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The Monarchy of Russia was abolished in 1917 following the February Revolution, which forced Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate. The current Pretender is open to debate.


Line of succession in March 1917

The numbers following the names indicate descent and genealogical seniority from Nicholas I of Russia. For instance, Alexei Nikolaevich,, as follows from Nicholas I:

Nicholas I → Alexander II (1st son) → Alexander III (2nd son) → Nicholas II (1st son) → Alexei Nikolaevich (1st and only son)

  1. Grand Duke and Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich (1904 – 1918,
  2. Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich (1878 – 1918, 1.2.2)
  3. Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich (1876 – 1938, 1.3.1)
  4. Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich (1877 – 1943, 1.3.2)
  5. Grand Duke Andrew Vladimirovich (1879 – 1956, 1.3.3)
  6. Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich (1860 – 1919, 1.4)
  7. Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (1891 – 1941, 1.4.1)
  8. Prince Ioann Konstantinovich (1886 – 1918, 2.1.1)
  9. Prince Vsevelod Ivanovich (1914 – 1973, 2.1.2)
  10. Prince Gavriil Konstantinovich (1887 – 1955, 2.1.3)
  11. Prince Konstantine Konstantinovich (1891 – 1918, 2.1.4)
  12. Prince Igor Konstantinovich (1894 – 1918, 2.1.5)
  13. Prince George Konstantinovich (1903 – 1938, 2.1.6)
  14. Grand Duke Dmitri Konstantinovich (1860 – 1919, 2.2.1)
  15. Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich (1856 – 1929, 3.1)
  16. Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich (1864 – 1931, 3.2)
  17. Prince Roman Petrovich (1896 – 1978, 3.2.1)
  18. Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich (1859 – 1919, 4.1)
  19. Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich (1861 – 1929, 4.2)
  20. Grand Duke George Mikhailovich (1863 – 1919, 4.3)
  21. Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich (1866 – 1933, 4.4)
  22. Prince Andrei Alexandrovich (1897 – 1981, 4.4.1)
  23. Prince Feodor Alexandrovich (1898 – 1968, 4.4.2)
  24. Prince Nikita Alexandrovich (1900 – 1974, 4.4.3)
  25. Prince Dmitri Alexandrovich (1901 – 1980, 4.4)
  26. Prince Rostislav Alexandrovich (1902 – 1978, 4.4.5)
  27. Prince Vasili Alexandrovich (1907 – 1989, 4.4.6)
  28. Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich (1869 – 1918, 4.5)

Many of the individuals on this list died childless; some were killed during the Russian Revolution.



Cyril Vladimirovich (1924-1938)

At first, many members of the Imperial House either did not believe or were wary of acting on news of the demise of the immediate imperial family. However, camps started to be formed in the monarchist movement, where Paris was a focal location. Several monarchists grouped around Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich, who was first in the line of succession after the execution of Alexei Nikolaevich and Michael Alexandrovich. Many of Cyril's opponents grouped around a young grand duke, Dmitri Pavlovich, who was next in the line of succession if Cyril and his brothers, the Vladimirovichi, were ineligible (Paul Alexandrovich, who had been ahead of Dmitri, had been killed in 1919). Several grouped around the old Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich, appreciating his career as general and former commander-in-chief, and/or his position as the oldest member of the imperial dynasty.

Nicholas and Dmitri actually never publicly proclaimed themselves pretenders, but Cyril Vladimirovich assumed on 8 August 1922 the position of curator of the throne. On 31 August 1924 he proclaimed himself Cyril I, Emperor of all the Russias. With the assumption of the Imperial title he elevated his children to the titles Grand Duke and Grand Duchesses of Russia, though they were not grandchildren of a reigning Emperor and were by birth Prince and Princesses of Russia.[1] Nicholas, the more serious of the other monarchist alternatives, died in 1929. Cyril held his court-in-exile in France and erected a functioning machinery for the monarchist movement.

Vladimir Cyrillovich (1938-1992)

In 1938 Cyril died, and was succeeded as pretender by his only son Vladimir Cyrillovich, who did not publicly assume the imperial title, and was known as "Grand Duke".

Vladimir elevated his father's second cousin and their loyal supporter Prince Gavriil Konstantinovich to Grand Duke of Russia in 1939. Gavriil was the only Romanov prince to be granted a grand ducal title ad personam after Empress Elizabeth awarded the title to her nephew, the future Peter III in the 18th century.

The Vladimirovichi supporters claim that Grand Duke Vladimir Cyrillovich, was the sole male dynast of the Imperial House to enter into an equal marriage after 1917. Opponents refute the equality of even this marriage. On August 13, 1948, he married Leonida (since the wedding, known as Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna), the daughter of a claimant to the headship of the Georgian Royal House, prince George Alexandrovich Bagration-Mukhrani. The royal status of the House of Georgia was permanently recognized by Russia in the Treaty of Georgievsk of 1783 and was confirmed by a decree of 5 December 1946 issued by the Grand Duke Vladimir Cyrillovich.

In 1969 Vladimir, foreseeing in his opinion an almost inevitable extinction of the male dynastic line he proclaimed his daughter Maria Vladimirovna the future curatrix of the throne, implying that she would ultimately succeed. That act angered yet more of those already rebellious other dynasts and groups in monarchist circles. After this proclamation Princes Vsevold, Andrei and Roman wrote to Vladimir and addressing him as a Prince not Grand Duke, said that he had married unequally and that his wife was of no higher status than the wives of the other Romanov princes. They also said that they did not recognise Maria Vladimirovna as a Grand Duchess and that his proclamation was illegal.[2]

In 1989, when Prince Vasili Alexandrovich of Russia (who also was the President of the Romanov Family Association, see discussion of succession controversy below), died, Vladimir immediately proclaimed his daughter as the dynasty's heiress as Prince Vasili was the last male Vladimir recognized as a dynast.

Maria Vladimirovna (1992-present)

When Vladimir died in 1992, Maria Vladimirovna had herself proclaimed the new Head of the Imperial House, assuming the position of curatrix and proclaiming her son George Mikhailovich the heir-apparent. Her son, who was born in 1982, was given the patronymic "Mikhailovich" because from 1976 until her divorce in 1985, Maria was married to His Royal Highness Prince Franz Wilhelm of Prussia, who was granted the title "His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich of Russia" by Vladimir. Maria styles herself "Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia" as her title of pretension, and her son styles himself "His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Georgi Mikhailovich of Russia" as his title of pretension.

Nicholas Romanov (1992-present)

In 1979, seven undisputed male and female dynasts founded the Romanov Family Association (or RFA), which by the end of the same year had admitted more than half of the surviving undisputed dynasts into its membership, as well as a fair number of those male-line descendants Vladimir did not recognize as dynasts because of morganatic birth. Vladimir Cyrillovich never joined the association and neither has his daughter Maria.

The RFA, which yet numbered two elderly female recognized dynasts among its membership, chose Prince Nicholas Romanov, as its president in 1989 following the death of Prince Vasili Alexandrovich of Russia. The RFA's official position is that the Russian nation should determine which sort of government it desires, and if the choice is monarchy, who should be monarch.

However, some assert that Nicholas, who has taken "H.H. Prince of Russia" as his title of pretension, is, in addition, the head of the Imperial House of Romanov, a position Prince Nicholas has himself claimed since the death of Vladimir Cyrillovich in April, 1992.[3][4][5] With the exception of Maria Vladimirovna, Prince Nicholas is recognised by the rest of the family as head of the imperial house.[6]

Succession controversy

Several individuals may claim dynastic headship, depending on application of Romanov House Law. First, one must determine who was the last surviving male dynast. This may have been Vladimir Cyrillovich, or, depending on one's view of the validity of his father's or grandfather's marriage, Nicholas Romanovich. If there is a surviving male dynast, he is the legitimate claimant under Romanov House Law. If not, semi-salic succession takes over, and the title passes to the last surviving male dynast's closest female relative. This may be Maria Vladimirovna, or, depending on one's view of her father's marriage, Nicholas Romanovich; semi-salic succession may instead pivot from, for instance, Nicholas II, or Vladimir Cyrillovich's cousin, Prince Rostislav.

Line of Maria Vladimirovna

If one accepts Vladimir Cyrillovich's marriage to Leonida Georgievna Bagration-Moukhranskaya as non-morganatic and he was succeded by his daughter Maria Vladimirovna then the line of succession is:

  1. George Mikhailovich (born 1981), who has been styled Grand Duke of Russia since birth, also a Prince of Prussia (a title which he does not generally use)

After George, the male line of Grand Duchess Maria is extinct. If both died without further male heirs, the succession would then follow semi-Salic law and the right to the Imperial Crown will presumably pass either to Karl Emich, Hereditary Prince of Leiningen[citation needed], as nearest male relation to Maria and her son, or to the nearest male Orthodox relative, be it Prince Karl Wladimir of Yugoslavia (born 1964, son of the late Princess Kira Melita of Leiningen), or Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia[citation needed].

Line of Nicholas Romanov

The line of succession to Prince Nicholas Romanov based on descent from Emperor Nicholas I of Russia is:

  1. Prince Dimitri Romanovich (born 1926)
  2. Prince Andrew Andreevich (born 1923)
  3. Prince Alexis Andreevich (born 1953)
  4. Prince Peter Andreevich (born 1961)
  5. Prince Andrew Andreevich (born 1963)
  6. Prince Rostislav Rostislavovich (born 1985)
  7. Prince Nikita Rostislavovich (born 1987)
  8. Prince Nicholas Christopher (born 1968)
  9. Prince Daniel Joseph (born 1972)


Did Vladimir Cyrillovich's marriage violate House Laws?

  • Under the semi-Salic succession promulgated by Emperor Paul I of Russia, when the last male Romanov dynast died, the succession would pass to his closest female relative with valid succession rights. Vladimir Cyrillovich contended that he was the last male Romanov dynast because all other males descended from Emperor Nicholas I of Russia married morganatically, in violation of the Romanov House law, with the result that their offspring did not possess any inheritance rights to the Russian throne. Accordingly, he declared that his daughter Maria Vladimirovna would succeed as his closest female relative. When he died in 1992, Maria thus claimed to have succeeded as the Head of the Imperial Family of Russia.[7]
  • The greatest objection to this argument is that Maria's mother, Princess Leonida Bagration-Mukhransky, was not a member of a royal or ruling house, and that Maria's parents' marriage was therefore morganatic. The House of Mukhrani (Bagration-Mukhransky) was a collateral branch of the Bagrationi dynasty which ruled the nation of Georgia until 1810. After Georgia's incorporation into the Russian Empire, they had been regarded as nobility, rather than royalty, in Russia. The elder line of the House of Mukhrani, now extinct, did produce several Georgian kings between 1659 and 1724, but its younger line, to which Leonida belongs, has never held kingship. They are, however, the genealogically eldest surviving Bagratid branch, and have, since 1957, claimed to be the Royal House of Georgia, in their European exile. The legitimate rights of this House to the throne of Georgia have frequently been questioned, however, due to the fact that patrilineal descendants of the last king of Georgia – the Bagration-Gruzinsky – still survive in Georgia.
  • Maria and her defenders argue that the Bagration-Mukhranskys were indeed royal, and that the marriage was thus between equals. Moreover, the Head of the Imperial House approved the marriage, consistent with tradition, by which the Emperor was the only person who could decide whether a marriage was in accordance with Russian succession laws[citation needed]. Vladimir, who was de jure Emperor, had decided two years before his own marriage that the Bagrations were of "corresponding rank," in a letter to Infante Ferdinand of Spain regarding the latter's daughter's marriage to Prince Irakly Bagration-Mukhransky. This decision differs from that made in 1911 when, according to the Almanach de Gotha, Princess Tatiana Constantinovna of Russia morganatically wed Prince Constantine Alexandrovich Bagration-Mukhransky, a member of the same branch of the House of Bagration into which Princess Leonida would later be born.[8] The Count of Barcelona, then Head of the Royal House of Spain, considered the issue of this marriage to be disqualified from the Spanish succession. The only son of this marriage was sponsored at his baptism by the Count of Barcelona but the latter's refusal to recognize his god-son as a Spanish dynast led to the Bagration's alienation from the Spanish Royal Family according to Guy Stair Sainty.
  • Maria's opponents counter that approval by the Head of the Imperial House cannot make a marriage valid if it violates a provision of the Imperial Russian Law, such as the prohibition against marriages with rank disparity. If this marriage between a dynast and a subject noblewoman (a wife who is of high aristocratic birth, such as a princess, but a subject of the Empire and not of a sovereign family of reigning monarchs) is not morganatic, then this undermines the claim that marriages between other dynasts and subject noblewomen are morganatic. For example, if a Russian imperial dynast may equally marry a Princess Bagration-Moukhransky, then other dynasts obviously may, equality preserved, marry such personages as daughter of the Duke of Sasso-Ruffo, Princess Irina Paley who is descended from the self-same Romanov tsars, Princess Natalia Galitzine and Princess Alexandra Galitzine descended from medieval sovereigns of Lithuania and Belarus, as high an ancestry as that of the Mukhrani Bagrations, distant descendants of medieval sovereigns in Georgia. Some Romanov princes would thus also be dynasts, in which case the male descent would not be totally extinct. This might suggest that sons born of such marriages of dynasts are as much heirs of Russia as Maria Vladimirovna, and in fact have a better dynastic claim, as no female is yet called to succeed. On this theory, Andrew Andreyevich Romanov (born 1923), may be the present Head of the imperial family. However, this argument ignores the fact that there were no disenfranchised male dynasts in the imperial succession[citation needed].

Did Cyril Vladimirovich's marriage violate House Laws?

  • Cyril Vladimirovich's 1905 marriage to HRH Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was not approved by the Emperor. However, supporters of Maria argue that the marriage was later approved by Emperor Nicholas II in 1907, and Nicholas II accorded Victoria the title and style of "Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna of Russia."[citation needed]
  • Princess Victoria had previously been married to HRH Grand Duke Ernest Louis of Hesse. Supporters of Maria respond that the laws governing the Russian succession do not forbid marriage to divorcées[citation needed].
  • Cyril and Victoria were first cousins, and the Russian Orthodox Church prohibited first cousins marrying. Maria's supporters point out that all other potential claimants are descended from the marriage of Tsar Nicholas I with his second cousin, similarly forbidden by Russian Orthodox canon– and if children of a marriage prohibited by reason of consanguinity were ineligible to succeed, Tsars Alexander II, Alexander III, and Nicholas II could not have validly succeeded to the throne. Moreover, the Emperor gave his approval to Cyril and Victoria's marriage[citation needed], and the Emperor of Russia was then the supreme Head of the Russian Orthodox church. Opponents counter that the Emperor could not change Church Law by his own decision; instead, an act in ecclesiastical synods or councils would have been needed. However, the Orthodox Church does not condemn children of uncanonical marriages nor their rights to inheritance, so this objection is weak[citation needed].
  • At the time of Cyril and Victoria's marriage, Victoria was Protestant, not Orthodox. Maria and her supporters counter that this objection, too, is overcome by the Emperor's approval of the marriage[citation needed]. According to them, under dynastic law, the Emperor designated which of the dynasts had to marry Orthodox women; usually this was required only of persons who were high in the line of succession, which Cyril was not at the time of his marriage. The Orthodox church does not prohibit its members from marrying Protestants. And Victoria later embraced the Orthodox faith, receiving a published accolade from Tsar Nicholas II. At the time of Vladimir Cyrillovich's birth, his mother already had long been Orthodox[citation needed].

Did Cyril Vladimirovich's father's marriage violate House Laws?

  • Cyril Vladimirovich's father, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, married Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a Lutheran who did not convert to Orthodoxy until later in her marriage. The arguments regarding the objections to this marriage are similar to the arguments regarding the religious objections to Cyril Vladimirovich's marriage. It is quite clear, however, that Cyril and his brothers were considered throughout the life of the monarchy to be in the line of succession.

Did Nicholas Romanov's marriage violate House Laws?

  • If any of Maria Vladimirovna's ancestors' marriages were morganatic or otherwise invalid to pass on succession rights, Maria would seem to have no better claim than any other member of the family. However, supporters of Nicholas have sometimes asserted that he is the senior male-line descendant of Tsar Nicholas I with succession rights. While he is not the genealogically senior descendant (he is descended from a younger son of Nicholas I, and there are living descendants of Nicholas I's older sons), his supporters assert that all those senior to him lost their rights.[4] (For instance, Nicholas I's eldest son was Tsar Alexander II, whose youngest son was Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich. Paul's eldest son was Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, and Dmitri's son by Audrey Emery, an American, was Paul Romanovsky-Ilyinsky, whose son in turn is Dimitri Romanovsky-Ilyinsky, an American citizen. Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich's marriage to Audrey Emery was morganatic, so Dimitri Romanovsky-Ilyinsky, the senior living male-line descendant of Alexander II, has no succession rights.[citation needed])
  • While Nicholas's mother was also not a member of a royal family, Nicholas argues that he did not thereby lose his right to the throne, as the laws of the Russian Empire only required Grand Dukes to marry brides of equal rank. Only the sons and male-line grandsons of Tsars held the rank of Grand Duke. As Nicholas' father– a great-grandson of Tsar Nicholas I– was only a Prince, he was not required to marry a royal bride. In this way, Prince Nicholas claims to be in a different position to the descendants of Cyril Vladimirovich and Dmitri Pavlovich.[4] Most students of Imperial Russian law disagree with this interpretation of the law[citation needed]. The 1942 Almanach de Gotha makes no mention that the marriage of the parents of Prince Nicholas is morganatic or that it does not comply with the house laws and both Nicholas and his brother Dimitri are listed as members of the Imperial House. However, the last edition of the Almanach de Gotha published by Justus Perthes, in 1944, did state that the marriage of Nicholas's parents was "not in conformity with the laws of the house."[9]

Other arguments

  • Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna and the other senior members of the Romanov family did not acknowledge the legitimacy of Cyril Vladimirovich's claim during the 1920s.
  • Cyril Vladimirovich was one of the first defectors to abandon the Tsar and join, if not lead, the revolution in St. Petersburg, donning a red armband with the Preobrazhnsky guards. Some argue that as a Russian, a soldier, a Grand Duke, and a Romanov, this was an act of treason of the highest degree, which calls into question the legitimacy of his claim to the throne.


It seems that Maria Vladimirovna has, among others, her court, most of the Russian Orthodox church, and most societies of Russian Nobility, including the most influential, the Russian Nobility Association, behind her; whereas the Romanov Family Association has most of the active descendants of the dynasty, some monarchist organizations, the editors of the new, albeit less respected,[10] Almanach de Gotha in London,[11] and best influence to recent Russian governments behind it[citation needed]. As displays of the good score in the visibility contest, RFA presents its achievement to have its president as foremost family representative when Nicholas II and his family's remains were interred in St Petersburg, as well as in several other burials and governmental event; whereas Maria Vladimirovna has in those same issues, generally been in foremost position in church-organized solemnizings, such as masses in honor of relic-translation and such.

See also


  1. ^ Almanach de Gotha (182nd ed.). Almanach de Gotha. 1998. p. 214. ISBN 0953214206. 
  2. ^ Massie, p 269
  3. ^ "Nikolai Romanov Prince of Russia Presentation". 2002-09-26. Retrieved 2008-08-19. 
  4. ^ a b c Horan, Brien Purcell (September 1998). "The Russian Imperial Succession". Retrieved 2008-08-19. 
  5. ^ Looijen, Sytske (1992-06-25). "European Topics". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2008-08-19. 
  6. ^ Massie p. 274
  7. ^ Maria Vladimirovna's website
  8. ^ Almanach de Gotha, Russie, (Gotha: Justus Perthes, 1944), page 107.
  9. ^ "Almanach de Gotha", Russie, (Gotha: Justus Perthes, 1944), page 107, (French) "en mariage non conforme aux lois de la maison".
  10. ^ "Kennedy" Almanach de Gotha
  11. ^ Almanach de Gotha



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