15 May 2020

2020-05-14. May 23: The 10th Anniversary of the Passing of H.I.H. The Dowager Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna

May 10/23, 2020, is the 10th anniversary of the death of H.I.H. The Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna, mother of the current Head of the Imperial House of Russia, H.I.H. The Grand Duchess Maria of Russia  




The Announcement, on 24 May 2010, from the Head of the Imperial House of Russia, H.I.H. The Grand Duchess Maria Russia, concerning the death of her Most August Mother:  





Grand Duchess (de jure Empress) Leonida Georgievna (née Princess Bagration-Mukhranskaya of Georgia) (born in Tiflis, now Tbilisi, on September 23/October 6, 1914 — died in Madrid, on May 19/23, 2010), was the daughter of the Head of the Georgian Royal House, H.R.H. George Alexandrovich Bagration-Mukhransky, and his wife, H.R.H. Princess Elena Sigizmundovna (née Novina-Zlotnitskaya).


H.R.H. Princess Leonida Georgievna Bagration-Mukhranskaya


One of the most ancient of European dynasties, the Bagrations claim descent from the biblical King David the Psalmist.


King David the Psalmist


His descendant, Bagrat, was given the crown of ancient Armenia by the Parthian King Valarzij as early as 150 BC.  In 298 AD, Bagrat’s descendant, King Tiridates III, converted to the Christian Faith and made Christianity the state religion of the Kingdom of Armenia.


The Georgian branch of the Bagrations began with King Bagrat, who came to Georgia in 575.  The Mukhrani branch of the ruling house was formed in 1469.


The Coat of Arms of the House of Bagration


Close ties between the Bagrations and Russia were established in 1564, when King Leo of Kahkety turned to Ivan IV the Terrible for protection.


These good relations were formalized in 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Georgievsk, according to which the Georgian Kingdom, while keeping its autonomy and its ancient monarchy, came under the suzerainty of the Emperors of Russia. (For the treaty, in Russian, see:  http://www.hist.msu.ru/ER/Etext/georgia.htm; in English, see:  http://www4.westminster.edu/staff/martinre/Treaty.html).  During the reign of Emperor Alexander I, however, this “eternal” treaty was broken. With the death of King George XII, Georgia became a part of the Russian Empire, and the Bagration dynasty was left without a throne (1801).  However, the Bagrations never forgot their royal duty to the Georgian people.


When the senior branch of the House of Bagration died out at the end of the 19th century, the dynastic succession to the Georgian throne passed to the line of the Princes Bagration-Mukhransky. However, the practical reality of the times made it inopportune to declare their monarchical rights.  The grandfather and father of Grand Duchess Leonida were faithful in their service to the Russian Empire; but at the same time, they never relinquished their inherited position as Georgian dynasts nor their hope that eventually the violations in 1801 of the Treaty of Georgievsk would one day be made right.


H.R.H. Prince Alexander Iraklievich Bagration-Mukhransky, Head of the senior line of the House of Bagration, who was martyred in 1918


The Grand Duchess’s grandfather, H.R.H. Alexander Iraklievich Bagration-Mukhransky (de jure King of Georgia), along with others, were assassinated by the Bolsheviks in 1918 in Pyatigorsk  In 1921, when the Georgian Menshevik government headed by N. Dzhordani was overthrown by the Georgian Bolsheviks, the Bagration-Mukhransky princes went abroad; but, in 1923, their longing for their homeland was so great that they returned to Tiflis.

At first, they were allowed to live in their ancestral homeland, but very soon the harassment and arrests began. They were forced to flee Soviet Russia again (in 1931).  This time, their escape was possible only through the help of the writer Maxim Gorky, who himself at one time was the recipient of the patronage of the Bagration Princes.


H.R.H. Prince George Alexandrovich Bagration-Mukhransky of Georgia


H.R.H. Princess Elena Sigizmundovna Bagration-Mukhranskaya of Georgia

(née Novina-Zlotnitskaya)


On November 6, 1934, in Nice, France, H.R.H. Princess Leonida Georgievna married Sumner Moore Kirby, a descendant of a Scottish family.  A daughter, Helene, was born to the couple in 1935, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1937. (See, in Russian: https://monarhist.info/LEG/Publ/Mankov-1.htm).  At the beginning of the Second World War, friends helped H.R.H. Princess Leonida Georgievna settle in Spain.  Soon she made the acquaintance of Generalisimo Franco, of whom she always retained the warmest memories.  For his part, the Caudillo (Generalisimo Franco) was always extremely respectful of the former ruling houses of Russia and Georgia, and, when he saw Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich and the Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna after their wedding, he greeted them on bended knee, in accordance with an old Spanish custom.


Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna and Generalisimo Francisco Franco


In 1946, Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich was approached by H.R.H. Prince Fernando of Bavaria y Borbon, Infante of Spain, regarding the upcoming wedding of his daughter, the Infanta Mercedes of Spain, to Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna’s brother, Prince Irakli.  The Infante asked the Grand Duke whether he thought the marriage should be considered an equal marriage.


In reply, the Head of the Russian Imperial House corrected the historical record, and by his decree of December 5, 1946, confirmed the Royal Status of the House of Bagration.



Decree of the Head of the Imperial House of Russia, H.I.H. Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, on the Recognition of the Royal Rank of the House of Bagration, 22 November/5 December 1946

(For the text of the Decree, see, in Russian:  http://imperialhouse.ru/rus/history/foundations/dinzak3/243.html; and, in English:  http://imperialhouse.ru/en/dynastyhistory/dinzak3/1117.html.)




Soon afterward, by the will of God, the Grand Duke met his future wife.  They were married on 31 July/13 August 1948, in Lausanne (Switzerland), in the Church of St. Gerasim.


H.I.H. Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna


When Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich came to meet the wife of his Imperial nephew, he immediately said to her: “Nothing can compare to the filth that was told about the Empress [the Holy Royal Passion-Bearer Alexandra Feodorovna, wife of Nicholas II].  Whatever people do to you, or whatever they say, pay them no mind.  Fulfill your destiny.  Help Vladimir.”  These words guided the Grand Duchess for the rest of her life.  Like the Royal Passion-Bearer Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchess Leonida had to bear the slander and hatred of those who despised historical Russia, but she never despaired and was never defeated.

H.I.H. Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich and Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna on the Mount of Olives


For 44 years the Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna shared in the work of her husband; and after his death, she continued for 18 more years to help her daughter.

Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna with the newborn Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna (held by a nurse) and her godmother, Queen Giovanna of Bulgaria (1954; photo from the collection of Cyrille Boullay, used with permission).


Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna and King Juan Carlos I of Spain at the wedding of Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna (1976)


For the first time since her second departure from her homeland (in 1931), Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna visited Russia together with her husband, Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, in November 1991.


The Imperial Couple meeting with Patriarch Aleksei II and with his successor, Patriarch Kirill I (on 6 November 1991)


She subsequently made more than 30 visits to Russia.

The Imperial Family visiting Moscow in September 1992

She also visited the new states that arose on the territory of the former Russian Empire after the fall of the USSR.



The Dowager Grand Duchess visits Riga in May 2000: http://imperialhouse.ru/rus/allnews/news/2000/2000-05-27-vizit-v-latviyu-e-i-v-vdovstvuyushchej-gosudaryni-leonidy-georgievny-23-26-maya-2000-g.html.)


The death of her husband in 1992 was an enormous blow to the Grand Duchess, but she did not lose her sense of duty or commitment to serving her country.  


Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna with Metropolitan Ioann of St. Petersburg and Ladoga


Unrelenting in her efforts to help with the rebirth of Russia, the Grand Duchess oversaw the formation of many charitable organizations; supported thousands of orphans, the handicapped, and the elderly; and became a major patron of the arts in Russia.


The Imperial Family on Red Square (August 2000)


In 1994, through her tireless efforts, the remains of her parents, Prince George Alexandrovich and Princess Elena Sigizmundovna (the de jure King and Queen of Georgia), were reburied in the ancestral burial vault of the Georgian Kings in Mskhetu,



The Imperial Family with Catholicos-Patriarch Ilias II of Georgia

and in 1995, again through her efforts, the remains of Emperor-in-Exile Kirill I and Empress-in-Exile Victoria Feodorovna were transferred from Coburg, their former resting place, to the Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

At the reburial in Russia of Emperor Kirill I and Empress Victoria Feodorovna (1995)


The Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna was loved by all who had the privilege of meeting her. Her deep faith, her royal simplicity, her sincerity, compassion and sensitivity drew her to the hearts of all, from kings and presidents to workers and farmers.

The first Investiture Ceremony of the Imperial Military Order of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (2001)

The Grand Duchess liked to say that she loved Georgia with all her soul, but that from the time she became the wife of the Head of the Russian Imperial House, the interests of Russia prevailed above all else.

The Imperial Family at the Donskoi Monastery, Moscow (1992)  


For her countrymen, she will always be the epitome of the ideal Russian Tsaritsa, the companion and loyal supporter of the Tsar, whom Russian people from time immemorial have always called “Matushka”—Our Beloved Mother.

The Grand Duchess in the garden at Ker Argonid, in Saint-Briac (1997)



See the article

“The Guardian of the Foundations of the Dynasty”:   http://imperialhouse.ru/rus/monograph/articles/4127.html



When the ever-memorable Patriarch Aleksei II of Moscow and all Russia offered his congratulations to the Dowager Grand Duchess on her 90th birthday, he noted what for him was most important about her life, her service, and her character:


“You were born in Tiflis, in the most ancient family in Europe, the Bagration Dynasty, which, according to legend, descends from the biblical king, prophet, and psalmist David.


“While always manifesting your love for Georgia, you have at the same time adopted as your own the interests of Russia.


“With time, when it became possible, you traveled to our Fatherland dozens of times, not only to make pilgrimages to historic and holy sites in Russia, but also to help the country, a responsibility that you see as your duty before God.


“You have earned the love and respect of all who know you, and serve as an example of royal dignity, joined with simplicity and sensitivity toward those around you in need (…) 


“May the Almighty Lord bestow upon you His abundant mercy.”


The Imperial Family and His Holiness Patriarch Aleksei II (1992)


In 2008, Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna was awarded the Church’s Order of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles St. Olga, first class. The warmest possible relations continued between the Grand Duchess and the current patriarch, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill I.


The Head of the Imperial House of Russia and her mother in Smolensk with Metropolitan Kirill (the future Patriarch Kirill I) in 2002.  This was the last visit to Russia of Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna


The Grand Duchess was the last member of the Russian Imperial House to have been born before the Revolution of 1917.  She was the guardian of the foundations of the Dynasty and helped to ensure the preservation of its immutable family laws and traditions for the generations of the House of Romanov that will follow and descend from her.


Letter of Congratulations from His Holiness Patriarch Kirill I (2009)



The last interview with Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna: http://imperialhouse.ru/rus/allnews/news/2010/2382.html


Hieromonk Nikon (Levachev-Belavenets) gives Holy Communion to the Grand Duchess on the eve of her 95th birthday (2009)



Her Imperial Highness’s health began to deteriorate on May 8/21, 2010.  Doctors were able to stabilize her condition for a time, but soon her pain and difficulty breathing returned.


The Lord blessed the Grand Duchess with a Christian ending to her life.  On 10/23 May, on the feast day of the Holy Trinity, the rector of the Church of the Nativity of Christ in Madrid, a Russian Orthodox parish of the Moscow Patriarchate, Fr. Andrei Kordochkin, visited the Grand Duchess and gave her Holy Communion and read the Canon of the Parting of the Soul from the Body. (http://imperialhouse.ru/rus/allnews/news/2010/2475.html).


That evening, Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna was taken to La Paz hospital.  Her daughter, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, was constantly at her side.  At 11:55pm local time, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna departed this life for the Lord.


Telegram from His Holiness Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and All Russia to the Head of the Imperial House of Russia, H.I.H. The Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, expressing his condolences on the death of Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna: http://imperialhouse.ru/rus/allnews/news/2010/2471.html


Funeral of Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna in the Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in the Ss. Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg, 3 June 2010


At the Grand Duchess’s grave, 3 June 2010


The funeral for Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna took place on 21 May/3 June 2010, on the feast day of the first Christian rulers—Emperor St. Constantine the Great and his mother, Empress St. Helena.  The funeral took place in the Imperial mausoleum of the Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. She is buried next to her husband, Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, and his Imperial ancestors.


His Holiness Patriarch Kirill I and the Head of the Imperial House of Russia at the grave of Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna and the graves of the Heads of the Dynasty in exile, 12 July 2013, during a serving marking the 400th anniversary of the ending of the Time of Troubles and the Founding of the House of Romanoff in 1613





Grant eternal rest in Thy blessed abode, O Lord, to the pious and right-believing Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna, and may her memory be eternal.  




For the full text (in Russian) of Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna’s memoirs, entitled Russia in Our Hearts («Россия в нашем сердце»), see:




See also the film by G. Vereina The Russian House in Paris («Русский дом в Париже»):




See here the Press release on the Death and Burial of Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna:




See here the Press Release on the visit of the Head of the Imperial House of Russia for the 40th day services for Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna:


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