Leonida Bagration of Mukhrani

Leonida Georgievna Romanova, Grand Duchess of Russia (Russian: Леонида Георгиевна Романова; née Princess Leonida Georgievna Bagration-Mukhrani (Georgian: ლეონიდა გიორგის ასული ბაგრატიონი-მუხრანელი); 6 October [O.S. 23 September] 1914 – 23 May 2010) was the consort of Vladimir Kirillovich, Grand Duke of Russia, a pretender to the Russian throne. She was an active and outspoken advocate of the claims advanced by Vladimir and their daughter, Maria Vladimirovna, to be accepted as the legitimate Heads of the Romanov dynasty and de jure sovereigns of the Russian Empire.[1]

Princess Leonida Bagration
Grand Duchess of Russia
Grand Duchess Leonida.jpg
Born(1914-10-06)6 October 1914
Tiflis, Caucasus Viceroyalty, Russian Empire (now Georgia)
Died23 May 2010(2010-05-23) (aged 95)
Madrid, Spain
Burial2 June 2010
Sumner Moore Kirby
(m. 1934; div. 1937)

(m. 1948; died 1992)
IssueHelen Louise Kirby, Countess Dvinskaya
Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia
FatherPrince George Bagration of Mukhrani
MotherHelena Złotnicka h. Nowina
ReligionEastern Orthodox Church

Early lifeEdit

Princess Leonida.
Father of Leonida, George Bagration of Mukhrani.

Born on 6 October 1914, in Tiflis, Georgia, Russian Empire as Princess Leonida Bagration of Mukhrani, she was a daughter of Prince George Bagration of Mukhrani and his Polish wife Helena Sigismundovna, née Nowina Złotnicka (1886–1979).[citation needed] She descended patrilineally from former Kings of Georgia[citation needed]. Her mother's family belonged to the untitled Polish aristocracy,[2] although one of Leonida's two lines of descent from Georgia's penultimate king Erekle II (Heraclius II) is through her mother, a descendant of the king's daughter, Princess Anastasia, who married an Eristavi prince[citation needed]. The other ancestral line derives through the marriage of another of the king's daughters, Princess Tamara, to Ioane Bagrationi, 18th Prince of Mukhrani[citation needed].

The Bagration family's genealogy traces back at least to the medieval era in its male line and hundreds of years further back as rulers in the female line.[3] Leonida's grandfather, Prince Alexander Bagration of Mukhrani, was born in 1853 in Georgia's historical capital Tbilisi, then part of the Russian Empire, and was killed by Bolsheviks at Pyatigorsk in 1918 during the Russian revolution.[2] Fearing for their lives, the family took refuge in Constantinople, then spent eight months in Germany before returning to Tbilisi, now capital of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, to re-claim a portion of property which, as émigrés they risked losing to total confiscation.[2] Although the family made repairs to their home and Leonida would recall her grandfather's insistence that they continue to dine formally on silver plate to retain their sense of propriety, they were eventually deprived of all but two rooms of their old palace and subjected to harassment.[2][4] Thanks to the intervention of Maxim Gorky, who had enjoyed the patronage of the Bagrations, in 1931 they once again fled the Soviet Union, going into exile in Spain.[4] The family moved to France, where Leonida's grandmother and relations had already settled.

First marriageEdit

In France, Princess Leonida met Sumner Moore Kirby (1895–1945), a wealthy "Pennsylvanian Protestant".[2] They were married in Nice, France, on 6 November 1934. Sumner Moore Kirby had been born in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, the youngest of the two sons of Fred Morgan Kirby, a millionaire and business partner of one of the F. W. Woolworth Company heirs (Charles Sumner Woolworth) and wife Jessie Amelie Owen. Leonida was his third wife, he having been married from 1925 to 1931 to Doris Landy Wayland, with whom he had a daughter, Gloria Price Kirby (1928-2017). Kirby's second marriage, to Valentine Wagner, lasted from 20 January 1932 to 19 July 1934. Valentine Wagner's mother was born Princess Elisabeth Bagration, a member of the same family as Princess Leonida. Her father was Prof. Conrad Wagner. Kirby had no children of this marriage which, like his first and third marriages, was contracted civilly in Nice and dissolved there. Leonida and Sumner Kirby had one daughter, Helen Louise Kirby, born in Geneva, Switzerland, on 26 January 1935. Their marriage was short-lived, they divorced after three years on 18 November 1937. Kirby died on 7 April 1945 in a hospital at Leau, near the Buchenwald Concentration Camp to which he had been deported from France after being arrested along with other U.S. and British civilians by the Vichy France in 1944.

As war intensified, Leonida and her daughter relocated to officially neutral Spain. In 1944, Leonida's brother, Prince Irakli, also moved to Spain.

Second marriageEdit

According to her published memoirs, Leonida first met Vladimir Kirillovich at a restaurant in France during World War II. But they did not see each other again for a few years, when both were making extended visits to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain, where their hosts happened to be neighbors. Vladimir was staying with his aunt, the Infanta Beatrice de Orleans, first cousin of the murdered Tsarina Alexandra.

On 13 August 1948 (civilly on 12 August 1948) at the Orthodox Church of St. Gerasimus, Lausanne, Switzerland, Princess Leonida wed for the second time, marrying religiously Vladimir Kirillovich Romanov, who used the pre-revolutionary Russian title Grand Duke, the style Imperial Highness and claimed to be, from 1938 to his death, Head of the Russian Imperial House[5] by virtue of being hereditary heir by primogeniture to the throne of the Romanovs according to the Fundamental Laws of the Russian Empire, as codified in 1906 and in force until overturned by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.[6]

In 1783, the Treaty of Georgievsk was signed through which the Kingdom of Georgia, while retaining its autonomy and its ancient monarchy was placed under the protection of the Russian Empire. In 1801 after the death of George XII, the last King of Georgia, Emperor Alexander I of Russia in violation of the treaty, annexed the kingdom of Georgia and the Bagration dynasty lost its throne. The Bagrations became a leading family of the Russian nobility, serving in the Tsar's army and at court in Saint Petersburg. The former ruling branch became extinct in the late 19th century[citation needed], when it passed its succession rights to the branch to which Grand Duchess Leonida belonged[citation needed], but this too is disputed. Joseph Stalin's mother had been a laundress in the house of the Bagrations.[citation needed]

As his consort she used the title Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna. By him, she had another daughter, Maria Vladimirovna, who claims to have succeeded her father upon his death in 1992.[7]

In 1946, Leonida's brother, Prince Irakly, married King Alfonso XIII of Spain's maternal niece, Princess Doña María de las Mercedes de Baviera y Borbon (1911–1953), obtaining Vladimir's recommendation that the Spanish pretender, Don Juan, Count of Barcelona, accept the marriage as dynastic, which he did not. The Count of Barcelona, then Head of the Royal House of Spain, considered the issue of this marriage to be disqualified from the Spanish succession. The only son of this marriage was sponsored at his baptism by the Count of Barcelona but the latter's refusal to recognize his god-son as a Spanish dynast led to the Bagrations' alienation from the Spanish Royal Family according to Guy Stair Sainty. In 1948 Vladimir, relying on his own earlier advice on the Bagrations' historically royal status,[8] chose to wed Leonida dynastically in Lausanne, Switzerland.


The Grand Duke's marriage to Leonida Bagration remained controversial; some considered it to be morganatic. Although the princess descended from the Bagrationi dynasty which had ruled as kings of Georgia since the early Middle Ages, it had been deposed and reduced to the status of Russian nobility for more than a century prior to the Russian Revolution in 1917. Leonida belonged to the senior surviving branch of that family[citation needed], but the last Georgian king from whom she descended in the male line was Constantine II who died in 1505,[9] although other branches of the family continued to reign in the Caucasus as late as 1810. Besides, according to the Almanach de Gotha, as per the decision of Emperor Nicholas II made in 1911, the Princess Tatiana Constantinovna of Russia had morganatically wed Prince Konstantin Alexandrovich Bagration-Mukhransky, a member of the same branch of the House of Bagration into which Princess Leonida would later be born. Because the Russian Empire did not accord royal rank to the Bagrations at the time of the Russian Revolution, some Romanov dynasts in exile maintained that Leonida's daughter, Maria Vladimirovna, could not succeed to her father's claim to the Russian throne.[citation needed]

Claimant's consortEdit

Leonida accompanied her husband when he made his only visit to Russia in November 1991, following the implosion of the Soviet Union. She was also at Vladimir's side the following year when he collapsed and died following delivery of a speech in Florida.

She visited her own ancestral land with her nephew Prince George Bagration of Mukhrani in 1995 when he first visited Georgia as a royal pretender to that country's abolished monarchy. But she did not attend the much-publicized 2009 wedding of her grand-nephew, Prince David Bagration of Mukhrani to Princess Ana Bagration-Gruzinsky, the heiress of King George XII of Georgia, celebrated at the restored Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi. Nor did she re-locate her home from western Europe to Russia, although she visited the country repeatedly following her husband's funeral and burial in Saint Petersburg.

Wealth inherited by her elder, unmarried daughter Helen Kirby (styled by Vladimir's declaration as "Countess Dvinskaya"), helped Leonida, her second husband and younger daughter maintain homes in the north of France and in Madrid. There, both Maria Vladimirovna, who remains active as the claimant to the throne of the Romanovs in exile, and Maria's only son, Grand Duke George Mikhailovich (born in 1981, his father is Maria's ex-husband and distant cousin, Prince Franz Wilhelm of Prussia), were reared.


Leonida Georgievna died on 23 May 2010, after her health had rapidly deteriorated. She requested to be buried next to her husband Vladimir Kirillovich in the Grand Ducal Mausoleum, Saint Petersburg. She was the last member of the Romanov family born on the territory of the Russian Empire[10] during the monarchy.



Foreign honoursEdit


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ [1] "Last Romanov Born in Russian Empire Dead at 95," The Moscow Times, 25 May 2010
  2. ^ a b c d e The Times, London. "Leonida Georgievna Romanov", 15 June 2010.
  3. ^ Eastmond, Antony (1998), Royal Imagery in Medieval Georgia, pp. 135-7. Penn State Press, ISBN 0271016280.
  4. ^ a b The Telegraph.co.uk, London. "Grand Duchess Leonida of Russia", 28 May 2010.
  5. ^ Announcement by the Office of the Head of the Russian Imperial House Archived 25 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  6. ^ Fundamental State Laws Archived 8 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  7. ^ Website of Grand Duchess Maria Archived 4 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ 1946 Decree of the Head of the Russian Imperial House Archived 19 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  9. ^ Cyril Toumanoff, "The Fifteenth-Century Bagratides and the Institution of Collegial Sovereignty in Georgia". Traditio. Volume VII, Fordham University Press, New York 1949–1951, pp. 169–221.
  10. ^ Last Romanov born in Russian empire dies aged 95
  11. ^ "SAINTANNA.RU | Кавалеры 1-й степени". www.saintanna.ru. Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  12. ^ "The Russian Dowager Grand Duchess died".
  13. ^ "SAINTANNA.RU | Св. Екатерины". www.saintanna.ru. Archived from the original on 13 March 2012. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  14. ^ "2011-12-20 the Head of the House of Romanoff visits Moscow for the Celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Revival of the Imperial Military Order of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker". Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  15. ^ "Letter from His Holiness Aleksei II Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia to the Head of the Russian Imperial House H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna". Archived from the original on 16 April 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  16. ^ "2005-01-09. The Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna Receiving the Order of St. Olga". Archived from the original on 4 December 2014. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  17. ^ "Archbishop Innokentii of Korsun Presented in Madrid the Devices for the Church's Order of St. Olga, First Class, to Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna". Archived from the original on 16 April 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  18. ^ "Royal Russia News: HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna Meets with the Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta". Archived from the original on 8 February 2017. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  19. ^ "The Cross of Constantine - Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George".

External linksEdit

Leonida Bagration of Mukhrani
Born: 23 September 1914 Died: 23 May 2010
Titles in pretence
Title last held by
Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Empress consort of Russia
13 August 1948 – 21 April 1992
Reason for succession failure:
Empire abolished in 1917
Succeeded by