'Royal' wedding unites ancient Georgian dynasty


June 18, 2010 Updated Feb 8, 2009 at 12:10 PM EDT

A prince and a princess from Georgia's ancient Bagrationi dynasty were wed in a lavish ceremony here Sunday, bringing together two feuding strands of the royal house that once ruled this Caucasus nation.

Spanish-born Prince David Bagrationi-Mukhraneli, 32, and Princess Anna Bagrationi-Gruzinsky, 31, were married before hundreds of guests in Tbilisi's Trinity Cathedral as crowds of well-wishers gathered outside.

The marriage is expected to bring an end to feuding over who is the rightful heir to Georgia's centuries-old throne and to boost a campaign to transform this ex-Soviet republic into a constitutional monarchy.

Footage on Rustavi-2 television showed the bride in a flowing white dress and the groom in traditional Georgian costume, with a khanjali dagger belted to his waist.

Georgian flags waved in the background as the pair exchanged vows before a bearded priest of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

"I hope that this (day) will be the happiest of my life," the bride told the channel before the ceremony.

Her father, Nugzar Bagrationi-Gruzinsky, said the wedding marked an historic day for his country.

"The most important thing is that this day will be beneficial for Georgia's future," he said.

The wedding was celebrated on the day Georgians commemorate King David the Builder, who ruled from 1089 to 1125 and is revered as the country's greatest king.

"This is a double holiday as we are celebrating both King David's day and the wedding of representatives of our royal Bagrationi dynasty that was abolished by Russia," one of the guests, opposition Conservative party co-leader Zviad Dzidziguri, told journalists before the ceremony.

Claiming descent from the biblical King David, the Bagrationi dynasty ruled a large chunk of present-day Georgia from at least the 9th century until the country was absorbed into the Russian Empire in the early 19th century.

A noble family in Tsarist Russia, many of the Bagrationis were scattered across Europe after the Bolshevik Revolution and the Soviet takeover of Georgia in 1921 following a brief period of independence. Many of those who stayed were killed or thrown into Soviet concentration camps.

Various branches of the family have laid claim to the Georgian throne, with the Mukhraneli and Gruzinsky branches considered the most likely contenders

David Bagrationi-Mukhraneli is the son of Jorge de Bagration y de Mukhrani, a prominent racing driver whose branch of the family settled in Spain after World War II. A cousin of Spain's King Juan Carlos, the father died in 2008 after settling in Tbilisi.

The two houses have long feuded over their claims to the throne and historians say any children from the marriage would resolve the dispute.

It comes as support is growing for Georgia to adopt a constitutional monarchy in place of the presidential system it adopted after gaining its independence with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

The influential patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II, has promoted the restoration of the monarchy and a recent phone-in survey on Georgian Public Television showed more than 40 percent of callers backed the idea.

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