By Adrian Blomfield in Moscow
Last Updated: 11:20PM BST 16/07/2008
The bones of Crown Prince Alexei, the only son of Tsar Nicholas II, are to be turned into an object of worship according to a secret proposal being circulated within the Russian Orthodox Church.
The controversial plan emerged as Russia officially confirmed that the charred remains of two corpses found in a pit outside Yekaterinburg last year belonged to Alexei and his older sister, Maria.
The announcement, which follows months of DNA analysis and forensic investigation, is likely to convince all but the most diehard conspiracy theorists that none of the Royal Family escaped the firing squad that executed them 90 years ago today.
Many royalists would like to see Alexei and Maria reunited with the rest of their family at the Peter and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg, where Nicholas II was buried during a state funeral in 1998.
But the likelihood of another royal funeral, something many Russians believe would play an essential past in righting the wrongs of their national history, has been called into question after the Church's secret plan was leaked.
The proposal calls for the 44 body parts of Alexei and his sister to be sanctified as relics and placed on display for the Orthodox faithful to worship. According to the reports, the remains are considered to have more powerful healing qualities because they were children.
Alexei, who suffered from haemophilia, was 13 when the executions happened, while Maria was 19.
How much support the proposal has within the Orthodox Church is unclear. Officially, the Church still questions whether the bodies buried in the Peter and Paul fortress are really the Romanovs.
A spokesman refused to be drawn on the fate of Alexei and Maria. "It is not proper to anticipate the turn of events when we are dealing with something that could be classified as an object of worship," said Father Mikhail Prokopenko of the Moscow Patriarchy, the seat of Russian Orthodoxy.
Theories that at least one of the Tsar's children might have survived were bolstered in 1991 when a mass grave containing nine corpses was discovered outside Yekaterinburg.
While DNA tests showed that the remains were those of the Romanov family and their servants, murdered by their Bolshevik captors on the orders of Lenin, two bodies – those of Alexei and one of his sisters – were missing.
During the 20th century, several women came forward claiming to be Anastasia, among them Anna Anderson, a Polish factory worker whose resemblance to the Grand Princess was so striking that even some close relatives of the Royal Family were deceived.
Last year, however, the two missing corpses, both charred and severely dismembered, were found in a second grave.
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