Once upon a time, circa 1982, DNA was not known of, and Mrs John Manahan, the former Anna Anderson, lived in Charlottesville, Virginia and claimed to be [and probably was] Her Imperial Highness, Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia. She had had her claim re-inforced first by the Mangold and Summers book, "File on the Tsar", and then by Peter Kurth's beautifully written, carefully researched, definitive, if you like, study of her life. Then it rained on Mrs Manahan's parade and it rained really hard and the very worst of the rain makers was a man called James Blair Lovell. Read on!
It's hard to know where to begin on this tome! There appears not to have been an editor in sight either. It's a shameful attempt to cash in on Mrs Manahan's tragedy [and tragedy is not too strong a word] as well as attempting to drive a wedge into the group of kind folk who had helped Mrs Manahan in Europe in her attempts [almost successful - too] to gain recognition as Grand Duchess Anastasia.
This book, [as so typical with amateur writers], is so over written that it becomes very tiresome very quickly.
Would it be too disgustingly awful of me to say that the late Mr Lovell appears to have been jealous of Peter Kurth's fine work and definitive study of Mrs Manahan? Anyone whom Peter Kurth has good to say about, i.e., Prince Frederick of Saxe-Altenberg, Ian Lilburn and the good and kind ladies in Unterlengenhardt, have their reputations flayed from them by Lovell. It doesn't make pleasant reading.
Lovell has no ability to relate historic facts to his own day-to-day conception of Mrs Manahan's life. I'm not talking [not yet, anyway] about historic intrigues in Imperial Russia, just facts like mentioning 'airport security' at Frankfurt in July 1968! There was no such thing in July 1968 - there weren't jumbo jets in those days, nor terrorist hi-jackings - Mrs Manahan could have walked onto the plane for Charlottesville carrying a Kalashnikov and twenty-five rounds of ammunition and no-one would have turned a hair.
There was far more 'security' at the "St Petersburg Opera House" which, from it's description, I take to mean the Mariinski Theatre. Lovell tells us a little fable of fiction about an American lady being offered chocolates by the historical Anastasia at a concert there, as they shared the ledge of a box. This is impossible to do at the Mariinski Theatre. You cannot see into the imperial boxes from the ones next to them, never mind have a conversation with one of the occupants. The very idea of Grand Duchess Anastasia being unattended in a theatre box, watched by two thirds of the auditorium, wolfing down chocolates, while at the same time singing a song left me reeling. It is these two incidents in the book that finished Lovell's credibility for me.
Elsewhere in the book he compares Mrs Manahan with a Miss Haversham - did he mean Miss Havisham who appears in Dickens's "Great Expectations"? As I said, not an editor in sight.
How any serious researcher could have possibly taken the fifth daughter of the Tsar seriously beggars belief.
You don't get rubbish like this in Peter Kurth's book. Kurth has the ability not only to write well, but he seems to know what was 'true' testimony and what was 'false' and it is this very sifting of the facts that makes his book so wonderful. Why anyone who claims to have known and like Mrs Manahan, as Lovell does, indeed, claim, could want to attempt to undermine Kurth's fine work is quite beyond me.
There will be many people who wonder what all the fuss is about, in the light of the DNA results, but if Mrs Manahan was an imposter she was, evidentially, at least, a very lucky one.
Poor Mrs Manahan: To have gotten so far - only to have a hatchet job done her by someone she supposedly trusted. This book shed little new light on it's subject but told me a great deal [too much, in fact] about it's author and I drew my own conclusions.