Great Prince Konstantin Pavlovich had high hopes from the first day of his life. He could become the ruler of a revived Byzantium or the Russian emperor, but he abandoned such brilliant prospects and went down in history under the ironic nickname – “husband of the Constitution”.
The ruler of the “second Rome”
The relationship between Catherine II and her son, the future Paul I, developed poorly. The empress was so unhappy with the heir that she planned to deprive him of the throne and make the grandson of Alexander the Emperor. Another ambitious plan was the “Greek project”, which the empress in 1782 described in a letter to the Austrian emperor Joseph II.
Catherine the Great dreamed that in alliance with Austria, Russia would be able to defeat the Ottoman Empire and drive the Turks out of Constantinople. The ruler of the “second Rome”, the Russian empress wanted to see her grandson born in 1779, named by her will Constantine. In honor of the birth of Konstantin Pavlovich, Catherine II ordered the minting of a commemorative medal with the image of St. Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople, and she identified a Greek woman named Elena (the mother of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine the Great) as a nurse.
Portrait of the Grand Dukes Alexander and Konstantin Pavlovich
Alas, Constantine became for the royal grandmother a disappointment almost greater than Paul. The young man did not show much enthusiasm for acquaintance with all Greek, and in appearance and character he looked more and more like his own father: he was impulsive, unrestrained, often lost his temper and abused people who were subordinate to him. In the Gatchina regiments, he underwent military training and sought in everything to resemble Paul I, whom he loved with all his heart.
At seventeen, Konstantin Pavlovich was forced to marry the fifteen-year-old Coburg princess Julianna Henrietta Ulrika (in Orthodoxy – Anna Fedorovna). It is believed that the bride for the Grand Duke on the orders of Catherine the Great was chosen by his mentor General A.Ya. Budberg. Upon arrival in Europe, he fell ill and, having met with the daughters of the Duke of Coburg, refused to continue the search for a worthy candidate. Telling the empress that a bride was found for her grandson, Budberg hurried home. Konstantin Pavlovich did not feel sympathy for the future wife, and their marriage was unsuccessful. For four years Anna Fedorovna put up with the rudeness and absurd character of the Grand Duke, and then referred to a serious ailment and left for her homeland. Konstantin Pavlovich could not return his wife, although he came to Coburg several times for her. The marriage saga ended already in the reign of Alexander I – in 1820 the emperor signed a manifesto on the divorce of Constantine and Anna.
Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich. Artist George Dow
Five years earlier, the Grand Duke was determined governor of the Kingdom of Poland, the territory acquired by Russia after the victory over Napoleon. On the western edge of the empire, he lived alone, returning to St. Petersburg, and even more so did not want to rule the country. The death of his father in 1801 made a painful impression on Konstantin Pavlovich, and all his life he was confident that, becoming emperor, he too would die at the hands of the conspirators.
In November 1825, during a stay in Taganrog, Emperor Alexander I suddenly died. This event disrupted the plans of future Decembrists – the uprising planned for 1826 was postponed to take advantage of the situation of the interregnum. On the morning of December 14, 1825, troops lined up on Senate Square. The fact that a few hours earlier the senators took the oath to Nicholas I (the younger brother of Alexander and Konstantin Pavlovich), they did not know.
As for Konstantin Pavlovich, even during the life of Alexander I, he secretly abdicated. Nevertheless, on the Senate Square there were shouts of soldiers: “For Constantine and the Constitution!” The fact is that the leaders of the Decembrist uprising had neither the time nor the desire to devote the rank and file to the details of the conspiracy, therefore they were all explained to them somewhat “simplified”: they say, Nikolai Pavlovich by force took the throne from his brother, and the guards must restore justice and support Konstantin and the Constitution. What the Constitution is, the soldiers did not know, but decided if the “name” does not sound Russian, then this is the new wife of Konstantin Pavlovich, who was a Polish.
In fact, the second wife of the Grand Duke, with whom he connected his life in 1823, was called Jeanette. It was rumored that it was because of her that Konstantin Pavlovich abdicated the throne, and finally decided to officially divorce his first marriage. The wedding ceremony of the viceroy of the Kingdom of Poland and his chosen one took place twice: first – in a church, then – in the Orthodox church. Contemporaries claimed that thanks to his wife, the Grand Duke learned to be less hot-tempered, regained his peace of mind, began to speak and even “think in Polish”. A year before his death, he received a commemorative badge of honor and brought it to Jeanette with the words: “Here, my dear friend, I give you 30 years of my service.”
The second wife of Konstantin Pavlovich – Jeanette Grudzinskaya
Viceroy of the Kingdom of Poland
In 1830, an uprising broke out in Poland. Many Russians had to leave Warsaw immediately. Among those who escaped from the wrath of the rebels, there was also Jeanette Grudzinskaya. With her, she managed to take only a few pieces of gold, a prayer book and a pearl necklace. Konstantin Pavlovich and General I.I. Dibich remained to fight the rebels. It was believed that the emperor was waiting for Constantine with his wife in St. Petersburg, but the grand duke did not want to come there. He understood that after the events of 1825, many in the capital were hostile to him. In addition, Konstantin Pavlovich rightly believed that the blame for the uprising in the Kingdom of Poland would also be blamed on him.
Meanwhile, a cholera epidemic began in Poland, which a few months later reached St. Petersburg. Frightened residents of the capital refused to believe in a fierce disease and believed that they were trying to plague the Poles, pouring poison into the wells and gardens. In the fall of 1831 the uprising was crushed, and the abolition of the Sejm and the Polish army, and most importantly, the abolition of the Constitution, became the payment for it. But her “death” Konstantin Pavlovich did not find. The Grand Duke was the victim of an epidemic, and in the summer of that year, he died from cholera in less than a day while in Vitebsk.
Oksana Barinova. History.RF.