Inside Russia's first royal wedding since 1917

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov marries his Italian fiance Rebecca Virginia Bettarini at a lavish ceremony at Saint Isaac's cathedral

Russia on Friday held its first royal wedding since the 1917 Bolshevik revolution toppled the Romanov monarchy, with aristocrats travelling from across Europe for the lavish ceremony.

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov, 40, and his Italian fiance Rebecca Virginia Bettarini, 39, exchanged their vows at Saint Isaac's cathedral in the former imperial capital Saint Petersburg in the presence of dozens of European royals.

Hundreds of foreign guests travelled to Russia's second city for the Orthodox Christian ceremony, including Queen Sofia of Spain, Prince Rudolph and Princess Tilsim of Liechtenstein, and the former king and queen of Bulgaria.

The guest list of 1,500 people included other prominent names such as Konstantin Malofeev, a monarchist and billionaire close to the Kremlin, and Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

Ahead of the wedding, Romanov said the couple chose to tie the knot in Saint Petersburg because it was the first place in the country where the family returned in the early 1990s.

Scroll through the gallery above for more pictures from the royal wedding.

"It is very, very close to our family," he told Saint Petersburg news website Fontanka ahead of the wedding.

Saint Petersburg is "the history of Russia," he said, "the history of the House of Romanov."

Born in Madrid, Romanov is the son of Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna Romanova, the self-proclaimed heir to Russia's imperial throne.

She is the granddaughter of Grand Duke Kirill, a cousin of Nicholas II, the last Russian tsar who was executed along with his wife Alexandra and five children by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

The last wedding in Russia of an heir to the Romanovs was that of Nicholas II and Alexandra, 127 years ago.

Buried after their execution in a place long kept secret by the Soviet authorities, their bodies and those of their children were transferred in 1998 to the Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg.

The family was canonised by the Orthodox Church in 2000 as martyrs.

Romanov, who graduated from Oxford and spent much of his life in France, met Bettarini in Brussels, where he worked in the European Parliament. He also held jobs at Russian mining giant Norilsk Nickel.

Bettarini converted to the Orthodox faith last year and took the name Victoria Romanovna. Her wedding dress on Friday featured the coat of arms of the Russian Empire, embroidered in gold.

The couple moved to Russia three years ago, settling first in the Moscow suburbs before relocating to the city centre next to the Kremlin.

Romanov now works on several charity projects. He said he believes European and Russian royals could help Moscow and the West mend fraying ties.

"I think that we can be ambassadors of goodwill."

Updated: October 1st 2021, 3:08 PM