The Fascinating Life Of Anna Petrovna

Anna Petrovna, or rather, Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna of Russia was the oldest daughter of Peter I of Russia. In fact, she was one of three of the fourteen children of Peter I of Russia, to survive childhood. Remember, back then in the 1700s, life expectancies were much lower, and conditions were extremely poorer than they are now.

As a result of political reasons and other trivial matters, Anna Petrovna never actually ascended to the throne. Her son, however, Peter III of Russia, would rule over Russia, although his reign was, shall we say, controversial to say the very least.

Anna Petrovna led a fascinating life, which is why historians still talk about her to this day. But who was the real Anna Petrovna and what was it about her life that made it so interesting? Read on to find out.

The Early Life Of Anna Petrovna

Anna Petrovna was the daughter of Emperor Peter I of Russia and Catherine I of Russia. She, along with her sister Elizabeth, was born out of wedlock. Though no official records exist, it is widely accepted that her parents did marry in 1712.

Anna Petrovna was born on the 27th of January, 1708. What’s especially interesting is the fact that, despite both she and her sister Elizabeth being born out of wedlock and technically being illegitimate, the pair of them were still officially awarded the title of princess.

The Fascinating Life Of Anna Petrovna
Anna with her sister, Grand Duchess Elizabeth | Image: Wikimedia

In order to gain more control over Europe and more allies, Peter intended to marry his daughters off to European princes. Because of this, he wanted his girls to be as attractive and appealing as possible, so they were both highly educated. They would learn literature, embroidery, writing, dancing, and etiquette.

The education paid off as Anna developed into a polite, intelligent, and learned young woman who had mastered four foreign languages (German, Swedish, Italian, and French).

Anna Petrovna was considered a beautiful and kind-hearted young woman who had a striking resemblance to her father. Despite her natural beauty, Anna Petrovna was said to be a shy and timid young girl, especially compared to her sister, who was loud and full of confidence.

Finding a Husband

As was the way back then, Anna’s parent’s main priority was to have her married, and ideally, married to a European prince.

In 1721, Karl Friedrich sailed to Russia in the hopes of marrying one of Peter’s daughters and gaining back Schleswig from the Danes. Peter declined to help Karl against the Danes, but he did grant him permission to marry his daughter.

The Fascinating Life Of Anna Petrovna
Prince Carl Frederick of Sweden | Image: Wikimedia

In November 1724, a marriage contract was drawn up between Anna Petrovna and Karl. In the contract, it was stated that Anna Petrovna would retain her Russian Orthodox religion and that if the pair had daughters, they too would be raised as Russian Orthodox. Any sons would be raised in the religion of their father, which was Lutheran.

The couple would also renounce any claim to the Russian throne for themselves and any of their descendants. Now, you may be wondering then, how Anna’s son, Peter III became Emperor. Well, very simply put, Anna’s father inserted a secret clause that reserved the right to proclaim any son from their marriage as heir to the Russian crown.

Before that, however, Peter I had proclaimed a succession decree, stating that during their lifetime, any reigning Emperor could appoint anybody they wished as heir to the throne. He died two months after Anna married Karl, without naming an heir.

On his deathbed, he is said to have sent for Anna, with many believing he was going to name her heir to the throne. Before he could, however, he is said to have died.

Life in Kiel

Catherine, I became Empress of Russia of ruled for two years.

The Fascinating Life Of Anna Petrovna
Peter I; Catherine I; Alexei, Tsarevich of Russia; Anna behind her sister Elizabeth and Peter Petrovich (1715 – 1719) | Image: Wikimedia

Catherine granted her new son-in-law a position of power on the Supreme Privy Council, and the Supreme Secret Council, where he is said to have had a great deal of influence over the Russian Empire.

After Catherine died in 1727, his position was in peril as power shifted to his rival, Alexander Menshikov. Duke Karl and Alexander battled politically, and Duke Karl was forced to withdraw to Kiel, Holstein.

Anna and her husband relocated to Kiel, and the Duke, who was once a pleasant and merry soul, became a rude, obnoxious drunk who spent much of his time inebriated with his degenerate friends and in the company of other women.

Anna was now pregnant and alone, married to a cheater and a drunk. It is said that she spent much of her time writing emotional letters to her sister Elizabeth, often mentioning how much she missed her.

A New Life and Death

On the 21st of February 1728, Anna would give birth in Kiel Castle, to a son named Carl Peter Ulrich. Her son would go on to be known as Peter III of Russia.

The Fascinating Life Of Anna Petrovna
Portrait Painting by Ivan Adolsky | Image: Wikimedia

A couple of days after giving birth, the young duchess, who was just 20 at the time, developed a postpartum infection known as puerperal fever. The infection proved to be too much for her young and frail body to handle, and she passed away a few days later on the 4th of March, 1728.

Karl Friedrich in memory of his wife founded the Order of St Anna. This would go on to become a Russian decoration.

Before she had died, Anna had requested to be buried alongside her father back in St Petersburg. Her body was picked up from Kiel and transported back to Russia. She was subsequently laid to rest on the 12th of November 1728 in the then unfished St Peter and St Paul Cathedral.

* Header Image: Wikimedia

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