Empress Elizabeth of Russia Haiku

“Less executions,

More totally sick parties.”

Enlightened policy.

Today on Crossdresser Week, we return to Russia, where interesting shit happened all the time. But we’re turning the clock back a couple centuries to focus on Elizabeth Petrovna, Empress of Russia and daughter of Peter the Great and Catherine I.

Elizabeth was born in 1709, one of the twelve children born to the couple (albeit before they were ‘officially’ married in 1712). Unfortunately, only she and her older sister Anna reached adulthood. Peter liked the girls a lot better than his son Alexei, but he was kind of, how shall we say, ‘inattentive’ regarding their education. (Reasons being: a) they were girls and girls hadn’t ever ruled Russia at that point, b) he had every expectation of getting some strapping sons by Catherine, c) he didn’t foresee Alexei’s death, which he caused BTW, nor that Alexei’s son would live to rule for a hot minute.) You’d have thought he’d learn from his own regrets over never having a formal education himself, but eh. This is Peter we’re talking about, Russian history’s #1 eccentric.

But she was good at languages, had charm to spare, was super pretty, and used the strong physique she inherited from her pops to hunt, dance, skate, garden, and generally have fun. Peter tried to get her and Anna hitched to top-tier European royalty, like Louis XV, but his schemes kept falling through due to their mother’s extremely common origins (washerwoman) and their questionable legitimacy. He finally managed to get the two engaged to cousin German princes. But Peter died died in 1725, just before Anna’s wedding took place. Then Anna’s husband turned out to be actually terrible, with Elizabeth powerless to do anything about it except write comforting letters. Then, in 1727, her own fiancé and her mom (then empress) died within two weeks of each other. THEN poor Anna died post-childbirth in 1728. Holy fuck, was this a shitty time for Elizabeth. Lucky her, the shit times continued!

First, came the rule of her half-nephew, Peter II. He died after three years. Not that bad a time, except less than zero royal men became interested in her as a wifely prospect. Fine.

Then came her cousin Anna Ivanova’s reign, and hoo boy.

Empress Anna was not pretty. Anna did not take this well. Anna compensated for her looks by being an enormously cruel asshole. We’re talking ‘force an out-of-favor prince get married to an elderly maid in an ice palace and force them to spend the wedding night there in the dead of a goddamned Russian winter’ cruel. Elizabeth was beautiful, a fact cheerfully if undiplomatically pointed out by a Chinese minister to Anne’s query.

When Elizabeth started up an affair with a fit sergeant, Anna responded by cutting off his tongue and shipping him to Siberia. (I am not the prettiest person in the world, so I can tell you that this is not the appropriate way to deal with body issues.) Eventually, Elizabeth did manage to find, fall in love with, purchase, and secretly marry a kindly, fine-looking serf with a sick singing voice, but she knew enough by then to keep it on the DL while her jerk cousin was alive.

But Anna, while a dick, wasn’t immortal. She died in 1740, leaving Russia to her great nephew Ivan VI, with her niece Anna Leopoldovna as regent. This Anna soon proved to be in way over her head and she and her son were promptly deposed when the friendly relations Elizabeth fostered with the guards regiments paid off big time.

Bam. Empress Elizabeth. After crowning herself (suck it, Napoleon, she did that way before you), she promptly pursued a ‘screw the Germans’ policy, decided she wasn’t ever going to have anyone executed (which, incredibly, she stuck to), and adopted a ruling style that was a marriage of careful consideration and laziness. Her projects included adding a shitload of territory to Russian turf, building the Winter Palace, providing financial aid to Lisbon after it was hit by an earthquake, and the Seven-Years War (on account of her feelings of ‘fuck Prussia and Frederick the Great.’)

She also spent money like it was water, amassing 15,000 gowns by the time of her death, among other articles. Parties were thrown all the time (twice a week), including her famous Metamorphoses balls. Those events required men to dress as women and vice versa and they were not popular, as few attendees could pull off the look. Elizabeth sure as hell could, though. Remember: her pops was super tall and strapping and she took after him. Thus, she could fill out male garb a little better than other, more delicate ladies.

Lacking an official husband and any children, Elizabeth settled on her nephew Peter as an heir. He turned out a weird, violent Prussian fancier who played with toy soldiers into adulthood. She got him married to the future Catherine the Great, who was actually the niece of her long-dead fiancé. She liked Catherine a lot, but that didn’t keep her from snatching up her son Paul as soon as he popped out so she could raise him herself. (Before you feel too bad for Catherine, know that she ultimately treated her son’s kids the same way.)

Empress Elizabeth died in 1761. Her nephew promptly tried to reverse everything she did before Catherine stepped in to kick his ass.

Overall? Better than the average Russian ruler. This is not difficult.

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