Russian Emperor Peter III
The Russian Emperor Peter III lived only 34 years and had two names – German and Russian. But even in such a short period the Emperor was able to earn the diametrically opposite assessments from “Stupid martinet” and “chronic drunkards”, to “a prominent figure in Russian culture”, “statesman”. Why did one and the same person receive such different characteristics how did he manage to earn them just of six months of his reign?
Karl Peter Ulrich (future Peter III) was born in 1728 in the German city of Kiel. His father was Duke Charles Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp – the ruler of the north German state of Holstein, and his mother was a daughter of Peter I, Anna Petrovna. On his father’s side little Karl was a grandnephew of Swedish King Karl XII and first was raised as heir to the Swedish throne. His mother died shortly after his birth, having caught a cold during the fireworks in honor of the birth of the son. At the age of 11 the boy lost his father.
He was brought up at home of his great-uncle the future King of Sweden Adolf Fredrick. His teacher was an outstanding scholar of his time, author of works on theology and mathematics, then rector of the University of Kiel. The young duke had a brilliant education, read and wrote in German, French and Latin, was successful in exact sciences, geography, was fond of architecture, music. He loved to read. His personal library contained about 1,000 volumes, all with marks made by his hand. By the age of 12 he had been lieutenant, member of the shooter’s guild, knew fortification, in a word, was a professional military commander.
In 1730 Peter II of Russia died. On February 5, 1742 at the behest of the Empress Elizabeth I her nephew, 14-year-old Duke of Holstein, was brought to St. Petersburg. As the only descendant of Peter the Great, he was declared heir and became Grand Duke Peter Fedorovich. Thus began his journey to the all-Russian imperial throne.
In 1745, Peter Fedorovich married his second cousin Princess Sophia Augusta Frederica of Anhalt-Zerbst (the future Catherine the Great) at the urging of his aunt, the Empress Elizabeth. By adopting Orthodoxy, she became Catherine Alekseevna. Peter and Catherine were granted Oranienbaum near St. Petersburg and Lyubertsy near Moscow.
The circumstances of the death of Peter III are still not completely understood.
According to the official and highly dubious version, the cause of death was a colic attack of hemorrhoids, intensified by prolonged use of alcohol. However, they said that Count Orlov killed Peter.
In any case, Peter was another victim of political/court intrigues. Catherine wanted to get rid of the hateful husband.
From the beginning of married life heir and his wife could not stand each other and had lovers. Empress Elizabeth wanted to have heirs and she actually placed spouses under house arrest. Their son, the future Russian Emperor Paul I, was immediately after birth taken away from his parents. Peter Fedorovich received permission from the Empress to see Paul once a week. After the birth of the son marital relationship between Catherine and Peter virtually stopped. Peter’s favorite was Elizabeth Vorontsova.
On December 25, 1761 Empress Elizabeth died and Emperor Peter III came to the throne. He stopped the war with Prussia and brought Russian troops from Berlin. For that Peter was hated by Guard officers thirsting for military glory and military decorations. Historians were also dissatisfied with the actions of the emperor. They claimed that Peter III “nullified the results of Russian victories.”
In fact, the Seven Years’ War 1756-1763 was caused by the intensification of the struggle between France and England for the overseas colonies. It turned out, the Russian soldiers died for the right of the French to plunder colonial peoples. Peter III stopped this senseless slaughter and received a “reprimand” from the grateful descendants.
After the war, the emperor lived in Oranienbaum. There the Emperor wrote and promulgated a series of manifestos on the transformation of the state system. He eliminated Secret Chancellery – Secret State Police; declared religious freedom for everyone; canceled ecclesiastical supervision of private life; stopped the persecution of the Old Believers (after his death the government reopened the religious persecution); allowed nobles unrestricted travel abroad (after his death, the “iron curtain” was restored); it was forbidden to present senators and public officials with gifts, peasants and state lands. In addition, the emperor restricted personal dependence of peasants from landlords, announced the non-requirement of military service.
And it was all done in less than half a year of the reign! It is obvious that his reforms were a long time ahead of his time.
The coup took place on June 28, 1762. Peter III lived in Oranienbaum, and Catherine – in Peterhof. On June 29 Peter III intended to come to Peterhof to announce his decision to send Catherine to a convent. Conspirators decided to act.
On June 26, 1762 the Orlovs and their friends began to solder soldier garrison. They bought more than 35 thousand buckets of vodka. On the morning of June 28 Catherine left Peterhof and went to the capital, where everything was ready. Dead drunk soldiers of the Guard regiments were sworn “Empress Catherine Alekseevna.”
Peter III and his entourage were in Oranienbaum. Having learned about the events in Petrograd, ministers and generals betrayed the Emperor and fled to the capital. Only a few confidants stayed with the Emperor. On June 29, struck by betrayal of the most trusted men and having no desire to get involved in the fight for the hateful crown, he abdicated.
On July 16 (July 5 O.S.) Peter died, officially of colic brought on by hemorrhoids, although rumors hinted at murder by poison, strangulation, suffocation, beating, or shooting.
Following Catherine II’s death in 1796, Emperor Paul I had his parents buried side by side in the Peter and Paul Cathedral.
– After the construction of the Winter Palace the whole area was littered. Emperor Peter III decided to get rid of it – he ordered to announce to the people that anyone can take everything for free. A few hours later the trash was cleared.
– Illegal overthrow and the suspicious death of Peter spawned a galaxy of impostors. Only in Russia more than forty people were trying to pass themselves off as the emperor. The most famous of them was Emelyan Pugachev. One of the false Peters even became king of Montenegro. Last imposter was arrested in 1797, 35 years after Peter’s death, and only then the shadow of the Emperor finally found peace.