On October 1st, hundreds of guests gathered at St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia, to watch Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov and Victoria Romanovna Bettarini tie the knot in an Orthodox ceremony. This event marked the first Russian royal wedding in over a hundred years, and the first since the House of Romanov was abruptly overthrown during the reign of Tsar Nicholas II back in 1917.
The ceremony, which was lavish and extravagant, took place throughout the entire weekend, and represented the pinnacle of Russia’s attempts to re-establish the monarchy in Russia’s everyday contemporary life. The groom is the great-grandson of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, who was a cousin of Tsar Nicholas. The bride is the daughter of Ambassador Roberto Bettarini, and comes from Italian roots. The ceremony attracted mixed reactions from the general public, and marks another milestone following the grim tragedy of the Romanovs that seemed to haunt Russia throughout the 20th century.
Back in 1917, Tsar Nicholas II was abruptly overthrown, marking the end of a dynasty that had lasted over 300 years. After losing the throne, Tsar Nicholas, his wife, and his five children were eventually banished to the city of Yekaterinburg where they were later executed by a Bolshevik firing squad in a cellar— marking the beginning of the Marxist Bolshevik Revolution.
However, even in death, the Romanovs’ story was not over. The Bolsheviks were very careful to hide the bodies, and the hunt for their remains continued throughout the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st. The ongoing hunt continued to garner public fascination with the tragedy, as well as speculation and conspiratorial thinking. In 1979 the remains of all but two of the family members were discovered by an amateur sleuth. While the Soviet Union contested their authenticity, British DNA analysis confirmed their identity.
Over the years, several people claimed to be Anastasia Romanov— the daughter of Tsar Nicholas— only further heightening public fascination with the tragedy. However, Anastasia’s remains, along with her brother’s were identified in 2007— almost 90 years after their deaths. In 1981, Tsar Nicholas and his family were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. And in 1998, the remains of the Romanov family were reinterred in a state funeral in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg.
Grand Duke George, the groom in last week’s ceremony, is the great-grandnephew of Nicholas II. His great-grandfather fled Russia after the revolution. Although the Grand Duke was born in Spain and raised in France, he insists that he has never lost his Russian roots. “My grandparents raised me on Russian history and culture and poetry. It’s always been in my soul,” he said in a recent interview.
With the ceremony over, many in Russia are left to speculate what this all means for the future of the Russian dynasty. While the Grand Duke has been living in Moscow for three years now, he insists that has no intention to impose his reign. He currently runs a royal charitable foundation, issuing grants that celebrate Russian history and culture, according to NPR. Like all contemporary monarchists, the re-emerging Russian Royal Family is going to have to depart from the ways of the past, ingratiating themselves with the people. And if they don’t? Well let’s just say that we don’t want history to repeat itself.