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Maria Vladimirovna, Grand Duchess of Russia

Maria Vladimirovna
Grand Duchess of Russia
Head of the House of Romanov (disputed)
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21 April 1992 – present
Predecessor Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich
Heir Grand Duke George Mikhailovich
Spouse Prince Franz Wilhelm of Prussia (1976–1985)
Issue Grand Duke George Mikhailovich
Full name
Maria Vladimirovna Romanova
House House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov
Father Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich of Russia
Mother Princess Leonida Bagration of Mukhrani
Born (1953-12-23) 23 December 1953 (age 62)
Madrid, Spain
Religion Russian Orthodox Church

Maria Vladimirovna, Grand Duchess of Russia (Russian: Мари́я Влади́мировна Рома́нова; born 23 December 1953 in Madrid), has been a claimant to the headship of the Imperial Family of Russia who reigned as Emperors and Autocrats of All the Russias (historically the modern states of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland), since 1992. She has used Grand Duchess of Russia as her title of pretence with the style Imperial Highness throughout her life, though 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.


Russian Imperial Family

HIH The Grand Duchess

HH The Prince
HH The Princess

HH The Dowager Princess

  • HSH Princess Natalia
  • HSH Princess Elizabeth
  • HSH Princess Tatiana

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 parentage. 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). Her godfather was Prince Nicholas of Romania and as a godmother Queen Ioanna of Bulgaria. Maria was educated in Madrid and Paris, before spending a few terms at Oxford University, where she studied Russian history and literature.[4][5]

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 Romanov males whom he had recognised as dynasts, then Maria would become the "Curatrix of the Imperial Throne"[6] 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,[4] 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] The legality of this action became immaterial when all the living male dynasts ended up predeceasing Grand Duke Vladimir, who died in 1992.

In Madrid on 22 September 1976, Maria married Prince Franz Wilhelm of Prussia,[7] 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.[8][9]

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.[10]

Maria Vladimirovna lives in France and Spain. She is fluent in Russian, English, French and Spanish, and also speaks some German, Italian and Arabic.[6]

Succession claims and activities

Styles of
The Grand Duchess of Russia
Reference style Her Imperial Highness
Spoken style Your Imperial Highness
Alternative style Ma'am

Maria's grandfather's claim as emperor-in-exile was strongly disputed by other members of his family. Her father, Vladimir Cyrillovich, was considered by some to be the last male dynast of the Romanov family.[5] When he died on 21 April 1992, Maria claimed to have succeeded him as head of the Russian Imperial Family, though this was disputed by Prince Nicholas Romanovich, a male-line great-great-grandson of Emperor Nicholas I who also claimed to have succeeded Vladimir. However, after Nicholas Romanovich's death in September 2014,[11][12] she is the only living contender to the title.

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".[13] 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.[14] She has also said regarding 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.'"[15]

Maria hopes for the restoration of the monarchy someday and is "ready to respond to a call from the people".[6] When questioned about the ongoing rift in the Romanov family, 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."[14]

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 St Nicholas the Wonderworker, without her approval, she published a relatively strongly worded disclaimer.[16]

On 5 January 2010, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna went to Istanbul, where she met with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople and Mustafa Cagrici, Grand Mufti of Istanbul.[17] On 14 December of the same year, with the blessing of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, she made a pilgrimage to Bari, Italy, and visited Pope Benedict XVI and Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal-Camerlengo Tarcisio Bertone in the Vatican.

The March 2013 recognition of her claim by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill I Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, 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 pretenders 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).[18] In December 2013, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna visited the United States at the request of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, who received her with full honors and recognition as head of the Russian Imperial House.[19]

Upon the abdication of King Juan Carlos of Spain, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna expressed regret over the monarch's abdication with the words "The Grand Duchess has great respect for King Juan Carlos, for everything he did for his country, and his decision. The Russian Imperial House believes that the head of the dynasty, the reigning monarch must perform his duties until the end. A partial handover of duties and powers to the heir is possible. The possibility of a monarch abdicating the throne is fairly debatable: the father cannot abandon his subjects, even if he is not as strong as he used to be. Such is the Russian tradition" [20]

Titles, styles, honours and awards

  • Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia
National dynastic honours
Foreign honours

See also


  1. ^ a b Massie, p 269
  2. ^ Flintoff, John-Paul (20 September 2003). "Tsar Struck". John-Paul Flintoff. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Empress Maria in Vladivostok". Vladivostok Times. 11 July 2007. Retrieved 11 August 2008. 
  4. ^ a b Massie, p 263
  5. ^ a b "The Romanov Imperial dynasty in emigration XX century". Archived from the original on 28 August 2006. Retrieved 11 August 2008. 
  6. ^ a b c "Maria I Wladimirovna". Retrieved 11 August 2008. 
  7. ^ Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XIV. "Haus Preußen". C.A. Starke Verlag, 1991, pp. 123, 153. ISBN 3-7980-0700-4.
  8. ^ Olga S. Opfell (2001). Royalty who wait: the 21 heads of formerly regnant houses of Europe. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., Inc Publishers. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-7864-0901-3. 
  9. ^ Massie, p 263-264
  10. ^ Eilers, Marlene. Queen Victoria's Descendants. 2nd ed. Rosvall Royal Books: Falkoping, Sweden, 1997.
  11. ^ "Prince Nikolai Romanov dies in Italy at the age of 91". Russia Beyond the Headlines. ITAR-TASS. 15 September 2014. 
  12. ^ "Most Senior Member of Romanov Dynasty Dies at 92 in Italy". RIA Novosti. 15 September 2014. 
  13. ^ Massie, p270
  14. ^ a b "Interview with Maria Vladimirovna". 12 December 2005. Retrieved 11 August 2008. [dead link]
  15. ^ Massie, p 274
  16. ^ "Declaration by Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna". 11 December 2002. Retrieved 11 August 2008. 
  17. ^ {Визит Главы Дома Романовых в Стамбул}
  18. ^ "Слово пастыря". Выпуск от 9 марта 2013 года (in Russian). Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  19. ^ "Celebrations of the Feast Day of the Kursk-Root Icon". Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Retrieved 3 March 2014. 
  20. ^ Romanov royal family expresses regret over Spanish king's abdication - News - World - The Voice of Russia: News, Breaking news, Politics, Economics, Business, Russia, Internat...
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External links

Maria Vladimirovna, Grand Duchess of Russia
Cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg
Born: 23 September 1953
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich
Empress of Russia
21 April 1992 – present
Reason for succession failure:
Empire abolished in 1917
Grand Duke George Mikhailovich

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