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House of Romanov
Arms of the House of Romanov Romanov Flag
Country Russia
Parent house House of Oldenburg[1]
Titles Tsar (before 1721)
Emperor (since 1721)
Founder Michael of Russia
Final ruler Nicholas II
Current head Nicholas Romanov, Prince of Russia or
Maria Vladimirovna, Grand Duchess of Russia
Founding year 1613 (Romanov)
1762 (Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov)
Deposition 1917
Ethnicity Russian/German/Lithuanian

The House of Romanov (Russian: Рома́нов, pronounced [rʌˈmanəf]) was the second and last imperial dynasty of Russia, which ruled the country from 1613 to 1917. From 1762 until the February Revolution of 1917, the Russian Empire was ruled for five generations by a line of the House of Oldenburg descended from the marriage of a Romanov grand duchess to the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp. This line was officially also called Romanov, although genealogists sometimes style it, more accurately, Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov.



Coat of Arms of Russian Empire

The Romanovs share their origin with two dozen other Russian noble families. Their earliest common ancestor is one Andrei Kobyla, attested as a boyar in the service of Semyon I of Moscow. Later generations assigned to Kobyla the most illustrious pedigrees. An 18th century genealogy book claimed that he was the son of the Prussian prince Glanda Kambila, who came to Russia in the second half of the 13th century, fleeing the invading Germans. Indeed, one of the leaders of the Prussian rebellion of 1260-1274 against the Teutonic order was named Glande.

Possibly, Kobyla's origins were less spectacular. Not only is Kobyla Russian for mare, but some of his relatives were also nicknamed after horses and other house animals, thus perhaps suggesting descent from one of the royal equerries. One of Kobyla's sons, Feodor, a boyar in the boyar duma of Dmitri Donskoi, was nicknamed Koshka (cat). His descendants took the surname Koshkin, then changed it to Zakharin, which family later split into two branches: Zakharin-Yakovlev and Zakharin-Yuriev. During the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the former family became known as Yakovlev (Alexander Herzen being the most illustrious of them), whereas grandchildren of Roman Zakharin-Yuriev changed their name to Romanov.

Rise to power

A crowd at the Ipatiev Monastery imploring Mikhail Romanov's mother to let him go to Moscow and become their tsar (Illumination from a book dated 1673).

The family fortunes soared when Roman's daughter, Anastasia Zakharyina, married Ivan IV Muscovit in February 1547. When her husband assumed the title of tsar, which literally means Caesar, she was crowned the very first Tsarina. Their marriage was an exceedingly happy one, but her untimely and mysterious death in 1560 changed Ivan's character for the worse. Suspecting the boyars of having poisoned his beloved, the tsar started a reign of terror against them. Among his children by Anastasia, the elder (Ivan) was murdered by the tsar in a quarrel; the younger Feodor, a pious and lethargic prince, inherited the throne upon his father's death.

Throughout Fyodor's reign, the Russian government was contested between his brother-in-law, Boris Godunov, and his Romanov cousins. Upon the death of childless Fyodor, the 700-year-old line of Moscow Ruriks came to an end. After a long struggle, the party of Boris Godunov prevailed over the Romanovs, and the former was elected new Tsar. Godunov's revenge on the Romanovs was terrible: all the family and its relatives were deported to remote corners of the Russian North and Ural, where most of them died of hunger or in chains. The family's leader, Feodor Nikitich Romanov, was exiled to the Antoniev Siysky Monastery and forced to take monastic vows with the name Filaret.

A 16th-century residence of the Yuryev-Zakharyin boyars in Zaryadye, near the Kremlin.

The Romanovs' fortunes again changed dramatically with the fall of the Godunov dynasty in 1606. As a former leader of the anti-Godunov party and cousin of the last legitimate Tsar, Filaret Romanov was valued by several impostors who attempted to claim the Rurik legacy and throne during the Time of Troubles. False Dmitriy I made him a metropolitan, and False Dmitriy II raised him to the dignity of patriarch. Upon expulsion of Poles from Moscow in 1612, the Assembly of the Land offered the Russian crown to several Rurik and Gedimin princes, but all of them declined the honour of it.

On being offered the Russian crown, Filaret's 16-year-old son Mikhail Romanov, then living at the Ipatiev Monastery of Kostroma, burst into tears of fear and despair. He was finally persuaded to accept the throne by his mother Kseniya Ivanovna Shestova, who blessed him with the holy image of Our Lady of St. Theodore. Feeling how insecure his throne was, Mikhail attempted to stress his ties with the last Rurik tsars and sought advice from the Assembly of the Land on every important issue. This strategy proved successful. The early Romanovs were generally loved by the population as in-laws of Ivan the Terrible and innocent martyrs of Godunov's wrath.

The era of dynastic crises

Tsar Michael and his son tsar Alexis standing beneath an icon of Christ known as the Mandylion.

Mikhail was succeeded by his only son Alexei, who steered the country quietly through numerous troubles. Upon his death, there was a period of dynastic struggles between his children by his first wife (Feodor III, Sofia Alexeevna, Ivan V) and his son by his second wife, Nataliya Kyrillovna Naryshkina, the future Peter the Great. New dynastic struggles followed the death of Peter, who had his only son Alexei executed and never named another heir. The Romanov male line ended with the death of Peter II.

The Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov Dynasty

The Holstein-Gottorps of Russia retained the Romanov surname and sought to emphasize their maternal descent from Peter the Great, through Anna Petrovna (Peter I's elder daughter by his second wife). Paul I was particularly proud to be great-grandson of the illustrious Russian monarch, although his German-born mother, Catherine II (of the House of Anhalt-Zerbst), insinuated in her memoirs that Paul's real father had been her lover Serge Saltykov. Painfully aware of the hazards resulting from battles of succession, Paul established the house law of the Romanovs--one of the strictest in Europe--basing the succession to agnatic primogeniture and requiring Orthodox faith from the monarch, the dynasts, the consort of the emperor and from those of first heirs in line. Later, Alexander I, facing prospect of a morganatic alliance of his brother and heir, added the requirement that consorts of Russian dynasts had to be of equal birth (i.e., born to a royal or sovereign house).

Paul I was murdered in his palace in Saint Petersburg. Alexander I succeeded him on the throne and later died without leaving a male heir. His brother, crowned Nicholas I, succeeded him on the throne. Nicholas I fathered four sons and provided for each for the prospects of ruling Russia and successfully leading in military conflict by providing for them an excellent education.

Alexander II, son of Nicholas I, became the next Russian emperor. Alexander was an educated, intelligent man, who held that his task was to keep peace in Europe and Russia. However, he believed only a country with a strong army could keep the peace. By paying attention to the army, giving much freedom to Finland, and freeing the serfs in 1861, he gained much popular support (Finns still dearly remember him). His family life was not so happy; his beloved wife Maria Alexandrovna had serious problems with her lungs, which led to her death and to the dissolution of the close-knit family due to his quick morganatic marriage to his long time mistress, Princess Catherine Dolgoruki. His legitimization of his children by Catherine, and rumors that he was about to crown his new wife Empress, ending the morganatic status of his second marriage, caused great tension with the entire extended Romanov family. In particular, the Grand Duchesses were scandalized at the thought of being made permanently subordinate to Catherine Dolgoruki, since as an Empress she would retain precedence over all of them even after her husband's death. She would even have precedence over the future Empress, as Empresses Dowager were ranked higher than Empresses Consort in the Russian system of protocol. On March 13, 1881, Alexander was killed after returning from a military parade. Slavic patriotism, cultural revival, and Panslavist ideas grew in importance in the latter half of this century, drawing the dynasty to look more 'Russian'. Yet tighter commitment to orthodox faith was required of Romanovs. Several marriages were contracted with princesses from other Slavic monarchies and other orthodox kingdoms, and even a couple of cadet-line princesses were allowed to marry Russian high noblemen - when until 1850s, practically all marriages had been with German princelings.

Wedding of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna.

Alexander II was succeeded by his son Alexander III. Alexander III, the second-to-last Romanov tsar, was responsible for conservative reforms in Russia. Never meant to be emperor, he was educated in matters of state only after the death of his older brother, Nikolai. This lack of extensive education may have influenced his politics as well as those of his son, Nicholas II. Alexander III cut an impressive figure. Not only was he tall (6'4” according to some sources), but his physique was proportionately large. Rumors spread about his incredible strength – a strength that was the size of his temper. In addition, the beard he wore hearkened back to the likeness of tsars of old, contributing to the aura of authority with which he carried himself.

Alexander, fearful of the fate which had befallen his father, strengthened autocratic rule in Russia. Many of the reforms the more liberal Alexander II had pushed through were reversed. Alexander, at his brother's death, not only inherited the throne, but also a betrothed - Danish princess Maria Fyodorovna. Despite contrasting natures and size, the pair got on famously, was the first time a Tsar didn't have a mistress, and produced six children.

The former Royal Family Hall at the main train station in Nizhny Novgorod

The eldest, Nicholas, became Tsar upon his father's sudden death (due to kidney disease) at age 49. Unready to inherit the throne, Nicholas reputedly said, "I am not ready to be Tsar...." Though an intelligent and kind-hearted man, lacking any preparation to rule, he continued his father's harsh polices. His Tsarina, the loving German princess Alexandra Fyodorovna, was also a liability. Like the Tsar, she was not a ruler. When the Tsar took control of the army in the front lines during World War I, he left his wife in charge of Russia for he trusted only her. Like Nicholas, she failed at ruling. She was indecisive and did not trust anyone's advice. She was not intuitive in the ways of politics and not competent in this area. The fact that she was a German also lessened the Russian people's faith in her.

Constantine Pavlovich and Michael Alexandrovich, although sometimes counted among Russian monarchs, were not crowned and never reigned. They both married morganatically, as did Alexander II with his second wife. Six crowned representatives of the Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov line include: Paul (1796-1801), Alexander I (1801-1825), Nicholas I (1825-55), Alexander II (1855-81), Alexander III (1881-94), and Nicholas II (1894-1917).


One of the imperial Fabergé eggs presented by Nicholas II to his wife.

All these emperors (except Alexander III) had German-born consorts, a circumstance that cost the Romanovs their popularity during World War I. Nicholas's wife Alexandra Fyodorovna, although devoutly Orthodox, was particularly hated by the populace, largely because of her German origins.

Alexandra Fyodorovna had inherited a mutation gene from her grandmother, Queen Victoria. The gene causes hemophilia. Her son, the long-awaited heir to the throne, Alexei inherited this hemophilia gene. Nicholas and Alexandra also had four daughters (Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia).

When the Romanov family celebrated the tercentenary of its rule, in 1913, the solemnities were clouded by numerous bad omens. The face of Our Lady of St. Theodore, the patron icon of the family, became badly blackened. Grigori Rasputin predicted that the Romanov's power would not last two years after his death if a Romanov caused his death. (This has since been proven to be a forgery). Rasputin was murdered by a group of nobles, including Nicholas II's nephew by marriage (Felix Yussupov) and a cousin (Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich), on 16 December 1916. Two months later, the February Revolution of 1917 resulted in abdication of Nicholas II in favor of his brother Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich. The latter declined to accept the throne, terminating the Romanov dynasty's rule over Russia.

After the February Revolution, Nicholas II and his family were placed under house arrest in the Alexander Palace. Several members of the Imperial Family, including Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich of Russia, managed to establish good relations with the interim government and eventually fled the country during the October Revolution.

Yekaterinburg's "Church on the Blood," built on the spot where the last Tsar and his family were killed.

On July 16, 1918, Bolshevik authorities, led by Yakov Yurovsky, shot Nicholas II, his immediate family, and four servants in the cellar of the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg, Russia. The family was told that they would be photographed to prove to the people that they were still alive. The family members were arranged appropriately and left alone for several minutes. Soon the very people that were protecting them entered and shot them. At first, the girls did not die because of the jewels sewn into their corsets. These jewels were for protection but also so that the family could have some money for when they fled the country. The shooters were horrified at how the girls were able to withstand the bullets and feared that the family really was in power due to Divine right[citation needed]. To solve that problem, the shooters tried to stab them with bayonets. That failed, too, because of the jewels, so then, they were shot in the head at close range. Ironically, the Ipatiev House has the same name as the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma, where Mikhail Romanov had been offered the Russian Crown in 1613. The spot where the Ipatiev House once stood has recently been commemorated by a magnificent cathedral "on the blood." After years of controversy, Nicholas II and his family were proclaimed passion-bearers by the Russian Orthodox church in 2000. (In orthodoxy, a passion-bearer is a saint who was not killed because of his faith like a martyr but died in faith at the hand of murderers.)

In 1991, the bodies of Nicholas II and his wife, along with three of their five children and four of their servants, were exhumed (although some questioned the authenticity of these bones despite DNA testing). Because two bodies were not present, many people believed that two Romanov children escaped the killings. There was much debate as to which two children's bodies were missing. A Russian scientist made photographic superimpositions and determined that Marie and Alexei were not accounted for. Later, an American scientist concluded from dental, vertebral, and other remnants that it was Anastasia and Alexei that were missing. Much mystery surrounded Anastasia's fate. Several films have been produced, including the full length animated feature Anastasia by Twentieth Century Fox, suggesting that she lived on.

After the bodies were exhumed in June, 1991, they sat in laboratories until 1998, while there was a debate as to whether they should be reburied in Yekaterinburg or St. Petersburg. A commission eventually chose St. Petersburg, so they (along with several loyal servants who died with them) were interred in a special chapel in the Peter and Paul Cathedral near the tombs of their ancestors.

In September 2006, Empress Marie Fedorovna, the consort of Alexander III, was buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral beside her husband. Having fled Russia at the time of the Revolution, she had spent her remaining years in exile in her native Denmark, where she was initially buried in Roskilde Cathedral. The transfer of her remains was accompanied by elaborate ceremonies, including at St. Isaac's officiated by the Patriarch. For monarchists, the reburial of the Empress in the former Imperial Capital, so many years after her death, further underscored the downfall of the dynasty. Princes Dmitri and Nicholas Romanov were present at the ceremony, along with Princess Catherine Ioanovna of Russia, daughter of Prince Ioann Konstantinovich of Russia,Prince Nikita Kepta Romanoff, son of Kristina Tasha Romanova. Other members of the Imperial Family present included the descendants of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna including Prince Michael Andreevich of Russia the senior direct male descendant. Princess Catherine who was 90 years old at the time, and passed away in Montevideo Uruguay the following year, was the last member of the Imperial Family to be born before the fall of the dynasty, and was ultimately to become the last surviving uncontested dynast of the Imperial House of Russia.

On August 23, 2007, a Russian archaeologist announced the discovery of two burned, partial skeletons at a bonfire site near Yekaterinburg that appeared to match the site described in Yurovsky's memoirs. The archaeologists said the bones are from a boy who was roughly between the ages of ten and thirteen years at the time of his death and of a young woman who was roughly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three years old. Anastasia was seventeen years, one month old at the time of the assassination, while Maria was nineteen years and one month old. Alexei would have been fourteen in two weeks time. Alexei's elder sisters Olga and Tatiana were twenty-two and twenty-one years old at the time of the assassination. Along with the remains of the two bodies, archaeologists found "shards of a container of sulfuric acid, nails, metal strips from a wooden box, and bullets of various caliber." The bones were found using metal detectors and metal rods as probes. Also, striped material was found that appeared to have been from a blue-and-white striped cloth; Alexei commonly wore a blue-and-white striped undershirt.

On April 30, 2008, Russian forensic scientists announced that DNA testing proves that the remains belong to the Tsarevich Alexei and to one of his sisters. DNA information, made public in July 2008, that has been obtained from Ekaterinburg and repeatedly subject to independent testing by laboratories such as the University of Massachusetts Medical School, USA, and reveals that the final two missing Romanov remains are indeed authentic and that the entire Romanov family housed in the Ipatiev House, Ekaterinburg were executed in the early hours of July 17, 1918. Details relating to the forthcoming burial procedure will have to be discussed by a Russian State commission and by the Moscow Patriarchate.

On August 28, 2009, a Swedish public news outlet reported that Romanov family jewelry, found in 2008 in the archives of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, was returned. The jewelry was allegedly turned over to the Swedish embassy in St. Petersburg in November 1918 by Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin to keep it safe. The jewelry's worth was estimated to 20 million SEK(about 2.6 million US dollars).[2]

Contemporary Romanovs

There have been many theories regarding the possible survival of members of Nicholas II's family. However, recent research shows that all of the Romanovs, including Tsarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Anastasia who had been thought to have escaped the Bolshevik attack, were in reality killed.[3]

Outside of the direct family some relatives survived, including Nicholas II's two sisters, Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia and Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia. Xenia's and Olga's descendants survive to this day. Cyril Vladimirovich, Grand Duke of Russia, a descendant of Alexander II of Russia, claimed the title Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias in 1924 and some of his descendants retain such claims. In addition the Romanov Family Association exists for most descendants of Emperor Paul I of Russia. Both branches of the Romanov family are feuding with one another over the question of succession. Other close family relatives include Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who was closely related to the last Tsarina. Prince Philip's DNA was used by forensic scientists to identify the body of the last Tsarina and her children.[4]

Fictional Romanovs

Further reading

  • Bergamini, John D. The Tragic Dynasty: A History of the Romanovs. Putnam, 1969.
  • Crankshaw, Edward. "The Shadow of the Winter Palace: Russia's Drift to Revolution, 1825-1917"
  • Dunning, Chester S.L. Russia's First Civil War: The Time of Troubles and the Founding of the Romanov Dynasty, Penn State Press, 2001 ISBN 0-271-02074-1
  • Halliburton, Richard. "Seven League Boots".
  • Lincoln, W. Bruce. The Romanovs : autocrats of all the Russias, Garden City, N.Y. : Anchor Press/Doubleday, [1987], 1981. ISBN 0385279086
  • Lincoln, W. Bruce. Nicholas I: Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias , Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1978. ISBN 0253340594
  • Massie, Robert K. "Peter The Great".
  • Massie, Robert K. "Nicholas and Alexandra".
  • Massie, Robert K. "The Romanovs: The Final Chapter"
  • Troyat, Henri "Catherine the Great".
  • Troyat, Henri "Alexander I".
  • Radzinsky, Edvard "Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar".
  • Radzinsky, Edvard "The life and death of Nicholas II".
  • Van der Kiste, John. The Romanovs, 1818-1959: Alexander II of Russia and His Family. Sutton Publishing, 1998.

See also


  1. ^ "Romanov Dynasty". New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2009-06-20. 
  2. ^ (Swedish)
  3. ^ "DNA proves Bolsheviks killed all of Russian czar's children". CNN. March 11, 2009. Retrieved October 9, 2009. 
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of genetics By Eric C. R. Reeve, Isobel Black, page 829

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ROMANOV, the name of the Russian imperial dynasty, regnant in the male line from 1613 to 1730, and thenceforward in the female line. The Romanovs descended from Andrei, surnamed Kobyla, who is said to have come to Moscow from Prussia about 1341 to enter the service of the grand-duke Semen (d. 1353). His son Feodor, surnamed Koschka, was the ancestor of the families of Suchovo-Kobylin, Kalytschev and Scheremetjev, as well as of the Romanovs. Feodor's grandson, Sakhariya Ivanovich, was a boyar of Vasilii V., grand-duke of Moscow at intervals between 1425 and 1462, and the family took its name from his grandson Roman, whose daughter Anastasia Rornanovna married the tsar Ivan the Terrible. Her brother Nikita Romanovich married the princess Eudoxia Alexandrovna, a descendant of Andrei Jaroslavovich, grand-duke of Susdal-Vladimir (d. 1264), and in this way the Romanovs were linked up with the ancient royal house of Rurik. The Romanovs suffered heavily in the disorders following on the death of Ivan. Some were executed and others exiled. Nikita's son Feodor (the archimandrite Philaret) was banished, but was recalled by the false Demetrius. In 1610 he was imprisoned by the king of Poland, but his piety and virtues led to the election of his son, Mikhail Feodorovich Romanov, to the throne of the tsars in 1613. Philaret became patriarch of Moscow in 1619, and supported his son's government until his death in 1634. Mikhail was seventeen when he began his reign, and died in 1645. He was succeeded by his son Alexis, whose three sons, Feodor III., Ivan II. and Peter I. (the Great), inherited the throne. After the two years' reign of Peter's widow, Ekaterina Aleksievna Skavronska (Catherine I.), his grandson, Peter Aleksievich (Peter II.), succeeded. He died in 1730, and the succession devolved on the family of Ivan II., on his daughter Anna (1730-40) and his great-grandson Ivan III., and in 1741 on Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great. Peter's elder daughter, Anna, had married Charles Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp, and with the accession of her son, Peter III., in 1762 begins the present reigning dynasty of Holstein-Gottorp or Oldenburg-Romanov.

See R. Nisbet Bain, The First Romanovs (1905); P. V. Dolgorukov, Notice sur les principales families de la Russie (2nd ed., Berlin, 1858). 1858).

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