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Vladimir Cyrilovich

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Vladimir Cyrilovich

This article is about the former claimant to the Russian imperial throne. For his namesake grandfather, see Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia. For the first baptized ruler of Russians, see St Vladimir, Grand Duke of Rus.
Vladimir Cyrillovich
Grand Duke of Russia

Head of the House of Romanov
Time 12 October 1938 – 21 April 1992
Predecessor Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich
Successor Disputed
Prince Nicholas Romanovich or Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna
Spouse Princess Leonida Bagration of Mukhrani
Maria Vladimirovna, Grand Duchess of Russia
Full name
Vladimir Cyrillovich Romanov
House House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov
Father Cyril Vladimirovich, Grand Duke of Russia
Mother Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Born 30 August [O.S. 17 August] 1917
Porvoo, Finland
Died 21 April 1992(1992-04-21) (aged 74)
Miami, Florida, United States
Burial Grand Ducal Mausoleum, Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg, Russia

Vladimir Cyrillovich, Grand Duke of Russia (Vladimir Kirillovich Romanov, Cyrillic: Влади́мир Кири́ллович Рома́нов; 30 August [O.S. 17 August] 1917 – 21 April 1992) claimed to be the Head of the Imperial Family of Russia and Titular Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias, from 1938 to his death.

Early life

He was born as Prince Vladimir Cyrillovich of Russia at Porvoo in the Grand Duchy of Finland, the only son of Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich and Grand Duchess Viktoria Feodorovna (née Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha). Vladimir's paternal grandparents were Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia and Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (née Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin). His maternal grandparents were Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia.

Vladimir's family had fled to Finland after the Russian Revolution of 1917. His family left Finland in 1920,[1] moving to Coburg, Germany. On 8 August 1922 Vladimir's father declared himself Curator of the Russian throne. Two years later on 31 August 1924 his father went a step further and assumed the title Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias.[2] With his father's assumption of the Imperial title Vladimir was granted the title of Tsesarevich (heir apparent) and Grand Duke with the style of Imperial Highness. In 1930 his family left Germany for Saint-Briac, France where his father set up his court.[3]

In the 1930s Vladimir lived for a period in England studying at the University of London[3] and working at the Blackstone agricultural equipment factory in Lincolnshire. He later returned to France moving to Brittany where he became a Landowner.[4]

Russian heir and World War II

On the death of his father on 12 October 1938, Vladimir assumed the Headship of the Imperial Family of Russia.[2] In 1938 there were suggestions that he would be made regent of Ukraine but he rebuffed the idea, saying he would not help dissolve Russia.[4]

During World War II, Vladimir was living in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer in Brittany. In 1942, Vladimir and his entourage were placed in a concentration camp at Compiègne after he refused to issue a manifesto calling on Russian emigres to support Nazi Germany's war against the Soviet Union.[4]

In 1944 the German army moved the family inland out of fear of an invasion from the coast. The Germans were taking them to Paris when an order to drive to Wittel was given. Even Wittel proved to be unsafe, so they were moved to Germany. Vladimir lived in a castle belonging to the husband of his elder sister Maria Kirillovna in Amorbach, Bavaria until 1945. After Germany's defeat, Vladimir was afraid to continue living in Germany out of fear of being captured by the Soviets. Vladimir then moved to Austria and next to the border of Liechtenstein. He tried to move with General Boris Smyslovsky's army and cross the border, but neither Liechtenstein nor Switzerland would issue him an exit visa, so he stayed in Austria where he lived in the American occupation zone.

Vladimir's maternal aunt, Infanta Beatrice of Orléans-Borbon, secured for him a Spanish visa. He subsequently lived in Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

Post war and marriage

After the war he spent most of his time living in Madrid, but with frequent stays at his property in Brittany, as well as in Paris.

Vladimir married Princess Leonida Georgievna Bagration-Moukhransky on 13 August 1948 in Lausanne. Romanov house law dictates that only those children who are the product of an "equal marriage"—between a Romanov prince and a princess from another royal, not just noble, house—are eligible to be included in the Imperial line of succession; children of morganatic marriages are excluded from the succession. Though Leonida's dynasty, the Bagrationi, had been kings in Georgia since the early medieval period, Leonida's branch had not been regnant in the male line as Kings of Georgia since 1505 and had been simply Russian nobility since then.[5] Some controversy therefore arises as to whether Vladimir's marriage to Leonida was equal or morganatic, and therefore whether his claim to the Imperial throne passed to his daughter Maria or out of his branch of the family upon his death. The position of both Vladimir and Maria is that the marriage was equal, and Vladimir's claim passed to Maria. Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna, the daughter of the Head of the Georgian Royal House, H.R.H. Prince George Alexandrovich Bagration-Mukhrani. The royal status of the House of Bagration was permanently recognized by Russia in the Treaty of Georgievsk of 1783 and was confirmed by the Decree of 5 December 1946 issued by the Head of the Russian Imperial House.

The heads of the other branches of the imperial family, the Princes Vsevolod Ioannovich (Konstantinovichi), Roman Petrovich (Nikolaevichi) and Andrei Alexandrovich (Mihailovichi) writing to Vladimir in 1969 said that he had married unequally and that his wife was of no higher status than the wives of the other Romanov princes.[6]

In 1952 he called on the Western powers to wage war against the Soviet Union. On 23 December 1969 Vladimir issued a controversial decree whereby in the event of him predeceasing the living male Romanovs that he recognised as dynasts then his daughter Maria would become the "Curatrix of the Imperial Throne".[7] This has been viewed as an attempt by Vladimir to ensure the succession remained in his branch of the imperial family,[8] while the heads of the other branches declared that Vladimir's actions were illegal.[6]

Vladimir was able to visit Russia in November 1991 when he was invited to visit St Petersburg by its Mayor Anatoly Sobchak.[4]

Death and succession dispute

Main article: Line of succession to the Russian throne

Grand Duke Vladimir died of an apparent heart attack while addressing a gathering of Spanish-speaking bankers and investors in Miami, Florida, in the United States on 21 April 1992. His body was returned to Russia and he was buried with full pomp and splendour in the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, the first Romanov to be honoured so much since the revolution. However, the press was careful to state that the honourable funeral "was regarded by civic and Russian authorities as an obligation to the Romanov family rather than a step toward restoration of the monarchy." According to a government spokesman, it was a way of "cleansing our guilt". As he was not a grandson of an Emperor his claimed title of Grand Duke of Russia caused problems as to what to put on his grave.[9]

After his death, his daughter Maria assumed the Headship of the Imperial Family of Russia according to his line's interpretation of the Russian house laws. This was disputed by Nicholas Romanov, Prince of Russia who has also assumed for himself the Headship of the Imperial Family of Russia upon the death of Grand Duke Vladimir.[10][11] Nicholas' position is that he is the most senior male dynast after the death of Vladimir as he believes the children of Grand Dukes of Russia who did not marry equally, would not be dynasts, while Princes of Russia only had to marry people of good standing and that their children would be dynasts.[12] "The position of the Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna as Head of the Imperial House is acknowledged by most serious Russian Monarchist organizations and by most of those Heads of Royal Houses which continue to maintain relations with the Imperial House." according to scholar Guy Stair Sainty.[13] (The Romanov Family Association, which the claim of Maria's cousin Nicholas to be head of the House of Romanov, believes that the marriage was morganatic.)

The Grand Duke was also the titular Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, a title held by the Tsars since 1773. As Holstein-Gottorp required a male heir, there is some debate as to who succeeded Vladimir. The title is usually said to have been inherited by his cousin Prince Paul Dimitrievich Romanovsky-Ilyinsky (an American who preferred to use the name Paul Ilyinsky and was Mayor of Palm Beach, Florida).[14] Grand Duke Vladimir appears to be the last person to have actually used the title.

Titles from birth to death

(chronological order)

  • 30 August 1917 – 30 August 1924 / 21 April 1992: His Highness Prince Vladimir Cyrillovich of Russia
  • 31 August 1924 – 12 October 1938: His Imperial Highness Tsarevich Vladimir Cyrillovich of Russia
  • 12 October 1938 – 21 April 1992: His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Vladimir Cyrillovich of Russia

Other titles include:



Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich of Russia
Cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg
Born: 30 August 1917 Died: 21 April 1992
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Cyril Vladimirovich
Emperor of Russia
12 October 1938 – 21 April 1992
Reason for succession failure:
Empire abolished in 1917
Succeeded by
Maria Vladimirovna or Nicholas Romanovich
Duke of Holstein-Gottorp
12 October 1938 – 21 April 1992
Succeeded by
Paul Ilyinsky
(Prince Paul Dmitrievich Romanovsky-Ilyinsky)

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