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Romanov Dynasty

The history of the Romanov dynasty begins with Fyodor Nikitovich Romanov, the member of an old Russian family descended from Andrei Kobyla, a boyar of Ivan Kalita. Andrei Kobyla received his unusual surname (Russian for “mare”) from his father, a Prussian prince called Glanda-Kambila, who settled in Russia in the thirteenth century and converted to Orthodoxy in 1287.

Following the example of his father, Andrei named his own children after animals. There was Semyon Stud and Fyodor Cat, whose descendants were known as the Koshkin family. Fyodor Koshkin’s grandson, Yury Zakharovich, had the surname of Koshkin-Zakharin, while his son Mikhail had the surname of Zakharin-Yuriev. Mikhail’s grandson, Nikita Romanovich, became known as Zakharin-Romanov, while Nikita’s son Fyodor was simply Romanov.

Fyodor Romanov was born in Moscow in 1553. In his youth, he was regarded as the finest rider and one of the most handsome men in the whole of the city. Appointed a boyar in 1586, Fyodor held a series of important posts in the Russian government and army. He was related to Anastasia Zakharina-Yurieva, the first wife of Ivan the Terrible.

After the death of his cousin, Tsar Feodor I, Fyodor Romanov was regarded as the next in line of succession. Boris Godunov responded by incarcerating him in a monastery as the monk Philaret. Fyodor’s wife Xenia was forced to take the veil under the name of Martha, while their five-year-old son Michael was imprisoned along with his aunt, Fyodor’s sister Anastasia, at the St Cyril of Belozersk Monastery of the Dormition.

When False Dmitry I captured the Russian throne, he promoted his “cousin” Fyodor to the rank of metropolitan of Rostov. Philaret preferred to side with the opposition, however, and played an active part in his overthrow. He was similarly unimpressed when False Dmitry II elected him patriarch of Russia. Philaret thought it better to politely decline such an offer, foreseeing the possible consequences of allying himself with a foreign usurper.

Philaret only accepted the post of patriarch after helping to overthrow Basil Shuisky in May 1610. In April 1611, he headed an embassy to King Sigismund of Poland, who wanted to place his own son Wladyslaw on the Russian throne. During the negotiations, the patriarch was imprisoned and spent eight years in a Polish dungeon.

While Philaret was in Poland, his son was elected tsar of Russia. On 21 February 1613, representatives of the different classes gathered at the Dormition Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin to elect a new autocrat. They unanimously voted to offer the throne to Michael Romanov. The Romanov dynasty ruled Russia for over three hundred years, from the election of Tsar Michael in 1613 to the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917.

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