Narishkina, Natalya (1651–1694)

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Narishkina, Natalya (1651–1694)

Russian empress and regent. Name variations: Natalia Naryshkin, Naryshkina, Narushkin or Narushkina. Born Natalya Cyrilovna Narishkina into the powerful Narishkin family of Russian nobles on August 22, 1651; died on January 25, 1694; daughter of Cyril Narishkin (or Naryshkin) and Anne Leontiev Narishkina (d. 1706); sister of Ivan Narishkin (or Naryshkin); became second wife of Alexis I (1629–1676), tsar of Russia (r. 1645–1676), around 1670 or 1671; children: Peter I the Great (1672–1725), tsar of Russia (r. 1682–1725); Theodora (1673–1676); Natalya Romanov (1674–1716).

Upon the death of Tsar Alexis I in 1676, his second wife, the gentle Natalya Narishkina, moved to the nearby village of Preobrazhenskoye with her children, Peter and Natalya Romanov . The new tsar Theodore III had no male heir, however, and when he died in 1682, Natalya became regent for her ten-year-old son Peter, and the hostility between the Narishkin (or Naryshkin) family and the family of Alexis' first wife, Maria Miloslavskaia , came to a head.

The Miloslavskys wanted Maria's son Ivan, another son who suffered from poor health, bad eyesight and appears to have been epileptic, to succeed his father Alexis; the Narishkins, however, pressed for Peter, who, though only ten, was already a bright and promising youth. Natalya's rival stepdaughter Sophia Alekseyevna won over the streltsy, or musketeers. Between May 15 and 17, 1682, a drunken and angry streltsy burst into the Kremlin, were bravely met by Natalya, then murdered everyone they encountered, including Artamon Matvyeev, Natalya's guardian, best friend, and chief supporter, and Ivan Narishkin, her brother. The slayings were witnessed not only by Natalya but also by her son Peter, and are blamed for his subsequent tendency to convulsions. The patriarch of the Russian church then engineered an agreement that provided for Ivan and Peter to reign jointly under the regency of Sophia.

When Peter was 17, he thwarted a coup and had Sophia sent to a nunnery. Still at an age when sailing and drinking came first, however, he left state affairs to his mother. To calm her wild son, Natalya arranged a marriage for him with Eudoxia Lopukhina , but to no avail. While Peter continued to spend his time sailing in the north, Natalya continued to run the country. Her efforts to free women from the binding tradition of the terem were passed down to her son when he finally became tsar as Peter I the Great. Bullying his nobles into shaving their beards and adopting Western dress and behavior, Peter forced them to allow their women out of their traditional seclusion, and he Europeanized court life.