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24 May, 2010 08:56

Matriarch of Russia's Romanov Imperial House dead at 95

Grand Duchess Leonida Georgyevna, mother of the Head of the Russian Imperial House - Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna - has died in Madrid on May 24, Interfax reports.

The Grand Duchess passed away in hospital after her health rapidly deteriorated over the weekend.

Her Imperial Highness, the Dowager Grand Duchess (de jure Empress Dowager) Leonida Georgievna was 95 years old. She was born in Tiflis (Tbilisi) in 1914, into the family of H.R.H. Prince Georgy Aleksandrovich Bagration of Mukhrani and H.R.H. Princess Elena Sigismundovna (born Novina-Zlotnicka). One of the most ancient of European dynasties, the Bagrations claim descent from King David, the Psalm-writer of the Bible, the Romanov dynasty’s official website states.

In 1934, H.R.H. Princesss Leonida Georgyevna married Sumner Kirby, whose English ancestors had established themselves in North America, according to the website. In 1935, their daughter Elena was born, and two years later the couple divorced.

In 1948, Grand Duchess Leonida Georgyevna married Grand Duke Wladimir III Kirillovich, who was the only son of Nicholas II’s cousin, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich.

In 1924, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich proclaimed himself Emperor of All Russia. Kirill Romanov died in 1938, and his son inherited the claim of the Imperial House.

In 1953, Maria Vladimirovna, daughter of Grand Duchess Leonida Georgyevna and Grand Duke Wladimir III Kirillovich, was born.

Since 1992, when her father died, she has been considered the Head of the Russian Imperial House. Her title is Head of the Russian Imperial House, Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess (de jure Empress of All the Russias). Her son, His Imperial Highness the Tsarevich and Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich, born in 1981, is heir to the throne.

Grand Duchess Leonida Georgyevna visited Russia together with Her Husband, Grand Duke Wladimir III Kirillovich, in November 1991 for the first time since fleeing her homeland. After that, she returned to Russia more than 30 times.

She was the oldest member of the Romanov dynasty and the last to have been born before the revolution of October 1917.

In keeping with tradition, she will be buried next to her husband in St. Petersburg's Peter and Paul Fortress.

The date of the funeral has not yet been set.