Russia’s former Imperial capital is set to play host to the wedding of a descendant of the Russian 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.
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 1,450 kilometers (900 miles) east of Moscow.
“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.
His 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.
George 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, converted to the Russian Orthodox faith last year and took the name Victoria Romanovna.
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.
Russia’s Orthodox Church canonized Nicholas II in 2000, after being portrayed as a weak leader by Soviet authorities.