ST PETERSBURG, Russia : A descendant of Russia's former imperial family married his Italian bride on Friday in the first royal wedding to take place on Russian soil since tsarist times more than a century ago.
Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov tied the knot with Victoria Romanovna Bettarini, an Italian, at St. Isaac's Cathedral in Russia's former imperial capital St Petersburg.
Russian Orthodox clergy conducted the elaborate ceremony, watched by hundreds of guests who included the groom's mother, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia - the self-proclaimed heir to Russia's imperial throne - and more than a dozen minor European royals.
George Mikhailovich's great-grandfather, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, fled Russia during the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, escaping first to Finland and later relocating with his family to Western Europe.
Russia's last tsar, Nicholas II, his wife and five children were murdered by a revolutionary firing squad in July, 1918, in the cellar of a merchant's house in Yekaterinburg, a city 1,450 km (900 miles) east of Moscow.
George Mikhailovich, 40, was born in Madrid and has lived most of his life in Spain and France.
Bettarini, 39, who converted to the Russian Orthodox faith last year and took the name Victoria Romanovna, was led to the altar by her father, Roberto Bettarini, who has served in the Italian diplomatic service.
George Mikhailovich visited Russia for the first time in 1992 and moved to Moscow in 2019, where he works on a number of charity projects.
The Romanov dynasty ruled Russia for over 300 years before Nicholas II abdicated in early 1917, setting the country on course for the Bolshevik Revolution in November of that year, civil war and 70 years of Communist rule.
Russia's Orthodox Church in 2000 canonised Nicholas II, who had been portrayed as a weak leader by Soviet authorities.
(Reporting by Maria Vasilyeva; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Gareth Jones)