Because whilst most claimants to extinct thrones simply go about their business with their title as a pleasant reminder of times gone by, Maria has done the impossible - she has made monarchy appealing to Russia once more. Her claim is disputed of course and there is no immediate call for a referendum on installing her as Empress of Russia but on a small scale, Maria is very much an Empress in Exile and in recent years she had become a force to be reckoned with as she travels the world representing Russia and her people.
Maria is the daughter of Grand Duke Vladimir Kyrillovitch and his wife Princess Leonida Georgievna. Born in 1953 in Madrid, from her earliest days she was being prepared to reign over an exiled court. Grand Duke Vladimir always stated that his marriage was the only equal marriage made among his siblings and that he was the legitimate heir to the Russian throne. Maria's website has a special section stacked with letters from all kinds of world leaders (including Queen Elizabeth II), congratulating Vladimir and Leonida on the birth of their daughter and her wedding to Prince Franz-Wilhelm of Prussia ("equal" as her website stresses) was well attended by a whole host of glittering names. The couple had one child, Grand Duke Georgi Mikhailovitch and were eventually divorced.
Her Imperial Highness on her wedding day.
From her base in Spain, the Grand Duchess has spent the last two decades doing what her father was unable to do - return to Russia again and again to promote the cause of monarchy but also to meet the Russian people and to represent them where possible. With the restored Russian Orthodox Church on her side, her cause has significant support and she is no stranger to the courts of Europe. She attended the wedding of the Prince of Asturias, she represented the Romanov family at the reburial of Empress Maria Feodorovna and she has conducted official tours (sanctioned by the Kremlin) to Brazil, Australia, the United States of America and of course, Russia. Wherever she goes, she is treated as an Empress and however much it may annoy her rival Prince Nicholas, the Grand Duchess seems to have something he doesn't: the desire to be a part of Russian life.
With the Pope in December, 2010.
Her Imperial Highness has stated time and time again that she does not seek to force the monarchy on the people but she has stated that she believes constitutional monarchy could be the answer to problems within Russian government. She was regularly received by Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin and the current Russian President Medvedev. In 2010, she was received by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on an official visit to Rome. There can be no doubt that if the restoration of the monarchy was ever considered in Russia, it would be Maria who would find herself at the top of the list to be called.
Below is a link to an interview (in English), in which Maria explains her belief that the assassinated members of the Imperial Family should be rehabilitated. An intriguing woman I'm sure you'll agree.