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
Tenure 31 August 1924 – 12 October 1938
Successor Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich
Born 12 October [O.S. 30 September] 1876
Tsarskoye Selo, Russia
Died 12 October 1938(1938-10-12) (aged 62)
Neuilly, France
Burial Friedhof am Glockenberg (de), Coburg (until 1995)
Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg, Russia
Spouse Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
(m. 1905–36; her death)
Issue Maria Kirillovna, Princess of Leiningen
Kira Kirillovna, Princess of Prussia
Vladimir Kirillovich, Grand Duke of Russia
House Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov
Father Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia
Mother Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

Grand Duke Kirill (Cyril) 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 his cousins Tsar Nicholas II and Grand Duke Michael, Kirill assumed the Headship of the Imperial Family of Russia and, as next in line to the throne, later the title Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias.


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 title of 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] He was given the title Grand Duke of Russia and from then on his wife was styled as Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Viktoria Feodorovna. From 1909-1912, Kirill served on the cruiser Oleg and was its captain in 1912. In 1913, he joined the Maritime Division of the Imperial Guard 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. In accordance with Imperial statutes, Kirill raised his children to the rank of Grand Duke and Grand Duchess after assuming the position of senior male of the Romanov family, and Head of the Imperial House. This elevation was openly denounced by Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolaevich when he published a private letter of the Dowager Empress in 1924 in which she stated that Kirill's assumption of the position was "premature." The Dowager Empress believed that her sons and grandsons might still be alive in Russia. Grand Duke Kirill wrote to Grand Duchess Xenia "Nothing can be compared to what I shall now have to endure on this account, and I know full well I can expect no mercy from all the malicious attacks and accusations of vanity."[6]


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][7] 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".[8] It is probable that he had hoped that by ingratiating himself with the Provisional Government he would be declared regent after Nicholas II was made to abdicate[9]

In June 1917 Kirill and Victoria moved to Finland and then escaped to Coburg, Germany in 1920. The exiled family subsequently moved to a small residence in the tiny French fishing village of St. Briac.

Life abroad[edit]

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

After a London court order in July 1924 recognized Michael II to be legally dead, Kirill first declared himself "Guardian of the Throne" on 8 August 1924 and then on 31 August 1924 he assumed the title Emperor of all the Russias.[2] By the laws of the Russian Empire he was the heir to the throne. However, his claim was only recognized by three out of the seven remaining Grand Dukes, and caused division within the family; his principal rival was Grand Duke Nicholas. In 1926 at a (Russian) monarchists congress in Paris the delegates voted to recognize Grand Duke Nicholas as their leader; however, with Nicholas's death in 1929 Kirill became the undisputed leader of the monarchists.[10]

After claiming the throne, Kiril 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 that the convening of a Zemsky Sobor was necessary in order to choose a new monarch for Russia.

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 (their slogan being "Tsar and the Soviets", a socialist version of the traditional "Tsar and People" ). 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 was succeeded by his son Vladimir Kirillovich who styled himself 'Grand Duke and head of the Russian Imperial House.

Kirill was buried at the ducal mausoleum at Friedhof am Glockenberg (de), Coburg.[11]:47 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 in 1995 after negotiations conducted by his granddaughter Maria Vladimirovna.



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.


See also[edit]


  • My life in Russia's service - then and now (1939)


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


  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. ^ Romanov, Kirill V. "My Life in Russia's Service," London: Seleyn & Blount, 1939., p.222
  7. ^ "Duke Cyril Prompt To Side With Duma". New York Times. 17 March 1917. p. 2. 
  8. ^ Massie, Robert. Nicholas and Alexandra. p. 433. ISBN 0 330 02213 X. 
  9. ^ Crawford, Rosemary and Donald Michael and Natasha: The Life and Love of the Last Tsar of Russia Weidenfeld and Nicholson (1997) p276
  10. ^ Shain, Yossi The Frontier of Loyalty: Political Exiles in the Age of the Nation-State University of Michigan Press (2005) p69
  11. ^ Klüglein, Norbert (1991). Coburg Stadt und Land (German). Verkehrsverein Coburg. 
  12. ^ "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
Title last held by
Nicholas II
Emperor of Russia
17 July 1918 – 12 October 1938
Reason for succession failure:
Empire abolished in 1917
Succeeded by
Vladimir Cyrillovitch