Mr Romanoff no tsar in waiting
This story was first published on August 4, 1992
Had history been kinder to Russia's Romanov dynasty, Michael Romanoff might now be leading the type of life that befits a man whose title is His Highness Mikhail Andreevich , Prince of Russia.
Instead, this 72-year-old retired aircraft mechanic-cum-toolmaker-cum-interior decorator lives the largely anonymous existence of a pensioner in a modest two-bedroom flat in Sydney's eastern suburbs.
Although the silver spoon was snatched from his lips, Mr Romanoff does not pine for what was and what might have been. With a shrug, he accepts what is.
"You adjust yourself to that sort of thing," he said yesterday.
An ardent Bolshevik-basher in his younger days, when he used to lecture on the evils of communism, Mr Romanoff was pleased to see the demise last year of the perpetrators of what he termed "the big lie, from A to Z".
"The peasants were actually much happier in those days under the Tsar than people make out," he said.
Mr Romanoff's father and mother fled Russia from the Crimea in 1918 aboard a Royal Navy cruiser along with a dozen or so other Romanovs.
Born in France, Mr Romanoff moved with his family to Britain where "Uncle George and Aunt Mary" (King George V and Queen Mary) gave them the run of a small mansion in Windsor.
The family later moved to dwellings in Hampton Court and then, during the war, to Balmoral. But they found that after "Uncle George" died in 1936 the other British royals quickly lost interest in their Russian cousins.
"The new lot didn't care that much," he recalled. "Oh, we were invited back to Buckingham Palace once in a while, but we were regarded very much as the poorer cousins."
Although his memories of those days have faded over time, he vividly remembers the time his younger brother Andrew met Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret at Windsor before the war. Introduced to Andrew, the young Elizabeth insisted: "Your name can't be Andrew. All Russians are called Ivan."
But by then he was working as an aircraft engineer for the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm. He came to Australia in 1945 with the navy and has lived here ever since.
Mr Romanoff, who uses the more traditional way of spelling the family surname, was the first born son of Prince Andrew Romanov, himself one of the six offspring of Prince Alexander (nephew of Alexander II) and Grand Duchess Xenia (sister of Tsar Nicholas II).
For someone whose bloodlines can be traced to many of the royal houses of Europe, he is remarkably unperturbed by the consequences of this heritage.
"It would be good for the Romanovs to reclaim their birthright, if that's what the people want," he said. "But realistically, what can a little handful of us do for Russia."
The blue blood that courses through Mr Romanoff's veins puts him in a lineage that stretches back 380 years to Michael Feodorovich Romanov, founder of the Russian royal dynasty and "tsar-lord" of the realm of Muscovy and Russia. As a result he is also:
* A grand-nephew of the last Tsar, Nicholas II.
* A great-grandson of Alexander III.
* Both a great-great-grandson (through his mother's family) and great-grand-nephew (through his father) of Alexander II.
Despite this impeccable pedigree, he would have to fight his way through a crowded field to lay claim to being the heir to the Tsar's throne.
Two other Romanovs covet the mantle. Nicholas Romanovich Romanov, 69, who lives in Switzerland, last month staked his claim by setting up a new foundation to aid Russia. He is the great grand- nephew of Alexander II.
The other pretender is Maria Vladimirowa, 39, the great-grand-niece of Alexander III. She lives in Spain and is the daughter of the late Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, the man whose claim to be head of the Romanov family rests on the unilateral decision made by his father, Cyril, to crown himself Emperor of all the Russias in 1924.
Mr Romanoff has no intention of battling his relatives on the comeback trail. He has been outside Australia only once in the 47 years he has lived here, and although he would like to visit Russia one day, he is not in any hurry.
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