WOODSIDE, Calif. (AP) _ Prince Vasili Romanov, the last Russian prince born in Russia before the Bolshevik revolution, has died at the age of 81, hopeful to the end that new freedom dawned in his homeland.

Marina Beadleston of Aspen, Colo., said her father, a nephew of Emperor Nicholas II, died in bed of natural causes Saturday in the Woodside home where he lived for 25 years.

Romanov's mother was Grand Duchess Xenia, sister of the last czar. His father was Grand Duke Alexander, the czar's cousin and founder of the Russian air force. His grandfather was Czar Alexander III. His great-uncles were the kings of England, Greece and Denmark.

''It's a very exciting time we live in,'' Romanov said in a recent interview about the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev. Romanov hoped they meant new freedom for the people his family ruled from 1613 to 1917.

The prince, born in a 1,000-room palace, was 10 years old when the Bolsheviks took power. He and his family survived the assassinations of the czar, his wife and their five children, and were rescued by a British battleship sent by their British relative, King George V.

Later, young Romanov took to sea as a cabin boy. He also toiled as a shipyard worker and stockbroker in San Francisco, as a winemaker near San Jose, and a chicken farmer in Sonoma.

''In my colorful career, I think I enjoyed the chicken farm the most,'' he said.

As he grew older, he tired of questions about the Soviet Union, what had become of it and what he thought of it. He said he could have returned as a tourist - but never would return ''under the Bolsheviks ... everything we detested.''

Romanov is survived by his daughter and four grandchildren. Services will be July 7, his birthday, in Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco.