Catherine the Great: Who was her son? Exploring the life and death of Paul I of Russia

Catherine the Great

The series premiered on Sky Atlantic on Thursday, October 3rd 2019.

How have you been enjoying Catherine the Great on Sky?

They really have offered us some terrific series in recent years, with the likes of miniseries Chernobyl standing out as an obvious highlight.

We live in the age of prestige television, and with the likes of Game of Thrones pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with the medium, we're all more excited than ever to see what can be captured on the small screen. The latest to attract attention, admiration and intrigue is the stunning miniseries Catherine the Great, which features the remarkable Helen Mirren (The Queen, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw) in the titular role.  

The production design is truly outstanding, and it goes without saying that the narrative is utterly captivating. Since the show arrived, fans have been wondering more about her son and successor. So, let's dive into it!

Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great: Her son, Paul I of Russia

Catherine the Great's son was Paul I: he reigned as Emperor of Russia between the years of 1796 and 1801. 

He was the successor to Catherine after she took the throne from Tsar Peter III in 1762. As highlighted by History Today, the Empress of Russia didn't exactly devote a great deal of attention to Paul, and actually sent him to a Gatchina estate and married him off. This kept him away from Catherine's pressing affairs and business. While away, he exercised a great interest in the army and uniformity. 

Paul's wife gave birth to their son Alexander in 1777; the child was raised in Catherine's court and the same source notes that it looked as though Alexander may take over from Paul's mother instead. However, in the wake of her death in 1796, that wasn't the case. 

In power

He took over from his mother when he was 42-years-old.  

At this time, he made the best of his interests and dressed the troops in Prussian inspired uniforms, although the elites certainly weren't fond of his imposed routines. 

So, did he do right by his mother? Well, he actually tried to undo much of what she had done while she remained in a position of power. It's noted that his work did little to strengthen the command of the aristocracy. He made numerous attempts to shape all things in his image, and in answer to the French Revolution, he actually began to prevent people from travelling and ceased books which entered from abroad.

As things progressed, there were many who began to think him insane after witnessing his more fiery outbursts alongside his input on foreign policy. 

Russia, Moscow, Gosudarstvennyj Istoriceskij Muzej (State Historical Museum), All, The man wears a jacket with red collar, a lace shirt and a star as decoration,Russia, Moscow, Gosudarstvennyj Istoriceskij Muzej (State Historical Museum), All, The man wears a jacket with red collar, a lace shirt and a star as decoration,

Paul I of Russia's assassination

It turns out that those who conspired to attain access to Paul's bedroom may not actually have definitively wished to kill him. The earlier source outlines that they were in possession of an abdication document for him to sign; then again, military commander Count von Pahlen's words did suggest that it would death was definitely on the table that night. 

On that very night - March 23rd 1801 - Paul held a dinner party but then headed out to his private quarters to rest. What happened after cannot absolutely be confirmed, as there are different accounts which serve to contradict the others. However, the group in search of him was headed by General Leo Bennigsen and von Pahlen, who were said to have been intoxicated and had to disable guards and break into the room to murder him by strangulation. 

In the aftermath of his death, his successor was, of course, Alexander (Tsar Alexander I). 

In other news, when does Celebrity Hunted start?

Have something to tell us about this article?