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The Grand Ducal House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Das Großherzogliche Haus Mecklenburg-Strelitz


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Georg

Duke of Mecklenburg, Prince of Wenden, Schwerin and Ratzeburg, Count of Schwerin, Lord of the Lands of Rostock and Stargard, Head of the Grand Ducal House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz



Duke GeorgHis Highness Duke Georg, Dr. rer. pol. was born 5 October 1899 at the Oranienbaum Palace near St Petersburg, the youngest child and only son of Duke Georg Alexander and his wife Countess Natalia Feodorovna of Carlow. The youngest member of the family, Georg’s birth was welcomed by his father who had longed for a son after three daughters, the Countesses Katharina, Maria and Natalia. Christened with the names Georg Alexander Michael Friedrich Wilhelm Albert Theodor Franz, his great uncle and great aunt, the Grand Duke Friedrich Wilhelm and his wife Grand Duchess Augusta were among his godparents.


Count of Carlow


Although Grand Duke Friedrich Wilhelm had consented to the marriage between Georg’s parents as his family were firmly established in Russia where his father was serving in the Imperial Russian Army, his mother fiercely proud of her Russian identity and the family owning various properties in the country, his father did not receive official dynastic recognition for his marriage and he thus renounced his rights to the throne.


Because any children from the marriage would not be dynastic members of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in order to compensate for this on 18 March 1890 the Grand Duke Friedrich Wilhelm bestowed the hereditary title Countess of Carlow upon Georg’s mother with it to be transmitted to her male line descendants. As such at birth Georg bore the title Count of Carlow and because he was the grandson of a Russian Grand Duchess, at the Imperial Russian court he also entitled to the style Serene Highness.


Life in Russia


Duke Georg (far left) with his parents and sistersAs a second generation member of the family to be born in Russia, Georg spent his childhood in St Petersburg with his family at their river embankment mansion 46 Fontanka, which his father had acquired after selling the Mikhailovsky Palace. The family also owned the Oranienbaum Palace, located on the Gulf of Finland near St Petersburg, which provided an idyllic childhood for Georg and his sisters. With the sudden and unexpected death of his father in 1909, Georg’s uncle Duke Carl Michael was appointed guardian of Georg and his sisters by Grand Duke Adolf Friedrich V.


Too young to serve in the First World War, Georg’s involvement was restricted to helping victims of the war through the hosting of charitable events at Oranienbaum. The overthrow of the Russian monarchy in February 1917 brought about great upheaval on Georg and his family. With the internal situation in Russia deteriorating Georg and his mother left St Petersburg in the summer of 1917 travelling to Kislovodsk in the Caucasus region of Russia where they joined his surviving sisters and their families. His late father’s siblings, Duke Carl Michael and Princess Helene of Saxe-Altenburg, joined them in the autumn. In late 1917 the Russian assets of the family were nationalised.


With the Bolsheviks success in the Russian Civil War it soon became too dangerous for Georg and his family to remain in Russia. Faced with the encroaching Red terror Georg and his family left Russia in April 1919 aboard the British ship HMS Marlborough. In exile the family separated, Georg, his mother, widowed sister Princess Maria Galitzine and her young children initially settled in Southern France, his eldest sister Princess Natalia Galitzine settled in England with her husband Prince Vladimir Galitzine and their children. His uncle and aunt, Duke Carl Michael and Princess Helene of Saxe-Altenburg, settled in Denmark.


Beginning of a life in exile


Now safely in Western Europe, Georg was married on 7 October 1920 in Geneva to fellow Russian exile Countess Irina Mikhailovna Tolstoy, the widow of Count Aleksandr Mikhailovich Tolstoy (1888-1918) who she had married on 23 October 1915 in St Petersburg and by whom she had two children, Irina (1917-1998) and Mikhail (1918-2004). On 18 November 1920 Georg converted from Lutheranism to Roman Catholicism. His wife followed suit on 18 July 1921 converting to Roman Catholicism from the Eastern Orthodox faith.


During their time in France, Georg and his wife lived on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. It was here on 27 August 1921 that the couple welcomed their first child Georg Alexander. In 1922, Georg, his wife and newborn son moved to Germany taking up residence at Schloss Remplin in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a property owned by his uncle Duke Carl Michael. Over the next couple of years Georg and his wife welcomed two more children, Alexander, born 1922, who only lived for a few weeks and a daughter Helene (1924-1962). During this period Georg studied for firstly a Diplom in Political Science and then a Doctorate in Political Science from the University of Freiburg.


Duke of Mecklenburg


Since the death of Grand Duke Adolf Friedrich VI in February 1918, Georg’s uncle Duke Carl Michael was the head of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. As his uncle was the sole male dynast in order to secure the survival of the grand ducal house on 11 September 1928 he adopted Georg and his family as his legal and dynastic heirs. The adoption was legally recognised by a court in Malchin on 5 October 1928, Georg’s 29th birthday. As a result of the adoption Georg, his wife, and children all became members of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz acquiring the dynastic title Duke/Duchess of Mecklenburg. The act received formal recognition from the Head of the Imperial House of Russia the Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich on 18 July 1929 and later that year on 23 December from the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Friedrich Franz IV.


Duke Carl Michael who had fought for Russia in the First World War ended his Danish exile in 1930 and joined Georg and his family at Schloss Remplin. In 1933 Georg and his wife became parents for the final time with the birth at Remplin of another son, Carl Gregor. When Duke Carl Michael died at Remplin on 6 December 1934, Georg duly succeeded him as head of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.


Nazi persecution


During the 1930s Georg, who had been denied German citizenship, began to face persecution at the hands of the ruling Nazi Party who viewed him with suspicion due to his Russian roots, royal status and perceived involvement in ‘political Catholicism’. In exile Georg never forgot about his Russian roots. He retained ties to his Romanov cousin’s attending the burial of Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich in the mausoleum of Coburg in October 1938. Having spent his youth in Russia and with his family closely related to ruling House of Romanov, growing up Georg learnt firsthand a number of interesting and little known stories about the Romanov’s. With this knowledge he maintained close contact with various historians of Russian history including Karl Stählin whose multi volume work on the history of Russia included suggestions made by Georg.


Under the threat of expropriation Georg was forced by the Nazi Party to sell of his land holdings, which consisted of forests and fields, to the state for a nominal price well below its real value. As such by the time the Second World War broke out all that remained was Schloss Remplin itself. However even the Schloss was not safe as on the night of 10-11 April 1940 it was largely destroyed in a fire instigated by the local Nazi Party official (Gauleiter). After the fire Georg was forced to sell everything to the state for a minimal price on the assurance that once he agrees to the sale they will discuss the estate of the late Grand Duke Adolf Friedrich VI. The estate which amounted to around 6 Million marks was to give Georg the opportunity to buy another residence in Mecklenburg. Schloss Weisdin, located near to Neustrelitz, was identified as a suitable property however the purchase never went through as the Gauleiter reneged on the agreement and forced Georg to leave Mecklenburg.


In what he hoped would only be a temporary move before he could someday return to Mecklenburg, Georg and his family took up residence in a Villa located at 4 Nikischstrasse in the Grunewald quarter where they became a fixture of Berlin high society, often entertaining ambassadors, generals and fellow royalty at lunch. The family remained in Berlin until February 1944 when their villa was destroyed during an Allied bombing raid. Following the loss of their second home in the space of four years Georg and his family moved into Schloss Birstein in Hesse, the Schloss was home to Georg’s son in law Prince Franz Ferdinand of Isenburg who had married his step daughter Countess Irina Tolstoy at Remplin in 1939.


In August 1944 after having attempted to use his contacts with military officers to gain bail for two catholic priests, Georg was arrested by the Nazi secret police, the Gestapo. After a period incarcerated in the Gestapo headquarters in Prinz-Albrecht-Straße in Berlin, Georg was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp where he was held until February 1945, gaining his freedom only after the intervention of a Papal nuncio. Following his release Georg and his family moved to Sigmaringen in Southern Germany at the invitation of Princess Margarete of Hohenzollern the sister of the late Father Georg of Saxony, the former Crown Prince and a close friend of Georg.


Later years


With the end of the Second World War Georg’s hoped for return to Mecklenburg became impossible due to partition of Germany into West and East. Having been forced out of first Russia and now Mecklenburg by communism, Georg and his family remained in Sigmaringen making the Prinzessinnen-Palais located at 9 Karlstrasse their home.


Because of confusion in some quarters regarding his status as head of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz due to his parent’s non dynastic marriage, Hereditary Grand Duke Friedrich Franz of Mecklenburg-Schwerin definitely clarified the situation on 18 December 1950. He and Duke Adolf Friedrich (the only other Schwerin male Duke Christian Ludwig being imprisoned in Russia at the time) issued a letter that was sent to the other German princely houses confirming that Georg was head of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and that he and other members the house were entitled to the style of Highness in line with all members of the House of Mecklenburg.

Duke Georg and his second wife Archduchess Charlotte of Austria

After thirty four years of marriage Georg was widowed on 22 January 1955 when his wife Duchess Irina passed away in Sigmaringen aged 62. The Duchess was the first member of the grand ducal family to be buried in the family crypt in the chapel at Inzigkofen, Sigmaringen.


In May 1956 Duke Georg’s engagement to Archduchess Charlotte of Austria, the daughter of the last Austrian Emperor Karl and his wife Empress Zita, was announced. In the presence of members of the German and Austrian royal houses and media from around the world, on 25 July 1956 Duke Georg and Archduchess Charlotte were married in the baroque church at Pöcking, the civil service having taken place on 21 July. After the ceremony the newlywed couple spent five hours on the terrace of the villa of Charlotte’s brother Crown Prince Otto to receive the congratulations of the five thousand Austrians who had made their way to Pöcking. Georg’s second marriage was childless.


Georg died on 6 July 1963 in Sigmaringen aged 63. He was interned alongside his first wife in the family vault in Inzigkofen, Sigmaringen. Georg’s elder son Georg Alexander succeeded as head of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. His widow Charlotte survived him by twenty six years dying on 23 July 1989 at the age of 68.


Decorations and honours


Head of the Mecklenburg-Strelitz House Order of the Wendish Crown

Grand Cross with the Crown in Gold of the Mecklenburg-Schwerin House Order of the Wendish Crown

Bailiff Grand Cross and Knight of Devotion of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

Grand Cross of the Order of St Sylvester, Holy See


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