Cousin marriage & genetic disorders”

Marry your cousin?! Why royal families inbred

Cousin Marriage – Consanguinity

Duke of Holstein-Gottorp

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  (Redirected from Dukes of Holstein-Gottorp)

Coat of arms of the House of Holstein-Gottorp

Holstein-Gottorp or Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp is the historiographical name, as well as contemporary shorthand name, for the parts of the duchies of Schleswigand Holstein, also known as Ducal Holstein, that were ruled by the dukes of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp. Other parts of the duchies were ruled by the kings of Denmark. The territories of Gottorp are located in present-day Denmark andGermany. The main seat of the dukes was Gottorf Castle in the city of Schleswig in the duchy of Schleswig. It is also the name of the ducal house, which ascended to several thrones. For this reason genealogists and historians sometimes use the name of Holstein-Gottorp for related dynasties of other countries.

The formal title adopted by these rulers was “Duke of Schleswig, Holstein, Dithmarschen and Stormarn”, but that title was also used by his kinsmen, the kings of Denmark and their cadet branches, as it was the common property of all theseagnates. The Gottorp branch held Landeshoheit (sovereignty) over the duchy of Holstein in the Holy Roman Empire and over the duchy of Schleswig in the kingdom of Denmark.[citation needed] The name Holstein-Gottorp is for the sake of convenience used instead of the technically more correct “Duke of Schleswig and Holstein in/at Gottorp”.[citation needed]

The oldest of the ducal titles was that of Schleswig, which had been confirmed in fief to a royal kinsman by the regentQueen Margaret I of Denmark, Sweden and Norway on behalf of her son Olaf II of Denmark in 1386. The kings of Denmark were granted Holstein as an imperial fief by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III from 1474.


Gottorf Castle, after which the house of Holstein-Gottorp is named

Coat of arms of the Duchy of Holstein-Gottorp (from Siebmachers Wappenbuch)[1]

In 1544 the so-called “one-third duchy” was ceded to Adolf, third son of KingFrederick I of Denmark and the youngest half-brother of King Christian III of Denmark. Thus the surviving House of Holstein-Gottorp is a cadet branch of theHouse of Oldenburg. The Dukes of Holstein-Gottorp shared the uneasy rule of Schleswig and Holstein with the Kings of Denmark. As such, they were often allies (practically clients) of the Swedes, enemies of the Danes. This longtime alliance was sealed by several dynastic marriages: Christina of Holstein-Gottorp married Charles IX of Sweden, Hedwig Eleonora of Holstein-Gottorp married Charles X Gustavus,Duke Frederick IV married the eldest daughter of King Charles XI of Sweden, and ultimately Prince Adolf Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp ascended to the Swedish throne in 1751, founding the Holstein-Gottorp dynasty of Sweden (ruled 1751–1818).

By the Treaty of Roskilde (1658) and the Treaty of Copenhagen (1660), Denmark released Gottorp from its feudal bonds and recognized the sovereignty of its dukes over the Gottorp portions of the duchy of Schleswig. In fact, these Schleswigers had been relatively independent already for more than a century. Although the duchy of Holstein remained officially a fief of the Empire, in fact by treaty its dukes co-governed both duchies with their formal overlord, the Danish king.

Gottorp question[edit]

In the Great Northern War the duchy sided with Sweden and was defeated after Danish troops occupied the northern portions of Holstein-Gottorp. According to the 1720 Treaty of Frederiksborg Swedish support for Gottorp ceased, making it impossible for the dukes to regain their lost territories in Schleswig and prolonging their feud with the king of Denmark. Following the peace settlement of 1721, Duke Charles Frederick fled to the court of Peter the Great of Russia, and for some time the Russians intrigued to restore Charles Frederick to his lands in Schleswig. Charles Frederick himself was married to Grand Duchess Anna, Peter’s daughter. Peter’s successors abandoned his policy of backing the claims of the dukes of Holstein-Gottorp. But from this marriage was born Charles Peter Ulrich, who succeeded to Holstein-Gottorp in 1739, and became heir to the Russian throne upon the accession of his childless aunt Elizabeth in 1741.

Charles Peter Ulrich, who acceded to the Russian throne as Peter III in 1762, was determined to conquer Schleswig and Holstein from Denmark–Norway. When he became emperor in 1762, he immediately signed a generous peace with Prussiaand withdrew Russia from the Seven Years’ War in order to concentrate fully on an attack upon Denmark. This move angered Russian opinion, since it was considered a betrayal of Russia’s sacrifices in the war, as well as placing national interests in jeopardy. At the same time, the Danish army had hastily moved across the border into Mecklenburg, to avoid an invasion of Holstein, and prepared for battle. The two armies stood less than 30 kilometres apart when news from Saint Petersburg suddenly reached the Russian army that Russia’s emperor had been overthrown by his wife, who had now acceded to the throne as Empress Catherine II. One of her first actions was to call off the war against Denmark and restore normal relations.

Peter III’s son, Paul, the new Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, was a minor under the regency of his mother, the empress. In 1773 she agreed to cede the territorial claims of her son to the Holstein-Gottorp lands still held by Denmark, obtaining in exchange the German countships of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst, elevated in 1776 into the duchy of Oldenburg within the Holy Roman Empire. The duchy was given to Paul’s grandfather’s cousin, the aged Prince-Bishop of Lübeck, head of a younger branch of the Holstein-Gottorp family. This put an end to the Gottorp question, which had generated so many conflicts between the Nordic powers.

The House of Holstein-Gottorp acceded to several European thrones. The dynastic policy of the dukes of Holstein-Gottorp resulted in its cadet branch, the Swedish line, ruling Sweden from 1751 until 1818 and Norway from 1814 to 1818. In 1863, the related House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg — descended from King Christian III of Denmark — became Kings of Denmark and Greece and, in 1905, of Norway.

The Lübeck branch became first dukes and later grand dukes of Oldenburg from (1773 until 1918), while the senior branchruled Russia briefly in 1762 and then again from 1796 until 1917 (while in 1762-1796 it was ruled by their widow and mother).

Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp[edit]

Coat of arms of Count Adolf of Holstein-Gottorp

Coat of Arms of the House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov

Dukes of Schleswig and Holstein at Gottorp:

Dukes of Holstein-Gottorp at Kiel:

Titular Dukes of Holstein-Gottorp at St Petersburg (House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov):

One view[2] is that the heir is the non-dynastic son of Grand Duke Dimitri, only son of Grand Duke Paul, himself the youngest brother of Alexander III. This heir is non-dynastic in the Russian sense, but the Danish branch of the House of Oldenburg had no declared ban against unequal marriages, and Schleswig, where the (once sovereign) Schloss Gottorf is located, was never part of Holy Roman Empire or under its jurisdiction. These heirs live in USA and have not staked a public claim to titles.

Prince Dimitri Pavlovich Romanovsky-Ilyinsky has no sons. His only male heir, his brother Prince Michael Romanovsky-Ilyinsky, is also without male issue, and there are currently no further male heirs in the Romanovsky-Ilyinsky line to inherit this theoretical claim to the Duchy.

Another view is that by the end of the Holy Roman Empire it was a principle of German princely law that members of all princely families which held Reichsstand status therein were required to contract ebenbürtig in order to transmit dynasticrights to their descendants.[3] If descendants of Grand Duke Dmitri’s marriage with Audrey Emery are considered ineligible to succeed to the ducal Holstein claim, it is unclear which, if any, of the various male-line branches descended from the Imperial Romanovs remain eligible. If marriages-in-exile with Russian princesses or countesses meet the marital standard, male-line heirs may yet exist. If, however, all marriages deemed morganatic by Russian Imperial standards were also non-dynastic for the Gottorp succession, the genealogically senior Holstein-Gottorp dynast would be Anton-Günther, Duke of Oldenburg, current head of the branch descending from Christian August of Holstein-Gottorp, Prince of Eutin, the younger brother of Duke Frederick IV. He already holds claim to the defunct title af grand duke of Oldenburg. Either way, the king of Denmark exercised sovereignty in the duchies and provided financial support to the cadet Schleswig-Holstein branches of the House of Oldenburg. The claim to Holstein inherited by Emperor Paul I from Peter II was exchanged in 1773 for the Danish kings’ duchy of Oldenburg (residual succession rights being retained), the rulers of which lost sovereignty there in 1918. King Christian IX of Denmark lost Schleswig and Holstein in the Second Schleswig War in 1864, subsequent to which both duchies were incorporated into the kingdom of Prussia and later the German Empire. Danish monarchs continued to use their traditional ducal titles in pretence until the death of king Frederick IX of Denmark in 1972. In 1920, Northern Schleswig was returned to Danish rule after a plebiscite, the remainder of the former duchies remains part of Germany.

House of Oldenburg

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
House of Oldenburg
Arms of the County of Oldenburg.svg
Country Grand Duchy of Oldenburg,Russian Empire, Kingdom of Denmark, Kingdom of Norway,Kingdom of Sweden, Kingdom of Greece, Duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg, Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein
Founded 1448
Founder Elimar I, Count of Oldenburg
Final ruler

Nicholas II of Russia (1894–1917)


Charles XIII of Sweden (1809–18)


Friedrich August II (1900–18)


Christian IX (1864)


Christian IX (1864)


Albert (1921–31)

Current head Christoph, Prince of Schleswig-Holstein

February Revolution 1917


1818 (line extinct)


Greek military junta of 1967–741973


German Revolution of 1918–191918


Second Schleswig War 1864


Second Schleswig War 1864


1931 (line extinct)

Cadet branches

The House of Oldenburg is a European royal house of North German origin. It is one of Europe’s most influential Royal Houseswith branches that rule or have ruled in Denmark, Greece, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Schleswig, Holstein, and Oldenburg. The current Queen of Denmark, the King of Norway and the ex-King of Greece as well as consorts of Greece and the United Kingdom belong to this House.

It rose to prominence when Count Christian I of Oldenburg was elected King of Denmark in 1448, Norway in 1450 and Sweden in 1457. The house has occupied the Danish throne ever since.


Marriages of medieval counts of Oldenburg had paved the way for their heirs to become kings of various Scandinavian kingdoms. Through marriage with a descendant of King Valdemar I of Sweden and of King Eric IV of Denmark, a claim to Sweden and Denmark was staked, since 1350.

At that time, its competitors were the successors of Margaret I of Denmark. In the 15th century, the Oldenburg heir of that claim married Hedwig of Schauenburg, a descendant of Euphemia of Sweden and Norway and also a descendant of Eric V of Denmarkand Abel of Denmark. Since descendants better situated in genealogical charts died out, their son Christian (the abovementioned) became the king of all three kingdoms of the whole Kalmar Union. The House of Mecklenburg was its chief competitor regarding the Northern thrones, and other aspirants included the Duke of Lauenburg. Different Oldenburgine branches have reigned in several countries. The House of Oldenburg was briefly poised to claim the British thrones through the marriage of Queen Anne and Prince George of Denmark and Norway; however, due to the early deaths of all their children, the crown passed to the House of Hanover.

The head of the house since 1980 is Christoph, Prince of Schleswig-Holstein.[1]

Main line[edit]

  • Kings of Denmark (1448–1863)
  • Kings of Norway (1450–1814)
  • Kings of Sweden (1457–64, 1497–1501 and 1520–21)
  • Counts, Dukes and Grand Dukes of Oldenburg (1101–1918)
  • Dukes of Schleswig and Counts of Holstein (1460–1544)
  • Dukes of Schleswig and Holstein ruling only part of the Duchies (1544–1721/1773)
  • Dukes of Schleswig (1721–1864) (ruling the entire Duchy)
  • Dukes of Holstein (1773–1864, ruling the entire Duchy)


House of Romanov

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“Romanov” redirects here. For other uses, see Romanov (disambiguation).
House of Romanov
House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov
Country Tsardom of Russia,
Russian Empire,
Kingdom of Poland,
Grand Duchy of Finland,
Grand Duchy of Oldenburg,
Duchy of Holstein,
Order of Saint John,
Parent house
  • Tsar of Russia (1613–1721)
  • Emperor of Russia (1721–1917)
    “By the grace of God,
    Emperor and Autocrat of Russia, Moscow, Kiev, Vladimir, and Novgorod
  • Tsar of Kazan, Astrakhan, Poland, Siberia, Tauric Khersones, and Georgia
  • Lord of Pskov
  • Grand Prince of Smolensk, Lithuania, Volynia, Podolsk, and Finland
  • Prince of Estonia, Livonia, Courland and Simigalsk, Samogitsk, Belostok, Karelia, Tver, Ugorsk, Perm, Vyatsk, Bogarsk, and others
  • Lord and Grand Duke of Lower Novgorod
  • Ruler of Chernigov, Ryazan, Polotsk, Rostov, Yaroslav, Belozersk, Udorsk, Obdorsk, Kondiysk, Vitebsk, Mstislav, and the entire North Country
  • Lord of Iversk, Kartalinsk and Kabardinsk lands, and the area of Armenia
  • Hereditary Lord and master of the Circassian and mountain princes and others
  • Lord of Turkestan
  • Heir of Norway
  • Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, Stormarn, Dithmarschen, and Oldenburg

and so forth, and so forth, and so forth”[1]

Founded 1613 — Michael I
Current head Disputed since 1992:

Dissolution Russia:
1917 — Nicholas II abdicated as a result of the February Revolution in favour of Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, who refused to accept the throne until it could be approved by theRussian Constituent Assembly
Ethnicity Russian, Germans, Lithuanian
Cadet branches

The House of Romanov (Russian: Рома́нов, IPA: [rɐˈmanəf], ro-mahn-off) was the second imperial dynasty, after the Rurik dynasty, to rule over Russia, reigning from 1613 until the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II on March 15, 1917, as a result of the February Revolution.

The direct male line of the Romanovs had however already ended with Peter IIin 1730. After an era of dynastic crisis, the House of Holstein-Gottorp, a cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg, ascended the throne in 1762 with Peter III, a grandson of Peter I. All rulers from the middle of the 18th century to therevolution of 1917 were descended from that branch. Though officially known as the House of Romanov, these descendants of the Romanov and Oldenburg Houses are sometimes referred to as Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov.[2]

Emperor Nicholas II and many members of his extended family were executed by Bolsheviks in 1918 and it is believed that no member survived, ending the main line definitively. In 1924, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, the direct male-line patrilineal descendant of Alexander II of Russia, claimed the headship of the defunct Imperial House of Russia. His granddaughter, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia, is the current pretender, her only child George Mikhailovich is her heir apparent.

Surname “Romanov”[edit]

Legally, it is not clear when or if a ukase was issued that abolished the surname of Michael Romanov upon his accession to the Russian throne or of his subsequent male-line descendants, although by tradition members of reigning dynasties seldom use surnames. Rather, they are known by their dynastic titles (“Tsarevich Ivan Alexeevich”, “Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich,” etc.). In addition, since 1761 Russian rulers descend from the son of Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna of Russia and Charles Frederick, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, and thus they were no longer Romanovs by patrilineage, but belonged to the Holstein-Gottorp cadet branch of the German House of Oldenburg. In such genealogical literature as the Almanach de Gotha, the name of Russia’s ruling dynasty from the time of Peter III is “Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov”.[3] However, the name “Romanov” and “House of Romanov” were often used in official references to the Russian imperial house. The coat of arms of the Romanov boyars was included in legislation on the imperial dynasty, and in 1913 there was an official jubilee celebrating the “300th Anniversary of the Romanovs rule”.[4]

After the February revolution all members of the imperial family were given the surname “Romanov” by special decree of the Provisional Government of Russia.[citation needed] The only exception were the morganatic descendants of the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich who, in exile, took the surname Il’insky[3][5]


A 16th-century residence of the Yuryev-Zakharyin boyars in Zaryadye, near the Kremlin.

The Romanovs share their origin with two dozen other Russian noble families. Their earliest common ancestor is one Andrei Kobyla, attested around 1347 as aboyar in the service of Semyon I of Moscow.[3] Later generations assigned to Kobyla the most illustrious pedigrees. An 18th-century genealogy claimed that he was the son of the Prussian prince Glanda Kambila, who came to Russia in the second half of the 13th century, fleeing the invading Germans. Indeed, one of the leaders of the Old Prussian rebellion of 1260-1274 against the Teutonic order was named Glande.

His actual origin may have been less spectacular. Not only is Kobyla Russian for “mare“, some of his relatives also had as nicknames the terms for horses and other domestic animals, thus suggesting descent from one of the royal equerries.[citation needed] One of Kobyla’s sons, Feodor, a boyar in the boyar duma of Dmitri Donskoi, was nicknamed Koshka (cat). His descendants took the surname Koshkin, then changed it to Zakharin, which family later split into two branches: Zakharin-Yakovlev and Zakharin-Yuriev.[3] During the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the former family became known as Yakovlev (Alexander Herzen among them), whereas grandchildren of Roman Zakharin-Yuriev changed their name to Romanov.[3]

Rise to power[edit]

A crowd at the Ipatiev Monasteryimploring Mikhail Romanov’s mother to let him go to Moscow and become their tsar (Illumination from a book dated 1673).

The family fortunes soared when Roman’s daughter, Anastasia Zakharyina, married Ivan IV, the Rurikid Grand Prince of Moscow, on 3 (13) February 1547. Since her husband had assumed the title of tsar, which literally means “Caesar“, on 16 January 1547, she was crowned the very first tsaritsa of Russia. Their marriage was an exceedingly happy one, but her untimely and mysterious death in 1560 changed Ivan’s character for the worse. Suspecting the boyars of having poisoned his beloved, the tsar started a reign of terroragainst them. Among his children by Anastasia, the elder (Ivan) was murdered by the tsar in a quarrel; the younger Feodor, a pious and lethargic prince, inherited the throne upon his father’s death in 1584.

Throughout Feodor’s reign (1584-1598), the Tsar’s brother-in-law, Boris Godunov, and his Romanov cousins contested the de facto rule of Russia. Upon the death of childless Feodor, the 700-year-old line of Moscow Rurikidscame to an end. After a long struggle, the party of Boris Godunov prevailed over the Romanovs, and the Zemsky soborelected Godunov as tsar in 1599. Godunov’s revenge on the Romanovs was terrible: all the family and its relatives were deported to remote corners of the Russian North and Ural, where most of them died of hunger or in chains. The family’s leader, Feodor Nikitich Romanov, was exiled to the Antoniev Siysky Monastery and forced to take monastic vows with the name Filaret.

The Romanovs’ fortunes again changed dramatically with the fall of the Godunov dynasty in June 1605. As a former leader of the anti-Godunov party and cousin of the last legitimate Tsar, Filaret Romanov’s recognition was sought by severalimpostors who attempted to claim the Rurik legacy and throne during the Time of Troubles. False Dmitriy I made him ametropolitan, and False Dmitriy II raised him to the dignity of patriarch. Upon expulsion of Poles from Moscow in 1612, theZemsky Sobor offered the Russian crown to several Rurik and Gedimin princes, but all of them declined the honour of it.[3]

On being offered the Russian crown, Filaret’s 16-year-old son Mikhail Romanov, then living at the Ipatiev Monastery ofKostroma, burst into tears of fear and despair. He was finally persuaded to accept the throne by his mother Kseniya Ivanovna Shestova, who blessed him with the holy image of Our Lady of St. Theodore. Feeling how insecure his throne was, Mikhail attempted to emphasize his ties with the last Rurik tsars and sought advice from the Assembly of the Land on every important issue. This strategy proved successful. The early Romanovs were generally loved by the population as in-laws of Ivan the Terrible and innocent martyrs of Godunov’s wrath.[citation needed]

The era of dynastic crisis[edit]

Peter the Great (1672-1725)

Mikhail was succeeded by his only son Alexei, who steered the country quietly through numerous troubles. Upon his death, there was a period of dynastic struggle between his children by his first wife Maria Ilyinichna Miloslavskaya (Fyodor III, Sofia Alexeyevna, Ivan V) and his son by his second wife Nataliya Kyrillovna Naryshkina, the future Peter the Great. Peter ruled from 1682 until his death in 1725. In numerous successful wars he expanded the Tsardom into a huge empire that became a major European power. He led a cultural revolution that replaced some of the traditionalist and medieval social and political system with a modern, scientific,Europe-oriented, and rationalist system.[6]

New dynastic struggles followed the death of Peter. His only son to survive into adulthood, Alexei, did not support Peter’s modernization of Russia. He had previously been arrested and died in prison shortly thereafter. Near the end of his life, Peter managed to alter the succession tradition of male heirs to allow him to name his own heir. Power then passed into the hands of his second wife, theEmpress Catherine. Within five years, the Romanov male line ended with the death of Peter II in 1730.[3] He was succeeded by Anna I. Ivanovna, daughter of Peter the Great’s half-brother and co-ruler, Ivan V. Before she died in 1740 the empress declared her grandnephew, Ivan VI, should succeed her. This was an attempt to secure the line of her father and exclude descendants of Peter the Great from inheriting the throne. Ivan VI was only a one-year-old baby at the time of his succession to the throne and his parents, grand duchess Anna Leopoldovna and Duke Anthony Ulrich of Brunswick, the ruling regent, were detested for their German counselors and relations. As a consequence, shortly after Empress Anna Ivanovna’s death, Elizabeth Petrovna, a legitimized daughter of Peter I, managed to gain the favor of the populace and dethroned Ivan VI with a coup d’état, supported by the Preobrazhensky Regiment and the ambassadors of France and Sweden. Ivan VI and his parents died in prison many years later.

The Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov Dynasty[edit]

Coat of Arms of the House ofHolstein-Gottorp-Romanov

The Holstein-Gottorps of Russia retained the Romanov surname, emphasizing theirmatrilineal descent from Peter the Great, through Anna Petrovna (Peter I’s elder daughter by his second wife).[3] In 1742, Empress Elizabeth of Russia brought Anna’s son, her nephew, Peter of Holstein-Gottorp, to St. Petersburg and proclaimed him as her heir and would, in time, marry him off the German princess Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst. In 1762, shortly after the death of Empress Elizabeth, Sophia, who had taken the Russian name Catherine upon her marriage, overthrew her unpopular husband, with the aid of her lover, Grigory Orlov, and would reign as Catherine the Great. Catherine’s son, Paul I, who succeeded his mother in 1796, was particularly proud to be great-grandson of the illustrious Russian monarch, although his mother insinuated in her memoirs that Paul’s natural father had been her lover Serge Saltykov, as opposed to her husband, Peter. Painfully aware of the hazards resulting from battles of succession, Paul decreed house laws for the Romanovs—the so-called Pauline laws, among the strictest in Europe—which established semi-Salic primogeniture as the rule of succession to the throne, requiring Orthodox faith for the monarch and dynasts, as well as for the consorts of the monarchs and their nearest heirs in line. Later, Alexander I, responding to the morganaticmarriage of his brother and heir, added the requirement that consorts of all Russian dynasts in the male line had to be of equal birth (i.e., born to a royal or sovereign house).

Paul I was murdered in his palace in Saint Petersburg in 1801. Alexander I succeeded him on the throne and later died without leaving a male heir. His brother, crowned Nicholas I, succeeded him on the throne.[3] The succession was far from smooth, however, as hundreds of troops took the oath of allegiance to Nicholas’s elder brother, Constantine, who, unbenknownst to them, had renounced his claim to the throne. The confusion, combined with opposition to Nicholas’ accession, led to the Decembrist Revolt. Nicholas I fathered four sons, educating them for the prospect of ruling Russia and for successful military careers.

Alexander II, son of Nicholas I, became the next Russian emperor in 1855, in the midst of the Crimean War. Alexander considered that his task was to keep peace in Europe and Russia. However, he believed only a country with a strong army could keep the peace. By paying attention to the army, giving much freedom to Finland, and freeing the serfs in 1861, he gained much popular support.

Despite his popularity, however, his family life began to unravel by the mid 1860’s. In 1864, his eldest son, and heir,Tsarevich Nicholas, died suddenly. Furthermore, his wife, Empress Maria Alexandrovna, who suffered from tuberculosis, spent much of her time abroad. Alexander eventually turned to a mistress, Princess Catherine Dolgoruki, with whom he had several children, an action which alienated him from most of his children. Following the death his his wife, in 1880 contracted a morganatic marriage with Dolgoruki.[3] His legitimization their children, and rumors that he was contemplating crowning his new wife as empress, caused tension with the entire Romanov family. In particular, the grand duchesses were scandalized at the prospect of subordination to a woman who had borne Alexander several illegitimate children during his wife’s lifetime. Before Princess Catherine could be elevated in rank, however, on 13 March 1881, Alexander was assassinated by a hand-made bomb hurled by Ignacy Hryniewiecki. Slavic patriotism, cultural revival, and Panslavist ideas grew in importance in the latter half of this century, evoking expectations of a more Russian than cosmopolitan dynasty. Several marriages were contracted with princesses from other Slavic monarchies and Orthodox kingdoms (Greece, Montenegro, Serbia).[3] In the early 20th century a couple of cadet-line princesses were allowed to marry Russian high noblemen – whereas until the 1850s, practically all marriages had been with German princelings.[3]

A gathering of members of the Romanov family in 1892, at the summer military manoeuvres in Krasnoe Selo. (Front row, seated) Grand Duchess Xenia, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna the elder, Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna, Grand Duchess Alexandra Iosifovna, Empress Maria Feodorovna, Emperor Alexander III, Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich and Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich. (Immediately behind) Dukes Carl Michael and Georg of Mecklenburg Stretlitz ( great-grandsons of Emperor Paul I), Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich, his sister Olga, Queen of the Hellenes, Tsarevcih Nicholas (later Emperor Nicholas II), Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, Grand Duke Dimitri Constantinovich (in the white hat), Duke Peter of Oldenburg (a great-great grandson of Emperor Paul I), and Duke George of Leuchtenberg (a great grandson of Emperor Nicholas I).(Back row) Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaievich the younger, Duke Alexander of Oldenburg (Duke Peter’s father, a great grand son of Emperor Paul I, peering over the shoulder of Grand Duke Dimitri). The boys in the front are Grand Duke Alexei Mikhailovich (with the dark sailor uniform), Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich and brothers Grand Dukes Andrei and Boris Vladimirovich.

Alexander II was succeeded by his sonAlexander III. Alexander III, the second-to-last Romanov emperor, was responsible for conservative reforms in Russia. Never meant to be emperor, he was educated in matters of state only after the death of his older brother, Nicholas. This lack of extensive education may have influenced his politics as well as those of his son, Nicholas II. Alexander III cut an impressive figure. Not only was he tall (6’4″ according to some sources), but his physique was proportionately large. Rumors spread about his incredible strength – a strength that was the size of his temper. In addition, the beard he wore hearkened back to the likeness of tsars/emperors of old, contributing to the aura of authority with which he carried himself.

Alexander, fearful of the fate which had befallen his father, strengthened autocratic rule in Russia. Many of the reforms the more liberal Alexander II had pushed through were reversed. Alexander, at his brother’s death, not only inherited his brother’s position as Tsarevich, but, also his brother’s Danish fiancee, Princess Dagmar, who took the name Maria Fyodorovna upon her conversion to Orthodoxy, daughter ofKing Christian IX and Queen Louise of Denmark, and among whose siblings were Kings Frederik VIII of Denmark andGeorge I of Greece, and Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom, consort of King Edward VII. Despite contrasting natures and background the marriage was considered harmonious, producing six children and acquiring for Alexander the reputation of being the first tsar not known to take mistresses.

His eldest son, Nicholas, became emperor upon Alexander III’s death due to kidney disease at age 49 in November 1894. Nicholas reputedly said, “I am not ready to be tsar….” Just a week after the funeral, Nicholas married his fiancee, Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, a favorite grandchild of England’s Queen Victoria. Though an intelligent and kind-hearted man, he tended to leave intact his father’s harsh polices, and for her part, the shy Alix, who had taken the name Alexandra, upon her conversion to Orthodoxy, while a devoted wife to Nicholas and mother to their five children, disliked many of the social duties of being tsarina, and was seen as cold and distant, drawing many unfavorable comparisons between Alexandra, and her popular mother-in-law, Maria Fyodorovna. In 1916, when Nicholas took control of the army at the front lines during World War I, Alexandra sought to influence government affairs even more than she had done during peace time. His well-known devotion to her injured both his and the dynasty’s reputation during World War I, due both to her German origin and her unique relationship with Rasputin, whose role in the life of her only son was not widely known. Alexandra was a carrier of the gene for haemophilia, which she inherited from her maternal grandmother, Queen Victoria. Her son, Alexei, the long-awaited heir to the throne, inherited hemophilia and suffered agonizing bouts of protracted bleeding, the suffering of which was partially alleviated by Rasputin’s ministrations. Nicholas and Alexandra also had four daughters (Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia).

The six crowned representatives of the Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov line were: Paul (1796–1801), Alexander I (1801–1825),Nicholas I (1825–55), Alexander II (1855–81), Alexander III (1881–94), and Nicholas II (1894–1917).[3]

Constantine Pavlovich and Michael Alexandrovich, both morganatically married, are occasionally counted among Russia’s emperors by historians who observe that the Russian monarchy did not legally permit interregnums. But neither was crowned and both declined the throne.

Coat of Arms of the Tsar


The Romanovs visiting a regiment during World War I. From left to right, Grand Duchess Anastasia, Grand Duchess Olga, Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarevich Alexei, Grand Duchess Tatiana, and Grand Duchess Maria, and Kuban Cossacks

The February Revolution of 1917 resulted in the abdication of Nicholas II in favor of his brother Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich. The latter declined to accept imperial authority save to delegate it to the Provisional Government pending a future democratic referendum. But that action effectively terminated the Romanov dynasty’s rule over Russia. Some historians contend that the crown did not lawfully pass to Michael, as Tsesarevich Alexei would have automatically succeeded his father, Nicholas II, if the latter had not illegally altered his act of abdication to include his son—in fear that the afflicted boy would be forcibly separated from his parents. By this theory, Alexei followed Nicholas II as Russia’s rightful emperor, although he remained a prisoner of the Bolsheviks for the rest of his short life. His uncle Michael would then only have become emperor after Alexei’s death, along with his parents and sisters, in June 1918. But by then Michael Aleksandrovich was also in captivity and would himself be executed by the Bolsheviks the following month.

After the February Revolution, Nicholas II and his family were placed under house arrest in the Alexander Palace. While several members of the imperial family managed to stay on good terms with the Provisional Government, and were eventually able to leave Russia, Nicholas II and his family, were sent into exile in the Siberian town of Tobolsk by Alexander Kerensky in August 1917. The October Revolution of 1917, saw the ousting of the Provisional government by the Bolsheviks, and in April, 1918, the Romanovs were moved to the Russian town of Yekaterinburg, in the Urals, where they were placed in the Ipatiev House.

Shooting of Tsar and Family[edit]

Yekaterinburg‘s “Church on the Blood“, built on the spot where the last Tsar and his family were killed.

On the night of July 17, 1918, Bolshevik authorities acting on Yakov Sverdlov‘s orders in Moscow and led locally by Filip Goloschekin andYakov Yurovsky, shot Nicholas II, his immediate family, and four servants in the Ipatiev House’s cellar.

The family was told that they were to be photographed to prove to the people that they were still alive. The family members were arranged appropriately and left alone for several minutes, the gunmen then walked in and started shooting. The girls did not die from the first shots, because bullets rebounded off diamonds that were sewn into their corsets. The gunmen tried to stab them with bayonets, which also failed because of the stones. The gunmen then allegedly shot each girl in the head at close range although no physical evidence of head wounds was found many decades later. The bodies of the Romanovs were then hidden and moved several times before being interred in an unmarked pit where they remained until the summer of 1991 when amateur enthusiasts disinterred them. DNA evidence was used to make tentative identification and the bodies were later given a state funeral under the nascent democracy of post-Soviet Russia.

The Ipatiev House has the same name as the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma, where Mikhail Romanov had been offered the Russian Crown in 1613. The large memorial church “on the blood” has been built on the spot where the Ipatiev House once stood.

Nicholas II and his family were proclaimed passion-bearers by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000. (In orthodoxy, a passion-bearer is a saint who was not killed because of his faith like a martyr but died in faith at the hand of murderers.)

Remains of the Tsar[edit]

Tombstones marking the burial of Tsar Nicholas II and his family in St. Catherine’s Chapel at Peter and Paul Cathedral

In July 1991, the crushed bodies of Nicholas II and his wife, along with three of their five children and four of their servants, were exhumed (although some questioned the authenticity of these bones despite DNA testing). Because two bodies were not present, many people believed that two Romanov children escaped the killings. There was much debate as to which two children’s bodies were missing. A Russian scientist made photographic superimpositions and determined that Maria and Alexei were not accounted for. Later, an American scientist concluded from dental, vertebral, and other remnants that it was Anastasia and Alexei who were missing. Much mystery surrounded Anastasia’s fate. Several films have been produced suggesting that she lived on. This has since been completely disproved with the discovery of the final Romanov children remains and extensive DNA testing that connected these remains with those of Nicholas II, his wife and three children.

After the bodies were exhumed in June 1991, they sat in laboratories until 1998, while there was a debate as to whether they should be reburied in Yekaterinburg or St. Petersburg. A commission eventually chose St. Petersburg. The remains were transferred with full military honor guard and accompanied by members of the Romanov family from Yekaterinburg to St. Petersburg. In St. Petersburg the remains of the imperial family were moved by a formal military honor guard cortege from the airport to the Sts. Peter and Paul Fortress where they (along with several loyal servants who were killed with them) were interred in a special chapel in the Peter and Paul Cathedral near the tombs of their ancestors. President Boris Yeltsin attended the interment service on behalf of the Russian people.


Late summer of 2007, a Russian archaeologist announced a discovery by one of his workers. The excavation uncovered the following items in the two pits which formed a “T”: (#1) remains of 46 human bone fragments; (#2) bullet jackets from short barrel guns/pistols; (#3) wooden boxes which had deteriorated into fragments: (#4) pieces of ceramic which appear to be amphoras which were used as containers for acid; (#5) iron nails; (#6) iron angles: (#7) seven fragments of teeth; (#8) fragment of fabric of a garment. The area where the remains were found was near the old Koptyaki Road, under what appeared to be double bonfire sites about 70 m from the mass grave in Pigs Meadow near Yekaterinburg. The general directions were described in Yurovsky’s memoirs, owned by his son, although no one is sure who wrote the notes on the page. The archaeologists said the bones are from a boy who was roughly between the ages of ten and thirteen years at the time of his death and of a young woman who was roughly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three years old. Anastasia was seventeen years and one month old at the time of the murder, while Maria was nineteen years and one month old. Alexei would have been fourteen in two weeks’ time. Alexei’s elder sisters Olga and Tatiana were twenty-two and twenty-one years old at the time of the murder respectively. The bones were found using metal detectors and metal rods as probes. Also, striped material was found that appeared to have been from a blue-and-white striped cloth; Alexei commonly wore a blue-and-white striped undershirt.

DNA Proof[edit]

On April 30, 2008, Russian forensic scientists announced that DNA testing proves that the remains belong to the Tsarevich Alexei and his sister Anastasia. DNA information, made public in July 2008, that has been obtained from Yekaterinburg and repeatedly subject to independent testing by laboratories such as the University of Massachusetts Medical School, USA, and reveals that the final two missing Romanov remains are indeed authentic and that the entire Romanov family housed in the Ipatiev House, Yekaterinburg were executed in the early hours of 17 July 1918. In March 2009, results of the DNA testing were published, confirming that the two bodies discovered in 2007 were those of Tsarevich Alexei and Anastasia.

Research on mitochondrial DNA was conducted in the American AFDIL and in European GMI laboratories. In comparison with the previous analyses mtdna in the area of Aleksandra Fyodorovna, positions 16519C, 524.1A and 524.2C were added. The DNA of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, a great-nephew of the last Tsarina, was used by forensic scientists to identify her body and those of her children.[7]

Verification of identification via a repeat analysis of Prince Philip’s mtdna, to resolve apparent discrepancies between his genotype and those of the remains of the empress and her children, has not been conducted. Thus writer Michael Kirk (Great Britain) in 1998 put forward the version that Prince Philip wasn’t the son of his putative mother (Princess Andrew of Greece), so mtdna couldn’t be used in the comparative analysis for identification of the remains of Aleksandra Fiodorovna and her children. Some experts suggest analysis of other relatives in the female line, in particular of the Spanish Queen Sofia or her brother, the deposed King Constantine II of Greece.[8] As the repeated analysis of blood from Prince Philip wasn’t carried out, there is a difference, and, so while repeated or other analysis on Prince Philip won’t be carried out, legal identification of the remains of the Tsarina and her children will not be complete.

Killing of extended family[edit]

On July 18, 1918, the day after the killing at Yekaterinburg of the tsar and his family, members of the extended Russian imperial family met a brutal death by being killed near Alapayevsk by Bolsheviks. They included: Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich of Russia, Prince Ioann Konstantinovich of Russia, Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich of Russia, Prince Igor Konstantinovich of Russia and Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley, Grand Duke Sergei’s secretary Varvara Yakovleva, andGrand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and elder sister of Tsarina Alexandra. Grand Duchess Elizabeth had departed her family following the 1905 assassination of her husband, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, had donated all her wealth to the poor and became a nun, but was nonetheless killed.[9] In January 1919 revolutionary authorities killed Prince Dmitriy Konstantinovich, Prince Nikolai Mikhailovich, Prince Pavel Aleksandrovich, andPrince Georgiy Mikhailovich who had been held in the prison of Sts. Peter and Paul Fortress in Petrograd.[10]

The bodies were recovered from the mine by the White army in 1918, who arrived too late to rescue them. The bodies were placed in coffins and were moved around Russia during struggles between the White and the opposing Red Army. By 1920 the coffins were interred in a former Russian Mission in Beijing, now beneath a parking area. In 1981 Princess Elisabeth was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and in 1992 by the Moscow Patriarchate. In 2006 representatives of the Romanov family were making plans to reinter the remains elsewhere.[11] The town is a place of pilgrimage to the memory of Elizabeth Romanov.


Dowager Empress Maria Fyodorovna[edit]

In 1919, Maria Fyodorovna, widow of Alexander III, and mother of Nicholas II, managed to escape Russia aboard the HMS Marlborough, which her nephew, King George V of the United Kingdom, had sent, at the urging of his own mother, Queen Alexandra, Maria’s elder sister, to rescue her. After a stay in England with Queen Alexandra, she returned to her native Denmark, first living at Amalienborg Palace, with her nephew, King Christian X, and later, at Villa Hvidøre. Upon her death in 1928 she was buried in Roskilde Cathedral, the burial site of members of the Danish Royal Family.

In 2006, her remains were disinterred, and moved to the Sts. Peter and Paul Fortress, in order to be buried alongside her husband. The transfer of her remains was accompanied by elaborate ceremonies, including at St. Isaac’s officiated by the Patriarch Alexis II. Princes Dmitri and Prince Nicholas Romanov were present at the ceremony, along with Princess Catherine Ioannovna of Russia, daughter of Prince Ioann Konstantinovich of Russia. Other members of the Imperial Family present included the descendants of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna including Prince Michael Andreevich of Russia the senior direct male descendant. Princess Catherine who was 90 years old at the time, and died in Montevideo Uruguay the following year, was the last member of the Imperial Family to be born before the fall of the dynasty, and was ultimately to become the last surviving uncontested dynasty of the Imperial House of Russia. [12]

Other Exiles[edit]

Among the other exiles who managed to leave Russia, were Maria Fyodorovna’s two daughters, the Grand DuchessesXenia, and Olga Alexandrovna, with their husbands, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich and Nikolai Kulikovsky, respectively, and their children. Xenia remained in England, following her mother’s return to Denmark, although Olga remained with her mother until her death, with both sisters dying in 1960. Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, widow of Nicholas II’s uncle, Grand Duke Vladimir, and her children Kiril, Boris, Andrei, and Elena, also managed to flee Russia.Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, a cousin of Nicholas II, had been exiled to the Caucusus in 1916, for his part in the murder of Grigori Rasputin, and managed to escape Russia, as did his sister, Maria. Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaievich, who had commanded Russian troops in World War I, prior to Nicholas II taking command, and his brother, Grand Duke Peter, and their wives, Grand Duchesses Anastasia and Militza Nikolaevna of Russia, whom were sisters, also fled.

Romanov family jewelry[edit]

The collection of jewels and jewelry collected by the Romanov family during their reign are commonly referred to as the “Russian Crown Jewels” and they include official state regalia as well as persona pieces of jewelry worn by Romanov rulers and their family. After the Czar was deposed and his family murdered, their jewels and jewelry became the property of the new Soviet government.[13] A select number of pieces from the collection were sold at auction by Christie’s in London in March of 1927.[14] The remaining collection is on view today in the Armory at the Moscow Kremlin[15]

On August 28, 2009, a Swedish public news outlet reported that a collection of over 60 jewel-covered cigarette cases and cufflinks owned by the Romanov family, had been found in the archives of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and was returned. The jewelry was allegedly turned over to the Swedish embassy in St. Petersburg in November 1918 by Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin to keep it safe. The jewelry’s worth was estimated to 20 million SEK (about 2.6 million US dollars).[16]

Contemporary Romanovs[edit]

Grand Duke Cyril (Kirill) with his wife Grand Duchess Victoria and children Kira and Vladimir Kirillovich.

There have been numerous unsubstantiated reports of Romanov impostorsclaiming to be of members of the deposed Tsar Nicholas II’s family, the best knownAnna Anderson. Proven research however makes clear that all of the Romanovs held prisoners inside the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg were brutally killed.[17][18]The descendants of Xenia and Olga, Nicholas II’s two sisters, survive to this day.

Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, the direct male-line patrilineal descendant ofAlexander II of Russia, claimed the headship of the defunct Imperial House of Russia, and assumed the pretender title Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russians in 1924 when evidence that all earlier claimants had been killed was final. He was followed by his only son Vladimir Kirillovich. Vladimir’s only child, Maria Vladimirovna, is the current pretender; her only son from her marriage with Prince Franz Wilhelm of Prussia, George Mikhailovich, is her heir apparent, dynastically about to found a new branch Hohenzollern-Romanov, while other descendants of junior side branches of the Holstein-Gottorp-Romanovs are still living. The Romanov Family Association, a private association of most of the remaining descendants of Emperor Paul I of Russia, makes no claim to the defunct throne, and disputes the current headship of the House. These two groups continue to have differences of opinion.


Lesser Coat of Arms of Russian Empire.svgCoat of Arms of Russian Empire.svg
The Imperial Arms of the House of Romanov, with and without background shield, which were restricted in use to the Emperor and certain members of the Imperial Family.

For a detailed armorial, see here: Armorial of House of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp-Russie, surnamed Romanov.

There is a detailed article here on the arms of the Russian Empire.

Family Tree[edit]

A summary family tree is:

Summary Family Tree of the Romanov dynasty

A detailed one can be found here