Peter II

views updated Jun 27 2018


(17151730), emperor of Russia, May 1727 to January 1730.

Son of Tsarevich Alexis Petrovich and Princess Charlotte of Wolfenbüttel, and grandson of Peter I, the future Peter II had an unfortunate start in life. His German mother died soon after his birth, and in 1718 his father died in prison after being tortured and condemned to death for treason. Peter I did not mistreat his grandson, but feared him as a possible rallying point for conservatives. He did not groom him as his heir, and a new Law on Succession (1722) rejected primogeniture and made it possible for the ruler to nominate his successor. During the reign of his step-grandmother, Catherine I (17251727), young Peter found himself under the protection of Prince Alexander Menshikov, who betrothed him to his daughter Maria and persuaded Catherine to name him as her successor, in the hope of stealing ground from the old nobility and gaining popularity by restoring the male line. On the day of Catherine's death, Peter was proclaimed emperor.

For the rest of Peter's short life it was a question of who could manipulate him before he developed a mind of his own. At first Menshikov kept the emperor under his wing, but, following a bout of illness in the summer of 1727, Menshikov was marginalized then banished by members of the powerful Dolgoruky clan, backed by the emperor's grandmother, Peter I's ex-wife Yevdokia. Peter II was crowned in Moscow on March 8 (February 25 O.S.), 1728. His chief adviser was now Prince Alexis Grigorevich Dolgoruky, but the power behind the government was Heinrich Osterman. Both men were members of the Supreme Privy Council. After his coronation Peter stayed in Moscow, where he devoted much of his time to hunting. Portraits show a handsome boy dressed in the latest Western fashion. His short reign has sometimes been associated with a move to reject many of Peter's reforms, but there is no evidence that Peter II or his circle planned to return to the old ways, even if magnates welcomed the opportunity to spend more time on their Moscow estates. According to one source, young Peter wished to "follow in the steps of his grandfather." He did not get the chance. In fall 1729 he was betrothed to Prince Dolgoruky's daughter Catherine, but the wedding never took place. On January 29 (January 18 O.S.), 1730, he died from smallpox, without nominating a successor. The last of the Romanov male line, he was buried in the Archangel Cathedral in Moscow.

See also: catherine i; menshikov, alexander danilovich; romanov dynasty


Raleigh, D. J. (1996). The Emperors and Empresses of Russia: Rediscovering the Romanovs. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.

Lindsey Hughes

Peter II

views updated May 11 2018

Peter II (1923–70) Last King of Yugoslavia (1934–41), son of Alexander I. He acceded the throne (aged 12) on the assassination of his father. The actual ruler was his uncle, Prince Paul, deposed in 1941 by a military coup. Peter ruled independently for a month until the invasion of the Axis Powers, when he fled to London. After the monarchy was abolished in 1945, he settled in the USA.