By Sergey P. Shishkin

Translation from Russian by R. Konnoff

Some preliminary remarks

The Romanov Dynasty began with the ascension of Tsar Mihkail Fedorovich, to the Russian throne in 1613. Though still a young dynasty, by the 18th century the succession was seriously tested. Although with the accession of Peter III the crisis ended. Peter III was the son of Grand Duchess Anna of Russia and Duke Karl-Frederic of Holstein-Gottorp. His Aunt Elisabeth, Tsarina of Russia adopted Peter and the Romanov Dynasty was saved from extinction. In 1797 at his crowning, Peter’s son, the Emperor Paul, wishing to prevent a return of the "epoch of palace revolutions " issued Succession Laws. The succession was now law and prevented the arbitrariness of the reigning emperor.

Under the "Pauline Laws" the succession followed a certain sequence, and each member of the Romanov Dynasty’s place in that sequence was clearly laid out. The succession was based on seniority. The Emperor as head of the family and after him his eldest son was heir, then son of the eldest son and so on. In the event that the senior line dies out, the throne passes to next male line closest in relation to the last reigning Emperor. If the male line dies out completely, then the throne passes to a female closest in relation to the last reigning Emperor. Also, no member could now be diened their succession rights, except those who had voluntary relinquished them

The laws were further altered in 1820 and to be considered a member of the Imperial House, members of the family had to marry a person of equal rank; meaning persons from another sovereign house. Accordingly, the offspring of these marriages were considered dynast, while children of morganatic (unequal) marriages were not considered members of the Imperial House. (See also meeting of Grand Dukes of 1911).  

The Revolution and Headship of the Dynasty in Exile

After the disgusting evil deeds in Ekaterinburg, Alapaevske and Petrograd when eighteen members of the Imperial Dynasty including Tsar Nikolay II were brutally murdered, eight Grand dukes and eleven Princes of Imperial blood escaped to live in exile. Later in exile, two Princes of Imperial blood received the title of Grand Duke - Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich (1917-1992), and Grand Duke Gavriil Konstantinovich (1887-1955). I shall explain later the different title of Grand Duke and Grand Duchess and Prince and Princess of the Imperial Blood.

Members of the Russian Imperial House in exile (as of 1920)

Under the succession laws the senior branch in line to the throne were lineal descendants of Emperor Alexander III (Aleksandrovichi). But, in 1920 there were no remaining males. The surviving member of the "Aleksandrovichi " were the widow Empress MARIA FEDOROVNA (1847-1928 ); Grand Duchess MARIA ALEKSANDROVNA (1853-1920 +); Grand Duchess XENIA ALEKSANDROVNA (1875-1960 +); Grand Duchess OLGA ALEKSANDROVNA 1882-1960 +).

Other survivng members of the Russian Imperial House are divided into five basic lines:

Descendants of Grand Duke Vladimir Aleksandrovich (1847-1909) or called the "Vladimirovichi".

Descendants of Grand Duke Paul Aleksandrovich (1860-1919) or called the "Pavlovichi".

Descendants of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich (1858-1915) or called the "Konstantinovichi".

Descendants of Grand Duke Nikolay Nikolaevich (1831-1881) or called the "Nikolaevichi".

Descendants of Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich (1832-1909) or called the "Mihajlovichi".

As opposed to the millions of Russian families which escaped the revolution to live in exile, the remaining members of the Romanov Dynasty carried a heavy responsibility and burden: they not only had to be representatives of the Fatherland in exile, but they also had to follow the succession laws and produce legitimate heirs.

First of all I shall point out, that only four of the eight Grand Dukes that escaped the revolution had children who were considered dynasts. The Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich, had two daughters and a son - Prince Vladimir Kirillovich, Princess MARIA KIRILLOVNA and Princess KIRA KIRILLOVNA; Grand Duke Nikolay Nikolaevich, did not have any offspring; his brother, Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich had two daughters and a son - Prince Roman Petrovich; and Grand Duke Alexander Mihajlovich, having one daughter of six sons.

With such an abundance of male members, the continuance of the Russian Imperial House in exile seemed certain. However, all the above mentioned males gradually, one by one, entered into morganatic marriages. Therefore, under the succession laws, the descendants of these marriages were not members of the Russian Imperial House, and hence, not entitled to the Russian Throne. By the end of the World War II all male representatives of the Russian Imperial House had married morganatic with the exception of one -Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich. Although there were many members of the Imperial Family, no legitimate dynasts had been born, and the future of the Dynasty was under serious threat.

As mentioned, the Organic Laws of Russian Empire strictly regulates membership in the Dynasty. By law, after the foul murder of Tsar Nikolay's II, the successor was Tsarevitch Alexey Nikolaevich, and then Grand Duke Michael Aleksandrovich and then Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich. To understand the succession, read clauses (articles) 28 and 29 of the Organic Laws of the Russian Empire.

Clause (article) 28: " the Heritage of the Throne belongs before all to the senior son of the reigning Emperor, and after (him) his eldest son". Clause(article) 29: " After suppression of this man's generation, the inheritance passes to the second son of Emperor and after suppression of the second generation, the inheritance passes to the third son etc. ".

After Alexander's II death, according to clause (article) 28, the inheritance passed " to the senior son of the reigning Emperor ", i.e. Alexander III " and after (him)", Nikolay II, then his Successor the Tsarevitch Alexey Nikolaevich and then to the younger brother of the Tsar, Grand Duke Michael Aleksandrovich.

With destruction of these three representatives, the male line of this line died out. This event brought into to play Article 29 when " the inheritance passes to the second son of Emperor ". The second son of Emperor Alexander II was Grand Duke Vladimir Aleksandrovich, hence, the inheritance passed into his line. The eldest son in this line was Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich, then his brothers Boris and Andrey. So by Article 29 Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich became the heir to the Russian Throne.

For the sake of justice this should be noted, not all members of Romanov Dynasty (brothers Nikolay and Peter Nikolaevich and their descendants) recognized the claims of Cyril Vladimirovich and his descendants. (see. The reference on Prince Nikolay Romanovich).

Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich (1917-1992 +)

Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich took special care to educate his son Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich as an heir and Successor to the Russian Throne. He was extremely well educated and spoke Russian as well as French, English, German and Spanish. He had a supreme knowledge of Russian and was devoted to the Orthodox Church. Vladimir Kirillovich was truly proud of being Russian and belonging to Russia.

With the death of his father, Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich took up one of the heaviest burdens in the in the history of the Dynasty. As mentioned, by this time all Members of the Imperial Surname had already contracted morganatic marriages. The destiny and existence of the dynasty appeared in the hands of Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, and if he contracted a morganatic marriage the dynasty would become extinct.

The fate of the dynasty was saved when our Master the Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich married Princess Leonida Georgievna Bagration-Muhranskoj (Born 1914), the daughter of the Head of the Georgian Imperial House. Their marriage in 1948 was marked by birth of Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna born December 23, 1953 in Madrid.

By right of dynastic majority the headship of the dynasty would pass to the female line. Therefore the Head of the Russian Imperial House Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich published on December, 23, 1969, that upon his death Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna would succeed him; which ascertained the fact, that all Members of the Imperial Surname, except for him, contracted morganatic marriages and that, considering their age, it seemed that they could not enter into equal marriages and produce legitimate offspring.

After the death of the last legitimate male dynast (Princes Prince Vasily Aleksandrovich in 1989) Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich officially proclaimed his daughter the Successor of Russian Throne. This in accordance with (article) 30 which states " at extinction of the male line, the throne passes to a female closest in relation to the last reigning Emperor". The Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich was buried May 29, 1992 in the Grand-ducal tomb of the Peter and Paul Fortress of Saint Petersburg.

The Education of Grand Duchess Maria

Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna’s education from early age was conducted in consciousness of the responsibility for her forthcoming service to Fatherland. In 1969 at 16-years age she accepted the oath before the Sacred Gospel on fidelity to Russia and its people. Maria Vladimirovna was educated at Oxford University in the subjects of Russian and Russian history. She freely speaks Russian, and lives in Madrid, and has Russian citizenship.

The Marriage of Grand Duchess Maria

As mentioned, after the death in 1992 of Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna became the Head of the Russian Imperial House. As a result of a dynastic marriage with Prince Franz of Prussia, (before marriage he accepted Orthodox christening and became Michael Pavlovich), and heir was born in 1981; Grand Duke George Mihajlovich, the present successor of Russian Throne.1