Russian throne was held by the House of Romanoff from 1613 until 1762,
when the Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, died. From
1762 until today, the headship of the imperial dynasty has been held
by a member of the House of Romanoff-Holstein-Gottorp, which took
its name from Empress Elizabeth's successor, Emperor Peter III. Peter
III, a German grandson in the female line of Peter the Great, was
born Peter of Holstein-Gottorp. He was summoned to Russia at age 14
by his aunt, the Empress Elizabeth, who created him a Grand Duke of
Russia and heir to the throne. He took the dynastic name of Romanoff.
the succession laws put in place in 1797 by Emperor Paul I and added
to by his successors, succession to the throne passed by primogeniture
to the senior male dynast. Upon the death of the last male dynast
of the House of Romanoff-Holstein-Gottorp, the succession would pass
to the female line. In order to pass dynastic membership to one's
children, a dynast had to contract an equal marriage with a member
of another royal or sovereign house.
Duke Wladimir of Russia, as the senior male dynast, was head of the
dynasty from 1938 until his death in 1992. By the late 1980s, there
survived only five people who by birth were dynasts of the House of
Romanoff-Holstein-Gottorp: Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich of Russia,
Prince Vassily Alexandrovich of Russia and three female dynasts. Upon
the deaths of Prince Vassily in 1989 and the Grand Duke Wladimir in
1992, the House of Romanoff-Holstein-Gottorp died out in the male
line. The headship of the dynasty then passed, as provided by the
succession laws, to the female line: namely, to the Grand Duke Wladimir's
only child, Grand Duchess Maria Wladimirovna.
Duchess Maria's heir is her only son by her equal marriage to His
Royal Highness Prince Franz-Wilhelm of Prussia. Following the precedent
established by Peter of Holstein-Gottorp, her son bears the title
of Grand Duke Georgij Mikhailovich of Russia and has taken the dynastic
name of Romanoff.
is at present an organization called the Romanoff Family Association.
It is a private organization without any official dynastic status.
The males who are members of the Romanoff Family Association are not
themselves members of the imperial dynasty. Instead, they are descendants
of members of the imperial dynasty who contracted marriages with commoners
and thus were unable to pass dynastic status to their children. Such
children are known as "morganatic" descendants, that is,
non-dynastic descendants of unequal marriages.
6. A recent
press article stated that the Romanoff Family Association had elected
as its president Nikolai Romanovich, son of the late Prince Roman
Petrovich of Russia. This individual's position as elected president
of a private, non-dynastic organization should not be confused with
the position of head of the Imperial House held by the Grand Duchess
Maria. First, Nikolai Romanovich cannot be a member of the dynasty,
because his father (himself a full dynast) married a commoner and
thus legally could not pass dynastic status to his son. Second, he
is not even the senior morganatic male descendant: among the morganatic
male descendants in the Romanoff Family Association, Nikolai Romanovich
is only the 4th or 5th most senior morganatic descendant by lineage,
following the morganatic descendants of the late Grand Duke Dmitry
Pavlovich. It is interesting too that Nikolai Romanovich has publicly
described himself as a republican rather than a monarchist.
7. In part,
the confusion surrounding what is the imperial dynasty and what is
the non-dynastic Romanoff Family Association stems from use by many
Romanoff Family Association members of the surname "Romanoff".
Under the monarchy, the descendants of morganatic marriages never
were allowed to use the name "Romanoff" but instead were
given other surnames, such as Paley, Krassinsky, Brassov and Torby.
Many of the morganatic descendants of today, however, have decided
to call themselves "Romanoff" and even "Prince Romanoff",
a title that did not exist under the monarchy.