Naryshkina, Natalia Kirillovna

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(16521694), second wife of Tsar Alexei (r. 16451676); mother of Peter I.

Natalia was the daughter of a minor nobleman who served for a time in Smolensk, but was related by marriage to the up-and-coming official Artamon Matveyev, later head of the Foreign Office, who may have brought her to the attention of the recently bereaved Tsar Alexei. In 1671 she became the tsar's second wife, giving birth to Peter (16721725), Natalia (16731716), and Fyodora (16741678.) Widowed in 1676, during the early years of the reign of her stepson Theodore Alexeyevich (16761682), Natalia and her children were marginalized; however, when Theodore died in 1682, nine-year-old Peter was elected tsar with the patriarch's support, and Natalia prepared to act as regent. She was thwarted by Tsarevna Sofia Alexeyevna and her party, who secured the election of Tsarevich Ivan Alexeyevich as Peter's co-tsar. The fact that Natalia feared for her son's life during the riots of 1682 and felt vulnerable during Sofia's regency may have made her over-protective. After Sofia was ousted in 1689 and the Naryshkins and their clients assumed leading posts, there was a clash of wills between mother and son over such issues as Peter's sailing expeditions and his failure to attend official receptions. The only known portraits show Natalia in nun-like widow's garb with head modestly covered. She exerted the traditional influence of a tsaritsa, raising the fortunes of her clan and their clients, operating her own patronage networks, and undertaking public activities such as alms-giving, visiting shrines, and attending appropriate court ceremonies, but the business of government remained in male hands. Natalia died in January 1694 and was laid to rest in the Ascension Convent in the Kremlin. She remains a shadowy figure.

See also: alexei mikhailovich; peter i


Longworth, Philip. (1984). Alexis: Tsar of All the Russias. London: Secker and Warburg.

Thyret, Isolde. (2000). Between God and Tsar: Religious Symbolism and Royal Women of Muscovite Russia, DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press.

Lindsey Hughes