Marly was designed by Johann Friedrich Braunstein and built between 1720 and 1723. Because it stood between the large Marly Pond and four fishponds, this small royal residence was originally called the “Palace between the Ponds.” It was later renamed after a similarly modest palace near Versailles, Château de Marly, which was visited by Peter the Great in 1717.

Marly was protected from the cold sea breeze by an artificial hill, built from earth removed when the ponds were dug. The Marly ponds were created by Peter I in imitation of the pools at Izmailovo near Moscow, where fish had been taught to swim to the surface at the sound of a silver bell. In 1724, the emperor introduced fish at Peterhof and ordered “a bell to be made and hung by the chambers, and the fish to be trained to eat baked bread when it rang.”

A notable incident took place at Marly on 13 August 1725, when Peter’s widow Catherine visited Peterhof, accompanied by her eldest daughter, Anna Petrovna, who had recently married Duke Charles Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp. When Anna and her husband arrived at Marly, where they planned to stay, they found that the palace had already been taken over by Prince Alexander Menshikov and his entourage.

As the power behind the throne during the reign of Catherine I, Prince Menshikov had opposed Anna’s marriage, fearing that the duke would wield undue influence over his mother-in-law. On this occasion, Charles Frederick stood his ground and Menshikov was forced to unpack his belongings and leave.

Marly was destroyed during the Second World War, but restored and reopened as a museum in 1982. The permanent exhibition includes the personal possessions of Peter the Great and such original early-eighteenth-century interiors as the Plane and Oak Studies.

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