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France (37)

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Impostors (3)

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Was Princess Tarakanova a Legitimate Heir to Catherine II ?

Princess Tarakanova

A woman ; she calls herself the Princess Tarakanova. She has been claiming for several years throughout Europe to be the legitimate heir to the Russian throne, that is, the hidden daughter of Empress Elizabeth and the granddaughter of Peter the Great.

A princess daughter of a Tsarina and a Cossack?

It was in 1772, in Paris, that the contender appeared for the first time. She then goes by the name and title of Aly Emetey, Princess of Vladimir. She says she was born to parents unknown to her, raised in Germany and then sent to Persia ...

In Isfahan, a prince would have revealed her noble identity to her and convinced her to return to Europe, to conquer her destiny. Surrounded by shady and intriguing characters, she leads the way in Paris, London or Berlin. She begins to relate that the Russian Empress Elizabeth, dead since 1762, is her mother. Lovely, she seduces and rallies a number of characters to her cause: Polish Count Oginsky and Count Rochefort-Valcourt fall in love with her.

Does the woman have valid reasons for claiming the throne occupied by Tsarina Catherine II the Great since 1762? Elizabeth, whom she claims to be her mother, reigned from 1741 to 1762 and secretly married her lover, Alexei Grigorievich Razumovsky, a simple Cossack. Did she or did she not have children from this man? Some historians admit this and argue that these children, numbering two, received the title of Prince and Princess Tarakanov. However, our adventurer claims to be called Tarakanova.

All united against Catherine II!

In any case, Princess Tarakanova has many supporters, ready to help out of hatred of the reigning Tsarina, and she is lucky to find herself in a favorable context. Since 1773, in fact, a certain Pugachev has been raising an insurrection in the countryside and arousing enthusiasm in the cities by claiming to be Peter III, the murdered husband of Catherine II! This suitor destabilizes the power of the Empress. In the atmosphere of enthusiasm surrounding the rise of the impostor, a young woman who declares herself Elizabeth's daughter is likely to be believed.

At this time, the Poles exiled since the partition of their homeland in 1772 conspire against Russia. They see the Tarakanova as a way to overthrow Catherine the Great, whom they hate for ruling part of their country with an iron fist. Unable to assassinate the Empress, they preferred to support a contender for the throne.

Betrayed and arrested by her fiancé!

Princess Tarakanova lives, at the beginning of year 1774, in Venice. She is treated in worldly salons as a character of extreme importance - a possible Tsarina. Catherine II cannot bear such an affront. She develops a plot with Alexei Orlov, commander of the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean. The latter spreads the rumor that he is in disgrace and the Tarakanova, in search of new support, sends him a letter in which she explains to him her affiliation with the dead tsarina. Orlov offers to meet her. Their meeting seems like love at first sight; Orlov swears he will help Princess Tarakanova come to power and proposes to her. The ceremony is to take place some time later on Orlov's boat, that is, in Russian territory. But, barely on the ship in her wedding dress, the princess is arrested and taken to St. Petersburg, where she is questioned.

Adventurer or legitimate heiress?

The interrogation is led by Grand Chancellor Galitsin. The Tarakanova gives her the same version of the facts, but this obstinacy is fatal to her: she is locked up in the fortress of Saint Petersburg. Gradually, her health declined, and she began to cough up blood. Galitsin himself is moved by this and asks the Empress to soften the fate of his prisoner. In vain: she died in prison on December 4, 1775.

Various informants gave Catherine information about the Tarakanova: she is said to be the daughter of a Prague tavern owner, a German baker or a Jewess from Poland. Neither of these hypotheses seems entirely plausible. As it is not excluded that hidden children of Empress Elizabeth and Razumovsky existed, no one can tell without a doubt if Princess Tarakanova was or was not who she claimed to be.

If she indeed was the legitimate daughter of Empress Elizabeth, then Catherine II voluntarily let the rightful heir to the throne die in the Peter and Paul Fortress.

Murder to rule

Russian history is punctuated with examples of bloody acts securing the accession to the throne.

Elena Glinskaya, mother of Ivan the Terrible

Regent of the country since the death of her husband in 1533, she died in 1538, probably poisoned by the princely families who dreamt of ascending the throne. Between 1538 and 1547, the date of the coronation of Ivan the Terrible, there was nothing but violence throughout the country.

In 1682, on the death of Tsar Alexis

Two families, the Miloslavsky and the Naryshkina, clash for power. Peter, Alexei’s son, is named Tsar and his mother Regent. But Sofia Naryshkina, Peter's half-sister, organized a revolt in 1682, became regent and imposed terror.

In 1689, Peter regained power, Sofia was sent to the convent and all her allies were savagely executed in Moscow's Red Square: the Tsar, who would soon be nicknamed "the Great", reigned until 1725.

On the death of Empress Elizabeth

In 1762, Peter III, her nephew, ascended the throne of Russia. He had been married since 1745 to a German princess, Catherine. Once tsar, he aroused, as much by his harshness as by his incompetence, the discontent of the court and of the population.

His wife, the future Catherine II, took the opportunity to organize a palace revolution: he is sent to the dungeon. He died soon after in mysterious circumstances, presumably killed accidentally by Alexei Orlov, one of the leaders of the insurgency.