PRINCE PHILIP has provided his DNA to the Russians so that investigators may identify whether the remains of two children uncovered nine years ago are the last Romanovs of the murdered imperial family.
The news was revealed by historian Simon Sebag Montefore, who is writing a comprehensive biography of the dynasty which ruled Tsarist Russia for almost 400 years from the time of Ivan the Terrible.
Given the murky bloodlines of European aristocracy it is hardly a surprise that the Duke of Edinburgh is a descendent of the Romanovs who were the last of the lineage, executed in 1918 by Bolshevik troops at the height of the civil war.
The executions of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their five children have cast a dark shadow over the Russian political psyche with the victims portrayed as Royal repressors during the Soviet years but have since been rehabilitated and indeed canonized by the Orthodox Church.
Back in 1979 amateur excavators discovered the bodies of the Tsar, his wife and three of the children, but kept their findings secret until the collapse of communism. In 2007 two bodies found in a field were thought to the missing children, Maria and Alexei.
Only now will specialist scientists be able to confirm once and for all whether the children are indeed the last Romanovs, and Prince Philip will play a vital, if indirect role in solving the riddle.
The matter was considered done and dusted by the Kremlin but the church, and the exiled descendents of the Romanovs who managed to flee Russia in 1917, disputed the original tests and have demanded this second round before the bodies join the five buried in St Petersburg.
It will likely be to president Putin’s advantage to see the children confirmed as the dead royals, as it would remove lingering challenges to his legitimacy and help cement his own position as a descendent of the great tsars.