A Biographical Sketch of the Last Princess of Russia: Catherine Ivanovna Romanova

A Biographical Sketch of the Last Princess of Russia: Catherine Ivanovna Romanova

Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mavrikievna with her grandchildren Catherine and Vsevolod
King Nikola I of Montenegro with his great-grandchildren Catherine and Vsevolod

On 25 July 1915 at Pavlovsk Palace in St. Petersburg, Her Serene Highness Princess Ekaterina (Catherine) Ivanovna of Russia entered the twilight world of the Russian Imperial Family.

Prince Ivan Konstantinovich and Princess Elena Petrovna of Russia

Catherine was the only daughter and second child of Prince Ivan Konstantinovich of Russia (1886-1918), the eldest son of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich (1858-1915) and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mavrikievna (née Princess Elisabeth of Saxe-Altenburg; 1865-1927), and of Princess Elena Petrovna of Serbia (1884-1962), the eldest daughter of King Peter I of Serbia (1844-1921) and Princess Zorka of Montenegro (1864-1890). Prince Ivan of Russia and Princess Elena of Serbia had married in 1911. Their daughter Catherine joined an elder brother Prince Vsevolod (1914-1973).

Prince Vsevolod and Princess Catherine of Russia

During the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Catherine’s father Ivan was assassinated by the Bolsheviks in July 1918, together with Ivan’s brother’s Konstantin (1891-1918) and Igor (1894-1918) – Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorvna and Prince Vladimir Paley were also thrown down the same mine shaft. A few months after her father’s murder, Catherine and her brother Vsevolod along with their grandmother Elisabeth Mavrikievna, uncle Prince George Konstantinovich, and aunt Princess Vera Konstantinova, were given refuge in Stockholm, at the invitation of Queen Victoria of Sweden (née Baden; 1862-1930). Catherine’s mother Elena had followed Catherine’s father Ivan to his imprisonment in the Urals; rather amazingly, Princess Elena Petrovna was able to escape from the slaughter of the Romanovs and was reunited with her children.


In exile, Princess Catherine and her family first went to Serbia and then to the United Kingdom. Catherine’s eldest daughter Nicoletta recently stated in an interview with Sputnik that “my mother recalled that she often changed schools under different names, for fear of reprisals.” In England, Catherine attended Heathfield. Catherine’s maternal uncle King Alexander I of Yugoslavia eventually purchased a villa on the French Riviera for his sister Elena so that she and her children might have a proper home.


Between 1937 and 1945, Princess Catherine of Russia resided in Italy. There she met her future husband. On 15 September 1937, Catherine Ivanovna Romanova married Marchese Ruggero Farace di Villaforesta (1909-1970), at the Church of Saint Andrea al Quirinale in Rome. Among the guests were Crown Prince Umberto of Italy (later King Umberto II) and Count Ciano, son-in-law of Benito Mussolini. A month before her wedding, on 4 August 1937, Princess Catherine signed a formal renunciation of her rights to the succession to the Russian throne.

Princess Catherine Ivanovna of Russia with her two eldest children

Catherine and Ruggero had three children during the course of their marriage: Nobile Nicoletta Farace (b.1938), Nobile Fiammetta Farace (b.1942), and Marchese Giovanni Farace di Villaforesta (b.1943). Princess Catherine and her husband separated in 1945, but they never divorced, and they appear to have maintained an amicable relationship. In 1963, Ruggero was appointed as the Italian ambassador to Uruguay, the nation in which his wife Catherine eventually settled.

In 1982 Princess Catherine Ivanovna permanently relocated to Uruguay. She made her residence in the country’s capital, Montevideo. It was there that she died on 13 March 2007 at the age of ninety-one. The princess was buried at the Cementerio Los Fresnos de Carrasco. On 21 April 2007, a Russian Orthodox memorial service was held at Moscow. She was survived by her three children: Nicoletta, Fiammetta, and Giovanni. The Head of the Russian Imperial House, Grand Duchess Maria, sent a letter to her Farace cousins following the death of their mother. The contents of the letter were as follows:

Dear Marchese Giovanni di Villaforesta! 

I want to express to you, to your sisters, and to all your family my deepest sympathy on the death of your August Mother, Our beloved aunt, Her Serene Highness, Princess of the Imperial Blood Ekaterina Ivanovna. 

I am filled with grief and pray for the repose of the soul of the newly-departed princess, believing fervently that the Lord will give rest to her soul in the heavenly abodes of the righteous. 

With deepest love and condolences,
Madrid, 15 March 2007

Nobile Nicoletta Farace and her daughter Alexandra Grundland

Princess Catherine’s first daughter Nobile Nicoletta Farace (b.1938) worked for the United Nations in Montevideo, Uruguay, for several years. In 1966, Nicoletta married Alberto Grundland (1931-1984). The couple had a son and a daughter: Eduardo (b.1967) and Alexandra (b.1971).

Nobile Fiammetta Farace

Princess Catherine’s second daughter Nobile Fiammetta “Fiamma” Farace (b.1942) is a photographer who resides in the United States. In 1969, Fiammetta married Victor Carlos Arcelus (b.1937); the couple had two sons, Victor John Arcelus (b.1973) and Sebastian Carlos Arcelus (b.1976), before divorcing in 1980. In 1981, Fiammetta Farace married Nelson Zanelli (b.1947); the couple have one son, Alessandro Ideal Zanelli (b.1984).

Princess Catherine’s only son Marchese Ivan Farace di Villaforesta (b.1943) lives in France. In 1968, Giovanni married Marie-Claude Tillier-Debesse (b.1944). Giovanni and Marie-Claude have two sons, Nobile Alessandro Farace (b.1971) and Nobile Yann Farace (b.1973).

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