Moscow: Russia’s former Imperial capital is set to play host to the wedding of a descendant of the Romanovs, the country’s royal family, in the first such event in more than a century.

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov will tie the knot with Italian fiancée Victoria Romanovna Bettarini at St Isaac’s Cathedral in St Petersburg on Friday in an elaborate religious ceremony with hundreds of foreign guests in attendance.

Russian Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov and his Italian fiancee Victoria Romanovna Bettarini. Credit:Russian Imperial House

Russia’s last tsar Nicholas II, his wife and five children were killed by a revolutionary firing squad in July 1918 in the cellar of a merchant’s house in Yekaterinburg, a city 1450 km east of Moscow, where they hid.

The traditional Imperial ceremony is tipped to last two days, with the catering for the banquet provided by Yevgeny Prigozhin, also known as “Putin’s chef”.

“This was the first place in Russia to which we returned,” George Mikhailovich, 40, told news website Fontanka.ru about the choice of St Petersburg for his wedding. “This is very, very close to the family.”

George Mikhailovich was born in Spain to Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia – the self-proclaimed heir to Russia’s imperial throne – and her husband Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich of Russia. He lived in France and Spain for most of his life.

The Romanov dynasty ruled Russia for 300 years before Nicholas II abdicated in 1917, setting Russia on course for the Bolshevik Revolution, civil war and 70 years of Communist rule.

The Russian Imperial Family, 1913. Left to right: Grand Duchess Maria, tsarina Alexandra, Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana, Tsar Nicholas II, and Grand Duchess Anastasia. Tsarevich Alexei sits in front of his parents. Credit:File

Mikhailovich’s great-grandfather, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, managed to escape Bolshevik violence during the 1917 revolution to Finland. He and his family later relocated to Western Europe. He was a first cousin of Nicholas II and proclaimed himself emperor-in-exile after the slayings.

Mikhailovich visited Russia for the first time in 1992, and now lives in Moscow where he works on a number of charity projects.

Bettarini, 39, a writer, converted to the Russian Orthodox faith last year and took the name Victoria Romanovna.

Russia’s Orthodox Church canonised Nicholas II in 2000, after being portrayed as a weak leader by Soviet authorities.

Reuters

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