MOSCOW – Russia’s former imperial capital will host the wedding of a descendant of the Russian royal family in the first such event in more than a century.
Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov will marry Italian fiancee Victoria Romanovna Bettarini at St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg on Friday in an elaborate religious ceremony attended by hundreds of foreign guests.
Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II, his wife and five children were killed by a revolutionary firing squad in July 1918 in the basement of a merchant’s home in Yekaterinburg, a city 1,450 kilometers (900 miles) east of Moscow.
“This was the first place in Russia that we returned to,” 40-year-old George Mikhailovich told the Fontanka.ru news website about choosing St. Petersburg for his wedding.
“This is very, very close to family.”
George Mikhailovich was born in Spain to Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia, self-proclaimed heir to the imperial throne of Russia, and her husband, Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich of Russia. He lived in France and Spain most of his life.
His great-grandfather, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, managed to escape Bolshevik violence during the 1917 revolution in Finland. Later, he and his family moved to Western Europe.
George Mikhailovich first visited Russia in 1992 and now lives in Moscow, where he works on various charity projects.
Bettarini, 39, converted to the Russian Orthodox faith last year and took the name Victoria Romanovna.
The Romanov dynasty ruled Russia for 300 years before Nicholas II abdicated in 1917, leading Russia into the Bolshevik revolution, civil war, and 70 years of communist rule.
The Russian Orthodox Church canonized Nicholas II in 2000, after being portrayed as a weak leader by the Soviet authorities.