Eudoxia Lopukhina (1669–1731)

views updated

Eudoxia Lopukhina (1669–1731)

Empress of Russia. Name variations: Eudoxia Lopukhin; Lapuchin; (nickname) Dunka. Born in 1669 (some sources cite 1672); died on September 7, 1731, in Moscow; daughter of Theodore Lopukhin, a boyar; married Peter I the Great (1672–1725), tsar of Russia (r. 1682–1725), on January 27, 1689 (marriage repudiated in 1703; divorced 1718); children: Alexis (1690–1718, who married Charlotte of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel); Alexander (1691–1692).

In 1669, Eudoxia Lopukhina was born in Moscow into a boyarin family; boyars were the equivalent of the Russian aristocracy. She received a poor education, as was then typical for Russian women, but grew up extremely devoted to the Russian Orthodox Church. Eudoxia was chosen among many candidates to become the bride of the Tsar Peter I, then a youth of 17, in 1689, the same year he succeeded to his father's (Tsar Alexis') throne. The marriage came at the command of Peter's mother Natalya Narishkina who hoped that Eudoxia, a woman as pious as she was beautiful, would wean him from Moscow's wicked ways. But the couple were poorly matched. Peter was anything but traditional in his education; worldly, he had studied much and believed in the superiority of Western European culture over his own "backward" Russian culture. Eudoxia had been raised in the traditional Russian terem, or women's quarters, rooms of total seclusion from the outside world. The tsar and tsarina had almost nothing in common, and they separated after Eudoxia gave birth to their second son, Alexander, who did not survive long.

When Peter demanded a divorce so that he could remarry, Eudoxia staunchly refused, because divorce was a great sin in the Orthodox Church. In 1698, her obstinacy led Peter to order her removed from Moscow and taken to a monastery at Suzdal. She found more happiness at the convent than she ever had in Peter's untraditional, Westernized court; she was given the respect her position as tsarina demanded and found the convent environment more suited to her retiring, introverted nature. However, her solitude was shattered in 1718 when Peter, who had not given up his plan to divorce Eudoxia and remarry, accused her of adultery. She was forced to travel back to Moscow to answer the charges, which were almost certainly trumped up to force her to agree to a divorce. Peter's plan worked. She was compelled to make a public confession and was divorced in 1718. Eudoxia was then allowed to enter another monastery at Ladoga.

Her elder son Alexis was Peter's original heir, but Alexis was ignored by Peter until he was old enough to be of use, by which time he had become a weakling. Under Peter's direct tutelage, Alexis came to manifest all of his father's vices and none of his virtues. A drunkard and a wastrel, he became the locus around whom general opposition to Peter began to coalesce. When Peter discovered his son at the center of a plot, Peter subjected him to torture, which led to Alexis' death.

Upon Peter's demise in 1725, his second wife Catherine I was named his successor. When Catherine died in 1727, Eudoxia's grandson (son of Alexis and Charlotte of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel ) succeeded as Peter II. Conservative forces in the Russian government, who had opposed Peter the Great's many reforms, sought out Eudoxia and convinced her to return to Moscow to act as her grandson's regent. Escorted with great ceremony to Moscow, she did return in 1728 and was presented to the people attired in the splendid, old-fashioned robes of a tsaritsa. However, a life spent mainly in conventual isolation had little prepared her for the demands of regency. Her closest friends determined that she was more suited to convent than throne. Provided an allowance of 60,000 rubles a year, she gave up her new title and once again retired from the world into a monastery at Moscow, where she died in 1731.

Laura York , Riverside, California