Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2005-02 > 1107500372

From: Lisa Davidson <>
Subject: Re: Tsar Paul Sergeyevich Saltykov???
Date: Fri, 04 Feb 2005 06:59:32 GMT
References: <>

Some comments. First - it is not possible to retroactively make someone
illegitimate in cases like this. No matter how cute it seems to you, under
no circumstances would HIM Emperor Paul become "Tsar Paul Sergeyevich
Saltykov". In order to have that name, his mother would have had to have
been married to Saltykov, and she was not. Second, in the area of
legitimacy, it is legal fatherhood that is pertinent. The legal father of
Paul was his mother's husband, Peter. The concept of presumed fatherhood
applies here. Legally, if a married woman has a child, her husband is the
legal father unless he takes legal steps (in current times, that would be a
paternity test followed by a legal action) to change this. Since Peter
never took any steps to disclaim Paul, legally, Paul was his son, and hence
he and the succeeding line were legitimate.


> In a private discussion with a colleague, who is also a friend and a
> relative, I expressed doubts about the story put out by Russia's
> Catherine the Great that her son Paul was the son of Sergei Saltykov.
> I post below the explanation I offered as to why someone might want to
> take a closer look at Catherine and her story:
> Normally, I'm willing to take a mother's word as to who fathered her
> children.
> Catherine's case is special. She has baggage. Lots of it.
> First of all, politics enters into it. The couple are husband and
> wife. They're second cousins. And, they've grown to hate each other.
> At his accession, Peter III fails to name Paul as his successor. The
> succession law Peter the Great handed down dispensed with
> primogeniture, and allowed the tsar to name whomever he pleased to
> succeed him. Peter, for example, passed over his grandson and namesake
> in favor of his wife.
> There are historians who take this as a tacit admission by Peter that
> Paul isn't his son.

I have never heard this. Which historians say this? Peter was on the throne
for such a short time that I doubt succession was his first priority.

> Except that they also point out that there were other things on Peter's
> mind.
> First, he doesn't really like Russia. Given a choice, he'd rather be
> in Kiel, governing Holstein-Gottorp.

Speculative. What we do know from his actions is that he was very much

> Coming, as he does from "the West," he may have qualms about inheriting
> the Russian throne the way he did. Peter's aunt Elizabeth Petrovna,
> though Peter the Great's surviving daughter, usurped the throne from
> the infant tsar, Ivan VI, named to succeed his great aunt, Tsarina Anna
> Ivanovna, daughter of Peter the Great's half-brother, Ivan V.
> Ivan VI was still alive and in prison when Peter came to the throne.
> It is said Peter planned to restore Ivan to the throne, and visited
> Ivan in prison.

Who said this? Peter could have had Ivan released from prison, yet he did
not do this.

> It is also said that, like his grandfather, Peter planned to divorce
> his wife and put her away in a monastery.
> So things weren't looking good for Catherine.
> I'm not fully up on the details, but if Catherine saw the palace coup
> that deposed Peter coming, she didn't breathe a word of it to him.
> She also didn't do anything to prevent her husband's death.
> Catherine, then, usurped her husband's throne. She's also complicit in
> her husband's murder. (Accomplice--before? during? after?--the fact?
> All three?)

She definitely was his usurper. She also usurped her son's right to govern
after the death of his presumed father. What she did or did not know about
Peter's murder is unknown. What is known is that one of the Orlov brothers
who orchestrated the coup was Catherine's lover and that Catherine gave
birth to their son after the coup. The son, Count Alexis Bobrinski, founded
a noble family by that name that survives to this day.

> And Ivan VI also dies. (I take it Catherine is also complicit somehow
> in Ivan's murder.)

This was much more straightforward. She ordered his murder.

> So, when I think of Catherine, "Great" doesn't necessarily come to
> mind. But Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, and Richard III do. Or, at least,
> Shakespeare's portrayals of them.

You are of course entitled to your opinion. Catherine was an immensely
capable and talented ruler - the best in governing Russia since Peter the

> Unlike a legitimate ruler, then, Catherine had to come up with excuses
> to justify her presence on a throne that isn't hers by any stretch of
> the imagination.
> So, you start blackening Peter's memory. Like the KKK in "The Birth of
> a Nation," you want to be seen as riding to rescue the country you love
> from the excesses of an incompetent.
> Yeah, Peter wasn't one of nature's noblemen, so you've got a lot to
> work with.
> Part of that blackening may have been to assert that Peter wasn't even
> a "real" man. That is, he couldn't father children. And I do believe
> that part of Catherine's story that Peter did have to have an operation
> so that he could successfully father children.
> There's another reason to put out such a story. It's cruel, but it's
> intended to be kind.
> We're doing this "for the boy's sake." That is, if he had grown up
> being constantly told, "you're just like your father," that is who he
> would have grown up to be.

Much of this is speculative. What is true is that Catherine had to walk a
fine line. She needed Paul to legitimize her ties with the dynasty but
needed for him not to interfere with her ruling Russia.

I really doubt Catherine worried about who Paul was like - she was very

> But, if you tell him he's illegitimate, then you're wiping the slate
> clean, and you're giving him a chance to grow up differently.

Again, speculative. For Catherine, Paul was a means to an end.

> It's the old "nature" versus "nurture" debate.
> Problem is, when Paul grows up, and in spite of the "best" efforts of
> Catherine and her court, his psychological profile closely parallels
> the very man whose son he isn't supposed to be.
> Now, you can act that way as a means of sticking your thumb in the eye
> of a parent you don't love. Except that, if it "was" an act, Paul
> kept it up 24/7.
> That's a lot of psychological energy to expend, just on spite. "Doin'
> what comes nacherly" is a lot easier.

I agree that Paul had many characteristics similar to his legal father.
There is no evidence that I know of suggesting Paul ever pretending to have
any of these characteristics.

> Now, immediately after becoming empress, Catherine declares Paul is her
> heir. If her story about Paul's origins are true, she does this in
> full knowledge she's making her bastard the future tsar of Russia.
> (Unlike "Casablanca's" Captain Reynaud, she can't claim subsequently
> that she's "Shocked, shocked!" to discover this about Paul.)
> Yet, when we come to the political testament she wrote at the end of
> her life, suddenly Paul can't inherit the throne because he's
> illegitimate.

Catherine never removed Paul from the succession. She was known to prefer
Alexander, but nothing was ever finalized. As I pointed out before, Paul
could not be retroactively "unlegitimized".

> As the absolute monarch of a backward country, Catherine was indeed in
> a position to have it both ways. And her courtiers, if they wanted to
> stay healthy, would have to find it in them to follow, move for move,
> Catherine's ethical acrobatics.

I don't doubt that Catherine practiced situational ethics. I do dispute
that Russia is a backward country. Catherine did not have it both ways -
she was a powerful woman who worked hard to hold on to her power. Pretty

> But, as a Vaclav Havel might point out, the historian, the genealogist,
> should strive to live in truth. If "truth" is too strong a word,
> substitute "fact."
> Now, as historians and genealogists know, the taint of illegitimacy is
> something that doesn't go away. It takes down the whole line. Except
> that Catherine wants her grandson Alexander to succeed her. The
> bastard is ineligible, but the bastard's son is OK? Yeah, right.

But, no one is a "bastard" here. No taint of illegitimacy. That was never
the issue. The issue was, could Catherine pass the throne as she wished?
Alas, her power did not extend that far. Another issue was the possibility
she had the father of her children killed. The taint of that crime was so
great that it has been speculated that was her reason for denying Peter
sired her children.

> The honest thing in this instance would have been for Catherine to have
> cut through years of tangled webs, and to say that Paul was Peter's
> son, that had inherited his father's character flaws, and that putting
> him on the throne would have caused Russia to suffer. And also that
> putting Paul on the throne would have placed his life in jeopardy.
> Catherine did look for other outs. Alexander didn't want the throne
> under those circumstances. Maria Fyodorovna, Paul's wife, refused to
> accept Catherine's proposal that she act as regent for Paul.
> As it was, Catherine suffered a stroke and died before she could put
> her plans into effect. And, though it took a little longer, Paul
> suffers exactly the same fate as Peter.
> One further detail. If you accept Catherine's story, then Saltykov
> apparently followed Rodney Dangerfield's dictum that "the best thing
> about having kids is making 'em."
> Once he gets up out of Catherine's bed, he's nowhere in evidence from
> that point on. He plays no discernable part in "his" son's upbringing.
> He doesn't even complain, as he might, that Catherine is keeping him
> from "his" son. (Chicago dad's rights lawyer Jeffrey Leving, call your
> office. Have I got a case for you!)
> In putting out her story, Catherine doesn't even bother, as she might,
> in reproaching Saltykov with being a lousy father.
> Thoughts? Comments?
> Daniel MacGregor

Well, for starters, Saltykov had no room to be a "father". He was her
one-time lover, that's it. Royal lovers could not raise children they had
with royals. Catherine's children, regardless of who was their biological
father, belonged to Russia and were legally the children of her husband.

Lisa Davidson

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