A Throne which ‘not for an instant might become vacant’:

Law and Succession among the Romanov Descendants


Russell E. Martin

Westminster College

Published with the permission of the author.



On July 17, 1998, precisely 80 years to the day after their murders, the bodies of Emperor Nicholas II, his wife, three of their five children, and four of their servants were laid to rest in the Chapel of St. Catherine, an annex to the Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg, the traditional resting place of the Romanovs since 1708.[1]  The funeral was served by an archpriest of the St. Petersburg Eparchy along with other clergy, and was attended by nearly 50 descendants of the House of Romanov, as well as by dignitaries from no fewer than 27 countries.  The funeral served as a stage for many of these Romanov descendants to give interviews, tour former Imperial palaces, attend cultural events, and to spend what was for most their first nights in Russia.  The funeral was a kind of family reunion.[2]

But not every descendant of the Romanovs attended the funeral.  Precisely on the same day and at the same hour, some 400 miles away at the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Monastery near Moscow, a very different service—a requiem, or panikhida—was officiated by the Patriarch of Moscow, Alexis II, and attended by three Romanovs:  Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, and Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich—three generations of the senior line of descent of the Romanov dynasty, the line that descends from the younger brother of Alexander III (r. 1881–1894), Vladimir Alexandrovich, and, in turn, his son, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, who, as the senior surviving Romanov, assumed in 1924 the mantle of Head of the Russian Imperial House and the title Emperor-in-Exile.[3] 

Ostensibly, the two services—and the two corresponding groups of Romanov descendants attending them—reflected a dispute then raging over the identification of the remains being buried in St. Petersburg.  The larger assembly of Romanov descendants in St. Petersburg backed the view supported by nearly every scholar who had examined the physical remains, had performed DNA testing of samples drawn from those remains, or who had trudged through the archives containing a substantial number of documents relating to the execution and hasty burial of the Imperial family back in July 1918.[4]  For this batch of Romanov relatives and to these scientists, there were no reasonable doubts that these were the remains of the last tsar and his family.  But Grand Duchess Leonida, Grand Duchess Maria, and Grand Duke Georgii decided to follow the Russian Orthodox Church’s lead on the question of the identity of these remains, joining Patriarch Alexis II in a collective shrugging of the shoulders.  As a result, the patriarch and the legitimist claimant to the vacant Russian throne—Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna—did not travel to St. Petersburg for the funeral.  Instead, she and her mother and son attended the requiem service, and in so doing, broadcast through the medium of the Church’s liturgical rituals their public doubts about the sureness of the forensic investigations of these remains.  For a time, President Boris Yeltsyn also planned to stay away from the funeral in St. Petersburg, but at the last moment he changed his mind and attended it—offering a propitiating speech and bowing low before the coffins and grave of the last tsar and his family. 

But the division among the Romanov descendants between Moscow and St. Petersburg was not principally over the identity of bones.  Rather, the division on July 17, 1998, reflected longer-running and deeper rifts among them that are at heart rooted in the Law of Succession (Akt, Vysochaishe utverzhdennyi v den’ sviashchennoi Koronatsii Ego Imperatorskogo Velichestva, i polozhennyi dlia khraneniia na prestole Uspenskogo Sobora) and the Statute on the Imperial Family (Uchrezhdenie ob Imperatorskoi Familii), dynastic laws that had been issued by Emperor Paul I (r. 1797–1801), the common ancestor of both set of Romanov descendants, those in St. Petersburg and those in Moscow.  These Imperial laws—the first signed by Paul I and his wife, Mariia Feodorovna, on January 4, 1788, when Paul I was still the heir to his mother, Catherine II the Great (r. 1762–1797); and the second on the day of his coronation, April 5, 1797[5]—regulated the Imperial succession to the throne and the familial structure of the Romanov family that Paul I believed (rightly, it turned out) was going to issue from him and his consort.  These laws distributed titles, financial annuities, and Orders of Chivalry to members of the dynasty in accordance with one’s genealogical place in the family, as well as specifying the age of majority, provisions for regencies, and other basic requirements of a modern monarchical regime.[6]  Their principal purpose, however, was to regulate the succession.  Since the time of Peter the Great’s law of succession of 1722, the emperor or empress had the right to nominate their successors,[7] but Paul I’s intent was to end the capriciousness in the succession that Peter I’s law introduced, and to install a stable and predictable system rooted in the legal concepts of his own time.[8]  It was the law itself, not the reigning emperor or empress, which was to determine who the next ruler would be.  Paul I and Mariia Feodorovna spelled out very clearly what their purpose was in writing their 1788 decree on the succession:  it was to assure

that the State should never be without an Heir; that the heir should be determined by the law itself; that there should never be the least doubt as to who is to succeed; that the rights of the branches to the succession should be maintained without violation of natural right and that difficulties [zatrudneniia] which might occur in the passing of the succession from one branch to another should be avoided.[9]

The Law of Succession and the Statute on the Imperial Family were Russia’s earliest “fundamental laws,” a toehold of legality and the rule of law in an otherwise autocratic system of government.[10]  These legal provisions aimed to secure the succession and to regulate the Romanov family, and therefore amounted to an effective limitation on the emperor’s powers—the first such limitation to be ensconced in a law.  As Paul I and Mariia Feodorovna themselves put it in the 1788 Akt, the aim was first and foremost to provide a law for Russia that would guarantee that the throne should “not for an instant become vacant.”[11] 

But the throne did become vacant.  The Bolshevik Revolution took the lives not only of the last tsar and his family, who were buried in 1998 in the Ss. Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, it wiped out whole branches of the Imperial House.  The totals are numbing.  Eight of the sixteen grand dukes (velikie kniazia) and three of the twelve princes-of-the-Imperial-blood (kniazia imperatorskoi krovi) who were alive at the time of the Revolution were executed in the two years after the Bolshevik seizure of power.[12]  Romanov women fared only a little better:  five of seventeen grand duchesses (velikie kniagini) perished—the last tsar’s daughters and the empress’s sister—though all of the ten princesses-of-the-blood (kniagini imperatorskoi krovi) survived the Revolution.[13] 

Even so, the dynasty survived.  And so too did the dynastic laws by which they lived.  The Statute on the Imperial Family—which was originally issued by Paul I in 1797, was included in the Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire (Svod zakonov Rossiiskoi imperii), then as the opening sections of the Fundamental Laws of 1905[14]—was transformed by the new circumstances of exile and revolution.  While it ceased to be a component of the Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire (which no longer existed), the Statute on the Imperial Family continued to regulate the structure of the Romanov dynasty as a family; and even those Romanov descendants who questioned or rejected the Statute’s claims on their private lives in exile nonetheless debated the issues defining and dividing the family precisely in the language of the Statute.  The Statute became a space for dialogue and interaction among Romanov descendants, as well as a battleground over questions of the Headship of the dynasty, marriage, and the right to use titles and even the surname “Romanov.”  It was both the weapon and the shield in the disputes that would arise among émigré Romanovs in the course of the twentieth (and, now, twenty-first) century.  At key moments after 1917 when the “succession” to the position of “Head of the Russian Imperial House” moved from one generation to the next—from Kirill Vladimirovich in 1924, to Vladimir Kirillovich in 1938, and to Mariia Vladimirovna in 1992—it was the Statute that was referenced either to justify or challenge the succession.  The divisions in the Romanov House showed themselves from the beginning of their exile, but they intensified after 1969 and continue to this day.  And so it was interpretations of the Statute on the Imperial Family—not doubts about DNA—that lay behind the division in the family that evinced itself in 1998 at the funeral of the last tsar.

1924:  Kirill Vladimirovich

It took four years after the murders of everyone before him in the line of succession (Nicholas II, Tsesarevich Aleksei, and Grand Duke Mikhail) for Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich to assume the title of Curator (Bliustitel’) of the Russian throne (on August 8, 1922), and another two years still before he assumed the title of Emperor (on August 31, 1924).[15]  The delay was attributed by Kirill in his Manifesto of ascension (1924) to uncertainties about the fate of his more senior relatives.  “Our hope,” he writes,

that the precious life of Emperor Nicholas Aleksandrovich, or that of the Heir and Tsesarevich Aleksei Nikolaevich, or of Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich, has been preserved has not been realized.  The time has now come to bring it to the knowledge of all that on July 17/4, 1918, in the city of Ekaterinburg, by order of the international cabal which has seized power in Russia, there took place an inhuman assassination of the Emperor Nicholas Aleksandrovich, Empress Aleksandra Feodorovna, their son and heir, Tsesarevich Aleksei Nikolaevich, and their daughters, the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia.  In the same year, near the city of Perm, the brother of the Emperor, Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich, was murdered.[16]

In this way, Kirill accounts for all those Romanovs who stood before him in the line of succession, laying open the path that leads to him as, quoting again, the “senior member of the Imperial Family and the only legal heir to the Imperial Throne of Russia.”[17]  Many authorities plausibly have asserted that the reason Kirill delayed was because the Dowager Empress Mariia Feodorovna, Nicholas II’s mother, stubbornly refused to accept the fact of these murders in Ekaterinburg and Perm because Kirill feared the backlash among the Russian émigré community that would surely result from her refusal to recognize him as emperor de jure, a refusal she signaled that she was ready to announce broadly and publicly at the moment Kirill should make such a claim. 

While the dowager empress’s resistance to Kirill’s claim was surely a factor, it is likely that there were other considerations on his mind as well, including the activities and claims by members of the Russian émigré community, including his own relatives.  Kirill’s distant cousin, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, who had been Supreme Commander of the Russian army in the west during the early months of the First World War, was offered the title of emperor by Whites fighting in the Far East and had refused it, but neither did he ever firmly dissuaded his supporters from their dreams of seeing him as emperor.[18]  Nikolai was not a supporter of Kirill’s, though his opposition to him was personal not legal.  In fact, Nikolai Nikolaevich displayed little regard for the laws of succession, being one of a number of émigrés—collectively called “The Undecided” (Nepredreshentsy)—who abandoned the Imperial Laws of Succession as the means for determining the succession and called instead for an Assembly of the Land (Zemskii Sobor), as there had been in 1613 when the Romanovs were elected to the throne after the Time of Troubles.  Kirill was rather stuck between a rock and a hard place:  between the real possibility of insulting the matriarch of the dynasty, Dowager Empress Mariia Feodorovna, and allowing the question of the succession to slip away from the control of the Statute on the Imperial Family.

It was likely with these fears in mind that Kirill carefully chose the wording of his 1924 Manifesto, rooting his actions very firmly in the law.  “The Russian Laws of Succession to the Throne,” he affirmed, “do not permit the Imperial Throne to remain vacant after the death of the previous emperor and after the deaths of his closest heirs has been established.  Also, in accordance with our law, the new emperor becomes emperor by virtue of the Law of Succession itself.”[19]  This last line—that the “new emperor becomes emperor by virtue of the Law”—was a paraphrase of a line in Paul I’s and Mariia Feodorovna’s 1788 decree, that the “heir should be determined by the law itself,” a line that was repeated in every iteration of the Statute on the Imperial Family, including the version that found its way into the 1905 Fundamental Laws:  “On the death of an emperor, his heir accedes to the Throne by virtue of the law of succession itself, which confers this right upon him.  The accession of an emperor to the Throne is counted from the day of the death of his predecessor.”[20]  Thus the battle lines were formed early between those Romanovs and émigrés who referred to the Imperial Fundamental Laws and those who saw the Revolution as license to begin anew—to look for a champion of the monarchist cause among other members of the Romanov House regardless of their place in the line of succession, or perhaps even to allow for another family to be “elected” to the vacant throne by a Zemskii Sobor.

Kirill took some risk in basing his claims on the Law of Succession.  He had flagrantly violated them himself back in 1905 when he married Princess Victoria Melita, the divorced wife of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s brother, Ernst Ludwig of Hesse-Darmstadt.  The Statute on the Imperial Family requires that all marriages of members of the House of Romanov to be approved by the emperor, but Kirill’s marriage never received the emperor’s sanction because of the empress’s dislike for her former sister-in-law, who had scandalously abandoned her marriage to her brother.[21]  As a result of his unapproved marriage, Kirill was exiled and deprived of the ranks and privileges afforded to him as a member of the dynasty.  His marriage was unrecognized until July 15, 1909, when Nicholas II finally relented to pressure from his relatives to recognize, post factum, the marriage, as well as the births of Kirill’s two daughters during the time of his censure (Mariia, born in 1907, and Kira, born in 1909).  Nicholas II’s edict on the matter declares that “[t]he consort of His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich is to have the title Grand Duchess Viktoriia Feodorovna, with the style Imperial Highness, and the daughter born of the marriage of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich and Grand Duchess Viktoriia Feodorovna, named Mariia in Holy Baptism, is to be recognized as a Princess-of-the-Imperial-Blood, with the style of Highness, as belongs to great-grandchildren of an emperor.”[22]  With the censure lifted, these daughters were entered into the Genealogical Book of the Imperial Family (Rodoslovnaia kniga Imperatorskoi familii), which was proof positive of membership in the Imperial House.[23]  

Challenges to Kirill’s claims were also based on his behavior during the Revolution, a topic that is still debated among historians today.  The accusation is stated plainly by Richard Pipes:  “On March 1, Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich, the commandant of the Palace Guard at Tsarskoe Selo and a cousin of Nicholas, announced that he and his men acknowledged the authority of the Provision Government.”[24]  Some other sources claim Kirill wore a red arm band or cockade as he marched his marines to the Tauride Palace, and still others allege he raised a red flag over his residence.[25]  All these allegations, whether true or not, have behind them certain provisions in the Fundamental Laws—specifically Articles 220–223—which require each member of the House to have “complete respect, obedience and allegiance” to the emperor (Art. 220) and to “bring his behavior into complete accord with the Monarch’s will” (Art 223).  Kirill would later deny any of this happened, but his best defense lay not in these denials but in the law itself, which did not require the nullification of succession rights of the heirs of a traitor.  As far as the Fundamental Laws were concerned, the sins of the father are his own and are not visited on his sons. 

Complex as his motives may have been for doing it, Kirill’s assumption of the Imperial title in 1924 was recognized by most members of the Imperial Family.  Kirill enjoyed the support of his younger brothers, Grand Duke Boris and Grand Duke Andrei, and of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, the grandson of Emperor Nicholas I (r. 1825-1855), who was married to Nicholas II’s sister, Kseniia.  Kirill also enjoyed the support of Grand Duke Dmitrii Pavlovich, a grandson of Emperor Alexander II (r. 1855-1881).  Two other grand dukes—the brothers Peter Nikolaevich and Nikolai Nikolaevich, grandsons of Nicholas I—were openly hostile to Kirill’s dynastic claims, and a third grand duke—Mikhail Mikhailovich, another grandson of Nicholas I—had lived in exile since his morganatic marriage in 1891 and expressed no known opinions on Kirill’s claims.  Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich had written in a letter in November 1923, which was published in the New York Herald, that if, in fact, the senior members of the dynasty were all dead, then “the question of the succession (in the event of a restoration of the monarchy) raises among us not even the slightest disagreement, since the Fundamental Laws of Russia clearly indicate that the right to the Throne always belongs to the senior member of our family, who at present is Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich.”[26]  Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich later spoke for himself and his sons when he wrote to Kirill shortly after his assumption of the Imperial title in 1924:  “We pray to God that He gives you the strength to accomplish the heavy burden that you have taken up in submitting yourself to the Fundamental Laws.  We submit ourselves to you and are ready to serve our beloved country as our fathers served it.”[27] 

The staunchest opposition to Kirill’s 1924 Manifesto, however, came not unexpectedly from the Dowager Empress and Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich.  On September 21, 1924, Empress Mariia Feodorovna wrote Kirill a scathing rebuke:  “If it turns out to be the case that the Lord God, in his inscrutable ways, has called unto Himself my beloved sons and grandson, then looking forward, and with the firm hope in God’s mercy, the [next] Sovereign Emperor will be specified by the Fundamental Laws, in union with the Orthodox Church and together with the Russian people…The oldest members of the House of Romanov, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, is in full agreement with me.”[28]  In other words, the Dowager Empress (and Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich) insisted that the Fundamental Laws were not the sole determining factor in the question of the succession.  This was a version of the argument being made by the “The Undecided” (Nepredreshentsy).  The Church and the people too had to have a say.  To this and other statements made public by both the Dowager Empress and Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, Kirill claimed that all he was doing was exercising the provisions of the law which itself demanded that the throne not be vacant, whatever the future structure of the Russian government might be.  He wrote:

It was with a feeling of the most profound sadness of heart that I read the letter of 21 September/4 October of this year of Her Imperial Majesty, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, to Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich, which the latter has made public, and in which Her Majesty states that she finds our adoption of the title of Emperor of All the Russias that was proclaimed in My Manifesto of 31 August, to be premature.

Still more deplorable are the remarks added to this letter in the name of Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich, who permitted himself in these remarks even to condemn My decision.

However, the requirements of duty and of the law are higher than the personal opinions of family members, which, in this instance, represent the views of the two oldest members of the Imperial House.

It is not given to me to decide whether or not I will accept the burden I have inherited, to represent Russia and to remove from her the snare of the evil-doers, just as no one has the right to condemn my actions, which are required in order to attain the well-being of the Motherland.

As soon as I became convinced of the deaths of the more senior members of our House, I was obliged to step into their place and to raise the flag what was wrenched from their hands:  such is the law, and such are the obligations I have accepted from my Imperial ancestors.

The fact that the future form of the government in Russia must be decided only in accordance with the will of the people cannot be something that controls my actions.  In fulfilling the law of succession, I am not violating the genuine will of the people.  I declared that I am legally the Emperor.  When God enables the people one day to make known freely their desire, then they, with the spontaneous energy of a spiritual renewal, may know who their legitimate tsar is, and gather around him for the defense of the Church and of the Fatherland.

I also make known that the Imperial House lives on, strong in its adherence to the statutes promulgated by my ancestors for the operation of the legitimate succession to the Headship of the family.

Nor does the Church spurn the Law of Succession, a ceremonial copy of which was placed on the altar of the Dormition Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin by the true preservers of Orthodoxy, Russia’s tsars.

God’s truth and our people’s historical will are behind us; and the true sons of Russia are not troubled by nuisances like these letters, which one is bound to encounter along the difficult but holy path we have chosen to take.[29]

The references to the Fundamental Laws in statements by Kirill and his supporters among his relatives, and even among his detractors, demonstrate how the early debates about the succession and about the structure of the Imperial family were conducted in terms of the provisions of the Law of Succession.  Even those Romanovs and other members of the émigré community who were willing to throw out the law or deem it null and void after the Revolution could not simply ignore it.  The Law outlived the Imperial system because the Romanovs outlived the empire.

1938:  Vladimir Kirillovich

When Grand Duke Kirill assumed the Imperial title in 1924, he identified his heir as his son, Vladimir—a common custom in accession Manifestos during Romanov times.[30]  It was a source of some controversy, however, that in his 1924 Manifesto, Kirill changed his son’s title:  “I declare my son Prince Vladimir Kirillovich to be heir to the Throne, with the title of Grand Duke, Heir, and Tsesarevich.”[31]  Titles of dynasts were stipulated in the Statute on the Imperial Family.  As originally written (in 1797), the senior member of the dynasty after the sovereign (the persons first in line of succession) and all his senior male offspring were granted the titles tsesarevich and grand duke, while all other sons, grandsons, great-grandsons, and great-great-grandsons were granted the title grand duke (velikii kniaz’) and the style “Imperial Highness” (Imperatorskoe Vysochestvo).  More distant relatives would have the lesser title of Prince-of-the-Imperial-Blood (kniaz’ imperatorskoi krovi) and the style “Highness” (Vysochestvo).  That rather liberal policy on titles was narrowed in 1886, however, so that only sons and grandsons of emperors were to be grand dukes.  The title prince and the style Highness were given to great-grandsons and senior great-great-grandsons, and the new style Serene Highness was given to junior great-great-grandsons and more distant kin.[32]  On the one hand, Vladimir Kirillovich had only the right to be a prince since he was a great-grandson (not a son or grandson) of Alexander II.  On the other, Kirill’s assumption of the title emperor catapulted Vladimir to first in line to the succession, which, for those who accepted Kirill’s claims, meant that he was now “grand duke, heir, and Tsesarevich.” 

When Kirill died on October 12, 1938, Vladimir became the senior Romanov dynast and assumed the role of Head of the Russian Imperial House (though not the title emperor), as his father had back in 1924.  In Vladimir’s accession Manifesto, he refers to his succession as a normal operation of the law: 

Following the example of my father and profoundly aware of the sacred duty that has been laid upon me, I accept by right of inheritance all the rights and duties of Head of the Imperial House of Russia, to which I have succeeded and which belong to me by virtue of the Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire and the Statute on the Imperial Family.[33]

Vladimir did not identify who, according to those same Fundamental Laws, was his heir (it would have been his uncle, Boris), perhaps for the practical reason that he was in 1938 only 21 years old and still unmarried.  Any future children he might have, and he likely expected to have them, would have rights to the succession that would trump those of all other dynasts. 

Two weeks after issuing his Manifesto, on October 11/24, 1938, the five next most senior members of Romanov House in line of succession issued their own statement on Vladimir’s ascension to the rights of Head of the Imperial House.  The document was signed by Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich (first in line of succession after Vladimir), Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich (second in line of succession), Grand Duke Dmitrii Pavlovich (third in line), Prince Vsevolod Ioannovich (fourth in line), and Prince Gavriil Konstantinovich (fifth in line).  The text is worth quoting in full:

We, the members of the Imperial House of Russia, having assembled after the death of the Head of our House, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, consider it our most sacred duty solemnly to declare that the rights of each of the members of the Imperial House of Russia are exactly determined by the Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire and the Statute on the Imperial Family, that they are known perfectly to all, and that we must observe them religiously, by virtue of a special oath, which is why the question of the order of succession to the throne has never caused the slightest doubt among us and, still less, a disagreement of any kind.  We reject any departure from the order provided by the law, because that would be an offense against the inviolacy of our laws and of our family traditions.

By virtue of the aforementioned laws, we recognize that the succession to the throne belongs by right of primogeniture to the senior member of the Imperial House of Russia, Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, which he has inherited after the death of his father on September 29/October 12, 1938, with a profound awareness of the sacred duty which has devolved upon him according to the law, as Head of the Imperial House of Russia, bestowing upon him all the rights and duties belonging to him by virtue of the Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire and the Statute on the Imperial Family.

At this point in the statement, the five signatories laid out the succession after Vladimir (something Vladimir had failed to do in his Manifesto), naming the next thirteen Romanovs in order of succession, following precisely the rules of male primogeniture as laid out in the Fundamental Laws and Statute on the Imperial Family:

The members of the Imperial House of Russia appear as follows by primogeniture in the order of succession:  Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich, Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich, Grand Duke Dmitrii Pavlovich, Prince Vsevolod Ioannovich, Prince Gavriil Konstantinovich, Prince Georgii Konstantinovich, Prince Roman Petrovich, Prince Andrei Aleksandrovich, Prince Feodor Aleksandrovich, Prince Nikita Aleksandrovich, Prince Dmitrii Aleksandrovich, Prince Rostislav Aleksandrovich, and Prince Vasilii Aleksandrovich.[34]

How these dynasts viewed the succession of Vladimir as automatic and legal is summarized in a letter from Prince Andrei Aleksandrovich (eighth in line of succession) to Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich (second in line of succession), dated November 1, 1938:  “I do not see why the family needs to sign a statement [affirming Vladimir’s ascension as Head of the Imperial House] since it is self-evident that after the death of Kirill, his son assumes the senior position of Head of the Imperial House.  I personally recognized Kirill, and in the same way now recognize his son.”[35]

But not all of these thirteen Romanov dynasts supported Vladimir or his father, Kirill.  The views of Prince Georgii Konstantinovich (sixth in the line of succession) on Kirill’s 1924 Manifesto are unknown, as are his views about Vladimir’s 1938 Manifesto.  He was in the United States at the time that Vladimir issued his Manifesto, gravely ill.  He died three weeks later (on November 8, 1938) at the age of 32.  Prince Roman Petrovich (seventh in line of succession) shared his father’s (Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich’s) hostility to Kirill and Vladimir; and Prince Vasilii Aleksandrovich (thirteenth in line of succession) would later show he was similarly ill-disposed to Vladimir, though in 1924 he had not yet reached his dynastic majority and so was not asked to sign the letter that his father (Aleksander Mikhailovich) and older brothers (Andrei, Feodor, Nikita, and Rostislav) had sent to Kirill acknowledging his dynastic rights. [36]  The views of some of these siblings would change later, particularly after 1969.

1992:  Mariia Vladimirovna

Vladimir had married Princess Leonida Bagrationi-Mukhrani, of the House of Bagration, on July 31/August 13, 1948.  A daughter, Mariia, was born to the couple on December 10/23, 1953.  The status of both Vladimir’s bride and daughter have been hotly debated by scholars ever since.[37]  It’s a debate that is unlikely ever to be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.

As for the bride, the debate has been over Leonida’s status as member of a “royal or ruling house,” as required by the Fundamental Laws.[38]  The Bagration Dynasty is an ancient house, ruling the Kingdom of George and its many tributaries since the ninth century.  The absorption of the Kingdom of George into Russia in 1801, and the entry of its royal family into the highest rungs of the Russian aristocracy afterward, has raised the question among some of the royal status of the Bagrations.  Did they lose their royal status when Georgia lost its independence?  Did they voluntarily relinquish it when they entered the Russian nobility?  If they lost their royal status, was it reacquired later—either when Georgia became independent (from 1918 to 1921, or in 1991), or when Grand Duke Vladimir himself issued a statement affirming the royal status of the House of Bagration in 1946?[39]  Or should the Bagrations—the ruling house of a kingdom that had been absorbed into another, larger realm—be viewed much like the mediatized houses of former German principalities after the Congress of Vienna, in which case the Bagrations, even as “princes” in the Russian Empire, would not have ever (even temporarily) lost their royal status?  However one argues it, the status of Leonida as a member of a “royal or ruling house” determines the dynastic status of the daughter, Maria as a member of the Romanov dynasty and, therefore, her right of succession.  

The question of morganatic marriages in the Romanov dynasty is long-standing and thorny.  Morganatic marriages were rare but becoming increasingly common in the dynasty, despite the opprobrium they garnered from the emperors and other members of the dynasty.  Constantine Pavlovich, Paul I’s second son, was the first to marry morganatically when he took Joanna Grudzińska as his second wife in May 1820.  The marriage would lead to Constantine’s (at first secret) abdication of his right of succession, and the promulgation of an addendum by Alexander I to the Statute on the Imperial family excluding from the line of succession any and all children born of unequal marriages.[40]  There would be others.  Alexander II married secondly to Princess Catherine Mikhailovna Dolgorukova in 1880, and Nicholas II’s brother, Mikhail Aleksandrovich, married Natal’ia Sergeevna Sheremetevskaia (her third marriage) in 1912.  After the abdication of Nicholas II, the floodgates were opened. Of the thirty marriages (and remarriages) of members of the Romanov dynasty since 1917, twenty-six were morganatic.[41] 

Was Vladimir’s and Leonida’s marriage also morganatic?  Authorities can and do disagree on the answer, but one thing seems clear enough:  The Bagrations have a pedigree that is more royal and ancient than the spouses of all other Romanov dynasts and their descendants.  If we can debate the royal status of the Bagrations, there is no doubt whatsoever about the status of the Sheremetevs, the Vorontsovs, the Orlovs, the Golitsyns or the other families that provided wives to Romanov dynasts.  From the vantage point of the longue durée of Russian history, the Bagrations belong in a different category entirely.[42]  By 1969, every member of the Romanov house except Vladimir had contracted an unequal marriage; and although the dynasty has dozens of descendants in both the male and female line, almost none were dynasts properly speaking because every line of descent in the dynasty, except for Vladimir’s, descended from unequal marriages.

It was in 1969 that Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich issued a Decree (Akt ob uchrezhdenii po moei konchine Bliustitel’stva Prestola) that would exacerbate the rifts in the Imperial House and shift the balance in the family against Vladimir on the question of the succession.  The Decree was issued on December 23, 1969—on his daughter Mariia’s 16th birthday, the age of majority for heirs to the throne as specified in the Law of Succession (1788) and Statute on the Imperial Family (1797).  The Decree begins with a nod to these dynastic laws, then spells out the dynastic consequences for all the many morganatic marriages that had taken place since the Revolution: 

As Head of the Imperial House of Russia and lawful heir of the rights and duties of the Emperors of All the Russias, a position which has been given to me by the Lord God by virtue of the supreme right of primogeniture, I am obliged to maintain the State Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire on Succession to the Throne and the Statute on the Imperial Family, which are inseparable from the aforesaid laws.

As such, I recall the essential provision contained in the law whereby children issuing from a marriage between a member of the Imperial Family and a person not of equal status do not inherit the rights belonging to members of the Imperial Family, one of which is the right of succession to the Throne.

Such is the position of the descendants of the Princes-of-the-Imperial-Blood now living, as well as the issue of morganatic (i.e., unequal) marriages contracted by members of the Imperial House now deceased.

It is hard to imagine that any of the Princes-of-the-Imperial-Blood now living could, in view of their age, enter into a new marriage with a person of equal birth, or, moreover, have descendants from these new marriages who could then possess the right of succession to the Throne.

In view of the aforesaid, and in accordance with the State Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire, succession to the Throne, after the demise of all male members of the Imperial House, necessarily passes to the female line of our family.

In accordance with these same laws, my firstborn daughter, Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Mariia Vladimirovna, is at present senior in succession to the Throne in the female line and at the same time the only one capable of having issue enjoying the right to succession.

Aware of the heavy burden and duty conferred by the Will of Almighty God upon my young daughter, the first of which is to perpetuate the Imperial House and thereby ensure the uninterrupted succession to the Throne, I and my consort, Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna, raised Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna from her early childhood in an awareness of the responsibility resting upon her for the fate of the Romanov Dynasty and to prepare Her for future service to our Fatherland.

The irrevocable right which belongs to her and the upbringing and education which she has been given are a surety that My daughter alone, Grand Duchess Mariia Vladimirovna, can perform the necessary duty that rests upon her and successfully discharge the lofty obligations of heiress to her Imperial ancestors.

Wherefore, while in no way infringing on the order of succession to the Throne provided by the State Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire, I declare that, in the event of my demise, my daughter Grand Duchess Mariia Vladimirovna, shall become Curatrix [Bliustitel’nitsa] of the Imperial Throne of Russia, with all the rights and functions connected with that office, for the service of Russia and for the protection of Our Dynasty from any encroachments from any quarter whatsoever.

When the right of succession to the Throne, after the demise of the last of the male representatives of the dynasty, will have inevitably passed to the female issue, then Grand Duchess Mariia Vladimirovna, Curatrix of the Throne, shall become Head of the Imperial House of Romanov.

The establishment of the Curatorship of the Throne is promulgated in accordance with, and following in the example of, and with the prerogatives accruing to, the establishment of a Regency, which is provided for in the Fundamental Laws, with a Council attached to the Curatrix, the composition of which will be announced at the proper time.

I and the Grand Duchess desire that all Russian people should know that our daughter, Grand Duchess Mariia Vladimirovna, is in full agreement with these decisions and is prepared at any time to dedicate her life and devote all her strength to the service of the Fatherland, should she be called upon so to do.

I bequeath to My Daughter’s sacred custody the spiritual treasure handed over to her by us, her parents.  May she, to the end of her days, never for a moment forget her solemn duty to maintain the Orthodox Faith, to serve Russia and her peoples, and to be responsible for the present and the future of our Dynasty.[43]

In other words, Vladimir considered it all but impossible that his agnatic Romanov relatives (the Princes-of-the-Imperial-Blood mentioned in the Decree) would ever have children that met the criteria for membership in the Romanov dynasty, which automatically brought with it a place in the line of succession.  He therefore anticipated the extinction of the male line of the dynasty (not biologically since there were many descendants of morganatic marriages, but legally, in terms of the legal requirements for membership) and the shifting of the succession to the female line, a possibility entirely contemplated by the law of succession.  Article 30 of the Fundamental Laws states that “When the last male issue of the Emperor’s sons is extinct, succession remains in the same branch, but in the female line of the last reigning emperor, as being nearest to the Throne….”[44]  Vladimir is therefore quite right that the succession would revert to Mariia after Vladimir’s own death and after the deaths of all of Vladimir’s junior collateral relatives, provided they did not, as he (rightly) suspected they would not, have children from equal marriages.  The Decree also designated Mariia “Curatrix,” a title that Vladimir interestingly links not to his own father’s use of the title back in 1922, but to the Statute on the Imperial Family’s provisions for the regency. 

Vladimir’s 1929 Decree elicited the strongest possible response from his Romanov relatives.  They immediately wrote him in protest, objecting to the creation of the “Curatorship” of the Throne.  And they had something of a point.  As it turned out, Vladimir outlived all the Princes-of-the-Imperial-Blood and so the Curatorship was in the end never invoked.  But the Princes-of-the-Imperial-Blood objected squarely to the presumption that Vladimir could control the succession and, for that matter, in the content of the Fundamental Laws after his own death.  If Vladimir had died in, say, 1988, the succession would have passed to his second cousin once removed, Prince Vasilii Aleksandrovich (d. 1989 at the age of 82).  While Vasilii was Head of the Dynasty, he would need no “Curatrix,” and, moreover, Vasilii would have been within his rights to make modifications to the Statute on the Imperial House that would have changed the requirements for descent from equal marriages, opening the door to many male-line Romanov descendants to be added to the line of succession.  Vasilii and most other Romanov Princes-of-the-Imperial-Blood considered Vladimir’s 1969 Decree an affront to the very principles of the Statute on the Imperial Family—a throwback, of sorts, to the days under Peter the Great’s law of succession that gave power to an emperor to control what happened to the throne after he was gone.[45] 

But the Princes-of-the-Imperial-Blood did more than challenge the creation of the Curatorship.  Their rage led them to challenge Vladimir’s legitimacy as Head of the Imperial House, his title of grand duke (over Princes-of-the-Imperial-Blood, like the rest of them), and the dynastic legality of Vladimir’s marriage with Leonida.  These were positions few of them had ever expressed publicly before Vladimir’s 1969 Decree.  The rift that settled in among Romanov descendants became gradually entrenched, especially after the creation in 1979 of the Romanov Family Association.[46] That rift showed itself again at the 1998 funeral of Nicholas II, when it was the RFA’s members and their descendants who went to St. Petersburg, and Leonida, Mariia, and her son George (b. 1981), who went to Moscow, instead.  The 1969 Decree came at a high price.

Vladimir died on April 21, 1992, just before he was to address a group of investors in Miami, Florida.  Those who viewed Vladimir’s marriage to Leonida as equal recognized his daughter, Mariia, to be the next Head of the Russian Imperial House.  Those that did not either supported Nikolai Romanovich, the president of the Romanov Family Association and the son of Prince Roman Petrovich and grandson of Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich, both of whom had always opposed Mariia’s father or grandfather.  Still others, including some Romanov descendants in the RFA, called for a new Zemskii Sobor, like the “Undecided” had decades before.  Most outside of the dynasty, however, accepted Mariia’s accession to the position of Head of the Dynasty—including Patriach Aleksei II and Patriarch Kirill I, President Boris Yeltsyn, President Vladimir Putin and President Dmitrii Medvedev, and countless other officials in government and figures in the Russian public.  The debates over Mariia’s succession rights continue; and the death on May 23, 2010, of Mariia’s mother, Leonida, prompted new discussions about her marriage to Vladimir and Mariia’s right to be Head of the Imperial House.[47]  Mariia, for her part, has made enormous efforts to heal some of the rifts among her relatives, with partial success; and her many trips to Russia since 1992 and especially in 2013—the year of the 400th anniversary of the House of Romanov—has only bolstered her position.  Her charities have attracted a lot of positive attention, and in 2012 she was named Person of the Year by the Russian Biographical Institute in Moscow.  When asked in an interview for The St. Petersburg Journal how she felt about the fact that so many of the relatives “from so-called morganatic marriages do not recognize you as Head of the Russian Imperial House.”  She replied: 

The status of the Head of the Russian Imperial House is founded on the historic law and does not depend on someone else’s recognition or lack of recognition of that status.  The Law of Succession of Emperor Paul I does not allow for any “pretenders” because its provisions always identify the one person who has the rights and duties of the Head of the Dynasty.  The Lord willed it that these rights and duties should fall upon me. 

I have very good relations with all my relatives.  I am very glad when they take part in activities that help Russia.  Some I see more than others.  I know that among them there are some who are unfriendly to me and my son and who reject the legal and philosophical foundations of our House, and sometimes even resort to false claims about us.  I am greatly saddened by this.  But I hold absolutely no negative feelings toward them.  Disgruntled and disagreeable relatives are an unavoidable part of the history of any dynasty in every and all times.  One must treat it with understanding and charity.[48]


Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich was likely right when, in his 1969 Decree, he called the Fundamental Laws a kind of “burden.”  No one may feel that burden more than Mariia’s son, Georgii, who was born of her marriage in 1976 to Prince Franz Wilhelm of Prussia—an equal marriage by anyone’s reckoning.  At age 32 at the time of this writing, Georgii remains unmarried, undoubtedly because of the limitations put on him by the Fundamental Laws.  In an interview in 2007, Georgii commented on his circumstances:

According to the dynastic laws currently in force, there are a number of regulations on the marriages of members of the Russian Imperial House.  There is the notion of equality of birth, that is, that the marriage be with a person who belongs to one or another dynasty.  When a member of the dynasty contracts an unequal marriage, the dynast does not lose his own rights to the throne, but his wife and children do not receive any dynastic rights.  Over the course of the last several decades, the majority of European monarchies have abandoned this requirement, but we have continued to observe it.  To introduce any kind of changes would be possible only with the blessing of the Russian Orthodox Church since both my mother and I have, in accordance with provisions of the law, given an oath to observe all provisions relating to succession to the throne.  Probably, the question will one day be raised as to whether the Pauline Law should be amended with regard to the marriages of dynasts.  But for the moment, that question is purely hypothetical.  In any case, I take the matter of my future marriage very seriously, and I am convinced that my marriage should be founded on love, and also that my wife should likewise love Russia and should support the work I do on behalf of the Fatherland. [49]

Georgii’s mother, Mariia, has also been asked about her son’s marriage prospects and also replied with reference to the Fundamental Laws.  She was asked in March 2013 by a journalist for The Russian Federation Today, “In recent times, marriages of heirs to the crown with commoners have become the norm, invigorating many dynasties with new life, despite the fact that such marriages were unthinkable even a century ago.  Do these marriages lower the status of monarchies?”  Her response indicates a practical—and flexible—approach to the problem of dynastic marriage today:

It is true that most royal houses, including those currently reigning, have abolished the requirement for equal marriage.  In the House of Romanoff, however, that requirement is still in force.  Perhaps this will change one day.  All laws are written in a specific historical context and contexts can change.  What is most important, however, is to observe a general respect for law—not to violate existing laws until they are modified in accord with the proper procedures for changing the law.

I do not see any diminution of the monarchical principle in unequal marriages.  In Russia, the requirement for equal marriages for members of the Imperial House was introduced only in the nineteenth century by Emperor Alexander I.  And this does not mean that Russia’s tsars before then were in some way lesser sovereigns.  Many illustrious dynasties never had a prohibition against unequal marriages at all, such as, for example, in Great Britain.  And all Romanoffs are descendants of Emperor Peter I the Great and Catherine I, a woman of quite common, even unknown, origins.

When Alexander I introduced this amendment to the Law of Succession and limited the dynastic rights of unequal spouses and of the descendants of unequal marriages, there were, firstly, different conditions and ideas about society than we have now.  Secondly, foreign princesses, who were raised since childhood in the traditions of foreign nations, entered into marriage with members of the House of Romanoff and came to Russia, having the opportunity to adapt to their new homeland and fully embrace its national interests. 

Now, when the Russian Imperial House itself, for reasons beyond its control, has had to live for decades in exile, it would be important for the new generation of the dynasty to find a life companion from a familiar setting…

But modifications to the dynastic laws can only happen according to established procedures.  We are bound by our religious oath to preserve the familial regulations, so to reform the laws on marriage in the Russian Imperial House, not only would the Head of the dynasty have to agree to it, a blessing from the Church would be required.[50]

Whether the Fundamental Laws remain unchanged (compelling Georgii to marry someone of equal birth) or are modified (to allow succession rights to children of unequal marriages), there is little doubt that Grand Duke Georgii’s choice will be governed by the experience of a family that has chosen to live under these laws in exile for nearly a century.  Whatever happens, the Fundamental Laws have been the point of reference for the remnant Romanovs since the Revolution, at times binding together and at other times tearing asunder.  It has, either way, been a marker of Romanov identity:  It has determined who a Romanov is (with the right to that surname); it has controlled the private lives of three generations of Russian royals; and it has, in the minds of some at least, kept alive the notion of a throne which “not for an instant might become vacant.”




Those laid to rest included Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchess Olga, Grand Duchess Tatiana, Grand Duchess Anastasia, Evgenii Sergeevich Botkin (the tsarevich’s docter), Anna Stepanovna Demidova (the empress’s maid); Ivan Mikhailovich Kharitonov (the family’s cook), and Aleksei (Aloise) Egorovich Trupp (the emperor’s valet).  The bodies of Nicholas’s and Alexandra’s other two children, Grand Duchess Maria and Grand Duke Aleksei, were discovered only in 2007 and have yet to be buried.  On the discovery of Maria’s and Aleksei’s remains, see Luke Harding, “Bones found by Russian builder finally solve riddle of missing Romanovs,” The Guardian, August 24, 2007.


See “17 July 1998:  The Funeral of Tsar Nicholas II,” accessed November 12, 2013, http://romanovfamily.org/funeral.html; Michael Wines, “Last Tsar Buried:  Tale of 2 Russias,” New York Times, July 18, 1998; Celestine Bohlen, “Russia’s ‘A List’ Begs Off Attending Tsar’s Funeral,” New York Times, June 18, 1998.

[3] See “Manifest 31 avgusta (13 sentiabria) 1924 goda o priiatii Velikim Kniazem Kirillom Vladimirovichem, Bliustitelem Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola, Titula Imperatora Vserossiiskogo,” Nasledovanie Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola, 65–66.


See Robert K. Massie, The Romanovs:  The Final Chapter (New York and Toronto:  Random House, 1995), 133–39, 255–80.


For the Law of Succession: Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi imperii (hereafter, PSZ), series 1, 24:587–89, no. 17.910 (5 April 1797).  For the Statute on the Imperial Family: PSZ, series 1, 24:525–69, no. 17.906 (5 April 1797).  Both decrees were issued formally by Paul I on his day of coronation.


See Russell E. Martin, “Law, Succession, and the Eighteenth-Century Refounding of the Romanov Dynasty,” in Brian Boeck, Russell E. Martin, and Daniel Rowland, eds., Dubitando:  Studies in History and Culture in Honor of Donald Ostrowski (Bloomington, Ind.:  Slavica Press, 2012), 225–42; and idem, “‘For the Firm Maintenance of the Dignity and Tranquility of the Imperial Family’:  Law and Familial Order in the Romanov Dynasty,” in Russell E. Martin, ed., Ad Fontes:  Essays in Russian and Soviet History, Politics, and Society in Honor of Orysia Karapinka, vol. 1 (=Russian History 37.4 [2010]), 389–411.


Peter I’s law of succession:  PSZ, series 1, 6:496-97, no. 3593 (5 February 1722).


On these legal concepts, and laws of succession in the eighteenth century, see:  Richard S. Wortman, idem, The Development of Russian Legal Consciousness (Chicago and London:  University of Chicago Press, 1976); idem, “‘The Fundamental State Laws’ of 1832 as Symbolic Act,” in F. B. Uspenskii, ed., Miscellanea Slavica: Sbornik statei k 70-letiiu Borisa Andreevicha Uspenskogo (Moscow: Indrik, 2008); idem, “Russian Monarchy and the Rule of Law: New Considerations of the Court Reform of 1864,” Kritika 6, no. 1 (Winter 2005): 145–70; Cynthia Hyla Whittaker, Russian Monarchy:  Eighteenth-Century Rulers and Writers in Political Dialogue (DeKalb:  Northern Illinois University Press, 2003), 52–84, 92–118; Francis Oakley, Kingship (Malden, Mass., and Oxford; Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 132–57; and, generally, Michael Sonenscher, Before the Deluge:  Public Debt, Inequity, and the Intellectual Origins of the French Revolution (Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 2007), 121–72.


PSZ, series 1, 6:588, no. 17.910 (5 April 1797).


See Wortman, “The Russian Imperial Family as Symbol,” in Jane Burbank and David L. Ransel, eds., Imperial Russia:  New Histories for the Empire (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1998), 60–86.   See also O. A. Omel’chenko, “Stanovlenie zakonodatel’nogo regulirovaniia prestolonaslediia v Rossiiskoi imperii,” Themis:  Yearbook of the History of Law and Jurisprudence 7 (2006): 15–54.


See Nasledovanie Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola, 56–68.


The eight executed grand dukes:  Aleksei Nikolaevich (son of Nicholas II), Mikhail Aleksandrovich (brother of Nicholas II), Nikolai Konstantinovich (son of Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich), Sergei Mikhailovich (son of Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaevich), Georgii Mikhailovich (son of Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaevich), Dimitrii Konstantinovich (the son of Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich), Nikolai Mikhailovich (son of Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaevich), and Pavel Aleksandrovich (son of Alexander II).  The three executed princes-of-the-Imperial-blood:  Igor Konstaninovich, Ioann Konstantinovich, Konstantin Konstantinovich the Younger (the sons of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich the Elder).  Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Palei, the son of Grand Duke Pavel Aleksandrovich, was executed by the Bolsheviks in Alapaevsk along with several of his Romanov relatives.  Although counted as a “prince-of-the-blood by Massie (Romanovs:  The Final Chapter, 255–57), he was born of an affair between his father and mother, Olga Valerianovna Pistohlkors (née Karnovich), and so was not a member of the Romanov House nor was he ever accorded the title prince-of-the-Imperial-blood. 


The five executed grand duchesses:  In addition to Nicholas II’s four daughters, Elizaveta Feodorovna (sister of Empress Alexandra and widow of Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich).  See Massie, Romanovs:  The Final Chapter, 255–57.


See PSZ, series 1, 24:587–89, no. 17.910 (5 April 1797); Svod uchrezhdenii gosudarstvennykh i gubernskikh.  Chast’ pervaia.  Osnovnye Zakony I Uchrezhdeniia Gosusarstvennyia (St. Petersburg:  Tip. II Otdeleniia Sobstvennoi Ego Imperatorskogo Velikchestva Kantselarii, 1833), 3–64; Nasledovanie Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola, 442–50.


On the title Curator (Bliustitel’), see:  Stanislav Dumin, Romanovy:  Imperatorskii dom v izgnanii (Moscow:  Zakharov, 1998), 117.  Nasledovanie Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola, 65; Massie, Romanovs:  The Final Chapter, 262; Mikhail Nazarov, Kto naslednik Rossiiskogo Prestola? 2d ed. (Moscow:  Russkaia idea, 1998), 34.  The title “emperor” was used only in relations with Russians.  He retained his title “grand duke” for all interactions with non-Russians.


Nasledovanie Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola, 65.


Nasledovanie Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola, 65–66.


On Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich’s “election” as tsar by a Zemskii Sobor convened in the Far East, see:  Nazarov, Kto naslednik Rossiiskogo Prestola? 77.


Nasledovanie Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola, 65.


Nasledovanie Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola, 45.


On the requirement that marriages of Romanov dynasts have the emperor’s permission:  See Article 183:  “Permission of the reigning emperor is necessary for the marriage of every Member of the Imperial House, and a marriage contracted without such permission is not recognized as lawful.” 


Dumin, Romanovy:  Imperatorskii dom v izgnanii, 65.


See Articles 135, 136, 137, and especially 142 of the Fundamental Laws.  Kirill, his wife, and children were also entered into the court calendars.  See, e.g.:  Pamiatnaia knizhka Moskovskoi gubernii na 1909 god (Moscow:  Gubernskaia tipografiia, 1908), ix-x; and Pamiatnaia knizhka Olonetskoi gubernii na 1910 god (Petrozavodst:  Olonetskaia gubernaia tipografiia, 1910), 16–19.


Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution (New York:  Knopf, 1990), 289.  See also “Duke Cyril Prompt to side with Duma.  Commander of the Naval Guard Offered Allegiance of Himself and His Men,” New York Times, March 17, 1917.


The allegations appear in many publications, but a good summary is in Massie, Romanovs:  The Final Chapter, 267–68.


Dumin, Romanovy, 118.


Dumin, Romanovy, 126–27.


Dumin, Romanovy, 125.


“Obrashchenie Imperatora Kirilla I po povodu opublikovannykh pisem Vdovstvuiushchei Imperatritsy Marii Feodorovny i Velikogo Kniazia Nikolaia Nikolaevicha, komentiruiushchikh priniatie Gosudarem Imperatorskogo Titula, 12/25 oktiabria 1824,” http://www.imperialhouse.ru/rus/history/foundations/dinzak3/237.html, accessed November 16, 2013; and in English translation:  “Announcement of Emperor Kirill I concerning the Published Letters of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna and of Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich, Commenting on the Adoption by Kirill of the Title of Emperor,” http://www.imperialhouse.ru/eng/dynastyhistory/dinzak3/1111.html, accessed November 16, 2013.


Gary Marker, Imperial Saint:  The Cult of St. Catherine and the Dawn of Female Rule in Russia (DeKalb:  Northern Illinois University Press, 2007), 218–19; Wortman, Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995 and 2000), 1: 82, 87, 110-13, 171-72, 194, 199, 266-67, 272, 413, 2:19, 21, 23, 201-2, 340-41.


Nasledovanie Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola, 66.


On the usage of these titles and styles in the Statute on the Imperial Family, see Martin, “‘For the Firm Maintenance of the Dignity and Tranquility of the Imperial Family’.”


Nasledovanie Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola, 69.


Nasledovanie Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola, 70.


Nasledovanie Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola, 71


Dumin, Romanovy, 126-27.  Another of the brothers, Dmitrii Aleksandrovich, was in America in 1924 and so did not sign the letter, but he did recognize Krill’s assumption of the Headship of the Imperial House when he requested of him that his morganatic wife be granted the title Princess Romanovskii-Kutuzov, a power possessed only by the Head of the Imperial House.


For the official announcement of the marriage, see:  http://www.imperialhouse.ru/rus/history/foundations/dinzak3/245.html, accessed November 16, 2013.  For the official announcement of Mariia’s birth, see:  http://www.imperialhouse.ru/rus/history/foundations/dinzak3/246.html, accessed November 16, 2013.


See Nasledovanie Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola, 43 (Article 36), 49 (Article 188).  See also Martin, “‘For the Firm Maintenance of the Dignity and Tranquility of the Imperial Family’; and Brien Purcell Horan, “The Russian Succession in 2013,” Royal Russia Annual 3 (2013):  34-59.


Vladimir had been asked by the Infante Ferdinand of Spain, Prince of Bavaria about the equality of the match between his daughter, Infanta María de las Mercedes, a granddaughter to King Alphonse XII of Spain, and Prince Irakly Bagrationi-Mukhrani, the brother of Leonida.  Vladimir’s statement reads, in part:  “I consider it right and proper to recognize the royal status of the senor branch of the Bagration family, as well as the right of tits members to bear the title of Prince of Georgia and the style Royal Highness.”  See Nasledovanie Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola, 74-75.


For Alexander I’s decree, see:  PSZ, series 1, 37:129-30, no. 28.208 (20 March 1820).


See Martin, “‘For the Firm Maintenance of the Dignity and Tranquility of the Imperial Family’.”


Sources that support, and sources that oppose.


Nasledovanie Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola, 75-77.


Nasledovanie Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Prestola,42.


See Massie, Romanovs:  The Final Chapter, 269-70; Dumin, Romanovy, 258-60.


See their website:  http://romanovfamily.org/.


See, for example, Alexander Bratersky, “Last Romanov Born In Russian Empire Dead At 95,” The Moscow Times, 25 May 2010; Marina Aleshina, “Stareishuiu iz Romanovykh pokhoroniat v Peterburge,” Izvestiia, 25 May 2010; and several reports on RIA Novosti (www.rian.ru), Vesti-Moskva (www.vesti.ru), and NewsInfo (www.newsinfo.ru). See also the webpage for the Russian Imperial House (www.imperialhouse.ru), which contains a collection detailed reports and letters of condolence in both Russian and English translation.


“’Ia veriu, chto v XXI veke Rossiia prodolzhit postupatel’noe razvitie,’  Otvety Glavy Doma Romanovykh na voprosy gazety Santk-Peterburgskii dnevnik, http://www.imperialhouse.ru/rus/allnews/news/2013/3591.html, accessed November 16, 2013.


http://www.imperialhouse.ru/rus/allnews/news/2007/698.html, accessed November 16, 2013.


“Otvety Glavy Rossiiskogo Imperatorskogo Doma, E.I.V. Gosudaryni Velikoi Kniagini Marii Vladimirovny na voprosy zhurnala Rossiiskaia Federatskiia segodnia, March 2013,” http://www.imperialhouse.ru/rus/allnews/news/2013/3494.html, accessed November 16, 2013.