Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna of Russia

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Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna
Duchess of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp Tsesarevna (Crown Princess) of Russia
Anna Petrovna of Russia by L.Caravaque (1725, Tretyakov gallery).jpg
Portrait by Ivan Nikitin
Born (1708-01-27)27 January 1708
Moscow, Empire of All the Russias
Died 4 March 1728(1728-03-04) (aged 20)
Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
Burial Peter and Paul Cathedral, Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation
Spouse Charles Frederick, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp
Issue Peter III of Russia
House Romanov
Father Peter I of Russia
Mother Catherine I of Russia

Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna of Russia, Tsesarevna of Russia ( Anna Petrovna Romanova Russian: Анна Петровна; 27 January 1708, in Moscow – 4 March 1728, in Kiel) was the elder daughter of Emperor Peter I of Russia and Empress Catherine I of Russia. Her sister, Elizabeth of Russia, ruled as Empress between 1741 and 1762. While a potential heir in the reign of her father and her mother, she never accede to the throne due to political reasons. However, her son Peter would rule as Emperor in 1762, succeeding Elizabeth. She was the Duchess of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp by marriage.


Anna was born out of wedlock, although her parents were married in 1712. Her illegitimacy would latter pose great challenges for her marriage.

Anna grew up in the houses of Peter’s younger sister Natalia and Prince Alexander Menshikov. Although born illegitimate, she and her younger sister Elizabeth were awarded the titles of “princess” (tsarevna) on 6 March 1711 and “crown princess” (tsesarevna) on 23 December 1721.

Peter planned to marry his daughters to foreign princes in order to gain European allies for the Russian Empire. The two girls were educated with this aim in mind, learning literature, writing, embroidery, dancing and etiquette. Anna developed into an intelligent, well-read girl who spoke four foreign languages – French, German, Italian and Swedish.

Anna’s modesty and shyness were evident at an early age. One witness describes the amusing hitch that once occurred during the traditional exchanging of Easter kisses. When the duke of Holstein-Gottorp tried to kiss the fourteen-year-old Anna, she turned bright red in embarrassment, while her younger sister “immediately stuck out her little pink mouth for a kiss.”

Foreign visitors to the Russian court were struck by the uncommon beauty of the Anna. The dark-eyed Anna looked more like her father and was considered more level-headed and intelligent than her younger sister, the fair-haired Elizabeth. A contemporary described Anna: “She was a beautiful soul in a beautiful body ... both in appearance and in manners, she was [her father’s] complete likeness, particularly in her character and mind ... set off by her kind heart.”

On 17 March 1721, Karl Friedrich arrived in Imperial Russia to get acquainted with his future wife and father-in-law. He aspired to use the marriage in order to ensure Russia's support for his plans of retrieving Schleswig from Denmark. He also entertained hopes of being backed up by Russia in his claims to the Swedish throne. Under the terms of the Treaty of Nystad Russia promised not to interfere in the internal affairs of Sweden, so his hopes proved ill-founded.

Another possible candidate as a husband was a grandson of Louis XIV of France and Madame de Montespan, Louis Duke of Orleans - the son of the Regent of France for the infant Louis XV of France. The marriage proposal was ignored due to a difference in style of address. Anna was addressed as Her Imperial Highness and Louis was as His Serene Highness.[citation needed]

As a favorite child of Peter the Great Anna's name day (3 February) was taken to be a national holiday in 1724.[1]


On 22 November 1724, the marriage contract was signed between Karl Friedrich and Peter. By this contract, Anna and Karl Friedrich renounced all rights and claims to the crown of the Russian Empire on behalf of themselves and their descendants. However a secret clause allow the Emperor to name a successor out of any sons from the marriage. As a result of this clause, the Emperor secured the right to name any of his descendants as his successor on the Russian throne, while the Duke undertook to execute the imperial will without any preconditions. This is done after he found out that his anointed co-ruler and heir Catherine had been unfaithful to him with his former lover Anna Mons' brother Willem Mons in the same year.

A few months thereafter, by January 1725, Peter the Great fell mortally ill. As the story goes, on his deathbed he managed to spell the words: to give all..., but could not continue further and sent for Anna to dictate his last will to her. By the time the princess arrived, the Emperor could not pronounce a single word. Based on the story, some historians speculated that Peter's wish was to leave the throne to Anna, but this is not confirmed.

Catherine I

After the accession of her mother Catherine I. A grand wedding is held for her in the Trinity Cathedral, St Petersburg on 21 May 1725. The wedding party would crossed the River Neva to the Summer Garden, where Mikhail Zemtsov had designed a special banqueting hall for the occasion.

The tables were set with all sorts of delicacies, including enormous pies. When the orchestra began to play, male and female dwarves jumped out of the pies and began to dance on the tables. Each toast was accompanied by cannon fire from a nearby yacht and the guards regiments positioned on Tsaritsa Meadow. The following day, everyone was invited to Peterhof, where the banqueting and dancing continued in the Upper Palace.

Carl Friedrich and Anna spent the next two years in St Petersburg.

Catherine I made her son-in-law a lieutenant colonel of the Preobrazhensky Regiment and a member of the Supreme Privy Council. He began to play an important role in the life of the Russian Empire and foreign diplomats predicted that the empress would name Anna as her successor.

The Duke was admitted into the newly established Supreme Secret Council and exerted a moderate influence on Russian politics. Catherine I's death in 1727 made his position precarious, as the power shifted to the hands of Alexander Menshikov, who aspired to marry the young emperor, Peter II, to his own daughter, Maria Menshikov. A quarrel between the Duke and Menshikov resulted in the former's withdrawing to Holstein on 25 July 1727.

Before her departure for Holstein, Anna was asked to sign a receipt for all the money awarded to her as her dowry. For a long time, the document was not accepted by the government, because it gave the old title of Peter’s daughter – Tsesarevna (crown princess of Russia). Now, she was neither Russian nor a crown princess.


On 25 July 1727, Anna and her husband left St Petersburg for Kiel. When they arrived in the capital of Holstein, the duke underwent an instant personality change. Merry and gallant in St Petersburg, he was now a rude, drunken boor. He spent his time in the rowdy company of friends and other women, leaving his wife, now pregnant, entirely on her own.

In Kiel, she would spend her days writing long, tearful letters to her sister Elizabeth. Semyon Mordvinov, a lieutenant in the Russian navy, remembers Anna crying bitterly when she gave him her mail to take back to Russia. In one such letter to Elizabeth, she writes: “Not a day passes without my weeping for you, my dear sister!”

On 21 February 1728, Anna gave birth to a son called Carl Peter Ulrich, the future Peter III. A few days later, the twenty-year-old duchess caught puerperal fever and died on 4 March 1728. In memory of his wife, Carl Friedrich founded the Order of St Anne, which subsequently became a Russian decoration.

Before her death, Anna Petrovna had asked to be buried alongside her father in St Petersburg. Two ships, the Raphael and the Cruiser, were dispatched to Kiel for Anna’s body. The coffin was transported up the River Neva on a galley, with long black crape hanging overboard, trailing in the water. On 12 November 1728, Anna was laid to rest next to her parents in the still unfinished St Peter and St Paul Cathedral.

It was here that Anna died on 4 March 1728, within several days of giving birth to Peter, the future Emperor of Russia and progenitor of all the 19th-century Romanovs. She had barely turned 20 years old. Before her death, Anna asked to be buried in Russia, near the tombs of her parents in the Peter and Paul Cathedral. Her last will was executed on 12 November the same year.

According to contemporaries, Anna strikingly resembled her famous father with her brown hair. She was clever and beautiful, well-educated, was fluent in French, German, Italian and Swedish. It is also known that Anna was devoted to children and took care of her nephew, Pyotr Alekseevich, when he was neglected during the reign of Catherine I.


Through her marriage with the Duke Karl Friedrich, she had one son

  • Peter Feodorovich of Holstein-Gottorp (21 February 1728 – 17 July 1762)
    • In 1739, Peter's father died, and he became Duke of Holstein-Gottorp as Karl Peter Ulrich. He could thus be considered the heir to both thrones (Russia and Sweden);
    • Ruled over the Russian Empire as Peter III, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias and was the husband of Catherine the Great of Russia
    • Through him Anna become ancestress to all rulers of Russia after Catherine II


  • The Order of St. Anna (or "Order of Saint Ann"; Russian: Орден святой Анны) was a Holstein and then Russian order of chivalry established by Anna's Husband on 14 February 1735, in honour of Anna. The motto of the Order was "Amantibus Justitiam, Pietatem, Fidem" ("To those who love justice, piety, and fidelity"). Its festival day was 3 February.
  • Through her son she is an ancestor of Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia - a pretender to the throne of Russia via his mother Maria Vladimirovna, Grand Duchess of Russia; and also of Nicholas Romanov, Prince of Russia.



See also


  1. Anisimov, Evgeniĭ Viktorovich (1993). The Reforms of Peter the Great: Progress Through Coercion in Russia. M.E. Sharpe. p. 209. ISBN 9781563240478.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Preceded by
Hedvig Sophia of Sweden
Duchess Consort of Holstein-Gottorp
Succeeded by
Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst