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Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich of Russia

Cyril Vladimirovich
Grand Duke of Russia

Head of the House of Romanov
Time 31 August 1924 – 12 October 1938
Successor Grand Duke Vladimir Cyrillovich
Spouse Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Grand Duchess Maria Kirillovna, Princess of Leiningen
Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna, Princess of Prussia
Vladimir Kirillovich, Grand Duke of Russia
House House of Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov
Father Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia
Mother Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Born 12 October [O.S. 30 September] 1876
Tsarskoye Selo, Russia
Died 12 October 1938(1938-10-12) (aged 62)
Neuilly, France
Burial Rosenau Castle, Coburg
Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg, Russia

Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich of Russia (Russian: Кирилл Владимирович; Kirill Vladimirovich Romanov; 12 October [O.S. 30 September] 1876 – 12 October 1938) was a member of the Russian Imperial Family. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the deaths of Tsar Nicholas II and his brother Michael, Cyril assumed the Headship of the Imperial Family of Russia and later the title Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias.


Early life

Grand Duke Cyril was born in Tsarskoye Selo. His father was Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, the third son of Tsar Alexander II and Maria Alexandrovna of Hesse. His wife was Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (later known as Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna), the daughter of Friedrich Franz II of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Princess Augusta Reuss-Köstritz. As a grandson in the male line to a Russian Tsar, he was titled Grand Duke, with the style Imperial Highness.

War service

After graduating from the Sea Cadet Corps and Nikolaev Naval Academy, on 1 January 1904, Cyril was promoted to Chief of Staff to the Russian Pacific Fleet in the Imperial Russian Navy. With the start of the Russo-Japanese War, he was assigned to serve as First Officer on the battleship Petropavlovsk, but the ship was blown up by a Japanese mine at Port Arthur in April 1904.[1] Cyril barely escaped with his life, and was invalided out of the service suffering from burns, back injuries and shell shock.

Marriage and children

Grand Duke Cyril married his first cousin, Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on 8 October 1905.[2] Victoria's father was Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the second eldest son of Queen Victoria. Victoria's mother was Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia, a daughter of Tsar Alexander II and Cyril's paternal aunt.

The marriage caused a scandal in the courts of European royalty as Princess Victoria was divorced from her first husband, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse, also her first cousin. The Grand Duke of Hesse's sister was Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna, the wife of Nicholas II. The Tsarina already disliked her former sister-in-law and first cousin, being instrumental in leading the opposition to the marriage in the Russian court. Shortly after Cyril's return to Russia, the Tsar stripped Cyril of his imperial allowance and style Imperial Highness, his honours and decorations, his position in the navy and then banished him from Russia.[3][4]

However in 1908, after the death of Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich had put Cyril third in the line of succession to the Imperial Throne, Nicholas II restored Cyril to his rank of Captain in the Imperial Russian Navy and his position as aide de camp to the emperor.[5] His wife came into favor, and was given the title Grand Duchess of Russia and from then on was styled as Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Viktoria Feodorovna. From 1909-1912, he served on the cruiser Oleg and was its captain in 1912. In 1913, he joined the Maritime Division of the Imperial Guards and was made Commander of the Naval Guards in 1915.

Grand Duke Cyril and Princess Victoria Melita had three children:


During the February Revolution of 1917, Cyril marched to the Tauride Palace at the head of the Garde Equipage (Marine Guard) to swear allegiance to the Russian Provisional Government, wearing a red band on his uniform.[1][6] This caused grave offence to some in the Imperial Family and led to some members shunning him as legitimate heir to the Throne. Cyril then authorised the flying of a red flag over his palace on Glinka Street in Petrograd and in correspondence with a Romanov relative claimed credit for "saving the situation by my recognition of the Provisional Government".[7]

After the October Revolution, Cyril and Victoria fled to Finland, then Coburg, Germany. Eventually the exiled family moved to France where they stayed for the rest of their lives.

Life abroad

On 8 August 1922 Cyril declared himself "Curator of the Russian Throne," a title which did not exist. Two years later, on 31 August 1924, he went a step further and assumed the title Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias.[2] Though by the laws of the Russian Empire, he was the prime claimant after the execution of Tsar and his family by the Bolsheviks, his claim to the throne was met with opposition because at his birth his mother was a Lutheran and not yet a member of the Russian Orthodox Church. After claiming the throne, he became known as the "Soviet Tsar" because in the event of a restoration of the monarchy, he intended to keep some of the features of the Soviet regime.[1]

While living in exile, Cyril was supported by some emigres who styled themselves "legitimists" (legitimisti, in Russian легитимисты), underlining the "legitimacy" of Cyril's succession. The opponents of Cyril were known as the "un-predetermined" (nepredreshentsi, in Russian непредрешенцы); they believed that in the wake of the radical revolutionary events, the convening of a Zemsky Sobor was necessary in order to choose a new monarch for Russia. (In 1922, Nicholas II's cousin Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich was proclaimed "Emperor of all Russia" by a "Zemsky Sobor of the Amur Region", convened by General Mikhail Diterikhs. However, Grand Duke Nicholas had no children.)

Cyril found his strongest support among a group of legitimists known as the Mladorossi, a Russian emigre monarchist organization that was heavily influenced by fascism - although it distanced itself from other fascist movements. The organization began to exhibit pro-Soviet sympathies, arguing that the monarchy and the Soviet Bolshevik system could peacefully coexist (as per their slogan "Tsar and the Soviets"). Cyril became more wary of the organization when he learned that its founder, Alexander Kazem-Bek, was spotted meeting with an OGPU agent. Cyril accepted Kazem-Bek's voluntary resignation. His sole son, Vladimir, continued ties with the organization throughout World War II.

Cyril's son Vladimir Kirillovich succeeded him as head of the Romanov dynasty, although this was contested by some members of the Romanov family. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, the remains of Cyril and his spouse were transferred from Coburg to the Grand Ducal Mausoleum of the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia.


Sir Rex Harrison portrayed Cyril as an embittered and dangerous enemy to Anna Anderson who claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia in the 1986 mini-series Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna .


See also

White émigré


Cyril Vladimirovich, Grand Duke of Russia
Cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg
Born: 12 October 1876 Died: 12 October 1938
Titles in pretence
Title last held by
Nicholas II
Emperor of Russia
17 July 1918 – 12 October 1938
Reason for succession failure:
Empire abolished in 1917
Succeeded by
Vladimir Cyrillovitch

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