The Life And Death Of Paul I of Russia

We take a closer look at the life and death of Paul I of Russia, the only son of Catherine The Great and Emperor Peter III.

As far as royalty goes, it’s probably safe to say that some countries tend to grab most of the attention and steal the limelight, as it were.

France and the UK for example, have an incredibly interesting past when it comes to royalty, but so too do many other countries that aren’t always featured in novels and dramatizations on TV or in movies.

Russia for example has an incredibly interesting line of nobility that stretches back many centuries.

Today we’re going to be looking at Paul I of Russia.

Paul I of Russia

Emperor Paul I of Russia had a relatively short ruling period over the country, as he ruled over Russia for just five years, from 1796 to 1801.

Paul was the only son of Empress Catherine II The Great, and Emperor Peter III.

As is often the case when you’re born into nobility, vicious rumours began to spread that Paul was not actually the son of Peter at all, but rather, was the son of Russian officer Sergei Saltykov as he and Catherine were close.

It should be noted, that there was no evidence ever presented to back up these claims and they were likely just vicious rumours.

A Strained Relationship

After his birth, Paul was whisked away from his mother by his aunt Empress Elizabeth, who actually chose him as successor to the throne and overlooked her own sister Catherine.

When Elizabeth died, Peter III ruled for a short period before Catherine succeeded him.

Because of the fact he had been raised by his aunt, his mother Catherine actually overlooked Paul and wanted her grandson Alexander. Before official proceedings could begin, Catherine passed away suddenly and was succeeded by Paul.

Paul was the exact opposite of his mother and wanted peace for Russia. Despite this, his attempts at being a diplomat failed and he found himself at odds with both the French and the British.

A Military Man

Paul, despite wanting peace, was ironically hot-tempered and spent much of his time with his soldiers on exercises outside of St Petersburg.

Paul wanted to build his army and in his opinion, the army itself had weakened under his mother’s rule and so military reform became his primary goal.

Paul even handed over the palace of his mother’s favourite Gregory Pometkin, to a cavalry regiment in the military, to be used as a barracks.

Catherine had given nobility in Russia a lot of leeways, but Paul did away with all of that, as in his opinion, nobility should serve both the state and the monarchy. Needless to say, this ticked off his generals and those in power, and they conspired against him.

Paul I of Russia
Portrait of Paul I by Vladimir Borovikovsky. | Image: Vladimir Borovikovsky, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


In 1801, Paul I of Russia was murdered thanks to his own advisors who had conspired against him to remove him from power.

His bedroom was stormed by a group of military men with swords, who proceeded to murder him and bring to an end his 5 years in charge.

He was buried in the cathedral of the Peter and Paul Fortress.