Originally she was given the birthname of Martha Skavronskaya and was the daughter of Samuil Skavronski, a Lithuanian peasant. She was married at the age of 17 to a Swedish dragoon, having been working at the time as a servant to minister Gluck of Marienberg. Russian forces captured the city, she was captured and forced to work in the laundry of the regiment which captured her.
Later she was sent to, and became the mistress of, Prince Aleksandr D. Menshikov, the best friend of Peter the Great. In 1703, while visiting Menshikov at his home, Peter met Martha, and shortly after he took her as his mistress. In 1705, she converted to Orthodoxy and changed her name to Ekaterina Alekseyevna. She married Peter in February of 1712 and bore him 11 children, all of whom died in childhood except for Anna and Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I, empress of Russia from 1741-1762).
In 1724, Peter named her Tsarina and joint ruler. Peter died in 1725 without naming a successor, encouraging the guards regiments to proclaim her as the ruler of Russia, giving her the title of Empress. The real power however, was with her former lover, Menshikov, and the Supreme Privy Council. She was the first royal owner of the Sarskoje Selo estate, later renamed Tsarskoje Selo.
Peter I (Peter the Great)
|List of Russian Tsars||