Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia

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Maria Vladimirovna
Grand Duchess of Russia
Maria Vladimirovna of Russia (cropped).jpg
Head of the House of Romanov (disputed)
Tenure21 April 1992 – present
Heir apparentGeorge
Born (1953-12-23) 23 December 1953 (age 67)
Madrid, Spanish State
(m. 1976; div. 1985)
IssueGrand Duke George Mikhailovich
Maria Vladimirovna Romanova
FatherGrand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich of Russia
MotherPrincess Leonida Bagration of Mukhrani
ReligionRussian Orthodox

Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia (Russian: Мари́я Влади́мировна Рома́нова; born 23 December 1953) has been a claimant to the headship of the Imperial Family of Russia (who reigned as Emperors and Autocrats of All the Russias from 1613 to 1917) since 1992. Although she has used Grand Duchess of Russia as her title of pretence with the style Imperial Highness throughout her life, her right to do so is disputed.[1][2] She is a great-great-granddaughter in the male line of Emperor Alexander II of Russia.

Early life[edit]


Maria Vladimirovna was born in Madrid, the only child of Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich of Russia, head of the Imperial Family of Russia and titular Emperor of Russia,[3] and Princess Leonida Bagration-Mukhrani of Georgian, Polish, German and Swedish descent.[4] Her paternal grandparents were Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich of Russia and Grand Duchess Victoria Fyodorovna (née Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) through whom she is a great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Her godfather was Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich of Russia, for whom Prince Nicholas of Romania stood in at the christening ceremony, and her godmother was Queen Ioanna of Bulgaria.[5]


Maria was educated in Runnymede College[5] in Madrid and Paris before studying Russian history and literature at Oxford University.[6][7]

Maria Vladimirovna lives in Madrid. She is fluent in Russian, English, French, and Spanish, and also speaks some German, Italian, and Arabic.[8]

On 23 December 1969, upon reaching her dynastic majority, Maria swore an oath of loyalty to her father, to Russia, and to uphold the Fundamental Laws of Russia which governed succession to the defunct throne. At the same time, her father issued a controversial decree recognising her as heiress presumptive and declaring that, in the event he predeceased other dynastic Romanov males, then Maria would become the "Curatrix of the Imperial Throne"[8] until the death of the last male dynast. This has been viewed as an attempt by her father to ensure the succession remained in his branch of the imperial family,[7] while the heads of the other branches of the imperial family, the Princes Vsevolod Ioannovich of the Konstantinovichi, Roman Petrovich of the Nikolaevichi and Prince Andrei Alexandrovich of the Mihailovichi declared that her father's actions were illegal.[1] As it happened, Vladimir Kirillovich, who died in 1992, outlived all the other male Romanov dynasts, and his daughter had no occasion to assume curatorship.


In Dinard on 4 September 1976 (civil) and at the Russian Orthodox Chapel in Madrid on 22 September 1976 (religious), Maria married Prince Franz Wilhelm of Prussia,[9] her third cousin once removed. He is a Hohenzollern great-grandson of Germany's last emperor Wilhelm II and a great-great-great grandchild of Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom. Franz Wilhelm converted to the Orthodox faith prior to the wedding, taking the name Michael Pavlovich and receiving the title of a Grand Duke of Russia from Maria's father.[10][11]

The couple separated in 1982, a year after the birth of their only child, George Mikhailovich, who had been granted the title Grand Duke of Russia at birth by his grandfather Vladimir. Following the divorce on 19 June 1985, Franz Wilhelm reverted to his Prussian name and style.[6]

Succession claims and activities[edit]

Styles of
Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna
Coat of Arms of Russian Empire.svg
Reference styleHer Imperial Highness
Spoken styleYour Imperial Highness
Monogram of Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna

Maria Vladimirovna is a patrilineal descendant of Alexander II of Russia, who is also a male-line descendant of Elimar I, Count of Oldenburg.

When Vladimir Kirillovich died on 21 April 1992, his daughter Maria claimed to succeed him as head of the Russian Imperial Family on the grounds that she was the only child of the last male dynast of the Imperial house according to the Romanovs' Pauline laws.[12] Although the charter of the Romanov Family Association (RFA), which represents other descendants of the Romanov family, asserts the premise that Russia's form of government should be determined democratically and that therefore the Association and its members undertake to adopt no position on any claims to the Imperial throne,[13] its two most recent presidents have personally opposed Maria's claims: Nicholas Romanov, Prince of Russia, who maintained his own claims to dynastic status and to headship of the Romanov family,[14] stated, "Strictly applying the Pauline Laws as amended in 1911 to all marriages of Equal Rank, the situation is very clear. At the present time, not one of the Emperors or Grand Dukes of Russia has left living descendants with unchallengeable rights to the Throne of Russia."[15] His younger brother, Prince Dimitri Romanov, said of Maria's assumption of titles, including "de jure Empress of all the Russias", that "It seems that there are no limits to this charade".[16] The supporters of Maria Vladimirovna point to the fact that neither Nicholas nor his brother Dimitri had any dynastic claims due to the morganatic marriage of their parents.[17]

By the Pauline Laws, she is the rightful heir to the throne.[12][5] The Pauline Laws emphasize male succession before female succession. As an example, if Tsarevich Alexei Romanov had not been murdered in 1918, and died without issue (i.e., without children), his sisters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia wouldn't become Empresses before male Romanov relatives. Alexander III had four sons: Nicholas II of Russia whose only male son died before he could produce heirs, Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich of Russia, who died shortly before he was 11 months old, Grand Duke George Alexandrovich of Russia, who died with no issue, and Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia whose only son, George Mikhailovich, Count Brasov died at age 20, childless.

From there, the line of succession looks to Alexander III's father, Alexander II. His sons, Nicholas Alexandrovich, Tsesarevich of Russia, and Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia both died without issue. Excluding the future Alexander III, the third boy Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia – born after the childless Tsarevich and Alexander III, whose descendants couldn’t claim leadership for many reasons – had four sons. The eldest died in infancy and the second eldest, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich of Russia, had one son, Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich of Russia. His only child is Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia, making her the legal heir to the Russian throne.

In 1911, when a member of Maria Vladimirovna's mother's family, Prince Konstantin Alexandrovich Bagration-Mukhransky (who belonged to the House of Bagration that reigned as kings in Georgia until annexation by the Russian Empire in the 1800s) married Princess Tatiana Constantinovna of Russia, Nicholas II required that she renounce her rights to the Imperial Throne.[18] Yet by the time Maria's parents wed in 1948, the Romanovs had joined the Bagrations as a deposed dynasty, and it was post-Soviet Georgia's primate of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, who called for restoration of the Georgian monarchy as recently as 2007, engaging political and public interest in the dynastic prospects of Maria Vladimirovna's first cousin, Prince David Bagration-Moukhransky, who claims headship of the senior branch of the House of Bagration.[19][20]

Following the discovery of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and most of his immediate family in 1991, Maria Vladimirovna wrote to President Boris Yeltsin regarding the burial of the remains, saying of her Romanov cousins, whom she does not recognise as members of the Imperial House (including the grandchildren of Nicholas II's sister Grand Duchess Xenia), that they "do not have the slightest right to speak their mind and wishes on this question. They can only go and pray at the grave, as can any other Russian, who so wishes".[21] At the behest of the Russian Orthodox Church, Maria did not recognise the authenticity of the remains and declined to attend the reburial ceremony in 1998.[22] She has also said, regarding some of her Romanov cousins, that "My feeling about them is that now that something important is happening in Russia, they suddenly have awakened and said, 'Ah ha! There might be something to gain out of this.'"[23]

Maria hopes for the restoration of the monarchy someday and is "ready to respond to a call from the people".[8] When questioned about the ongoing rift among Romanov descendants, Maria said:

"Attempts to disparage my rights have originated with people who, firstly, do not belong to the Imperial Family, and, secondly, either do not themselves know the relevant laws or think that others do not know these laws. In either case, there is unscrupulousness at work. The only thing that causes me regret is that some of our relatives waste their time and energy on little intrigues instead of striving to be of some use to their country. I have never quarreled with anyone about these matters and I remain open to a discussion and cooperation with all, including, of course, my relatives. But there can be no foundation for cooperation without respect for our dynastic laws, fulfilling these laws, and following our family traditions."[22]

In 2002, Maria became frustrated with the internal strife within the Russian monarchist movement. When representatives of the Union of Descendants of Noble Families, one of two rival nobility associations (the other, older one being the Assembly of the Russian Nobility) were discovered to be distributing chivalric titles and awards of the Order of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, without her approval, she published a relatively strongly worded disclaimer.[24]

In 2003, Kirill I Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia stated in a congratulatory message on Maria Vladimirovna's 55th birthday, "you are the embodiment of a Russian Grand Duchess: noble, wise, compassionate, and consumed with a genuine love for Russia. Though you may reside far from Russia, you continue to take an active part in its life, rejoicing when there are triumphs and empathizing when there are trials. It is deeply gratifying to know that, even in these new historical circumstances, you are making a significant contribution to the building of Russia's global standing on the basis of spiritual and moral values, and the centuries-old traditions of the Russian people. The Russian Orthodox Church remains the preserver of the historical memory of the Russian people, and supports, as it has traditionally, the warmest possible relations with the Russian Imperial House."[25]

Subsequently, the official March 2013 recognition of her claim by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, seems to have drawn further supporters. In an interview, he firmly rejected the claims of the other Romanov descendants and stated: "Today, none of those persons who are descendants of the Romanovs are claimants to the Russian throne. But in the person of Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna and her son, George, the succession of the Romanovs is preserved — no longer to the Russian Imperial throne, but to history itself." (Сегодня никто из лиц, принадлежащих к потомкам Романовых, не претендует на Российский престол. Но в лице Великой княгини Марии Владимировны и ее сына Георгия сохраняется преемственность Романовых — уже не на Российском императорском престоле, а просто в истории).[26]

In December 2013, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna visited the United States at the request of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which received her with full honours and recognition as head of the Russian Imperial House.[27] On 17 July 2018 she participated in the liturgical commemoration of the centenary of the assassinations of Saints Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and their children conducted in Yekaterinburg by Patriarch Kirill I.[28]

In January 2021, Grand Duchess Maria announced the engagement of her son to Rebecca Bettarini, "a hereditary noblewoman" from Italy. Bettarini converted to Russian Orthodoxy and took the name Victoria Romanovna. Grand Duchess Maria granted permission for the couple to marry. She decreed that Bettarini will have the title Princess, with the predicate "Her Serene Highness" and the right to use the surname Romanov.[29]



Russian Orthodox Church[edit]

Foreign dynastic[edit]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Massie, p 269
  2. ^ Flintoff, John-Paul (20 September 2003). "Tsar Struck". Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  3. ^ "Empress Maria in Vladivostok". Vladivostok Times. 11 July 2007. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 11 August 2008.
  4. ^ Dumin, Stanislav (1993). Восходящая родословная вдовствующей Великой княгини Леониды Георгиевны // Летопись Историко-родословного общества в Москве. 1993. Вып. 1. С. 40-41 [The Ascending Lineage of the Dowager Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna // Chronicle of the Historical and Genealogical Society in Moscow. 1993. Issue 1. pp. 40-41.] (in Russian). Moscow: Historical and Genealogical Society in Moscow.
  5. ^ a b c "Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna and her justified claim to the Imperial throne of Russia". 18 July 2017. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  6. ^ a b Eilers, Marlene. Queen Victoria's Descendants. 2nd ed. Rosvall Royal Books: Falkoping, Sweden, 1997. pp. 79-84, 178. ISBN 91-6305964-9
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  12. ^ a b de Badts de Cugnac, Chantal. Coutant de Saisseval, Guy. Le Petit Gotha. Nouvelle Imprimerie Laballery, Paris 2002, pp. 780-782, 798-799, 808-809 (French) ISBN 2-9507974-3-1
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  16. ^ "The Romanov Fund For Russia". Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  17. ^ "Almanach de Gotha". 1938. p. 107. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
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  19. ^ "Wedding of the two royal dynasties members". Georgia Times. 2 August 2009. Archived from the original on 13 February 2009. Retrieved 2 September 2009.
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  22. ^ a b "Interview with Maria Vladimirovna". 12 December 2005. Archived from the original on 6 February 2008. Retrieved 11 August 2008.
  23. ^ Massie, p. 274.
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  28. ^ Tass. 17 July 2018. Patriarch Kirill I Leads Procession Commemorating Slain Czarist Family. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
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  30. ^ "Photographic image" (JPG). Retrieved 15 January 2018.
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  57. ^ Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh. "Burke’s Royal Families of the World: Volume I Europe & Latin America, 1977, pp. 235, 268, 271, 474. ISBN 0-85011-023-8


External links[edit]

Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia
Born: 23 December 1953
Russian royalty
Preceded by
Vladimir Kirillovich
Head of the Imperial House of Romanov
21 April 1992 – present
Heir apparent:
George Mikhailovich
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Vladimir Kirillovich
Empress and Autocrat of All Russia
21 April 1992 – present
Reason for succession failure:
Russian Revolution leads to Abolition of monarchy and Dissolution of Russian Empire
Heir apparent:
George Mikhailovich