s valets.


Another changing cast of characters, from people who were once loyal to the tsar and his family, to those who wished them only harm. This is a roughly chronological list of the people primarily responsible for their imprisonment.

Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky
—Second prime minister of the Provisional Government and also minister of war.
Colonel Korovichenko
—Commander of the palace guard, in charge of the family’s imprisonment.
Colonel Eugene Kobylinsky
—Commander of the palace guard after Korovichenko, accompanied the guard to Tobolsk.
—Assistant commander who took over after Korovichenko.
Vasily Pankratov
—Commissar at Tobolsk.
Alexander Nikolsky
—Commissar at Tobolsk.
Vasily Yakovlev
—Bolshevik official in charge of transferring the imperial family to Yekaterinburg.
Nikolai Rodionov
—Last commissar in charge of the family at Tobolsk.


The imperial family had more than its share of animal companions. Several dogs, including the tsarevich’s spaniel, Joy, and Tatiana’s French bulldog, Ortino, went into exile with them. While they were in Tobolsk, apparently Anna Vyrubova sent them the gift of a King Charles spaniel puppy, which became mainly Anastasia’s and was called Jimmy. Olga had a cat, and the tsaritsa had a Scottish terrier named Eira—who was evidently fond of dashing out from behind things and biting peoples’ ankles.

The only pet that had any real part to play in the actual drama, though—and therefore the only one mentioned often in this book—was Joy, who survived the tragedy at Yekaterinburg and was taken back to England to live out her life.

BOOK: Anastasia's Secret
5.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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