Catherine Curzon is celebratin’ her US Release of Life in the Georgian Court and sharing a post about Emperor Peter II of Russia! Huzzah!!! Let’s all give her a hearty welcome, eh? 😉
Whilst writing life in the Georgian Court, I came across some twists that fiction writers might shy away from as that little bit too mawkish, and killing someone off on their wedding day is certainly one of those. Add to that the fact that the deceased would-be groom was all of fourteen years old and the stage is set for a story that is too grim to be true.
Emperor Peter II of Russia was a young man who packed a lot into his short life. The son of the exiled late Tsarevich Alexei and Princess Charlotte Christine of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Peter’s royal pedigree was cemented by the small matter that his grandfather was none other than the legendary Peter the Great. The young man had ruled Russia since the age of twelve yet it was not a responsibility he particularly relished, his childhood consumed by the duties of state with barely a moment for him to gather himself for the challenges that might one day lay ahead.
To make matters worse, Peter was not looking forward to his imminent wedding to Ekaterina Dolgorukova and nor was the eighteen year old bride particularly thrilled about the proposed match, in which neither bride nor groom had been allowed any say. However, an emperor needs an empress and with all arrangements set in place, the wedding was scheduled for January 1730. It is, of course, strange for a modern royal-watcher to imagine these marriages commissioned and carried out in childhood but such was the lot of the eighteenth century power brokers!
As 1729 drew to a freezing close, Peter was already in poor health, suffering from a severe and debilitating cold. He had been well-schooled in his responsibilities though and, with his sense of duty outweighing all else, continued to honour his formal engagements. When the new year dawned with a traditional Epiphany Day feast on the bitterly cold banks of the River Moscow, Peter was in attendance, shivering in the plummeting temperatures. It was during this engagement that the sickly young man’s fragile condition deteriorated and as he slipped into a delirium, he was rushed back to Lefortovo Palace to be assessed by the royal physicians.
And we all know what good that did some of his contemporaries…
After an examination the doctors gravely declared that the teenage ruler was infected with the dreaded, often deadly smallpox and that time was short, with no hope of recovery. Barely coherent, Peter expressed a wish to see his late sister, who had died two years earlier and feverishly called for his sledge. Just minutes later as dawn broke over Moscow, Peter II died and with him, the direct male line of the Romanov dynasty reached its end.
Catherine Curzon is a royal historian and blogs on all matters 18th century at A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life.
Her work has featured by publications including BBC History Extra, All About History, History of Royals, Explore History and Jane Austen’s Regency World. She has also provided additional material for the sell-out theatrical show, An Evening with Jane Austen, will she will introduce at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, in September (tickets are available here).
Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.
As the glittering Hanoverian court gives birth to the British Georgian era, a golden age of royalty dawns in Europe. Houses rise and fall, births, marriages and scandals change the course of history and in France, Revolution stalks the land.
Peep behind the shutters of the opulent court of the doomed Bourbons, the absolutist powerhouse of Romanov Russia and the epoch-defining family whose kings gave their name to the era, the House of Hanover.
Behind the pomp and ceremony were men and women born into worlds of immense privilege, yet beneath the powdered wigs and robes of state were real people living lives of romance, tragedy, intrigue and eccentricity. Take a journey into the private lives of very public figures and learn of arranged marriages that turned to love or hate and scandals that rocked polite society.
Here the former wife of a king spends three decades in lonely captivity, Prinny makes scandalous eyes at the toast of the London stage and Marie Antoinette begins her last, terrible journey through Paris as her son sits alone in a forgotten prison cell.
Life in the Georgian Court is a privileged peek into the glamorous, tragic and iconic courts of the Georgian world, where even a king could take nothing for granted.
And all good bookshops!
Ansimov, Evgeni V. Five Empresses: court life in eighteenth-century Russia. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2004.
Julicher, Peter. Renegades, Rebels and Rogues Under the Tsars. Jefferson: McFarland & Co, 2003.
Kiste, John van der. The Romanovs. Stroud: The History Press, 2013.
Sebag Montefiore, Simon. The Romanovs 1613-1918. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2016.
****Treasure Alert**** Lady Catherine is giving away one ecopy of Life in the Georgian Court (when it becomes available in ebook format) to one lucky commenter! (Winner chosen on Saturday, Sept. 3rd)