Examine the Forensics of a 100-year-old Cold Case at London’s Science Museum

Romanov Family, 1913
Romanov Family, 1913 | © Universal History Archive
Photo of Chloe-Rose Crabtree
History Editor26 September 2018

The tragic tale of the Romanov family has captivated many over the last century. The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution, on display at the London Science Museum, meditates on the science involved during the 100-year investigation.

A century ago, the Romanov family, stripped of their royal titles after the Russian Revolution, were unceremoniously murdered inside the Ipatiev house where they were held under house arrest.

The case has remained cold for the last 100 years. Speculations have been made about what happened at the Ipatiev House in the summer of 1918, but it is hard to know if we will ever have the full story.

Regardless, the case itself is a fascinating demonstration of how forensic science has evolved since the early 20th century.

X-ray of the hand and wrist of Tsarina Alexandra, 1898 | © Harvard Medical Library

In 1918, when the Romanovs met their untimely fate, the X-Ray was only 23 years old, blood-types were a new concept and DNA had not been discovered. By the time some of the bodies were uncovered in 1979, the public were ready for answers.

Unfortunately, they would have to wait a little longer. It wasn’t until 1991 when the bodies were positively identified using DNA comparison between the remains and that of living relatives, among them Britain’s Prince Philip. This marked the first time that forensic DNA was used in a historic case.

Forensic Facial reconstruction of Nicholas II, 1991 | © Sergey Nikitin

Over the last 27 years, forensic science has made leaps and bounds, leading to more and more discoveries about the Romanov family’s final days.

Visitors to The Last Tsar will get a chance to examine the historic forensic evidence, some of which has never been on public display. Curators have also collected the family’s personal effects including, diaries, jewellery and personal photo albums, to give guests a sense of who the fabled Romanovs really were.

Whether you have a life-long love of Disney’s Anastasia or like to get into the nitty-gritty of true crime drama, The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution is sure to bring this century-old mystery to life.

The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution is at the Science Museum, Exhibition Rd, Kensington, London SW7 2DD from 21 Sept 2018 to 24 March 2019. Admission is free, but booking is required.

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