Portrait of Paul I (1754-1801), Grand Duke, Tsesarevich, Crown prince of Russia (1761-1796), Emperor of Russia (1796-1801), 1798
Paul I (Russian: Павел I Петрович; Pavel Petrovich; 20 September 1754 – 11 March 1801) reigned as Emperor of Russia between 1796 and 1801. Paul was born in the Palace of Empress Elizabeth, Saint Petersburg. His father, the future Emperor Peter III, was the nephew and heir apparent of the Empress. His mother was later to depose her own husband (Paul's father) and reign in her own right as Catherine II, known to history as Catherine the Great. Empress Elizabeth died in 1761, and he became crown prince with the accession of his father to the throne as Peter III. However, within a matter of months, Paul's mother engineered a coup. She then placed herself on the throne in a surpassingly grand and ostentatious coronation ceremony, for which event the Russian Imperial Crown was crafted by court jewellers. The 8-year-old Paul retained his position as crown prince. Catherine the Great and her son and heir, the future Paul I, maintained a distant relationship throughout Catherine's reign. Paul was often jealous of the favours she would shower upon her lovers. Paul's early isolation from his mother created a distance between them which later events would reinforce. She never considered inviting him to share her power in governing Russia. And once Paul's son Alexander was born, it appeared that she had found a more suitable heir. Catherine's absolute power and the delicate balance of courtier status greatly influenced the relationship at Court with Paul, who openly disregarded his mother's opinions. Paul adamantly protested his mother’s policies. Catherine suffered a stroke on 17 November 1796, and died without regaining consciousness. Paul's first act as Emperor was to inquire about and, if possible, destroy her testament, as he feared it would exclude him from succession and leave the throne to Alexander. Emperor Paul was idealistic and capable of great generosity, but he was also mercurial and capable of vindictiveness. In spite of doubts of his legitimacy, he greatly resembled his father, Peter III and other Romanovs as well and shared the same character. During the first year of his reign, Paul emphatically reversed many of the harsh policies of his mother.
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