Peter III (1761-1762)


Elizabeth’s nephew, the son of princes Anna (Peter the Great’s daughter) and Duke Charles Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp, Peter III was born on February 10, 1728 in Kila, christened Karl Peter Ulrich and lived in Holstein until the age of 14, when he was proclaimed an official heir to the Russian throne. As soon as Elizabeth was established to the throne, she summoned her nephew – a short, puny boy of sallow complexion and weak constitution – to Russia and affianced him to Sophia Augusta Frederica of Anhalt-Zerbst, who came to Petersburg from Germany in 1744 and went through the Russian Orthodox baptism to be named Catherine. The couple was wedded at the cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan on August 21, 1745, and when Peter III ascended the Russian throne in 1762, the Emperor, Catherine and their five-year old son Paul settled in the recently built Winter Palace. Peter’s short reign was marked by various reforms, including the prohibition of dissenters’ persecution, dissolution of the Privy Council, release of the gentry from compulsory state service; he also returned from exile the state figures arrested by Elizabeth after her accession. Although at the beginning Peter III and his wife were on friendly terms, by 1762 their relationship had long since been in name only, besides during the six months of his reign, Peter managed to offend and outrage the entire court, so now wonder that in the long run Catherine and her allies in the Imperial Guard deposed the tsar. He was imprisoned in Ropshinskiy Castle, where on July 7, 1762, he was killed by Count Alexei Orlov, Catherine's favourite and one of the organizers of the coup, and his wife took the throne as Catherine II. Peter III was buried in the Annunciation Church of the Alexander Nevsky Monastery but in December 1796, by order of his son Paul I, his remains were reburied with full honors in the Cathedral of the Peter-and-Paul Fortress.

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