The Russian Imperial Union-Order, as one of the oldest Russian monarchist organizations and in continuous existence since the 1920s, has acquired a detailed knowledge and familiarity with the present-day status of the Imperial House of Russia and with the laws determining who the Head of the Imperial House of Russia is.

It is essential that anybody interested in the present status of the imperial dynasty be aware of the following facts:

1. The 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.

2. Under 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.

3. Grand 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.

4. Grand 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.

5. There 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.

For those interested in examining the succession question at greater length, there is at this website a detailed essay analyzing the imperial succession laws.

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