The House of Romanoff, the Russian Nobility, and the Orders of Chivalry of the Russian Empire

 

The following official Statement is taken from the website of the Imperial House, and which may be viewed in its original HERE

 

A Statement from the Chancellery of Head of the Russian Imperial House Clarifying the Status and Historical Rights of the Russian Imperial House of Romanoff and the Status Today of their Historical Institutions: 

Statements from some public figures have appeared in the media from recently questioning the status of the legitimate Heads of the Russian Imperial House and their historical rights.  These statements are inconsistent with the reality of the present situation, with dynastic laws, with historical truth and logic, and are based either on ignorance or on bias and ill will, and, in either case, only serve to mislead the public.

The Chancellery of the Head of the Russian Imperial House would like to convey to all who have an interested in, or are otherwise concerned with, these matters of the following list of Frequently Asked Questions, which includes information on the status of the Russian Imperial House, its historical rights, and the status today of its historical institutions.

 

What is the legal status of the Imperial dynasty be characterized today, after it was removed from power by the Revolution?

Royal families, including those deposed as a result of revolutions, nonetheless retain their inherent status as historical institutions, that is, family corporate entities that have indisputable continuity from the time of their first appearance in history and that operate according to their own internal historical laws.

Like Church canon law, which regulates the life of the Church and its membership regardless of any political changes that might take place in society at large, dynastic law continues to operate in the religious, legal, social, and cultural spheres, which are governed by traditionalist ideas and principles.

 

Did the Russian Imperial House of Romanoff survive the Revolution of 1917 and the executions of the Imperial Family?  Is there a legitimate Head of the House of Romanoff today?

The Russian Imperial House of Romanoff was called to the throne by the Assembly of the Land of 1613 because of its close kinship ties through the female line with the extinct Riurikovich dynasty, and it ruled Russia from then until 1917.  Before the Revolution, the Russian Imperial House was a family that had the status of a state institution, and the sovereign of Russia came from this family in accordance with a legally prescribed order of succession

On April 5, 1797, Emperor Paul I issued his Decree on Succession to the Throne and the Statute on the Imperial Family, which formulated the order of succession to the throne and membership in the Russian Imperial House.  These two decrees, along with a few modifications made to them in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, are the foundation of dynastic law in Russia.  The goal of the Decree on Succession, as stated in the decree itself, was “that the State should never be without an heir; that the Heir should be determined by the law itself; [and] that there should never be the least doubt as to who is to succeed.”  In this way, Russian dynastic law since 1797 never allowed for the possibility of any “pretenders”[1] to the throne and always clearly indicated the one and only person who was the head of the House of Romanoff and, consequently, the person who would be the emperor or empress were the monarchy ever to be restored.

After the Revolution of 1917 and abolition of the monarchy, the Russian Imperial House, despite falling from power and losing its status as an institution of the state, continued to exist as a historical institution on the basis of its own historical and legal principles in full accordance with its dynastic laws.

There is no legal basis for determining the membership and internal hierarchical structure of the Russian Imperial House other than the dynastic laws, which were devised during the Empire.

The question of the headship of the dynasty is determined in accordance with a law that “permitted no misinterpretations and left no room for any choice between different members of the ruling house.”[2]

The legal status of the Heads of the Russian Imperial House is determined exclusively by the dynastic law and does not depend on anyone’s acceptance or rejection of that status or those laws.

The rights and prerogatives of the Head of the Russian Imperial House belong to the person, male or female, who at that moment is the most senior member of the most senior dynastic line of the dynasty and who is Orthodox.

The rights of the Heads of the Russian Imperial House after the Revolution of 1917—of Emperor-in-Exile Kirill Vladimirovich, Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich, and Grand Duchess Maria Wladimirovna and in the future her son and heir, Grand Duke George Mikhailovich—are based on their consistent and strict observance of the dynastic laws in their broader context, without any arbitrary deletions or additions to them.

 

Do monarchist ideas contradict the Constitution and the laws of our republican form of government?

The right to express political ideas of any kind cannot be prohibited by the law, unless these expressions incite violence or promote illegal activity.  Only a totalitarian government which tramples on morals and human rights will attempt to control the expression of traditionalist ideas, including traditionalist monarchist ideas.

Article 13 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation affirms the following guarantee:  “1. In the Russian Federation ideological diversity shall be recognized.  2. No ideology may be established as a state or obligatory one.”

No one in the Russian Federation can be deprived of his right to have any beliefs, or be compelled to defend them, except those whose ideas and actions “are aimed at a forced change of the fundamental principles of the constitutional system and at violating the integrity of the Russian Federation, at undermining its security, at setting up armed units, and at instigating social, racial, national and religious strife.”

Thus the Russian Imperial House, and those who are loyal to it, have a guaranteed Constitutional right to uphold the system of ideals, principles, and spiritual and cultural values of Orthodox, legitimate, and hereditary monarchy and may freely speak about what they view to be the advantages of the monarchical form of government.

Moreover, the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. The Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and her son and heir, H.I.H. The Grand Duke George of Russia, are citizens of the Russian Federation and are entirely loyal to its Constitution, its laws, and its government.  Members of the Russian Imperial House and their supporters are loyal to the monarchical idea, but do not wish to impose themselves on anyone, do not lay out any preconditions of any kind, and are entirely open to working with their countrymen, regardless of their political beliefs, as they serve their country and work to strengthen the foundations of the legal government and civil society, to ensure the security of Russia, to support religious, ethnic, national, and civil harmony, to defend the honour and dignity of the individual, to preserve and expand the spiritual, national, historical and cultural inheritance of the nation, and to support philanthropy and other social causes.

 

What are the main function and purpose of the Russian Imperial House today?

In 2013, when the 400th anniversary of the House of Romanoff was being celebrated, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia expressed very profoundly and succinctly the main function and purpose of the Russian Imperial House today.  In answer to a question posed to him about the role of the dynasty in modern times, His Holiness said:  “In the person of Grand Duchess Maria of Russia and her son, Grand Duke George, the succession of the Romanoffs is preserved—no longer to the Russian Imperial throne, perhaps, but to history itself.”[3]

It is precisely this preservation of historical continuity that constitutes the most important duty and main role of any royal dynasty, regardless of whether or not the monarchy and its system of principles and institutions are ever again called upon to assume a public role.

Today, the Russian Federation is a democratic state with a republican form of government and the Russian throne no longer enjoys the status of a legal institution.  As such, the Russian Imperial House does not participate in any way in politics, but remains a vital and integral part of the social and cultural life of the country, one of the foundations of its civil society, and a living symbol of continuity with the nation’s past.

 

If the adherence to the idea of monarchy is legal, how is it that the dynastic laws, the Imperial Orders and other dynastic awards, titles, the nobility and other elements of the monarchical system of values don’t contradict our republic’s Constitution and current laws?

There is no contradiction whatsoever.  None.

Law exists in several forms:  as written laws, as treaties, as customs, as canonical laws, and so on.  In our country, all these forms of law co-exist and are observed to the extent that they do not contradict the laws of the state.

In the Preamble to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, there is a line that states that the people have adopted it (the Constitution) “revering the memory of ancestors who have conveyed to us the love for the Fatherland, [and] belief in the good and justice.”  The internal laws of the Russian Orthodox Church (its canons) and of the Russian Imperial House (its Family Statute) are not only entirely consistent with the current legal codes of the Russian Federation and its Constitution, but indeed also fortify and expand upon this line in the Preamble, as well as the contents of Article 44, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution:  “Everyone shall be obliged to care for the preservation of cultural and historical heritage and protect monuments of history and culture.”

If some particular aspect of Church canon law or dynastic law cannot presently be followed, then they are not enforced since the Church and the Russian Imperial House recognize the priority of state law and they conform their legal practices to the norms of prevailing laws of the state.

The titles and coats of arms of the Russian Imperial House, its dynastic orders and awards, patents of nobility, and other elements of the historical and symbolic system of monarchical institutions no longer enjoy state recognition and bestow no privileges, but they remain nonetheless monuments of the nation’s history and part of the cultural heritage of Russia.

 

Are there any examples elsewhere of the continuing existence of dynastic orders?  How are the historical dynastic orders and awards of other non-ruling Imperial and Royal houses regarded in other parts of the world?

First of all, it is important to understand that Imperial and Royal orders are not merely the decorations that people wear.  They are honorary and philanthropic organizations under the auspices of the dynasty.  The honour is not itself the right to wear a medal on a ribbon, but to be made a member of this organization.  The devices of the orders are merely the symbols that indicate membership in one or another of the Orders and one’s rank in it. 

From an international law perspective, the preservation of historical orders by the dynasties that founded them has become the general rule, even for those dynasties that have fallen from power (such as the royal, ducal, and princely houses of Germany, the Austro-Hungarian House of Habsburg, the Italian monarchies—not only the House of Savoy but also the Two Sicilies, Parma, and Tuscany—Portugal, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Georgia, and others).

Dynastic orders are recognized by the international community of scholars (in particular, by the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry [the ICOC], which publishes an official register—see, for example:  http://www.icocregister.org/history.htm, and http://www.icocregister.org/2003main.htm.)), by other royal dynasties, including those that still reign today (European monarchs are still being invested into the Austrian branch of the Order of the Golden Fleece, even after the revolution in Austria-Hungary in 1918), by the Order of Malta, by local Orthodox Churches, and by the Roman Catholic Church.  

In some cases the laws of some republics even provide for the possibility of official recognition of dynastic orders (for example, in Montenegro the status of the former royal house is determined by law; in Italy the Ministry of the Interior has the right to give permission for awardees to wear dynastic orders, and so on).  In other cases international law prevails.  Moreover, the historical statutes of some orders convey to their knights hereditary nobility or personal nobility.

Some dynasties distribute their familial orders mainly to their own members, while others (such as the Italian, Portuguese, and Montenegrin royal houses) distribute their orders more broadly and the knights of these orders each constitute an association that engages largely in philanthropic activities.

 

Where can one go to learn about the rules for appointments as knights and dames of the Russian Imperial and Royal Orders, about the regulations and duties attendant upon members of each order, and about the investiture ceremony?

The principles and regulations governing the Russian Imperial and Royal Orders in modern times are formulated in an official decree that was issued by the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. The Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, on November 21, 2014, which summarizes historically the current rules for Russia’s Orders of Chivalry.  This decree is entitled the “Statute on the Imperial and Royal Orders of Russia,” and its original Russian text was published and is conveniently available on line at: 

http://www.imperialhouse.ru/rus/history/title/award/award3.html (For the official English translation, see:  http://www.imperialhouse.ru/eng/allnews/news/2014/4333.html).

But the decorations and ceremonies of the Orders are hardly the most important thing for either the Russian Imperial House or for the members of the Orders.  The decorations and ceremonies merely adorn what is in fact the more important work of these Orders:  to recognize and encourage those who engage in charitable, educational, and civic projects.  Of course, the members of these Orders do this work and make these sacrifices not because of the honours and awards that they receive, but because they wish to help their fellow man and their country.  But these marks of distinction, gratitude, honour, and respect from the state, the Church, the dynasty, and from other authorized organizations and historical institutions encourage and inspire people to continue and expand their efforts on behalf of others.

 

Is it true that membership in some of the Russian Imperial and Royal Orders, titles, and patents of nobility can be bought?

No.  This is an unconscionable and slanderous lie, spread deliberately by dishonest and dishonourable people or by irresponsible gossipers.

In Russia, it was never the practice that one could buy noble status, or titles, or membership in an Order.  If that sort of corruption on rare occasions took place, then it was considered a state crime (before the Revolution), and (after the revolution) an illegitimate and dishonourable abuse of the trust placed in some by the Heads of the Russian Imperial House.

Under the Russian Empire, there were in fact dues that were outlined in the statutes for each of the Imperial Orders and for other Imperial awards.  But these dues were not a “membership fee,” but rather a formally established form of support for the charitable and ceremonial activities of the Order.

Those instances when a knight was appointed to one of the Imperial Orders for charitable activities (such as building churches, schools, hospitals, almshouses, patronage of the arts, and so on), rather than for state or military service, were not in any way, of course, examples of the “purchase” of membership in an Order.

In the present era, the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. The Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, has ABOLISHED all mandatory dues for knights of all the Imperial and Royal Orders of Russia.

According to Paragraph 9 of the new “Statement on the Russian and Royal Orders,” “All membership dues pertaining to the Orders, which may have been required by the Orders’ Statutes prior to the 1917 Revolution, have been and are hereby abolished.  There are no fees in respect of appointment to the honour of knight (or dame) of Russia’s Imperial and Royal Orders.”  The footnote to this paragraph adds:  “It is hereby made generally known that any attempt by third parties to institute any fees whatsoever in connection with membership of the Russian Imperial and Royal Orders is to be considered improper and unauthorized; if any such impermissible attempts should be made, then the Chancellery of the Head of the Russian Imperial House is to be immediately informed.”

Furthermore, Paragraph 10 states:  “The charitable, educational, scientific, cultural, literary, and other activities of the Russian Imperial and Royal Orders are supported by donations freely given by knights and dames and by other contributions, all in strict accordance with current laws.”

In addition, in view of the circumstances at the present time and the financial constraints of the Russian Imperial House and those affiliated offices that support its work, Paragraph 8 of the “Statement on the Imperial and Royal Orders” states that “The insignia of the Russian Imperial and Royal Orders are acquired or commissioned by the knights (or dames) themselves and constitute their own private property, remaining in the possession of their families even after their deaths (though their legal heirs do not possess the right to wear them).”

In this way, 1) appointment as a knight or dame of one of the Imperial and Royal Orders is not linked to a payment of any kind; 2) any involvement in the charitable or other social and cultural activity by knights and dames is entirely voluntary; and 3) the purchase or possession of the devices of any of the Imperial and Royal Orders in no way indicates membership in these Orders.  Knights and Dames may order or otherwise acquire any place they choose the devices of the Order into which they have been invested.  This provision was introduced into the Statement on Imperial and Royal Orders in order to avoid spending resources on ceremonies and decorations, rather than on the good works the Orders do.

The same applies to the granting of patents of nobility of the Russian Empire.  This honorary status is granted exclusively for services to the nation without any payment whatsoever by the person being so honoured.

As for titles (in the Russian nobility, there were three noble titles:  prince, count, and baron), the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. The Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, though possessing the right to grant these titles to those she deems worthy of them, rarely exercises that right.

During the entire time that Grand Duchess Maria of Russia has been the Head of the House of Romanoff (since 1992), there have been only a very few instances of TRANSFERRING historical titles from one branch of a noble family that has died out to another, untitled branch of the same family, which descends from the same ancestor; and there have been very few instances when the titles of count or baron have been granted to foreigners who have offered extraordinary and uniquely valuable assistance to the Russian Imperial House in its service to the nation.  Of course, these rare and extraordinary cases involved no payments or fees whatsoever.

 

How are the Russian and Imperial Orders and other honours of the Russian Imperial House recognized in practice?

The Orders of the Russian Imperial House have the same status as the orders of other non-ruling dynasties, and are included in the register of the “International Commission on Orders of Chivalry” (ICOC) and other authoritative academic publications.

Appointments of knights and dames to the Imperial and Royal Orders have been taking place for many decades, since the first years that the Imperial House has lived in exile (see the list of knights that are published here:  www.saintanna.ru).

The Russian dynastic orders are recognized not only by the Heads of other royal houses, but also by the Russian Orthodox Church (the First Hierarchs over the years, high-ranking bishops, and many members of the clergy have been appointed to the Orders of the House of Romanoff, and some directly participate in the activities of the Knights’ Council of the Imperial Order of St. Anna and other bodies that are linked to and support the work of the Imperial House).  Russian Imperial and Royal Orders are also recognized by other local Orthodox Churches, the Roman Catholic Church, the Armenian Church, by Islamic leaders, and by the spiritual leader of Russia’s Buddhist community, the Padito-Khambo-Lama.

Among those who have accepted membership in the Orders are many state, religious, military, and civic figures in Russia, as well as those of many other states (such as Ukraine, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Vatican City, and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta).

Knights of the Russian Imperial and Royal Orders also include the Chairman of the State Duma, S. E. Naryshkin; the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Court, V. M. Lebedev (whose acceptance of the Order from the Head of the Russian Imperial House was formally approved by the Higher Qualification Commission of Judges of the Russian Federation); many ministers, governors, and presidents of the constituent republics of the Russian Federation; members of the Federation Council and members of the State Duma; generals and officers in the Armed Forces; clergymen; and leading figures in science, culture, and art.  The highest Order of the Russian Imperial House of Romanoff, the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called, and along with it, other Russian dynastic orders in the First Class, were awarded to both Patriarch Aleksei II (1929-2008) and Patriarch Kirill.

Among the knights of Russia’s Imperial and Royal Orders are also many Russians living abroad as well as foreigners, who have been recognized for their active involvement in academic, cultural, and economic ties with Russia, for their assistance to the parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church abroad, and for other deeds and accomplishments for the benefit of Russia and Russian culture.

 

Do appointments to the Russian Imperial and Royal Orders and other honours represent a certain effort to “recruit” potential supporters and potential monarchists from among civil servants, clergy, military officers, and other prominent leaders in society? 

There is no suggestion of this kind whatsoever, whether direct or implicit, in the appointments of knights and dames to the Russian Imperial Orders.  The Russian Imperial House and legitimists seek to attract like-minded persons only by means that are permitted by law and by disseminating objective, accurate historical information in print, in electronic format, and in their verbal interactions with their fellow countrymen.

In the Statement on the Russian Imperial and Royal Orders, it is indicated quite clearly in Paragraph 13 that:  “Persons of any nationality, religion, citizenship, social class, and political beliefs may be appointed to membership as knights (or dames) of the Russian Imperial and Royal Orders.”  In Paragraph 14, it states:  “Appointment to the dignity of a knight (or dame) of the Russian Imperial and Royal Orders does not impose upon anyone political obligations of any kind.  Accepting appointment to an Order necessarily implies only one’s respect for the Russian Imperial House and one’s recognition of it as a historical institution—a dynasty which enjoys an indisputable and continuous history since its founding, serves as the guardian of the breadth of Russian spiritual and cultural values from the period 862-1917, and operates in accordance with its own historical laws and traditions.”

Naturally, it would be hypocritical and absurd for those who do not respect the Russian Imperial House or who do not recognize its historical status to accept any expressions of gratitude or awards from it.  Indeed, knights and dames of the Imperial and Royal Orders include not only those of our countrymen who have an objective, respectful, and positive regard for the idea of monarchy, but also those who hold republican views and other social and political opinions and convictions. 

The Russian Imperial House has no other criteria for appointment to a dynastic award or honour than distinguished service to the nation and achievements in good works for their fellow man.

 

Today, the Russian Federation has awards it refers to as “state orders,” such as the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called, the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky, and the Order of St. Catherine.  Isn’t there here some friction or “conflict of interest,” which is contrary to the current law?

No.  There is no friction and no conflict with current law in there being two orders with the same name.

Inasmuch as the Orders are first and foremost associations, their most important quality is not the external appearance of their devices or the similarity of their names, but in their statutes—that is, the organizational and legal documents that regulate them.

Imperial familial orders are the inalienable property of the Russian Imperial House by virtue of their historical statutes and the clear and historic role played in them by members of the Imperial House.  Members of the House of Romanoff become knights of these Orders by right of birth.  The Heads of the Imperial House have the exclusive right to elevate other persons to be knights of these Orders. 

The state, of course, has the right to create any orders it wants, including ones with the same names as the Imperial and Royal Orders.  The devices of these republican orders may be more or less the same as those of the Imperial and Royal Orders, but they are entirely DIFFERENT because they have completely different statutes.

The Imperial Order of St. Andrew the First-Called, for example, in no way conflicts with the state order of St. Andrew the First-Called of the Russian Federation in the same way that the Russian Orthodox Church’s Order of St. Andrew the First-Called does not conflict with the state’s version of the order.  These are simply three different but identically-named orders founded on the basis of three different statutes.

So there can be no confusion or misunderstanding, patents appointing new knights and dames to the Russian Imperial Orders always indicate the full name of the Order:  Such-and-such has been made a knight (or dame) of the IMPERIAL ORDER or a knight of the IMPERIAL AND ROYAL ORDER (the words “and royal” added for those Orders of Polish origin:  the White Eagle and St. Stanislas).

 

Returning to the question of the nobility, how is the granting of noble status by non-ruling dynasties regarded elsewhere and how are various issues that arise among the historical nobility managed by these former ruling houses?  Does noble status convey any sort of privileges?  What is the standing of the nobility in the Russian Federation today?

The Heads of non-ruling dynasties in countries that once had a noble class,[4] retain their status as a Fons Honorum—the “Fount of Honour”—and have the right to issue patents conveying honours to individuals and whole families.

The granting of patents of nobility and titles in exile is well-known and long established (for example, by the Stuarts, the Bourbons in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the Italian royal house after 1946), and, moreover, these appointments have been recognized by official institutions of many other countries (for example, the titles granted by the deposed and exiled King Umberto II of Italy were officially recognized by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta).

Analogous grants of honours by the Head of the Russian Imperial House in exile and, in particular, titles and coats of arms confirmed by her, have been registered in the College of Arms of England and the Court of the Lord Lyon in Scotland, and have been recognized by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Over the many years of exile, and as is the case in many other formerly ruling houses, the Russian Imperial House has continued its role as an arbiter of matters involving the nobility.  Members of the ancient nobility who remained true to their oaths, to the memory of their ancestors, and to the principles of legitimism, have often turned to the Heads of the dynasty with requests to confirm coats of arms, or to transfer the titles of an extinct branch of a noble family to another branch, and so on—that is, matters that, according to the laws of the Russian Empire, were decided at the discretion of the emperors.

Guided by the laws of the Russian Empire regulating the nobility, the Head of the Russian Imperial House is recognized as the highest arbiter in all matters affecting the nobility by the Russian Nobility Association, which was re-instituted in 1990 and which includes as members several thousand descendants of Russian noble families, living both in Russia and in other countries that are the home to the Russian diaspora today.

Noble status is granted most often as a result of one’s elevation to the rank of knight or dame of one of the Imperial Orders, or (more rarely) by a direct patent elevating a person to the status of nobleman or noblewoman of the Russian Empire.

During the Revolution of 1917, the Russian nobility lost its official status in the state and all the privileges that appertained to that status at that time (their loss of status was confirmed in Soviet law by a decree of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee [VTsIK] and the Council of People’s Commissars [SNK] on November 10, 1917, entitled “Decree on the Abolition of Class Distinctions and Civil Ranks”).  But as a historical fact, the Russian nobility continued to exist and to preserve its social and cultural meaning, and is recognized in several monarchies today and by foreign nobility organizations and orders of chivalry.

The Heraldic Office of the Chancellery of the Russian Imperial House, which was created by the Head of the House of Romanoff on March 25, 2001, offers the opportunity for the “legitimate, legal, and thorough review of evidence of noble descent and the registration of documentation confirming membership in the Russian nobility as an honorary historical association.”

As for the former privileges enjoyed by the nobility, they are forever a thing of the past.  The Head of the Russian Imperial House has many times officially and publically stated that there can never be any question of the restoration of the privileges of the nobility if someday the monarchy in Russia were to be restored. 

Noble status—both inherited from ancestors and acquired by patents of nobility today—is an honour of an exclusively SPIRITUAL and MORAL nature, conveying no political and financial privileges and offering neither now nor in the future any legal advantages over their fellow citizens. 

 

Some descendants of titled families in Russia and abroad dispute the very existence of the Russian Imperial House or, at least, the identity of its legal Head.  There are other nobles who respect Grand Duchess Maria of Russia and her son and heir Grand Duke George, but who nonetheless question their right to grant patents of nobility or to name knights in Russia’s Imperial Orders.  Sometimes statements to that effect have been issued in the name of noble organizations.  What is your response to these statements?

Attempts to dispute the existence of the Russian Imperial House or the rights of its legitimate Heads have absolutely no legal basis, regardless of who is issuing these statements.  From a legal point of view, any such claims turn to dust when the text of the dynastic laws is examined.  Attempts to discredit the Imperial House by disseminating negative information about it, turn out, after an objective study of the historical facts, to be either deliberate slander modeled on Goebbels’s propagandistic tactics—that “if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”—or simply gossip and hearsay.

We can only lament that some descendants of once illustrious and ancient families have lost their notion of honour, have forgotten the ideals of their ancestors, and continue in our time the behavior of the worst representatives of the aristocracy, who, before the Revolution, slandered in their salons the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

Happily, there are only a few such ones.  They have come to the fore not because of their large numbers but because of their aggressiveness, their bitterness, and their penchant for scandal.[5]  But the majority of the descendants of Russian noble families respect the Imperial House; and if on occasion they have expressed a spurious opinion, it is not out of malice or ill-will, but because of a lack of accurate information or a faulty analysis of the facts.

Of course, each person has the right to his own thoughts and opinions.  There will always be a segment in society that will reject traditional values and institutions, a segment that views them as obsolete and unnecessary and that tries to prove that they have no place in modern life.  The Russian Imperial House and its supporters cannot, of course, share such views, but they do not reject the rights of others to express them.  However, when such statements come from the lips of those who claim to value their noble ancestry, then it becomes self-destructive and absurd.  They become like the person in the parable who nibbles away at the very branch upon which they are perched.

Nobles who raise doubts about the historical rights of the Heads of the Russian Imperial House based on the facts that the Imperial House was deposed after the Revolution are strangely “forgetting” that that same Revolution abolished the nobility as a class and enshrined in the Soviet Constitution the “ruthless suppression” of its descendants.

If it were true that the Russian Imperial House is no more or no longer enjoys its former rights, then it would be even truer that the nobility is no more.

The Russian nobility historically has been a servitor class, receiving its rights and duties from Russia’s rulers—the Heads of the Imperial dynasties.  The hereditary, titled aristocracy was formed in the context of a hereditary monarchy and in subordination to that monarchy.  Thus those nobles who believe that the Russian Imperial House has no clear Head, or that the Imperial House has lost its rights, should begin by pointing the finger at themselves and either resign from their nobility organizations and forever renounce their titles, which were abolished by the Revolution, or transform these organizations into societies for the study of genealogy, no longer emphasizing their status as being part of the noble class and opening up membership in these societies to any and all who want to join, noble or not.

A monarchy can exist without an aristocracy.  But the aristocracy cannot possibly exist without the monarchical system of values and without the linchpin of the system:  the Imperial dynasty.

The nobility retains the right to exist as a historical phenomenon only in a system of traditional monarchical ideals, legal norms, and principles, in which the legitimate dynastic succession fulfills the same function that Apostolic Succession fulfills in the Church.  Just as a canonical Church cannot exist without the episcopacy and a First Hierarch, so too the monarchical system of values and institutions cannot exist without the historical dynasty and its Head.

Those nobles who reject the rights of the Head of their Imperial or Royal House are like those priests who have abandoned their canonical obedience to their bishops.  In both cases, it is not only an individual violation of the principles of authority, hierarchy, and good and proper order, but also a fundamentally false, illogical, illegal, and sectarian position, which destroys the FOUNDATIONS of the very existence of the nobility and clergy as historical entities.

The Russian Nobility Association, which unites the majority of descendants of Russian noble families who want to become members of the Association, declares in its foundational documents and by-laws its commitment to the principle of legitimism and recognizes the rights of the hereditary Heads of the Russian Imperial House.

Nobility organizations outside of Russia, made up of émigré descendants of Russian noble families, have not issued an official statement on the question of the Russian succession.  Declarations on this topic by individuals express purely their own personal opinions.  In any case, rejecting or ignoring the rights of the Heads of the Russian Imperial House by such ones or by organizations is legally void and historically groundless.

Since the reign of Emperor Peter I the Great (1682-1725), the Russian nobility began increasingly to include persons of the most diverse backgrounds, who received their noble status from successive Emperors and Empresses for their service to our country.  Even before the reign of Peter I, the first tsars of the House of Romanoff after the Time of Troubles awarded noble status to Cossacks, peasants, and other faithful sons of Russia.

The decrees of the Head of the Russian Imperial House continue the tradition of her Imperial ancestors, replenishing the ranks of the Russian nobility (which in the 20th century were victims of revolutionary repression to a greater extent than even during the Time of Troubles at the turn of the 17th century) with worthy fellow citizens of Russia.  The undeniable legitimacy and utility of these appointments and honours were noted by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, who, in response to a question posed to him on role of the House of Romanoff in modern times, said:  “Maria Wladimirovna supports a great many good initiatives, she makes visits Russia, she meets with people, she raises ordinary people who have in various ways distinguished themselves to noble status. I remember very well how, when she was visiting Smolensk, she elevated to noble status an old peasant woman who had done much for her neighbours during the difficult years of the war and immediately after the war. Thus the cultural contributions of this family continue to be very significant in our society” (see:  http://www.imperialhouse.ru/eng/allnews/news/2013/3506.html; for the original Russian text, see:  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/2836965.html).

 

[1] That is, persons with approximately the same claims to the throne.

[2] L. A. Tikhomirov, Monarkhicheskaia gosudarstvennost’ (St. Petersburg, 1992), 443.

[3] See http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/2836965.html; and http://www.imperialhouse.ru/eng/allnews/news/2013/3506.html

 

[4] It should be noted that the nobility is not an absolutely integral part of a monarchical system.  For example, a noble class did not formally exist in a number of Eastern European and Balkan kingdoms:  Serbia, Montenegro, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece.

[5] For example, one descendant of a princely family managed first to accuse President Vladimir Putin of having “usurped” the rights of the State Duma (that is, effectively to have established a dictatorship), and then later signed a deplorable letter to President Putin with wild and preposterous claims slandering the Russian Imperial House.