The story surrounding the fate of one of Russia's most controversial royal families, the Romanovs, has perplexed historians for nearly a century; however, the true mystery surrounds not only the circumstances surrounding their murders, but the ultimate fate of their remains.
After Vladimir Lenin - the leader of the Bolsheviks who had overthrown the royal family - secretly ordered the murder of the Romanovs, rumors began to circulate that some members of the family had managed to escape thanks to the unanticipated benefits of having smuggled out their diamonds and jewelry.
During the lengthy and terrifying process of being captured as political prisoners and exiled from their home, the Romanov family managed to conceal many of their diamonds by sewing them directly into their underwear, inadvertently turning the family's undergarments into bulletproof vests. The question of whether or not these bulletproof bloomers had, in fact, helped members of the family - most notably the Grand Duchess Anastasia - narrowly escape death has inspired hundreds of imposters to lay claim to the Romanov name, only to be quickly revealed as frauds. The truth is that the presence of the diamonds only seemed to delay the inevitable, and perhaps even added to the great brutality endured by the Romanov family in their final moments of life.
After the government of Tsar Nicholas II was successfully overthrown by the Bolsheviks, he and his family were promptly relocated from their family home to a mansion in Tsarskoe Selo and placed under strict house arrest. However, as political conflicts became more heated and Lenin - the leader of the Bolshevik party - became more anxious about the heirs to the dynasty, he determined that the family's life of comfort was all but over.
In April 1918, Lenin had the entire Romanov family - including the ex-tsar, his wife Alexandra, and their five children, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei - relocated yet again to a house in Tobolsk, a location substantially closer to Moscow, where Lenin was. This house, though, was referred to as the House of Special Purpose and had essentially been "converted into a prison fortress with painted-over windows, fortified walls, and machine gun nests," not to mention strict food rations and attentive guards.
However, little did Lenin know, the Romanovs had managed to smuggle out a substantial number of their diamonds, having sewn them directly into their undergarments. Apparently the family had hoped that the diamonds would help them fund their escape and got into the habit of keeping them close at hand.
Sadly, their opportunity for escape would not come, and the bulletproof-nature of their undergarments would not be able to save them.
Early on the morning of July 17, 1918, the Romanov family was awoken by a group of guards and promptly ushered down into the basement, apparently awaiting yet another relocation. However, the truth was that Lenin had grown weary of the innate threat caused by the very existence of the family and, with political tensions becoming increasingly complicated, had ordered their assassination.
The family was then lined up against a wall in the basement of the house as a group of armed guards filed in and raised their weapons. The results of the impromptu firing squad were chaotic and brutal - each of the guards were to fire on a different member of the family, though most of them focused their weapons on the Tsar and his wife, avoiding the children. Yet, when the time came to fire on the children, many of the bullets seemed to ricochet off of them and back towards the guards, thanks to the hidden gems.
Sadly, this only served to prolong the children's suffering as "the murderers [then] waded into the gruesome scene of wounded, bleeding children (one of the killers compared it to a slippery ice rink awash with blood and brains) and stabbed them manically with bayonets or shot them in the head."
The assassination of the Romanov family was ordered by Lenin in secret - official records only show that Lenin had the Tsar himself killed and the rest of the family taken to a secure location. However, history tells us this was not the case.
In 1979, a burial plot containing most of the family members was found - though two bodies were missing. It wasn't until 2007 that the remaining two Romanov bodies were found and what their remains revealed was truly terrifying.
After the family was murdered in a flurry of gunfire, the guards proceeded to dispose of their bodies in a fashion that would leave them completely unidentifiable. Under Lenin's orders, the guards "pummeled the bodies with rifle butts, doused them with sulfuric acid, and burned them with gasoline...[burying] what was left in two graves."
Despite the fact that the diamond-studded undergarments could have helped save the Romanov children, it is now certain that they did not.