Brien Purcell Horan


Copyright 1997 to 2012 by Brien Purcell Horan[1]

Published with the permission of the author.



An unsigned article[2] entitled "The Legitimacy of a Kirillovichi[3] Claim to the Throne of all the Russias" has been recently disseminated.   Many people have written in the last several years about the Russian imperial succession laws.  Unfortunately, much that has been written is incorrect, especially various articles that refer to Prince Nicholas Romanoff[4] as head of the Russian dynasty. 

 "Mr. X" in his article expresses the erroneous view that the marriage of the late Grand Duke Kirill of Russia (head of the Russian dynasty from 1918 to 1938)[5], was in violation of the Russian succession laws[6] and that therefore the descendants of that marriage (including the Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, head of the Russian dynasty from 1992 to the present) should be considered somehow outside of the line of succession.  "Mr. X's" conclusion is not supported either by fact or in law, as explained below.

The simplest way to disprove "Mr. X's" contention about Grand Duke Kirill's marriage is to point out that every person who was by birth a member of the Russian dynasty was ipso facto in the line of succession to the throne.  The only method by which a dynast could take himself out of the line of succession was by signing an affirmative act of renunciation of his succession rights.[7]  With the exception of several dynasts (all but one of them females) who upon their marriages signed renunciations of their succession rights, there was no such thing as a separate category of people who were dynasts but who were ineligible to succeed to the throne.

Thus, the key issue in considering whether a person was in the line of succession to the Russian throne is to determine whether that person was or is a member of the Russian dynasty.  If the question is resolved in the affirmative, then that person's place in the succession flowed automatically from dynastic status.  For persons born during the monarchy, it is simple to determine whether they were dynasts.  One need simply consult the last official court calendar, published in 1917, which provided the names of each and every living dynast, with male dynasts listed by their order in the line of succession to the throne.[8]  Grand Duke Kirill was listed in the last court calendar as third in line to the throne.  In addition, two of the Grand Duke Kirill's children, Maria and Kira, were born during the monarchy, and both are listed in the court calendar;  the third child, Wladimir, was born in August 1917,  shortly after the fall of the monarchy and the publication of the last official court calendar.  Thus, the Grand Duke Kirill and his children were dynasts and therefore in the line of succession.[9]  This seems too obvious a fact to point out, but, since "Mr. X" has suggested otherwise, it is necessary to cite proof in rebuttal.

But rather than dismiss "Mr. X" with such a simple rebuttal, let us consider each of his arguments in turn.



The Marriage of the Grand Duke Kirill

Leaving aside for the moment the issue of a spouse's religion, there were two main legal requirements that had to be followed by a member of the Russian dynasty in contracting a marriage.  Failure to follow these requirements meant that the descendants of the marriage would not be considered members of the dynasty and thus would not be in the line of succession.  The first requirement was that the marriage receive the Emperor's approval.[10]  The second requirement was that the intended spouse be of royal birth.[11] 


            H.I.H. the Grand Duke Kirill of Russia (1876-1938) married H.R.H. Princess Victoria Melita of Great Britain and Ireland (1876-1936).  Without stating so directly, "Mr. X" seems to imply that the Grand Duke's wife should be considered a morganatic spouse, that is, a spouse who was not of royal birth.  But it is difficult to think of a person whose antecedents are decidedly more royal than those of the princess.  She was born a member of the British Royal Family and was tenth in line to the British throne at her birth.[12]  Her father, Admiral of the Fleet H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh, K.G. (Prince Alfred of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Edinburgh), was the second son of Queen Victoria.  Her mother, the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, was the only daughter of Emperor Alexander II of Russia and his consort, Empress Maria Alexandrovna.  Since the princess was born into a family that reigned over a kingdom, she was by definition of royal birth.


            "Mr. X" also argues that the Grand Duke Kirill's marriage was objectionable because it did not have the approval of the Emperor.  But of course it is a matter of historical record that the Emperor Nicholas II did accord his approval to the marriage.  In his decree of 15 July 1907[13], the Emperor recognized the marriage, stated that "the consort of H.I.H. Grand Duke Kirill" would bear the title of H.I.H. Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna of Russia, and proclaimed that the child[14] born of this marriage was "recognized as a Princess of the Imperial Blood."  Approval of the marriage of a dynast was in the discretion of the emperor.  He had authority to withhold such approval.  Once he accorded his approval, however, the matter was closed.


            Princess Victoria Melita had had a previous marriage.  Her first husband was Grand Duke Ernest Ludwig of Hesse and the Rhine.  This first marriage had been arranged by Queen Victoria, who was the grandmother both of the bride and the groom and who was anxious to see two of her favorite grandchildren united in matrimony.  As has been revealed in a number of biographies, Ernest Ludwig was not naturally inclined towards marriage, and the union was a disaster.  As soon as Queen Victoria died in 1901, the marriage was dissolved.


            Following the divorce, the Grand Duke Kirill sought permission from Nicholas II to marry Princess Victoria Melita.  This raised a very delicate problem, because Ernest Ludwig was the only brother of the Empress Alexandra of Russia.  Nicholas II's consort was very upset by the divorce and resisted a Russian marriage for her ex-sister-in-law.[15]  Hence, approval of the marriage was delayed until 1907.


            "Mr. X" theorizes that the Grand Duke Kirill's marriage must have been invalid because his wife was a divorcee.  This is incorrect.  The succession laws place no obstacle in the path of a dynast's marriage to a divorcee.  To cite one example, Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich of Russia, the famous World War I commander, married a royal divorcee, but this fact had no legal effect on either his status or hers.[16]  Furthermore, the succession laws allow divorce.[17]


            "Mr.  X" then attacks the marriage as violative of the rules of the Orthodox Church, on the basis that Grand Duke Kirill and his wife, as grandchildren of the Tsar-Liberator, Emperor Alexander II,  were first cousins.  This objection need not detain us unduly.[18]  The preeminent role of the emperor in the administration of the Russian Orthodox Church in the last two centuries of the monarchy was perhaps unique among the major branches of Orthodoxy.  As Emperor Paul I stated in his declaration of 5 April 1797, the day of his coronation, the Orthodox faith is “inseparable” from the Russian throne, “because the sovereign in Russia is the Head of the Church.”   When Peter the Great ascended the throne in 1682, the Russian Orthodox Church was directed by its patriarch, who wielded considerable autonomous power.  Emperor Peter I set out consciously to subordinate the church to imperial control, and as part of that effort he suppressed the office of patriarch.  This suppression remained in effect for two centuries and came to an end only in November 1917, when the patriarchate was revived several months after the fall of the monarchy.  By a decree in 1721, Emperor Peter formally replaced the patriarchate with an entity called the Governing Holy Synod.  From this date onwards, the church ceased to be independent of the state, and its administration became a state function. The Governing Holy Synod, through which the emperor administered the church, was in practical terms a state ministry of religion. Unlike a government ministry, however, the Synod was headed not by a minister but by a council composed of bishops and responsible to the emperor. Under Articles 62 to 65, the monarch, acting through the Governing Holy Synod, administered the church, and as emperor and autocrat he held the titles of "Supreme Defender and Guardian of the Dogmas" of the Russian Orthodox Church. Like several other of the major faiths of Christianity, the Russian Orthodox Church had established a code of rules and laws which nonetheless were subject to exceptions and dispensations, except for matters of dogma.  The decision of the emperor and autocrat as to church matters was supreme, except, again, for matters of dogma.  Upon ordination, Russian Orthodox priests even took an oath in which they swore to defend without reservation "all the powers, rights and prerogatives belonging to the High Autocracy of His Majesty."[19]


            Therefore, the procedure for any bishop or member of the Holy Synod to object to a dynastic marriage based upon degree of kinship would be to urge the emperor not to grant his approval and dispensation to the marriage.[20]  Similarly, if the emperor, as guardian of the dogmas of the church, had objections to the degree of kinship, he was free to withhold his approval of the marriage and consequent dispensation of the consanguinity restrictions.  He gave his approval and dispensation to the marriage of the Grand Duke Kirill. 


It is important to recall that, for purposes of an analysis of a dynast's succession rights, we must confine ourselves strictly to the succession laws themselves.  In promulgating the succession laws on the day of his coronation in 1797, Emperor Paul I stated that he had established them so "that the successor [to the throne would] be determined by the law itself and that there be not the slightest doubt as to the successor."[21]  In the years before the fall of the monarchy, the Grand Duke Kirill's place in the order of succession was completely clear:  he was listed as third in line of succession on the official court calendar, his equal marriage had received imperial approval, and his children were dynasts.  In considering whether to approve a proposed dynastic marriage, it was the role of the emperor and autocrat, as supreme defender and guardian of the dogmas of the church, to weigh any religious or other issues surrounding the marriage and then to resolve those issues definitively by taking a decision to approve or disapprove the marriage.


If "Mr. X" means to argue that, for succession purposes, an equal dynastic marriage receiving imperial approval is nonetheless subject to a collateral legal attack from laws or rules other than the succession laws, his argument cannot be sustained.  Such a suggestion, if admitted, would render the official order of succession uncertain, tentative and ultimately meaningless, thus defeating the principal intention of Paul I in promulgating the succession laws:  namely, to ensure that the identity of the successor to the throne was clear from the succession laws themselves.


Moreover, "Mr. X" should not ignore the attitude of the church itself to the exiled dynastic heads and thus to the marriage of Grand Duke Kirill.  After the Revolution, the Russian Orthodox Church splintered into two principal branches.  The Russian Orthodox Church in Russia, headed since November 1917 by a patriarchate in Moscow restored after the fall of the monarchy, was subject to the dictates of the Communist state during the Soviet period and had no contact or association with the dynasty.  In exile, however, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, headed by a Synod of Bishops with its headquarters first in Yugoslavia and later in New York City, ministered to the spiritual needs of the emigration.  The senior dynast of the day (first Grand Duke Kirill and then his son) was recognized as the dynastic head by the first three successive leaders (Metropolitans Anthony, Anastasy, and Filaret) of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.[22]  At the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia, headed by the Patriarch Alexei II and with its headquarters in Moscow, asserted its independence from the state.  In November 1991, shortly after the failed Communist Putsch and several weeks before the official dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Grand Duke Wladimir traveled to Russia for the first and only time in his life.[23]  He was received in St. Petersburg by the Patriarch Alexei, who acknowledged him as head of the imperial house.  When the Grand Duke died in April 1992, the Patriarch delivered the eulogy at his funeral mass and formally described him as "head of the Russian dynastic house".[24]


            Continuing his attack on the marriage, "Mr. X" next suggests that the marriage was in violation of the dynastic laws because, at the time of their marriage, the bride of the Grand Duke Kirill was Protestant, not Orthodox.[25]  He therefore implies that the Russian succession laws required all dynasts to marry Orthodox spouses.  This too is incorrect.  In fact, the succession laws were very flexible.  They required the direct heir to the throne, that is, the Tsarevich, to marry an Orthodox spouse.  They also allowed the Emperor the option, if he so chose, to require other senior dynasts to marry Orthodox spouses.  For example, if the Tsarevich as first in line were sickly or a confirmed bachelor or had no sons, the Emperor might well require the second in line to marry an Orthodox spouse. When Emperor Paul I promulgated the succession laws in 1797, however, there were very few Orthodox monarchies, and he had no wish unduly to impede the marriage of those Russian dynasts more remote in the line of succession to suitable royal princesses from Protestant Germany who might not wish to change their religion.[26]


            When the Grand Duke Kirill married, he was not particularly senior in the line of succession.  In fact, four people stood between him and the throne at the moment of his marriage.[27]  Given this, Nicholas II approved the marriage without prescribing any requirement that Princess Victoria Melita become Orthodox, something that she eventually did in any event a year after her marriage.


            Article 184 provided as follows:  "With the permission of the reigning emperor, members of the Imperial House may enter into marriage both with persons of the Orthodox faith and with persons of other denominations."[28]  This was qualified by Article 185, which addressed marriages of the most senior dynasts:  "The marriage of a male dynast of the Imperial House who might succeed to the Throne to a person of another faith may not take place until she embraces Orthodoxy."


            It was the Emperor who interpreted and defined the meaning of "a male dynast who might succeed to the Throne":  as explained above, he could limit this to the Tsarevich or extend it more widely, depending on the circumstances.[29]  The children of approved marriages between male dynasts of the imperial house and Protestant royal princesses were full members of the dynasty. For example, in 1884, with the emperor's permission, Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovich of Russia, nephew of Alexander II, had married a Princess of Saxe-Altenburg who was devoutly Lutheran and remained so throughout her married life in Russia.  But her numerous sons and two daughters were full members of the dynasty.[30]  Another example is provided by the case of the Grand Duke Kirill's parents.  In 1874, the Grand Duke Kirill's father, Grand Duke Wladimir Alexandrovich, then fourth in line to the throne, married a Duchess of Mecklenburg who remained Lutheran after the marriage.[31]  The sons of this marriage were all dynasts and were listed in the official court calendar in their order of succession to the throne.[32]  In 1908, the Grand Duke Kirill's mother converted from the Lutheran faith to Orthodoxy, and on 10 April 1908 Nicholas II issued a manifesto announcing his joy at the conversion and giving his aunt the title of "Orthodox Grand Duchess".[33]


            This 1874 marriage of the Grand Duke Kirill’s parents provides a good example of the flexibility with which an emperor could apply the succession laws.  At the time of his marriage to Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the 27 year old Grand Duke Wladimir Alexandrovich, second surviving son of Emperor Alexander II and brother of Tsesarevich Alexander Alexandrovich (later Emperor Alexander III), was, as stated above, only fourth in line to the throne, after his 29 year old elder brother and the latter’s two sons, Nicholas (the future Nicholas II), aged 6 years, and George, aged 3 years.  Alexander II, however, mindful no doubt of the fragility of life and the risk of childhood disease, recognized that his son Wladimir might well end up succeeding as emperor or serving as regent.[34]  In giving permission to his younger son to marry his Lutheran bride, Alexander II therefore specified that, should the succession devolve upon Wladimir, he could not become emperor unless his wife first converted to Orthodoxy.  If she chose not to convert, Wladimir would be deemed to have renounced his rights, and the throne would pass to the next in line.  All children born of the marriage would have full dynastic rights.  These conditions were set forth in a decree signed by Alexander II and countersigned by his sons Alexander and Wladimir.[35]  When Alexander II’s eldest surviving son, the future Alexander III, had married in 1866, he had no choice.  As tsesarevich, he had to marry a spouse who had become Orthodox by the time of the marriage.  As to his second son, Wladimir, Alexander II was free to require him to marry an Orthodox spouse or to allow him to marry a Protestant, either unconditionally or under specified conditions, such as those set forth in the decree.


Political Issues


            "Mr. X" also argues that Grand Duke Kirill was not head of the dynasty because the mother of Nicholas II, who lived in exile until 1928, did not recognize him as such.  The flaw in this argument is that succession was determined solely by the succession laws.  The Dowager Empress was enormously respected, but her purported views on the succession were irrelevant from a legal point of view.  As her son-in-law wrote in his memoirs, the Dowager Empress was in the 1920s a broken woman whose two sons and several grandchildren had been brutally murdered.  During her remaining reclusive years, she did everything in her power to foster the illusion that her son Nicholas II and grandson Alexei were somehow still alive in Russia.[36]


            In the years following the Revolution, many Russian emigres wrote memoirs and articles in which they attributed blame to various dynasts for events leading to the collapse of the monarchy and in which they settled scores.  Empress Alexandra was a frequent and obvious target.  Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich was attacked for his role in persuading Nicholas II to abdicate, thus precipitating the fall of the dynasty.[37]  Grand Duke Kirill (and to a much lesser extent, his uncle, Grand Duke Paul, only surviving son of the Tsar-Liberator, Alexander II) were criticized for their dealings with the Provisional Government in the days prior to the abdication of Nicholas II.  Each attack spawned a rebuttal by the defenders of the person concerned.   But "Mr. X" is wrong to suggest that these disputes (which still are debated by some in the present day) had any bearing on the succession rights of the persons concerned.  In the case of the Grand Duke Kirill, his detractors accused him of disloyalty.  His supporters asserted that he acted in a levelheaded manner to save the monarchy.  Grand Duke Kirill wrote about these turbulent days in his memoirs, My Life in Russia's Service (1939).  He described the collapse of civil authority in the imperial capital.  He explained that the Naval Guards, which he commanded as a rear admiral, were still loyal to him and that, by marching to the seat of the parliament at the head of these troops, he wished to demonstrate that, if the leaders of the Duma would only show some backbone, there were still disciplined military units capable of restoring order and halting the slide into anarchy.[38]  In his view, the monarchy could have been saved only if order was restored and further deterioration prevented.  Neither "Mr. X" nor the present writer will resolve these debates.


Female Succession


            Finally, "Mr. X" claims that "no female member of the house of Romanoff may take the throne."  This is also patently incorrect.  The Russian dynasty had promulgated succession laws which were very Germanic in their insistence upon equal marriages but "un-Germanic" in their modification of Salic law.  The laws state that the succession will pass solely to male dynasts until the death of the last male dynast, in which event it will pass to the female dynast most closely related to the last emperor.[39]  The last male dynasts were Prince Vassily of Russia (who died in 1989) and the Grand Duke Wladimir of Russia (who died in 1992).[40]  Upon the latter's death, the only remaining individuals born as members of the Romanoff-Holstein-Gottorp dynasty were three women:  Grand Duchess Maria of Russia (born 1953), Princess Vera of Russia (born 1906), and Princess Katherine of Russia (born 1915).  Whether one considers the last emperor to have been Nicholas II or (as do the monarchists) the Grand Duke Wladimir, the dynast most closely related to him is the Grand Duchess Maria, who is the Grand Duke Wladimir's only child and is descended from Nicholas II's senior uncle.  Princesses Vera and Katherine are more distantly related to Nicholas II and the Grand Duke Wladimir.[41]  Under the laws, the Grand Duchess Maria succeeded her father in 1992 as head of the house.[42]



Morganatic Marriages


            "Mr. X" also appears not to realize that the so-called title of "Prince Romanoff" is without legal foundation. Under the succession laws, as amended in 1886, dynasts who were sons and grandsons of an emperor had the title of Grand Duke, and dynasts of more distant descent (that is, great-grandsons and their descendants) had the title of Prince of Russia.[43]  The title of "Prince Romanoff" never existed before 1917.[44]  It came into being as a self-assumed title used in exile by the morganatic descendants of Russian dynasts.


            As stated before, the succession laws required dynasts to contract marriages with spouses of royal birth in order to transmit dynastic membership to their children.  These laws were never changed.


            Article 188 states as follows:  "A person of the Imperial Family who has contracted marriage with a person of a status unequal to his, that is, not belonging to a royal or sovereign house, cannot pass on to that person or to the posterity that might issue from such a marriage the rights that belong to members of the Imperial Family."  On 11 August 1911, Nicholas II added the following addendum to Article 188:  "Henceforth no grand duke or grand duchess may contract a marriage with a person of unequal birth, that is, not belonging to a royal or sovereign house."


            Following the death of the Grand Duke Wladimir in 1992, Prince Nicholas Romanoff, the morganatic son of the late Prince Roman of Russia, claimed to be the new head of the imperial house.[45]  His adherents have sought to support this claim by means of a rather bizarre interpretation of the 11 August 1911 addendum.  They suggest that Nicholas II's 1911 language changed the succession laws so that the children of grand dukes who married morganatically would not be dynasts while the children of Princes of Russia who married morganatically would be dynasts.  Obviously, Nicholas II did nothing of the kind.  The suggestion defies common sense, because it would mean that junior dynasts would receive special rights which senior dynasts did not enjoy.  It is no secret that in every dynasty it is seniority, not junior status, that entitles one to special recognition and privileges.


            The 1911 addendum quite simply meant that grand dukes, as the senior members of the dynasty, could not contract morganatic marriages under any circumstances.  Nicholas II, who disliked confrontation, dreaded the tense personal interviews in which grand ducal relatives (such as his brother Michael and his uncle Paul[46]) pleaded for permission to marry morganatically and had to be refused. This addendum was to make clear that the grand dukes should not even think about asking Nicholas II for permission to contract a morganatic marriage, because an absolute prohibition of such marriages had been made as of 1911 a matter of law.  In August 1911, Nicholas II was trying to prevent at all costs the marriage of his only brother Michael to the latter's morganatic mistress and to send a strong message to several other grand dukes whose domestic situations had become problematic.  In 1911, there were so many grand dukes that the male succession seemed assured.  Therefore, Nicholas II was not unduly concerned about the marriages of the junior category of dynasts, the Princes and Princesses of Russia.  As to these, there was no express bar to their seeking his permission to contract morganatic marriages.


            But this emphatically did not mean that the children of a Prince of Russia and a morganatic wife would be dynasts.  Article 188 made clear that such children would not be dynasts.  The adherents of the recent morganatic claim also conveniently ignore Articles 36 and 126, which were never amended.  Article 126 specifies that "all persons of imperial blood who are born of a marriage between a person of imperial blood and a person of corresponding birth which marriage was authorized by the reigning emperor are recognized as members of the Imperial House."   Article 36 states clearly as follows:  "Children born of a marriage between a member of the Imperial Family and a person not of corresponding birth, that is, not belonging to a royal or sovereign house, have no right of succession to the Throne."


            It is therefore clear that a Prince of Russia, unlike a grand duke, could with the Emperor's permission marry a morganatic spouse, but it is equally clear that the children of any morganatic union (whether contracted by a grand duke or a Prince of Russia) would be morganatic.  The morganatic descendants of Russian dynasts were never allowed to use the name Romanoff during the monarchy.  They used other names, such as Yurievsky, Paley, Brassov, Iskander, and Torby.  Some morganatic descendants have scrupulously respected this old tradition even in exile.  For example, the senior living morganatic descendant of the dynasty is Colonel Paul R. Ilyinsky, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, born in 1928 as the only child of the morganatic marriage of Grand Duke Dmitry, a grandson of Emperor Alexander II, to Miss Audrey Emery.  Paul Ilyinsky and his descendants have never called themselves Romanoff, but instead have used the name Ilyinsky, in recognition that they do not have dynastic status.[47]


            After 1917, almost all dynasts who escaped the Revolution contracted morganatic marriages and had children.  Confusion ensued because these descendants were born in France, Britain, America and other countries where children took the surname of their fathers.  Thus, these children had the surname of Romanoff entered on their birth certificates in those countries.  The confusion was compounded when the Grand Duke Kirill, as head of the dynasty, accorded to many (but not all) of these children morganatic princely titles and morganatic surnames which included the word "Romanovsky", denoting kinship to (rather than membership of) the dynasty.  In 1935, for example, he accorded to the morganatic son of Grand Duke Andrew the name and morganatic title of Prince Romanovsky-Krassinsky.  Prince Romanovsky-Krassinsky later dropped the "-sky" and the "Krassinsky" and called himself Prince Romanoff.  Many other morganatic descendants acted similarly, thus beginning the use socially of a title, that of "Prince Romanoff", that has no basis in law.


            The erroneous view that morganatic sons of Princes of Russia are dynasts is a very recent one based upon a highly creative twisting of the succession laws.  This view is not only unsupported in law but also contradicts the clear pronouncements of the three successive heads of the house from 1918 to the present.  When a French writer first advocated this creative interpretation of the succession laws in the 1980s[48], the Grand Duke Wladimir had to clarify formally that such morganatic descendants were indeed related to the dynasty but were not in any way members of the dynasty.  The attitude of the older generation of the dynasty is typified by the late Grand Duchess Xenia of Russia (sister of Nicholas II and wife of Grand Duke Alexander), who died in 1960:  she did not consider any of her many grandsons to be Russian dynasts, because they were all morganatic.[49]


The Dynasty in 1938


            In October 1938, the Grand Duke Kirill died and was succeeded as head of the dynasty by his only son, the Grand Duke Wladimir.  On 11/24 October 1938, with the approval of the Grand Duke Wladimir, the five Russian dynasts next in line of succession to him issued a document of considerable legal significance, because it shows the clear view of the six most senior members of the dynasty.  The document was signed by the three surviving grand dukes and the two most senior Princes of Russia:  these were Grand Duke Boris (lst in line of succession after the Grand Duke Wladimir), Grand Duke Andrew (2nd in line), Grand Duke Dmitry (3rd in line), Prince Vsevelod (4th in line), and Prince Gavriel (5th in line).  In the statement, the five signatories announced the succession of the Grand Duke Wladimir as head of the dynasty and then listed all of theliving male dynasts in their order of succession.  Although, by October 1938, 9 morganatic sons (including the present Prince Nicholas Romanoff) had been born to male dynasts since the fall of the monarchy, not a single one of the 9 was included among the 13 names on the succession list, for the obvious reason that not a single one qualified as a dynast.


            It is useful to read the 11/24 October 1938 declaration in its entirety:


            "We, members of the Imperial House of Russia, having assembled after the death of the Head of our House, the Grand Duke Kirill Wladimirovich, 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 of 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 intangibility of our laws and of our family traditions.


            "By virtue of the laws indicated above, we recognize that the succession to the throne belongs by right, in order of primogeniture, to the senior member of the Imperial House of Russia, the Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich, which he assumed by inheritance after the death of his father on 29 September/12 October 1938, with a profound awareness of the sacred duty which devolves upon him according to 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 of the Imperial Family.


            "The members of the Imperial House of Russia appear as follows by primogeniture in the order of succession:  Grand Duke Boris Wladimirovich, Grand Duke Andrew Wladimirovich[50], Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich[51], Prince Vsevelod Ioannovich, Prince Gavriel Constantinovich, Prince George Constantinovich, Prince Roman Petrovich[52], Prince Andrew Alexandrovich[53], Prince Feodor Alexandrovich[54], Prince Nikita Alexandrovich[55], Prince Dmitry Alexandrovich, Prince Rostislav Alexandrovich, and Prince Vassily Alexandrovich.


                                     (signed)    Boris                  Vsevelod"






            Therefore, it is a highly original leap for a writer in 1997 to suggest, as "Mr. X" has done, that neither the Grand Duke Kirill nor the Grand Duke Wladimir may have been eligible to succeed as head of the dynasty, when they both clearly held that position by automatic operation of law and as a result were both recognized as successive heads of the dynasty by the vast majority of members of the dynasty.  The Grand Duke Kirill, for example, was accepted by 6 of the 8 grand dukes who survived the Revolution.[56]  In 1938, all the living grand dukes accepted the succession of Grand Duke Wladimir.


            It is instructive to examine the attitudes of the 14 individuals listed in the 11/24 October 1938 declaration as the only living male dynasts:


Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich (Head of the House) [On attaining his dynastic majority in 1933, he swore an oath of allegiance to his father, Grand Duke Kirill, as emperor.]


Grand Duke Boris Wladimirovich (lst in line) [He recognized Grand Duke Kirill as dynastic head.]


Grand Duke Andrew Wladimirovich (2nd in line) [He recognized Grand Duke Kirill as dynastic head.]


Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich (3rd in line) [He recognized Grand Duke Kirill as dynastic head.]


Prince Vsevelod Ioannovich (4th in line) [He recognized Grand Duke Kirill as dynastic head.]


Prince Gavriel Constantinovich (5th in line) [He recognized Grand Duke Kirill as dynastic head.]


Prince George Constantinovich (6th in line) [He emigrated to the United States.  Although cut off from active involvement in European events by his residence in America, he communicated to Grand Duke Kirill, through the intermediary of his elder brother Prince Gavriel, his support of Grand Duke Kirill as dynastic head.  (See In the Service of the Imperial House of Russia, 1917-1941 by Rear-Admiral H.G. Graf (private secretary of Grand Duke Kirill) (privately published, 1999), p. 79, 90.)  At the time of the 11/24 October 1938 declaration, Prince George's brother, Prince Gavriel, was unable to involve George with the statement recognizing the succession of Grand Duke Wladimir, because Prince George was very ill in America.  He died in New York at age 32 on 8 November 1938, three weeks after the death of Grand Duke Kirill.]


Prince Roman Petrovich (7th in line) [Prince Roman, who was the father of the present Prince Nicholas Romanoff, maintained the hostile attitude of his father, the late Grand Duke Peter, to the senior line.]


Prince Andrew Alexandrovich (8th in line) [He recognized Grand Duke Kirill as dynastic head in 1924.  Prince Andrew was the eldest of the 6 sons of Grand Duke Alexander and his wife Grand Duchess Xenia, sister of Nicholas II.  The other 5 sons, Princes Feodor, Nikita, Dmitry, Rostislav and Vassily, are listed below.]


Prince Feodor Alexandrovich (9th in line) [He recognized Grand Duke Kirill as dynastic head in 1924.]


Prince Nikita Alexandrovich (10th in line) [He recognized Grand Duke Kirill as dynastic head in 1924.]


Prince Dmitry Alexandrovich (11th in line)  [He was in America in 1924 and did not sign the letter of allegiance to the Grand Duke Kirill which was sent in 1924 by his father, Grand Duke Alexander, and his brothers, Princes Andrew, Feodor, Nikita and Rostislav.[57]  Prince Dmitry, however, did separately recognize Grand Duke Kirill as dynastic head.  Following his morganatic marriage, Prince Dmitry sought and obtained from Grand Duke Kirill a morganatic title (Princess Romanovsky-Kutuzov) for his wife.]


Prince Rostislav Alexandrovich (12th in line) [He recognized Grand Duke Kirill as dynastic head in 1924.]


Prince Vassily Alexandrovich (13th in line) [He was the only one of the six sons of Grand Duke Alexander and Grand Duchess Xenia who did not formally recognize Grand Duke Kirill as dynastic head.  When Grand Duke Alexander and his sons signed their joint recognition in 1924, the youngest son Prince Vassily was not asked to sign because he was still a minor.  The other sons had all attained their dynastic majority.]


            When one adds up the numbers as of late 1938, one sees that of the 14 male dynasts alive at Grand Duke Kirill's death in October 1938, all but 2 had recognized Grand Duke Kirill as dynastic head, and only one had manifested actual hostility.  Recognition of Grand Duke Kirill necessarily carried with it recognition that his officially designated heir was Grand Duke Wladimir[58], so there is no need to mention in any detail that some dynasts, such as Grand Dukes Boris, Andrew and Dmitry and Princes Vsevelod and Gavriel, recognized Grand Duke Kirill and then on his death prepared a separate recognition of Grand Duke Wladimir.[59]


            Therefore, if one takes the trouble to examine the matter closely, it is clear that in 1938 there was no doubt as to the identity of the head of the dynasty and there was no doubt that the children of unequal marriages were not members of the dynasty.[60]


            In 1997, Dr. Stanislav V. Dumin, chairman of the Historical and Genealogical Society in Moscow, unearthed from the Russian State Archives, Moscow a fascinating document that fully confirms these conclusions.  This document[61] is a letter dated 14 June 1911, sent on behalf of Nicholas II by Baron Vladimir Frederiks, Nicholas II’s Minister of the Imperial Court, to Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich, who had presided at a meeting of grand dukes convened to advise the emperor on the question of permitting dynasts to contract unequal marriages.[62]  The letter informs Grand Duke Nicholas of the following decisions made by the emperor:  1)  Grand Dukes of Russia may not contract unequal marriages;  2) Princes of Russia (technically, “Princes of the Blood Imperial”), if they receive the emperor’s specific permission and if they renounce their succession rights beforehand, may contract unequal marriages;  and3) “surnames and coats of arms of the spouses and descendants of Princes of the Blood Imperial who have contracted marriages with persons not possessing corresponding rank will be granted in each specific case by the Lord Emperor.”  The latter ruling is yet further confirmation that children of an unequal marriage, in addition to being excluded from dynastic membership, had no right even to the Romanoff surname, but had to await a grant from the emperor of a new surname and coat of arms.  The letter also states that Nicholas II was completely unwilling to countenance recognition of any middle category between that of “equal marriage” and of “unequal marriage’.[63]


The Royal House of Bagration of Georgia


            Before closing, it is useful to discuss the status of the Bagration dynasty.  Prince Nicholas Romanoff, while acknowledging that he is the child of an unequal marriage, has expressed the view that Grand Duchess Maria is also the child of an unequal marriage.  In other words, he has contended that a marriage between a Russian dynast and a Bagration cannot be considered an equal marriage for purposes of the Russian succession laws.


On this point, the present writer wishes to cite at some length excerpts from a recent essay by Daniel Sargis[64], a writer of Georgian descent and of a somewhat anti-Russian sentiment, which sets forth aptly the legal and historical bases supporting the conclusion that the marriage of the late Grand Duke Wladimir of Russia to Princess Leonida Bagration, a member of the former royal house of Georgia, was an equal marriage.


One should note at the outset that not all royal houses required their members to contract equal marriages in order to transmit dynastic status to descendants of the marriages.[65]  In fact, the requirement of equal birth, or Ebenbürtigkeit, was basically a German concept which generally applied to the German ruling dynasties, including the Habsburgs (and the other houses that ruled the numerous co-states of the Holy Roman Empire before its dissolution in 1806) and the Hohenzollerns (and the other houses that reigned in the constituent kingdoms and sovereign principalities, grand duchies and duchies of the German Empire).


            From the time of the accession of the Holstein-Gottorps to the Russian throne in 1762, Russia followed this strict German custom of equal marriages.  The promulgator of the Pauline law, Emperor Paul I of Russia, was almost entirely German by blood.  Paul's father, Emperor Peter III of Russia, was by birth Prince Peter of Holstein-Gottorp, the son of a German sovereign, the reigning Duke of Holstein-Gottorp.[66]  Paul I's mother, Empress Catherine II of Russia, by birth a Princess of Anhalt-Zerbst, was also originally a German.  Paul I’s son, Emperor Alexander I, formally codified the equal marriage requirement into law.


            At the promulgation of the Pauline law in 1797, the only Orthodox kingdoms in Europe were those ruled by the Emperor of Russia, the King of Georgia (a Bagration), and the King of Imeretia (also a Bagration).  Several other Orthodox monarchies came into being in the 19th century, in territories formerly possessed by the Ottoman Empire.  From 1797 until 1889, with only two exceptions, every single equal marriage entered into by a Russian dynast was contracted with a member of one of the Protestant sovereign houses of northern Europe.[67]


The first notable break in this custom of northern European alliances occurred during the reign of Emperor Alexander III.  In 1889, Grand Duke Peter Nikolayevich of Russia married Princess Militza of Montenegro[68], a daughter of an Orthodox sovereign, Prince Nicholas I of Montenegro.


It is difficult today to conceive of the degree to which the Montenegrin marriage was a completely new development for the Russian dynasty.  Prior to 1889, the Romanoffs, their veins overflowing through intermarriage with the blood of ancient German dynasties, chose their spouses from other German and northern European dynasties that had ruled for many hundreds of years.  The Montenegrin marriage, on the other hand, allied the Romanoffs with the newly minted dynasty of a tiny new country in a remote and impoverished section of southeastern Europe that had recently freed itself from Muslim domination.


At the time of the 1889 marriage, the Montenegrin dynasty had been reigning as secular monarchs for less than 40 years.  Montenegro's first sovereign had declared himself "Prince Danilo I" in 1851 and been recognized as such by Russia in 1852.  He had been born as Danilo Petrovich Niegoch, a member of a family that had provided a long line of powerful local bishops.  He was succeeded as sovereign prince by his nephew, who became Prince Nicholas I of Montenegro.[69]


            The Petrovich Niegoch family in 1889 had no blood kinship to the Romanoffs or any other European dynasty descended from one of the ancient German ruling houses.  Prince Nicholas I of Montenegro had married a Miss Milena Vucotich.  Prince Nicholas I himself was the son of Mirko Petrovich Niegoch, the brother of Danilo I, by Mirko's wife, born Miss Anastasia Martinovich.


            Given the mentality of the period, Montenegro's rustic location far from Europe's centers of traditional culture, and the newness of its dynasty, both in terms of sovereignty and lineage, questions were raised prior to the couple's official engagement as to whether the marriage could be considered an equal one under Russian dynastic law.[70]  The ultimate decision was that it would be an equal marriage, and permission was given to Grand Duke Peter to proceed.  The basis of the decision was that Montenegro's dynasty was a ruling house and thus qualified under the succession laws.  The fact that the dynasty had ruled for less than half a century was considered irrelevant.  The fact that the spouse and mother of the sovereign prince were commoners was similarly irrelevant, because the Montenegrin ruling house did not require its members to contract equal marriages.  Finally, the fact that as of 1889 the Montenegrin dynasts were not yet related by blood to members of other European dynasties was considered equally irrelevant.


            The precedents set by the 1889 marriage of Grand Duke Peter and Princess Militza of Montenegro, and by two subsequent marriages between Russian dynasts and Balkan princesses[71], should be kept in mind when considering the status of the Bagrations.  The Bagrations were, unlike the Montenegrins, of unusually ancient royal lineage and had been sovereign not for a few decades but for many centuries.  But they were similar to the Montenegrins in that both were or had been Orthodox sovereigns in remote parts of Europe and in that, until the 20th century, the Bagrations were unrelated by blood or marriage to other dynasties descended from the ancient ruling houses of Germany.


With this introduction, it is helpful to conclude by considering portions of the analysis of the Bagrations set forth in the essay by Mr. Sargis mentioned above.[72]   The footnotes accompanying these excerpts from the Sargis essay have been added by the present writer, not by Mr. Sargis:


"What prompts my essay is a recent statement by Nicholas Romanoff.  In an interview, he stated that, whilst he freely admits that his own mother was a commoner, he wishes also to assert his opinion that Grand Duchess Maria's mother was a commoner too.  In other words, Mr. Romanoff[73] has expressed the opinion that he does not consider the Bagratid dynasty - the Bagrations of Georgia - to be of royal birth.


"As somebody whose grandparents were born in Tblisi, the capital of Georgia, I must object…


"Georgia is a mountainous country of 27,000 square miles and 5 million people, located on the Black Sea at the eastern edge of Europe…  Its people have a deep sense of the uniqueness and antiquity of their nation, and they are fiercely devoted to their language and culture.  Georgia was Christianised in the fourth century A.D., more than 550 years before Russia became Christian.


"Georgia's royal house, the Bagrations, and France's royal house, the Bourbons, are the oldest Christian dynasties in Europe, much older than the royal families that trace their reigns to around the year 1000 A.D., such as the ancient German royal dynasties of Bavaria, Saxony and Hanover.  And it goes without saying that the Bagrations, who became nobles in the third century A.D. and monarchs in the ninth century A.D., are much older than the Romanoffs, who only began their reign in Russia in the year 1613 A.D.


"The Bagrations have had royal status for over one thousand years, having occupied the throne of the independent Kingdom of Georgia until that kingdom was illegally devoured by Russia in the nineteenth century.  As such, the Bagrations today are no different legally from other dynasties that remain royal families, despite having lost their thrones in the nineteenth century.  Most prominent among such dethroned royal families is the Bourbon dynasty of France (dethroned in 1830), but the list also includes the Bourbon-Sicilies dynasty of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (dethroned in 1860), the Bourbon-Orléans dynasty of France (dethroned in 1848), and the Bonaparte dynasty (which ruled France twice for short periods, from 1804-1815 and from 1852-1871).[74]


"For Nicholas Romanoff to claim that the Bagrations are not a royal house because their dynasty was dethroned must raise the eyebrows [of the heads of the many dynasties dethroned in the 20th century].  It also smacks of throwing stones when one lives in a glass house, because of course the Russian dynasty itself has been without a throne since 1917… The late nobiliary law expert, Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk, Ph.D., LL.B., who was a member of the royal household of Queen Elizabeth II, perhaps summed things up best when he wrote: '[The] Bagration…dynasty had reigned in the male line as Kings from 886 until the 19th century, before the 17th century boyar family of Romanoff dispossessed them.  Both Bagration and Romanoff are now equally dispossessed:  which needs the official recognition of which?' [75]


"Georgia lost its independence in the nineteenth century, regained it briefly from 1918 to 1921 (until Soviet Russian troops invaded), and became an independent country again in 1991, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.  Like other independent European countries, it has its own monarchist movement.  This monarchist movement was in the news in 1995, when the head of the Georgian Royal Family and pretender to the Georgian throne, Prince George Bagration, made his first visit to Georgia.


"Prince George Bagration, born in Rome in 1944, now lives in Marbella, Spain.  As a professional racecar driver in his youth, he won more than twelve Spanish championships.  He is a friend of King Juan Carlos and is related by marriage to the Spanish Royal Family:  his stepmother was the late Princess Maria de las Mercedes Bagration (born H.R.H. Infanta Maria de las Mercedes of Spain).  Prince George carried with him to Georgia a personal letter from King Juan Carlos to Georgian President Eduard Shevarnadze.


"The purpose of the Prince's visit was to escort the remains of his grandfather, also named Prince George Bagration, the late head of the Georgian Royal Family, who died in 1957 as an exile in Spain.  A solemn funeral liturgy was sung in Sioni Cathedral in Tblisi by the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church.  President Shevarnadze attended the mass.  Also present were the younger Prince George's aunt, the Grand Duchess Wladimir of Russia (born Princess Leonida Bagration of Moukhrani) and his first cousin, the Grand Duchess Maria of Russia.  The remains were then interred in the royal crypt of the Kings of Georgia at Svetitskhovoi.


"The Bagrations began their reign in Georgia in 886 A.D.  They intermarried frequently with the royal dynasties of various Byzantine emperors.  The Bagratid dynasty's reign ended in the nineteenth century.  The Bagrations thus fulfilled the only real requirement under international law to qualify as a royal dynasty:  they occupied a sovereign throne…  [And] Georgia, like England but unlike Russia and Germany, never required its royal princes to marry royal princesses in order to transmit royal status to their children.


"The Bagrations of Moukhrani, the branch of the dynasty from which Prince George Bagration and the Grand Duchess Maria descend, is in fact doubly royal.  First, they were a younger branch of the Georgian royal house.  (They did not become the senior line until the twentieth century, when elder lines died out.)[76]  Second, they were also sovereigns of the Georgian principality of Moukhrani in their own right until 1801.


"The first sovereign Prince of Moukhrani was Prince Bagrat Bagration of Moukhrani, a younger brother of two Georgian monarchs, King David VIII and King George IX.[77]  The last sovereign Prince of Moukhrani (from whom Prince George descends) was Prince Constantine Bagration of Moukhrani (died 1842), son of Ivan Bagration, Prince of Moukhrani by his wife Princess Tamara, daughter of King Irakly II of Georgia.[78]


"In view of the tangled history of relations between Georgia and Russia, it is intriguing that…Nicholas Romanoff would try in the 1990s to dispute the royal status of the Bagrations.


"In the late eighteenth century, King Irakly II of Georgia, an Orthodox Christian, was threatened by the Islamic rulers of Persia and Turkey.  He turned to Russia, his Christian neighbour, for protection.  In 1783, Empress Catherine the Great of Russia and King Irakly II signed the Treaty of Georgievsk, in which Russia guaranteed the territorial integrity of the Georgian kingdom in return for control of Georgia's foreign policy.  The treaty also guaranteed the royal status of the Bagratid dynasty.  To cite the actual words of the treaty:  [‘Her Imperial Majesty (Catherine II), graciously accept insupreme power and protection overthe Kingdoms of Kartli and Kakheti, promises in Her name and in the name of Her Heirs… to preserve forever on the Throne of the Kingdoms of Kartli and Kakhety [Georgia] the Serene Tsar Irakly, son of Theimouraz, and his Heirs and Descendants.’  The treaty also records that ‘From ancient times, the Russian Empire, having the same religion as the Georgian people, has been a bulwark of asylum and support to the said people and their Serene Sovereigns against the oppression of their neighbours’;  that‘Her Imperial Majesty, taking into consideration this sincere, solemn promise of His Highness [Irakly II], equally grants a guarantee confirmed by her imperial Word, that She and Her Successors obligate themselves never to withdraw the grace and protection accorded to the Serene Tsars of Kartli and KakhetyTo prove this, Her Majesty gives her Imperial guarantee of the complete preservation of the current territories of His Highness Tsar Irakly, son of Theimouraz…’;  that ‘to facilitate the relations and accord with the Russian Imperial Court, His Highness the Tsar [Irakly II] wishes to have a Minister or Resident at this Court, and Her Imperial Majesty, acceding graciously to this wish, promises that he will be received at her Court with the same honours as all the other ambassadors of like rank of the other Sovereign Princes…’;  and that ‘the present treaty has been made forever and for all time.’]


"In 1795, the Persian shah, Aga Muhammad, demanded that King Irakly acknowledge Persian suzerainty over Georgia.  King Irakly, declining to break his treaty with Russia, refused.  The Persians then invaded.  No Russian assistance was provided, but the old King, then more than 80 years old, managed to repulse the invaders three times before he was outnumbered and defeated.  Finally, the Russians intervened and pushed out the Persians.


"In 1798, Irakly II died and was succeeded by his son, King George XII.  Fearing the Persian threat, King George suggested to Empress Catherine's son and successor, Tsar Paul I, that he incorporate Georgia into the Russian Empire while allowing the Bagrations to continue to bear the title of King.  (A similar arrangement existed in Germany in the late nineteenth century, when the German emperor ruled over an empire in which he was the suzerain of the Kings of Bavaria, Wurttemberg, and Saxony.)  At first, Emperor Paul agreed, but in the end he simply seized the country, putting an end to the long reign of the Bagrations.[79]


"The Encyclopedia Britannica (1992 edition) summarizes the facts succinctly in its article on the Treaty of Georgievsk of July 24, 1783:  '[A]greement concluded by Catherine II the Great…and Erekle [Irakly] II…by which Russia guaranteed Georgia's territorial integrity and the continuation of its reigning Bagratid dynasty in return for prerogatives in the conduct of Georgian foreign affairs…Under the terms of the treaty, Catherine and her heirs were to defend Georgia against enemies, and Erekle [Irakly] renounced dependence upon Iran or any other power.  Though the treaty was to have permanent validity, Emperor Paul I's manifesto of Dec. 18, 1800, unilaterally declared the annexation of[Georgia] to Russia, and on Sept. 12, 1801, his successor, Alexander I, formally reaffirmed this determination.'


"After annexing Georgia illegally, the Russian Empire embarked on a program of forced Russification that lasted until the late nineteenth century, including sustained attempts to suppress teaching of the Georgian language and culture.  The Bagrations tried without success to resist, especially Prince Alexander (son of King Irakly II) who eventually fled to Persia, but also Queen Miriam (widow of King George XII of Georgia) and Dowager Queen Daria (widow of King Irakly II of Georgia).  Other princes of the blood royal were deported to Russia.


"Part of the Russification campaign included a specific attempt to undermine the royal status of and to weaken nationalist loyalty to the Bagration dynasty.  This was because a number of the many nationalist insurrections which took place in Georgia throughout the nineteenth century were monarchist in inspiration and purpose.  The most famous was the 1830 plot to restore the Bagrations.[80]  Moscow eventually sent Grand Duke Michael of Russia, son of Tsar Nicholas I, as viceroy of the Caucasus and also began to list the Bagrations in the nobility books not as royal princes but as mere 'titled nobility.' [81]  The Bagrations, however, mindful both of their ancient rights and of Russia's solemn obligations under the 1783 Treaty of Georgievsk to maintain the royal status of the Georgian dynasty, never renounced their royal status.


"It was not until the twentieth century, during the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, that Russia began to make amends.  This occurred in 1911, when a member of the Russian Imperial Family, Princess Tatiana of Russia (daughter of Grand Duke Constantine of Russia), married a member of the Georgian dynasty, Prince Constantine Bagration of Moukhrani, later an aide-de-camp to Emperor Nicholas II.  Prior to the wedding, Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra personally told Grand Duke Constantine, the father of the bride, that 'they would never look upon her marriage to a Bagration as morganatic, because this House, like the House of Orléans [of France], is descended from a once ruling dynasty.'  (November 30, 1910 entry, From the Diaries of Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovich, published in Moscow, February 1994).  The bride was also asked to renounce her rights to the Russian throne, as was customary when a female of the Russian Imperial Family married a foreign prince.  (Another example was the renunciation of Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia upon her marriage to the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin).  The late Prince Theimouraz Bagration of Moukhrani, only son of the 1911 Georgian-Russian marriage [of Prince Constantine Bagration and Princess Tatiana of Russia], frequently described Emperor Nicholas II's suggestion that the groom sign the marriage register as "Prince of Georgia".


"Despite his private comment to Grand Duke Constantine, the Tsar never issued a decree formally clarifying that he considered the 1911 union to be an equal marriage.[82]  The First World War erupted in August 1914, and the young bridegroom, Prince Bagration, was killed in action at the front in May 1915.  Less than two years later, the Romanoffs themselves were toppled from their throne.


"The nagging question of Russia's violation of its 1783 treaty obligations arose again in exile.  In 1946, Prince Irakly Bagration of Moukhrani, father of the present head of the Georgian Royal House, married as his second wife a member of the Spanish Royal Family, Infanta Maria de las Mercedes of Spain, who was mentioned above.  (Prince Irakly's first wife had died in childbirth in 1944, giving birth to the present Prince George.)  At the time of the 1946 marriage, the bride's father, Infante Ferdinand of Spain, wrote to the Grand Duke Wladimir, head of the Russian Imperial Family, to ask what the Russian attitude was on the royal status of the Bagrations.


"Grand Duke Wladimir examined the question, assisted by his uncle, Grand Duke Andrew of Russia, who then was next in the line of succession.[83]  He was also advised by a prominent Georgian historian.[84]  The Grand Duke recognised immediately that the Bagrations had sat on a royal throne and therefore were ipso facto of royal status.  His conclusion was reinforced by his study of the 1783 treaty, especially the provision guaranteeing forever the royal status of the Bagration dynasty.  One suspects too that he must have realised that Russia's treatment of the Bagrations was based purely on "power politics", not on legal reasoning;[85]  indeed, as stated before, the 1783 treaty obligations made Russia's actions illegal.


"Grand Duke Wladimir issued the following decree:  'Act of the Head of the Imperial House, 5th December 1946:  His Royal Highness the Infante don Ferdinand…, when his daughter the Infanta Maria Mercedes was about to contract a marriage with Prince Irakly Bagration of Moukhrani, asked me whether…I could consider the proposed marriage to be an equal one.  My reply, which was conveyed to the Infante through the intermediary of the Spanish minister in Berne, the Conde de Bailen, was in the affirmative, in as much as, after prolonged and diligent study of the history of Georgia and the Georgian question, and after consulting my uncle, His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Andrew, brother of my late Father,…I consider it right and proper to recognise the royal status of the senior branch of the Bagration family, as well as the right of the members to bear the title of Prince of Georgia and the style of Royal Highness.  The present head of the family is Prince George.  If Almighty God, in His Mercy, allows the rebirth of our great empire, I consider it right that the Georgian language should be restored for use in the internal administration of Georgia and in her educational establishments.  The Russian language should be obligatory for general relations within the Empire.  (Signed)  Wladimir.'


"By his 1946 declaration, Grand Duke Wladimir carried to completion what had been begun in 1911 by his father's first cousin, Nicholas II:  namely, the rectification of Russia's violation of those provisions of the 1783 treaty guaranteeing the royal status of the Bagrations.  It is always within the authority of the head of a formerly reigning dynasty to be the final arbiter on the question of whether a marriage is equal for purposes of the dynasty's laws.  Archduke Otto, head of the deposed Austrian-Hungarian imperial house of Habsburg, and Prince Louis-Ferdinand, late head of the deposed German imperial house of Hohenzollern, have exercised the same authority with respect to the marriages of members of their dynasties.


"It was in connection with his examination of the 'Georgian question' in 1946 that Grand Duke Wladimir came to know Princess Leonida Bagration, sister of Prince Irakly and sister-in-law of the Spanish Infanta.  (The Grand Duke had close relations of his own within the Spanish Royal Family:  Infanta Beatrice of Spain was his mother's sister and Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain was his mother's first cousin).  Grand Duke Wladimir contracted an equal marriage when he wed Princess Leonida in 1948.  Their only child, Grand Duchess Maria, was born in 1953.  Their marriage lasted 44 years, until the Grand Duke's death in 1992."[86]








[1] The writer, a Juris Doctor and practicing lawyer, was formerly in charge of the legal section of the United States Embassy in Paris.  He is a student of the history and laws of the Russian dynasty, and he served for a number of years, until April 1992, as the late Grand Duke Wladimir's personal lawyer.  In the latter capacity, working in collaboration with the Grand Duke's chancellor, the late Ivan Ivanovich Bilibin, he had occasion to familiarize himself with the intricacies of the Russian succession laws.  As head of the dynasty from October 1938 until his death in April 1992, the Grand Duke Wladimir was personally very conversant with the complexities of these laws.  In this respect, he was a great exception:  over the years many people have purported to speak authoritatively about the succession laws, but very few of them (including many living descendants of members of the Russian dynasty) have had more than the most elementary understanding of what the laws actually say.  [This essay, The Russian Imperial Succession, was translated into Russian by N. Dmitrovskii-Baikov and published in Russia under the title Rossiiskoe Imperatorskoe prestolonasledie (Moscow, 2001, ISBN 5-900053-024-0), with an introduction by Viktor Nikolayevich Yaroshenko, Trade Representative of the Russian Federation in France and, under Yeltsin, the first Minister of Foreign Economic Development of the Russian Federation. It is the fourth volume of the “Imperial Standard” series of books issued by the Biblioteka Muzeia Russkogo Flaga.]

[2] The author of the unsigned article will be referred to in these pages as "Mr. X".  What is useful about "Mr. X's" article is that it groups together in one document many of the fallacious arguments which have been repeated from time to time to oppose Russian legitimism and which erroneously purport to be based upon the Russian succession laws.

[3] The term "Kirillovichi" refers to the descendants of the Grand Duke Kirill of Russia, senior first cousin of the Emperor Nicholas II.  The Grand Duke Kirill at the fall of the monarchy in March 1917 was, by primogeniture, third in line to the Russian throne.  In July 1918, he succeeded as head of the imperial dynasty following the murders of Emperor Nicholas II and of the two dynasts who had been first and second in line to the throne:  respectively, the Grand Duke-Tsesarevich Alexei (only son of Nicholas II) and the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich (only living brother of Nicholas II).  The Grand Duke Kirill at his death in 1938 was succeeded as head of the dynasty by his only son, the Grand Duke Wladimir, who in turn at his death in 1992 was succeeded by his only child, the Grand Duchess Maria, present head of the dynasty.  

[4] Grand Duchess Maria’s lawful position as dynastic head recently has been challenged by a morganatic pretender, her distant relation (a third cousin once removed), Prince Nicholas Romanoff.   Prince Nicholas Romanoff, however, is not a member of the dynasty, because his mother was not of royal birth, as required under the Russian succession laws.  Because he is not a member of the dynasty, his claim to be head of the dynasty has no basis in law.  His adherents seem to ignore the fact that the succession laws required each dynast to be born of an equal marriage, that is, born of a marriage of a dynast to a spouse of royal birth (or, to be more precise, to a spouse who was a member of a royal or sovereign dynasty).  Instead, his followers overlook the problem of the morganatic (or unequal) marriage of his parents and appear to base their claim on his being, by primogeniture, "the senior male line descendant of the Romanoff dynasty".  The flaw in this reasoning is that succession by primogeniture applied only to dynasts, not to those who were non-dynasts on account of being born of a morganatic union between a dynast and a spouse not of royal birth.  In any event, Prince Nicholas Romanoff is not even the senior male line morganatic descendant, because several males of the Ilyinsky family (descendants of the morganatic marriage between Grand Duke Dmitry of Russia and Miss Audrey Emery) are ahead of him genealogically.   As explained elsewhere in this essay, the title "Prince Romanoff" assumed socially by so many morganatic descendants of the Russian dynasty is a subject of controversy, because the title was invented in emigration and has no basis in Russian imperial law.  Purists therefore might quibble about the legality of the style of "Prince Romanoff", while others might well view the use in society of a self-assumed courtesy title which never existed in imperial Russia as harmless enough, given the fact that, although not dynasts themselves, its users are the direct descendants of dynasts.  It is unfortunate that, in direct violation of the laws of the dynasty, several morganatic descendants who for many decades had referred to themselves by the invented style of "Prince Romanoff" have in the 1990s gone a step further and begun to use the title of "Prince of Russia", a designation that by definition may not be borne by morganatic descendants of Russian dynasts.

[5] As discussed in Footnote 3, Grand Duke Kirill, who was third in line to the Russian throne at the time of the March 1917 abdication of Nicholas II, succeeded as head of the dynasty in July 1918 upon the execution of Nicholas II and the latter's son and brother.  In his manifesto of 31 August/13 September 1924, while in exile in France, he proclaimed himself Emperor of Russia, following the precedent of such kings as Charles II of England and Louis XVIII of France, who in exile took the title of king following the respective executions of Charles I in England and of Louis XVI in France (and the subsequent death in captivity of the latter’s son Louis XVII). 

[6] The Russian laws governing membership of the imperial house, succession to the throne and other dynastic subjects are contained in the Fundamental State Laws of the Russian Empire and the Statute of the Imperial Family (codification of 1906, as amended through 1911).  These laws, referred to collectively as "the succession laws" in this essay, are sometimes described as "the Pauline law”, because their original version was promulgated in 1797 by Emperor Paul I.

[7] From time to time, female dynasts renounced their succession rights upon marriage into a foreign dynasty.  One example was Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna, who renounced upon her marriage in 1879 to the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.  Another example was Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, who renounced upon her 1846 marriage to the future King of Wurttemberg.  A dynast was allowed to renounce his succession rights under Article 37.  Article 38 specified that such a renunciation was valid only upon its being announced publicly and given legal effect.  There is no provision allowing a dynast to renounce the succession rights of his minor children.  Thus, a common view held among specialists was that the instrument of abdication signed by Emperor Nicholas II in March 1917 was partially illegal:  not in respect of his own abdication but to the extent it also purported to effect a renunciation of the succession rights of his minor son, the Grand Duke-Tsesarevich Alexei.  According to this view, the position of head of the dynasty passed in March 1917 to Alexei (murdered in July 1918) rather than to Nicholas II's brother, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich (murdered in June 1918).  And indeed the succession laws did restrict renunciations to those circumstances in which the renunciation posed no difficulties to the further succession to the throne.

[8]  For at least the last 80 years of the monarchy, male dynasts were listed in the court calendar by primogeniture in the order of their succession to the throne, while female dynasts were listed according to other criteria unrelated to the succession.  From 1825 to 1831, however, in the early years of the reign of Nicholas I, a unique situation existed:  there was a male dynast (Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich, younger brother of Alexander I and older brother of Nicholas I)  who, although remaining a dynast and continuing to be listed in the court calendar, had publicly renounced his succession rights.  (Due to his morganatic marriage, Constantine, first in the line of succession during the reign of Alexander I, had in 1822 chosen to sign a renunciation of his succession rights in favor of his younger brother, later Nicholas I.  This renunciation was accepted and given effect upon being made public in 1825.)  Accordingly, in 1830, Constantine, although without succession rights, was, as one of the five living male dynasts, listed in the court calendar at a place directly after Nicholas I’s sons, reflecting the personal precedence given to him at court by his imperial brother;  but one would exclude Constantine in calculating the order in the succession of the other male dynasts then living.  From this unique precedent, one can surmise that, if a male dynast were to effect a valid public renunciation of his succession rights, he would, as a dynast, still be listed in the court calendar, but in reckoning other dynasts’ place in the line of succession one would exclude from one’s numerical count any male dynast who had validly renounced his succession rights.  In the event, Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich was the only male dynast to effect such a renunciation between the time of the promulgation of the Pauline law in 1797 and the publication of the last court calendar in 1917.

[9] The laws set forth a straightforward procedure to follow when a baby was born who qualified as a dynast.  Under Articles 135 and 136, the parent immediately had to inform the emperor in writing of the child's name and birth date.  The emperor then would order that the name of the child be entered in the Genealogical Book of the Imperial Family (maintained by the emperor's chancellery) and that the parents be informed that the child was included in the imperial family (Article 137).  It was of course the emperor's decision as to whether a child satisfied the requirements for dynastic membership.  Once he entered the child's name in the Genealogical Book, the issue was closed.  Under Article 142, inclusion of a child's name in the Genealogical Book was proof of membership in the imperial house.  The Genealogical Book determined whose names were included as dynasts on the official court calendar and was the basis for entitlement to pensions and apanages.  The two daughters of the Grand Duke Kirill born before the fall of the monarchy were entered in the Genealogical Book, pursuant to the decree of the Emperor Nicholas II dated 15 July 1907.

[10] Article 183 specifies:  "Permission of the reigning emperor is necessary for the marriage of every member of the Imperial House…”

[11] Article 36 states:  "Children born of a marriage between a member of the Imperial Family and a person not of corresponding birth, that is, not belonging to a royal or sovereign house, have no right of succession to the Throne."  Article 126 states:  "All persons of imperial blood who are born of a marriage between a person of imperial blood and a person of corresponding birth which marriage was authorized by the reigning emperor are recognized as members of the Imperial House."

[12] Her only son, the Grand Duke Wladimir of Russia, was at his birth in 1917 20th in line of succession to the British throne.

[13] "The consort of His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Kirill Wladimirovich is to be styled Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna, with the predicate of Imperial Highness, and the daughter born of the marriage of Grand Duke Kirill Wladimirovich with Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna, named Maria in holy baptism, is to be recognized as a Princess of the Imperial Blood, with the predicate of Highness belonging to great-grandchildren of an Emperor."

[14] At the time of the 1907 decree, the only child born of the marriage was H.H. Princess Maria Kirillovna of Russia.  Later two other children were born, H.H. Princess Kira of Russia and H.H. Prince Wladimir of Russia.  As stated before, in July 1918, following the murders of Nicholas II and of the only son and the only brother of Nicholas II, Grand Duke Kirill automatically became head of the dynasty, by operation of Article 53.  Article 53 states:  "On the demise 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 demise of his predecessor."  Thus, when the Grand Duke Kirill became head of the dynasty in July 1918 (or emperor, in monarchist reckoning), his children (Maria, Kira and the 11 month old Wladimir) were advanced to grand ducal rank by automatic operation of law.  Article 146 bestows the titles of grand duke or grand duchess on the children and grandchildren of an emperor.  On 31 August/13 September 1924, as head of the dynasty, Grand Duke Kirill took the title of Emperor and formally bestowed upon his 7-year-old son Wladimir the title of Grand Duke-Tsesarevich. The Russian title of grand duke is, like that of tsar, one of the most venerable titles of the Russian monarchy.  Until 1886, all male dynasts were grand dukes.  In 1886, however, there were so many male dynasts that the succession appeared secure and Emperor Alexander III felt that he could safely limit the grand ducal title to the sons and grandsons of emperors, giving to more distant dynasts the title of Prince of the Imperial Blood (Prince of Russia).  His intention was not to bring about the eventual extinction of the ancient title of grand duke but rather to limit the designation to the senior members of the family.  He could not have foreseen that 18 dynasts, including 9 of the 17 grand dukes, would be murdered during the Revolution.  Nor could he have foreseen that in the decades following the abdication of Nicholas II the surviving dynasts would contract 26 morganatic marriages but only 4 equal marriages.  [These four equal marriages were those of the Grand Duke Wladimir (who married a Bagration princess of Georgia), his sister Maria (who married the Prince of Leiningen), his sister Kira (who married the head of the Prussian Royal House), and his daughter Maria (who married a Prince of Prussia).]  It would be nonsensical to argue that by amending the succession laws in 1886 Alexander III intended in any way to prevent the children and grandchildren of future heads of the dynasty (considered by monarchists as de jure emperors) from using the grand ducal title.  And the fact that the only equal marriages in the Russian dynasty after 1917 were contracted by the descendants of the Grand Duke Kirill shows that the senior line was the only branch of the dynasty that considered itself duty-bound, generation after generation in the post-revolutionary years, to have an eligible heir available.  A quarter century ago, the Grand Duke Wladimir's head of chancellery and private secretary, the late Ivan Bilibin (B.A. Oxon.), described the reasons which impelled the Grand Duke Kirill to take the title of Emperor:  "After the defeat of the Whites in the Civil War, which followed three unconstitutional acts [Note:  the abdication of Nicholas II not only for himself but also for his son;  the conditional abdication of Nicholas II's brother Michael;  and the provisional government's contravention of its terms of reference by declaring Russia a republic prior to the convening of a constituent assembly to decide upon the form of government]…, the dynasty had to reassert its rightful position.  In 1922, when the fate of the late imperial family was still regarded as uncertain, the Grand Duke Kirill assumed the office of Curator of the Throne.  In 1924 the Grand Duke was convinced that the late imperial family and the Grand Duke Michael had been assassinated, and issued a manifesto in which he assumed the title of Emperor.  An instruction was issued at the same time that he would use this title only among Russians.  This drastic step was regarded as essential in order to make it clear that the acts of 1917 were null and void and that the dynasty was in no way affected by them..  When the Grand Duke Kirill died in 1938, his son and heir, the Grand Duke Wladimir, issued a manifesto in which he stated:  'Following my father's example, in profound awareness of the sacred duty incumbent upon me, I assume by inheritance, …[the position] of Head of the Imperial House of Russia which has devolved upon me by right of succession [and] all the rights and duties which belong to me by virtue of the Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire and the Statute of the Imperial Family.'  The words 'following my father's example' put it beyond doubt that the Grand Duke assumed the title of Emperor, but he did not say so specifically, as the Grand Duke Kirill did in his manifesto of 1924.  An instruction was issued at the same time from the Grand Duke's Office, stating that the Head of the Imperial House would continue to use the title of Grand Duke, thus extending to all the 'incognito' which the Grand Duke Kirill had limited to his relations with foreigners.  At the same time yet another instruction was issued, stating that a number of people had sworn allegiance to the Head of the Imperial House as Emperor and that he had accepted their oaths.  I think this gives a very clear picture of the Grand Duke's views in this matter.  He considers that his father's assumption and use of the Imperial Title was necessary in order to secure the future of the dynasty.  As this has already been done by his father, he does not consider it necessary for him to continue the use of the Imperial Title, which in conditions of exile often causes unnecessary embarrassment.  The latent Imperial Title, however, implied in his accession manifesto, secures the future of the dynasty, including, for instance, the perpetuation of the grand ducal title for future generations, which otherwise would have gone into abeyance."   (Walter J .P. Curley, Kings Without Crowns (1973), pp. 85-86).

[15] Through her Russian mother, Princess Victoria Melita was a first cousin of Emperor Nicholas II.  Through her English father, she was also a first cousin of Empress Alexandra.

[16] The wife of Grand Duke Nicholas was Princess Stana of Montenegro, one of the daughters of the personally colorful and impressive King Nicholas of Montenegro.  She had divorced her first husband, the Duke of Leuchtenberg, in 1906 and married the Grand Duke six months later.

[17] Articles 194 and 195 provide for the divorce of dynasts.  Article 196 provides for their remarriage following divorce.  In 1820, 23 years after promulgation of the succession laws, Emperor Alexander I granted a divorce to his brother Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich so that the latter could remarry.  This did not impair Constantine's succession rights, which remained unaffected until he affirmatively renounced them in 1822. In the final years of the monarchy, Nicholas II accorded divorces to his sister (Grand Duchess Olga) and to his first cousin (Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna).  In the Orthodox faith, one is permitted a maximum of two divorces.

[18] I am grateful to Professor Russell Martin of Westminster College (Ph.D., Harvard University) for sharing with me his detailed knowledge of the Russian Orthodox Church and its connections over the centuries with the Romanoff dynasty.  Dr. Martin has correctly pointed out that the Russian church rarely enforced the traditional canonical rules against marriage within certain degrees of consanguinity.  It is important to note that not only first cousin marriages technically violated the consanguinity rules, but also marriages between first cousins once removed and even between second cousins:  there was no such thing as different "degrees of validity", so all such unions would equally transgress the strict letter of Orthodox rules.  Nonetheless, there were innumerable valid marriages in the history of the Russian monarchy that technically violated the consanguinity rules of the Orthodox church, including the unions of Tsar Ivan III in 1472 to Zoe Paleologa;  of Emperor Peter III to Empress Catherine II (second cousins);  and, after promulgation in 1797 of the Pauline laws, of Emperor Nicholas I in 1817 to Princess Charlotte of Prussia (second cousins);  of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich in 1824 to Princess Charlotte of Wurttemberg (first cousins once removed);  of Grand Duke Constantine Nikolayevich in 1848 to Princess Alexandra of Saxe-Altenburg (second cousins);  of Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich (great-grandfather of the Prince Nicholas Romanoff of today) in 1856 to Duchess Alexandra of Oldenburg (first cousins once removed);  of Grand Duchess Helen Wladimirovna in 1882 to Prince Nicholas of Greece (second cousins); of Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovich in 1884 to Princess Elisabeth of Saxe-Altenburg (second cousins);  of Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich (assassinated 1905) in 1884 to Princess Elizabeth of Hesse and the Rhine (murdered 1918) (first cousins once removed);  of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich in 1889 to Princess Alexandra of Greece (first cousins once removed); of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich in 1894 to Grand Duchess Xenia (first cousins once removed);  of Grand Duke George Mikhailovich in 1900 to Princess Marie of Greece (first cousins once removed);  and even of Emperor Nicholas II in 1894 to Empress Alexandra (second cousins).  The spouses of these marriages all received their husband's rank, and children born of these marriages were not disqualified in any way as dynasts.  Grand Duchess Serge Alexandrovich (Princess Elizabeth of Hesse and the Rhine), who became a nun after the assassination of her husband in 1905 and who was murdered by the Bolsheviks in horrific circumstances with four male dynasts in July 1918, was canonized in 1981 by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and in the 1990s by the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia.  As to unions contracted by female dynasts, one can cite the 1809 marriage of Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna (sister of Alexander I and Nicholas I) to her first cousin, Duke George of Oldenburg.  This marriage, like the others mentioned, received the consent of the Emperor, and the Oldenburg descendants of the marriage, who settled in St. Petersburg and became Orthodox, included several Russians generals.  These Oldenburgs, through their Romanoff descent in the female line, had eventual succession rights to the Russian throne.  A great-grandson of the marriage, Duke Peter of Oldenburg, married in 1901 his second cousin, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, sister of Emperor Nicholas II. 

[19] Professor Richard Pipes, Russia Under the Old Regime (1974), p. 241.

[20] The present writer is unaware of opposition of any kind on the part of the Holy Synod to imperial approval of the marriage.  Indeed, it appears that the Synod communicated to Nicholas II a favorable view of the marriage.  See In the Service of the Imperial House of Russia, 1917-1941 by Rear-Admiral H.G. Graf (private secretary of Grand Duke Kirill) (privately published, 1999), pp. 554 –5.  Records establish that the Empress Alexandra nursed a lingering resentment against her first cousin and ex-sister-in-law, Princess Victoria Melita, for having divorced Alexandra's German brother, but even Father Yanysheff, the Confessor of the Empress, expressed the view that the degree of kinship between the betrothed posed no significant obstacle to an eventual marriage.  The marriage ultimately was performed in an Orthodox chapel by a Russian Orthodox priest.  Professor Martin has explained that a corollary of the Orthodox church's view of marriage as a sacrament is the notion that once an Orthodox marriage has been performed and the sacrament dispensed, the sacrament is deemed to be dispensed for all time.  In other words, the marriage is valid and cannot be canonically attacked after the fact.

[21] Act of Emperor Paul I, 4 April 1797:  "…Having established the order of succession, I shall explain its aim, which is this:   that the State never be without a successor; that the successor be determined by the law itself;   that there be not the slightest doubt as to the successor..."

[22] This remained the position of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, or the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, throughout the Soviet period. (The tenure of these three successive chief hierarchs was from 1922 to 1985).  Metropolitan Anthony ordered prayers to be said for “Emperor Kirill Wladimirovich” in all the churches under his jurisdiction, and his successor Metropolitan Anastasy immediately recognized Grand Duke Wladimir as dynastic head upon the latter’s succession in 1938.  See In the Service of the Imperial House of Russia, 1917-1941 by Rear-Admiral H.G. Graf (private secretary of Grand Duke Kirill) (privately published, 1999), pp.  214, 291-292, 391-392, and 412.   In his researches, Professor Russell Martin has unearthed a fascinating memorandum written by the Synod hierarch and ascetic, Bishop John of Shanghai and San Francisco, shortly after the death of Grand Duke Kirill.  The memorandum urged the commemoration of Grand Duke Wladimir as dynastic head in all services of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.  It was presented by Bishop John (later an archbishop and subsequently canonized as St. John of Shanghai) to the Synod of Bishops of the Church Abroad in 1939.  Professor Martin also has translated the minutes of a council of the Synod of Bishops of the Church Abroad, held in Yugoslavia in September 1939; this was the first bishops’ council to convene after the death of Grand Duke Kirill.  The minutes reflect a unanimous vote to approve a letter of loyal greeting to “His Imperial Highness the pious Sovereign and Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich, Head of the Russian Imperial House.”   In 1984, with the approval of the Synod, Archbishop Anthony, head of the diocese of Los Angeles and Central California and a very senior hierarch of the Synod, issued (in Russian, French and English) an excellent and authoritative book on the succession, entitled Succession to the Imperial Throne of Russia and with an introduction by Prince Cyril Toumanoff, professor emeritus of history at Georgetown University, a recognized authority on nobiliary and dynastic questions, and High Historical Consultant of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.  In essence, the book identified Grand Dukes Kirill and Wladimir as the two successive dynastic heads since the exile of the dynasty;  it recognized that Prince Vassily of Russia (died 1989), then the only other living male dynast, was first in line of succession after Grand Duke Wladimir;  and it asserted that, upon the deaths of Grand Duke Wladimir and Prince Vassily, the succession would pass to the daughter of the former, Grand Duchess Maria Wladimirovna, and then through the female line to her son, Grand Duke George.  It also explained that, should the line of dynasts descended from Grand Duke Wladimir die out, the succession technically would then pass to the appropriate descendant of the equal marriage of the late Grand Duchess Maria Kirillovna (elder daughter of Grand Duke Kirill) to Charles, Prince of Leiningen.  (Following the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the dynasties that had occupied the thrones of the former co-states of the Holy Roman Empire were denominated in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna as "mediatised houses", which gave their members equality of birth for purposes of marriage with dynasts of royal and sovereign houses.  Grand Duke Kirill, like the Almanach de Gotha, considered the princely house of Leiningen to be a mediatised house possessing equality of birth.   See Almanach de Gotha, Part II [1938 ed.]).  Although the legitimist monarchism of the Church Abroad remained intact throughout the Soviet period, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of an independent patriarchate in Moscow produced enormous strains within the émigré church.  The decision of Grand Duke Wladimir, in the final six months of his life and in the face of strong opposition from several émigré bishops, to visit St. Petersburg in 1991 and confer privately with Patriarch Alexei II caused great resentment and bitterness within certain segments of the Church Abroad.  In May 2007, the Patriarchate and the Church Abroad formally reconciled during a solemn ceremony in Moscow during which Patriarch Alexei II and Metropolitan Laurus of the Church Abroad signed an Act of Canonical Communion.  The Church Abroad thereupon came under the Patriarch, although retaining in some respects a quasi-autonomy.

[23] In autumn 1991, Anatoly Sobchak, then mayor of St. Petersburg and for a period of time a member of the cabinet, invited the Grand Duke Wladimir to attend as special guest of honor the November 1991 ceremonies in which the former imperial capital would revert to its original name of St. Petersburg.  Although the Grand Duke was in failing health and deeply wished to set foot on Russian soil as soon as possible, he felt that he had to risk cancellation of the trip on a matter of principle:  that is, he absolutely declinedto apply for a Russian visa, on the basis that he was Russian and that the Bolshevik order depriving the imperial dynasty of Russian citizenship was illegal and invalid.  He expressed the view that to seek a Russian visa would constitute a denial of his Russian nationality and an acceptance of the Bolshevik decree.  President Yeltsin then personally intervened and approved an order allowing the Grand Duke Wladimir and the Grand Duchess Leonida to enter Russia without visas.  They flew on a private jet from Paris (having been escorted to the plane by the Russian Ambassador to Paris and his military attaché) to St. Petersburg.  In a cable from the U.S. Consulate General in St. Petersburg to the State Department, an American diplomat in attendance at the Grand Duke's only press conference during the trip expressed his amazement that, upon the Grand Duke's entry into the auditorium, the many Russian journalists among the 300 Russian and foreign journalists present rose spontaneously to their feet in unison as a mark of respect.  In early 1992, during President Yeltsin's state visit to France, the Grand Duke had an opportunity personally to thank the Russian president when they met at the Russian embassy in Paris.  At the Grand Duke's death in April 1992, the Russian Government, acting at the behest of President Yeltsin and the Patriarch, issued a decree allowing his interment in the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, the traditional burial place of Russian emperors and dynasts from the death of Peter the Great in 1725 to the fall of the monarchy.  Grand Duke Wladimir was the first Romanoff to be buried there since the death of Grand Duke Constantine in 1915.  Following the burial of Grand Duke Wladimir, the remains of his parents, Grand Duke and Grand Duchess Kirill, were disinterred from their crypt in Coburg, Germany and buried with military honors in the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in 1995.  The remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family were buried there in July 1998; in July 1918, their Bolshevik murderers had hidden the remains of the Emperor and his family in a secret, unmarked pit near Ekaterinburg, but they were unearthed by archaeologists in July 1991.  And the remains of Nicholas II’s mother, Empress Maria Feodorovna, originally buried in Denmark in 1928, were interred there in September 2006, next to her husband, Emperor Alexander III.

[24] In his eulogy at the funeral mass on April 29, 1992, before dozens of bishops and priests and some 15,000 mourners in St. Isaac Cathedral, St. Petersburg, the Patriarch stated in part as follows:  "I was very impressed by his deep faith, his love for Russia and her people, whom he wished to help…His whole life outside, all his feelings and efforts, Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich dedicated to a country he considered his own…His faith and long patience were not in vain.  On the eve of his passage to the other world, he stepped on his native soil…On his return from Russia, he never ceased to dedicate all his strength to assist his country, and despite his fragile health, he went to the United States to persuade various American business circles to help Russia and to have faith in his country.  He died during this trip."  In a ukase signed on June 10, 2004, the Grand Duchess Maria, as head of the Russian Imperial House, awarded the Order of St. Andrew, the senior imperial order of chivalry, to Patriarch Alexis II.  The Patriarch accepted the order in a ceremony held on June 11, 2004.  In his official letter of thanks to the Grand Duchess, the Patriarch addressed her as head of the Imperial House.  In 2009, following the death of Patriarch Alexei II, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad was enthroned as Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and all Russia.  In a letter dated October 6, 2009, Patriarch Kirill wrote as follows to Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna, widow of Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich, on her 95th birthday:  “Your Imperial Highness! I send you my heartfelt congratulations on your 95th birthday. Over the course of many years, and during a time of schism for our people and decay of their spiritual foundations, the heavy burden of leading the Russian Imperial House fell upon you and your husband, Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich.  You bore this burden with steadfastness and patience, helping our countrymen of that time to reconnect with their nearly entirely lost historical traditions of service to the Fatherland.  The Russian Church can firmly testify to the fact that the Romanoff Family has preserved the spark of faith and its fidelity to the Fatherland. Today, having passed through an evil period, our people are returning again to their spiritual roots and reconciling themselves with their own historical past.  And it is of enormous significance that the House of Romanoff now enjoys very close ties to the Motherland. The Lord has blessed you with great longevity.  On this important day, I send you my heartfelt wishes for good health, peace and prosperity, and the acknowledgement from your countrymen of your many and important services to the Motherland. May God bless and abide with you.”  In September 2006, immediately following the ceremony of interment of Nicholas II’s mother, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, whose remains had been transported from Denmark to St. Petersburg for burial next to her husband, Patriarch Kirill, while still Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, had accepted from the hands of the Grand Duchess Maria, as head of the Imperial House, the devices of the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky, one of the dynasty’s orders of chivalry.


[25] The English spouse of the Grand Duke Kirill was baptized as a member of the Church of England.  After her marriage to Grand Duke Kirill, she converted to Orthodoxy.  Her Russian mother, despite marrying into the British Royal Family, had remained devoutly Orthodox and had maintained an Orthodox chapel in her English residence.  From early childhood, Princess Victoria Melita, through the influence of her mother, is said by one of her biographers to have been drawn towards the Orthodox faith.  (The spouse of the Grand Duke Wladimir has been Orthodox throughout her life.)

[26] In 1797, the only Orthodox kingdoms in Europe were the Russian Empire of the Romanoff dynasty, and the two kingdoms ruled (until 1801 and 1810, respectively) by different branches of the Bagration dynasty:  the Kingdom of Georgia and the Kingdom of Imeretia.  The Orthodox monarchies of Greece, Serbia, Rumania, Bulgaria and Montenegro only came into being in the 19th century.

[27] These four were the Emperor Nicholas II himself (then only 37), his only son Alexei (who was 1 year old and whose haemophilia was not yet entirely apparent to the family), Grand Duke Michael (the Emperor's 26 year old younger brother, who was unmarried and was still expected to contract a dynastic marriage), and Grand Duke Wladimir Alexandrovich (Grand Duke Kirill's 58 year old father).

[28] In addition, Article 187 provides that the marriage of grand dukes and grand duchesses was to be announced by manifesto listing the title of the newlyweds and, "if the wife has converted to the Orthodox faith", with an indication of the name given to her at baptism.

[29] Article 128 states that the eldest son of the emperor and the eldest son in each generation descending from that eldest son of the emperor are each considered an heir to the throne.  This clarification helps place Article 185 in context.

[30] Proof that the children of Grand Duke Constantine and his Lutheran wife were in the line of succession is provided not only by their inclusion in the Genealogical Book of the Imperial Family and in the official court calendars but also by the decree issued by Nicholas II on 24 August 1911 with respect to Constantine's daughter, Princess Tatiana of Russia.   Princess Tatiana renounced her rights of succession upon her 1911 marriage to a prince of the Bagration dynasty.  Nicholas II decreed as follows:  "H.H. Princess Tatiana Constantinovna has presented to Us, over her own signature, a renunciation of her right of succession to the Imperial Throne of all the Russias, which belongs to her as a member of the Imperial House of Russia.  The Governing Senate will take the necessary steps to make this public."  The present writer has italicized a portion of the decree to illustrate the fact that if one was a member of the dynasty, one was ipso facto in the line of succession.

[31] In his 1874 manifesto, Emperor Alexander II announced as follows:  "To all our faithful subjects.  By the grace of God and with our blessing and that of our beloved spouse, our beloved son the Grand Duke Wladimir Alexandrovich has entered into marriage with the Duchess Marie, daughter of the sovereign Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin…In announcing this happy event…and in ordaining that our beloved daughter-in-law, the spouse of the Grand Duke Wladimir Alexandrovich, be named Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, with the title of Imperial Highness, we are convinced that our faithful subjects will lift their ardent prayers at the same time as ours to Almighty and Merciful God to accord constant and steadfast happiness to the newly weds dear to our heart."

[32] For example, the third son of the marriage, Grand Duke Andrew, was born in 1879.  On 2 May 1879, Emperor Alexander II issued a manifesto announcing the birth of "our grandson named Andrew, … the newborn grand duke" and describing the birth as an "augmentation of our House by the grace of God."

[33]  The decree stated:  "Our beloved aunt, the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna…by the inclination of her soul has wished to unite herself to us in the faith and in the communion of prayers and the sacraments.  Today, to our great joy, she has received our faith and been anointed.  In announcing to all our faithful subjects this much desired event, we ordain that Her Imperial Highness be titled Orthodox Grand Duchess."

[34] Indeed, as we know, Alexander II himself was assassinated in 1881 at age 62, Alexander III died from kidney disease in 1894 at age 49, Nicholas II was assassinated in 1918 at age 50, and George died from tuberculosis in 1899 at age 28.

[35] Dr. Stanislaw V. Dumin found this memorandum in the Russian State Historical Archive in Moscow.  I am grateful to him for bringing it to my attention and to Professor Russell Martin for his English translation.  It is in the Archive at Fond 468, subsection 46, number 63. The text states as follows:  “Having allowed my son, Grand Duke Wladimir Alexandrovich, to enter into marriage with Her Grand Ducal Highness Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin; and indicating our agreement that Her Highness Duchess Marie, in accordance with her special familial circumstances, is not required before her betrothal and marriage to convert to the Orthodox faith, I deem it right to establish in this present Familial Decree the following unalterable rules with respect to this marriage: (1) If, by God’s inscrutable will, the succession to the Throne should fall to my son, Grand Duke Wladimir Alexandrovich, and his spouse should remain in the Lutheran faith, then my son, Grand Duke Wladimir Alexandrovich, in accordance with Article 142 of the Fundamental Laws, may not take up the right of succession other than after the conversion of his spouse to the Orthodox faith; (2) If the spouse of Grand Duke Wladimir Alexandrovich should not convert to the Orthodox Faith at the time of the passing of the Succession to him, then he should be regarded as having of his own free will renounced his said rights, in full accordance with the contents of Articles 15 and 16 of the Fundamental Laws; (3) If, by God’s inscrutable will, the spouse of Grand Duke Wladimir Alexandrovich, having not converted to the Orthodox faith, should die before the passing to him of the right of succession, then, his marriage to a person of another faith having ended, he will preserve his right of succession to the Throne;  (4) In the event indicated above in section 2 concerning the renunciation of Grand Duke Wladimir Alexandrovich, and in the same manner if, by God’s inscrutable will, Grand Duke Wladimir Alexandrovich should die before his spouse should convert to the Orthodox faith, the children born of this marriage retain full rights to the succession and are Members of the Imperial House in the order of succession set by the Fundamental Laws.”  The memorandum was signed by Emperor Alexander II, by the Tsesarevich Alexander, and by the bridegroom, Grand Duke Wladimir Alexandrovich.  This document may explain the comment attributed to Emperor Alexander III in the diary of the state secretary A.A. Polovstev that, if he and his sons had perished in the Borki train crash of 1888, the throne would have passed not to his younger brother Grand Duke Wladimir Alexandrovich but instead to the latter’s son, Grand Duke Kirill Wladimirovich, then 12 years old.  See Dr. Dumin’s analysis of this document in the Chronicle of the Historical and Genealogical Society, issue 14/15 (58/59), Moscow, 2009.  (The numbering of the Fundamental Laws was different in 1874 than in 1917, when the monarchy fell.)      


[36] In his book Always A Grand Duke (1938, p. 212), the Dowager Empress’s son-in-law, Grand Duke Alexander of Russia, wrote of her: “She lived for three more years [until 1928] but aside from following her usual routine she evidenced no interest in what was happening around her … There was only one Emperor of Russia as far as she was concerned – her son Nicky.  She was satisfied that he was still alive.  At least she said so.” The Dowager Empress’s elder daughter, Grand Duchess Xenia, wrote to Grand Duke Kirill after his 1924 accession manifesto that the Dowager Empress considered his action premature, because hope that the Dowager Empress’s sons and grandson were still alive should not be abandoned.  See In the Service of the Imperial House of Russia, 1917-1941 by Rear-Admiral H.G. Graf (private secretary of Grand Duke Kirill) (privately published, 1999), p. 78.   In a 1924 letter to Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich, the Dowager Empress wrote:  “…There is no definite news up to now about the fate of my beloved sons and grandson.  I therefore consider the act of Grand Duke Kirill’s proclamation as premature.  Nobody is in the position to deprive me of the last gleam of hope…”  In a letter to the Dowager Empress dated 14 September 1924 and explaining why he felt obliged to assume the title of emperor, Kirill had promised his aunt that he would step aside if her sons or grandson turned out to be alive:  “Should the miracle in which you believe occur and your beloved sons and grandson all be alive, then I will be the first to express my allegiance to my Legitimate Sovereign and will place at his feet all that I have accomplished…Don’t let me down in this difficult moment of my life such as none of our ancestors had to live through.In the Service of the Imperial House of Russia, 1917-1941 by Rear-Admiral H.G. Graf (private secretary of Grand Duke Kirill) (privately published, 1999), p. 76.

[37] Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich was known in the family by the nickname "Nikolasha".  On 2 March 1917, Nicholas II received a telegram from the Grand Duke in which the Grand Duke said it was necessary for him "to beg…on bended knee"  that the Emperor abdicate.  ( Mark Steinberg and Vladimir Khrustalev, The Fall of the Romanovs  [Yale University Press, 1995], pp. 89-90, citing State Archive of the Russian Federation, Document f. 601, op. 1, d. 2102, l. 1-2).  On the afternoon of 2 March, Maj. Gen. Vladimir Voeikov, commandant of the palace, entered the Emperor's railway car to express his grief and amazement at the Emperor's abdication.  In his memoirs, Voeikov described Nicholas II's pointing to the many telegrams on his desk and stating, "What else could I have done when everyone has betrayed me?  And first among them Nikolasha."   Mark Steinberg and Vladimir Khrustalev, The Fall of the Romanovs (Yale University Press, 1995), p. 63, citing V.N. Voeikov, S tsarem i bez tsaria (1936), p. 212.  In his famous diary entry of 2 March, Nicholas II finished his description of the day with this sentence:  "All around me is treachery, cowardice and deceit." In the first volume of his memoirs, Once A Grand Duke (New York, 1932, p. 145), Grand Duke Alexander of Russia, Nicholas II’s brother-in-law, wrote of Nicholas Nikolayevich: “Had Nicholasha advised the Czar on March 2, 1917 to remain with the army and to accept the challenge of the revolution, Mr. Stalin would not have been entertaining Mr. G.B. Shaw in the Kremlin in 1931.”  It is noteworthy that Article 222 provided a means by which an emperor could deprive a dynast of his imperial status on grounds of disobedience or disloyalty.  Nicholas II did not avail himself of this procedure at any point during the tumult of the World War and the Revolution. 

[38] In his memoirs, Grand Duke Kirill described the disorder in the cities, the food shortages in the capital, the increase in crime and violence, the mutinies in military units, and the passivity of the government.  "One could not help feeling that the whole edifice of the exhausted Empire had begun to totter badly and that the collapse was imminent.  If energetic measures had been taken to check the growing storm at that time all might yet have been saved…In the end, during the latter part of February, the mob got out of hand and a mass murder of the police began.  In the barracks reserve contingents of soldiers either arrested or massacred their officers…Those who were in command of the troops in the capital had lost their heads completely.  Next the report of the mutiny of the Baltic Fleet at Helsingfors was received…One or two regiments from the front would have sufficed to re-establish order within a few hours…No one knew at the time what had become of the Emperor, or where he was.  The absence of stability, of someone at the helm, of at least some semblance of direction was felt by all...It was a time of extravagant rumours and there was a complete lack of reliable news.  During the last days of February the anarchy in the metropolis had become such that the Government issued an appeal to all troops and their commanders to show their allegiance to the Government by marching to the Douma and declaring their loyalty.  This measure had been decreed to re-establish some kind of order amid this intolerable chaos.  The Government hoped that if the troops could be got to carry out its emergency measures in the capital, normal conditions might yet be established and the rule of gangsterdom checked for good and all.  Meanwhile, there was no news from Mogilev, only wild rumours.  No one knew the actual whereabouts of the Emperor beyond that he was trying to come to Tsarskoe backed by loyal troops which would help the Imperial train to break through the cordons of disloyal revolutionary contingents.  I was put in a very awkward position by the decree of the Government.  I was the Commander of the Naval Guards, which constituted one of the military contingents of the capital.  The order of the Government, which was the last vestige, even though a sorry one, of authority in St. Petersburg, applied to my men as it did to all other troops, and, further, it applied to me as their commander. I had to decide, therefore, whether I shouldobey that order and take my men to the Douma, or else whether to leave my men leaderless in this dangerous situation by resigning, and thus to let them drift on to the rocks of revolution with the rest.  Hitherto I had succeeded in preserving loyalty and good discipline among them.  They were the only loyal and reliable troops left in the capital…My main concern was to do my utmost to re-establish order in the capital by every means available, even with the sacrifice of my personal pride, so that the Emperor might safely return…[I]f the Emperor only returned backed by loyal troops and order could be re-established then all might yet be saved…The trouble and disorder, because it had not been checked in time, had spread meanwhile to Moscow and other towns.  Russia was collapsing and sinking before our eyes."  On 3 March 1917, however, Grand Duke Kirill learned of the Emperor's abdication and concluded that all had been lost.  "When the troops at the front heard of the disaster [the abdication], they at first refused to believe it…They suspected treason.  Many hardened fighters wept.  They bore no ill will to the Emperor.  They knew that he had been betrayed and abandoned.  The regiments awaited the order to march on the capital to make short work of the traitors.  The order never came.  As soon as I heard what had happened I handed in my resignation, and with a heavy heart went to address my men.  I told them that in my position I could not continue to lead them.  I exhorted them to remain loyal to their country, to keep good discipline, and to obey their superiors; that for twenty years I had been with them and that this was the hardest day of my life."  Grand Duke Kirill, My Life in Russia's Service (1939), pp. 204-213. 

[39] Article 27 specifies that both genders have the right of succession to the throne, with preference to male dynasts by order of primogeniture but with the succession of female dynasts by substitution upon extinction of the male dynasts.  Article 6 provides that, when the throne passes to a female dynast as empress, she has the same supreme and autocratic power that an emperor would have.

[40] Grand Duke Wladimir was head of the house for more than 53 years, from 1938 to 1992, the longest tenure in the history of the dynasty.  Following the death on 23 June 1989 of his dynastic heir (and second cousin once removed) Prince Vassily of Russia, Grand Duke Wladimir clarified in several pronouncements that he was the last living male dynast, and that under the succession laws the position of head of the dynasty would pass upon his death directly to his daughter, Grand Duchess Maria.

[41] In fact, several other individuals, such as the Leiningen and Prussian dynasts descended from the marriages of the two sisters of Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich, would be senior by right of substitution to Princesses Vera and Katherine.

[42] Her heir is her son George, born in March 1981 of her equal marriage to H.R.H. Prince Francis-William of Prussia.  The latter converted to Orthodoxy before his marriage and remains Orthodox.  Grand Duke George's eventual succession as head of the dynasty will mark the first time that the Romanoff succession has passed through the female line since the promulgation of the present succession laws in 1797, but it will not be the first time in the history of the Romanoff dynasty.  In 1762, the Romanoff dynasty technically became extinct in the male line upon the death of the Empress Elisabeth.  The throne then passed to her German nephew, Emperor Peter III, whose mother was a Romanoff grand duchess but whose father was a German prince, the reigning Duke of Holstein-Gottorp.  (In 1742, Peter of Holstein-Gottorp had been summoned to Russia at age 14 by his aunt, the Empress, who created him a Grand Duke of Russia and named him heir to the throne.)  Although after 1762 the dynasty still was known as the House of Romanoff, it had technically become the House of Romanoff-Holstein-Gottorp.  Peter III's son, Emperor Paul I, was the promulgator of the present succession laws.  Assuming the eventual succession of her son, the present Grand Duchess Maria Wladimirovna thus will be the last Romanoff-Holstein-Gottorp to head the dynasty.  Nonetheless, upon the succession of her son Grand Duke George (so titled by his grandfather in 1981), the dynasty, as it did in 1762, will continue to be called the House of Romanoff.

[43] These rules are set forth in Articles 144 to 148.

[44] Aside from the title of emperor, there were only four titles allowed to dynasts, as set forth in Article 144:  (1) Grand Duke-Tsesarevich, with the predicate of Imperial Highness;  (2)  Grand Duke or Grand Duchess, with the predicate of Imperial Highness;  (3)  Prince or Princess of the Imperial Blood (that is, Prince or Princess of Russia), with the predicate of Highness;  and (4) Prince or Princess of the Imperial Blood (Prince or Princess of Russia), with the predicate of Serene Highness.

[45] Prince Nicholas Romanoff fully accepts that the successive heads of the dynasty from 1918 to 1992 were the Grand Dukes Kirill and Wladimir.  [See, for example, his published letter to a French magazine in which he wrote that Grand Duke Kirill's position as dynastic head was "incontestable" (indisputable).  Point de Vue-Images du Monde, 12 May 1992, p. 17.  See also his personal website,, in which he wrote, "In April 1992 I became the head of the Romanov Family”, thus claiming that he succeeded Grand Duke Wladimir as dynastic head upon the latter’s death in April 1992.]  Nicholas Romanoff's dispute concerns the 1992 succession.  He argues that he, and not Grand Duchess Maria, is the lawful successor of Grand Duke Wladimir.

[46] Both in the end married their morganatic mistresses.  Grand Duke Paul's wife, born Miss Karnovitch, and the children born to them were given morganatic princely rank (as Prince/Princess Paley) by Nicholas II in 1915.  Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich's wife, born Miss Cheremetevsky, and the son born to them were given morganatic princely rank (as Prince/Princess Brassov) by Grand Duke Kirill, as head of the dynasty, in 1925.

[47] On 28 July 1935, Grand Duke Kirill, as head of the imperial house, accorded the title of Prince Romanovsky-Ilyinsky to Paul Ilyinsky and his descendants.  His rank was the morganatic rank of a prince of the nobility of the Russian Empire, not that of a Prince of Russia (Prince of the Imperial Blood), which latter designation belonged exclusively to dynasts. (Paul Ilyinsky, who was alive when this article was first published, died in 2004.)  Following the fall of the monarchy, the Grand Duke Kirill and later his successor, the Grand Duke Wladimir, as heads of the dynasty, granted a number of such titles.  This exercise in exile of the royal prerogative was based upon three centuries of precedent in other dynasties, beginning with the English dynasty during its exile in the mid-17th century.  From 1649 (when his father, Charles I, was beheaded) until 1660 (when the monarchy was restored), the Prince of Wales, in exile on the continent and using the style "King Charles II", created 19 peerages.  The head of the Royal House of Stuart, King James II of England, deposed at the behest of Parliament by usurping junior dynasts and living in exile in France from 1688 to 1701, similarly created a number of peerages (known to history as Jacobite peerages), as did his son and successor, the titular King James III, from 1701 to 1766.  In the 20th century, the heads of many other deposed European dynasties have also distributed or created titles, including the Archduke Otto (head of the Habsburg dynasty of Austria-Hungary),  the Comte de Paris (head of the Orléans dynasty of France until his death in 1999),  King Umberto II (deposed head of the Savoy dynasty of Italy), and the Conde de Barcelona (head of the Bourbon dynasty of Spain prior to the formal restoration of the monarchy in 1975 in the person of his son, King Juan Carlos).  Many of these titles then were duly included in various reference books, such as the Almanach de Gotha, which, for example, listed the titles (such as Prince Romanovsky-Ilyinsky and Princess Romanovsky-Pavlovsky) created by Grand Dukes Kirill and Wladimir for the morganatic sons and wives of Russian dynasts as well as the titles (such as Count von Altenburg) created by Archduke Otto of Austria for the morganatic children of Habsburg archdukes.  The exercise of the royal prerogative by the heads of deposed dynasties is discussed in a number of scholarly articles, including "The Royal Prerogative and its Use by the Heirs to Former Thrones" by Guy Stair Sainty and "The Social Recognition of Titles of Honours" by the late Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk, 11th Bart., Ph.D., LL.B, Albany Herald, an article published in Royalty, Peerage and Nobility of the World (London, 1976), pp. 663-670.    See also The Jacobite Peerage by the Marquis of Ruvigny and Raineval (Edinburgh, 1904), which examines peerages created in exile from 1688 to 1788 by the deposed senior line of the English Royal House, as legitimist claimants to the throne.  The basis for these many precedents of titles conceded by the heads of formerly sovereign houses is the juridical notion that de facto loss of sovereignty does not deprive a dynastic head of his rights as a fons honorum.

[48] Nicolas Enache, La Descendance de Pierre le Grand, Tsar de Russie (Paris, 1983), pp. 337ff.  Mr. Enache's talents seem to be genealogical rather than legal or historical.  The two reference books perhaps most respected internationally for combining expertise on royal genealogy and dynastic law are the Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels and the original Almanach de Gotha (defunct after 1944). (The present “Almanach de Gotha”, “revived” in the late 1990s and published in England, is, despite the identity of names, very different from its distinguished predecessor.)  Both the GhdA and the original Almanach, following the Russian succession law, correctly describe as morganatic or non-dynastic (“mariage non conforme aux lois de la maison” was the phrase used by the Almanach de Gotha and “in nicht hausgesetzmässiger Ehe” was the term employed by the Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels) all unequal marriages contracted by Russian dynasts.  For example, the 1939 Almanach de Gotha, which describes Grand Duke Wladimir as “Vladimir Kyrillovich, Grand Duke of Russia…, head of the House of Romanoff and curator of the throne, grand master of the Order of St. Andrew”,  records the union of Nicholas Romanoff’s parents as a “marriage not in compliance with the house laws.”  Similarly, the 1951 Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, in Part I (sovereign houses) describes the 1921 union of Nicholas Romanoff’s parents as “not in compliance with the house laws”; Part III (non-royal and morganatic princes) states that Nicholas Romanoff’s mother received a morganatic title in 1951 “by ukase of Grand Duke Wladimir as Head of the House of Romanoff” and lists her son under the morganatic name of “Nicholas Romanovsky”, rather than “Romanoff”.   When pressed, those advocating dynastic status for morganatic descendants have been unable to defend their position in a reasonable manner.  Prince Nicholas Romanoff himself, in a published statement in October 1995, cites as support for this theory the public renunciations of succession rights by two princesses of the imperial blood immediately prior to their marriages:  by Princess Tatiana of Russia in 1911 prior to her marriage to Prince Bagration of Moukhrani and by Princess Irina of Russia in 1914 prior to her morganatic marriage to Prince Yusupov.  Nicholas Romanoff then argues: "These Ukases [publishing the renunciations] prove without doubt that had the princesses not renounced their rights, their issue would have been in possession of full rights to the inheritance of the throne of Russia."  But the Ukases prove nothing of the kind.  The princesses renounced for themselves, without mention of any subsequent offspring.  (The announcement of the renunciation of Princess Tatiana is contained in a previous footnote.)  The impetus behind such renunciations was to avoid the throne passing to a female dynast who had married into another dynasty or who had contracted a morganatic union.  If the princesses had not renounced, the succession rights of any eventual children would depend on whether or not the princesses had contracted equal marriages.

[49] Nor, as a purist, did she approve of the self-assumed title of "Prince Romanoff" used by morganatic descendants of dynasts.  Once, when reviewing a proposed invitation list during her exile in England, she noticed that one of her grandsons appeared on the list as Prince Alexander Romanoff; she changed the entry to Alexander Romanoff, Esq.  Technically, though, her daughters-in-law and grandchildren had been given morganatic princely titles (such as Romanovsky-Kutuzov) by Grand Duke Kirill or Grand Duke Wladimir as successive heads of the dynasty.

[50] His morganatic son (and only child) Wladimir Andreivich (born 1902) was not included in the succession list, because he was the child of a (subsequent) unequal marriage and thus was not a member of the dynasty.  His uncle, the Grand Duke Kirill, gave him the morganatic title of Prince Romanovsky-Krassinsky on 28 July 1935.

[51] His morganatic son (and only child) Paul (born 1928) was not included in the succession list, because he was the child of an unequal marriage and thus was not a member of the dynasty.  The Grand Duke Kirill gave him the morganatic title of Prince Romanovsky-Ilyinsky.

[52] His two morganatic sons (and only children), Nicholas (born 1922) and Dmitry (born 1926), were not included in the succession list, because they were children of an unequal marriage and thus were not members of the dynasty. Under the name of Prince Nicholas Romanoff, Nicholas today has put forth a claim to be head of the dynasty.

[53] His two morganatic sons, Michael (born 1920) and Andrew (born 1923), were not included in the succession list because they were children of an unequal marriage and thus were not members of the dynasty.

[54] His morganatic son Michael (born 1924) was not included in the succession list because he was the child of an unequal marriage and thus was not a member of the dynasty.

[55] His morganatic sons (and only children) Nikita (born 1923) and Alexander (born 1929) were not included in the succession list because they were children of a morganatic marriage and thus were not members of the dynasty.

[56] His grand ducal supporters were himself and Grand Dukes Boris, Andrew, Dmitry Pavlovich, and Alexander, the latter being the brother-in-law of Nicholas II.  A sixth grand duke, Michael Mikhailovich, had exiled himself from Russia in 1891 due to his morganatic marriage and ceased from that time to play an official role under the monarchy.  After the dynasty went into exile, however, Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich became an adherent of Grand Duke Kirill.  See In the Service of the Imperial House of Russia, 1917-1941 by Rear-Admiral H.G. Graf (private secretary of Grand Duke Kirill) (privately published, 1999), p. 594.   In 1922, Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich (at the behest of his brother, Grand Duke Alexander, one of Grand Duke Kirill's most active adherents) was one of four grand dukes to accept appointment by Grand Duke Kirill to a council formed by him to spread the legitimist message following his declaration that he had become curator of the throne.  See The Flight of the Romanovs by John Curtis Perry and Constantine Pleshakov (Perseus Books, 1999), p. 274, citing Bakhmetieff Archive at Columbia University, New York.   The remaining two grand dukes, the brothers Peter (died 1931) and Nicholas (died 1929) Nikolayevich, were unfriendly to Grand Duke Kirill.  At the fall of the monarchy, the Romanoff dynasty had four principal lines, stemming from each of the four sons of Emperor Nicholas I (died 1855).  Grand Dukes Kirill and Wladimir (successive representatives of the first and senior of the four lines, stemming from Nicholas I's eldest son Alexander II) were supported in the early decades of exile by the leading members of the first, second and fourth lines of the dynasty.  It was only the leaders of the third line, stemming from the third son of Nicholas I and thus in the 1920s very junior in the line of succession, who maintained a hostile attitude toward the dynastic heads:  the third line of the dynasty produced a total of three male dynasts, all of whom were hostile to the senior line:  these were the Grand Dukes Peter and Nicholas mentioned above, and Peter's son Prince Roman.  When the first version of this article was written in 1997, the first line had one living dynast (Grand Duchess Maria), and the second line had two (Princesses Vera and Katherine, both of whom are now dead).  The third line died out with the deaths of Prince Roman in 1978 and of his sister Princess Nadezhda in 1988.  The fourth line died out with the death of Prince Vassily in 1989.  (At the time of writing, all four lines also have living morganatic descendants who are not dynasts.)

[57] The letter of Grand Duke Alexander and his sons to the Grand Duke Kirill read in part as follows:  "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… P.S. Dmitry is not with us, he works in New York and we have communicated this letter to him.”  The 1924 letter was prompted by Grand Duke Kirill’s accession manifesto.  Several months earlier, in November 1923, Grand Duke Alexander (who, as brother-in-law of Nicholas II and son-in-law of the grieving Dowager Empress, had a unique status among the surviving grand dukes) had issued a statement to the press, including the New York Herald, explaining that, in the event Nicholas II and the son and brother of Nicholas II had died, there was no disagreement within the dynasty that the right to the throne belonged to Grand Duke Kirill as senior dynast.

[58] Article 54 provided that a manifesto of accession to the throne would specify the names both of the new emperor and of his heir.  The 1924 accession manifesto specified Grand Duke Kirill as emperor and Grand Duke Wladimir as grand duke-tsesarevich.

[59] For example, Prince Andrew Alexandrovich of Russia, son of Grand Duke Alexander and Grand Duchess Xenia, was correct in stating that his recognition of the Grand Duke Kirill as dynastic head in 1924 obviated the need for a subsequent formal recognition of the latter's son, Grand Duke Wladimir.  In a letter dated 1 November 1938, Prince Andrew wrote as follows to Grand Duke Andrew, younger brother of Grand Duke Kirill:  "Dear Andrew,  Mama has sent me the contents of your letter and of the declaration that you prepared for the press;  I am not signing it because I did not attend the family meetings and don't know what you have decided, and, secondly, I don't see why the family must sign this declaration because it is self-evident that after the death of Kirill as Head of the Imperial House, his son inherits by right of seniority:  personally, I considered Kirill as such and now I recognize his son as such.  Wladimir, by his declaration, will himself confirm his position as Head of the House.  Affectionately, Andrew."

[60] Prince Nicholas Romanoff was a principal organizer of the so-called "Romanoff Family Association", a purely private entity without any official dynastic status under the Pauline law.  He is now the president of this organization.  This organization came into being as the result of a disagreement in the early 1970s between the head of the dynasty, Grand Duke Wladimir, and several of the then surviving male dynasts.  In 1970, there were, in addition to Grand Duke Wladimir, 7 living male dynasts, ranging in age from 73 to 56.  Six of them had morganatic wives, and the morganatic wife of the seventh had just died.  In December 1969, Grand Duke Wladimir issued a statement setting forth that his daughter, then age 16, would eventually succeed as head of the dynasty following his own death and that of the 7 male dynasts.  He explained that eventual succession through the female line as provided for in the Pauline law was inevitable, given the ages and morganatic marriages of the 7 male dynasts and consequently the unlikelihood that any of them would so late in life contract an equal marriage and produce from it new dynasts.  The statement did not say that Grand Duchess Maria would succeed ahead of any of the seven;  it simply said that she would succeed upon their deaths and that of her father.  This greatly upset several of the 7 male dynasts (all of whom except Princes Roman and Vassily had formally recognized Grand Duke Kirill as dynastic head and Grand Duke Wladimir as his heir decades before).  Several dynasts thereupon protested the wording of the statement and its mention of a curatrix of the throne, because they felt that the statement sought to prejudice their rights, including perhaps the right of each, should he succeed as dynastic head, to amend the Pauline law.  In the event, Grand Duchess Maria in 1992 directly succeeded her father, who had outlived all 7 dynasts, the last of whom, Prince Vassily, died in 1989.  But it was on account of this disagreement that Prince Roman’s son and others decided to form the "Romanoff Family Association" and then lump together as its "members" both dynasts and morganatic descendants of dynasts, thus causing further confusion in the minds of journalists and others unversed in the history of the dynasty.  Despite the current claim of Prince Nicholas Romanoff to be a dynast, however, it is significant that even Prince Vassily of Russia,  his predecessor as "President of the Romanoff Family Association", issued a "declaration" of the "association" on 25 March 1981 making a clear and correct distinction betweentwo separate categories:  that of being "a member of the Imperial House of Russia"  (that is, a dynast born of an equal marriage) andthat ofbeing "a member of the Romanoff Family" (that is, a person who, while not a dynast, descends morganatically in the male line from a dynast and uses the Romanoff surname.)  With the extinction of the older generation of male dynasts over the last decade, various morganatic sons of the older generation have permitted themselves to ignore this distinction.  At the present time, the Romanoff Family Association is composed entirely of morganatic descendants; the several dynasts who were members in its earlier years are no longer alive.

[61]  State Archives of the Russian Federation, Series 601 (“The Emperor Nicholas II”), Inventory (register) 1, File 2143, pages 58-59.

[62] The letter begins as follows:  “Your Imperial Highness – After I presented [to the Lord Emperor] my loyal report on the project undertaken at the meeting of the Grand Dukes, at which Your Imperial Highness presided, regarding amendments and additions to the Statute of the Imperial Family, together with a determination by the Minister of Justice, the Lord Emperor has seen fit to set the following conditions under which His Imperial Majesty might permit marriages of Princes and Princesses of the Blood Imperial to persons not possessing corresponding rank…”

[63]  The exact language of this portion of the letter is:  “In relation to the categorization of marriages of Princes and Princesses of the Blood Imperial, the Lord Emperor has seen fit to recognize only two categories of marriages:  (a) equal marriages, that is, those contracted with persons belonging to a royal or ruling house, and (b) unequal marriages, that is, those contracted with persons not belonging to a royal or ruling house, and He will not recognize any other categories.”

[64] Daniel Sargis, The Romanoffs and the Bagrations (1996).

[65] Great Britain, for example, does not require equal marriages.  With the exception of Russia, many of the Orthodox monarchies of Europe did not require equal marriages, including the monarchies of Georgia (House of Bagration), Imeretia (House of Bagration), Serbia (House of Karageorgevich), Montenegro (House of Petrovich Niegoch) and also, at least in recent generations, the dynasties of Greece and Bulgaria.

[66] As explained elsewhere, the mother of Prince Peter of Holstein-Gottorp was a Romanoff grand duchess and sister of the Empress Elizabeth.  He was called to Russia in 1742 at age 14 by his imperial aunt and made a grand duke and heir to the Russian throne.  On his aunt's death in 1762, the Romanoff dynasty technically became extinct, and Peter ascended the throne as the first Russian sovereign of the House of Romanoff-Holstein-Gottorp, although the dynasty continued to call itself the House of Romanoff.

[67] The two exceptions were marriages to Catholic princes.  Grand Duchess Alexandra Pavlovna, daughter of Emperor Paul I, married Archduke Joseph of Austria in 1799.  In addition, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna (1819-1876), daughter of Emperor Nicholas I, married Maximilien de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg.  Maximilien was the son of Eugene de Beauharnais.  Although Eugene began life as a French vicomte and thus a commoner, his status advanced after his widowed mother Josephine married General Napoleon Bonaparte.  After making himself Emperor of the French in 1804, Napoleon I recognized his stepson Eugene as an imperial prince and a dynast of the French imperial house.  Maximilien was thus considered a French dynast and it was on this basis that Nicholas I recognized Grand Duchess Maria's marriage to him as an equal marriage and specified that the children of the marriage were in the Russian line of succession, with seniority after the successible male line descendants of Emperor Paul I.  At the time of Maria's marriage to Maximilien in 1839, there were very few Russian male dynasts: Nicholas I, his younger brother Michael (who had no living sons), and the four young sons of Nicholas I, all unmarried and aged 6 to 21.  It was of course the head of the dynasty who made the final decision as to whether a spouse satisfied the equal birth requirements of the house laws.  In 1839, Nicholas I decided that the de Beauharnais satisfied the Russian equal birth requirements as members of the French imperial house, a dynasty which in 1839 had been a formerly sovereign dynasty for more than 20 years; the French imperial house did not regain sovereignty until 1852, when Maximilien de Beauharnais's first cousin restored the Bonaparte dynasty and ascended the French throne as Emperor Napoleon III.  Similarly, in exile in 1946, Grand Duke Wladimir, as head of the Russian imperial house, formally confirmed, as far as the Russian dynasty was concerned, that the Bagrations were of equal royal birth.  This was at the time of the marriage of Prince Irakly Bagration of Moukhrani to a Spanish dynast, the Infanta Maria Mercedes.  (Two years later in 1948, Grand Duke Wladimir himself married Princess Leonida Bagration of Moukhrani.)  The heads of other deposed dynasties have exercised the authority to interpret and occasionally amend their house laws with respect to marriages and other matters, taking changing circumstances into account.  For example, Archduke Otto, head of the deposed Austrian-Hungarian imperial house of Habsburg, recently conceded archducal rank to the commoner spouse and the children of his elder son and heir.  And the late Prince Louis-Ferdinand of Prussia, head of the deposed German imperial house of Hohenzollern, conceded royal rank to the non-royal spouse of his youngest son.  In the latter two cases, the respective Austrian and German dynastic heads did not in any way determine that the wives in question were of equal birth; instead, the two dynastic heads used their authority to allow an exception to the dynastic marriage laws, thus in effect amending those laws in particular instances.  In the case of the Bagrations, Grand Duke Wladimir did not amend the marriage laws, although he could have done so; he simply made a finding that the Bagrations, as a sovereign royal house until the 19th century, were members of a royal or ruling house for purposes of the Russian dynastic marriage laws.

[68] Grand Duke Peter and Princess Militza were the parents of Prince Roman of Russia, whose son is the present Prince Nicholas Romanoff.  In 1907, Militza's divorced sister, Princess Stana of Montenegro, married Grand Duke Peter's brother, Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich of Russia.  It was the two Montenegrin sisters, enthusiasts of the occult, who first presented Rasputin to Nicholas and Alexandra, although the sisters later broke with their Siberian protégé.  In the 1920s, the principal resistance from within the dynasty to the legitimist imperial claims of Grand Duke Kirill emanated from Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich (“N.N.”).  As in everything else he did, N.N. was supported in this resistance by his brother Grand Duke Peter, their two Montenegrin wives, and Prince Roman.  Before the revolution, the Russian dynasty was a large one, and Grand Duke Kirill and N.N. had not known each other well; the latter was 20 years older than Kirill and of the same generation as Kirill’s father.  If there was a major bone of contention between them, it was perhaps the role of N.N. in urging Nicholas II’s abdication, given Kirill’s view that the abdication of the isolated and abandoned emperor was a disastrous decision which precipitated the fall of the monarchy.  Because of the large size of the dynasty, there were internal factions long before the revolution.  In the first volume of his memoirs, Once A Grand Duke (New York, 1932, pp. 40-42, 143-145), Grand Duke Alexander of Russia, Nicholas II’s brother-in-law, described, for example, how various grand dukes at young ages took sides in the bitter lifelong feud between two first cousins, Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich (a prominent historian and a member of the French Academy, assassinated in 1919) and Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich. On 11 May 1916, it was Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich who wrote a letter to his cousin Emperor Nicholas II hinting "darkly that Nikolasha's [Nicholas Nikolayevich's] popularity, in view of the nervous mood of the Russian public, threatened the legitimate line of succession, inflating the potential importance of Nikolasha's brother Peter and nephew Roman, suggesting that, through them, the childless Nikolasha could found an alternative branch of the dynasty."  The Flight of the Romanovs by John Curtis Perry and Constantine Pleshakov (New York, 1999), p. 125, citing Nikolai II i velikiye knyazya, ed. by V.P. Semennikov(Leningrad-Moscow, Gosudarstvennoye izdatelstvo, 1925), pp. 63-64.  Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich closed the letter as follows: “This popularity [of N.N.] does not contribute in the least to the benefit of the Throne or the prestige of the Imperial family, but only to the advertising of the husband of the Grand Duchess [N.N.’s wife]… as well as of his brother and nephew, Roman. In view of the possibility of all kinds of troubles after the war, one has to be watchful and observe closely every move in support of this popularity. You are aware of my boundless devotion to your late father, your mother, yourself, and your line, for which I am ready at any moment to lay down my life, but I do not recognize any other possibilities, in the dynastic sense, nor shall I ever recognize any. . .”  See  Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich was an often divisive figure within the dynasty, and one must approach his accusation of N.N. with great reserve.  In the 1920s, however, it was widely thought that, despite his very junior spot in the line of succession (15th in line of succession as of 1 January 1917), N.N. viewed himself as the best candidate for tsar in a restored monarchy.  As a firm slavophile and anti-German, he may well have had disdain for the Germanic rule of male primogeniture instituted in 1797 by Paul I; before Paul, the succession to the Romanoff throne had often been uncertain, and more than once the throne was seized by the Romanoff with the strongest following.  He never publicly disputed Kirill’s position as the senior male, but, when some monarchist groups announced their support of N.N. as a future tsar, he did nothing to discourage him.  This support for N.N. by several prominent former generals in the 1920s stemmed perhaps from the prestige he enjoyed within the Russian emigration based on his age (he was the oldest living grand duke) and his having been commander-in-chief of the Russian armies in the first year of the World War.  The unrealistic notion of an invasion of Russia by an anti-Bolshevik army with the elderly grand duke at its head was still being advanced by some emigres in the mid-1920s.  Indeed, on November 16, 1924, some two months after Grand Duke Kirill had proclaimed himself emperor, Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich, not to be outdone, issued an announcement that he was assuming “supreme leadership” of all Russian armed forces in exile.  This faction faded away upon the death of Grand Duke Nicholas in 1929, although his nephew Prince Roman of Russia maintained his father's and his uncle's attitude of unfriendliness to Russian legitimism and to the senior line of the dynasty.  Following Prince Roman's death in 1978, his morganatic son, Prince Nicholas Romanoff, continued this tradition and has in effect sought to constitute a new dynasty and a new line of succession composed of males descended morganatically from Russian dynasts.  He has placed himself first in the line of succession, thus excluding from his theoretical construct the morganatic male descendants of Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich, who are senior to him in genealogical terms.  See Footnote 4.  When one considers that Grand Dukes Nicholas and Peter and their descendants have maintained since the early 1920s an attitude of hostility to the legitimists and thus by implication to the Pauline law itself, there is great irony in the fact that the adherents of Prince Nicholas Romanoff in 1997 solemnly invoke the Pauline law in support of his claim.  Although as stated elsewhere their "re-interpretation" of the Pauline law is clumsy and contradicted by the plain language of the laws themselves, this novel "spin" may nonetheless be confusing to some with only a glancing familiarity with the laws.  Further irony derives from Prince Romanoff's description of himself as a republican and anti-monarchist, when one reflects that monarchism and the notion that "the throne must never be vacant" are at the heart of the Pauline law invoked by his supporters.  Clearly, the prevailing attitude seems to be that the house laws are unimportant and that various provisions, such as those dealing with primogeniture and equal marriages, simply can be ignored when they are inconvenient.  Perhaps the most illogical pronouncement from this camp was the bizarre statement that, in the event of a restoration of the dynasty, it would be necessary to select the most suitable candidate by convening on Russian soil a Zemsky Sobor, the kind of assembly that called Michael Romanoff to the throne in 1613.  This statement necessarily pre-supposes a complete rejection of the current succession laws, no doubt because the Pauline law excludes Prince Nicholas Romanoff's claims both to be a member of the dynasty and to be its head.

[69] Prince Nicholas I and his family did not begin using the qualification of "Royal Highness" until 1900.  In 1910, Nicholas I changed his title from reigning Prince of Montenegro to King of Montenegro.  The dynasty was deposed in 1918.  Its monarchy therefore lasted for 67 years, including 8 years as a kingdom.

[70] Those with traditionally Germanic attitudes thought the Montenegrin house could not be considered on an equal footing with the ancient sovereign houses of Protestant Germany.  Those with slavophile views believed the Montenegrin dynasts, as Slavs and Orthodox Christians, provided a preferable alternative to entanglements with wives from a German empire that must ultimately be hostile to Russian imperial ambitions.

[71] In 1907, Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolayevich of Russia contracted an equal marriage with Princess Stana of Montenegro, another daughter of Prince Nicholas I of Montenegro.  In 1911, Prince Ioann Constantinovich of Russia contracted an equal marriage with Princess Helen of Serbia, a granddaughter of Nicholas I of Montenegro.  (Princess Helen was the daughter of King Peter I of Serbia by his wife Princess Zorka of Montenegro.  In 1903, when Helen was a teenager, her father's family regained the Serbian throne, having first become sovereigns early in the 19th century and then having been deposed in 1859.)  Like the Montenegrin dynasty in 1889, the Serbian dynasty in 1911 at the time of the marriage was as yet unrelated by blood or marriage to other reigning dynasties descended from the ancient ruling houses of Germany.

[72] A treatment of the lineage of the Royal House of Georgia is to be found in Burke's Royal Families of the World (London, Burke's Peerage Ltd., 1980).

[73] The Sargis essay refers to Nicholas Romanoff as "Mr." rather than "Prince", thus taking a strict view of the self-assumed designation of "Prince Romanoff".

[74] Other examples of reigning houses deposed in the 19th century are the dynasties of Hanover, Hesse-Cassell and Nassau (dethroned in 1866), the Habsburg dynasty of Tuscany (dethroned in 1860), and the Bourbon dynasty of Parma (dethroned in 1859).  The rather weak argument by some that the Rurikid and Guedyminian families of old Russia should be considered just as much “formerly sovereign dynasties” as the Bagrations is unpersuasive.  Unlike families that lost sovereignty in the 19th century, the Rurikids and Guedyminians (to the debatable extent they were ever “sovereign” in the sense that this term has been used in recent centuries) never exercised sovereignty in the modern era.  The transformation of the Rurikids into the status of vassals of Muscovy was completed nearly 500 years ago.  The ancestor of such Guedyminian houses as the Kurakins and Golitsyns had accepted boyar status in Moscow by 1417.  The present-day members of such ancient and distinguished noble houses are comparable not to princes of the blood but to those Scottish and Irish chiefs who descend from early Celtic ruling princes of 700 or 800 years ago.  These Russian families were never considered ebenbürtig under the post-1797 Russian succession law.  Indeed, Emperor Alexander II’s second marriage to a Rurikid, Catherine Dolgorouky, was unequal; he withheld the title of empress from this wife and gave her a morganatic title as Princess Yurievskaya.  Further, unlike the Bagrations, whose royal status Russia solemnly guaranteed by treaty in 1783, the Rurikids and Guedyminians were among the by then ordinary boyar families which chose Michael Romanoff as their sovereign in 1613, and neither then nor later were they ever given any special status by virtue of their distant descent from Rurik and Guedymin. 

[75] Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk, 11th Bart., Ph.D., LL.B., Albany Herald, "The Social Recognition of Titles of Honour”, published in Royalty, Peerage & Nobility of the World  (London, 1976), pp. 663-667.

[76]  In the first decades of the 1700s, there were three Orthodox kingdoms ruled by different branches of the Bagration dynasty:  the kingdom of Kartli, the kingdom of Kakhety, and the kingdom of Imeretia.  Kartli:  The senior line of the entire Bagration dynasty were the kings of Kartli, and the Bagrations of Moukhrani were junior dynasts of the Kartli line.  The Bagrations of Moukhrani were thus genealogically senior to the Kakhety and Imeretia branches within the Bagration dynasty.  The Kartli branch was dethroned by Muslim invaders, and King Wakhtang VI of Kartli, with his sons, went into exile in Russia in 1724, without, however, renouncing their rights to the Kartli throne.  His male line direct descendants died out circa 1903, at which point the Bagrations of Moukhrani became the senior representatives of the former royal house of Kartli and heads of the entire Bagration dynasty.   Kakhety:   The junior royal line of Kakhety remained on its throne and in the 1740s pushed the Turks out of the territory that had once comprised the neighboring kingdom of Kartli.  King Theimouraz of Kakhety had married Thamar Bagration, daughter of Wakhtang VI, last reigning King of Kartli; in 1744, with her husband, she hadherself proclaimed Thamar II, Queen of Kartli in her own right.  Their son, Irakly II, became King of Kakhety and Kartli, uniting them into a single kingdom, often simply called the kingdom of Georgia, in 1762.  The Bagrations of Moukhrani, having stayed in Kartli rather than following Wakhtang VI to Russia, remained active dynasts of the newly united monarchy and continued to exercise within the united kingdom of Georgia the hereditary positions (of military commandant of Upper Kartli and of Constable of the Left of Georgia) that they had held under the old Kartli monarchy.  Irakly II, as monarch of both Kartli and Kakhety and through his parents a member of both the Kartli and Kakhety lines of the dynasty, showed marked favor to his genealogically senior cousin, Constantine, Prince of Moukhrani.  Irakly II’s eldest son and heir, Tsarevich Wakhtang, married Constantine of Moukhrani’s daughter, Princess Kethevan.  (Irakly II outlived his eldest son.)  In addition, Ivan, eldest son and heir of Constantine of Moukhrani, married Irakly II’s daughter Princess Kethevan Thamar.  It was his son-in-law Ivan, future Prince of Moukhrani, whom Irakly II appointed as his plenipotentiary to negotiate the 1783 treaty of friendship with Catherine the Great of Russia.  The dynasty of the united Georgian kingdom was, as stated in the text, dethroned in 1801.  Imeretia:  The Bagrations, Kings of Imeretia, a line junior to the Kartli and Kakhety branches, retained their throne until nearly a decade after the Georgian throne was toppled.  Russia had signed a treaty with King Solomon II of Imeretia with provisions similar to the Treaty of Georgievsk but nonetheless dethroned him in 1810.  He did not go to Russia afterwards but instead sought assistance from Napoleonic France to regain his throne. He lived his remaining years in exile in the Ottoman Empire.  Solomon II’s father was a Bagration of Imeretia, but his Bagration mother was a daughter of King Irakly II of Georgia.  Today:  Prince George Bagration of Moukhrani, who traveled from Spain to Tblisi in 1995 with the remains of his grandfather, was the senior male of the royal Kartli line of the Bagrations and thus head of the entire Bagration dynasty.  He was recognized in the 1990s as head of the former royal house by the Georgian government and by the patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church.  (His father, Prince Irakly Bagration, was the brother of the Grand Duchess Leonida of Russia.)  Prince George died in 2008 and was succeeded by his son, Prince David Georgievich Bagration of Moukhrani (born 1976).  The junior Kakhety line (representatives of King George XII) was thought to have died out in the Stalin era, but, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it turned out that several members of the Kakhety royal line were still alive and well in Georgia, having survived Stalin.  The head of this line is Prince Nugzar Bagration-Gruzinsky (born 1950). Neither Prince Nugzar nor the other two male dynasts of this line have sons; as all three of them are past age 60, this line is likely to die out in due course. In 2007, Patriarch Ilia II, head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, made a public statement advocating a Bagration constitutional monarchy as a means of advancing the development of the nation.  This prompted Georgian historians and journalists to analyze the question of who the heir to the throne should be.  Some monarchist groups supported Prince George Bagration de Moukhrani, head of the dynasty and of the Kartli line, and some supported Prince Nugzar Bagration-Gruzinsky, head of the Kakhety line. Less than 18 months after the Patriarch’s 2007 call for a restored monarchy, on 8 February 2009 at Tblisi’s cathedral, Prince David Georgievich Bagration of Moukhrani, son and successor of George, head of the Kartli line, married Princess Anna Nugzarovna Bagration (like her husband, also born in 1976), daughter of Prince Nugzar, head of the Kakhety line, an alliance aimed at uniting the two lines of Kartli and Kakhety in a manner similar to the way that the marriage of King Irakly II’s parents united them in the 18th century.  On 27 September 2011, a child of the David Bagration-Anna Bagration marriage was born, Prince George.  It is likely that, in the future, monarchist sentiment in Georgia will center upon this child, who, given a long life, would become in due course head of the entire dynasty, head of the Kartli line and heir-general of Prince Nugzar, head of the Kakhety line.

[77] Although Mr. Sargis mentions that King David VIII granted his brother Bagrat the province of Moukhrani and installed him as its first sovereign prince, he has not explained the extent to which this branch, despite its sovereign status in Moukhrani, maintained its position as dynasts within the Kingdom of Georgia.  Three consecutive sovereign Princes of Moukhrani acted as Regents of Georgia.  And on the death without heirs of King Rostom of Georgia, Wakhtang Bagration, sovereign Prince of Moukhrani, ascended the Georgian throne as King Wakhtang V in 1659 and ceded the throne of Moukhrani to his younger brother, Prince Constantine Bagration, ancestor of all the subsequent Princes of Moukhrani and also of the Grand Duchess Leonida.

[78] He held Moukhrani as Ivan I (or John I) until his death in 1800, and he was a brother-in-law of the last Georgian king, George XII.

[79] As stated above, another line of the Bagrations continued to reign as Kings of Imeretia until 1810.

[80] Queen Miriam, widow of George XII, was confined to a convent in Russia. The son and heir of Georgia’s last King, George XII, was Prince David Bagration.  His father had chosen him as his eventual successor, and in 1799 Emperor Paul I of Russia, pursuant to the provisions of the Treaty of Georgievsk, had formally recognized David as heir to the Georgian throne.  After Russia annexed Georgia, however, Russian troops brought David Bagration to St. Petersburg, where he was granted a residence and a pension.  At first, Russia gave him the status of a royal prince and recognized him by the royal title of tsarevich, or crown prince. But, as the policy of Russification advanced and in an effort to weaken loyalty in Georgia to the old dynasty, Russia revoked its recognition of the royal status of George XII’s sons in the 1830s and placed them and the other Bagrations on the list of Russian nobles, in effect decreeing their demotion from royal rank.  This coincided with Russia’s foiling of the planned 1832 monarchist uprising to restore the Bagrations. King George XII’s half-brother, Prince Alexander Bagration, having frustrated Russian efforts to capture him in 1801, had led an invasion from Persia and seized Kakhety in 1812.  He was proclaimed King of Georgia by his followers, but Russian troops regained control of Kakhety in 1813.  The monarchist plot of 1832 sought to place Alexander on the throne.  Prince Okropir Bagration (born 1795), a son of King George XII, was also involved in the 1832 plot; he was arrested and sent into internal exile in Russia.  Another son of George XII, Prine Theimouraz Bagration, fought against Russia in the Persian army from 1804 onwards.  In 1810, he was taken into Russian custody and deported to Russia.

[81] The Bagrations viewed their listing in the nobility books in this manner as another in a series of examples of power politics, or force majeure, keeping in mind that the original transfer to Russia of Georgian dynasts after 1801 was involuntary and followed upon the violation by Russia of a solemn treaty which their dynasty had entered into with the Russian dynasty.  It was for this reason that they declined to be listed in the old Almanach de Gotha in a manner that did not recognize their status as a formerly sovereign house.  "The Bagrations, who were justifiably proud of this ancient lineage, preferred not to appear in the Almanach de Gotha rather than see themselves assigned a place which did not take into account their ancient sovereign status.  The royal house of Georgia… has never abdicated its rights over a country which regained an ephemeral existence when Tsarist Russia collapsed…"  Ghislain de Diesbach, Secrets of the Gotha (New York, 1968), p. 331.  The old Almanach de Gotha, although an unofficial reference work that wasprivately owned and privately published in Gotha, Germany, enjoyed enormous prestige and respect until it ceased publication in the 1940s.  The late Professor Cyril Toumanoff, in his fascinating Essays In Social History (Rome, 1988), especially the chapter entitled "Genealogical Imperialism", accused the German editors of the Almanach de Gotha of cultural imperialism.  His criticism was directed to Part II of the Almanach, the section reserved for mediatised houses that had formerly been co-states of the Holy Roman Empire and thus enjoyed equality of birth for marriage purposes with royal and sovereign houses.  Prince Toumanoff's complaint was that the Almanach, while ignoring the indisputable dynastic status of the Georgian and Imeretian houses, had included in Part II several German families that are of disputable Ebenbürtigkeit, because they technically did not qualify as sovereigns of co-states of the Holy Roman Empire. (These references pertain to the original Almanach de Gotha that ceased publication in 1944, not to the so-called “revived” Almanach de Gotha which bears the same title and began publication in England in 1998.)

[82]  The Emperor’s Ukase to the Senate announcing his assent to the marriage contained no description of the union either as equal or unequal.  It simply stated that the children of the marriage would have the same station as their father, namely, that of a Prince or Princess Bagration, but as worded did not characterize that station as royal or non-royal.  Because the Emperor did not translate his private comment to Grand Duke Constantine into an official decree, some consider that the marriage, at least as of 1911, was morganatic, based on the fact that Russia in the 19th century had entered the Bagrations into its nobility books as mere “titled nobility.”