Monday, 24 May 2010

At the road’s end: Two imperial deaths

Two nonagenarian members of Europe’s once-great imperial dynasties have died this month:

A spokesman for the Romanov dynasty today announced that Grand Duchess Leonida Georgijevna of Russia died in Madrid last night, aged 95. She was the widow of Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich of Russia, who was by many considered the head of the imperial house of Russia, and mother of the current pretender, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirevna.
She belonged by birth to the Bagration dynasty, which reigned in Georgia until 1810. However, the fact that she belonged to the senior branch which had not been reigning since 1505, caused her husband’s rivals for the headship of the Romanov dynasty to argue that their marriage was not in compliance with the imperial rules.
A great-great-granddaughter of the last Duke of Mukhrani, she was born Princess Leonida Bagration-Mukhraneli in Tbilisi on 23 September 1914. The family left the Soviet Union in the early 1920s with the help of Maxim Gorkij.
Her first husband, the American Sumner Moore Kirby, whom she married in 1934 and divorced in 1937, subsequently died while held prisoner in a German concentration camp in 1945. They had one daughter, Helen. She married Grand Duke Vladimir in 1948 and will be buried at his side in St Petersburg.

Archduke Rudolph of Austria-Hungary died in Brussels on 15 May at the age of 90. He was the sixth of the eight children of the last Emperor and Empress of Austria-Hungary, Karl I and Zita, and was born in Prangins, Switzerland on 5 September 1919, less than a year after his family had lost their thrones. He was named for his grandfather’s cousin, the crown prince who famously committed suicide in Mayerling in 1889.
In 1953 he married Countess Xenia Tschernyschev-Besobrasow, with whom he had four children, and following her death in a car accident in 1968 he remarried Princess Anna Gabriele of Wrede, who gave birth to a daughter. Archduke Rudolph made a career in banking.
The death of Archduke Rudolph leaves his elder brothers Otto (aged 97) and Felix (who will be 94 in a week) as the only surviving children of the last Habsburg emperor.


  1. One small correction: Archduke Rudolph's second wife was Princess Anna Gabriele von Wrede.
    Alexandra is the wife of Rudolph's son, Carl Peter (by his first wife Xenia).


  2. Ah thank you, I had clearly mixed up the aunt and the niece who married the father and the son.


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