Despite the fact that many serious scientists dispute the role of the case in history, one can not but admit that Catherine I ascended the Russian throne in many ways by accident. She did not last long - just over two years. Nevertheless, even despite such a short period of reign, she remained in history as the first empress.
From the laundress to the Empress
Martha Skavronska, who will soon become known to the world as Empress Catherine 1, was born in the territory of today's Lithuania, on the lands of Livonia, in 1684. There is no exact information about her childhood. In general, the future Catherine 1, whose biography is very ambiguous, and sometimes contradictory, according to one version, was born into a peasant family. Her parents soon died of the plague, and the girl was given to the pastor's house as a servant. According to another version, Marta lived with her aunt from the age of twelve years, and then she was in the family of a local priest, where she was in the service and was taught literacy and needlework. Scientists are still arguing about where the future Catherine was born.
And the origin of the first Russian empress, and the date and place of her birth is still not known by domestic historians. More or less unambiguously, historiography affirmed the version proving that she was the daughter of a Baltic peasant Samuel Skavronsky. In the Catholic faith, the girl was baptized by her parents, giving her the name of Marta. According to some reports, she was brought up in the Marienburg boarding house, under the supervision of pastor Gluck.
The future Catherine I was never a diligent student. But they say that she changed chevaliers with an astonishing frequency. There is even information that Marta, pregnant with a certain nobleman, gave birth to a daughter from him. The pastor managed to marry her, but her husband, who was a Swedish dragoon, soon disappeared without a trace in the years of the Northern War.
After the capture of Marienburg by the Russians, Marta, becoming a "military trophy", was for some time the mistress of the non-commissioned officer, later, in August 1702, was in the train of Field Marshal B. Sheremetev. He took note of her and took to him a portwoman - a washerwoman, after passing it to A. Menshikov. It was here that she caught sight of Peter I.
Biographers of the Russian royal family still wonder how she could capture the king. After all, Martha was not beautiful. Nevertheless, she soon became one of his mistresses.
Peter 1 and Catherine 1
In 1704, Marta, according to Orthodox custom, was baptized under the name of Catherine Alekseevna. By that time she was already pregnant. The future Empress was baptized by Tsarevich Alexei. She could easily adapt to any circumstances, Catherine never lost her presence of spirit. She perfectly studied the nature and habits of Peter, becoming for him necessary and in joy, and in sorrow. In March 1705, they already had two sons. However, the future Catherine I still continued to live in Menshikov's house in St. Petersburg. In 1705 the future Empress was brought to the home of the sister of Tsar Natalia Alexeyevna. Here the illiterate laundress began to learn how to write and read. According to some reports, it is during this period that the future Catherine I ties in fairly close relations with the Menshikovs.
Gradually the relationship with the king became very close. This is evidenced by their correspondence in 1708. Peter had many mistresses. He even discussed them with Catherine, but she did not reproach him in anything, trying to adapt to the tsar's whims and put up with his frequent outbursts of anger. She invariably was near during his attacks of epilepsy, sharing with him all the difficulties of the marching life and imperceptibly turning into the actual wife of the emperor. And although the future Catherine I did not take direct part in solving many political issues, she had a great influence on the tsar.
Since 1709, she always accompanied Peter, including all trips. During the Prut march of 1711, when Russian troops were surrounded, she saved not only her future husband, but also the army, giving the Turkish vizier all her jewels to persuade him to sign a truce.
On his return to the capital, on February 20, 1712, Peter 1 and Catherine 1 were married. Already born by the time of their daughter Anna, who later became the wife of the Duke of Holstein, and Elizabeth - the future Empress, at the age of three and five, at the wedding performed the duties of attendants to the altar of the maid of honor. The marriage took place almost in secret in a small chapel belonging to Prince Menshikov.
Since that time Catherine I has got a court. She began to receive foreign ambassadors and meet with many European monarchs. Being the wife of the tsar-reformer, Catherine the Great - the 1st Russian Empress - was not inferior to her husband in strength of will and endurance. In the time interval from 1704 to 1723 she gave birth to eleven children Peter, however, most of them died in infancy. Such frequent pregnancies did not interfere with her accompanying her husband in his many trips: she could live in a tent and rest on a hard bed, not a drop of grumbling.
In 1713, Peter I, appreciating the worthy conduct of his wife during the unsuccessful for the Russian Prut campaign, established the Order of St. Catherine. He personally placed signs on his wife in November 1714. Originally it was called the Order of Liberation and was intended only for Catherine. About the merits of his wife during the ill-fated Prut campaign, Peter I recalled in his manifesto about the coronation of his wife in November 1723. Foreigners, who watched with great attention everything that happened in the Russian court, unanimously noted the Tsar's attachment to the Empress. And during the Persian campaign of 1722 Catherine even shaved her head and began wearing a grenadier cap. She spent with her husband a review of the troops, leaving directly to the battle site.
On December 23, 1721, the Senate and the Synod Board recognized Catherine as the Russian Empress. Especially for her coronation in May 1724, the crown was ordered, which by its magnificence was superior to the crown of the king himself. On his wife's head this emperor's symbol was laid by Peter himself.
Opinions about the appearance of Catherine, contradictory. If you focus on her male environment, the opinions are generally positive, but women, regarding her biased, considered her small, thick and black. And indeed, the appearance of the Empress did not make a special impression. It was only necessary to look at her to notice her low background. The dresses she wore were of an old-fashioned style, completely lined with silver with sparkles. It always had a belt, which was decorated in front with embroidery of precious stones with an original pattern in the form of a two-headed eagle. The queen was constantly hung with orders, dozens of images and amulets. When she walked, all this wealth rang.
One of their sons - Peter Petrovich, who, after the abdication of the elder heir of the emperor from Evdokia Lopukhina, was considered an official successor to the throne from 1718, died in 1719. Therefore, the tsar-reformer became only in his wife to see his future successor. But in the autumn of 1724 Peter suspected the Empress of treason with the camera-junker Mons. He executed the last one, but stopped talking with his wife: he did not talk at all, and access to it was forbidden. Passion for others dealt a terrible blow to the king: in anger he tore the will, according to which the throne passed to his wife.
And only once, at the insistent request of his daughter Elizabeth, Peter agreed to a dinner with Catherine - a woman who was his inseparable friend and assistant for twenty years. It happened a month before the death of the emperor. In January 1725, he felt sick. Catherine was always at the bedside of a dying monarch. On the night of 28th to 29th Peter died at the hands of his wife.
Ascension to the throne
After the death of the spouse, who did not manage to announce his last will, the "supreme gentlemen" - the members of the Senate, Synod and generals, who had already been in the palace from January 27, began to deal with the issue of succession to the throne. There were two parties among them. One, consisting of the remnants of ancestral aristocracy kept at the very top of government power, was led by a European-educated prince D. Golitsyn. Seeking to limit the autocracy, the latter demanded the elevation of Peter Alekseevich, the young grandson of Peter the Great. I must say that the candidacy of this child was very popular among the whole aristocratic class of Russia, which wanted to find in the offspring of the unfortunate prince who could restore their past privileges.
The second party was on the side of Catherine. The split was inevitable. With the help of his old friend Menshikov, and also Buturlin and Yaguzhinsky, relying on the guard, she ascended to the throne as Catherine, 1 whose reign was nothing special for Russia. They were short-lived. By agreement with Menshikov, Catherine did not interfere in state affairs; moreover, on February 8, 1726, she transferred control of Russia to the Supreme Privy Council.
Policy inside the country
The state activity of Catherine I was limited to the majority only by signing papers. Although it must be said that the Empress was interested in the affairs of the Russian fleet. On her behalf, the country was in fact governed by a secret council - an organ created shortly before her ascension to the throne. It included A. Menshikov, G. Golovkin, F. Apraksin, D. Golitsyn, P. Tolstoy and A. Osterman.
The reign of Catherine 1 began with the fact that taxes and pardons were reduced and many prisoners and exiles were pardoned. The first was due to higher prices and fear of causing discontent among the people. Some of Catherine's reforms 1 abolished the old ones adopted by Peter I. For example, the role of the Senate was substantially reduced and the local bodies that replaced the governor were abolished, a Commission was formed, which included the generals and flagships. According to the content of this reform of Catherine 1, they were the ones who had to take care of the improvement of the Russian troops.
And if the internal policy of Catherine 1 retreated from the course of Peter's times, then in international affairs everything went along the same path, as Russia supported the claims of Duke Karl Friedrich, son-in-law of the Empress and father Peter III, to Schleswig. Denmark and Austria deteriorated relations with her. In 1726, the country adjoins the Vienna Union. In addition, Russia acquires exceptional influence in Courland and tried to send Menshikova there as the ruler of the duchy, but the local residents resisted. At the same time, Catherine's foreign policy 1 has borne fruit. Russia, having achieved concessions from Persia and Turkey in the Caucasus, was able to take over the Shirvan region.
The political image
From the first steps of her reign, Catherine's internal policy was aimed at showing everyone that the throne was in safe hands, and that the country was on the path chosen by the Great Reformer. In the Supreme Privy Council there was a constant struggle for power. But the people loved the Empress. And this despite the fact that the internal policy of Catherine 1 was not marked by some special benefits for ordinary people.
In front of her constantly crowded people with various requests. She accepted them, gave alms, and for many even became a goddess. During the reign of the second wife of Peter the Great, the organization of the Academy of Sciences was completed. In addition, the Empress equipped the expedition of Bering to Kamchatka.
The first Russian Empress died in May 1727. Her heir appointed the young Peter 2 - grandson, and the regent - Menshikov. However, the sharp struggle for power continued. After the reign of Catherine I, according to historians, gave rise to a long period of Russian palace coups.