After a century of waiting, Russians witness a royal wedding once more



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Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov and his Italian bride Victoria Romanovna Bettarini exit Saint Isaac’s Cathedral following their wedding in St. Petersburg, Russia. Friday’s ceremony was billed as the first marriage of a member of the imperial house of Romanov in Russia in over a century.

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Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov and Victoria Romanovna Bettarini react during their wedding ceremony at Saint Isaac’s Cathedral.

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Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna (left) attends the wedding ceremony of her son, Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov, and Victoria Romanovna Bettarini.

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An honor guard parades around Saint Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Despite the imperial trappings of his wedding, Grand Duke George Mikhailovich is not the only Romanov descendant to claim to be heir to the dynasty.

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He currently runs a royal charitable foundation — issuing grants, not edicts — in celebration of Russian culture and history.

Meanwhile, his bride — Ms. Bettarini — comes from a non-noble diplomat’s family and converted to Orthodoxy for the wedding. With her conversion, she replaced her birth name Rebecca with the more Russified Victoria Romanovna.

Well-wishers and curiosity-seekers debate what it all means

Outside of Saint Isaacs, a crowd of well-wishers and curiosity-seekers debated the meaning — if any — of the return of these royals, however distant.

«Without an emperor Russia can’t exist,» said Viktor, who like most of the assembled crowd, declined to give his last name. «Russia needs a tsar, not a Soviet premier or a president.»

«We always knew the Romanovs would return,» added his wife Olga. «We’ve waited and now it’s finally happened.»

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Russians look on as Victoria Romanovna Bettarini arrives at Saint Issac’s Cathedral for her royal wedding to Grand Duke and «crown prince» of the House of Romanov George Mikhailovich Romanov.

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Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov kisses Victoria Romanovna Bettarini as they leave Saint Isaac’s Cathedral as Russian honor guards salute them at the couple’s wedding ceremony.

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Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov kisses Victoria Romanovna Bettarini as they leave Saint Isaac’s Cathedral as Russian honor guards salute them at the couple’s wedding ceremony.

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Still, in a country like Russia — with its revolutions and twists of history — seemingly no one was willing to entirely rule out a larger role for the royals.

Certainly, Grand Duke George looked the part as he and his new bride emerged from the church to cheers and an honor guard sword salute.

«It’s very unlikely that George Romanov would play some political role in the future of Russia, but who knows?» mused Dugin, the nationalist philosopher, who counts George a friend.

«But we cannot say never,» he added. «Never is not Russian.»

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