“The remains of our relatives are still in Moscow, stored in Tupperware”

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If you can imagine sitting down with a member of the royal family to watch an episode of The Crown, you’d think you’d be treated to live commentary on the various inaccuracies and over-dramatized accounts of their own history. Sitting at the kitchen table of Provender House, Princess Olga Romanoff’s home, my experience is second to none.

It’s been three hours since the last series of The Crown dropped on Netflix, taking us to the 1990s. Olga and I are watching the sixth episode, which tells the story of the brutal execution of her ancestors, the Tsar and his family , by the Bolsheviks in 1918, and the campaign that took place to have their remains excavated. Olga is the oldest member of the Tsar’s descendants, who are now scattered across the world. Her father, Prince Andrew, was the Tsar’s nephew, who escaped on a British warship in 1919.

The episode sees a newly elected Boris Yeltsin visit London. During a dinner at Buckingham Palace, the Russian President asks the Queen if she could come to his country for a state visit. The queen reminds him of the painful Russian history of his family. The remains of her relatives, she points out, have never been found and have never received the “decent burial” they deserve. Our royal family is related to the Romanovs through the late Prince Philip. Through his father he was the great-nephew of Alexandra, the last Tsarina, and through his mother he was a cousin of the Russian royal family.

Olga, who is a third cousin of King Charles, tends to find any account of what happened to her ancestors maddening. She doesn’t watch dramatizations as a rule. “They’re still inaccurate and make me want to scream and throw something at the TV.”

She is happy, however, that The Crown is covering the story. For years, Olga, along with her daughter Alex, and other members of the Romanov Family Association, campaigned to bury the remains of two of the Tsar’s children, whose bones were identified 10 years after the remains of the family in 2007. Alexei and Maria, who were only 13 and 19 when they were killed, are being held by the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. “They are, I believe, in Tupperware,” says Olga.

“Prince Michael [of Kent] has tried. On behalf of the Romanov Family Association, I wrote letters to Putin. I’m not sure I ever received a letter. But we heard on the vine that he would more than likely let us collect the bones. Meanwhile, we have the church that doesn’t believe it’s them. It became a power game.

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