Natalia Brasova - Exile

Exile

The Germans believed the widespread rumours that Michael was still alive, and plotted to rescue Natalia from Russia in an attempt to gain influence with Michael. Through the German-controlled Ukrainian consulate, Natalia and her daughter were provided with false passports. Natalia's daughter used her own name, while Natalia's passport was in the name of a nun called Frau Tania Klenow. They travelled separately to Kiev, with Natalia disguised as a nun. They were still in Kiev when the war ended with Germany's defeat on 11 November 1918. German authority began to collapse. Natalia and her daughter, along with Princess Vyazemskaya and Natalia's widowed brother-in-law Aleksei Matveev, who had both made it to Kiev as well, fled to Odessa in the hope they could escape by sea. Two British naval vessels at the port, HMS Nereide and HMS Skirmisher, provided them with sanctuary. Aboard HMS Nereide they were evacuated to Constantinople.

By way of HMS Agamemnon to Malta, merchant ship to Marseilles, and rail to Paris, Natalia arrived in England. Johnson's widowed mother had leased a house, Snape in Wadhurst, Sussex, for Michael's family, and all the furniture and furnishings stored at Paddockhurst were moved in. George arrived from Copenhagen with his nanny in spring 1919, and was sent to an English boarding school. "Tata" was enrolled at a convent school in France. For funds, Natalia used money in Michael's bank accounts in Paris and Copenhagen, and started selling her jewellery. She met Michael's mother, the Dowager Empress Marie, who had also escaped Russia, in London, and their meeting this time was courteous. Conflicting rumours about Michael's fate and whereabouts continued without any solid news. In 1920, "Tata" was sent to Cheltenham Ladies' College and George was enrolled at Harrow School. Natalia moved out of Snape as the lease ended, and moved to Percy Lodge near Richmond, Surrey.

On 12 August 1921, 18-year old "Tata" married future BBC broadcaster Val Gielgud, against her mother's wishes and without her foreknowledge. "Tata" was on school break and returned home as if nothing had happened. When Natalia found out, she ordered "Tata" out of her house. Natalia left Percy Lodge and moved into an apartment in Kensington. The Gielguds divorced in 1923, and "Tata" married composer and music critic Cecil Gray.

By 1924, there was still no sign of Michael, and Natalia had him declared legally dead on 5 July 1924. She inherited his estate in Britain, which was valued at a mere £95. The following month, Michael's cousin, Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich, declared himself Emperor on the basis that he had inherited the throne at the moment of the previous Emperor's death, despite the abolition of the Russian monarchy by the communists. In 1928, he gave Natalia the title of Princess, followed in 1935 by the style "Her Serene Highness Princess Romanovskaya-Brasova". He made George a Prince. Cyril's claim to the throne was met with opposition from within the Romanov family because at his birth his mother was a Lutheran and not a member of the Russian Orthodox Church. Furthermore, Cyril had married Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who was a divorcée and his first cousin, without the Emperor's consent. The House law that determined the Russian line of succession excluded princes born to non-Orthodox mothers, and princes who married without the Tsar's consent. The Russian Orthodox Church did not recognise Victoria's divorce from her first husband as valid, and did not permit marriage between first cousins. Cyril's title, and by extension Natalia's and George's, were only recognised by Cyril's supporters.

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