List of grand dukes of Russia

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Imperial Standard of the Grand Duke.

This is a list of those members of the Russian Imperial Family who bore the title velikiy knjaz (usually translated into English as grand duke, but more accurately grand prince). This courtesy title was borne by the sons and male-line grandsons of the Emperor of all the Russias, along with the style of His Imperial Highness. They were not sovereigns, but members and dynasts of the House of the reigning emperor.

The title grand prince is the English translation of the Russian великий князь. The Slavic knyaz and the Baltic kunigaitis (both nowadays usually translated as prince) is a cognate of king.

The title grand prince originated from 9th century when rulers of Kievan Rus' were so styled. In later medieval Russian states (the Rus') it already was used simultaneously by several rulers in the more expanded Rurikid dynasty and additionally by rulers of neighboring Lithuania (Gediminid dynasty). The title velikiy knyaz continued as a courtesy title for all or several members of the dynasty.

Bearing the title velikiy kniaz originally had no specific rules: it traditionally belonged to all dynasts, and additionally, dynasts were created by the act of granting the title to some other heirs. Until the 19th century, the Russian Imperial House was usually in a precarious situation, having often no more than a couple of male dynasts, if even that many. The number to use the title was thus not abundant. Empress Elisabeth of Russia, after all male-line descent had been exhausted, made her sister's son, the future Peter III of Russia a dynast and a grand duke, although he was not of male-line descent.

Grand Duke Nikolai Pavlovich, future Nicholas I of Russia.

After the births of the numerous sons of Nicholas I of Russia, the number of grand dukes increased into higher orders of magnitude. This afforded Russia a respite from earlier fragility that had plagued Russian succession, having led even as itself the country to instability. The right to the title was not traditionally limited, and in the 1880s (when there existed well over twenty male dynasts) Alexander III of Russia felt that their high number, if all allowed to use grand duke, diminished the prestige of the Imperial House and the weight of the title itself.

The Grand Ducal Mausoleum in St. Petersburg

Alexander III formalized the use of titles in the Imperial House in 1886 (on 2 July 1886 Julian calendar, 14 July 1886 Gregorian) by such amendment to the succession laws. The title grand duke belonged henceforward only to sons and paternal grandsons of the emperors of Russia, and grand duchess correspondingly only to daughters and paternal granddaughters, as well as to legitimate wives of grand dukes.

One male infant only 9 days old at the time of Alexander's edict thus lost the title. Those Russian dynasts who genealogically were distant from emperors (as not to be grand dukes) were entitled to titulary Prince of Russia. Ioann Konstantinovich of Russia (1886–1918) was apparently the only who lost the grand ducal title accorded by convention at birth but removed by Alexander III. Alexander III's own grandchildren, children of his daughter Xenia Alexandrovna, were not yet born at the time of the edict, and accordingly became "only" Princes of Russia from their births, as they were great-grandchildren of Nicholas I (one generation too far) when looking at the male lineage.

The numbers began to decrease for other reasons too. In the last three decades before the revolution, only a couple of boys were born who were entitled to grand ducal title. After the revolution, particularly morganatic marriages axed numbers of dynasts to increasingly low numbers. Alexander III's edict has led to the situation where there is no longer any descendant to be uncontestedly entitled to grand ducal title.

Great prince or grand prince would be a more accurate translation of this Russian title, but that term is neither standard nor widely used in English nor in French. In German, however, a Russian grand duke was known as a Großfürst, and in Latin as magnus princeps. "Grand duke" is the traditional translation of the title velikiy kniaz in languages which do not have different words for prince as a substantive title and prince as a courtesy title. English and French are such languages.

Grand dukes of Russia of the House of Romanov-Holstein-Gottorp[edit]

Picture Name Father Born Died Notes
Peter III of Russia by Grooth (1740s, Russian museum).jpg
Peter Feodorovich Charles Frederick, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp 21 February 1728 17 July 1762 succeeded as Emperor Peter III in 1762
Pavel I by Chrisitnek.jpg
Pavel Petrovich Peter Feodorovich 1 October 1754 23 March 1801 succeeded as Emperor Paul I in 1796
Alexander I by Lampi (1790s).jpg
Alexander Pavlovich Pavel Petrovich 23 December 1777 1 December 1825 succeeded as Emperor Alexander I in 1801
Konstantin Pavlovich.jpg
Konstantin Pavlovich Pavel Petrovich 8 May 1779 27 June 1831  
Portrait of Grand Duke Nikolai Pavlovich (Hermitage).jpg
Nikolai Pavlovich Pavel Petrovich 6 July 1796 2 March 1855 succeeded as Emperor Nicholas I in 1825
Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich of Russia.JPG
Mikhail Pavlovich Pavel Petrovich 8 February 1798 9 September 1849  
Alexander II young.jpg
Alexander Nikolaievich Nikolai Pavlovich 17 April 1818 13 March 1881 succeeded as Emperor Alexander II in 1855
Grand Duke Konstantine Nikolaievich Admiral.jpg
Konstantine Nikolaievich Nikolai Pavlovich 21 September 1827 29 January 1892  
Grand Duke Nikolas Nikolaievich the elder.JPG
Nikolai Nikolaievich Nikolai Pavlovich 8 August 1831 25 April 1891  
Grand Duke Michael Nicolaevich of Russia photo.jpg
Mikhail Nikolaievich Nikolai Pavlovich 25 October 1832 18 December 1909  
Nicholas Alexandrovich Alexander Nikolaievich 20 September 1843 24 April 1865  
1865. Цесаревич Александр Александрович.jpg
Alexander Alexandrovich Alexander Nikolaievich 10 March 1845 1 November 1894 succeeded as Emperor Alexander III in 1881
Vladimir Alexandrovich Alexander Nikolaievich 22 April 1847 17 February 1909  
Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia.jpg
Alexei Alexandrovich Alexander Nikolaievich 14 January 1850 14 November 1908  
Marele Duce Nicolae al Rusiei.jpg
Nikolai Konstantinovich Konstantine Nikolaievich 14 February 1850 14 January 1918  
Grand Duke Nicholas - Project Gutenberg eText 16363.jpg
Nikolai Nikolaievich Nikolai Nikolaievich 18 November 1856 5 January 1929  
Grand Duke Sergei 01 Alexandrovich in his youth.jpg
Sergei Alexandrovich Alexander Nikolaievich 10 May 1857 17 February 1905  
Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovich of Russia.jpg
Konstantine Konstantinovich Constantin Nikolaievich 22 August 1858 15 June 1915  
Nicholas Mikhailovich Grand Duke of Russia.jpg
Nikolai Mikhailovich Mikhail Nikolaievich 26 April 1859 30 January 1919  
Grand Duke Dimtri Konstantinocih in his youth.JPG
Dimitri Konstantinovich Konstantin Nikolaievich 13 June 1860 30 January 1919  
Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich.jpg
Pavel Alexandrovich Alexander Nikolaievich 11 October 1860 30 January 1919  
Grand Duke Michael Mikailovich of Russia.jpg
Michael Mikhailovich Mikhail Nikolaievich 16 October 1861 26 April 1929  
Vjacseszlav KonsztantyinovicsRomanov.jpg
Viatcheslav Konstantinovich Konstantin Nikolaievich 13 July 1862 27 February 1879  
Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia.JPG
George Mikhailovich Mikhail Nikolaievich 23 August 1863 30 January 1919  
Pjotr NyikolajevicsRomanov.jpg
Peter Nikolaievich Nikolai Nikolaievich 22 January 1864 17 June 1931  
Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia.jpg
Alexander Mikhailovich Mikhail Nikolaievich 13 April 1866 26 February 1933  
Nikolai Alexandrovich Alexander Alexandrovich 6 May 1868 17 July 1918 succeeded as Emperor Nicholas II in 1894
Alexander russia.jpg
Alexander Alexandrovich Alexander Alexandrovich 7 June 1869 2 May 1870  
Sergei Mikhailovich young.jpg
Sergei Mikhailovich Mikhail Nikolaievich 7 October 1869 17/18 July 1918  
George Alexandrovich of Russia by V.P.Mischenko (1892).jpg
George Alexandrovich Alexander Alexandrovich 6 May 1871 9 August 1899  
Alexander Vladimirovich Vladimir Alexandrovich 31 August 1875 16 March 1877  
Alexis Mikhailovich.jpg
Alexei Mikhailovich Mikhail Nikolaievich 28 December 1875 1 March 1895  
Kirill Vladimirovich.jpg
Kirill Vladimirovich Vladimir Alexandrovich 30 September 1876 13 October 1938  
Grand Duke Boris of Russia.jpg
Boris Vladimirovich Vladimir Alexandrovich 24 November 1877 9 November 1943  
Mihail II.jpg
Mikhail Alexandrovich Alexander Alexandrovich 22 November 1878 13 July 1918 succeeded briefly and only titularly as Emperor Michael II in 1917
Andrei Vladimirovich.jpg
Andrew Vladimirovich Vladimir Alexandrovich 14 May 1879 30 October 1956  
Dmitri pavlovich2.jpg
Dmitri Pavlovich Pavel Alexandrovich 18 September 1891 5 March 1941  
Alexei Nikolaievich Nicholai Alexandrovich 12 August 1904 17 July 1918  

Translated contexts[edit]

The title of sovereign Grand Duke and it as translation of Velikiy Knjaz have clearly different meanings. This occurs particularly in languages which do not have different words for prince (1) signifying the non-ruling relatives of a monarch, i.e. as a courtesy title, and (2) prince signifying a monarch (sovereign or like), i.e. as a substantive title, because there Grand Duke usually is (1) the established translation of the post-medieval courtesy title Velikiy Knjaz (literally: grand prince), and they are not sovereigns, but (2) several other post-medieval grand dukes are, being typically rulers of small states (such as Luxembourg). English and French use the title Grand Duke for both these purposes. In translations and such texts, (2) Grand Duke of Russia may also refer to some or all of the medieval reigning grand princes of the Kievan Rus' and its successor states.

Grand Duke is the usual and established translation in English and French of the Russian courtesy title Velikiy Knjaz (grand prince) of Russia, which from 17th century belonged to members of the family of the Russian tsar, although those Grand dukes were not sovereigns.

Note that a Grand Duke or Grand Duchess as a translation is thus not necessarily associated with a Grand Duchy; see the relevant articles for more information. These post-medieval Russian grand dukes are not associated with a grand duchy.

Any other translation of Velikiy Knjaz of Russia than Grand Duke is neither standard nor widely used in English nor in French. In German, however, a Russian Grand Duke is known as a Großfürst, and in Latin as Magnus Princeps.

A Russian Grand Duke or Grand Duchess was an Imperial Highness.

See also[edit]