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Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna

Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich of Russia was born in Finland as his parents had fled there during the Revolution. Upon the death of his father Grand Duke Vladimir assumed the headship of the Imperial Russian House. Although a minor faction of monarchists did not recognize his claim, due to their beliefs that his parents marriage was illegal, the majority of Russian monarchists did support his claim. Gand Duke Vladimir’s claim to the throne was questioned when he married Princess Leonida Georgievna Bagration-Moukhransky in August of 1948. The question arose for some members of the Romanov family was the Bagration-Moukhransky family of equal status for this to be considered an equal marriage.

The Bagrationi Dynasty, which Leonida was a member of, originated in the country of Georgia and this family ruled as kings of Georgia from 1505 until 1800 when Czar Paul, supposedly at the request of King George XII of George, annexed the country into the Russian Empire. Grand Duke Vladimir insisted that the union was equal based of the fact that Leonida was the daughter of HRH Prince George Alexandrovich Bagration-Mukhrani the Head of the Georgian Royal House,. Also, Grand Duke Vladimir pointed to the fact that the Treaty of Georgievsk of 1783 recognized the permanent royal status of the House of Bagration.

The main member of the Romanov family to contend Grand Duke Vladimir’s claim is Prince Nicholas Romanov the son of Grand Duke Peter Nicolaievich and Grand Duchess Militsa Nikolaievna, born a Princess of Montenegro. Prince Nicholas is a great-great grandson in the male line of Czar Nicholas I of Russia and Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna ( born Princess Charlotte of Prussia, sister to German Emperor Wilhelm I). Prince Nicholas is the Head of the Romanov Family Association which consists of members of the Romanov Family descended from Czar Nicholas I of Russia. It is their contention that the marriage between Grand Duke Vladimir and Princess Leonida was morgantatic.

Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich of Russia died in 1992 while giving a speech to Spanish-speaking bankers and investors in Miami, Florida. His only child, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, has claimed the headship of the House of Romanov since this point. Prince Nicholas feels her right to the succession is also in violation of the Pauline Laws which barred women from succeeding to the Imperial Throne.

One of the motives for the Pauline Laws was due to the animosity Czar Paul felt toward his mother, Czarina Catherine II the Great of Russia (1762-1796). At that time the Czar had all the power to appoint their successor. Peter I the Great of Russia (1682-1725) named his wife, Catherine I of Russia, as his successor despite the fact that she had no royal blood and was born a Russian Peasant. Catherine II was born a Princess of Anhalt-Zerbst but obtained the throne in a coup by having her husband, Czar Peter III, murdered shortly after his accession. To prevent this from happening again Czar Paul outlawed women on the Russian throne. The only stipulation which a woman could mount the throne of Russia is when all the male members of the Romanov have died out or contracted unequal marriages. There are those that believe Prince Nicholas himself contracted such a marriage in 1950 when he married Countess Sveva della Gherardesca who is a member of the Italian della Gherardesca noble family from Tuscany. Prince Nicholas is accepted by many within the Romanov clan as Head of the Imperial House, while many monarchists associations recognize the claim of Grand Duchess Maria.

Grand Duchess Maria has made an equal marriage. In 1976 Maria married HRH Prince Franz Wilhelm of Prussia a great grandson of Germany’s last emperor, Wilhelm II. Franz Wilhelm did convert to the Russian Orthodox faith and they had one son, Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia, Prince of Prussia born in 1981. Franz Wilhelm and Maria divorced in 1985. Prince Nicholas and the Romanov Family Association do not recognize Grand Duke George as a member of the House of Romanov and instead view him as a German prince of the Prussian royal family. Unmarried Grand Duke George is under pressure to contract an equal marriage if he is to retain his claim to the Russian throne in the future.