Topic: Romanov Descendants
Interview with Richard Fitzwilliams, royal commentator.
Prince Michael is the Queens’s first cousin and his grandfather King George V was the first cousin of Tsar Nicholas.
And I believe even his name has a Russian connection, is that correct?
It is, indeed. He is named after the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich who was the younger brother of Tsar Nicholas.
And I think for most people in Britain, if they’ve ever seen these old photographs of the Russian Tsar Nicholas, Prince Michael has a beard like the Tsar did and there is a remarkable physical resemblance, isn’t there?
There is an extraordinary physical resemblance. If you were casting a film and wanted a character to play the Tsar, he seems almost a double. I think one of the reasons that he has taken such an enormous amount of trouble – firstly to learn Russian which he did in the 1960’es, he became an army interpreter in 1968, he spent 20 years in the army, retiring in 1981…
So, his Russian is actually quite good.
His Russian is extremely good. And after the fall of the Soviet Union, since 1992 he has been to Russia around 50 times. He is the patron of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce and also he has devoted a great time it seems to becoming popular with Russia by narrating. For example at the documentary about the tragic fate of the Tsar and his family, and of course one bears in mind that there is a certain guilt in Britain on the subject because of course they did not receive asylum in Britain of the royal doubts, over the reception this would receive publically.
And whose decision was that in the end not to allow the Russian royal family to claim asylum here?
Ultimately it was the decision of George V. It was something I suspect he felt extremely guilty about. And there is no doubt, I think that has been perhaps one of the reasons that Prince Michael is doing what he is doing. It is important to remember that as the second son of the fourth son of George V he does not undertake official royal duties, his brother does, he doesn’t. But he has taken on an unpaid royal role whilst being a business consultant and he represented the Queen when abroad, he and his wife Baroness Marie Christine von Reibnitz, whom he married in 1978, she was the Roman Catholic and on that basis he was departed from the line of succession, they have represented the Queen abroad at certain occasions and in certain countries. But he does not actually undertake official royal engagements, he is a business consultant. He is also very well known as a free Mason, he is the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge and he is attached to about a hundred charitable organizations in one sort or another.
People outside England or Britain may not understand that just being the Queen’s cousin is not necessarily a route to riches, is it? I mean he doesn’t actually get paid by the state.
Only the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh receive money from the civil list which is funded by the state. Certain other members of the royal family receive what is called a parliamentary annuity and then the Parliament is refunded by the Monarch from the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster. It is important that listeners realize that being a member of the British royal family does not mean you receive state funding. He has to make his way on his own. And that has obviously involved him in various business ventures but has posed enormous emphasis because of his background on charitable activities.
Do we actually know very much about, I mean it seems there is almost a genetic legacy that he should have a connection to Russia. Do we know exactly what he’s done in Russia or what he likes doing in Russia?
We know that he goes to Russia and has a charitable foundation there. We know also, according to British press anyway, that he is popular in Russia. We know most importantly that in 1998 when the Tsar and his family were buried with the ceremony in St. Petersburg that Prince Michael attended. I guess it was a somewhat controversial ceremony in Russia under the President Yeltsin. And there is little doubt, he sees this as an integral part of the function that he has taken on.
© The Voice of Russia. 15 May, 2012