Elizaveta Petrovna

Tsarina of Russia

FAMILY

Daughter of Peter I and Catherine I, grand princess and crown princess from 1709 to 1741, Elizabeth (Elizaveta Petrovna) was the second of ten offspring to reach maturity. Elizabeth grew up with nine siblings including: Alexi Petrovich, Pavel, Alexander, Anna, Natalia, Margarita, Peter, Pavel and Natalia. She was particularly close and grew up carefree with her sister Anna (1708–1728). Doted on by both parents, the girls received training in European languages, social skills, and Russian traditions of singing, religious instruction, and dancing. Anna married Duke Karl Friedrich of Holstein-Gottorp in 1727 and died in Holstein giving birth to Karl Peter Ulrich (the future Peter III). Elizabeth never married officially or traveled abroad, her illegitimate birth obstructing royal matches.

She was born at Kolomenskoe near Moscow on 18 December 1709.

ELIZAVETA PETROVNA'S LEGACY

  • Abolished capital punishment- in all twenty years and thirty days of her rule, not a single person was executed.
  • Opened Moscow University in 1755, the first public theatre in 1756 and the Imperial Academy of Arts in 1757.
  • Continued Peter the Great's policies in modernising Russia.
  • Enhanced the importance of the Senate.
  • Established Russian loan banks for the merchant class.
  • She also reduced the term of state service for the nobility and endowed them with lands and peasants that had been taken from the Germans.
  • Numerous schools and academies also sprang up across the country, and Elizabeth made education freely available to all social classes (except for serfs).
  • She donated large sums of money to the church and set the price of bibles at five rubles.
  • In 1743, she attained a historic victory for diplomacy by negotiating an end to the long-standing land dispute between Russia and Sweden.
  • She was also chiefly responsible for maintaining the alliance between Russia, Austria, and France, against Prussia during the Seven Years' War.

INTERESTING FACTS

  • During Petrovna's coronation in Dormition Cathedral, Moscow, she took the crown from the ornate stand and placed it upon her head herself.
  • Elizaveta had many lovers but she did fall in love with Prince Carl August of Holstein-Gottorp but he died of smallpox.
  • Elizabeth had no political ambitions of her own and disliked the day-to-day business of governing.
  • She sided against Prussia in the Seven Years War out of her personal dislike of Frederick the Great.
  • Elizabeth Petrovna left the running of the state to her trusted confidantes. Such Russian statesmen as Mikhail and Roman Vorontsov, Pyotr and Ivan Shuvalov and Alexei Bestuzhev-Ryumin.
  • She issued special decrees governing the styles of the dresses and decorations worn by courtiers.
  • No one was allowed to have the same hairstyle as the empress.
  • Elizabeth owned fifteen thousand ball-gowns, several thousand pairs of shoes and an unlimited number of silk stockings.
  • Although Petrovna named Prince Carl Peter Ulrich heir of her throne, aunt and nephew hated each other.
  • Once Prince Peter gained the throne, he returned all the territories that Petrovna conquered to their respective countries.
  • Eventually when the Tsarina grew old and near her death-bed, "death" was a forbidden word to say.
  • Losing her beauty, the empress cancelled balls and masquerade parties as she was too insecure to show herself to the public.
  • Dying at age 52, she interrupted the Romanov line as she was the last pure-blood Russian Romanov.