Watching the Formula Renault race in Monaco, I was amused to note the presence of some curiously familiar names, all racing for Fortec Motorsport, which is run by my old mate Richard Dutton. Dutton has four cars in the series this year for Russians Vasily Romanov and Nikita Troitskiy, Brazilian Bruno Baptista and Austrian Ferdinand Habsburg. Those with any interest in history will know that the Habsburgs and the Romanovs were the royal houses of the Austro-Hungarian empire and Imperial Russia.
I did a little googling and discovered that the name on the side of the Habsburg car could actually be Archduke Ferdinand Zvonimir von Habsburg (full name: Ferdinand Zvonimir Maria Balthus Keith Michael Otto Antal Bahnam Leonhard von Habsburg), as he is the heir apparent to the Habsburg dynasty, although the family’s claims to the Austrian throne were renounced by his grandfather Otto von Habsburg many years ago.
Still, I do like the fact that an Archduke came have Keith as one of his names. I wondered (tangentally)if there were any royals with such names in the world today and discovered, to my amusement, that there have been a Prince Ian, a Princess Shirley, a Prince Leonard and a Prince Wayne in something called the Principality of Hutt River, a self-styled independent sovereign state of 18,500-acres, which seceded from Australia in 1970. Monaco, by the way, is just 500 acres so Hutt River is massive by comparison. It issues its own passports, currency and postage stamps and continues to exist, I guess, because no-one in Canberra can be bothered to send a tank 325 miles to the north of Perth to reclaim sovereignty. I suspect that this is because the quirky invention draws tourists to the region and attracts revenues.
Anyway, back to the racing, Troitskiy has a name that is not dissimilar to that of the celebrated Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky, who played a major role in overthrowing the Romanovs, but who later fell foul of that nice Joe Stalin and ended up with an icepick in his head. Historically there have always been different ways of rendering Russian names into English and there are today several standards of transliteration of Cyrillic into English. But then I remembered that Trotsky was not actually the real name of said politician, as he was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein, much as Lenin and Stalin were also both assumed names.
As to Vasily Romanov, the odd thing is that his name is exactly the same (allowing for transliterations) as the last prince born in Russia before the Bolshevik revolution, who was a nephew of Czar Nicholas II. Prince Vasily was fortunate to have been on holiday in the Crimea when the Russian Revolution took place and thus avoided the fate of most of his relatives, murdered by the Bolsheviks. I could find no link between the two Vasily Romanovs, but to be fair I have not tried very hard as it is a wildly complicated business, given that there are various branches of the Imperial Family, mostly in the United States.
I think I’ll just go and find him at some race meeting and ask him…