Russian Monarch. On the eve of March 23, 1801, a group who had supported Catherine II the Great burst into the bedroom of Alexander's father, Czar Paul I, to force him to sign his own abdication. That was the plan, but Paul refused, became agitated with them, and one of the men hit Paul with a sword; he fell to the floor and died shortly afterward. At the age of 25 years, Alexander Pavlovich, the next heir in Romanov Dynasty, was waiting elsewhere in the palace knowing he would soon be the Russian czar. Many believe that Alexander did not order his father's murder and it was merely a plot gone wrong, but the truth remains a mystery. His own mother refused to speak to him for many months afterward, as she never entirely forgave him for any complicity in his father's murder. Alexander was Paul's first-born son with his second wife Maria Feodorovna Von Württemberg. Unlike his father, he was a tall blond with blue eyes and grew into a very handsome man with a pleasing personality. Like his father, his grandmother took Alexander in his early childhood to be prepared for the position of being a Russian Czar. He was a beautiful healthy baby, the hope of Russia and Catherine II the Great loved him. Her plans were to give him a European education, so he was taught by liberal and modern teachers from Switzerland and given the best of military training. He was an excellent student. There was great animosity between his grandmother and father, yet Alexander learned to keep everyone happy by playing politics within his own family at an early age. At the age of seventeen, Alexander married the lovely fourteen year old Princess Maria Louisa of Baden whose Russian Orthodox name was Elizabeth Feodorovna. It was an arranged political marriage. Catherine the Great gave Alexander and his bride the Alexander Palace, once again showing her preference for his grandson over her son, Paul, by granting Alexander a larger court than his father's. The couple had two daughters who both died very young. After becoming Czar of Russia, Alexander attempted to rule as a European, but that did not work with the older ministers of court, so in time, he became the same type of leader as his forefathers. He did reform the conditions of the serfs, who his father had ordered to work from sunrise to sundown every day. (Russia was the only remaining European country that had serfs, which was similar in relationship as slaves to the master). Though he sincerely tried, he could not resolve this system, which had been a part of Russian society for over 300 years. He suppressed the secret police and lifted the ban on foreign travel and books, which his father had established. The Russian education system was improving with the increase of high schools from a mere 200 to 20,000 and universities teaching about world events. Outside of the borders of Russia, Alexander's main concern was the self-appointed French Emperor Napoleon I, who had came to power while Paul was still czar. At first Alexander opposed Napoleon until his military lost two major battles, then he became the Emperor's ally, but only on paper. He built his armies and prepared for war with the French on Russian soil. During this time, Russia gained Georgia and several other small states, becoming one of the highest populated countries in the world. In June 1812, relationships with French deteriorated and Napoleon invaded Russia with an army of 600,000 men. As Moscow burned, Alexander's armies fought and pushed the French during a freezing Russian winter into the wastelands without food or shelter. Having driven the French from Russia, Alexander now began a campaign to destroy Napoleon. His campaigns in Germany and France in 1813 and 1814 resembled a crusade as he pushed on until Napoleon finally abdicated. Czar Alexander I of Russia became "the man who defeated Napoleon." He arrived in Paris in full-dress uniform on a white stallion, and remained until the French monarch was restored. Besides being the Russian Czar, he became the King of Poland after post-war borderlines were established. After the war in 1815, Alexander became much more conservative in his thinking, and along the Emperor of Austria and the king of Prussia supported the Holy Alliance, an agreement to uphold Christian principles in their governmental dealings. He sincerely believed that the war was evil against good. He was depressed about his beloved country being ravaged and thousands of his subjects being killed during the battles. It was during this time that the Czar became religious, looking for the "truth" outside of the tradition Russian Orthodox Church. At times he would pray over and bless his armies, hence the name of "Alexander, the Blessed" was given to him. He was so respected by European monarchs that he was asked in 1819 to be the godfather of Alexandria Victoria, who later was Queen Victoria of England. Near the end of his reign he left his Polish mistress of 13 years, Maria Naryshkina, and returned to his wife, Elizabeth. He was a troubled and broken man who openly mourned the death of his daughters, the two with his wife and the one with Maria. He had a total of nine children but no legal heir to the Russian throne. He was also saddened when his brother Constantine, who was next in line to become Czar, married a Polish lady and made Poland his homeland, renouncing any right to the Russian throne. This meant the third son of Paul I, Nicholas, would be the line for the next Czar. Alexander had rekindled grief over his father's death and hurting his mother. In the fall of 1825, he and Elizabeth with a few servants traveled to the south Russian town of Taganrog, as his wife had been sick, weak, and rapidly declining. It was there on November 19, 1825, Alexander died. Some historian document that the cause of death was pneumonia or another fever, while other claim it was suicide. His body was returned to Petersburg and interment at St. Peter and Paul Cathedral. Within months, his widow, Elizabeth, died May 26, 1826. Later, there was the rumor that Alexander did not die but became a monk named Kuzmich, traveling around the country doing charity work. This story was fanned when the Russian government opened his coffin a hundred years later in 1925 to find it empty.
Bio by: Linda Davis
Elizabeth Alexeyevna Romanov