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Sunday, January 11, 2009

 All photos (c) Weatherly Hardy

Behold Princess Anastasia!

Back in 1976, I believe, a trio of vagabonds were booked in to give a presentation at St. Andrew's Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, NC. They were quite late to their gig, but finally arrived, rather the worse for their frigid trip. They had been in a minor ice-related auto accident, and the old lady had a small cut, as I recall. Their program alleged that she was, in fact, the Missing Romanov, Anastasia. The skeletal gentleman top right was a count, I believe (actually a baron, per the comments), and served to lend verisimilitude to the claims. The more portly gent was a lawyer who was married to the old lady, and spent his time with them taking their dog-and-pony show to different venues, presenting their claims to people who could make no difference whatever to them, for a fee; chautauqua at its finest.

I remember little of the information shared, much of which was scrawled on well-used flip charts. I do remember the lady, edentulous, swathed in mismatched polyester, such as would make any baglady strut.The men wore suits. She wore our pity. I have no idea as to the veracity of their claims. I DO know that I would have been hard-pressed to buy a used car from himself the lawyer.

The pictures are mine, taken with a Miranda 35mm back during my love affair with Tri-X. Can you count the grain? If anyone happens upon this blog entry, and knows of these people, or saw the presentation at St. Andrews, please comment here. I would welcome perhaps a less jaundiced view, though ANY memories would be appreciated.


Rachel said...

Interesting. What was their aim at speaking at the college? What would they have gained by convincing you?

From the details I've read about the murder of the Romanovs, I don't see how any of the family could have escaped alive. However, the events surrounding the murder of Rasputin are amazing, so who knows.

The Aardvark said...

What would they gain? Their speakers fee, I guess. (Not being obtuse...they were engaged in a one-sided debate, and no winner was apparent. Beyond the pecuniary benefit, I suppose the comfort of perhaps, maybe, having a few more people in their controversial corner would be a win.) The appearance of the aged lady being dragged around to appearances where she was shown off and talked about seems degrading in hindsight, with not a little whiff of the sideshow about it all.

Tim Welsh said...

The woman in your photograph is Anna Anderson Manahan-the most famous of Anastasia Romanov claimants. She first appeared in Berlin in 1920 after a failed suicide attempt left her nearly drowned in a canal. She spent over sixty years claiming to be the missing Romanov Grand Duchess.

It was only after her death in the early 1980s was DNA testing done and showed she was not the missing Grand Duchess but in fact Franziska Schanzkowska a missing factory worker who disappeared during the same time Anderson appeared in 1920.

The "Count" you mention is actually Baron von Osten-Sacken a long time supporter of Anderson's.

The "lawyer" is John E. Mahan who married Anderson to allow her to stay in the United Stated in the late 1960s and to become her guardian. He care for her deeply and thoroughly believed in her claim.

Many books were published about her most recently The Resurrection of the Romanovs by Greg King and Penny Wilson. I recommend it. Cheers

The Aardvark said...

Tim, thabk you VERY much! I had lost all notes I took at the presentation, and relied on 30+ years of accreted memory.

I am very happy that her situation with her husband was happy, and that the Baron was true supporter.

I wrote from the emotional response to finding the pictures I had taken and printed so long ago. The whole context was unfortunate for them, what with their car accident and dishevelment.

Thank you again! How did you run across the entry (beyond Google, of course), and were you there at St. Andrews?

Tim Welsh said...

Hey! So glad I could help. Yes, I found your article via google. I have studied this case since I was a teenager and only after she had past away.

Her husband John "Jack" Manahan lived for several years later into the 1990s. Sadly there was a lot of court battles over his properties after his death-between a friend he left most everything to and his family. An interesting article on him can be found here at http://www.readthehook.com/86004/cover-jack-amp-anna-remembering-czar-charlottesville-eccentrics

I highly recommend the book A Romanov Fantasy by Frances Welch which includes quite a bit of Anderson's time in America.

Thanks for posting the photographs they were a real treat for me!

The Aardvark said...

Tim, you are welcome. Feel free to stop by here any time. Thanks for your links and recommendations. I must check this all out.

Truly a strange story.