Kirill Vladimirovich, Grand Duke of Russia

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Kirill Vladimirovich
Grand Duke of Russia
Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich Romanov.JPG
Head of the House of Romanov
Time 31 August 1924 – 12 October 1938
Successor Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich
Spouse Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Issue Grand Duchess Maria Kirillovna, Princess of Leiningen
Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna, Princess of Prussia
Vladimir Kirillovich, Grand Duke of Russia
House House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov
Father Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia
Mother Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Born 12 October [O.S. 30 September] 1876
Tsarskoye Selo, Russia
Died 12 October 1938(1938-10-12) (aged 62)
Neuilly, France
Burial Rosenau Castle, Coburg
Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg, Russia

Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich of Russia, RE (Russian: Кирилл Владимирович Рома́нов; Kirill Vladimirovich Romanov; 12 October [O.S. 30 September] 1876 – 12 October 1938) was a member of the Russian Imperial Family. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the deaths of Tsar Nicholas II and his brother Michael, Kirill assumed the Headship of the Imperial Family of Russia and later the title Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias, a position never recognized by the rest of the Romanov family.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Grand Duke Kirill was born in Tsarskoye Selo. His father was Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, the third son of Tsar Alexander II and Maria Alexandrovna of Hesse. His mother was Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (later known as Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna), the daughter of Friedrich Franz II of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Princess Augusta of Reuss-Köstritz. As a grandson in the male line to a Russian Tsar, he was titled Grand Duke, with the style Imperial Highness.

War service[edit]

After graduating from the Sea Cadet Corps and Nikolaev Naval Academy, on 1 January 1904, Kirill was promoted to Chief of Staff to the Russian Pacific Fleet in the Imperial Russian Navy. With the start of the Russo-Japanese War, he was assigned to serve as First Officer on the battleship Petropavlovsk, but the ship was blown up by a Japanese mine at Port Arthur in April 1904.[1] Kirill barely escaped with his life, and was invalided out of the service suffering from burns, back injuries and shell shock.

Marriage and children[edit]

Grand Duke Kirill married his divorced first cousin, Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on 8 October 1905 without any consent from Tsar Nicholas II.[2] Victoria's father was Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the second eldest son of Queen Victoria. Victoria's mother was Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia, a daughter of Tsar Alexander II and Kirill's paternal aunt.

The marriage caused a scandal in the courts of European royalty as Princess Victoria was divorced from her first husband, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse, also her first cousin. The Grand Duke of Hesse's sister was Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna, the wife of Nicholas II. The Tsarina already disliked her former sister-in-law and first cousin, being instrumental in leading the opposition to the marriage in the Russian court. She was not alone in her opposition. Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna was also appalled at the effrontery of Kirill's marriage. Shortly after Kirill's return to Russia, the Tsar stripped Kirill of his imperial allowance and style Imperial Highness, his honours and decorations, his position in the navy and then banished him from Russia.[3][4] Kirill's marriage was in open defiance of the Russian Orthodox Church ruling that first cousins were not permitted to marry. Kirill knew that the Tsar's brother, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich had been forbidden to marry his first cousin, Princess Beatrice of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

In 1908, after the death of Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich had put Kirill third in the line of succession to the Imperial Throne, Nicholas II restored Kirill to his rank of Captain in the Imperial Russian Navy and his position as aide de camp to the emperor.[5] His was given the title Grand Duchess of Russia and from then on was styled as Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Viktoria Feodorovna. From 1909-1912, he served on the cruiser Oleg and was its captain in 1912. In 1913, he joined the Maritime Division of the Imperial Guards and was made Commander of the Naval Guards in 1915.

Grand Duke Kirill and Princess Victoria Melita had three children:

All the children were born to the rank of Prince and Princess of Russia as they were not entitled to the rank of Grand Duke or Grand Duchess as they were not children or grandchildren in the male line of a Russian Emperor according to the Imperial Family Statutes that became law under Tsar Alexander III. Kirill raised his children, in open defiance of statutes, to the rank of Grand Duke and Grand Duchess after the revolution on assuming the non-existent position of Emperor of Russia, a position that was openly denounced by Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna and Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolevich in 1924 in a public statement.

Revolution[edit]

During the February Revolution of 1917, Kirill marched to the Tauride Palace at the head of the Garde Equipage (Marine Guard) to swear allegiance to the Russian Provisional Government, wearing a red band on his uniform.[1][6] This caused grave offence to the rest of the Imperial Family and led to him being shunned as a legitimate heir to the Throne. Kirill had authorised the flying of a red flag over his palace on Glinka Street in Petrograd and in correspondence with a Romanov relative claimed credit for "saving the situation by my recognition of the Provisional Government".[7] Of course this was a nonsense.

After the October Revolution, Kirill and Victoria fled to Finland, then Coburg, Germany. Eventually the exiled family moved to a small residence in the tiny French fishing village of St. Briac where they lived in obscurity for the rest of their lives. Kirill was mocked for his pretensions as a Tsar without any empire or hope of restoration.

Life abroad[edit]

Grand Duke Kirill with his wife Grand Duchess Victoria and children Kira and Vladimir.

On 8 August 1924 Kirill declared himself "Guardian of the Throne," a title which did not exist. A few weeks later, on 31 August 1924, he went a step further and assumed the title Emperor of all the Russians.[2] By the laws of the defunct Russian Empire, he was the heir to the throne after the execution of Tsar and his family and the disappearance and presumed murder of the Tsar's brother Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia by the Bolsheviks. His claim was later was openly mocked by the rest of the surviving members of the imperial family including Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna and Grand Duke Nicholas. After claiming the non-existent throne, he became known as the "Soviet Tsar" because in the event of a restoration of the monarchy, he intended to keep some of the features of the Soviet regime.[1]

While living in exile, Kirill was supported by some emigres who styled themselves "legitimists" (legitimisti, in Russian легитимисты), underlining the "legitimacy" of Kirill's succession. The opponents of Kirill were known as the "un-predetermined" (nepredreshentsi, in Russian непредрешенцы); they believed that in the wake of the radical revolutionary events, the convening of a Zemsky Sobor was necessary in order to choose a new monarch for Russia. (In 1922, Nicholas II's cousin Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich was proclaimed "Emperor of all Russia" by a "Zemsky Sobor of the Amur Region", convened by General Mikhail Diterikhs. However, Grand Duke Nicholas had no children.)

Kirill found his strongest support among a group of legitimists known as the Mladorossi, a Russian emigre monarchist organization that was heavily influenced by fascism - although it distanced itself from other fascist movements.[citation needed] The organization began to exhibit pro-Soviet sympathies, arguing that the monarchy and the Soviet Bolshevik system could peacefully coexist (as per their slogan "Tsar and the Soviets"). Kirill became more wary of the organization when he learned that its founder, Alexander Kazem-Bek, was spotted meeting with an OGPU agent. Kirill accepted Kazem-Bek's voluntary resignation. His sole son, Vladimir, continued ties with the organization throughout World War II.[citation needed]

Kirill's son Vladimir Kirillovich claimed to be head of the Romanovs, but this was never accepted by the rest of the Romanov family. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, the remains of Kirill and his spouse were transferred from Coburg to the Grand Ducal Mausoleum of the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia after negotiations conducted by his granddaughter Maria Vladimirovna. Neither Kirill or his wife had ever expressed any desire to be buried there.

Honours[edit]

Portrayal[edit]

Sir Rex Harrison portrayed Kirill as an embittered and dangerous enemy to Anna Anderson, who notoriously claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia in the 1986 miniseries Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna. She was of course a fraudster. The real Anastasia had died in 1918.

Ancestry[edit]

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Pedersen, Jørgen. Riddere af Elefantordenen 1559–2009, Odense: Syddansk Universitetsforlag, 2009. ISBN 8776744345

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Grand Duke Cyril Dies In Paris Exile". New York Times. 13 October 1938. p. 23. 
  2. ^ a b Almanach de Gotha (182nd ed.). Almanach de Gotha. 1998. p. 214. 
  3. ^ "Czar Furious With Cousin". New York Times. 15 October 1905. p. 6. 
  4. ^ "Grand Duke Degraded". New York Times. 17 October 1905. p. 1. 
  5. ^ "Death Wins Pardon For A Grand Duke". New York Times. 19 November 1908. p. 6. 
  6. ^ "Duke Cyril Prompt To Side With Duma". New York Times. 17 March 1917. p. 2. 
  7. ^ Massie, Robert. Nicholas and Alexandra. p. 433. ISBN 0 330 02213 X. 
  8. ^ "Court circular" The Times (London). Wednesday, 8 January 1902. (36659), p. 4.
Kirill Vladimirovich, Grand Duke of Russia
Cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg
Born: 12 October 1876 Died: 12 October 1938
Titles in pretence
Vacant
Title last held by
Nicholas II
— TITULAR —
Emperor of Russia
17 July 1918 – 12 October 1938
Reason for succession failure:
Empire abolished in 1917
Succeeded by
Vladimir Cyrillovitch