Unequal Marriages within the Russian Imperial Home and the 1911 Meeting of the Grand Dukes
Authors: Stanislav V. Dumin
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In celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Russian Imperial Household in 2013, it is important to remember that the historic dynasty did not disappear in 1917 and, as with the earlier ruling dynasties, it still retains its status and its structure based on the Law on Succession and the Provision on the Imperial Family. These documents, in part, define that the dynasty includes just the Romanov descendants born from marital unions with the ruling or previously ruling dynasties. The rest of the Romanov descendants that were born from unequal, morganatic marriages, did not belong to the Russian Imperial Family and, correspondingly, did not have the right to the throne. Until 1911, these marriages were simply forbidden for all members of the dynasty. In mentioning representatives of the Romanov family, popular literature and the media often do not mention this circumstance and instead include individuals who were not part of the dynasty, even though they were descended from the Russian Emperors through the paternal or the maternal line. Representatives of the so-called “Association of the Romanov Household”, descendants of Grand Dukes or Dukes of Imperial Blood from unequal marriages, would often point to a decree made by Nicholas II in 1911. The decree stated that the lesser Romanovs, dukes and duchesses of imperial blood, that is, great grandchildren and more distant descendants of Emperors, could enter into unequal marriages with Royal Permission. However, the theory stating that this decree somehow still gave these descendants dynastic rights is refuted through the materials that we have uncovered in the State Archives of the Russian Federation detailing the meeting of the Grand Dukes, called together by the order of Nicholas II and the resolution of the Emperor at the end of this meeting that is published in the article. As such, out of all the Romanov descendants still alive today, the status of being a true member of the dynasty only remains with the current head of the Imperial Household, the Grand Duchess Mariya Vladimirovna and her son (from a dynastic marriage) and heir, Crown Prince and Grand Duke Georgiy Mikhaylovich, who, according to the Law on Succession, is the person who should continue the Romanov Household.