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Tsar Michael?

The following has been adapted and corrected from an article which appeared in The Daily Mail of 9 April 2005.

A proposal to place Prince Michael of Kent on the restored Russian throne was made public yesterday. The bearded Prince Michael bears a striking resemblance to his great uncle, the martyred last Tsar, Nicholas II, executed on Lenin’s orders in 1918.

The suggestion that the Prince become Tsar is from a senior Moscow political analyst with links to the Kremlin. Stanislav Belkovsky claimed that a return of the monarchy would help Russians to retain pride in their country at times when politicians were discredited because of unpopular decisions or corruption. He said his idea had support within the Kremlin among senior figures close to President V1adimir Putin. He claimed that it was backed by ‘seven or eight people from the team which came to power with Putin’.

The New Izvestia newspaper, which mentioned several pretenders to the throne, reported yesterday: ‘In the corridors of power, they seriously discuss the monarchy project. This time it is almost entirely around the name of Prince Michael of Kent’.

Belkovsky floated the idea of a figurehead monarchy along British lines, or a less official role for a revived Romanov dynasty. A new Tsar would be a focus of respect and would not be dented by changing political tides, he added. ‘Prince Michael is a close relative of the Romanovs, so he has a formal right to claim the Romanov throne’, he said. ‘Foreigners who came to power generally played a constructive role in Russian history’.

Prince Michael speaks of his Russian heritage on his personal website, which shows a family tree showing his links to the the Tsars. He is a frequent visitor to Russia, where he is a popular figure. Elderly peasants, struck by his similarity to Nicholas II, often fall to their knees in his presence. He is also a fluent Russian speaker, and the proposal comes amid a growing debate about President Putin’s successor when his second - and final - term ends in 2008.

Some supporters want the President, seen by many as increasingly authoritarian, to tear up the constitution and run again. Others say that the head of state should become a figurehead, with real power given to the prime minister, Such a move would permit Putin to become a powerful premier, and technically would also allow for a figurehead monarch. However, President Putin has insisted that the Russian constitution should not be changed.

Belkovsky said that Prince Michael was not the only candidate for Tsar. The Prince is a grandson of King George V, the last Tsar’s first cousin, and is also related to Nicholas II through his mother Marina, who was the great grand-daughter of Tsar Alexander III, Nicholas’s father. Prince Michael is also related to the martyred Tsarina Alexandra, who was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

Last night Prince Michael’s spokesman declined to comment on this story.

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