On this day, the two children previously born to them Anna and Elizabeth were legitimized by their father. Of the twelve children born to Peter and Catherine five sons and seven daughters , only two daughters, Anna born and Elizabeth born , survived to adulthood. As a child, Elizabeth was the particular favorite of her father. She resembled him both physically and temperamentally. Even though he adored his daughter, Peter did not devote time or attention to her education.
He had a son and grandson from his first marriage to a noblewoman, and did not anticipate that a daughter born to his former maid and second wife might one day inherit the throne. Indeed, no woman had ever sat upon the throne of Russia. It was therefore left to Catherine to raise the girls as best she could, but she was herself too uneducated to be able to superintend the formal education of her daughters.
Elizabeth had a French governess and grew fluent in Italian , German and French. She is inclinable to be fat, but is very genteel and dances better than anyone I ever saw. She speaks German, French and Italian, is extremely gay and talks to everyone Peter was enamored of western Europe, and much of his fame rests on his efforts to westernize Russia.
A corollary to this proclivity was his desire to see his children married into the royal houses of Europe, something which his predecessors had actually avoided. However, Peter was hard put to arrange similar marriages for the daughters born of his second wife , who had formerly been a maid in his household. He was roundly snubbed by the Bourbons of France when, during a visit to that country, he offered either of his daughters in marriage to the future Louis XV.
The French court conveyed to him in essence that the circumstance of their post-facto legitimization, and the antecedents of their mother, made the girls unacceptable.
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In , Peter betrothed his daughters to two young princes, first cousins to each other, who hailed from the tiny north German principality of Holstein-Gottorp , and whose family was undergoing a period of political and economic stress. Anna Petrovna aged 16 was to marry Charles Frederick, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp , who was then living in exile in Russia as Peter's guest after having failed in his attempt to succeed his maternal uncle as King of Sweden, and whose patrimony Holstein-Gottorp was at that time under Danish occupation. Some time later, and in the same year, Elizabeth was betrothed to marry Charles Frederick's first cousin, Charles Augustus of Holstein-Gottorp ,  the eldest son of Christian Augustus, Prince of Eutin.
Anna's wedding was held in as planned, even though her father, Peter the Great , died a few weeks before the nuptials. This came as a double blow to Elizabeth, because her mother Catherine I who had succeeded Peter the Great to the throne had died just two weeks previously, on 17 May Her marriage prospects immediately dried up.
They did not improve when, three years later, Peter II died and was succeeded by Elizabeth's first cousin, Empress Anna ruled —40 , daughter of Peter the Great 's elder brother Ivan V. There was little love lost between the cousins and no prospect of either any Russian nobleman or any foreign prince seeking Elizabeth's hand in marriage. Nor could Elizabeth marry a commoner because it would cost her not only her title and royal status, but also her property rights and her claim to the throne.
When the Chinese minister in St.
Petersburg was asked by the Empress Anna who was the most beautiful woman at her court, he pointed to Elizabeth, to Anna's intense displeasure. Elizabeth's response to the lack of marriage prospects was to take Alexis Shubin, a handsome sergeant in the Semyonovsky Guards regiment , as her lover. Elizabeth consoled herself with a handsome coachman and then turned to a footman for her sexual pleasure.
Razumovsky had been brought from his village to St. Petersburg by his master, a nobleman, to sing for a church choir. Elizabeth purchased the talented serf from the nobleman for her own choir. So long as Aleksandr Danilovich Menshikov remained in power until September the government of Elizabeth's adolescent half-nephew Peter II reigned — treated her with liberality and distinction.
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The Dolgorukovs , an ancient boyar family, deeply resented Menshikov. Menshikov was arrested, stripped of all his honours and properties and exiled to northern Siberia where he died in November During the reign of her cousin, Anna — , Elizabeth was gathering support in the background. After the death of Empress Anna, the regency of Anna Leopoldovna for the infant Ivan VI was marked by high taxes and economic problems. Elizabeth, being the daughter of Peter the Great, enjoyed much support from the Russian guards regiments.
Elizabeth often visited the elite Guards regiments, marking special events with the officers, and acting as godmother to their children. Arriving at the regimental headquarters wearing a warrior's metal breastplate over her dress and grasping a silver cross she challenged them: "Whom do you want to serve: me, your natural sovereign, or those who have stolen my inheritance? It was a daring coup and, amazingly, succeeded without bloodshed.
Elizabeth had vowed that if she became Empress she would not sign a single death sentence, an extraordinary promise for the time but one which she kept throughout her life,  although there was still cruelty in her regime—as the case of the courtier Natalia Lopukhina , who was publicly flogged and mutilated, attests. A conspiracy in the early days of her rule threatened her source of power. When Count Ivan Lopukhin complained of Empress Elizabeth in a tavern, he was overheard and tortured for information.
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He implicated his mother, Countess Natalia Lopukhina, as well as himself and others, in a plot to reinstate Ivan VI as tsar. They were all sentenced to death, but Elizabeth pardoned a few of the women. Instead they would have their tongues removed, and would be publicly flogged. Although at first Elizabeth had thought to allow the young tsar and his mother to leave Russia, she imprisoned them later in a Baltic fortress, clearly having changed her mind.
She worried that they would stir up trouble for her in other parts of Europe, and she had no wish to risk that. At the age of thirty-three, with relatively little political experience, Elizabeth found herself at the head of a great empire at one of the most critical periods of its existence.
Her proclamation as Empress Elizabeth I explained that the preceding reigns had led Russia to ruin: "The Russian people have been groaning under the enemies of the Christian faith, but she has delivered them from the degrading foreign oppression.
Russia had been under the domination of German advisers, and Elizabeth exiled the most unpopular of them, including Heinrich Ostermann , Burkhard von Munnich and Carl Gustav Lowenwolde. Elizabeth Petrovna, with all her shortcomings documents often waited months for her signature ,  had inherited some of her father's genius for government. Her usually keen judgment and her diplomatic tact again and again recalled Peter the Great. What sometimes appeared as irresolution and procrastination was most often a wise suspension of judgment under exceptionally difficult circumstances.
The substantial changes made by Elizabeth's father, Peter the Great, had not exercised a really formative influence on the intellectual attitudes of the ruling classes as a whole. Elizabeth abolished the cabinet council system that had been used under Anna, and reconstituted the senate as it had been under Peter the Great with the chiefs of the departments of state none of them Germans attending.
Her first task after this was to address the war with Sweden. The treaty also gave Russia the fortresses of Villmanstrand and Fredrikshamn. This triumphant result can be credited to the diplomatic ability of the new vice chancellor, Aleksey Bestuzhev-Ryumin. His policies would have been impossible without her support. He represented the anti-Franco-Prussian portion of her council, and his object was to bring about an Anglo-Austro-Russian alliance which, at that time, was undoubtedly Russia's proper system.
Hence the bogus Lopukhina Conspiracy and other attempts of Frederick the Great and Louis XV to get rid of Bestuzhev failed, but it put the Russian court into the centre of a tangle of intrigue during the earlier years of Elizabeth's reign. Ultimately, the minister's strong support from Elizabeth prevailed.
By sheer tenacity of purpose, Bestuzhev had extricated his country from the Swedish imbroglio; reconciled his imperial mistress with the courts of Vienna and London; enabled Russia to assert herself effectually in Poland , Ottoman Empire and Sweden ; and isolated the King of Prussia by forcing him into hostile alliances. All this would have been impossible without the steady support of Elizabeth who trusted him completely in spite of the Chancellor's many enemies, most of whom were her personal friends. However, on 14 February , Bestuzhev was removed from office.
The future Catherine II recorded, "He was relieved of all his decorations and rank, without a soul being able to reveal for what crimes or transgressions the first gentleman of the Empire was so despoiled, and sent back to his house as a prisoner. Instead, it was inferred that he had attempted to sow discord between the Empress and her heir and his consort. The great event of Elizabeth's later years was the Seven Years' War. Elizabeth regarded the Convention of Westminster 16 January in which Great Britain and Prussia agreed to unite their forces to oppose the entry of or the passage through Germany of troops of every foreign power, as utterly subversive of the previous conventions between Great Britain and Russia.
Elizabeth sided against Prussia over a personal dislike of Frederick the Great. Elizabeth acceded to the Treaty of Versailles, thus entering into an alliance with France and Austria against Prussia. The serious illness of the Empress, which began with a fainting-fit at Tsarskoe Selo 19 September , the fall of Bestuzhev 21 February and the cabals and intrigues of the various foreign powers at Saint Petersburg did not interfere with the progress of the war. The crushing defeat of Kunersdorf 12 August  at last brought Frederick to the verge of ruin.
From that day, he despaired of success, but he was saved for the moment by the jealousies of the Russian and Austrian commanders, which ruined the military plans of the allies. From the end of to the end of , the firmness of the Russian Empress was the one constraining political force that held together the heterogeneous, incessantly jarring elements of the anti-Prussian combination. From the Russian point of view, her greatness as a stateswoman consists in her steady appreciation of Russian interests, and her determination to promote them at all hazards.
She insisted throughout that the King of Prussia must be rendered harmless to his neighbors for the future and that the only way to do so was to reduce him to the rank of a Prince-Elector. Frederick himself was quite aware of his danger.
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Things may drag on perhaps till July, but then a catastrophe must come. The failure of the campaign of , wielded by the inept Count Buturlin , induced the court of Versailles on the evening of 22 January to present to the court of Saint Petersburg a dispatch to the effect that the king of France, by reason of the condition of his dominions, absolutely desired peace.
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The Russian empress' reply was delivered to the two ambassadors on 12 February. It was inspired by the most uncompromising hostility towards the king of Prussia. Elizabeth would not consent to any pacific overtures until the original object of the league had been accomplished. Simultaneously, Elizabeth had conveyed to Louis XV a confidential letter in which she proposed the signature of a new treaty of alliance of a more comprehensive and explicit nature than the preceding treaties between the two powers without the knowledge of Austria.
Elizabeth's object in the mysterious negotiation seems to have been to reconcile France and Great Britain, in return for which signal service France was to throw all her forces into the German war. She was considered illegitimate, but after the official wedding of her parents in she began to bear the title of Tsesarevna.