Originally, the Bagrationi family came from the ancient historical-geographic province of Speri (now Ispiri, in Turkey).For centuries, this province in the far southwest of the Kingdom of Kartli (Iberia) was a cause of disputes and border clashes due to the languages and the ethnic compositions of its inhabitants; nevertheless, the region was always Georgian.
Later, a branch of the Bagrationi family settled in what is currently Georgia; another settled in Armenia and another in Hereti. Members of this family came to power in all the areas they settled in.
The origins of the Bagrationi family hark back to the times of David, King of the Jews, and their power – established by God and shared with the Georgian Orthodox Church – governed Georgia for centuries. The Georgian Bagrationis came into power in the middle of the sixth century when the ersitavis (rulers) of Kartli elected them from among their circle as leaders, out of "fear" of the Persian and Byzantine conquerors.
The Bagrationis are the oldest royal dynasty in Europe. They have been kings since the sixth century, and "kings of the Kartvels (Georgians)" since the ninth century. As members of the branch of the Parnavazians, their history began in the fourth century B.C. The current Bagrationi dynasty ruled in Georgia from the early ninth century to the beginning of the 19th century, thus ruling for a period of more than ten centuries.
During this time, the most notable members of the Bagrationi family were Davit IV "the Builder" (1089-1125) and Saint Queen Tamar 1179-1213). These were times in which the Georgian state reached the peak of its splendour and power.
At the beginning of the second half of the 15th century, the united kingdom of Georgia was divided into three kingdoms: Kartli, Kakheti and Imereti. Members of some of the branches of the Royal House of the Bagrationis occupied the different royal thrones. The first King of the Kingdom of Kartli was Constantine II (1479-1505), grandson of King Alexander I of the united Georgia (1412-1442) and son of Demetrio. The Mukharanbatonis branch of the royal Bagrationi family subsequently occupied the throne. Bagrat Mukhranbatoni laid the foundation of this branch of the family. He was the brother of King Davit X of Kartli, and commandant of the upper region of Kartli.
The Royal House of Bagrationi has contributed greatly to the history of the Georgian Orthodox Church. The kings of this Royal House were very much concerned with strengthening the Georgian Church, and were constantly working toward this objective. During centuries, patriarchs and kings co-existed in harmony. The Orthodox Church has canonised – among others – King Davit IV, Queen Tamar, King Demetrio II and King Luarsab II.
Many generations have been raised based on the example of their works and their spiritual lives. The Bagrationis were not only kings, but also outstanding members of religious orders and patriarchs.
Some members of the Bagrationi dynasty were enthroned as patriarchs of the Georgian Orthodox Church: HH Davit II (1426- 1428), HH Davit V (1466-1479), HH Melchizedek II (1528-1552), HH Nikoloz VII (1584-1589), HH Domenti II (1660-1676), HH Domenti IV (1705-1741), HH Anton I (1744-1788), HH Ioseb (1769-1776) y HH Anton II (1788-1811).
At the same time, all of the Georgian kings were warriors and thus commanders-in-chief of their armies. Family members not only bravely served to strengthen the state of Georgia by fighting for the country's independence, they also attained significant achievements on the battlefield and in the area of diplomacy, in addition to doing a great deal in favour of the development of culture, science and technology in the country. They contributed greatly to the popularisation of physics, chemistry, mathematics, astronomy and a variety of other branches of science.
The Royal House of the Bagrationis did not give Georgia only extraordinary military leaders, politicians and statesmen, but also scientists, philosophers, cultural reformers and public men. With regards to the latter, during the 18th century and the first third of the 19th, especially erudite Georgians (such as Vakhtang VI, Anton I, John, Davit, Teimuraz and Vakhushti Bagrationi) who lived during this latter period stand out notably, and were – from the historical perspective of Georgian philosophy – the most significant individuals.
Research by historians investigating science and technology has brought to light unprecedented material that shows the creative work of the Bagrationis under a new light and perspective heretofore unknown to us. Analyses of this material have shown that historical successes in science and technology are, for the most part, associated with the Bagrationi family.
The most notable of the Georgian kings was Davit IV Aghmashenebeli, – known as "the Builder" – who lived between the 11th and 12th centuries. His areas of activity were widespread, but medicine held a special place for him. David IV founded the Academia Gelati, where a hospital was planned and medicine was taught. It is interesting to point out that Davit IV – who was governed by a strong Christian sense of morality – visited the sick, shown concern for them and took care of them personally. Davit IV was recognised not only for his generosity, but also for his education in the fundamentals of medicine.
The Bagrationis set a solid foundation in Georgian historiography and have contributed greatly to the formation, drafting and development of the secular Georgian legal system and laws. During the Bagrationi dynasty, contributions by Bagrat Kurapalates, Davit IV Aghmashenebeli "the Builder", King Giorgi "the Splendid", Vakhtang VI, King Irakli I, Vakhtang Bagrationi, Davit, John and Teimuraz Bagrationi were of great importance in terms of issues of state and law. Vakhtang VI (1716-1724), lawmaker and legal expert, has a special place in the history of Georgian law. He has rightly been called the "Georgian Justinian" and his work the "Corpus Juris Civilis" of Georgia.
Georgia lost its independence in the 19th century, and the Bagrationis suffered the severest of repressions. Nearly all of them had to go into exile in Russia. Some went to other countries. The members of the royal Georgian family found refuge in science and art.
The King was the common bond that united them in a concept of life. For Georgians, the "King" was the symbol of stability, of belief in the future, and of faith. The Russian power structure knew that very well, and after Georgia was annexed, the royal family of Bagrationi had to exile themselves from the country. After a short period of independence in 1921, Russian Bolsheviks once again annexed Georgia. In 1930, His Royal Highness Prince Giorgi Bagrationi was arrested. Russian writer Maksim Gorki managed somehow to get permission for H.R.H. Prince Giorgi Bagrationi and his family to emigrate. One of H.R.H. Prince Giorgi's daughters returned to Tbilisi, but was arrested and sent to Siberia for eight years. She died in 1992, and is buried in the Cathedral of Svetitskhoveli (Mtskheta).
In 1940, H.R.H. Prince Irakli Bagrationi married Italian Countess Maria Antonietta Pasquini, and they had a son, H.R.H. Prince Giorgi Bagrationi. All of his life, H.R.H. Prince Irakli Bagrationi dreamed of returning to his homeland. His mother, Elena Zlotnickaia-Bagrationi felt the same way, and even asked her daughter – who was living in Georgia – to bring her some Georgian soil. Mariam Bagrationi carried a handful of dry earth from the Cathedral of Svetitskhoveli to her mother in Madrid, and Elena kept the soil to be used at her burial; however, unfortunately it was used at her son's burial, when he died in 1977 at the age of 68.
Georgian Patriarch HH Catholicos Ilia II had just been elected on 24 December 1977, and on the same day he was confirmed as Patriarch, he officiated at the funeral of H.R.H. Prince Irakli Bagrationi.
On 19 August 1995 – the Feast of the Transfiguration – H.R.H. Prince Giorgi Bagrationi transferred his grandparents' remains to Georgia. Their Royal Highnesses were buried in the soil of their homeland at the great church in Svetitskhoveli.
H.R.H. Prince Giorgi Bagrationi was born in Rome during the royal family's exile. H.R.H. Prince Giorgi Bagrationi – known in Spain as Jorge de Bagrationi – was an international auto racing enthusiast. His successes in this sport include 13 championships in Spain and several second places in various categories.
After decades of oppression, in 1991 Georgia achieved independence from the Soviet Union. At first, it was a republic but shortly changed its status, calling itself the State of Georgia. Throughout this entire period, the Bagrationis have maintained their royal status, though without any political power.
The Georgian government recognised the position and rights of H.R.H. Prince Giorgi Bagrationi as Head of the Royal House as well as his legitimate right as heir to the Crown of Georgia. This formal recognition places the Royal House of Bagrationi in a unique position among the former reigning houses.
The Royal House of Georgia is related to – among other Royal Houses – the Imperial House of Russia and the Royal House of Bavaria. HIRH the Grand Duchess María Vladimirovna Romanov of Russia is second aunt to H.R.H. Davit Bagrationi and to the mother of HIRH Grand Duchess María. HIRH the widowed Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna is a princess of the Royal House of Bagrationi.
The current Head of the Royal House and heir to the Crown of Georgia is H.R.H. Prince Davit Bagrationi Mukhran Batonishvili (Crow Prince) who, after the death of his father, became the dynastic heir and Sovereign Head of the Royal House of Georgia, as well as of all of its dynastic orders.