Line of succession to the former Russian throne
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Since 1992, the main current pretender is Maria Vladimirovna, Grand Duchess of Russia, a great-great-granddaughter in the male-line of Emperor Alexander II of Russia, having proclaimed herself the new head of the imperial house, as well as proclaiming her son George Mikhailovich the heir-apparent. This claim has been recognised by the Russian Orthodox Church, her Grand Magistry of Russian dynastic orders of knighthood has been recognised by the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry, of which she is also represented as a patron, and she and her son has been conferred distinctions by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and other prominent chivalric orders.
- 1 Potentially eligible successors in March 1917
- 2 Claims since 1917
- 3 Succession controversy
- 3.1 Line of Maria Vladimirovna
- 3.2 Line of Dimitri Romanov
- 3.3 Arguments
- 3.3.1 Did the marriage of Vladimir Cyrillovich to Princess Leonida Bagration-Mukhransky violate House Laws?
- 3.3.2 Did the marriage of Cyril Vladimirovich to Princess Victoria Melita violate House Laws?
- 3.3.3 Did the marriage of Cyril Vladimirovich's father to Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin violate House Laws?
- 3.3.4 Did the marriage of Nicholas Romanov's father to Countess Praskovia Dmitrievna Sheremeteva violate House Laws?
- 3.3.5 Other arguments
- 3.4 Support
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 Bibliography
Potentially eligible successors in March 1917
The numbers preceding the names indicate the position in the line to the throne. For instance, Alexei Nikolaevich was the first in line, as the Emperor's only son. The numbers following the names indicate descent and genealogical seniority from Nicholas I of Russia. For instance, Alexei Nikolaevich, 188.8.131.52, as follows from Nicholas I:
- Emperor Nicholas I (1796–1855)
- Emperor Alexander II (1818–1881) (1)
- Emperor Alexander III (1845–1894) (1.2)
- Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (1847–1909) (1.3)
- (6) Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich (b. 1860) (1.6)
- (7) Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (b. 1891) (1.6.1)
- Grand Duke Constantine Nikolaevich (1827–1892) (2)
- (8) Grand Duke Nicholas Konstantinovich (b. 1850) (2.1) (officially declared insane and exiled in 1874 after theft accusation)
- Grand Duke Constantine Konstantinovich (1858–1915) (2.2)
- (9) Prince John Konstantinovich (b. 1886) (2.2.1)
- (10) Prince Vsevolod Ivanovich (b. 1914) (184.108.40.206)
- (11) Prince Gabriel Konstantinovich (b. 1887) (2.2.2)
- (12) Prince Constantine Konstantinovich (b. 1891) (2.2.3)
- (13) Prince Igor Konstantinovich (b. 1894) (2.2.5)
- (14) Prince George Konstantinovich (b. 1903) (2.2.6)
- (9) Prince John Konstantinovich (b. 1886) (2.2.1)
- (15) Grand Duke Dmitri Konstantinovich (b. 1860) (2.3)
- Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich (1831–1891) (3)
- Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich (1832–1909) (4)
- (19) Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich (b. 1859) (4.1)
- (20) Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich (b. 1861) (4.2)
- (21) Grand Duke George Mikhailovich (b. 1863) (4.3)
- (22) Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich (b. 1866) (4.4)
- (23) Prince Andrew Alexandrovich (b. 1897) (4.4.1)
- (24) Prince Feodor Alexandrovich (b. 1898) (4.4.2)
- (25) Prince Nikita Alexandrovich (b. 1900) (4.4.3)
- (26) Prince Dmitri Alexandrovich (b. 1901) (4.4.4)
- (27) Prince Rostislav Alexandrovich (b. 1902) (4.4.5)
- (28) Prince Vasili Alexandrovich (b. 1907) (4.4.6)
- (29) Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich (b. 1869) (4.5)
- Emperor Alexander II (1818–1881) (1)
Many of the individuals on this list died childless; some were killed during the Russian Revolution.
Claims since 1917
Michael Alexandrovich (1917–1918)
Brother of Nicholas II, who abdicated in his favour in 1917.
Cyril Vladimirovich (1924–1938)
At first, many members of the Imperial House either did not believe or were wary of acting on news of the demise of the immediate imperial family. However, camps started to be formed in the monarchist movement, where Paris was a focal location. Several monarchists grouped around Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich, who was first in the line of succession after the execution of Alexei Nikolaevich and Michael Alexandrovich. Many of Cyril's opponents grouped around a young grand duke, Dmitri Pavlovich, who was next in the line of succession if Cyril and his brothers, the Vladimirovichi, were ineligible (Paul Alexandrovich, who had been ahead of Dmitri, had been killed in 1919), though Dimitri himself refused these advances, and himself supported Grand Duke Kirill as Emperor. Several grouped around the old Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich, appreciating his career as general and former commander-in-chief, or his position as the oldest member of the imperial dynasty. On August 8, 1922, Nicholas was proclaimed as the emperor of all Russia by the Zemsky Sobor of the Priamursk region convened in Vladivostok by general Mikhail Diterikhs. At the time, Grand Duke Nicholas was already living abroad and consequently was not present at the Sobor. Two months later the Priamursk region fell to the Bolsheviks.
Nicholas and Dmitri actually never publicly proclaimed themselves pretenders, but Cyril Vladimirovich assumed on 8 August 1922 the position of curator of the throne. On 31 August 1924 he proclaimed himself Cyril I, Emperor of all the Russias. With the assumption of the Imperial title his children were elevated to the title and styles of Grand Duke and Grand Duchesses of Russia according to the Statutes of the Imperial Family and the Laws of the Russian Empire. Grand Duke Cyril's role as head of the House was recognised, and the oath of loyalty signed by every male dynast of the House of Romanov, except Grand Duke Nicholas, his brother Grand Duke Peter, and the latter's son, Prince Roman Petrovich. Nicholas, one of the other monarchist alternatives, died in 1929. Cyril held his court-in-exile in France, erecting a secretariat for the monarchist movement.
Vladimir Cyrillovich (1938–1992)
In 1938 Cyril died, and was succeeded as pretender by his only son Vladimir Cyrillovich, who deliberately assumed the title of "Grand Duke" rather than that of Emperor.
The Vladimirovichi supporters claim that Grand Duke Vladimir Cyrillovich, was the sole male dynast of the Imperial House to enter into an equal marriage after 1917. Opponents refute the equality of this marriage. In 1946, responding to a question from the Spanish Royal House on whether the House of Bagration-Moukhrani could now, after the dissolution of the Russian Empire, be considered of Royal (i.e. equal) rank, the Grand Duke issued a statement confirming the formerly sovereign status and royal titulature of the senior branch of the Royal House of Georgia. On August 13, 1948, he married Her Royal Highness Princess Leonida Bagration-Moukransky. The Grand Duke's marriage to Princess Leonida is controversial; some consider it to be morganatic (though the princess descended from a dynasty that had ruled as kings in Armenia and Georgia since the early Middle Ages until 1810, it had been reduced to the status of Russian nobility for over a century prior to the Russian Revolution — Leonida's branch had not been regnant in the male line as Kings of Georgia since 1505. The Romanov Family Association, whose bylaws prohibit support of anyone for Russia's defunct throne, recognised neither Vladimir Cyrilovich nor his daughter Maria Vladimirovna as rightful claimants.
However, having recognised the Mukhransky branch of the House of Bagration as a former royal dynasty in 1946 in his claimed capacity as head of the (likewise deposed) House of Romanov, he declared his 1948 marriage to Princess Leonida to be dynastic, notwithstanding her family's status as Russian subjects at the end of the monarchy. From the time of their marriage in 1948 she assumed her husband's rank, bearing the title Grand Duchess of Russia and the style Her Imperial Highness.
In 1969 Vladimir, expressing his opinion that the House of Romanov faced almost inevitable extinction in the dynastic male line, he proclaimed his daughter Maria Vladimirovna the future curatrix of the throne, implying that she would ultimately succeed. That act angered other dynasts and groups in monarchist circles. After this proclamation three Romanov dynasts, Princes Vsevold, Andrei and Roman wrote to Vladimir, addressing him as Prince rather than Grand Duke, asserting that Maria Vladimirovna's mother was of no higher status than the wives of other dynastic Romanov princes. They also said that they did not recognise Maria Vladimirovna as a Grand Duchess and that his proclamation declaring her the dynasty's future curatrix was illegal.
In 1989, when Prince Vasili Alexandrovich of Russia (who also was the President of the Romanov Family Association, see discussion of succession controversy below), died, Vladimir immediately proclaimed his daughter as the dynasty's heiress, as Prince Vasili was the last male other than Vladimir recognised as a dynast.
Maria Vladimirovna (1992–present)
When Vladimir Cyrilovich died in 1992, Maria Vladimirovna proclaimed herself the new Head of the Imperial House, assuming the position of Head of the House and proclaiming her son George Mikhailovich the heir-apparent. Her son, who was born in 1982, was given the patronymic "Mikhailovich" because from 1976 until her divorce in 1985, Maria was married to His Royal Highness Prince Franz Wilhelm of Prussia, who was granted the title "His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich of Russia" by Vladimir. Maria styles herself "Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia" as her title of pretension, and her son styles himself "His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Georgi Mikhailovich of Russia" as his title of pretension.
Nicholas Romanov (1992–2014)
In 1979, seven undisputed male and female dynasts founded the Romanov Family Association (RFA), which by the end of the same year had admitted more than half of the surviving undisputed dynasts into its membership, as well as a fair number of those male-line descendants Vladimir did not recognize as dynasts because of morganatic birth. Vladimir Cyrillovich never joined the association and neither has his daughter Maria.
The RFA, while still including the last two surviving females recognised dynasts among its membership, chose Prince Nicholas Romanov, as its president in 1989, following the death of Prince Vasili Alexandrovich of Russia, the only undisputed male dynast still living at that time other than Vladimir Cyrillovich. The RFA's official position, expressed in its founding charter, is that the Russian nation should determine which sort of government its people desire and, if the choice is monarchy, who should be monarch. Nonetheless, once Vladimir was no longer alive, Prince Nicholas Romanov was recognised as the head of the Imperial House of Romanov while serving as third president of the RFA by the members of the family, with the exception of Maria Vladimirovna and her son George Mikhailovich. Nicholas took "H.H. Prince of Russia" as his title of pretension following the death of Vladimir Cyrillovich in April, 1992. After Nicholas' death in 2014, his brother Prince Dimitri Romanov took up the claim. In July 2009 Dimitri had affirmed that his brother Nicholas, and not Maria Vladimirovna, was the Head of the Imperial Family, simultaneously declaring, however, that pursuant to a 1992 family meeting he attended in Paris, all of the then living senior male descendants of the House of Romanov agreed not to put forward any claim.
Nikolas Kirillovich (2013–present)
Prince Karl Emich of Leiningen (born 1952), recently converted to the Orthodox faith, is a new pretender to the Russian throne under the name of Prince Nikolai Kirillovich of Leiningen. He is the grandson of Grand Duchess Maria Cyrillovna of Russia, (sister of Vladimir, and aunt of Maria Vladimirovna), and great-grandson of Cyril Vladimirovich, Grand Duke of Russia. The Monarchist Party of Russia supports Prince Nikolai as the heir of the Russian throne, since they are of the opinion that Maria Vladimirovna Romanova and Nicholas Romanov are not dynasts. In early 2014, Nikolai Kirilovich declared himself Emperor Nicholas III (successor to Nicholas II). The micronation known as the Imperial Throne (or Imperial See) was created for the purpose. As a member of the House of Leiningen, Prince Nikolai would be the first non-Romanov monarch since 1613 if he were to become the monarch of Russia.
Karl Emich was disinherited and gave up use of the Leiningen Fürstliche title because of his parents' disapproval of his second, morganatic marriage to a commoner. His younger brother Andreas became the Prince of Leiningen, In 2007, however, Nicholas married Countess Isabelle von und zu Egloffstein and in 2010, they had an only son, Emich, in 2010.
In applying Romanov House Law to determine headship of the dynasty, it must be determined if there are surviving male dynasts of the House of Romanov and then which among them is entitled to claim the Romanov legacy pursuant to house law. If only one male Romanov dynast survives, his claim precedes that of any female Romanov dynast or any male lawfully descended in the female line from a male Romanov dynast. If no Romanov male dynast survives, semi-salic succession is invoked, and the title passes to the last surviving male dynast's closest female relative. In that case, one must assess who the last surviving male dynast was: Some consider this to have been Vladimir Cyrillovich, while others uphold that status for Paul Romanovich and, subsequently, his brother Nicholas Romanovich. Still others have supported the claims of other surviving male relatives in the male lines of Grand Dukes Dimitri Pavlovich or Alexander Nikolayevich. Females of male-line Romanove descent who have been deemed by some to have succeeded the last male include Maria Vladimirovna and Catherine Ioanovna (of the Konstantinovich branch of the family). Semi-salic succession as applied under the house law might also allocate the claim to the defunct Russian throne to a male who descends through dynastically valid marriages in the female-line from Alexander III, Alexander II or Nicholas I, provided that he is or is willing to become Orthodox.
Line of Maria Vladimirovna
If one accepts Vladimir Cyrillovich's marriage to Leonida Georgievna Bagration-Moukhranskaya as non-morganatic and he was succeeded by his daughter Maria Vladimirovna then the line of succession is:
- HI&RH Grand Duke George Mikhailovich (born 1981), who has been styled Grand Duke of Russia since birth, also a Prince of Prussia (a title which he does not generally use)
George is, as yet, the only descendant of Grand Duchess Maria. If both died without further male heirs, the succession would then follow semi-Salic law and the right to the Imperial Crown will presumably pass either to Andreas, Prince of Leiningen (however he might be non-dynastic), as the nearest male relation to Maria and her son that is not descended from Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich through morganatic marriage, or to the nearest non-morganatically descended male Orthodox relative, arguably Alexander Karađorđević, Crown Prince of Yugoslavia.
Further lines after Maria Vladimirovna’s son
- HSH Andreas, Prince of Leiningen (born 1955): He is a grandson of Grand Duchess Maria Kirillovna of Russia (sister of Vladimir and aunt of Maria Vladimirovna), and great-grandson of Cyril Vladimirovich, Grand Duke of Russia. His eldest brother is a claimant to the Russian throne since 2013. He is also a second cousin of George Mikhailovich, as his paternal grandmother (Maria) was the eldest sister of George’s maternal grandfather (Vladimir). He is the head of the Leiningen Princely House. However, he might be non-dynastic as his grandmother Maria’s marriage with Karl, 6th Prince of Leiningen may have been morganatic.
- HSH Ferdinand, Hereditary Prince of Leiningen (born 1982): He is the son of the previous. He might be non-dynastic as his great-grandmother Maria’s marriage with Karl, 6th Prince of Leiningen may have been morganatic.
- HI&RH Georg Friedrich of Hohenzollern, Prince of Prussia (born 1976): He is grandson of Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna of Russia (sister of Vladimir and aunt of Maria Vladimirovna), and great-grandson of Cyril Vladimirovich, Grand Duke of Russia. He is also a second cousin of George Mikhailovich, as his paternal grandmother (Kira) was the younger sister of George’s maternal grandfather (Vladimir). Prince Georg Friedrich is the head of the Prussian Royal House and German Imperial House.
- HRH Alexander Karađorđević, Crown Prince of Yugoslavia (born 1945): He is a great-grandson of Marie of Romania, daughter of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia (Maria Alexandrovna was aunt of Cyril Vladimirovich, the father of Vladimir Cyrillovich and therefore grandfather of Maria Vladimirovna). He is the head of the Yugoslavian/Serbian Royal House.
Line of Dimitri Romanov
- (All individuals except number 10 are members of the Romanov Family Association.
- Prince Andrew Andreevich (born 1923)
- Prince Alexis Andreevich (born 1953)
- Prince Peter Andreevich (born 1961)
- Prince Andrew Andreevich (born 1963)
- Prince Rostislav Rostislavovich (born 1985)
- Prince Nikita Rostislavovich (born 1987)
- Prince Nicholas Christopher Nikolaievich (born 1968)
- Prince Daniel Joseph Nikolaievich (born 1972)
- Prince Jackson Daniel Danilovich (born 2009)
Did the marriage of Vladimir Cyrillovich to Princess Leonida Bagration-Mukhransky violate House Laws?
- Under the semi-Salic succession promulgated by Emperor Paul I of Russia, when the last male Romanov dynast died, the succession would pass to his closest female relative with valid succession rights. Vladimir Cyrillovich contended that he was the last male Romanov dynast because all other males descended from Emperor Nicholas I of Russia married morganatically, in violation of the Romanov House Law, with the result that their offspring did not possess any inheritance rights to the Russian throne. Accordingly, he declared that his daughter Maria Vladimirovna would succeed as his closest female relative. When he died in 1992, Maria thus claimed to have succeeded as the Head of the Imperial Family of Russia.
- The greatest objection to this argument is that Maria's mother, Princess Leonida Bagration-Mukhransky, was not a member of a royal or ruling house, and that Maria's parents' marriage was therefore morganatic. The House of Mukhrani (Bagration-Mukhransky) was a collateral branch of the Bagrationi dynasty, which ruled the Georgian nation of Imereti until 1810. After Georgia's incorporation into the Russian Empire, they had been regarded as nobility, rather than royalty, in Russia. The elder line of the House of Mukhrani, now extinct, did produce several Georgian kings between 1659 and 1724, but its younger line, to which Leonida belongs, has never held kingship. They are, however, the genealogically eldest surviving Bagratid branch, and have, since 1957, claimed to be the Royal House of Georgia, in their European exile. The legitimate rights of this House to the throne of Georgia have frequently been questioned, however, due to the fact that patrilineal descendants of the last king of Georgia – the Bagration-Gruzinsky – still survive in Georgia.
- Maria and her defenders argue that the Bagration-Mukhranskys were indeed royal, and that the marriage was thus between equals. Moreover, the Head of the Imperial House approved the marriage, consistent with tradition, by which the Emperor was the only person who could decide whether a marriage was in accordance with Russian succession laws. Vladimir, who was de jure Emperor, had decided two years before his own marriage that the Bagrations were of "corresponding rank," in a letter to Prince Ferdinand of Bavaria, Infante of Spain regarding the marriage of the latter's daughter, Princess Maria de las Mercedes de Baviera y Borbón, to Prince Irakly Bagration-Mukhransky. This decision differs from that made in 1911 when, according to the Almanach de Gotha, Princess Tatiana Constantinovna of Russia 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. The Count of Barcelona, then Head of the Royal House of Spain, considered the issue of Princess Maria de las Mercedes' 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 Bagration's alienation from the Spanish Royal Family according to Guy Stair Sainty. Even Tatiana Konstantinovna's marriage was legally a morganatic marriage. It was, in fact, the first marriage in the dynasty conducted in compliance with the Emperor’s formal decision not to accept as dynastic the marriages of even the most junior Romanovs—those that bore only the title of prince/princess—with non-royal partners.
- Maria's opponents counter that approval by the Head of the Imperial House cannot make a marriage valid if it violates a provision of the Imperial Russian Law, such as the prohibition against marriages with rank disparity. If this marriage between a dynast and a subject noblewoman (a wife who is of high aristocratic birth, such as a princess, but a subject of the Empire and not of a sovereign family of reigning monarchs) is not morganatic, then this undermines the claim that marriages between other dynasts and subject noblewomen are morganatic. For example, if a Russian imperial dynast may equally marry a Princess Bagration-Moukhransky, then other dynasts obviously may, equality preserved, marry such personages as daughter of the Duke of Sasso-Ruffo, Princess Irina Paley who is descended from the self-same Romanov tsars, Princess Natalia Galitzine and Princess Alexandra Galitzine, who are descended from the House of Gediminas, the medieval sovereigns of Lithuania and Belarus with as high an ancestry as that of the Mukhrani Bagrations, distant descendants of medieval sovereigns in Georgia. Some Romanov princes would thus also be dynasts, in which case the male descent would not be totally extinct. This might suggest that sons born of such marriages of dynasts are as much heirs of Russia as Maria Vladimirovna, and in fact have a better dynastic claim, as no female is yet called to succeed. It is argued by Pieter Broek that prince Rostislav Rostislavich and princess Marina Vasilievna, born of two Galitzina princesses, are as dynastically born as Maria Vladimirovna of the Bagrationi mother. Since the extinction of the Korecki family in the 17th century, the Golitsyns/Galitzin have claimed dynastic seniority in the House of Gediminas. The Gediminids were a dynasty of monarchs of Grand Duchy of Lithuania that reigned from the 14th to the 16th century and Emperor Peter I of Russia had permitted the Golitsyns to incorporate the emblem of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania into their coat of arms. They are related to the Rurik dynasty of Russia, as the family descends from a Lithuanian prince George, son of Patrikas and grandson of Narimantas, the second son of Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania. He had emigrated to the court of Vasily I and married his sister Anna Dmitriyevna. On these theories, Andrew Andreyevich Romanov (born 1923), may be the present Head of the imperial family. Some claim that there were no disenfranchised male dynasts in the imperial succession, but that very concept is dependent on the question whether certain marriages were dynastical or not, thus the concept 'disenfranchised' is empty of meaning here.
Did the marriage of Cyril Vladimirovich to Princess Victoria Melita violate House Laws?
- Cyril Vladimirovich's 1905 marriage to HRH Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was not initially approved by the Emperor. However the marriage was later approved by Emperor Nicholas II in 1907, and Nicholas II accorded Victoria the title and style of "Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna of Russia." 
- Princess Victoria had previously been married to HRH Grand Duke Ernest Louis of Hesse. Supporters of Maria respond that the laws governing the Russian succession do not forbid marriage to divorcées.
- Cyril and Victoria were first cousins, and the Russian Orthodox Church prohibited first cousins marrying. Maria's supporters point out that all other potential claimants are descended from the marriage of Tsar Nicholas I with his second cousin, similarly forbidden by Russian Orthodox canon– and if children of a marriage prohibited by reason of consanguinity were ineligible to succeed, Tsars Alexander II, Alexander III, and Nicholas II could not have validly succeeded to the throne. Moreover, the Emperor gave his retroactive approval to Cyril and Victoria's marriage, and the Emperor of Russia was then the supreme Head of the Russian Orthodox church. Opponents counter that the Emperor could not change Church Law by his own decision; instead, an act in ecclesiastical synods or councils would have been needed. However, the Orthodox Church does not condemn children of uncanonical marriages nor their rights to inheritance, so this objection is weak
- At the time of Cyril and Victoria's marriage, Victoria was Protestant, not Orthodox. Maria and her supporters counter that this objection, too, is overcome by the Emperor's approval of the marriage. According to them, under dynastic law, the Emperor designated which of the dynasts had to marry Orthodox women; usually this was required only of persons who were high in the line of succession, which Cyril was not at the time of his marriage. The Orthodox church does not prohibit its members from marrying Protestants. And Victoria later embraced the Orthodox faith, receiving a published accolade from Tsar Nicholas II. At the time of Vladimir Cyrillovich's birth in 1917, his mother had been Orthodox since 1907.
Did the marriage of Cyril Vladimirovich's father to Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin violate House Laws?
- Cyril Vladimirovich's father, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, married Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a Lutheran who did not convert to Orthodoxy until she was already widowed. The arguments regarding the objections to this marriage are similar to the arguments regarding the religious objections to Cyril Vladimirovich's marriage. It is quite clear, however, that Cyril and his brothers were considered throughout the life of the monarchy to be in the line of succession.
Did the marriage of Nicholas Romanov's father to Countess Praskovia Dmitrievna Sheremeteva violate House Laws?
- If any of Maria Vladimirovna's ancestors' marriages were morganatic or otherwise invalid to pass on succession rights, Maria would seem to have no better claim than any other member of the family. However, supporters of Nicholas have sometimes asserted that he is the senior male-line descendant of Tsar Nicholas I with succession rights.. While he is not the genealogically senior descendant (he is descended from a younger son of Nicholas I, and there are living descendants of Nicholas I's older sons), his supporters assert that all those senior to him lost their rights. (For instance, Nicholas I's eldest son was Tsar Alexander II, whose youngest son was Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich. Paul's eldest son was Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, and Dmitri's son by Audrey Emery, an American, was Paul Romanovsky-Ilyinsky, whose son in turn is Dimitri Romanovsky-Ilyinsky, an American citizen. Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich's marriage to Audrey Emery was morganatic, so Dimitri Romanovsky-Ilyinsky, the senior living male-line descendant of Alexander II, has no succession rights.
- While Nicholas's mother was also not a member of a royal family, Nicholas argues that he did not thereby lose his right to the throne, as the laws of the Russian Empire only required Grand Dukes to marry brides of equal rank. Only the sons and male-line grandsons of Tsars held the rank of Grand Duke. As Nicholas' father – a great-grandson of Tsar Nicholas I – was only a Prince, he was not required to marry a royal bride. In this way, Prince Nicholas claims to be in a different position to the descendants of Cyril Vladimirovich and Dmitri Pavlovich. Most students of Imperial Russian law disagree with this interpretation of the law. From 1922 until 1939 the Almanach de Gotha did not list Nicholas or Dimitri as members of the Imperial House and stated that the marriage was "not in conformity with the laws of the house." In the 1942 edition when the publication of the Gotha was under the control of the Third Reich, the Almanach de Gotha makes no mention that the marriage of the parents of Prince Nicholas is morganatic or that it does not comply with the house laws and both Nicholas and his brother Dimitri are suddenly listed as members of the Imperial House. However, the last edition of the Almanach de Gotha published by Justus Perthes, in 1944, returned to the previous accepted understanding that the marriage of Nicholas's parents was "not in conformity with the laws of the house." It has been suggested by scholars that during the Nazi period the editors of the Gotha were influenced by the Queen of Fascist Italy, Queen Elena, who was the aunt of Nicholas and Dimitri Romanov.
- Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna and Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaevich did not acknowledge the legitimacy of Cyril Vladimirovich's claim during the 1920s.
- Cyril Vladimirovich was one of the first defectors to abandon the Tsar and join, if not lead, the revolution in St. Petersburg, donning a red armband with the Preobrazhnsky guards. Some argue that as a Russian, a soldier, a Grand Duke, and a Romanov, this was an act of treason, which calls into question the legitimacy of his claim to the throne.
Maria Vladimirovna has the support of most monarchist groups and followers, most societies of Russian nobles — including the Assembly of the Russian Nobility, and recognition of her claim by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill I Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia who, in a televised March 2013 interview, stated "Today, none of those persons who are descendants of the Romanoffs are pretenders to the Russian throne. But in the person of Grand Duchess Maria Wladimirovna and her son, Georgii, the succession of the Romanoffs 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). The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has also recognised Maria Vladimirovna as Head of the Russian Imperial House.
The Romanov Family Association (RFA) has as members most of the morganatic descendants of the dynasty. Its president was acknowledged as the foremost family representative when Nicholas II and his family's remains were interred in St. Petersburg in July 1998, and at several other government-sponsored memorial occasions. By contrast, Maria Vladimirovna has, at those same events, generally been acknowledged as occupying the foremost position in church-organised solemnities, such as masses for relic veneration.
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