Nikolai Tolstoy

Imperial Impersonation

A Romanov Fantasy: Life at the Court of Anna Anderson

By

Short Books 327pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

A deep-rooted desire to believe that public figures who have died in mysterious circumstances somehow managed to escape their fate and survive for years thereafter seems to be as old as history. In 1113 a party of canons of Laon visiting Bodmin in Cornwall narrowly escaped being lynched by local inhabitants when they expressed mild scepticism at the belief that King Arthur had survived the Battle of Camlan in 542 and was living yet. After the Battle of Hastings biographies were compiled as far away as Iceland, asserting that Harold had escaped the slaughter to live on in caves and islands, or even as a hermit in Canterbury Cathedral, where he could spy on William the Conqueror at prayer. When Frederick Barbarossa was drowned on crusade, it was supposed for centuries that he dwelt on in splendour inside the Kyffhäuser Mountain in Thuringia. King Sebastian of Portugal, slain in 1578 at the battle of Alcazar-el-Kebir in Morocco, was believed as late as the nineteenth century to have survived and be living somewhere.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Whom did Picasso label a 'bristly pig'? Read Rosalind P Blakesley's review of The Collector by Natalya Semenova to… ,
    • Alexandra Gajda on Anna Beer's new biography, Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh ,
    • Mark Lawson reviews @jonathancoe's Middle England - The Rotters' Club for our Brexit age. ,
    • 'Behind every book that is published lies ... a haunted landscape, populated by the ghosts of things written and ex… ,
    • 'We once more live in a great age of dragon invention' Here's Tom Shippey on Martin Arnold's The Dragon ,
    • RT : Man at the q&a part of the book panel: Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't say it Don't s… ,
    • Here's @epkaufm's Whiteshift, reviewed in this month's magazine by ,