Essays Written for The Plantation News

I wrote essays for The Plantation News, our family newspaper, between 1983 and 2003. Some essays recorded actual events, while others were humor, satire or fiction. The Plantation News transitioned from paper to blog and continues online here.


National Geographic, October 1992, in the article, “The Bolshevik Revolution”, mentions that in 1918 when the Russian royal family was murdered, rumors persisted that perhaps “Alexis and his younger sister, Anastasia… survived the regicide.” During the rest of this century, several women have claimed to be The Anastasia, movies were made of some of them, and NOVA on PBS examined the claims of one Anna Anderson who lived in Charlottesville, Virginia. I met this woman.

I wish I could say that some old flame burnt in her eyes, or that she carried herself with royal bearing, or that the aura of a tsarina surrounded her. Not! She was just a very old, wrinkly, poor woman. Several times, Mr. Maughnahan, her husband, (the new tzar?), came into Kinko’s to photocopy old torn scraps of browning newspapers and pages of musty books. They drove up in a dirty old pickup truck with dogs in the back and more dogs in the cab. Tall and thin Maughnahan would shake dirt from his worn clothes as he came in. The tsarina just sat hunched over in the cab, staring forward, in a fifteen-year-old yellowed white and green plaid wool coat, with a pink scarf tied around her yellowed gray-white hair. Those of us who recognized Romanov royalty just stared through the store’s plate glass window, not hearing the regal voice in her single animated action of admonishing the scruffy, almost wild dogs. Maughnahan would amble up to the counter, pay for his self-serve copies, and exit, starting the truck with a belch of oil and yelps of dogs diving onboard as the royal motor carriage rattled away.

The heirs to the throne of Russia lived six blocks away from me, in a small white house that really needed a paint job, in a yard that had never been tended. Trees and saplings, out of control hedges, and tall, nondescript weeds almost obscured the 40 year old royal hovel set not too far back from the road, overlooking the Colonnades of the University of Virginia. There was no organized lawngrass, and dog paths surrounded and crisscrossed the quarter acre eyesore. Next door to this palace my friend Judy rented a small, rickety, damp apartment in a row of six, making her a tenant of the last of the Romanov landlords. The rent was low, but the cockroaches were very bad. The palace’s hunting dogs roamed everywhere.

The royal couple appeared to never bathe. Neither had bought clothes in ten years. The pickup truck was older than that, and had never been washed. The exterior of the house was covered with grime and mildew. Sir Maughnahan and the tsarina herself had a molded smell that made you wrinkle your nose. Such is the aura of lost royalty.


Newer note: DNA testing has now revealed that Anna Anderson was not a Romanov at all.

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February 25, 2020
04:23:00 PM