Catherine I and Adoption

Portrait of Catherine I by Jean-Marc Nattier



Also known as Marta Skavronskaya and EkaterinaAlexeevna

Empress of Russia, 1725-27

Marta Skavronskaya was born a peasant in what is now Latvia, orphaned when three years old and fostered by a Lutheran pastor named Glück. In 1702 she was taken prisoner during a war with Russia and sold to Prince Menshikov, an advisor to Czar Peter the Great. She became Peter's mistress in 1703, became his trusted advisor, and married him in 1712. She was crowned empress-consort in 1724 and when Peter died without leaving a son, she was proclaimed the first empress of Russia under the name Catherine I.

(Peter's son Alexis by his first wife had already died. His grandson's claims were brushed aside, but he later became Czar Peter III.) In spite of being completely illiterate, Catherine I was a shrewd and sensible empress, although her short reign did not result in many important achievements.


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