Fact of the day: 17th July

On this day in 1762 Catherine II became tsar of Russia after the murder of Peter III of Russia.

After the death of the Empress Elizabeth on 5 January 1762 (OS: 25 December 1761), Peter, the Grand Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, succeeded to the throne as Peter III of Russia, and Catherine became Empress Consort of Russia.

The imperial couple moved into the new Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg.

The Tsar’s eccentricities and policies, including a great admiration for the Prussian king, Frederick II, alienated the same groups that Catherine had cultivated.

Besides, Peter intervened in a dispute between his Duchy of Holstein and Denmark over the province of Schleswig (see Count Johann Hartwig Ernst von Bernstorff).

On the night of 28 June 1762, Catherine the Great was given the news that one of her co-conspirators had been arrested by her estranged husband, and that all they had been planning must take place at once.

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She left the palace and departed for the Ismailovsky regiment, where Catherine delivered a speech asking the soldiers to protect her from her husband.

Catherine then left with the regiment to go to the Semenovsky Barracks where the clergy was waiting to ordain her as the sole occupant of the Russian throne.

She had her husband arrested and forced him to sign a document of abdication, leaving no one to dispute her accession to the throne.

Shortly after being arrested, Peter was strangled by his guards. Some speculate that Catherine had ordered this done, but there is no evidence to back this theory.


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