The value of nobiliary titles, issued by HRH Prince David Bagration of Mukhrani

This article investigates the value of the nobiliary titles, issued by HRH Prince David Bagration of Mukhrani, claimant to the headship of the Royal House of Georgia. I have selected three criteria to validate the outcome:

  • status of the issuer;
  • status of the titles;
  • acceptance of the titles.

Status of the issuer

Status of the Bagration dynasty

By personal invitation of HM King Felipe VI of Spain, HRH Prince David, accompanied by his older sister, HRH Princess Maria Antonieta Bagrationi-Mukhraneli, attended the commemoration of the 25th anniversary in honour HRH the deceased Infante Juan of Spain, count of Barcelona (Madrid, 3 April 2018).

The Bagration dynasty (Georgian: ბაგრატიონი) is a royal dynasty which reigned in Georgia from the Middle Ages until the early 19th century. It is considered to be amongst the oldest extant Christian ruling dynasties in the world. The genealogy of the dynasty can be traced back to the 8th century and the first mentioning of the dynasty may be traced as far back as the 2nd century AD. The Soviet occupation of Georgia in 1921 forced some members of the family to more modest status. Their properties were seized. Other members relocated to Western Europe and needed to start a new career from scratch. After Georgia regained independence in 1991, some family members repatriated to Georgia.

It is interesting to compare the seniority of the Georgian monarchy to the British and Spanish monarchy. The first monarch of the House of Hannover, George Louis, became king in 1714 as George I; about 1.000 years after the first Bagrationi emerged as a ruling monarch. The House of Borbón-Anjou (Spanish: Casa de Borbón) is, since 1700, the reigning family of the Kingdom of Spain, also about 1.000 years later.

Therefore, based on the seniority, the House of Bagration has an extremely high status.

Personal status of Prince David

Court Circular, 8 March 2017, The Royal Household (UK).

Prince David (1976, Madrid, Spain) is the second son of Spanish race car driver, Prince George Bagrationi-Mukhraneli (1944-2008), by his first wife María de las Mercedes de Zornoza y Ponce de León (1942–2020). Prince David settled permanently in Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi in 2003 and obtained dual citizenship from Georgia in 2004. During the Russian–Georgian war over South Ossetia in August 2008, Prince David accompanied Georgian soldiers to the front-line in order to give them moral support. In 2014, Prince David was invited to witness the historic proclamation of King Felipe VI as King of Spain. On 8 March 2017, Prince David was received at Kensington Palace, where the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester accepted the insignia of the Grand Collar of the Order of the Eagle of Georgia on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II. In 2018, Prince David attended the inauguration at a former royal residence of Georgia’s first female president, HE Salome Zourabichvili.

Considering the foregoing, Prince David has an excellent reputation.

Status of the titles

Nobiliary system during the Bagration reign

In the kingdom of Georgia, about 5% of the population belonged to the nobility. The highest circles in society were occupied by the Bagration family. Immediately below the royal families came the princes (tavadni), organised within great clans. The most prestigious princes were heads of the five most noble clans; the Orbeliani, Amilkhvari, Tsitsishvili and the two Eristavi clans, as well as the senior Armenian melik. Members of these clans outranked other noble clans. Below the princes were the vassal gentry or aznaurni, people of status but dependent on the king, clergy, or the princes. Royal vassals, like the mouravni (local governors originally appointed by the king) outranked the vassals of the church, who in turn outranked the vassals of nobles. Many aznaurni were quite poor and lived no better than peasants, but their status carried certain privileges and exemptions from obligations (Gvosdev 2000, p. 92).

The Georgian nobility was largely organised on a military basis, the army being divided into several corps represented by “banners” (or drosha), each commanded by the great grandees of the realm. These grandees were petty sovereigns within their own domains, enjoying the power of life and death, but owing allegiance to the king (source: Christopher Buyers). It is clear that Georgia had a highly structured nobiliary system, which can serve as a basis for the modern titles.

Compatibility between ancient and current tiles

The ancient nobility in the kingdom of Georgia was organised as follows (source: Christopher Buyers)

  1. H.M. The Most High King.
  2. Princes of the Blood (batonishvili).
  3. Great Officers of State
  4. Grandees of the first class
  5. Grandees of the second class
  6. Junior members (tavadishvili) of the families of the grandees of the first class
  7. Bishops of the Georgian Orthodox Church
  8. Grandees of the third class 
  9. Junior members (mtavarishvili) of the families of the princes of the second class (mtavari)
  10. Archimandrites of the Georgan Orthodox Church
  11. Untitled nobility
William Charnley, duke of Aymer (Royal House of Georgia), lawyer, partner at King & Spalding International LLP; master (2016 – 2017) of the Drapers’ Company.

In recent years, Prince David Bagration conferred the title of Duke of San Jorge, to mr. Alfredo Escudero y Díaz-Madroñero, a reputable Spanish insurance broker and tax advisor. Prince David also issued the title of Duke of Aymer (a long-established surname of Anglo-Saxon origin, and derived from the Middle English male given name “Ailmar”) on behalf of mr. William Francis Charnley, a well-respected British lawyer and master (2016 – 2017) of the Drapers’ Company (est. 1361). In 2011, the title of Viscount of Portadei was conferred upon José María de Montells y Galán, historian, meticulous researcher, brilliant writer and revolutionary poet. These appointments show that Prince David carefully selects the persons to whom such honours are given.

It is clear that these titles cannot be compared to the ancient Georgian noble titles like e.g. Duke of Aragvi (Aragvi-eristavi) or Duke of Ksani (Ksani-eristavi). Both titleholders were Grandees of the first class (Sul-didibuli-tavadi) of the Kingdom of Kartli and ruled over enormous estates. Obviously, Prince David has modernised the Georgian nobility, and revised it in accordance with Western standards. This innovation is understandable, since nobility should not be a mausoleum. Apart from that, titles like aznaurni would be very impractical to use in Western Europe. Issuing titles referring to European places, is a personal choice of Prince David.

Modernisation of the titles

In ancient and medieval Georgia, the nobiliary titles were embedded in a system of personal dependence, called feudalism or patronqmoba (Georgian: პატრონყმობა from patroni, “lord”, and qmoba, “slavery”, “serfdom”). This system arose from the tribal-dynastic organization of Georgian society. This hierarchical division of the Georgian feudal society was later codified in law by King Vakhtang VI (reigned 1716–24) in an official table of “weregild” or blood money rates. The system is thought to have its roots into the ancient Georgian, or Iberian, society of Hellenistic period.

The status of the current titles differs very much from the mentioned original status. Currently, the titles are an honorific accessory to the name. This modernisation is in line with the democratic principles that are laid down in article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The revised titles have nothing to do with the horrors of serfdom, attached to the original Georgian titles. Because they have a more humane character, the current status of the Georgian titles is higher than their original status.

No consent or confirmatory authority needed

In medieval Georgia, there existed a council of state, called Darbazi (Georgian: დარბაზი), introduced by king David IV of Georgia (c. 1073-1125). The Darbazi consisted of Didebulis (high aristocracy) and church representatives (Mikaberidze 2007). The Council was non-mandatory in the decisions of major questions of government. The king could, at his discretion, take the advice of the Darbazi into consideration. The rights and obligations of Darbazi were significantly widened after an insurrection by the 12th-century Georgian politician Qutlu Arslan and his followers. It was the result of a social struggle that marked a further step in the advancement of Georgian society.

At the time of the Russian annexation, Georgian society was rigidly hierarchical (Gvosdev 2000, p. 92). Georgian princes not only had nearly unlimited power over their estates and the enserfed peasantry, they also exercised police and judicial power (Gvosdev 2000, p. 65). In this extremely hierarchical society (even compared to imperial Russian standards) no consent was needed to elevate persons to higher ranks.

Registration

As a Republic, Georgia currently does not register titles of nobility. The work of Martínez Larrañaga et al. however, includes an overview of the Georgian nobiliary titles, issued by Prince David.

Acceptance of the titles

Likelihood of a restoration

In an article on the website Civil.ge, a project by the United Nations Association of Georgia, several politicians are asked how they feel about the idea of restoring the monarchy.

There has been a broad welcome from the opposition to Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church Illia II’s call to consider establishing a constitutional monarchy.
We, most opposition parties, believe that we should have a parliamentary form of government and its perfect form is a constitutional monarchy, MP Zviad Dzidziguri of the Conservative Party said on October 8.
I always supported a constitutional monarchy, as an appropriate form of government for Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, the leader of Georgia’s Way, told reporters.
Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili said on October 8 that his party also supports the proposal.
Konstantine Gamsakhurdia, the leader of the opposition Freedom Party, said the proposal was extremely positive.
The New Rights Party, in a statement issued on October 8, said that Georgia should be a constitutional monarchy.
A lawmaker from the ruling party, Vakhtang Balavadze, said the issue should only be considered after the restoration of the country’s territorial integrity.
In his Sunday sermon, Illia II, said that today conditions exist which may help to make this dream of the Georgian people come true referring to the restoration of the Georgian royal dynasty of Bagrationi. He, however, also said it may take years.
His comments come amid political confrontation between the authorities and opposition parties. A group of ten opposition parties has launched a campaign calling for the abolition of the presidency and the creation of a parliamentary system of government.

Politicians Comment on Constitutional Monarchy Proposal, Civil Georgia, Tbilisi, 8 Oct. 2007, 13:42

Considering this political climate, it is not unlikely that Georgia will restore the monarchy and that currently issued titles will be formalised.

Acceptance by the Russian Empire

Catherine II by Fyodor Stepanovich Rokotov (Fedor Rokotov) (Russian: Фёдор Степа́нович Ро́котов, after Roslin (c.1770, Hermitage)- Photo: WikiCommons.

With the Treaty of Georgievsk (Russian: Георгиевский трактат, Georgievskiy traktat; Georgian: გეორგიევსკის ტრაქტატი, georgievskis trakt’at’i) of 24 July 1783 between Catherine the Great of the Russian Empire and Heraclius II of Kartli-Kakheti, eastern Georgia became a protectorate under Russia, which guaranteed its territorial integrity and the continuation of its reigning Bagration dynasty, in return for prerogatives in the conduct of Georgian foreign affairs.

However, on 22 December 1800, Tsar Paul I of Russia, at the alleged request of the Georgian King George XII (sometimes known as George XIII), proclaimed the incorporation of western Georgia (Kartli-Kakheti) within the Russian Empire. The incorporation was formalised by the decree of 8 January 1801, and confirmed by Tsar Alexander I on 12 September 1801. The Bagration royal family was deported from their kingdom. In 1810, the eastern kingdom of Imereti followed a comparable faith. In 1891, Georgia was almost completely annexed by the Russian Empire. The Russians ignored Georgian habits and traditions and sought to eradicate Georgian language and culture. Almost all frescos in the Georgian cathedrals were white-washed and both the status of the Patriarch and the autocephaly of the Georgian Church were abolished (source: Georgian government). The situation became worse when – after a short period as an independent republic – the Soviet armies invaded Georgia in 1921.

Letter from HM The Queen, dated 15 October 1954 to Grand Duke Vladimir of Russia, father of Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia.

In 1801, Emperor Paul I Petrovich recognized the Bagrationi-Davitishvili and the Bagration-Mukhraneli families (amongst many other princely families) as princes of the Russian Empire. This recognition was revoked shortly afterwards. A number of Georgian native nobles ignored the Russian titles, but a substantial number of nobles moved to Russia and mingled with the Russian nobility. Prince David himself, for example, is a cousin of Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia, claimant to the headship of the Russian Imperial House, as her mother was born Princess Leonida Bagration-Mukhraneli. The Russian Nobility Association in America accepts such nobles of Georgian descent as members, when they can prove that their family was listed in the Books of the Nobility of the Russian Imperial Senate between 1801 and 1917 (about 120 families). The restored relation and mutual recognition between the Georgian and Russian dynasties has been underlined recently by Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia:

Russia ceased treating the sons of King George XII of Georgia living in Russia as royal princes, even though their former royal status was a matter of historical fact.  Catherine II’s great-great-great-grandson and heir Nicholas II, perhaps mindful of this history, made a private comment acknowledging the royal status of the Bagrations at the time of the first Romanoff-Bagration wedding in 1911.  But it was her great-great-great-great-grandson and heir Grand Duke Wladimir who in 1946 gave effect to the underlying spirit of mutual respect between the two dynasties that was a key purpose of the treaty. 

RussianLegitimist.org, retrieved on 11 July 2020

Grand Duchess Maria of Russia possesses the right to grant nobiliary titles to those she deems worthy of them, but rarely exercises that right.

Although the official recognition of Georgian titles back in the days of the Russian Empire does not apply to the newly issued titles by Prince David, it is not unlikely that there is a mutual recognition of such titles between the two Houses, considering their excellent relationship.

Conclusions

The titles issued by the House of Bagration are of high value. In my opinion, the titles will become even more valuable when they become more ancient over the course of time. They form a unique part of the grandeur of the Georgian Royal House.

Sources

Gvosdev, N. K. (2000). Imperial policies and perspectives towards Georgia: 1760-1819. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Toumanoff, Cyril, Cyril, “The Early Bagratids. remarks in connexion with some recent publications”, Le Muséon 62 (1949); “The Bagratids of Iberia from the Eighth to the Eleventh Century”, Le Muséon 74 (1961); Manuel de Généalogie et de Chronologie pour le Caucase chrétien (Arménie, Géorgie, Albanie)“, 1976

Bagrationi, Vakhushti. Description of Kingdom of Georgia, its habits and canons, (აღწერა სამეფოსა საქართველოსა, ზნენი და ჩვეულებანი საქართველოსანი). Moscow, 1745.

Stephen F. Jones, Russian Imperial Administration and the Georgian Nobility: The Georgian Conspiracy of 1832. The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 65, No. 1 (Jan., 1987), pp. 53-76.

Mikaberidze, Alexander, Historical Dictionary of Georgia – Scarecrow Press, (2007 ISBN 978-0810855809.

Martínez Larrañaga, Fernando; Alfredo Escudero y Díaz Madroñero; José María de Montells y Galán; (2015), Armorial de la Orden del Águila de Georgia y la Túnica Inconsútil de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, ISBN 978-84-943890-4-7