300 years ago, 23 in October 1715, was born the grandson of Peter I, the last representative of the Romanovs in a straight male line - Peter II Alekseevich. He took the throne of 6 (17) in May of 1727, when he was only eleven years old, and died of smallpox in 14 years. Tsar Peter alone did not actually rule. The real power in the Russian Empire during this period was in the hands of the Supreme Privy Council, and especially the favorites of the young emperor, first A.D. Menshikov, and after its overthrow - Dolgorukov.
Petr Alekseevich was the son of the heir to the throne, Alexei Petrovich and his wife Sophia-Charlotte Brunswick-Wolfenbüttelskoy, who was killed in 1718, who died ten days after giving birth. In the first four years of Peter’s life, he was not considered as the future emperor, since Peter I had a son, Peter. Nobility became interested in Pyotr Alekseevich in 1719, after the three-year-old Pyotr Petrovich, officially recognized as the heir, died and the royal grandson was the only, except the sovereign, male representative of the Romanov dynasty. During the reign of Peter the Great, the young prince often visited the house of Dolgorukovs, in which the metropolitan nobility gathered. There he met his aunt, Elizabeth Petrovna. So the party began to take shape that promoted Peter Alekseevich to the emperors.
However, he had a strong opposition. Most of the nobles, who Peter the Great raised from “mud to races,” had motives to oppose Peter Alekseevich. Under Peter I, they exalted, made enormous fortunes. Many dignitaries were involved in the execution of Fr. Peter Alekseevich, Tsarevich Alexei. Therefore, the accession of Peter II threatened them with disgrace or even death.
Even more confused is the question of the succession to Peter the Great himself. 5 February 1722 of the year Tsar Peter issued a decree on the succession to the throne, which abolished the ancient custom of transferring the throne to direct descendants through the male line, but allowed the appointment of any worthy person to be the heir to the emperor. So Peter Alekseevich was formally deprived of preemptive rights to the throne, but the question of the heir remained open. But he did not manage to appoint an heir, at least according to the official version, Tsar Peter I, before a sudden death in 1725.
Representatives of the old aristocracy tried to push 9-year-old Peter Alekseevich into the emperors. However, supporters of Peter's wife, Catherine, led by the powerful Menshikov, resolved the matter in their favor with the help of the guard's bayonets. An illiterate "cook" Catherine became the head of state.
Menshikov, during the life of Catherine, knowing about her poor health and assuming her near death, began to think about how to lure Peter to his side. Catherine, despite poor health, spent almost all the time in entertainment: balls, night walks, continuous feasts, dances and fireworks. She hardly did state affairs. Almost daily entertainment lasted all night and much of the day. Catherine did not go to bed before 4-5 hours of the morning. It is clear that even the empress's poor health did not sustain such a lifestyle.
Therefore, Menshikov decided to betray his daughter Maria with the heir to the throne, and after his accession to the throne to become regent before his majority. In the spring of 1727, the Empress consented to the marriage of Maria Menshikova and Grand Duke Peter, canceling the engagement of Peter Sapieha and Maria Menshikova. Both Tsarevna, Anna and Elizabeth, and the Holstein duke Karl-Friedrich (Anna's husband) asked the queen to reverse their decision. They understood what threatened them with the transformation of Menshikov into the test of the future Tsar Peter II. But Catherine remains deaf to the requests of her daughters and son-in-law. It was not only the enormous influence of Menshikov on Catherine (her former lover), but also that Catherine still showed interest in life and looked at young people. The Grand Duchess made Sapega her favorite.
At the same time, the former allies of Menshikov, who participated in the construction of Catherine to the throne, still did not want to see Peter Alekseevich on the throne. They are such a course of events did not promise anything good. After the death of Empress Catherine, they wanted to enthrone one of her daughters, Anna or Elizabeth. However, Menshikov again won up. He decided to take an extraordinary and preventive step: on behalf of the queen, he ordered the arrest of the influential master of the capital, the general chief of police, Count Deaurais. Menshikov himself, with a guard officer, captured the general chief of police right in the palace, and Devière tried to stab his brother-in-law with a sword (Devière was married to Menshikov's sister).
The devier was interrogated, but his answers did not satisfy Menshikov. He secured the Empress's decree to search for, that is, torture, the former general police chief, so that he should declare all accomplices. Under torture, the former orderly of Tsar Peter broke down. Many opponents of Menshikov were arrested and tortured, exiled and deprived of their ranks, some only demoted. First of all, Menshikov eliminated the dangerous and skillful enemy of his - member of the Supreme Privy Council P. A. Tolstoy (chief investigator in the case of Tsarevich Alexei). Tolstoy was sent into exile in the Solovki monastery.
Shortly before the death of the Empress, members of the Supreme Privy Council, the Senate, the Synod, the presidents of the collegiums and the staff officers of the guard gathered in the palace, resolving the question of succession to the throne. As a result, the majority spoke in favor of Pyotr Alekseevich, who, until 16 years, was under the care of the Supreme Privy Council and pledged to take the oath to avenge none of those who signed the death sentence to his father, Alexei Petrovich. Before Catherine's death, a will was made for her, according to which the grandson of Peter I, Peter Alekseevich, succeeded to the throne. The will provided for custody of the young emperor on the part of the Supreme Council, and one of the articles of the document indicated to all grandees to promote Peter Alekseevich's betrothal with one of the daughters of Prince Menshikov, and then, upon reaching the age of majority, to promote their marriage.
6 (17) of May 1727. Petr Alekseevich became the third emperor of Russia. The finest Prince Menshikov, in essence, became for a short time a true regent with great power. “At last the time has come,” writes the biography of Menshikov NI Pavlenko, “when it was possible to carry out all the plans. But, surprisingly, we don’t find state wisdom in the actions and actions of the brightest. Perhaps his mind was exhausted so much that he was no longer able to cover the whole range of concerns related to power, or he put off his plans until the marriage bonds of his daughter were registered. Whatever it was, but all the plans and thoughts of the prince boiled down to the satisfaction of insatiable ambition. "
Menshikov finally achieved what he had dreamed for a long time - he became the second, after A.Shein, the Russian generalissimo, and a little earlier - the full admiral. His son Alexander received the highest order of St. Andrew the First-Called and the rank of Chief Chamberlain. On May 25, Archbishop Theophanes betrothed the emperor with Princess Mary, who became officially “Engaged E. i. at. the bride and sovereign princess Maria Alexandrovna ". At the same time, Menshikov planned to betray his son Alexander with his sister Peter II - Natalia. Mary was determined to be a court staff, which in terms of the number of people, and in cash expenditures, was superior to both Natalia and Elizabeth. Menshikov survived from the Russian Duke Carl Friedrich, who, together with Anna left the country.
Menshikov amnestied the old Helena - in the world to Evdokia Lopukhin, the grandmother of Peter II. But she was not allowed to see her grandchildren. The prince did not want competition, and Elena, not allowing her to even meet her grandchildren, was sent to Moscow, to the Novodevichy Convent. She first saw her grandson only at the beginning of 1728, when Menshikov himself was already in disgrace.
Peter was under the special supervision of the Most High Prince, his relatives and trusted people. The boy was even settled in the Menshikov Palace. Menshikov began to tame the young king and, having abandoned all state affairs, traveled with the boy around the city, to the shipyard, to the stable and to the hunt, and dined with him. Menshikov laid great hopes on Osterman, whom he had appointed Peter as tutor before the death of Catherine. However, the cunning intriguer Osterman began to play against Menshikov.
It is possible that Osterman, Ivan Dolgoruky and other opponents of Menshikov would not have been able to succeed for a long time, but they were helped by a serious illness of the most luminous. For more than a month, Menshikov was turned off from the life of the capital, he even wrote a will. This was enough for the young king, with the help of new friends, to take a sip of freedom and be opposed to the guardian. When Menshikov recovered, he already found a new situation - the king clearly avoided him. In addition, after the illness, Menshikov changed a lot, lost his former determination and energy, was sluggish and passive. Despite the real strength, including the guard, he did not resist. Although he could snatch "the monarch beloved by the people from the clutches of schemers and traitors." His opponents did not have authority in the army and guards. 8 September 1727 Mr. Menshikov was accused of treason, embezzlement of the treasury and, together with the whole family (including Mary), was exiled to the city of Berezov, Tobolsk Territory.
The new favorite of Peter became Prince Ivan Alekseevich Dolgoruky. He was seven years older than the king and the company 19-year-old "who knows the life of" a noble young man, accustomed to the fun of the "high of this world" and surrounded by the same representatives of the "golden youth", did not benefit the education of the king, who already received a bad upbringing . Claudius Rondo, an English resident, reported in his reports to his government that the tsar had no closer than Prince Ivan Dolgoruky, he was "day and night with the tsar, an unchanging participant in all the emperor's adventures, very often ridiculous." The Spanish envoy de Liria noted: "The location of the king to Prince Ivan is such that the king can not be a single minute without him ...".
At the same time, Prince Ivan, in contrast to Menshikov, was an incapable and narrow-minded man. All interests consisted in living through life, kulbe, drinking and women. Dolgoruky deserved quite nasty fame among the husbands of Moscow beauties. Prince M. M. Shcherbatov wrote: “Prince Dolgorukov was young, he loved a dissolute life and all kinds of passions to which younger people are subject, having no reason to curb them, were possessed. Drunkenness, luxury, fornication and violence, a place formerly preceded by the former order. ” A participant in such a life he made and the emperor, finally decomposing the young man. Peter, who loved the hunt and spent most of his time in motion, quickly matured and was precarious, and early in the "male joys".
It should not be thought that the young Tsar Peter was a toy in the hands of Dolgorukov. In fact, Peter was predisposed to an empty life and no one did anything to lead him away from the disastrous path. Mother died after giving birth. Alexey, busy with his own affairs, and then with a sharp conflict with his father, did not pay any attention to the children and was soon executed. Natalia and Peter were orphaned. Peter the Great at first thought that the throne would be taken by his son and was not engaged in raising his grandson, he was somewhere on the outskirts. Only in 1721, the grandchildren were resettled to the royal palace, they were assigned a staff of courtiers and servants. And only in 1726, Peter and Natalia began to be invited to ceremonial receptions so that it would be associated with Menshikov’s attention.
Therefore, when Peter Alekseevich received power, his character was already settled. Having received the full power of Peter immediately showed his temper. The wife of the English resident, Lady Rondo, wrote in December 1729 to her friend in England: “He is very tall and large for her age, ... his features are good, but her look is heavy, and although the emperor is young and handsome, there is nothing attractive or pleasant in her ". The Prussian envoy A. Mardefeld noted the “cruel heart” and the mediocre mind of Peter. "The king," writes the Saxon resident Lefort, "is like his grandfather in that he stands his ground, does not tolerate objections and does what he wants." In another dispatch, he clarified: Peter "put himself in such a way that no one dares to object to him." The same was reported to Vienna by Count Vratislav, the Austrian envoy: “The sovereign knows well that he has complete power and freedom, and does not miss the chance to use this at his own discretion.” The English envoy noted in the character of the king noticeable signs of "temperament gall and cruel."
True, Osterman tried to give a good education to the king. He made a good program. But everything was good only on paper. The Austrian envoy Rabutin, who wrote in 1727, described the system of education of Peter the best: “The education of the king is going badly. Osterman is extremely compliant, trying to gain the trust of his pupil, and this is a strong obstacle to success. Entertainment takes over, hours of teaching are not precisely defined, time passes without benefit, and the Sovereign is becoming more and more used to perversity. ” The young emperor did not like to learn, preferring fun fun and hunting, where he was accompanied by the young Prince Dolgorukov and 17-year-old daughter of Peter I, Elizabeth. Osterman did not dare to contradict the tsar, tried not to irritate the pupil with great exactingness. In addition, Osterman was loaded with state affairs.
The results were sad. Peter spent most of his brief reign on the hunt. “The hunt,” wrote the English resident Claudius Rondo in August 1728, “is the king’s dominant passion (it’s inconvenient to mention some of his other passions).” For example, Peter and his retinue with a pack of six hundred dogs were hunted down by four thousand hares, fifty foxes, five lynxes and three bears for the 1729 fall hunt. If, under Catherine, foreign envoys waited for the “window” in the series of balls and feasts, now they waited for a long time for the king to return from the hunt. According to the calculations of the historian Prince P. V. Dolgorukov, in July - August 1729, the king was on the hunt continuously for 55 days. This is a kind of record - usually the king was hunting 10, 12, 24, 26 for days in a row. Dolgorukov also calculated that in twenty months 1728-1729, Peter spent eight months on the hunt. In winter, only severe frosts and large snowfalls could take Peter to Moscow (the capital was moved from St. Petersburg to Moscow). Foreign diplomats even made a note in which it was noted that “under the present circumstances it is not only harmful, but it is indecent to remain with us for such a long time without any work, without the opportunity to communicate with anyone about business, since E. and most of his ministers go. ”
It is clear that this had a negative effect on the work of the state machine of a huge empire, which, even so, during the feasts of Catherine, worked by inertia. The dignitaries, like the king, did not bother themselves with work. Meetings in higher institutions were held less and less; secondary or worthless issues were discussed. The army, and especially the fleet, declined, corruption and embezzlement flourished. During the regency of Menshikov - he was the autocratic ruler of the country, after his removal, there was an increase in the influence of the Supreme Privy Council, which included mainly representatives of the aristocracy (out of eight seats on the council, five belonged to Dolgorukov and Golitsyn). An important role in the Council was played by Vice Chancellor Osterman. But he, while tugging at the secret threads of politics, clearly did not want to play the role of a master, always kept a low profile.
The former queen Evdokia Fyodorovna, the first wife of Peter the Great, did not enter the circle of people determining the policy of the tsar. Peter II was indifferent to his grandmother. Evdokia received the status of the widow of the Queen with the title "Her Majesty", but the king declined from the influence of his grandmother, as well as all the Lopukhins. Although he returned them their rights and possessions, selected by Peter I in 1718. But the throne Lopukhins not approached. Tsar's elder sister Natalya, who was considered benevolent and sensible, had an influence on her uncontrollable brother, died in the fall of 1728.
Therefore, all the attention of the court and foreign diplomats was focused on the princess Elizabeth. This stir in the high society caused information about the tender friendship of aunt and nephew. Elizabeth, 18-year-old beauty, cheerful girl with ashen hair and bright blue eyes, turned many heads and with that there was no strict morals. She, like the king, loved dancing, movement, hunting, and often accompanied Peter on his campaigns. Interestingly, during the reign of Catherine, Vice Chancellor Osterman proposed to marry Grand Duke Peter Alekseyevich to Crown Prince Yelizaveta Petrovna, the daughter of Catherine I. court ideologues, like Theophanes, were ready to substantiate anything. But then the project was not supported by Catherine.
Dolgoruky scared. Talk began about the need to extradite Elizabeth for some foreign monarch. But anxiety proved premature. Elizabeth did not tear herself to the crown with her nephew, nor did she aspire to political power, their paths soon diverged. Dolgorukie decided to strengthen their position, and took the path of Menshikov. Prince Alexei Grigorievich Dolgoruky - the former Smolensk governor, the president of the Chief Magistrate under Peter I and the father of the royal leader, began to lure the king to himself. Diplomats noted that Prince Alexei "drags his daughters on all excursions with the king." Among the three daughters of Alexei, 17-year-old Ekaterina stood out in particular - “a pretty girl, taller than average, slim, her big eyes looked languidly”. The royal company spent time in dances, a card game, feasts and, of course, on the hunt.
It all ended as Prince Alexei wanted. 19 November 1729, Peter, returning from a hunt, assembled the Council and announced that he would marry Catherine Dolgoruky. 30 November 1729 of the year in the Lefortovo Palace solemnly passed the betrothal of the 14-year-old king and "princess-bride". As a result, Dolgoruky went around another influential clan - the Golitsyn family.
Dolgoruky actively preparing for the wedding. In parallel with the royal wedding, the wedding of Ivan Dolgoruky was being prepared, which “kindled” with love for the richest bride of Russia - Countess Natalia Sheremeteva, daughter of the late Petrovsky field marshal B. P. Sheremetev. Two grand weddings were to crown the triumph of Dolgorukikh.
However, fate decreed otherwise. Presenting together with the bride on the ice of the Moscow River at the traditional 6 Water Blessing Festival of January 1730, Peter caught a bad cold. The next day he became ill, and after three days he showed signs of smallpox. On January 17, the patient suddenly became seriously serious and then hopeless, and on the night from 18 to January 19, the 14-year-old “tsar-hunter” died. The male line of the Romanov dynasty, marching from Mikhail Fedorovich to Alexei Mikhailovich, and then to Peter I, Alexey Petrovich and Peter II, was cut short. And in Russia continued the era of palace coups.