The Russian Legitimist Responds to an Article in

The New York Times, 10.19.2018.

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The Russian Legitimist recently published a link to two documents (one a statement, the other a clarification) in respect of the new Amazon television series The Romanoffs which have been issued by the chancellery of the Head of the Russian Imperial House, Grand Duchess Maria.

To read the Statements, click here.

On October 20, 2018, the New York Times printed an article describing the Moscow chancellery’s statement.

To read the Times’ Article click here.

The New York Times article at one point described the Head of the Imperial House as “the self-proclaimed Grand Duchess Maria.”  It is unclear from the context whether the article was suggesting that the “self-proclamation” referred to her grand ducal title or to her position as head of the dynasty. American newspapers cannot be expected to understand the technicalities of foreign dynastic laws, but, for the record, the use of the term “self-proclaimed” is incorrect either way.

 (L-R)  H.M. Queen Ioanna of Bulgaria, H.I.H. the infant Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna (in the arms of her nurse), and H.I.H. Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna of Russia at her baptism in 1954.

(L-R) H.M. Queen Ioanna of Bulgaria, H.I.H. the infant Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna (in the arms of her nurse), and H.I.H. Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna of Russia at her baptism in 1954.

The head of the dynasty was known as Grand Duchess Maria from the day of her birth in December 1953. Those guests in attendance at her christening in Madrid in 1954 were invited to the baptism of the Grand Duchess Maria of Russia.  Her godparents were Grand Duke Andrew of Russia (second in line to the throne after Grand Duke Vladimir and represented at the baptism by Prince Nicholas of Romania) and Queen Ioanna of Bulgaria.  In 1954, Queen Elizabeth II sent a letter to the baby’s father Grand Duke Vladimir congratulating him on the birth.  The letter (which the Queen closed by describing herself as his “affectionate niece”– Grand Duke Vladimir’s mother was a British royal) referred to “the birth on the 23rd December 1953 of a Grand Duchess who will bear the name of Marie”and conveyed “warm congratulations…together with my best wishes for your health and well-being and for that of the infant Grand Duchess and her mother.

 H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia and H.M. Queen Elizabeth II at the birthday of their cousin H.I.&R.H. Archduchess Helen of Austria in 2016.

H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia and H.M. Queen Elizabeth II at the birthday of their cousin H.I.&R.H. Archduchess Helen of Austria in 2016.

Under the monarchy, the grand ducal title went to an Emperor’s children, as well as to his grandchildren in the male line.  After the fall of the monarchy, it went to the children and male line grandchildren of the successive heads of the dynasty, who stood in the shoes of the emperor.

As to her position as dynastic head, she became next in line of succession to her father in 1989, upon the death of her cousin, Prince Vasily of Russia, who, aside from her father, was the only other living male dynast.  When Grand Duke Vladimir passed away in 1992 after 53 years as Head of the Imperial House, Grand Duchess Maria at once succeeded her father by operation of the clear dynastic laws.

The Amazon television series centers around people who “believe” that they are descended from the House of Romanoff.  The Moscow chancellery correctly points out that the actual descendants are all known and are listed in various reference books.  The descendants consist first of the living members of the Imperial House: two people, the Grand Duchess and her son and heir.  They also consist of numerous people who, although not members of the Imperial House under the dynastic laws, descend in the male line from various deceased male dynasts.  They often use the Romanoff surname.  Finally, they consist of many hundreds of people (perhaps more than a thousand people) who descend from the many female Romanoff dynasts born in the 19th and 20th centuries.