Every second Saturday of the month, 4 pm - Divine Liturgy in English of Sunday - Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family, Duke Street, London W1K 5BQ. Followed by refreshments.
Next Liturgy: Saturday 9th September, 4pm

To purchase The Divine Liturgy: an Anthology for Worship (in English), order from the Sheptytsky Institute here, or the St Basil's Bookstore here.

To purchase the Divine Praises, the Divine Office of the Byzantine-Slav rite (in English), order from the Eparchy of Parma here.

The new catechism in English, Christ our Pascha, is available from the Eparchy of the Holy Family and the Society. Please email johnchrysostom@btinternet.com for details.




Monday, 1 November 2010

Eternal Memory: Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievska of Russia, de jure Dowager Tzarina-Empress of Russia

Fr John Salter, Chairman, writes in Chrysostom, All Saints November 2010:


The death of the Grand Duchess Leonida brings to an end those members of the Romanov family who experienced at first hand the Russian Revolution. She was not herself Russian, but a Princess of the ancient Orthodox country of Georgia. Leonida Georgievna was born in Tiflis (now Tblisi), Georgia, into the ancient Georgian dynasty of Bagration-Moukransky at the outbreak of the first World War. She was the third child and second daughter of Prince Giorgi Alexandrovitch Bagration-Moukransky and his wife, Elena, daughter of Czeslaw-Zygmunt Zlotnicki and his wife Princess Maria Elisabarovna Eristoff.

The Bagration-Moukransky dynasty had ceased to rule as Sovereigns, after the death of King Irakli (Heraclius ) II. (His sickly son, George XII succeeded and lived for but 3 years, before the 1,000 year dynasty came to an end). The Kingdom of Georgia was annexed by the Russian Emperor Paul, ostensibly to provide protection against neighbouring Persia; but the King was allowed to keep his title. But later his descendants were, in Russia, reduced to the title of Prince Georgievsky (i.e. 'of Georgia') with the style of 'Serene Highness', although Leonida's brother Prince Irakli Georgievitch, on being naturalized in Spain on 12th September 1947, was granted by the Franco government the style of `Royal Highness`; but this was little consolation for a dynasty which had ruled Georgia and Armenia (where it was the Bagratid dynasty) and which had reigned over nations which were the first to adopt Christianity as the State Religion before the establishment of the Church in the Byzantine Empire under Constantine.

Leonida's first marriage was in Nice on 6th November 1934 to Sumner Moore Kirby; and she had by him a daughter, Helen, who married one of the heirs of the Woolworth empire, whose wealth helped her mother financially in exile. She divorced Kirby on 18th November 1937, and married in Lausanne on 13th August 1948 His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Vladimir Kyrillovitch, whose father, Grand Duke Kyril, had proclaimed himself Head of the Imperial House of Romanov and Curator of the throne. He later proclaimed himself Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias on 31st August 1924. Grand Duke Vladimir maintained his father's claim, as does his granddaughter.

Grand Duchess Leonida gave birth to a second daughter, Maria, in Madrid, this time by Vladimir, Maria Vladimirovna. She married His Imperial Highness Prince Karl Franz Joseph of Prussia, and has a son, His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Georgi, who has completed training in the St. Petersburg Naval Academy. The new dynasty of Russia would seemingly now be that of Hohenzollern, rather than Romanov; although since the reign of Empress Ekaterina II the Great, the dynasty is strictly speaking `Holstein-Gottorp'.

The Bagration line of the Bagration-Moukransky dynasty came to end, but there was a claimant to the presumed dead line of King Irakli II in the person of a Cambridge graduate, one who styled himself  Prince Michael Grouzinsky, the adopted son of an Anglican clergyman, The Reverend A. Coward. This young man bore a striking resemblance to the portraits of King Irakli II. He died while trying to rescue someone in a fire at a London hotel in 1977.

Whilst visiting Mskent, Georgia, some years ago, I noticed that one of the Princes Bagration-Moukransky, who had died in Spain, had been buried alongside his ancestors in the Georgian Orthodox monastery at Mskent.

Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Leonida, although her family was no longer a reigning house, was what would have been regarded in Western Europe as a member of a Mediatised House, that is to say a former reigning House, which between 1801 and 1806 lost their sovereign rights, but were allocated the title of  'Highness', 'Grand Ducal Highness', 'Serene Highness', or in the case of Sovereign Counts 'Illustrious Highness'; and were considered of equal rank, for marriage purposes, with members of reigning sovereign houses - which rather makes nonsense of the claims of certain members of the Romanov Family that Leonida was of unequal birth and that this disqualified her husband from claiming the Russian throne, as the marriage would be morganatic.

The new Patriarch Kyril of Moscow and All the Russias paid tribute to Leonida`s part in the reunification of the Russian Church - the Moscow Patriarchate and the major section of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia:
We are grateful to the deceased Grand Duchess for her role in Church life at home and abroad, and for her significant contribution to the restoration of Church Unity… Grand Duchess Leonida Georgiyevna never lost the keenest interest in what was going on in Russia, and shared our grief and our joy…

Leonida was to be buried in Russia next to her husband in the burial place of many of the Tzars – the Petropavlosk Cathedral (the Fortress of SS. Peter and Paul) in St. Petersburg.



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