By Dr Michael Foster.
A morganatic marriage is a marriage, usually that of a Royal male, to a woman of a lower station. Not only are the children denied the rank of the father, but also in the case of succession to a throne, the father may cease to be a valid candidate. Whilst the idea may seem strange, this is not completely so, and finds common expression in the sentiment that a person should not marry beneath himself or herself!
Anyone having been brought up in England, and understanding the British/English Royal traditions will find the concept of the so-called morganatic or unequal marriages debarring a person or their children from the Royal succession, quite strange. Especially when fate can propel a commoner one-day to become a Royal the next i.e. Napoleon! The issue of unequal marriages is not an issue for the British Royal House. Divorcees have been an issue i.e. Edward VIII who abdicated.
However, on the issue of the Russian succession, morganatic marriages are an issue that is, if one vital fact is ignored!
The strength of the claim to the Russian Throne of Grand Duchess Maria and Grand Duke Georgie her son advanced by their supporters relies on the fact that the rest of the Romanoffs who survive (i.e. such as those who now use the title "Prince") can no longer qualify for the succession to the Russian throne due to "morganatic" marriages. A great number of treaties litter the Internet arguing one way or another as to whether Grand Duchess Maria was a party to a morganatic marriage. Most articles easily found are in support of Maria. - See;
As well informed as these web pages may be, and as well
versed in Russian law, as they should be it seems to me, that one
vital fact has been overlooked in the debate when Emperor
Nicholas II abdicated he did so, in favour of his brother Michael; we
hand down our inheritance to our brother, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich,
and give him our blessing on mounting the throne of the Russian Empire.
The problem with this, is that Grand Duke Michael
Alexandrovich, was in a morganatic marriage! Michael married Natalia Wulfert,
who had been twice divorced! When starting the affair with Natalia, Michael
was banished, and married his mistress in Vienna in a Serbian Orthodox Church.
He returned to Russia at the beginning of the First World War. - See;
It could be argued that only the children of the morganatic marriage lose their rights, but both the example of Alexander I toward Grand Duke Constantine in by-passing him for the succession due to his morganatic marriage, and that of Nicholas II to Grand Duke Michael with his proposed morganatic marriage point to the fact that it disqualified the possible heir even without considering the children. The law was of course very clear; only marriages with spouses of corresponding rank (Ebenbürtig or Standesgemäss) are allowed for members of the Imperial family, according to Article 188 of the Pauline Laws - as amended by Nicholas II on 11 August 1911.
Whilst reigning Emperors did indeed marry morganatically - they could raise in rank their fiancée - they could as autocrats make good any deficiency. (In 1880, Alexander II married after the death of his Empress Maria, his long-standing mistress Princess Catherine Dolgurukaya), but then it must be noted that there are no direct rules regulating the marriage of the Emperor himself! However for a reigning and autocratic Emperor, as a single and final act of his reign, to bring to the throne a person in a morganatic marriage, which ipso facto discounts any continuing line via that person, would make a nonsense of that appointment unless, by that very act, the morganatic rule were abolished!
Whilst there is a debate as to whether Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich was Emperor or not (did his letter preferring a Constitutional Monarchy constitute an abdication or not?) this part of the debate does not alter the fact that Emperor Nicholas II, by a single and last act as Emperor had abdicated and decreed that his brother was to be Emperor. The Emperor himself could see no impediment in his brother's morganatic marriage that would prevent him from taking up the throne! Essentially in nominating Michael his successor, Nicholas abrogated a law which concerned the succession to the throne.In other words this law was put aside!
It could be argued that the period was one of exceptional circumstance, hence the necessity of relaxing certain laws but it could be also argued this was true of the subsequent life of what remained of the House of Romanoff in its exilic existence. In other words the law on morganatic marriages became irrelevant from the 2nd/15th March 1917 onward by virtue of the final Act of Emperor Nicholas II!
In terms of the very real support for Maria and Georgie, both inside Russia and outside Russia, and the legal arguments tending to underpin that support, nowhere in terms of the Internet, does there seem to be any reflection on this final act of Nicholas II, and its ramifications on any debate concerning succession and the issue of morganatic marriages. It may well be that such a consideration can be dismissed - but again nowhere is any dismissal to be found! This most important historical fact seems to have been completely overlooked!
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