Legal opinion: Lines of succession to the former Russian Empire

Background

The Russian Imperial Romanov family (Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra and their five young children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei) were brutally murdered in Yekaterinburg on 17 July 1918. The Tsar, his family and some servants were shot, bayoneted and stabbed in a room of the “House of Special Purpose of the Ural Soviet Committee” by Bolshevik troops led by Yakov Yurovsky under the orders of the Ural Regional Soviet. Therefore, the last Tsar does not have any living descendants. There exist however, a number of claimants to the former Russian throne. In this article I will examine the legality of these claims.

Branches

St. George's Hall, Grand Kremlin Palace. President Vladimir Putin with Prince Dmitri Romanovich of Russia and his spouse at a state reception devoted to National Unity Day. (Source: Wikipedia)

St. George’s Hall, Grand Kremlin Palace. President Vladimir Putin with Prince Dmitri Romanovich of Russia and his spouse at a state reception devoted to National Unity Day. (Source: Wikipedia)

Since 1992, the Headship of the Imperial House of Russia has been claimed by two branches of the Romanov family: the Vladimirovichi Branch and the Nikolaevichi branch. The Vladimirovichi branch descends of Tsar Alexander II (1818-1881),  the successor son of Tsar Nicholas I. The Nikolaevichi branch descends from Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich of Russia (1831–1891), who was the third son and sixth child of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia and Alexandra Feodorovna.

I. Tsar Nicholas I (1796-1855) x Princess Charlotte of Prussia (1798-1860). Nicholas was born in Alexander Palace, Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire, the eldest son of Emperor Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia (formerly Princess Dagmar of Denmark). Emperor Alexander III was born on 10 March 1845 at the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg and succeeded this father Emperor Alexander II of Russia. Alexander II succeed Tsar Nicolas I, son of Paul I and Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg.

Children:

II a. Tsar Alexander II (1818-1881) x Princess Marie of Hesse (1824-1880). Son: Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (1847-1909) X Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1854-1920) -> Vladimirovichi branch

II b. Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich (1831-1891) x Princess Alexandra of Oldenburg (1838-1900) -> Nikolaevichi branch

Claimants

Vladimirovichi branch(es)

I. Cyril (Kirill) Vladimirovich, (Кирилл Владимирович Рома́нов), born 12 October [O.S. 30 September] 1876 – deceased 12 October 1938), Grand Duke of Russia (assumed the Headship of the Imperial Family of Russia and, as next in line to the throne in 1924).

HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, Pope Benedict XVI and Grand Duke George Mikhailovich (Source: Paul Gilbert).

HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, Pope Benedict XVI and Grand Duke George Mikhailovich (Source: Paul Gilbert).

II a. Maria Kirillovna (1907–1951), eldest daughter of Kirill Vladimirovich (I). She was born in Coburg when her parents were in exile because their marriage had not been approved by Tsar Nicholas II. The family returned to Russia prior to World War I, but was forced to flee following the Russian Revolution of 1917.

III. Emich, 7th Prince of Leiningen (1926-1991), titular Prince of Leiningen from 1946 until his death, x Eilika of Oldenburg.

IV. Prince Karl Emich of Leiningen.

II b. Vladimir Cyrillovich, (Влади́мир Кири́ллович Рома́нов) born 30 August [O.S. 17 August] 1917 – 21 April 1992), claimed the Headship of the Imperial Family from 1938 to his death, Grand Duke of Russia (1938–1992).

III. Maria Vladimirovna (Мари́я Влади́мировна Рома́нова), born 23 December 1953 in Madrid), has been a claimant to the headship of the Imperial Family since 1992 Grand Duchess of Russia (1992–present).

IV. Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia

Nikolaevichi branch

I. Nicholas Romanov, Prince of Russia (1992–2014)

II. Prince Dimitri Romanovich of Russia (2014–present)

III. Prince Andrew Andreevich (born 1923)

 Applicable law

Karl Emich of Leiningen signs an address to Vladimir Putin aksing permission to assign a land in Ekaterinburg for creation of the Sovereign State Imperial See (Source: Wikipedia).

HSH Karl Emich Prince of Leiningen signs an address to Vladimir Putin aksing permission to assign a land in Ekaterinburg for creation of the Sovereign State Imperial See (Source: Wikipedia).

The Russian laws governing membership in the imperial house, succession to the throne and other dynastic subjects are contained in the Fundamental State Laws of the Russian Empire and the Statute of the Imperial Family (codification of 1906, as amended through 1911). These laws, referred to collectively as “the succession laws” in this essay, are sometimes described as “the Pauline law”, because their original version was promulgated in 1797 by Emperor Paul I.

At the present time, not one of the Emperors or Grand Dukes of Russia has left living descendants with unchallengeable rights to the Throne of Russia. When marrying a foreigner of Equal Rank, or member of a Reigning Family, family members were obliged to renounce their and their issue’s rights to the succession to the Throne of Russia.

Since 1917 the Russian Empire and its laws regarding social classes ceased to exist (Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars, Decree on the Abolition of Social Estates and Civil Ranks, 10 November  1917):

  1. All classes and class divisions of citizens, class privileges and disabilities, class organizations and institutions which have until now existed in Russia, as well as all civil ranks, are abolished.
  2. All designations (as merchant, nobleman, burgher, peasant, etc.), titles (as Prince, Count, etc.), and distinctions of civil ranks (Privy, State, and other Councilors), are abolished, and one common designation is established for all the population of Russia-citizen of the Russian Republic.
  3. The properties of the noblemen’s class institutions are hereby transferred to corresponding Zemstvo self-governing bodies.
  4. The properties of merchants’ and burghers’ associations are hereby placed at the disposal of corresponding municipal bodies.
  5. All class institutions, transactions, and archives are hereby transferred to the jurisdiction of corresponding municipal and Zemstvo bodies.
  6. All corresponding clauses of the laws which have existed until now are abolished.
  7. This decree becomes effective from the day of its publication, and is to be immediately put into effect, by the local Soviets of Workmen’s, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies.

Conclusions

In addition to the abolishment of the public laws regarding social classes, none of the current Romanov family members has unchallengeable rights to the Throne of Russia according to the Pauline Laws. Therefore the headship of the House of Romanov remains a political matter that cannot be determined from a legal perspective. The only authority that can restore the rights to the Russian throne is the Russian Federation. In my opinion, the imperial nobility and the titles it awarded may theoretically remain valid but for the Russian Federation they are quasi foreign.

Sources

Links

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