It’s possible Russia’s 19th and 20th Century czars didn’t really belong to the imperial family. They were called Romanovs, members of the dynasty that had built the Russian Empire, but for some the name rang false. The last undoubted Romanov, Czar Peter III, married a German princess in 1745. History remembers her as Catherine the Great. History also remembers Catherine’s extramarital affairs. The czar was sexually uninterested or even incapable, so Catherine enjoyed serial monogamy with a long list of lovers, starting with an officer named Sergei Saltykov. In her memoirs, she suggested that Saltykov fathered Paul I, the next czar, and some historians believe her.
Paul inherited the throne in 1796 — from Catherine, who’d seized it from her husband — and the remaining czars descended from him. If Saltykov fathered Paul, none of them was a Romanov.
Incidentally, after Catherine’s husband died and she ruled alone, “empress’ lover” became a more or less official position at court, with a reliable income. (But the legend that Catherine had sex with a horse is rubbish.)
© 2014 by David W. Tollen. All rights reserved.