A Son and Heir
By the end of 1688 Natalya was determined to marry her son off to a suitable Russian noble lady. Sophia did not object, the Romanovs had only Peter to produce the next Czar Ivan was producing only daughters. Natalya was frustrated by Peter’s insistence on surrounding himself with foreigners. Particularly as, when he went away for long periods Peter was out of her control.
Peter was married to Eudoxia Lokupina in 1689. Eudoxia bore the Czarevitch Alexei Petrovich in February 1690, the following year in October she gave birth to Alexander Petrovich[i] and in 1693 Pavel Petrovich was born[ii].
The End of the Regency
Prince Galitzyne was unpopular with the masses as the man who was trying to force foreign ways on Russia. The charades of the two failed campaigns in the Crimea only added to the dislike with which he was viewed by the Boyars and the people. The old nobility began to gather around Peter and Natalya at Preobrazhenskoe. It was this group of nobles, inimical to Sophia and her lover, who had insisted that Galitzyne command the second Crimean campaign.Sophia did nothing to restrain her half brother during her years as regent. In January 1689 Peter was allowed to attend the Council of Boyars; he found it boring and did not often attend thereafter. Sophia was trying to arrange for a continuation of her rule, even after Ivan and Peter reached adulthood.
In 1686 Sophia had assumed the title of Autocrat[iii], marking her as an equal to Ivan and Peter. In the summer of 1687 Sophia investigated the possibility of being crowned with the support of the Streltsy. Alas, her plans foundered on the very conservatism of the Streltsy, that had forced Ivan into sharing the throne with Peter. The Streltsy disapproved of this innovation and the matter was quietly dropped.Sophia had a portrait of herself painted wearing the Czar’s regalia. To the opposition this and the usurpation of the title of Autocrat was unacceptable. It was feared that Sophia would marry Galitzyne[iv] and depose Ivan and Peter or dispose of Peter. One of Sophia’s advisers, Fedor Shaklivity urged Sophia to crush the Naryshkin family and their allies before Peter came of age, killing Peter’s supporters and his mother. Sophia was now struggling to maintain her influence. Galitzyne refused to politic against an anointed Czar, but Shaklovity was openly denouncing the leaders of Peter’s party.
On 3rd July, General Gordon noted in his diary
‘The heat and the bitterness are ever greater and greater and it appears that they must break out soon.’[v]A Crisis in Sophia’s Affairs
The crisis came to a head on 17th August 1689. Sophia had formed the habit of walking to various monasteries in Moscow, to pay her devotions. She notified the Streltsy that she required a regiment of Streltsy to accompany her to the Donskoy Monastery[vi] on the morrow. An anonymous letter appeared[vii] claiming that Peter was going to have Sophia and Ivan murdered.A large number of Streltsy were garrisoned in the Kremlin overnight and the gates of the palace were shut. A close watch was kept on the road to Preobrazhenskoe, from whence the regicides were expected to come. The Streltsy were concerned that they would be ordered to murder Peter, their anointed Czar. The carrier of a routine despatch from Peter was dragged off his horse and beaten. He was taken to see Shaklovity.
Peter’s supporters at Preobrazhenskoe were warned of this outrage by one of seven Streltsy suborned by Prince Boris Galitzyne[viii], one of Peter’s supporters. On arrival of the news Peter was awakened and he fled on horseback to the Troitsky Monastery[ix]. The frightened seventeen year old Peter had been afraid of being hunted down, ever since he had witnessed the murder of his mother’s adviser as a ten year old.At the Troitsky Monastery
Troitsky in the 1890sPeter informed the Abbot that his sister intended to kill him and his family; he then fell into an exhausted sleep. During the night he was joined by his wife and mother, accompanied by Peter’s play regiments. During the following day the entire Sukharov Streltsy regiment arrived from Moscow.
Far from being a panicked response to the actions of Sophia’s supporters; this arrival at Troitsky was part of a pre-arranged plan. This heavily fortified monastery was renowned throughout Russia as the traditional place of sanctuary of the royal family in times of danger. Peter’s advisers had chosen their bolt-hole carefully. The mere arrival of the Czar at Troitsky would send alarm bells ringing throughout the country and the Streltsy would not march against the Troitsky. And to his people Peter’s arrival there indicated that his life was in danger.
Peter’s advisers sent to Sophia querying the number of Streltsy that had been staying overnight in the Kremlin the previous night. The answer that the thousands of men were merely required to walk the Regent to a monastery two miles from the Kremlin was considered risible.The colonel of the elite Stremyani regiment was ordered to the Troitsky with fifty of his men. Colonel Ivan Tsykler was one of the leaders of the 1682 revolt and one of Sophia’s most devoted adherents. Sophia was concerned about the summons and she had reason to be. Tsykler attended Peter and the Troitsky and told him and his advisers all he knew about the plans to suppress Peter’s supporters. Tsykler was a weather vane and switched sides to the coming man, only requiring the protection of a royal command.
Sophia WeakensPeter spurned an embassy from Sophia and wrote to the colonels of all the Streltsy regiments commanding their attendance at the Troitsky. In person Sophia ordered the colonels not to obey the Czar’s order on the pain of beheading. The following day Peter informed Sophia and Ivan that he had ordered the colonels to attend him at his current residence.
Peter asked Sophia as Regent to ensure that his orders were obeyed. Sophia sent another embassy begging for a reconciliation. They returned to inform Sophia that Peter’s party were confident and growing rapidly in numbers. The Streltsy were starting to leave Moscow. Sophia sent the Patriarch Joachim to see Peter and once there the Patriarch declared his allegiance to Peter. Now new supplicants arriving at Troitsky were met by Joachim and Peter.On 27th August Peter wrote again to the colonels of the Streltsy commanding that they and ten soldiers from each regiment attend him at the Troitsky. A similar order was sent to the leading citizens of Moscow. A mass of Streltsy led by five colonels set out from Moscow to submit to the Czar.
Sophia decided that the only choice she had left was to go to confront Peter herself. She travelled with Vasily Galitzyne, Shaklovity and an escort of Streltsy. Eight miles from the monastery, the party was met by armed men ready to fire and ordered to proceed no further. Sophia was further ordered to return to Moscow. On 11th September Sophia spoke to her supporters
‘They almost shot me at Vozdvizhenskoe. Many people rode out after me with muskets and bows. It was difficulty that I got away and hastened to Moscow in five hours. The Naryshkins and Lopukhins are making a plot to kill the Tsar Ivan Alexeivich and are even aiming at my head.’[x]On her return Sophia received a letter from Peter claiming that Shaklovity and a monk named Sylvester Medvedev[xi] were colluding in a plot to kill Peter and demanded that they be turned over to him for judgement. Sophia attempted to rouse her supporters with a series of speeches; to the Streltsy, to the leading citizens of Moscow and to a large crowd of Muscovites including the foreign officers in the Russian army[xii]. Sophia commanded Ivan to serve vodka to the Streltsy, Muscovites and the foreigners.
On the 14th September Peter sent a written order to the German suburb, where the foreigners lived, commanding all foreign officers to Troitsky, fully armed and on horseback. That night a long cavalcade of officers left Moscow on the Troitsky road. Peter had won and the Streltsy remaining in the city knew it. They demanded that Sophia hand over the traitor Shaklovity. When she refused they threatened another revolt. Shaklovity was taken in chains to the Troitsky. tNow it was Prince Vasily Galitzyne’s turn to appear before the Troitsky walls. Interrogation of Shaklovity proved Galitzyne’s innocence in the plot to murder Peter. Following intercession from Prince Vasily’s cousin Boris, Peter agreed to send Galitzyne into exile[xiii].
Peter then wrote to Ivan pointing out that the two of them were the anointed Czars and that Sophia should in future be excluded from ruling. He asked permission to appoint officials without specific approval from Ivan, promising that he would always defer to his half brother as the senior Czar.
‘I shall be ready to honour you as I would my father.’[xiv]
Ivan did not have much choice but to defer to the will of his younger more energetic brother. Sophia was ordered into the Novodevichy convent on the outskirts of Moscow. She resisted the removal from the Kremlin for a week, but was finally escorted to where she was to live for the last fifteen years of her life. She was not required to become a nun and had a comfortable suite of rooms available to her. In later years Peter was to describe her as
‘A princess endowed with all the accomplishments of body and mind to perfection, had it not been for her boundless ambition and insatiable desire for governing.’[xv]Peter re-entered Moscow on 16th October on a road lined by kneeling Streltsy begging the Czar’s pardon. In the Uspensky Cathedral, within the Kremlin walls, Peter embraced his brother Ivan.
BibliographyNatasha’s Dance – Orlando Figes, Penguin Books Ltd 2002
Russia and the Russians – Geoffrey Hosking, The Penguin Press 2001Peter the Great – Robert K Massie, Abacus 1992
[i] Alexander died in May the following year
[ii] Pavel died the same year
[iii] An appellation allowed only for the Czar
[iv] Who was married
[v] Peter the Great - Massie
[vi] About two miles from the Kremlin
[vii] Possibly authored by Shaklovity
[viii] A cousin of Vasily Galitzyne
[ix] 45 miles north east of Moscow
[x] Peter the Great - Massie
[xi] One of Sophia’s supporters heavily involved in trying to reduce the power of the Patriarch
[xii] Who had been forbidden to leave Moscow
[xiii] He lived for 25 years in the Arctic north, dying at the age of 71
[xiv] Peter the Great - Massie