Vorontsov, also Woronzow, Woroncow (Russian: Воронцо́в) is a celebrated Russian family, which attained the dignity of Counts of the Holy Roman Empire in 1744 and Serene Princes of the Russian Empire in 1852. Most likely, the Vorontsovs represent a collateral branch of the great Velyaminov family of Muscovite boyars, which claimed male-line descent from a Varangian noble named Šimon. The Velyaminovs were hereditary mayors of Moscow, until the office was abolished by Dmitry Donskoy, whose own mother came from this family.
The Vorontsov branch of the Velyaminovs reached a zenith of its power in the person of the boyar Feodor Vorontsov, who was de facto ruler of Russia during the minority of Ivan IV (1543). Three years later, he was accused of treason and beheaded. For the next two centuries the family history is obscure. Under Empress Elizabeth, its fortunes soared once again, when Mikhail Illarionovich Vorontsov became Vice-Chancellor of the Russian Empire. His palace in St Petersburg, designed by Rastrelli, remains a monument to his power.
During the reign of Peter III of Russia, Vorontsov was the most powerful man in Russia, as his niece Elisabeth became the Emperor's mistress. Empress Catherine, alarmed by Peter's plans to divorce her and marry Vorontsova, deposed her husband, with a great help from her bosom friend, Ekaterina Vorontsova, the wife of Prince Dashkov. Ekaterina's brothers Alexander and Semyon Romanovich were both notable diplomats, and the latter's son Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov was a prominent general who led the Russian invasion of Caucasus and colonisation of New Russia. The Vorontsovs from this branch were inveterate Anglophiles and entertained many English servants, painters, and architects.
Yekaterina Romanovna Vorontsova-Dashkova bequeathed her vast possessions and the Vorontsov-Dashkov surname to her cousin, who formed a junior branch of the Vorontsov family with the distinct surname. Its most notable representative was Count Illarion Ivanovich Vorontsov-Dashkov (1837–1916), who served as Minister of Imperial Properties in 1881–97 and the General Governor of Caucasus in 1905–15. He was officially in charge of the victorious Russian forces in the Battle of Sarikamis during the early months of World War I.
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