First royal wedding held in Russia since revolution

Published October 2, 2021
SAINT PETERSBURG: Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov and Victoria Romanovna Bettarini leave St. Isaac’s Cathedral after their wedding ceremony on Friday.—Reuters
SAINT PETERSBURG: Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov and Victoria Romanovna Bettarini leave St. Isaac’s Cathedral after their wedding ceremony on Friday.—Reuters

SAINT PETERSBURG: Russia on Friday held its first royal wedding since the 1917 Bolshevik revolution toppled the Romanov monarchy, with aristocrats travelling from across Europe for the lavish ceremony.

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov, 40, and his Italian fiancée Rebecca Virginia Bettarini, 39, were wed at Saint Isaac’s cathedral in the former imperial capital Saint Petersburg.

Hundreds of foreign guests travelled to Russia’s second city for the Orthodox Christian ceremony, including Prince Rudolph and Princess Tilsim of Liechtenstein, and the former king and queen of Bulgaria.

The guest list of around 1,500 people included other prominent names like Konstantin Malofeyev, a monarchist and billionaire close to the Kremlin, and Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. Bettarini converted to the Orthodox faith last year. Her wedding dress train featured the coat of arms of the Russian Empire, embroidered in gold, and she wore a diamond-encrusted tiara made by high-end jewellers Chaumet.

Passing by Saint Isaac’s cathedral on Friday, Saint Petersburg resident Galina Bobrova said she wished the couple “happiness”. “For us the monarchy is something from a past life, of course, but it’s interesting,” the 50-year-old said.

The last wedding in Russia of an heir to the Romanovs was that of Nicholas II and Alexandra, 127 years ago.

Ahead of the ceremony, Romanov said the couple chose to tie the knot in Saint Petersburg because it was the first place in the country where the family returned in the early 1990s.

“It is very, very close to our family,” he told Saint Petersburg-based news website Fontanka ahead of the wedding. Saint Petersburg is “the history of Russia”, he added, “and the history of the House of Romanov.”

Born in Madrid, Romanov is the son of Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna Romanova, the self-proclaimed heir to Russia’s imperial throne.

She is the granddaughter of Grand Duke Kirill, a cousin of Nicholas II, the last Russian tsar who was executed along with his wife Alexandra and five children by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

Buried after their execution in a place long kept secret by the Soviet authorities, their bodies and those of their children were transferred in 1998 to the Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg.

Romanov, who graduated from Oxford and spent much of his life in France, met Bettarini in Brussels, where he worked in the European Parliament.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2021

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