Prince Andrew Andreevich Romanoff, an Inverness artist and descendant of Russian tsars, died on Nov. 28. He was 98 years old. 

Andrew, the grandnephew of Tsar Nicholas II, the last Russian monarch, was recognized in West Marin for his whimsical paintings, mushrooming prowess, and quiet sense of humor as much as his royal heritage. An adopted son of California, he visited Russia for the first time later in life amid great fanfare for the reinterment of the tsar’s family. He wore blue jeans and Birkenstocks. 

“He was very egalitarian,” his wife, Inez Storer, said. “He just didn’t have any prejudice at all.”

Andrew was born in 1923 in London, to royals in exile. The House of Romanov, also spelled Romanoff, ruled the Russian Empire for more than 300 years, until Andrew’s granduncle Nicholas II abdicated the throne in 1917 on the eve of the Russian Revolution. The following year, the Tsar and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks, a fact only acknowledged by the Soviet government in 1989. Andrew’s family was lucky: In 1919, they escaped nascent Soviet Russia to England, where they were welcomed by the royal family. Andrew’s grandmother, Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, was a cousin of King George V of England, who sent a naval ship to rescue 16 members of the Romanoff family, including Andrew’s parents, from Crimea. 

Andrew was born four years later and raised at Frogmore Cottage, a royal retreat on the grounds of Windsor Castle. One Easter, he and his siblings received and thoroughly enjoyed a basket of chocolate easter bunnies and eggs, only later discovering it had been delivered to the wrong place and was meant for the future Queen Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret. Andrew later immortalized the incident in a painting. 

The Romanoff family didn’t socialize much with the British royals next door, but Andrew fondly remembered playing with rabbits and helping the gardeners on the castle grounds. His childhood could be lonely and isolating: His parents traveled frequently, he was raised by an English nanny, and he had few playmates. Andrew retained some of the grace and regal manners he acquired in childhood for the rest of his life. His upper-class English accent was inflected with Russian, his first language, and at the end of his life, as Alzheimer’s led him to recall his earliest memories, Inez said sometimes he spoke only in his mother tongue. 

When he joined the Royal Navy during World War II, Andrew wanted to serve among the people, not as an officer. He spent the war on the H.M.S. Sheffield, which made expeditions from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, including a supply mission to the port of Murmansk in the Soviet Union. The experience of war left deep impressions on Andrew. The Sheffield was caught in an Atlantic storm with 100-foot waves that sank four U.S. ships but spared Andrew’s crew. And the war took a devastating toll on his family: His mother died in 1940 after a German bomb dropped nearby caused a ceiling beam to collapse on her. 

After the war and a brief stint as a farmer in Kent, Andrew set his mind on America, where he knew he could start a life of his own, without the baggage of royalty. “He just thought it was great you could do what you wanted to do,” Inez said. “You didn’t have to pay homage to anyone.”

With little of his own money, Andrew immigrated to the United States on a cargo ship in 1948. He wound up finding a job with his uncle Vasili at California Packing, where he grew vegetables using hydroponics, and later as a gardener, while he enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley. He never finished his bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminology, but met his first wife, Elena Dourneva, whom he married in 1951. They had one son, Alex, who lives in the East Bay. Andrew became a U.S. citizen in 1954 and soon after took a job at a shipping company that took him to Japan. He thought Elena would follow him, but she didn’t, and when he returned in 1959, they divorced. 

Two years later, Andrew married Kathleen Norris, who came from a wealthy San Francisco family, after the two met at a ball. They had two sons, Peter and Andrew. Kathleen, who suffered from an autoimmune disorder, died at the age of 32 in 1967. The family had visited Inverness frequently, and while grieving her death, Andrew and his two sons moved to the town, beginning the long West Marin chapter of his life. 

Andrew’s first job in Inverness involved helping his cousin, the architect Igor Sazevich, build houses around Tomales Bay. He caught the attention of locals, and as his stepdaughter Lisa Storer said, “every woman in Inverness was after him.” But it was Inez, a painter who taught art at College of Marin and later the San Francisco Art Institute, who won his heart. The two bonded over art as Andrew was beginning his own artistic career, and soon after, he moved into the big red house on the edge of the Inverness mesa where Inez had made a home with her four children. It became home base for their blended family for the next 50 years, and Andrew and Inez were married from 1987 until his death.

Their kids remembered a free, bohemian childhood in the art-filled home. “It was a crazy time,” Lisa said. “We didn’t even have to sneak out. We’d go up to Mount Vision or swim in the ponds.”

Peter, Andrew’s son, remembered fishing on the bay in his dad’s small rowboat and building driftwood structures on the beach together. Peter, who now works at Cheda’s Garage in Point Reyes Station, developed a love of working on cars, though his father wasn’t mechanically inclined. Peter enjoyed keeping his dad’s old cars running and the two would see each other often when Andrew came into town for a coffee at Toby’s.

Another chapter of Andrew’s Point Reyes life began when he became a foreman at the Brass Menagerie, a factory in the Creamery Building that produced hash pipes and other marijuana paraphernalia. In the early ‘80s, Andrew took over ownership of the factory, which turned army surplus ammunition into roach clips and became a haven for hippies and outsiders. 

“I found out later that Andrew actually knew quite a bit about running a business,” said Point Reyes photographer Marty Knapp, who worked as Andrew’s office manager at the Menagerie. “He guided me, but he never interfered. He always gave people room to be themselves.” 

Lisa, Andrew’s stepdaughter, also worked at the Brass Menagerie in the summers, and remembered his relaxed, generous attitude toward his employees. “He didn’t care that they were not super workers,” Lisa said. “He cared that they’d have enough money to eat.” 

As the Reagan administration put pressure on head shops, the Brass Menagerie switched to making jewelry, and financial strains eventually closed it. But Andrew had other creative endeavors going. In 1983, he made his mark on West Marin’s art scene as one of the founders of Gallery Route One, where he and Inez often showed their work. It has remained the epicenter of art in Point Reyes Station. 

Over the years, Andrew became central to the town’s art scene, and his preferred medium was as playful as the paintings themselves: Shrinky Dinks, the toy plastic sheets that shrink and thicken when heated. He painted irreverent scenes like Queen Elizabeth changing a tire, but also juxtaposed intense moments from his own life with the lighthearted medium, which he shrunk in a toaster oven in his kitchen. Many of his autobiographical paintings were included in a 2006 book, “The Boy Who Would Be Tsar.”

“I witnessed these grand, almost overwhelming events, and there is something poetic about shrinking them in the oven,” he told filmmaker Sam Hayes in 2016.

In 1996, Andrew was showing some of his Shrinky Dink paintings at the Martinez Civic Arts Gallery when one of his bawdier works caught the eye of the Martinez police. The painting, which was inspired by contemporary news coverage of Lorena Bobbitt, depicted police on their hands and knees searching in the bushes for a severed penis. The chairwoman of the town’s art commission asked him to take down the offending work, but Andrew opted to take down the whole show instead. Soon after the incident, the inventors of Shrinky Dinks helped secure him a lifetime supply. 

Andrew had plenty of impressive domestic skills, too. His love for gardening followed him from Windsor Castle to West Marin, and he grew vegetables and flowers outside the Inverness house for decades. The family also loved his cooking: shepherd’s pie, borscht, Russian hamburgers, and spinach enriched with plenty of butter and cream. 

Perhaps his favorite thing to cook, and hunt, was mushrooms. He had a sharp eye and kept his favorite spots to find porcinis and chanterelles closely guarded. When he brought friends along with him, he’d make them swear not to reveal the locations. 

Andrew had familial and cultural ties to San Francisco’s anti-communist White Russian community, but in many ways he was a black sheep. Unlike many emigres who fled the Bolshevik Revolution, including many members of his extended family, he didn’t glorify the Russian monarchy, his family said. Despite what many people described as a regal demeanor, Andrew was far from snobby. 

“There’s absurdity in royalty,” he said in the 2016 short film made by Sam Hayes. “I think a sense of humor is my greatest blessing.”

Marty added, “Andrew was royalty, but he never played that card in this town. He would talk about it if you were interested, but he was reserved.” 

Though Andrew didn’t glorify the Tsar, it meant a great deal to him to be able to set foot on Russian soil for the first time in 1990, and to return for a belated funeral for the Tsar’s family after their remains were exhumed from a pit in Yekaterinburg. His sons came for the ceremony, which Peter said was a “very emotional and intense experience for all of us.”

Soon after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Andrew helped his Romanoff relatives start a foundation to improve health care for poor Russians. He last visited Russia in 2013 in honor of the quadricentennial of the Romanoff dynasty. 

Andrew held onto his Russian Orthodox faith, and attended midnight mass every Easter at the Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco. Before the Monastery of Saint John moved from Balboa Avenue in Inverness Park to Tehama County, Andrew was involved and friendly with the Orthodox monks. 

Some in the church hoped Andrew would be buried at the Russian Orthodox Cemetery in Colma, but Inez felt he should be closer to home, where he knew everyone. Last week, Andrew was buried at Olema Cemetery, a place where he often foraged for mushrooms.

Andrew is survived by his wife, Inez; his three sons, Alex, Andrew and Peter; his four stepchildren, Elena, Lisa, Chris and John; his granddaughter, Natasha Romanoff; his step-grandsons Sam and Matthew; and his half-sister, Olga Romanoff.