A DNA test taken by Prince Philip could finally help bring closure to a tragic chapter in Russian history.
A DNA sample from the Duke of Edinburgh is being used to identify whether the bodies of two children executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918 were actually members of the Russian Royal family. The remains, which were discovered buried in a field in 2007, are believed to be Maria and Alexei Romanov, two of Tsar Nicholas II’s five children.
DNA from Prince Philip, who is related to Tsarina Alexandra through his mother, has already been used to help prove the identities of nine bodies buried together in a shallow grave which was discovered in Yekaterinburg in July 1991. Those bodies were found to be the Tsar, Tsarina and three of their daughters as well as their doctor and three servants.
It is believed the Tsar, Tsarina and all five of their children were shot by a firing squad on July 17 1918. Maria would have been 19 at the time of her death, while Alexei, who suffered from the inherited blood condition haemophilia, was 13.
Results could end years of doubts
For many years there have been doubts and questions over whether the entire Romanov family were murdered by the revolutionaries. And last year Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the exhumation of the five identified bodies, which were buried at Peter and Paul’s Cathedral in St Petersburg in a state funeral in 1998, so further tests could be carried out.
It is believed that more DNA testing will take place to establish once and for all whether the two bodies found in 2007 are also part of the Romanov family.
Historian Simon Sebag Montefiore said: “All of this is happening now and we are waiting on tenterhooks. Are they going to be reburied?
“Are these two children going to be added to the others? What is going to happen?”
DNA testing has played a part in unravelling the mystery surrounding the Romanovs for many years. For a long time, people believed Anastasia Romanov had escaped the firing squad and many women came forward claiming to be the Russian princess.
One woman called Anna Anderson first claimed to be Anastasia in 1920 and maintained her story for the rest of her life. However, after she died in 1984 scientists used DNA testing to prove she could not be Anastasia as her genetic profile did not match those of known relatives of the Romanovs, including Prince Philip.
DNA testing can establish whether people are biologically related to each other. As well as proving paternity, tests can be used to find out whether people are siblings or other family members.