Catherine I

Catherine ICatherine I
Empress of Russia
1685 – 1727

Catherine I, Empress of Russia. She was the daughter of a poor Swedish peasant, and left an orphan, received no education, could neither read nor write, and became a servant in the family of a minister named Glück in the town of Marienburg.

Here her wonderful beauty and amiable nature attracted many suitors, and at the age of eighteen she married Johan Svendsn, a Swedish dragoon.

Six months later the Russians invaded the town, her husband fld, and she became the property of a brigadier-general, named Bauer. He was soon compelled to give her up to his superior, Marshal Sheremetev, who took her in triumph to his mansion in Moscow, when her beauty attracted the attention of Prince Menshikov, the prime minister. He determined to secure Martha, as she was then called, for himself, and by his powerful influence forced Sheremetev to sell her to him for ten thousand rubles. He surrounded her with luxury and indulged her every whim.

One night, at a banquet given by Menshikov, the guest of honor was an ill-dressed, rough boor, but a genius, a builder of empire and civilization – Peter the Great, Czar of Russia.

Captivated by her charms, the greatest ruler then on earth appropriated Martha, and gave her the name of Catherine. It is said that he worshiped her, that she was the one woman who meant more to him than a mere toy. His rough magnetism brought out latent and undreamed of mental powers in her. Beneath her illiterate exterior, she was one of the clearest-headed and tenderest of women, and gradually Peter came to rely upon her in all things.

She bore him three children, and maintained her influence over him by her vivacity, activity and good temper. She shared the troubles and fatigues of his campaigns, and frequently calmed the wild outbreaks of his savage temper. In the war with Turkey, when Peter found himself reduced to the extremity of surrendering his army, Catherine saved him by bribing the Turkish grand vizier with her jewels.

Peter proved his gratitude by acknowledging her as his wife, and in 1724 she was crowned empress in Moscow. When Peter died the following year, he designated her as his worthy successor, and for two years she reigned, absolute sovereign of a mighty empire, until her sudden death in St. Petersburg, May 17, 1727.

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Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.