On the night of June 28 (July 9) 1762, when sovereign Peter III was in Oranienbaum, his wife Catherine secretly arrived in the capital and was proclaimed the autocratic empress in the barracks of the Izmailovo regiment. Soon officers and soldiers from other regiments joined the rebels. The news of the "revolution" quickly spread throughout St. Petersburg and was greeted with delight by citizens. To prevent the actions of Peter were sent envoys to the army and in Kronstadt. Meanwhile, the emperor, having learned about the incident, began to send proposals to the wife about the negotiations, but they were rejected. Catherine herself, at the head of the guards regiments, marched on the march and, on the way, received Peter’s written renunciation of the Russian throne.
The prehistory of the "glorious revolution"
The future mistress of the North was born - Sophia Frederick Augustus of Anhalt-Zerbst, 21 April (2 May) 1729, in the capital of Pomerania, Stettin. It originated from the ancient, though impoverished, princely family of the Anhalt-Zerbst rulers. This is on the line of his father - Christian Augustus of Anhalt-Zerbst, who was in the military service of the Prussian king. In line with the mother - Princess Johanna Elizabeth - her origin was even higher, because the Holstein-Gottorp ducal house belonged to the most distinguished dynasties in Germany. The pedigree of Johann Elizabeth dates back to Christian I, King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the first Duke of Schleswig-Holstein and the founder of the Oldenburg family. The mother of the future Russian empress was the great aunt of the future emperor of Russia Peter III, and her uncle Adolf-Friedrich (Adolf Fredrik) was the king of Sweden from 1751 of the year.
Parents practically did not engage in the child. Father was busy serving. Mother was a special light-hearted, enthusiastic secular life. The princess traveled a lot, stayed for a long time with many relatives living in different cities of Germany. With herself she took Fiquet (him. Figchen - comes from the name of Frederica, that is, "little Frederick") and her younger brother Frederick Augustus. As a result, a girl from her early years got used to new places and quickly adapted, was sociable. In the area where the princess lived there were many French Huguenots who fled from the horrors of the civil war in France. Therefore, through the teacher of Mademoiselle Elizabeth (Babette) Kardel, she learned French. In addition, she was taught English, dance, music, basics stories, geography and theology. The teacher has made the princess addicted to reading books.
At the beginning of 1744, on behalf of the sovereign Elizabeth Petrovna, Count Brummer invited Johann-Elizabeth and her daughter to visit the capital of the Russian Empire. The Russian empress chose the bride for a long time to her heir, selecting candidates from European noble families. Fike was chosen for two reasons. First, she was Protestant, which facilitated the conversion to Orthodoxy. Secondly, she was even of a noble but small family, which resolved the issue with her connections and retinue, which could influence Russian policy and irritate representatives of the Russian aristocracy. 26 January 1744, Sofia Frederick Augustus entered the land of the Russian Empire, arrived in Riga. The meeting was arranged with an imperial brilliance: salute shots, crashing drums, a luxurious crew, top officials of the local administration in parade uniforms, an escort. Interestingly, the escort was commanded by captain Carl von Munchhausen (that same “king of liars”). In the capital, the princess and princess were waiting for a new reception: a volley of guns from the Peter and Paul Fortress, high-ranking officials and courtiers, maids of honor appointed by the Empress and the luxurious apartments of the Winter Palace. Johann Elizabeth and her daughter were received in an imperial way. 9 February mother and daughter arrived in Moscow (the courtyard with the empress temporarily drove off to the old capital). Elizabeth took them cordially. Sophia Frederick Augustus everyone liked. The Grand Duke also became friends with her, he was already acquainted with Fike - they saw her in Germany 1739 (Peter was the second cousin of the princess).
Princess Johann-Elizabeth of Holstein-Gottorp almost immediately began to weave a conspiracy against Chancellor Alexei Petrovich Bestuzhev-Rumin, who pursued anti-Prussian and anti-French policies. The princess, following the instructions of the Prussian King Frederick II, met with the French envoy Marquis de la Chetardy, his friend - Elizabeth the doctor, Jean-Jean Herman Lestoc, the chief-healer of the heir, Count Otton Brummer and the Prussian ambassador Baron Axel Mardefeld. The intrigues of Johann Elizabeth (for example, Bestuzhev managed to intercept the letters of Princess Frederick II and present them to Elizabeth Petrovna) and her jealousy about the situation of her daughter - she herself wanted to shine at the Russian court, caused irritation and then the wrath of the sovereign. The princess was expelled from Russia, banning correspondence with her daughter and coming to Russia.
Fike did not take part in the intrigues of the mother and her life became more and more independent, leaving the influence of the parents. Initially, her new life was like an eternal holiday. Dance lessons, balls, masquerades, games with maids of honor and maids, and so on. Joys filled the girl's life. 28 June 1744, in the Assumption Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin, she converted to Orthodoxy and became Grand Duchess Catherine Alekseevna. Since arriving in Russia, she has taught Russian language and traditions, history, orthodoxy basics. The next day the betrothal ceremony took place: the Grand Duke Peter Fedorovich and the Grand Duchess Catherine Alekseevna were officially declared the bride and groom.
In the same period, the dreams of a young girl about the "prince" were broken. Karl Peter Ulrich - the son of the elder sister of Peter I Anna and the Duke of Holstein Karl Friedrich - was born in Kiel 21 in February 1728. Mother soon died, and his father did not care for him (in 11 years he lost his father). The upbringing was entrusted to O. F. Brummer and F. V. Berchholz, who were not distinguished by high moral and intellectual qualities and more than once severely beat the boy. Peter grew painful, fearful, nervous, loved music and painting, and at the same time taught him to love everything military. At the beginning of 1742, he was brought to Russia, baptized in an Orthodox rite, called Peter Fedorovich and declared heir to the Russian throne. His upbringing, intellect, interests made a heavy impression on others. The young man was infantile, nervous, capricious, did not know how to behave in society. His character did not change when he grew up. The young man was flawed. In the first months of Fike’s life in Russia, Peter became friends with her. However, she was interesting to Peter not as a bride, but as an "attorney in his childishness." 21 August 1745 they got married. Peter was still cold, he was not interested in the joys of family life. This was one of the reasons for the future palace coup. Catherine was not lucky either in love or in family life, although she could become the support of her spouse. But the husband continued to be an adult child - he had played toys and dolls in the bedroom for several years.
1744 to 1761 Catherine put into practice her formula for success: “1. Like the Grand Duke. 2. Like the Empress. 3. Like the people ... ". The first point was impracticable. Peter from the game of soldiers went to a permanent military-field game, which replaced his real life. For him, a Holstein army unit was created, in the vicinity of Oranienbaum, he conducted maneuvers, parades, and hikes.
The court life taught the Grand Duchess of resourcefulness, patience and secrecy. She learned to hold back feelings. Books became her passion, salvation from indifference of her husband, quibbles of the empress, emptiness and envy of the courtiers. From early morning until late evening she did not part with the book. From entertainment, reading has grown into the intense work of the mind. She overcame Barra's Universal History of Germany - 10 huge volumes in 10 weeks. For four years, she studied the gigantic “Encyclopedia” of P. Bel, a collection of diverse knowledge of history, geography, philosophy, religion, etc. For many years, her hero was the French king Henry IV. The idols of the young Grand Duchess were Voltaire and Montesquieu. However, she did not close. Catherine achieved great success in riding, loved long walks through the woods, hunting, dancing and masquerades. She knew a lot about fashion and jewelry.
20 September 1754, Catherine gave birth to a boy named Pavel. There were a lot of rumors about his birth. The most likely father of the boy was considered the chamberlain Sergei Vasilyevich Saltykov. It is believed that the Grand Duke Peter due to the underdevelopment of the psyche and physical disability, which was later eliminated by the surgeon, was indifferent to sexual life for a long time. In principle, the relations prevailing at court favored such a connection. Cheating was considered the norm, love between spouses and loyalty were rare. In addition, the empress, and Maria Choglokova, who was bestowed upon her on the princess of the ober-hofmeister, should take into account the highest state interests. The boy was immediately taken away from his mother, the empress took him for herself. The firstborn was shown to her only after forty days.
With the birth of her son Catherine received a certain freedom. She quickly realized that her future as a politician would be determined by two main factors: public opinion and connections at the top of high society, the army (first of all, the guard). She did everything to be considered Russian. "I wanted to be Russian, so that Russians loved me." Catherine quickly assimilated: she knew customs, songs, proverbs, went to church services for hours, communicated with the common people. Gradually around her, thanks to the help of Sergey Saltykov, Lev Naryshkin, his party begins to take shape. The first grandees of the empire are beginning to reckon with its political judgments: the Shuvalovs, field marshal S. Apraksin, the vice-chancellor M. I. Vorontsov, the Razumovsky brothers and even the chancellor Bestuzhev. It was Chancellor Bestuzhev that in the middle of the 1750s (when the health of the empress deteriorated) made a bet on the Grand Duchess. He understood that the coming to power of Peter for him, the consistent enemy of Prussia (the heir was a fan of the Prussian king and the local order), would be the end. Bestuzhev assigned himself the role of mentor and leader of Catherine. He helped her to establish a correspondence with her mother, patronized the novel with Stanislav Ponyatovsky, who arrived in the Russian capital in 1755 year. Bestuzhev and Catherine feared that the empress in the will would give the throne to Paul, and Peter and Catherine would not allow to power. They drafted a manifesto draft, according to which Catherine was to become the regent under the Cesarevich, and Bestuzhev received the presidency of all the colleges and the commander of the guard.
Another assistant to Catherine was the British envoy Charles Williams. London did not want to strengthen the positions of France and Prussia in Russia, and therefore supported the Grand Duchess. Williams became a close political friend of the future empress. He constantly supplied her with money, and she openly shared with him plans for the future. Letters to Williams show the true essence of Catherine - she appears in the image of a cynical, prudent and immensely ambitious, ready for much for the sake of the power of a politician.
True, the first conspiracy of Catherine was extremely unfortunate. Elizabeth recovered, the collusion of Catherine and Bestuzhev was uncovered. Bestuzhev managed to destroy the correspondence, but in the spring of 1758, he was deprived of his posts, sent to the village. Sympathetic to conspirators Field Marshal Apraksin died during interrogation. Poniatowski and Williams were expelled from Russia. Peter finally turned away from his wife, began to avoid her. For several months the Grand Duchess was in complete isolation, in fact, under house arrest. Then Catherine was able to justify herself before the sovereign.
Gradually, life entered the same rut. In 1760, Ekaterina has a new favorite - Grigoriy Grigorievich Orlov.
Coronation portrait of Emperor Peter III Fedorovich by L. K. Pfanzelt /
25 December 1761 of the year died Empress Elizaveta Petrovna. She did not prepare any political surprises at the end of her life. Elizabeth said goodbye to Catherine and Peter, asked to love little Paul. Without any difficulty, the grand duke became the emperor, and the princess became the empress. However, there was anxiety about the future in society. Peter Fedorovich trained the students of the Cadet Corps and the detachment evacuated from Holstein, still did not know how to behave in society.
The new emperor was not sweet to the clergy. Peter concluded an unfavorable peace with Prussia, depriving Russia of all the benefits of victories over the Prussians deserved by sweat and blood. He was preparing for war with Denmark in the interests of Holstein. He brought the Germans closer to him, introduced strict discipline in the army, so painful for officers spoiled by Elizabeth. He was an inflexible person, walked ahead, did not take into account the discontent of a silent society and the advice of people supporting him. Emperor Peter was not a villain, a madman, but he seemed to be a completely random person on the Russian throne. Peter's figure is dramatic; he was unlucky with destiny and country. If he had stayed in Holstein, then, apparently, he would have lived an ordinary life, becoming one of the rulers of a small European state, with its quirks, no more. In Russia, he became the worst example of a “German” (stranger), a tyrant, a fool and a fan of drill.
After the death of the Empress, Peter openly lived with Elizaveta Vorontsova. The favorite was supported by the Vorontsov clan, headed by her uncle, Chancellor Mikhail Illarionovich. There was a threat of the full "resignation" of Catherine - imprisoning her in a monastery. Yes, and the reason was. 11 April 1762, Catherine gave birth to a boy - Orlov’s son (the future Count Alexei Bobrinsky). He was secretly taken to the house of the valet of Empress Shkurin.
Catherine's friends advised her not to sit back and act. Use the general hatred of Peter, to overthrow him, imprison him, to rule himself or to be regent under Paul. The situation was favorable. The army and guards officers were indignant; they did not want to go to war with Denmark to win back part of Holstein, captured by the Danes. This war was as unpopular as the Prussian order, Prussian style uniforms. Catherine was supported by the Orlov brothers, an influential dignitary and the chief of the Izmailovsky regiment, Count Kirill Razumovsky, and heir-educator Nikita Panin.
In June, the yard went out of town. The Empress settled in Peterhof, and the emperor - in Oranienbaum. 28 June Peter and his entourage went to Peterhof, Monplaisir Palace, where the empress lived was empty. Catherine in 5 hours of the morning secretly went to the capital.
The conspiracy, according to the words of the Prussian king Frederick, "was insane, poorly composed." However, Peter actually prepared his success. His stupid foreign policy and carelessness played into the hands of the conspirators. Catherine did not even lead the rebellion, this was not necessary. Alexey and Grigory Orlovy delivered the empress to the location of the Izmailovsky regiment. The priest led the soldiers and officers to the oath. Led by Razumovsky, the Izmailovs moved to the location of the Semenov regiment. After the Semenovites, Preobrazhensky also joined the rebels. When leaving on Nevsky Prospect, the Empress was greeted in full by the horse guards. Everyone shouted “Hurray!”, People came running from everywhere. Palace coup transformed into triumph. Kabatchik began to distribute free alcohol to "direct sons of the Fatherland." “Sons” became more and more, crowds flooded the whole Nevsky Prospect, Catherine's carriage hardly moved forward. In the Winter Palace - the Senate, the Synod, senior officials and courtiers swore allegiance to the new empress.
Catherine wrote a decree in the name of the Senate that advocates a campaign against Oranienbaum. Opponent was Peter and his Holstein. Catherine dressed in a green uniform Preobrazhensky Regiment. The sight was beautiful. Sunny evening, slender ranks of the Guards regiments, banners, crowds through the streets and in front of the Amazon Empress.
Peter found out about the commotion at 3 in the afternoon. He sent a decree to Kronstadt to send 3 thousand soldiers to Peterhof. The same decree was received by non-guard regiments in the capital - Astrakhan and Ingermanland. In case of success of his plan, Catherine's campaign could have ended with a lot of blood. Munich suggested that Peter come to the capital and pacify the rebellion. However, the emperor rushed about, frightened, canceled the previous decrees. He did not take the opportunity to flee to Livonia and Narva, where there were regiments ready to be sent to war with Denmark, or on a yacht to Finland and Sweden. His messengers lingered or went over to the side of Catherine. As a result, Peter missed time and could not even escape when he sat down on the galley and approached the Kronstadt harbor, the entrance was blocked by bons. Guard officer Michail Kozhukhov in response to Peter’s order to let him into the harbor, shouted that now there is no Tsar Peter, there is only Empress Catherine. The entrance to the open sea was blocked by a warship. Peter finally wilted and stopped all attempts to fight or escape.
On the morning of June 29, he apologized to his wife for insults and promised to correct. There was no answer. In the second letter, Peter promised to give up the throne in exchange for a small pension, the Holstein throne and the maid of honor Vorontsov. Catherine responded and demanded a written confirmation of the abdication. By lunchtime, Grigory Orlov brought a renunciation, and then Peter himself with Vorontsova. In the evening, Alexei Orlov, captain Peter Passek and Prince Fyodor Baryatinsky took Peter to Ropsha. It was assumed that in a few days he would be taken to the Shlisselburg Fortress.
Shelves returned to the capital, and 30 June was the day of the general holiday and drunkenness. Peter naively continued to ask not to be separated from his beloved, to be released to Holstein, to be provided with “food”. The overthrown emperor was guarded by those who were directly implicated in a conspiracy and mutiny - the gravest of state crimes. These people were interested to avoid possible harsh accountability. Catherine could not understand this. 6 (17) July 1762 of the year in Ropsha near St. Petersburg, Emperor Peter III died under unclear circumstances. According to the official version, he died from a disease for natural reasons: “from hemorrhoidal colic.”