A STATEMENT BY THE RUSSIAN LEGITIMIST
ON THE FUTURE OF THE ROMANOV FAMILY ASSOCIATION
Following the announcement of the death of Dimitri Romanovich Romanoff on December 31, 2016, several readers have written to The Russian Legitimist with questions about the Romanov Family Association. We reproduce some of these questions, with responses, below.
For those unfamiliar with it, the Romanov Family Association is a private organization established in 1979 by Nicholas Romanovich Romanoff, the morganatic son of His Highness Prince Roman of Russia, a dynast. Nicholas Romanoff served as its elected president from 1990 until his death in 2014. Following the death of Nicholas, several press reports described his younger brother Dimitri Romanovich Romanoff as the new president. This raised questions, however, because the president of the Association is chosen by election, and there does not appear to have been an election to fill the vacant position of president after 2014.
At the moment and until a president is elected, the vice-president, Michael Romanoff Ilyinsky, Prince Romanovsky-Ilyinsky, would be the senior elected officer of the organization. He is a grandson of His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia.
As explained elsewhere on The Russian Legitimist website, the Romanov Family Association groups together morganatic descendants of the many non-dynastic marriages contracted in exile by dynasts of the Imperial House. No current member of the Romanov Family Association is a member of the Russian Imperial House. And neither Grand Duchess Maria, Head of the Russian Imperial House, nor her son belongs to the Romanov Family Association.
What is the future of the Romanov Family Association
after the death of the two brothers, Nicholas Romanoff and Dimitri Romanoff?
This will become clear with time, but it is difficult to answer at the present moment.
With the deaths of Nicholas and Dimitri, the two sons of Prince Roman of Russia, there are now 11 males among the members of the Romanov Family Association. All 11 descend from non-dynastic marriages, and all 11 are Americans. The eldest of these was born in London in 1923, emigrated to the United States in the 1940s, and became an American citizen in 1954. The other 10 were all born in the United States between 1953 and 2009. Of those born in the United States, none speaks Russian. We do not know who among them are Russian Orthodox. One of them at least, Rostislav Romanoff, is dividing his time between Britain and Russia and is studying Russian.
Is the Romanov Family Association a monarchist organization?
The original purpose of the Romanov Family Association, formed more than 60 years after the end of the monarchy, was to bring the large diaspora of far-flung Romanoff descendants back into contact with each other. The Association plays no role in Russian politics or in monarchist activities in Russia.
It is interesting to note that the current 11 males in the Romanov Family Association all descend from either Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia or Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia. Both dynasts were committed legitimists who signed oaths of allegiance in the 1920s to Grand Duke Kirill as Emperor and Head of the Imperial House and to his son Grand Duke Wladimir as Tsesarevich and Heir. Five of Grand Duke Alexander’s sons also pledged their loyalty. (*** See Note)
Who is the senior male of the Romanoff Family?
The last living male dynasts of the Russian Imperial House were Prince Vassily of Russia (who died in 1989) and Grand Duke Wladimir (who died in 1992). At the death of Grand Duke Wladimir, the succession to the position of Head of the Russian Imperial House passed to Wladimir’s daughter, Grand Duchess Maria, in conformity with the dynastic succession laws.
At present there are a dozen male-line descendants of the Romanoff family. In respect of genealogical seniority among the morganatic descendants , the three most senior males are HSH Prince Dmitri Pavlovich Romanovsky-Ilyinsky, the latter’s younger brother Prince Michael Pavlovich Romanovsky-Ilyinsky, and HSH Prince George Alexandrovich Yurievsky. After them come the several morganatic descendants of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia. Rostislav Romanoff, referred to elsewhere, is 7th in seniority among male morganatic descendants.
Who is Rostislav Romanoff, Prince Romanovsky?
Rostislav Romanoff is a talented American artist whose creativity as a painter is gaining increasing recognition. He was born in Illinois, U.S.A. in 1985, the son of the late Rostislav Romanoff and his wife Christia Ipsen. He is a member of the Romanov Family Association, and he now divides his time between Britain and Russia. Because he spends so much time in Russia, Rostislav is often interviewed in press articles. He has recently begun to study Russian as a second language.
Rostislav's father and grandfather were also both named Rostislav. His father, Rostislav Romanoff (1938-1999), was an American banker who lived at the end of his life in England. His grandfather, H.H. Prince Rostislav of Russia (1902-1978), a Russian dynast, was a son of Grand Duke Alexander of Russia and a nephew of Emperor Nicholas II.
Although a direct male-line descendant of the Romanoff family, Rostislav, like his late father, is not a member of the Russian Imperial House and is not in line to the throne. Rostislav's grandfather, Prince Rostislav of Russia, was, however, a member of the Russian Imperial House. Because in 1928 Prince Rostislav of Russia contracted a non-dynastic marriage not in conformity with the laws of the Russian Imperial House, his descendants do not have dynastic status. The wife of Prince Rostislav of Russia and her descendants received the noble morganatic title of Princess or Prince Romanovsky from Grand Duke Kirill as head of the dynasty.
In 1924, Rostislav's grandfather, Prince Rostislav of Russia, signed a written oath of loyalty to Grand Duke Kirill as Emperor and Head of the Imperial House and to Kirill's son Grand Duke Wladimir as Tsesarevich and Heir to the Throne. This document was also signed by Prince Rostislav's father (Grand Duke Alexander of Russia), and four of Rostislav's brothers.
Who is head of the Imperial House now?
H.I.H. the Grand Duchess Maria Wladimirovna of Russia is the Head of the Imperial House.
The death of her cousin Dimitri Romanovich Romanoff has had no effect upon her status or that of her son and heir, the Tsesarevich and Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia.
The only strongly anti-legitimist branch of the dynasty in the 1920s were the “Nikolaevichi,” a junior branch of the Imperial House. The oldest dynast of this branch, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, despite his very junior position in the line of succession, thought he would make a better tsar than the most senior surviving dynast, Grand Duke Kirill. Grand Duke Nikolai believed that a successful restoration of the monarchy by means of a counter-revolution would require a tsar with strong leadership qualities and prior experience commanding huge armies rather than a tsar like Kirill who, although the senior dynast by primogeniture and by the dynastic laws, was considerably younger and less experienced. In the 1920s, of the 19 male dynasts who had survived the revolution, only three declined to sign a statement of loyalty to Grand Duke Kirill: Nikolai, his younger brother Peter, and Peter’s son Roman. Peter and Roman were respectively the grandfather and father of Nicholas and Dimitri Romanoff. By 1929, however, when Grand Duke Nikolai died, the prospects of a restoration had become quite distant.
It is intriguing to point out that, of the roughly 30 current morganatic descendants who compose the Romanov Family Association today, there are only 3 descend from dynast who declined to sign the statement of loyalty to Grand Duke Kirill and his son in the 1920s: these are the three daughters of Nicholas R. Romanoff (and thus granddaughters of Prince Roman of Russia).
Nonetheless, as its president for a quarter century, Nicholas R. Romanoff, a great-nephew of Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, was able to use the Romanov Family Association to further the anti-legitimist agenda of his Nikolaevichi forebears and to buttress his own dynastic claims. This caused enormous confusion.
Nicholas Romanoff, for example, said that the Russian Imperial House and the Romanoff family were one and the same, which was not correct, due to the dozens of non-dynastic marriages after the fall of the monarchy. The Imperial House is composed of members of the dynasty (today, Grand Duchess Maria and her son). The Romanoff family is a larger entity composed of both dynasts and the morganatic descendants of non-dynastic marriages.
After belatedly acknowledging that Grand Dukes Kirill and Wladimir were indeed the successive dynastic heads, Nicholas Romanoff also asserted that he had succeeded Grand Duke Wladimir in 1992, which was similarly incorrect, because Nicholas Romanoff was not a dynast.
In addition, as elected president of the Romanov Family Association, he referred to himself on its website as “head of the Romanov family” when he should have said “elected head of the Romanov Family Association.”