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Romanov romance: Russia holds first royal marriage in more than a century as relative of murdered tsar ties knot in St. Petersburg

In what is expected to be an elaborate two-day affair, the country’s second city is gearing up to host the wedding of Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov and his Italian fiancée, Victoria Bettarini. Last year, Bettarini took the name Victoria Romanovna and converted to the Russian Orthodox Church ahead of the marriage.

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov and Victoria Romanovna Bettarini attend their wedding ceremony at St. Isaac’s Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia. © Sputnik / Alexander Galperin

Hundreds of guests from Russia and around the world are set to descend on the city to witness the first marriage of its kind in over a century at one of St. Petersburg’s most iconic locations, St. Isaac’s Cathedral.

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov and Victoria Romanovna Bettarini hold candles during their wedding ceremony at St. Isaac’s Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia. © Sputnik / Alexander Galperin

It is believed that jubilant party-goers will be hosted at a banquet being catered for by one of the country’s most famous restaurant magnates, Yevgeny Prigozhin, nicknamed “Putin’s Chef” by Western commentators.

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov holds a candle during his wedding ceremony with Victoria Romanovna Bettarini at St. Isaac’s Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia. © Sputnik / Alexander Galperin

“This is very, very important to the family,” said the groom, the son of the self-proclaimed heir to the effectively dissolved Russian throne – Grand Duchess Maria of Russia. The soon-to-be newlywed also explained that his city of choice for the wedding “was the first place in Russia to which we returned.”

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov and Victoria Romanovna Bettarini hold icons during their wedding ceremony at St. Isaac’s Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia. © Sputnik / Alexander Galperin

The wedding comes just over a century since the violent downfall of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, putting an end to the 300-year-old Romanov dynasty and the Russian royals’ reign over the country. In July 1918, Russia’s last Tsar and his family were killed by a Bolshevik firing squad in the Ural city of Ekaterinburg, over a thousand miles away from where the latest Romanov wedding will take place.

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov’s great-grandfather, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, was able to flee to Finland to escape the violence of the 1917 revolution, and later went on to Western Europe where he carried on the family line. Originally from Spain, the aristocratic groom visited Russia for the first time in 1992. He now lives in Moscow and works across a range of charity projects.

Nicholas II, his son and heir Alexey, his wife Alexandra and their three daughters were canonized as ‘passion bearers’ by the Russian Orthodox Church shortly after the fall of communism, effectively making them and members of their entourage saints since their death.

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