Prince Philip heartbreak: Devastating tale of Duke’s family ‘murdered by revolutionaries’


PRINCE PHILIP has a heartbreaking backstory overall, but none more tragic than that of his family who were murdered by Bolsheviks.

The Duke of Edinburgh was born into the Greek and Danish royal families, but after an anti-Monarchist movement in Greece, they fled the country when he was just a baby. They first settled to living in exile in France, but the family later split up with Philip’s father moving to the south of France and his mother being sent to a sanatorium due to mental ill health. Meanwhile, Philip’s four older sisters all married members of the German aristocracy and he was sent to various boarding schools, including Gordonstoun in Scotland, which his son Charles later also attended.

His favourite sister, Cecilie, died in a plane crash along with her husband and all but one of her children in 1937.

Philip then served in the British Navy on the opposing side to his brothers-in-law while his father was trapped in Vichy France.

His father died in 1945 before they could be reunited.

His mother, meanwhile, survived the war and became a nun.

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The two younger children in the picture on the right are Elizabeth and Alexandra (Image: GETTY)

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Prince Philip’s sisters (Image: GETTY)

However, these were not the only tragedies in the family ‒ a number of their relatives on his mother’s side were murdered by Bolsheviks in Russia.

For example, two of his great-aunts married into the Russian royal family ‒ in fact the Tsarina herself, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia, wife to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (the last tsar) was his great-aunt.

Another great-aunt was Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia, who married Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich.

After the 1917 Russian Revolution, the main Russian royal family including the Empress and their loyal servants were imprisoned, first in the Alexander Palace and then in Tobolsk Siberia.

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Empress Alexandra (left); Grand Duke Sergei and Grand Duchess Elisabeth (Image: GETTY)

They were then moved to a house in Yekaterinburg near the Ural Mountains.

Then, on July 17, 1918, communist revolutionaries killed them by firing squad and bayonets.

Those killed in the Ipatiev House were Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, their five children including 13-year-old Alexei, and four retainers who accompanied them.

Their bodies were then taken to the Koptyaki forest, where they were stripped and mutilated.

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Royal Family tree (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

The Bolshevik units responsible for this were under the command of chief executioner Yakov Yurovksy, and it was allegedly ordered by Vladimir Lenin himself.

Meanwhile, Lenin had ordered the Cheka to arrest Grand Duchess Elizabeth earlier in 1918, before exiling her to Perm, then to Yekaterinburg where she was joined by other members of the Royal family.

They were all taken to Alapayevsk on May 20 and housed in the Napolnaya School on the outskirts of the town.

On July 17 they were driven to an abandoned mine where they were beaten and thrown into the pit, Elizabeth first.

They then hurled grenades down the shaft, but this killed just one victim and the killers apparently heard Elizabeth and the others signing an Orthodox hymn from the bottom of the shaft.

Then, they threw a large quantity of brushwood in and set it alight, which killed everyone.

The Bolsheviks initially announced only the Tsar’s death, although they were told that “the entire family suffered the same fate as its head”.

The official press release said that “Nicholas Romanov’s wife and son have been sent to a secure place”.

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Statue of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia unveiled in Sverdlovsk Region in 2017 (Image: GETTY)

For over eight years, the Soviet leadership maintained a systematic web of disinformation about the fate of the family, from claiming in September 1919 that they were murdered by rebel left-wing revolutionaries to outright denying they were dead in April 1922.

The Soviets finally acknowledged the murders in 1926 but said that the bodies were destroyed and that Lenin’s Cabinet was not responsible.

The cover up of the murders fuelled rumours of survivors and seval Romanov imposters claimed to be one of the children, which drew media attention away from the activities of Soviet Russia.

From 1938, Joseph Stalin suppressed any discussion regarding the fate of the family.

As royal families across Europe are intertwined in hugely complex ways, most royals have links to most royal families, although it is unusual for one person to be quite so close to so many tragedies.

The burial site of the Empress and her children was found in 1970 by an ameueter sleuth, although the Soviet Union did not acknowledge this publicly until 1989 during the glasnost period.

The identity of the remains was later confirmed by forensic and DNA analysis and investigation with the help of British experts.

While the murders took place a few years before Philip was born, the knowledge of it likely stayed with him, especially when combined with his own experiences of exile from Greece.

The Duke of Edinburgh is therefore only too aware what can happen when a Royal Family becomes unpopular, spurring him on to work hard alongside Queen Elizabeth II to maintain the status of the British institution.


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