Princess Leonida Bagration of Mukhrani

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Princess Leonida Bagration of Mukhrani
Grand Duchess of Russia
Grand Duchess Leonida.jpg
Spouse 1. Sumner Moore Kirby, 1934-1937 (divorced)
2. Vladimir Cyrillovich, Grand Duke of Russia, 1948-1992 (his death)
Issue Helen Louise Kirby, Countess Dvinskaya
Maria Vladimirovna, Grand Duchess of Russia
House House of Bagration-Mukhrani
House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov
Father Prince George Bagration of Mukhrani
Mother Helena Złotnicka h. Nowina
Born (1914-10-06)6 October 1914
Tiflis, Russian Empire (now Georgia)
Died 23 May 2010(2010-05-23) (aged 95)
Madrid, Spain
Burial 2 June 2010
Grand Ducal Mausoleum, St. Petersburg
Religion Eastern Orthodox Church

Leonida Georgievna, Grand Duchess of Russia, Leonida Georgiyevna Romanova (Леонида Георгиевна Романова) (6 October [O.S. 23 September] 1914 – 23 May 2010), wife of Vladimir Cyrillovich, Grand Duke of Russia, a 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]

Early life[edit]

Princess Leonida.
Father of Leonida, George Bagration of Mukhrani.

Born on 6 October 1914, in Tiflis, Georgia, Russian Empire as Princess Leonida Bagration of Mukhrani (Russian: Princess Leonida Georgievna Bagration-Moukhranskaya; Georgian: Leonida Giorgis asuli Bagrationi-Mukhraneli), she was a daughter of Prince George Bagration of Mukhrani and his Polish wife Helena Sigismundovna, née Nowina Złotnicka (1886–1979).[2] She descended patrilineally from former Kings of Georgia[citation needed]. Her mother’s family belonged to the untitled Polish aristocracy,[3] although one of Leonida's two lines of descent from Georgia's penultimate king Erekle II (Heraclius II) is through her mother, a descendant of the king's daughter, Princess Anastasia, who married an Eristavi prince[citation needed]. The other ancestral line derives through the marriage of another of the king's daughters, Princess Tamara, to Ioane Bagrationi, 18th Prince of Mukhrani[citation needed].

The Bagration family's genealogy traces back at least to the medieval era in its male line and hundreds of years further back as rulers in the female line.[4] Leonida's grandfather, Prince Alexander Bagration of Mukhrani, was born in 1853 in Georgia's historical capital Tbilisi, then part of the Russian Empire, and was killed by Bolsheviks at Pyatigorsk in 1918 during the Russian revolution.[3] Fearing for their lives, the family took refuge in Constantinople, then spent eight months in Germany before returning to Tbilisi, now capital of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, to re-claim a portion of property which, as émigrés they risked losing to total confiscation.[3] Although the family made repairs to their home and Leonida would recall her grandfather's insistence that they continue to dine formally on silver plate to retain their sense of propriety, they were eventually deprived of all but two rooms of their old palace and subjected to harassment.[3][5] Thanks to the intervention of Maxim Gorky, who had enjoyed the patronage of the Bagrations, in 1931 they once again fled the Soviet Union, going into exile in Spain.[5] The family moved to France, where Leonida's grandmother and relations had already settled.

First marriage[edit]

In France, Princess Leonida met Sumner Moore Kirby (1895–1945), a wealthy "Pennsylvanian Protestant".[3] They were married in Nice, France, on 6 November 1934. Sumner Moore Kirby had been born in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, the younger of two sons of Fred Morgan Kirby, a millionaire and business partner of one of the F. W. Woolworth Company heirs (Charles Sumner Woolworth) and his wife Jessie Amelie Owen. Leonida was his third wife, he having been married from 1925 to 1931 to Doris Landy Wayland, with whom he had a daughter, Gloria Price 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. Her father was Conrad Wagner. 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 had one daughter, Helen Louise Kirby, born in Geneva, Switzerland, on 26 January 1935. Their marriage was short-lived, they divorced after three years on 18 November 1937. 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.

As war intensified, Leonida and her daughter relocated to officially neutral Spain. In 1944, Leonida's brother, Prince Irakli, also moved to Spain.

Second marriage[edit]

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, the Infanta Beatrice de Orleans, first cousin of the murdered Tsarina Alexandra.

On 13 August 1948 Princess Leonida wed for the second time, marrying 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[6] by virtue of being hereditary heir by primogeniture 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.[7]

In 1783, the Treaty of Georgievsk was signed through which the Kingdom of Georgia, while retaining its autonomy and its ancient monarchy was placed under the protection of the Russian Empire. In 1801 after the death of George XII, the last King of Georgia, Tsar Alexander I of Russia in violation of the treaty, annexed the kingdom of Georgia and the Bagration dynasty lost their throne. The Bagrations became a leading family of the Russian nobility, serving in the Tsar's army and at court in Saint Peterburg. The former ruling branch became extinct in the late nineteenth century[citation needed], when it passed its succession rights to the branch to which Grand Duchess Leonida belonged[citation needed], but this too is disputed. Joseph Stalin's mother had been a laundress in the house of the Bagrations.

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.[8]

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, which he did not. The Count of Barcelona, then Head of the Royal House of Spain, considered the issue of this marriage to be disqualified from the Spanish succession. The only son of this marriage was sponsored at his baptism by the Count of Barcelona but the latter's refusal to recognize his god-son as a Spanish dynast led to the Bagrations' alienation from the Spanish Royal Family according to Guy Stair Sainty. In 1948 Vladimir, relying on his own earlier advice on the Bagrations' historically royal status,[9] chose to wed Leonida dynastically[citation needed] in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Controversy[edit]

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[citation needed], but the last Georgian king from whom she descended in the male line was Constantine II who died in 1505,[10] although other branches of the family continued to reign in the Caucasus as late as 1810. Besides, according to the Almanach de Gotha, as per the decision of Emperor Nicholas II made in 1911, the Princess Tatiana Constantinovna of Russia had morganatically wed Prince Constantine Alexandrovich Bagration-Mukhransky, a member of the same branch of the House of Bagration into which Princess Leonida would later be born. 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[edit]

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 Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi. 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 north 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[edit]

Leonida Georgievna died on 23 May 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[11] during the monarchy.

Titles and styles[edit]

  • 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.

Honours[edit]

Ancestors[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1] "Last Romanov Born In Russian Empire Dead At 95," The Moscow Times, 25 May 2010
  2. ^ Royal Ark
  3. ^ a b c d e The Times, London. "Leonida Georgievna Romanov", 15 June 2010.
  4. ^ Eastmond, Antony (1998), Royal Imagery in Medieval Georgia, pp. 135-7. Penn State Press, ISBN 0271016280.
  5. ^ a b The Telegraph.co.uk, London. "Grand Duchess Leonida of Russia", 28 May 2010.
  6. ^ Announcement by the Office of the Head of the Russian Imperial House. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  7. ^ Fundamental State Laws. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  8. ^ Website of Grand Duchess Maria
  9. ^ 1946 Decree of the Head of the Russian Imperial House. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Last Romanov born in Russian empire dies aged 95
  12. ^ Royal Ark

External links[edit]

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