Prince Philip: How Duke of Edinburgh was key to solving Romanov mystery

Prince Philip, at the age of 98, has seen and been a part of some of the most momentous historical moments of the 20th century.

The Duke of Edinburgh even stepped up to provide a crucial key to one of the most enduring and fascinating mysteries of the last century.

The Russian imperial family, the Romanovs, were executed in the Russian revolution, however, the location of the family’s remains was shrouded in mystery in the century after their deaths, with the full picture only emerging in 2018.

Although the last Tsar and Tsarina were found alongside three of their five children in the late 20th-century, it was not until the skeletons of a young male and female were found in a field near Yekaterinburg in 2007 that historians were hopeful that the family could, at last, be reunited.

Researchers suspected that they could be the lost remains of the Romanov children, 13-year-old heir Prince Alexei, and either Grand Duchess Maria or grand Duchess Anastasia.

Because the Duke of Edinburgh is related to the Romanovs, he was approached to provide DNA to compare with that of the last Tsar and Tsarina.

The Duke agreed to provide the sample in 1993  to conclusively identify Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra’ bodies, alongside three of their four daughters, in research that was only made public last year.  

Prince Philip; the Romanovs

Prince Philip and the Imperial family (Image: Getty)

The Romanov family

The Romanov family circa 1910, l-r Olga, Maria, Tsar Nicholas, Tsarina Alexandra, Anastasia, Alexei, Tatiana (Image: Getty)

When the 2007 discovery was made, scientists were then able to compare their DNA with Prince Philip’s, and that from the earlier testing of the Romanov family remains.

Prince Philip, alongside the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family, is related to the last Tsars through Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria was the grandmother of the last Tsarina, Tsarina Alexandra.

However, the Duke of Edinburgh is more closely related than the rest of the British Royal Family, as Tsarina Alexandra was his great-aunt.

READ MORE: Why Prince Philip has been ‘victimised’ by The Crown 

Prince Philip and Tsaraina Alexandra

Prince Philip and Tsaraina Alexandra (Image: Getty)

This meant that the Duke was the perfect candidate to provide DNA for the matrilineal DNA tests that solved the mystery.

In addition, the Duke has a substantial emotional connection to his great-aunt.

Her sister, Philip’s grandmother Victoria Mountbatten, raised Philip as a young boy, and also took care of her younger sisters when their mother died of diphtheria in 1879.

Alexandra and Victoria’s other sister, Elisabeth, also married a Romanov and was killed in the Russian Revolution.

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Prince Philip; Tsarina Alexandra with Queen Victoria

Prince Philip as a young child, and his great-aunt Tsarina Alexandra (seated left) with Queen Victoria in 1896 (Image: Getty)

Romanov family

One of the last photographs of the Romanovs in 1918 (Image: Getty)

The DNA provided the key to identifying the final two children’s bodies in 2007, which meant that the entire Romanov royal family could finally be conclusively identified.

Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra were murdered alongside their five children in 1917, with the bodies being repeatedly stabbed after their death by firing squad.

Their daughter Anastasia became the subject of a well-known folk legend, that claimed she was the sole survivor of the brutal massacre.

However, the 2007 discovery meant that all seven bodies of the Romanov family could finally be reunited.

Prince Philip family tree

Prince Philip family tree. victoria of Battenberg was the Tsarina’s sister. (Image: DX)

The remains of the Tsar and Tsarina and three of their four daughters were found in 1979.

However, the Western world had to wait until 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, to find out that some of the Romanov’s remains had been found – the Tsar and Tsarina and three of their daughters.

Because the Romanov family’s bodies were treated so horrifically after their deaths, with their remains being thrown down a mineshaft before being retrieved and burnt, many thought that the remaining two children’s bodies would be lost forever.

Historical documents suggest that the two children’s bodies were separated from the rest of the family on purpose to further frustrate the identification of the Romanov group.

Prince Michael of Kent and Tsar Nicholas II

Prince Michael of Kent is related to Tsar Nicholas II (Image: Getty)

The bodies of the children remained undiscovered until 2007, when they were stumbled upon by an amateur history group.

They even found the bottles that once contained sulphuric acid, that were used to further obliterate the Romanov’s remains.

Although the rest of the Romanovs have been laid to rest in St Petersburg, the two final bodies are yet to be buried.

Prince Michael of Kent, who is also closely related to the Imperial family, attended the 100th anniversary of the family’s deaths in 2017, at which many of the last Tsar’s living descendants called for “closure” and the final burial of the family together. 

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