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Princess Leonida Bagration of Mukhrani
Grand Duchess of Russia

File:Grand Duchess
Spouse Sumner Moore Kirby
Vladimir Cyrillovich, Grand Duke of Russia
Issue
Helen Kirby
Maria Vladimirovna, Grand Duchess of Russia
House House of Bagration-Mukhrani
House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov
Father Prince George Bagration of Mukhrani
Mother Elena Zlotnicki
Born 6 October 1914(1914-10-06)
Tiflis, Russian Empire (now Georgia)
Died 23 May 2010 (aged 95)
Madrid, Spain
Burial Grand Ducal Mausoleum, St. Petersburg

Leonida Georgievna, Grand Duchess of Russia, Leonida Georgiyevna Romanova (Леонида Георгиевна Романова) (6 October [O.S. 23 September] 1914 – 23 May 2010), was the widow of Grand Duke Vladimir Cyrillovich, Pretender to the Russian throne. She was an active and outspoken advocate of the claims advanced by Vladimir and their daughter, Maria Vladimirovna, to be accepted as the legitimate Heads of the Romanov Dynasty and de jure sovereigns of the Russian Empire.[1]

Contents

Early life and first marriage

File:Coat of arms of the House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov by Alexander
The coat of arms of the House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov.

The Grand Duchess was born as Princess Leonida Bagration of Mukhrani (Russian: Princess Leonida Georgievna Bagration-Moukhranskaya; Georgian: Leonida Giorgis asuli Bagration-Mukhraneli) to Prince George Bagration of Mukhrani and Princess Helena, née Zlotnicka (1886–1979). She descended patrilineally from former Kings of Georgia.

She was married, firstly, in Nice, France, on 6 November 1934, to Sumner Moore Kirby (1895–1945), a U.S. citizen. He had been born in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, the younger of two sons of Fred Kirby, a business partner of one of the F. W. Woolworth Company heirs. She was his third wife, he having been married from 1925 to 1931 to Doris Wayland, with whom he had a daughter, Gloria Kirby (born 1928). Kirby's second marriage, to Valentine Wagner, lasted from 20 January 1932 to 19 July 1934. Valentine Wagner's mother was born Princess Elisabeth Bagration, a member of the same family as Princess Leonida, but Kirby had no children of this marriage which, like his first and third marriages, was contracted civilly in Nice and dissolved there. Leonida and Sumner Kirby were divorced 18 November 1937, their daughter Helene Louise Kirby having been born in Geneva, Switzerland, on 26 January 1935. On 11 April 1945, Sumner Moore Kirby died in a hospital at Leau, near the Buchenwald Concentration Camp to which he had been deported from France after being arrested along with other U.S. and British civilians by the Vichy regime in 1944.

Second marriage controversy

Leonida remarried on 13 August 1948 Vladimir Cyrillovich Romanov, who used the pre-revolutionary Russian title Grand Duke, the style Imperial Highness and claimed to be, from 1938 to his death, Head of the Russian Imperial House[2] by virtue of being the hereditary heir to the throne of the Romanovs according to the Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire, as codified in 1906 and in force until overturned by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.[3] As his consort she used the title Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna. By him, she had another daughter, Maria Vladimirovna, who claims to have succeeded her father upon his death in 1992.[4]

According to her published memoirs, Leonida first met Vladimir Cyrilovich at a restaurant in France during World War II. But they did not see each other again for a few years, when both were making extended visits to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain, where their hosts happened to be neighbors (Vladimir was staying with his aunt, Infanta Beatrice de Orleans, former sister-in-law of the murdered Tsarina Alexandra). In 1946 Leonida's brother, Prince Irakly, married King Alfonso XIII's niece, Princess Doña María de las Mercedes de Baviera y Borbon (1911–1953), obtaining Vladimir's recommendation that the Spanish pretender, Don Juan, Count of Barcelona, accept the marriage as dynastic. In 1948 Vladimir, relying on his earlier advice on the Bagrations' historically royal status,[5] chose to wed Leonida dynastically in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Grand Duke's marriage to Leonida Bagration remained controversial; some considered it to be morganatic. Although the princess descended from the Bagrationi dynasty which had ruled as kings in Armenia and Georgia since the early Middle Ages, it had been deposed and reduced to the status of Russian nobility for more than a century prior to the Russian Revolution in 1917. Leonida belonged to the senior surviving branch of that family, but the last Georgian king from whom she descended in the male line was Constantine II who died in 1505,[6] although other branches of the family continued to reign in the Caucasus as late as 1810. Because the Russian Empire did not accord royal rank to the Bagrations at the time of the Russian Revolution, most Romanov dynasts in exile maintained that Leonida's daughter Maria Vladimirovna could not succeed to her father's claim to the Russian throne.

Claimant's consort

Leonida accompanied her husband when he made his only visit to Russia in November 1991, following the implosion of the Soviet Union. She was also at Vladimir's side the following year when he collapsed and died following delivery of a speech in Florida.

She visited her own ancestral land with her nephew Prince George Bagration of Mukhrani in 1995 when he first visited Georgia as a royal pretender to that country's abolished monarchy. But she did not attend the much-publicized 2009 wedding of her grand-nephew, Prince David Bagration of Mukhrani to the heiress of King George XII of Georgia, celebrated at the restored Sameba Cathedral in Old Tbilisi – where the Romanovs of Russia have never been popular. Nor did she re-locate her home from western Europe to Russia, although she visited the country repeatedly following her husband's funeral and burial in Saint Petersburg.

Wealth inherited by her elder, unmarried daughter Helen Kirby (styled by Vladimir's declaration as "Countess Dvinskaya"), helped Leonida, her second husband and younger daughter maintain homes in the south of France and in Madrid. There, both Maria Vladimirovna, who remains active as the claimant to the throne of the Romanovs in exile, and Maria's only son, Grand Duke George Mikhailovich (born in 1981, his father is Maria's ex-husband and distant cousin, Prince Franz Wilhelm of Prussia), were reared.

Death

Leonida Georgievna died on May 23, 2010, after her health had rapidly deteriorated. She requested to be buried next to her husband Vladimir Kirillovich in the Grand Ducal Mausoleum, Saint Petersburg. She was the last member of the Romanov family born on the territory of the Russian Empire.[7] during the monarchy.

Titles and styles

  • Her Serene Highness Princess Leonida Georgievna Bagration-Moukhransky (23 September 1914–13 August 1948)
  • Her Imperial Highness The Grand Duchess of Russia (13 August 1948 – 21 April 1992)
  • Her Imperial Highness The Dowager Grand Duchess of Russia (21 April 1992 – 23 May 2010)

She has also used the title HIM The Dowager Empress Leonida and is often referred to as such on her daughter's official website. However, abroad she traveled under the title of Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna of Russia.

Ancestors

References

  1. ^ [1] "Last Romanov Born In Russian Empire Dead At 95," The Moscow Times, 25 May 2010
  2. ^ An Announcement by the Office of the Head of the Russian Imperial House. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  3. ^ Fundamental State Laws. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  4. ^ Website of Grand Duchess Maria
  5. ^ 1946 Decree of the Head of the Russian Imperial House. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  6. ^ Cyril Toumanoff, "The Fifteenth-Century Bagratides and the Institution of Collegial Sovereignty in Georgia". Traditio. Volume VII, Fordham University Press, New York 1949–1951, pp. 169–221.
  7. ^ Last Romanov born in Russian empire dies aged 95

External links

Princess Leonida Bagration of Mukhrani
Born: 23 September 1914 Died: 23 May 2010
Titles in pretence
Vacant
Title last held by
Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
— TITULAR —
Empress consort of Russia
13 August 1948 – 21 April 1992
Reason for succession failure:
Empire abolished in 1917
Succeeded by
Countess Sveva della Gherardesca
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